I was very fortunate to visit the beautiful West Dean Gardens near Chichester, West Sussex, for the second time last month (you can read about my first visit in West Dean Gardens through my macro lens). They are an independent charity (NOT National Trust) and the site is also home to West Dean College, which offers courses in creative arts and conservation, including lots of interesting gardening ones.
Dogs on short leads are welcome, which is fantastic, as it meant our recently adopted dog, Misty, could come with us. There is a lovely cafe/restaurant and some very picturesque seating areas if you want to bring your own picnic. We spent the whole day here and still didn't manage to see everything!
The gardens are huge - there are 100 acres of garden and parkland in total, including a 50 acre arboretum. My absolute favourite part is the walled cutting garden and the 13 Victorian glasshouses. I visited with my family and am very lucky that we are all (mostly) keen photographers, so stopping every minute or so to marvel and snap away was no problem. I even got to do one circuit with my macro lens, and then a second with my 50mm f1.4 lens and my sister :)
So let's start with the cutting garden shall we? An absolute riot of colour and full of bees and butterflies. Hard to pick favourites, but I fell in love with cold frame (above) full of succulents and a marvellous Geranium collection outside. And the Larkspur and Cosmos and Cornflowers and Nigella and Dahlias and.....
Beautiful isn't it? Shall we move on to the glasshouses now.... First up, is one entirely devoted to Geraniums and Fuchsias in every shade of pink and red you can imagine. Just divine!
And just next door is the potting shed, full of old tools and books and the prettiest cut flowers from the garden.
And next up another huge favourite of mine - the fern glasshouse. An absolute dream! I would have loved to have spent some time in here with my sketchbook. The details on the leaves are just incredible...
There are several tropical collections as well. I think this guy was from one of those...
The fruit and veg glasshouses are inspirational too. And now on my wish list ;) There were an abundance of chillies in every colour, size and shape imaginable as we visited shortly before the chilli fiesta started.
I hope you're not bored yet? Apologies for the picture heavy post, but there's so much to see!
I also loved the kitchen gardens, right next to the cutting garden and bursting full of healthy, colourful looking veggies and, of course, lots of flowers. The Californian Poppies are just so cheerful.
And I must just mention the incredible pergola, designed by Harold Peto in 1911 and restored after the 1987 storm. It's 300 foot long and wrapped in the most beautiful climbing plants. The Roses and Clematis were blooming when we visited and provided a lovely pop of colour. I can't imagine how much work must have gone into this and all the careful training and pruning. I'm in awe!
So that's it for now - well done if you made it to the end! I really hope I get to return soon - there's still so much we haven't seen.
For more information or to plan your visit, see the West Dean Gardens website.
If you'd like to see more photos, head over to my West Dean Gardens Flickr Album - or you can click through the embedded album below.