West Dean Gardens in West Sussex are full of flowers, fruit and veg.
How lucky we are to feature a garden as stunning and inspiring as West Dean on F&F! This has long been one of our favourite plots, as it combines loadsaveg with beauty and there always seems to be room for flowers too.
They’ve been around in one form or another since 1622 when James Lewkenor built the original manor house at West Dean. The house you can see today was built in 1804 and the gardens were enlarged and a park created. It was at this point that the kitchen garden that makes West Dean so famous was also moved to where it stands today. The gardens started opening annually to the public from 1871, and twenty years later William James took over the estate and rebuilt and extended the glasshouses and built the pergola.
But after James died, the gardens went into decline under a succession of tenants. It was only when parts of the garden were seriously damaged in the great storm of 1987 that things started to change again for the better.
Today there are 90 acres of gardens at West Dean, including the kitchen garden, the pergola, the glasshouses, the walled garden, orchards, ornamental gardens, spring gardens, wild gardens, woodland gardens and sunken gardens.
The kitchen garden was laid out in the 1990s and uses a classic Victorian design of two cross paths bounded by a perimeter path, which leaves four central beds and borders around the walls.
The central beds operate on a crop rotation system consisting of potatoes, brasses, legumes and salads and root crops. In the wall borders are asparagus, rhubarb, sea kale, globe artichokes, auriclas, lily of the valley, cordon currants and gooseberries.
A pear tunnel and espaliered pears and apples also give height to the garden.
In fact, the garden has quite a lot of different apples and pears on show. West Dean owns a fruit collection of over 100 apples and 45 varieties of pears, many of them trained into beautiful shapes. The collection has four main aims:
1. To grow any variety that was definitely grown at West Dean between 1890 and 1914, which is when the garden was at its peak.
2. To grow a wide variety of Victorian varieties, as this was when the walled garden was developed.
3. To grow as wide a range of varieties as possible.
4. To grow all the fruits in as many different shapes as possible including half standards, 4-winged pyramids, goblets, oblique cordons, espaliers, palmette verriers and cross-bars.
Inside the thirteen restored glasshouses, which are heated by a wood chip burning boiler, there are tomatoes, figs, grapes, aubergines, peaches, nectarines and chillies.
But there are so many flowers too, including 500,000 bulbs such as Narcissi, Scilla, Lilies, Anenome, Muscari, Allium, Chionodoxia, Fritillaria, Crocus and Cyclamen.
And new wildflower lawns. And a sunken garden. And woodland gardens. It’s rather difficult to imagine ever getting bored at West Dean.
To find out more about these amazing gardens, visit the West Dean website.