Saturday, 8 September 2012

Gardens for "Ladies who Lunch" - Gravetye Manor

Head to Gravetye Manor for lunch if you can - the garden is glorious, as is the food
The children are back at school, the sun's shining and what better way to see a glorious garden than combining it with lunch with a girlfriend? England has more than its fair share of gardens with lunch attached and in the first of several features on hotels and restaurants that have wonderful gardens associated with them, I'm starting my journey at Gravetye Manor in Sussex. This is the former home of William Robinson, who championed naturalistic planting and had a profound influence on British gardening
Tom Coward has won the battle against bindweed at Gravetye Manor
Head gardener, Tom Coward - who arrived here from Great Dixter two years ago, has breathed new life into this glorious garden and, after a long battle against the bindweed, the grounds at Gravetye are well on their way to recovery and I'm sure William Robinson would be in awe of his 21st century compatriot's work. The Flower Garden is a riot of colour throughout the seasons and with the Elizabethan manor house as a backdrop and a gourmet restaurant, lunch doesn't get much better than this in terms of location.
The flower garden at Gravetye is spectacular throughout the seasons
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 are Hergest Croft in Herefordshire and Killerton in Devon.
Gravetye's kitchen garden has circular walls
Feast your eyes on the Flower Garden before lunch and then head for the walled kitchen garden afterwards - Tom has transformed this part of the garden too in the time that he's been here and you'll be greeted with wonderful displays of cutting flowers and vegetables that promise to rival the potager at Villandry if they're given the chance! It's early days for this part of the garden, since it was only revitalised in the last couple of years, but if the results to date are anything to go by, this is a plot worth watching. 
Most of the cutting flowers for the hotel are grown in Gravetye's kitchen garden
The kitchen garden is unique because it has circular walls - the only one of its kind in the UK
- designed to maximise on catching the heat of the sun, and extensive work has already been carried out. It's a wonderful sight at this time of year - filled with flowers and vegetables. All the flowers for the Manor are grown here, together with many of the basics for the kitchen including herbs and a range of vegetables. But it's a magnificent sight on a sunny day, so don't miss it when you visit.
Vegetables and flowers in the kitchen garden promise to rival the display at Villandry 
If you fancy the high life, it's well worth knowing about the Gravetye Member's Club, priced at £150 per person or £200 for a couple, which includes a night at the hotel, together with themed lunches and dinners that will appeal to both gardening enthusiasts and foodies. Tom Coward hosts special garden visits for members and it's a great chance to stay overnight at the hotel at a substantially reduced rate. One to add to your Christmas "Wish List" perhaps?
For more garden visits, click here


  1. This is a delightful post. It would be a wonderful place to have lunch.

    Thanks again Charlotte.


  2. Wonderful review of Gravetye. It looks like it will be a garden worth visiting for many years to come.

  3. Colorful pics. Looks like a great place to visit.

  4. Oh to be in England with time to lunch!! I'd be heading here for sure.

  5. Lovely pictures of Gravetye. It was already on my wishlist to visit, now I definitely want to go there and have lunch...... Next year May I suppose.

  6. What wonderful photographs of a beautiful garden. I just love the orange dahlias. Thank you for sharing these amazing gardens. Your blog is a special treat to read. I just love it!