Introducing Driftwood Garden

New blogger, Geoff Stonebanks, introduces his garden - Driftwood - a secret seaside garden in East Sussex.

Drift Garden
Geoff's Driftwood Garden on the Sussex coast. Image: Geoff Stonebank
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Described by Jean Vernon as the ‘Secret Seaside Garden‘, that just about sums up my garden in three words. I never set out to create a garden that would be worthy of opening for the National Gardens Scheme nor one that could possibly win “Best Small Garden in the UK” with a national gardening magazine or even one that would become a finalist in the “Daily Mail National Gardening Competition”, all of which took place in 2012.

wind burn
Driftwood has been hammered by winds during November. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Indeed it is only 100 foot long and 40 feet wide at the back and about 25 feet square at the front, yet it packs a punch with what I have got in it! Add to that the fact it faces the sea, which is quarter of a mile away, and you will have realised that I had quite a challenge on my hands. In the last four weeks the gales have been relentless and there has been much wind burn across the garden.

I’m going to be blogging about what makes my garden, called Driftwood, tick and how it is prepared for its annual 2500 visitors. This first installment is really going to set the scene of events, after I got lucky with early retirement 11 years ago at the age of 51. I ended up on the coast in Sussex in a 1937 chalet bungalow. My small town garden came with me in the second removal van and many of the plants, shrubs and ornaments I brought are thriving here on the coast now too.

Dog in garden
The garden has to be ‘Albert-proof’. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

I knew (and know) absolutely nothing at all about gardening but have still managed to create one that has received much acclaim and publicity since 2012, even appearing on ITV in 2014. Trust me, if I am able do this, then anyone reading this who puts their mind to it, can do just the same. The really nice thing most visitors say to me is that they leave the garden totally inspired, so if some of this can rub off in my blog that would be wonderful!

People often look and are amazed that it has been created in such a relatively short space of time. Competition judges have told me that I seem to have the knack of making something look as though it has been long established! When asked, I often describe my style of gardening as one of being “an instant gardener”. I don’t have the patience to wait for things to grow I want the finished product now! Driftwood has no exposed soil or lawn, which makes it difficult to find space to let things grow on and develop. Plants need to have had a head start in life and be established specimens. We have a Jack Russell too, so the garden needs to be ‘Albert-proof’ as well.

Before photo of Driftwood Garden
Driftwood Garden as it was in 2004 when Geoff moved in. Image: Geoff Stonebank

The garden was simple when we arrived back in 2004 and my efforts to neaten it up and make it a little more interesting, through 2007 to 2012, have clearly borne fruit. It was listed on TripAdvisor this summer and has had some amazing reviews. An image from 2004 and another from 2015 of the same spot gives some indication of the dramatic change that has taken place. As a novice gardener I knew nothing of improving the soil, the garden is on chalk, and I just got on with things as I saw fit and hoped for the best. I do however feed the garden prolifically each season and am confident that this is what helps me achieve such a high standard, with many visitors complementing me on the pristine condition of the blooms. For the 2016 season, I will be using Flower Power and will be able to report monthly on how well it is all going!

Read more of the garden at www.driftwoodbysea.co.uk

Geoff Stonebanks

About Geoff Stonebanks

Geoff Stonebanks lives in Bishopstone, near Seaford in East Sussex and spends all his time gardening and fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support. Using his multi award-winning garden - Driftwood - he has raised over £76,000 for various charities in 7 years, £40,000 of that for Macmillan. The garden, which first opened to the public in 2009 has featured on BBC2 Gardeners' World, Good Morning Britain and in many national and local media publications. In his spare time, Geoff is also the National Garden Scheme's Social Media & Publicity Chair as well as an Assistant County Organiser & Publicity Officer in East & Mid Sussex.
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