The Plantsman's Garden

In the nineteenth century, such was the fervour for rhododendrons, gardens were chosen primarily for the suitability of their soil for growing these acid-loving plants. The Sussex Weald provides an ideal climate for rhododendrons and magnolias and the belt of greensand running across it hosts the gardens of some of Britain's most enthusiastic plant collectors.

The garden developed at Nymans by Ludwig Messel from 1890, and continued by his son Leonard, contains a magnificent collection of rhododendrons, camellias and magnolias as well as unusual conifers in the Pinetum, plants from South America and the first Heath Garden to be created in Britain.

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Nymans, Handcross © NT/Clive Nichols/Clive Miller/David Levenson


The Messels subscribed to the plant hunting expeditions of Ernest Wilson, Frank Kingdon-Ward and Harold Comber as did their neighbour, Colonel Stephenson Clarke at Borde Hill, who was creating his garden at the same time.

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Borde Hill Gardens, Haywards Heath (Courtesy of © Borde Hill)


The Loder family dominated this area of Sussex, with branches of the family making gardens at Leonardslee, High Beeches and Wakehurst Place Place, all planted with new species introduced from abroad, and particularly renowned for their rhododendrons.

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High Beeches Garden, Handcross (Courtesy of © High Beeches)


If you would like to see more information about these gardens have a look at these video clips High Beeches video, Borde Hill video, Leonardslee video.