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!
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.
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.
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.