Nymans formal gardens cover approximately 33 acres and is set on the side of a valley partly sheltered by the woods of the Sussex Weald. The garden is laid out in a series of rooms connected by stone steps or grassy slopes. The rooms are separated by hedges, walls or trees which provide shelter for the rare and exotic plants for which the garden is renowned.
These picturesque English country gardens include the fabulous June and summer borders, walled garden, rose garden, summer borders, exotic borders, sunk garden, African bed, rock garden, pinetum, wild garden and arboretum.
The walled garden houses the June and summer borders as well as some of the most significant shrubs and trees. The June borders borders flank each side of the pathway and are planted up perennial and herbaceous plants. The colour scheme is light and muted in direct contrast to the summer borders just beyond the topiary yews.
The summer borders are a riot of colour. Planted in four tiers there is a graduation of heights from front to back, with approximately half of the planting being annual bedding. The planting combinations contrast colourfully with each other and the borders are ablaze with colour. These really are an outstanding feature of Nymans gardens.
The rose garden is beautiful and full of scent. Climbing rises sprawl over archways and beds are planted with light pink and white hybrid teas, moss and species roses. The rose garden used to be controlled organically for pests and diseases but this has been stopped in the last few years and the uses of chemicals to control rust, mildew and aphids is once again used. A few years ago some roses were replaced with David Austin English roses in order to extend the flowering season but these newcomers are struggling so there is an ongoing programme to bring back the traditional roses.
The exotic border is located next to the ruins of the old house that was destroyed by fire in 1947. The ruin walls provide a micro climate that protects plants from the cold. Hardy bananas are left out unprotected along with the cycas palms, although it is recognised that this can only be so in mild winters. This border was refurbished in 2010 and unfortunately some of the planting has not survived. Today it looks at little messy with non exotic planting starting to creep into the bed.
The Pinetum was the first major project carried out by Ludwig Messel. Located behind the house it hugs the boundary of the circular wild flower meadow. The trees are now of considerable size and maturity, and the pinetum evokes Ludwig Messels' plant collecting passion more than any other garden area. Of course he would never have seen the pinetum as the mature garden we view today.
Beyond the pinetum is the arboretum, which then leads onto the woodland. The arboretum houses many significant trees collected from plant expeditions including Nyssa sylcatica (Tupelo), Liquidamber Stryracifolia (Sweet Gum) and Tilia Americana (American lime). The woodland is dominated by camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas, and trees are under planted with spring bulb.
The sunk garden was created in 2010, primarily as a backdrop for wedding which are now performed in the beautiful loggia. Located within view of the Gothic ruins the grass sinks gently in a perfect circle, which at its centre has a large Byzantine pot and quartile beds planted with perennial plants. Standard roses, Italian cypresses and Taxus columns also enclose the garden.
Just along from the sunk garden is the new south African bed. I think this is a great edition to the gardens, and brings back the spirit of the gardens through experimental plant collections.These beds were previously a wild garden but were redesigned as they had become very overgrown. Today fantastic South African plants such as Kniphofia (red hot pokers), Berkheya purpurea ‘Zulu Warrior’ and grasses such as Eragrostis curvula and Elegia tectorum punctuate the beds. The planting is deliberately low to make the most of the views behind them of the Sussex Weald. The farmland is part of the Nymans estate and is now leased to tenant farmers. There are plans to reintroduce the kitchen garden in the near future, which will include restoration of the original glasshouses.
A wisteria covered pergola walkway takes you up to the wild garden, which is located across a busy road. In this area large specimen trees dominate the gardens, whilst the planting around is left to establish itself with minimum interference. Mown paths allow you to travel around the gardens and admire some of the rarest trees on site.