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“George Forrest, ‘the greatest plant hunter of his generation’, is remembered by the range of plants, including primulas and rhododendrons, that bear his name.”


Photo: Borde Hill


which continues to run it, the family retaining an active interest. All the gardens were seriously affected by the Great Storm in October 1987. Nymans lost 80% of its trees, “including almost all the conifers”. The then head gardener David Masters explained: “We are 500 foot up. The country slopes away in every direction. We had a 400-yard pinetum shelter to the east. That was virtually obliterated.” At The High Beeches Anne Boscawen remembers “one hell of a mess”: 150 trees had fallen in the 25-acre garden. Tony Schilling told The Guardian that at Wakehurst “we lost 50% of our trees, say 15,000.” He estimated that clearing up had taken 12 man-years, though the gardens were open again within 11 days. Yet what at fi rst looked like a complete disaster had a silver lining. New vistas were opened up and areas which had become overgrown benefi ted from a badly needed thinning-out and opening- up. Programmes of replanting were quickly under way and plans for taking advantage of the situation soon emerged. The talent and inspiration which had led to the establishment of the gardens were still very much alive.


60


SUSSEX LIVING October 2011


The economics of running a major garden have changed signifi cantly since the days when the Sussex gardens grew to their prime. For one family to run such an estate is a huge undertaking and Borde Hill and The High Beeches are now run as charitable trusts, while Nymans and Wakehurst have institutional support from the National Trust and Kew Gardens. The gardens are open to the paying public and visitors can not only look at the plants and shrubs but also buy specimens raised on the property for their own gardens.


And the gardens are still


developing. Plants at the High Beeches are now recorded electronically and the collections maintained to a national standard. Borde Hill has a Rose Garden, added in 1996, and has gained Lottery money for both a Mediterranean Garden and an Italian garden. The collection of champion trees is larger than that of any other privately owned estate in the country. At Nymans, major reconstruction aims to restore some of the garden’s original features. Under Kew’s management, Wakehurst is at the heart of scientifi c research. A visit to any of the gardens will be well rewarded. ■


GREAT


GARDENS OF SUSSEX –


AN HISTORICAL


JOURNEY by Katy Brown


© Copyright Dr Katy Brown


THE HIGH BEECHES


High Beeches Lane, Handcross, West Sussex RH17 6HQ


01444 400589 | www.highbeeches.com


NYMANS Handcross, West Sussex RH17 6EB 01444 405250 | www.nationaltrust.co.uk/nymans


BORDE HILL Borde Hill Lane, Haywards Heath, West Sussex RH16 1XP 01444 450326 | www.bordehill.co.uk


WAKEHURST Ardingly, West Sussex RH17 6TN 01444 894066 | www.kew.org/visit-wakehurst


www.sussexliving.com


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