A visit to Woolbeding in West Sussex

Wisley trainee Lawrence Wright bobs under the garden gate at Woolbeding, and shares his experience.

Woolbeding in West Sussex
Woolbeding in West Sussex
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For many, there is nothing more satisfying that taking a stroll around a beautiful garden. It is one of life’s great pleasures to be able to make that step away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, if only for a morning, and immerse yourself in a world of beautiful plants or stunning design. Wandering around a garden, seeing colour, shape and texture or breathing in new smells is all part and parcel of learning how to garden. Taking ideas and inspiration from what others have done can be one of the best ways to broaden your knowledge and allow you to create your own piece of paradise.

As a horticultural trainee, I relish in the chance to have a good nosey around other gardens. It is great for developing well rounded horticulturist or amateur gardener alike and a past time or ‘work’ that is most enjoyable. This opportunity was offered to me at the end of September with a visit to the National Trusts’ Garden at Woolbeding in West Sussex.

Woolbeding in West Sussex
Formal gardens at Woolbeding.

This is a garden to which in all intents and purposes looks like stunning historic garden but it is in fact only 40 years old and created by its custodians Simon Sainsbury (of supermarket fame) and Stewart Grimshaw. Having worked with famed garden designers such as Lanning Roper and more recently Julien and Isabel Bannerman, the garden is a horticultural haven. Stunning planting combinations are held in the garden rooms created by Roper in the 1970’s while the Bannerman’s pleasure ground, The Long Walk is a landscape masterpiece.

One of the loveliest things about Woolbeding is the garden, which is a living breathing environment. All too often with historic properties, the garden seems somehow locked in a form of horticultural ‘straight jacket’. Granted, landscapes such as those at Blenheim or masterpieces like Sissinghurst should be protected. But nothing is more exciting than seeing a garden grow.

The formal gardens around the house are based in a series of garden rooms, divided by immaculately clipped yew hedges. The rooms are all colour themed with a heavy emphasis on cool pastel colours of whites, blues and pinks. The double west borders are a classic combination of blue, yellow and white and while peaking at some point in August, still look resplendent studded with the iridescent flowers of Salvia. The jewel in the crown of the formal garden is the swimming pool and orangery. It really is so refreshing to see a garden where money and taste are abundant in equal measure.

Woolbeding in West Sussex
Immaculate planting at Woolbeding.

A short walk across the ha-ha is the start of The Long Walk. This dramatic pleasure garden combines a Chinese style bridge, a sea god with Edyth; the cutest elephant you ever did see.

When walking around Woolbeding there is one thing that strikes you. Even with the grandeur of the setting, it is amazing how intimate the garden feels. It actually feels like someone’s private garden, not that of one open to the public. This is something that the Trust have embraced and as such the garden is only open for a select period during the year when it is open Thursday and Friday with entrance being limited to 200 guests. The garden reopens on the 7 of April 2016 and is not one to be missed.  It truly is a real Peter Rabbit moment being allowed under the garden gate.

Lawrence Wright

About Lawrence Wright

Lawrence Wright started gardening with his granddad when he was ‘knee high to a grasshopper’ but you would have thought that falling into a runner bean row at 4 years old and being lost in the twining stems would have put him off gardening for life. It didn't. He studied horticulture at Brooksby Melton College in Leicestershire and was a HBGBS (Historic and Botanic Garden Bursary Scheme) trainee at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. He won the Chartered Institute of Horticulture’s Young Horticulturist of the Year in May 2016 and has just graduated from the RHS Wisley trainee scheme and is now working at Tregothnan as a horticulturist.
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