Gardens of the Sussex Weald – Standen & Nymans

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Bank Holiday Monday and two houses, one new to me – the Arts and Crafts Standen, the second familiar – the beautiful Nymans.

Standen is an Arts & Crafts survivor, built by Philip Webb and with interiors by Morris & Co., quite complete. The country home of a careful lawyer, it is not an extravagant property (the rooms are modestly proportioned, for family use). The most beautiful green painted panelled dining room, with fitted dressers and fireplace by Webb. Throughout, fabrics and wallpaper by Morris and glass, metalwork, artwork and ceramics by many of the names of the Arts & Craft movement (William de Morgan, Benson, Dresser, Webb, Guild of Handicraft).

The house is fitted into the crook of a hill, with a substantial quarry garden rising above and behind, terraces dropping down the hill with far-reaching views. Woodland all and about. A ‘productive garden’ with ancient espalier apples – quite amazing specimens.

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Below – Looking across the Sussex Weald. Hand split fencing staves.

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Nymans, a nearish neighbour, is an altogether different place. A garden foremost, of many and varied delights – a Pinetum (with a large specimen of my favourite Montezuma Pine), Lime Avenue and Prospect overlooking the countryside and estate woods, the Sunken Garden, the Wall Garden, a circular Rose Garden, a very early Heather Garden (1902-ish), Rockery, substantial Wisteria clad pergola next to the Croquet lawn, Winter Garden, Knot Garden, Top Garden and Woodland Walks. A grove of Davidia involucrata, the Handkerchief Tree, surrounded by squat box topiary. I met a scion of the Messel family, an artist in the Nymans Florilegum, whose Uncle planted these trees. You just have to be there before the ‘flowers’ lose their pristine whiteness.

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A large part of the gothic House was destroyed by fire in 1947, leaving very romantic ruins as a backdrop to these delightful gardens.

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The Heather Garden, originally planned by Ludwig Messel, was one of the first in the country. Meandering grass paths divide a series of large beds, on different levels, which contain a variety of heathers and many rhododendrons grown from seed collected by Kingdon-Ward. Also a considerable group of Pieris japonica.

A destination garden for magnolia, rhododendron and cherry blossom; for spring bulbs and thousands of Fritillaria meleagris; substantial summer herbaceous borders; romantic roses; wisteria (several and covering a 100′ pergola, at least?); rare and unusual trees at every corner; the sight of several mature Acer Bloodgood planted between large domes of clipped holly. Hmmn. One of my Favourite Gardens.

I much recommend a read of ‘Nymans The Story of a Sussex Garden’ by Shirley Nicholson.

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