Discover Driftwood by Sea

Take a walk through Driftwood by Sea with owner, Geoff Stonebanks.

The corten steel patio at Driftwood by sea

Many gardens I have visited over the years tend to have a single vista from the back of the house to the top of the garden. I’m sure some readers will say, not mine, me included. Without consciously setting about to create a walk up the garden path, looking back over the 15 years I have been working on my current plot, that is indeed what I have done.

So, a walk up the garden path at Driftwood is one that will allow both visitors and myself to discover a wealth of plants, very carefully intermingled with a range of art, sculpture and a variety of hard landscaping. Let’s take that walk from the front of the house to the top of the garden and discover what it has to offer. 

The boat and marine objects at Driftwood on sea
The beach garden. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

The beach garden

Rising from the footpath to the front beach garden, six feet above road level a magnificent marine display awaits, punctuated with many Agave americana in pots. I have to trim off the points from the fleshy leaves in case visitors catch themselves upon them. The effect is softened with grasses and masses of self-sown valerian. Taking centre stage is a large black boat with plants emerging on all sides, including three large and dramatic Fascicularia bicolour. The beach garden is seasoned with many marine objects, collected or donated to the garden over the years! Views across to the ocean, a quarter of a mile away, the garden certainly borrows the distant landscape. 

faxicularia bicolour at Driftwood by sea
Fascicularia bicolour. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

A contrasting creation

Having taken in the sea view from a variety of seats, the path moves around the side of the house to the gate through which we enter the 100-foot back garden. A fresh, clean-cut vista emerges. Now very modern, after a makeover last autumn, the first eye contact is with a beautiful, circular corten steel pond, complete with gushing fountain (see main image). 

The new patio, centred with an Indian sandstone circle, takes your breath away. Two large gunnera throw their architectural leaves up over the corten steel and brick wall, dangling over the raised pond. Once you have taken in the wonderful array of succulents and drought tolerant plants on display, sit for a moment on the bench made by my father many years ago, updated with a fab lime green cushion and appreciate the view.

Huge gunnera leaves at Driftwood by sea
Gunnera leaves rising up above the corten steel pond. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Centre stage

After having taken your fill, edge up the new, narrow, steps to the right of the fountain to the centre of the garden. Turn right to move through two large gravel beds, full of palms and other succulents. Centre stage, is a 20-foot high Jelly palm or Butia capitata, planted in 2009. Other plants include a beautiful Aloe striatula and Chamaerops humilis along with a wonderful collection of mangave in pots at the top of the stairs rising to a large patio in front of the summer house. Plenty of sea kale drops over the edge of the path too, along with clouds of sea lavender.

Sea kale and humils at Driftwood by sea
Sea kale and Chamaerops humilis. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Sun trap

Moving up the three steps to the next level, the summer house opens up in front of you, you might even see our terrier Chester in his basket. This is the perfect spot to sit as the sun goes down as it catches all the late afternoon sunshine. To the left of the summerhouse, a small patio with raised gravel bed is another lovely spot to sit and take in the view down the garden. Through the green gate is a small box courtyard with the pen for our tortoise, Hector, then right at the top, my partner’s studio has a great view over the plot to the sea beyond. Hector was inherited from my dad’s sister back in 2004 and has become a great attraction for adults and children alike on visiting the garden.

Summer house at Driftwood by sea
The summerhouse is a perfect spot to sit and watch the sun go down. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Secret garden

Retracing your steps to the centre of the garden, there are lovely curved brick steps up to a green folly door. More seats to sit and enjoy the view with pots of plants edging the steps as you go up. To the right, another small beach space beneath the pear tree and to the left packed borders of mixed colour with hydrangeas, roses and fuchsias. Working your way back to the house you encounter the new sunken garden area, created in late 2021. This area is dominated by the upended railway sleepers and is the perfect spot to display some of my many succulents through the summer months. It’s the largest open area in the garden and is perfect for additional tables and chairs when large groups are booked to visit Driftwood. New this summer is a reclaimed metal fireplace and grate interspersed into the planting.

The green folly door at Driftwood by sea
Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Throughout the walk through the garden, you can view many different sculptural pieces acquired over the last 20 years, in a mixed range of mediums, from ceramic through to rusty metal and wood.

The mock fireplace at Driftwood by sea
Some of the many sculptural pieces collected over the last 20 years. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

I hope you’ve enjoyed your walk through the garden but by simply reading and not visiting you are missing out on my fabulous tea and cakes. If local to Sussex do book a visit one year. Open until 11th August in 2023.

The sunken garden at Driftwood by sea
The sunken garden with a beautiful sandstone patio and upended railway sleepers. Image: Geoff Stonebanks
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