Denmans Garden: winners of South and South East in Bloom 2021 Gold Award and a garden for all seasons
Once the food-growing side of Lord Denman’s estate and later requisitioned by the WRAF during World War II, the history of Denmans Garden is almost as interesting and unique as the diversity of its plants and the shapes and patterns of its paths and features.
Started by a little known but brilliant plantswoman, Joyce Robinson, in the late 1940s, the garden features a stunning Walled Garden, ponds, two dry riverbeds, and a Conservatory despite being just under 5 acres in size. Its diverse gravel gardens were created in the 1970s and burst with colour and texture even in the winter months.
When the internationally renowned landscape designer and author, John Brookes, first came to Denmans in 1973, he fell in love with Mrs. Robinson’s originality and vision. When he persuaded her seven years later to let him renovate the old stable as his home and his Clock House School of Design, he created his own personal garden in the NE corner of the property. Its linear lines are inspired by the abstract painter, Piet Mondrian, and its plantings include a variety of architectural sub-tropical shrubs and trees. Over the next 38 years, Brookes added his own signature style to the garden, including architectural plantings, sculpture, and his iconic blue benches.
During a long business dispute the garden fell into disrepair but once resolved in 2017 renovations began immediately and today Denmans is an award-winning Grade II post-war historic garden as well as an RHS Partner Garden.
The art of design and the craft of horticulture meld seamlessly at Denmans Garden and the result is a study in beauty and tranquillity. Visitors wander unhurriedly along its meandering walks, enjoying birdsong, dappled light, a sojourn on a well-placed bench, and the garden’s ever-changing moods. The Conservatory is packed with unusual plants and offers a peaceful place to rest, especially on a chilly day, and occasionally Artist in Residence Sue England is in the garden sketching or drawing.
A cup of tea and a cake or biscuit from the little Treat Shop offers sustenance, while the Plant Centre and its unique plant offerings, mostly grown on site offer irresistible temptations. So does the Gift Shop, which features one-off and vintage garden ornaments, home accessories, various garden gadgets and accoutrement, and work by local artists and makers.
Autumn is a perfect time to take in the season’s changing colours at Denmans Garden. From the vivid colours of various Japanese maples to late blooming flowers and shrubs, the garden is ever full of fragrance and interest.
By Gwendolyn Van Paasschen, Denmans Garden
How to Design A Garden by John Brookes and edited by Gwendolyn van Paasschen is published next month (Pimpernel Press, £20). Copies purchased direct from Denmans Garden come with two complimentary tickets to the garden. All royalties go to the John Brookes-Denmans Foundation.