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
|Vegetables and flowers in the kitchen garden promise to rival the display at Villandry|
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