Wakehurst - a garden for all seasons
Wakehurst Place in West Sussex, is affiliated to and managed by Kew Gardens and is also houses the Millenium Seed Bank. And, like its bigger sister in London, is another good garden for all seasons. It has a remarkable collection of trees, spread over more than 450 acres, so is well-known for its autumn colour, but also has a fine winter garden, which bursts into colour in November and gives it year-round interest.
The Tudor mansion (above) was built in 1590 for Sir Edward Culpeper, and it provides a good backdrop to the adjacent walled garden, which is stocked with colourful perennials. There is also a fine collection of hardy plants, arranged georgraphically, and Wakehurst is home to four National plant collections - birches, hypericums, nothofagus and skimmias. But the real reason to visit Wakehurst is its amazing collection of trees, and to enjoy walking through the hills and valleys that house them.
A lot of autumn colour comes from the fine collection of acers, which are clustered round the Mansion pond near the main house, and this is just a prelude to the fine water garden - well-known for its magnificent Japanese iris collection and quite spectacular in season!
One of the most attractive features of the gardens at Wakehurst is the feeling of space - you can walk for miles without running into crowds, and because of its site, on the High Weald of Sussex, there are many different routes through the gardens and adjoining valleys. It is easy to spend an entire day here!
Wakehurst is home to the Millenium Seed Bank - a project committed to the storing of seeds for future generations - there are already more than 24,000 seeds here - some 10% of the world's plants and the aim is to have 25% stored by 2020. The seeds are frozen and then placed in underground vaults. There is a permanent exhibition in the futuristic Seedbank building which explains how the project works and you catch glimpses of white-coated scientists at work, which all adds to project's mystique.
You can buy an annual membership at Wakehurst Place, which also covers you for Kew - well worth doing if you plan to visit often, particularly as both gardens have much on offer in the winter months!