Chichester

West Dean Gardens revisited

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.

West Dean Gardens, Chichester

West Dean Gardens through my macro lens

I had the pleasure of visiting the beautiful West Dean Gardens (near Chichester, West Sussex) with my family last weekend. Luckily for me, we are all keen photographers, so dawdling along at a snails pace to allow hundreds of photos to be taken was permitted without (much) complaining! The site is huge (90 acres) - there is so much to see and explore. I'm already planning my return visit!

I was particularly enthralled by the cutting garden and the 13 victorian glasshouses, which have been beautifully restored. I fell in love with a new (to me) flower - Larkspur - and am already hatching plans to plant a swathe of these in our garden. Larkspur is essentially an annual Delphinium and comes in blue/purple, pink and white (the ones pictured are Larkspur Sublime I think). Apparently it is easy to grow as it self seeds - finger's crossed!

The Larkspur had been planted next to some Cosmos, another firm favourite of mine. All that frothy foliage provides the perfect backdrop.

There was colour across the spectrum in the cutting garden, but I always gravitate to purples/pinks and whites (sorry to the yellow lovers amongst you!). There were butterflies and bees everywhere, including clouds of Cabbage Whites - so pretty to watch!

I absolutely loved the wild meadow bed at the end of the garden, tucked away behind the glasshouses - I much prefer my gardens wild and rambling. Must try and introduce some poppies next year!

The beautiful victorian glass houses offered incredible variety, from temperate to tropical, ferns to flowers, fruit to vegetables.

I was fascinated by these climbing ferns...

And I loved the potting shed, filled with vintage gardening paraphernalia... 

And then we have the chillies - 250 varieties of them! I had no idea there were so many... All the different shapes and sizes were laid out and labelled for visitors to look at and there were several glasshouses full of them, along with other vegetables. Very inspiring to see what is possible. 

I loved being able to see the lifecycle of vegetables growing and discovering new varieties - I might even have to have a go myself next year! And a beautiful glass house is of course now on my wish list ;)

The fruit was amazing too. The walled fruit garden housed many, many apple and pear trees, shaped in different ways. And the glass houses were filled with figs and melons and grapes - the vines were quite incredible. It was hard to believe we were in the UK!

And flowers mixed with fruit, is always a good thing. There were beds bursting with flowers throughout the walled fruit garden (with a surprisingly lovely purple and yellow colour theme) and even in the entrance.

And now onto the kitchen gardens. A mighty fine display of vegetables in prime condition. I love my greens and was very tempted to take some of these home with me!

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The grounds at West Dean are very extensive and perfect for a picnic lunch. We found an empty table and chairs on the picturesque picnic lawn and ate our lunch under a giant willow tree overlooking parkland with grazing sheep (no decent pictures I'm afraid as I was too busy eating at this point!). They also have a lovely restaurant with seasonal dishes.

After spending most of our time in the cutting, fruit & vegetable gardens and the glasshouses, we thought we should explore a little of the rest of the grounds....

We were serenaded in the sunken garden by a couple of talented musicians, before wandering through a rather spectacular 300 foot long pergola, wrapped in the loveliest selection of climbing plants.

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It made a lovely backdrop for some portraits. Thanks to my brother-in-law, I even managed to get a rare photo of my husband and I without camera rucksacks or cameras dangling from our necks!

After the pergola, we had a lovely walk through the spring garden, but rather ran out of time and energy to explore the rest of the grounds. I'll have to see the Arboretum on my next visit... Dogs are welcomed on short leads, so when we finally manage to get our furry friend, this would be a perfect place to come.

I'll leave you with a few shots of the Echinaceas from what I think was the spring garden.

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Apologies for a rather picture heavy post - but believe me, I barely even scratched the surface of the gardens! I can highly recommend a visit if you're anywhere near West Sussex - find out more on the West Dean Gardens website.


I've add a few of my favourite floral images to my Red Bubble Shop in case you are interested - they make rather lovely greeting cards and postcards. Also available as fine art prints, phone cases, bags, pouches, notebooks and more :)