Denmans Garden is a 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, this tranquil contemporary garden on the southern slope of the South Downs was converted by plantswoman Joyce Robinson from a post-war market garden to an ornamental garden. Mrs. Robinson and her husband moved to Denmans in 1946 and transformed the then-neglected garden into a flourishing market garden, growing vegetables and cut flowers for London’s Covent Garden Market.
An accomplished horticulturist who lived at Denmans from 1946-96, Joyce was ahead of her time in considering the environment in her plantings and was a pioneer in creating naturalistic, low-maintenance gravel gardens. After retiring from farming, she started her gravel gardens in 1970 and, inspired by dry river beds in Greece and the South Downs, in 1979 at the age of 76, created two faux river beds on a slope formerly occupied by Guernsey calves. The river beds terminate in a pond built by Brookes in 1984.
Denmans 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. Joyce described Denmans with her relaxed but disciplined planting style as “glorious disarray”. Fusing her novel planting style with his own characteristically bold design style, focusing on structure, texture, pattern, and colour, John came to describe it 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. A mature modern country garden, Denmans features a walled garden, conservatories, dry river beds, ponds, gravel gardens, and quiet places to sit. The garden is full of unusual plants, some semi-tropical and others collected from abroad by Joyce and John. It is known for its creative plant associations and seemingly random plantings juxtaposed against both clipped and natural architectural plants. The garden has strong year-round interest, which was important to both of its creators. Joyce 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, “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.
Delicious lunches, homemade pastries, coffee, and tea are available at the stylish Denmans Garden Tea Rooms. Afternoon tea is available by prior arrangement. Group bookings, meeting space, and garden talks are available.
Unique gift shop.
Beautiful Plant Centre.
Easy parking. Walkers, cyclists, well-behaved leashed dogs welcome.
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