Thursday, 27 May 2010

Another glorious gourmet garden!


I have to confess that while all really serious gardeners have been at the Chelsea Flower Shower this week, I've been skulking around in Sussex enjoying the sunshine and looking for new gardens to visit. But I'm glad I stayed home, because I visited a startling garden this week, which has been on my wish list for several years - Gravetye Manor near East Grinstead in Sussex - a fine example of an Elizabethan house, surrounded by acres of glorious gardens and parkland - and former home of William Robinson, the influential (and outspoken) garden designer, who earned the nickname of "Father of the English Flower Garden".
Gravetye is best-known as a luxury hotel, surrounded by glorious gardens, but is now under new ownership and what will interest fellow gardeners is the new head gardener who joins the team in July. Tom Coward is arriving from Great Dixter in East Sussex and it will be interesting to see what changes he makes at this historical property in the next few years, given its gardening history.

This was the home of leading garden theorist and writer, William Robinson (1838-1935), who moved here in 1885 and remained here until his death.  Robinson was heavily influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement, was a friend of Gertrude Jekyll's and came into contact with William Morris, who much admired his work. He was a passionate gardener and prolific writer, who launched the original weekly journal "The Garden" in 1871 (not to be confused with the monthly RHS publication, The Garden - which goes out to members today) and two major gardening books:  "The Wild Garden" and "The English Flower Garden" which remain in print today. Other well-known gardens for which he is credited include Hergest Croft in Herefordshire and Killerton in Devon.

The gardens at Gravetye are divided into several distinct areas - the wonderful and immaculately tended formal gardens around the house (top three pictures), where the Elizabethan manor plays a large part in the overall impression of the grandeur and style of planting; the lovely woodland gardens at the rear of the property (above) where you will see magnificent displays of late-flowering rhododendrons; the wild garden beyond the formal gardens; and the parkland and lakes which provide memorable views for hotel guests.  There is also a fine kitchen garden, which will, I'm sure be nurtured and brought back to life when Tom Coward arrives.

At present, the only way you can see these glorious gardens in all their splendour, is to eat or stay at the hotel, but I can assure you that this is a wonderful place for "Ladies that Lunch" (just like Babylon in London) and I, for one, will be returning with my girlfriends to see how these gardens progress.  I didn't have time to sample the food on this visit, but I'm told it's excellent, and the location alone is incentive to eat there. You've also got the added attraction of nearby Wakehurst Place where there's always something spectacular in bloom!

7 comments:

  1. Ah - one of my favourite gardens! I particularly like the main formal area in late summer. Yes, I love this place dearly. Gorgeous walking around it too. I recommend it for afternoon tea if you want to go for a more modest price. For an expensive treat this hotel is wonderful (to eat at, I've not stayed there so I don't know).

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  2. I love that last picture.

    Thanks again for sharing all these wonderful gardens.

    FlowerLady

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  3. Everyone in England is spoiled with such beautiful gardens ! The States can't compete with all the historic architecture surrounds , darn ! Thanks , loved the tour, Gina

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  4. aloha,

    i love that last photo, i'm guessing thats the kitchen garden....all the blues and purples are dreamy...i would love to have a nice lunch and afternoon stroll and then go back again for dessert

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  5. Lottie - I am enchanted! You have simply transported your readers to this lovely place of magic! Thanks so much!!! -Shyrlene

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  6. Thank You to your awesome blog!!!! I just love traveling thru all the gardens you photograph. This is a real treat for me, because I'm so away and now I'm not. Thanks Again

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  7. What a charming place! Love the first picture especially with those tall alliums.

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