Don’t tell me that people don’t visit gardens in Winter. They do. It was West Dean’s first day of the season, a bonus that they were opening in aid of the National Garden Scheme, and it was humming with visitors.
B and I consulted the map, not really sure why, not from a fear of getting lost but I suppose because it was there.
We headed up to the walled garden along a path where the trees stripped of their lower branches and under planted with box, allow glimpses of the open lawn and beyond:
A stately deciduous tree stands, almost in defiance of man’s interference, it gracefully stretches out arms and bends hands towards the sky in supplication.
In the Apple store, a deliciously smelling, cool, round thatched building, we found the jolly Sussex NGS team. B herself is one of their garden owners and so much chat ensued.
The County Organiser, a volunteer here at West Dean showed us around and the work and devotion to horticulture is enviable. The Victorian Walled garden is filled with fruit trees. Apples and pear are espaliered and fanned against the walls and over arches:
Also cunningly trained around carousels and pyramids:
We wander along the neat box edged paths. This one echoes the crinkle-crankle wall:
and hello, the garden gates is open……..
….even the Head Gardener’s own gateway. So tempting to snoop but we have to resist as this garden is to be open another day.
Grateful to our guide we leave her handing out her county booklets and return to the main part of the garden where we delight in the abstract forms of box and are surprised to find it so very recently clipped:
There is no sun today but the Sarcococca, still fills the air with its heady scent. It too has received a trim:
It is good to have a friend with me; B and I discuss the merits of hellebores. We agree that although the dark maroon looks lovely, almost exotic when displayed in a vase, it is rather lost against the dark soil, unlike the paler colours which look bright even on this dull day:
I imagined there to be more ornament around the garden but of course Harold Peto’s huge pergola takes centre stage. A sculpture itself, the reflection is also a work of art:
Vines are latticed around Petos’s sturdy pillars reminiscent of Tudor chimneys:
His attention to detail is magnificent:
As we circulate around the garden I think this must be a disabled visitor’s dream. Easy access all the way round on smooth spacious paths. Nobody knows what it is like to push a wheelchair until you have had to. An inviting tunnel clothed simply in ivy and anchored by the box balls:
We are not really sure about the fibreglass tree. At the very least it serves as an amusing conversation piece:
Undeniably false but a bit of fun. The real thing is so majestic:
And the cornus provides vibrant colour.
More clipped shapes help to blend the cold flint walls to the garden.Time has run out for us today and we have yet to visit the Parkland walk and Arboretum.
We will have to return to this garden in its glorious setting of the South Downs, and not just for those unexplored areas, but to try every one of the courses that the college can offer.