Denmans Garden is a stunning 4-acre garden designed by award-winning author and landscape designer, John Brookes MBE, who lived at Denmans from 1980-2018. Once the food production side of Lord Denman’s estate, the garden was originally created by Joyce Robinson, who moved here with her husband and daughters in1946. They initially transformed the then-neglected garden into a flourishing market garden, growing vegetables and cut flowers for London’s Covent Garden Market.
An accomplished horticulturist Mrs. J.R. began planting the garden in the early 1950’s. She was far ahead of her time in considering the environment in her plantings and was a pioneer in creating naturalistic, low-maintenance gravel gardens. She started her first gravel gardens in 1970 inspired by a trip to Delos. In 1977, at the young age of 76, Mrs. J.R. climbed on a tractor to create two faux riverbeds on a slope formerly occupied by her Guernsey calves. The riverbeds, more land art than border, were inspired by the local rivers of the South Downs and now terminate in a pond built by Brookes in 1984.
Denmans, a Grade II garden on the National Heritage List for England, is unique as it is the collaboration of a brilliant but little-known plantswoman and a brilliant and influential landscape designer who designed thousands of gardens in Britain and around the world. Mrs. J.R. described Denmans with its relaxed but disciplined planting style as “glorious disarray”. Having fused her novel planting style with his own characteristically bold architectural style, John came to describe the garden as “controlled disarray”.
The resulting garden is comprised of a diverse series of spaces connected by curving paths of gravel and mown lawn through rough grass. Denmans features a walled garden, conservatories, dry riverbeds, ponds, gravel gardens, and quiet places to sit. It is rich with unusual plants, some semi-tropical and others collected from abroad by Mrs. J.R. and John. The garden is known for its creative plant associations and seemingly random plantings juxtaposed against both clipped and natural architectural plants. It is open year-round, has strong autumn and winter interest, which was important to both of its creators. Mrs. J.R. loved to bring flowers in from her garden on Christmas Day and John wrote that “in winter I have a green garden, against which early flowering shrubs such as wintersweet, winter jasmine, Cornus mas, and all the hellebores really show up”.
As Kathryn Bradley-Hole, former Garden Editor of Country Life, wrote “It is one of the most soothing and relaxing gardens around, calmly expressing the remarkable talents of its makers."
Denmans has been undergoing restoration since January of 2018 and is full of inspiration and design ideas for gardeners of all levels and with gardens of all sizes.
Plant Centre features unusual plants, vintage pots, and garden ornaments.
Gift shop offers garden gadgets, home accessories, and vintage items.
The tea rooms are currently closed due to the pandemic.
Easy parking. Walkers, cyclists, well-behaved leashed dogs welcome.
Opening hours: Monday through Saturday 10-4
Garden Admission: £9 per adult, £7 per Senior, and £7 per child
For booking details please check website.
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