Our second visit of 2021 was to Borde Hill Garden, just outside Haywards Heath. The house and garden are privately owned, but affiliated to the RHS, the garden only being open to the public. The current members of the Clarke family are the fourth generation, the Elizabethan house having been bought in 1893, from which time the gardens, part of 200 acres of parkland, have flourished, been redesigned and extended, to include plants brought to this country by the Great Plant Hunters, 73 Champion trees and many rare shrubs, the entire considered sufficiently important that the gardens are Grade II* listed!
We began our visit with a social get together – about twenty members were there and we chatted and had a catch-up over a picnic. It was great to meet again before we all dispersed to find out what the gardens had to offer. Some of our members are actually regular and very knowledgeable visitors to Borde Hill and headed off to pursue their own agenda. Many of us were first timers, however, but there are so many different elements to the grounds that a single visit can be only a taster and we focused mainly on the different flower gardens in the vicinity of the house. The general design divides the space into distinct “rooms”, concentrating specific styles of planting or design themes into manageable spaces. This being July, the Rose Garden was abundant, the air deliciously scented and, with the sun favouring us at times, very redolent of the English summer! The Italian Garden, with its formal layout featuring a large rectangular pond, clipped box hedging, urns and statuary, is lovely and very tranquil. The Midsummer Border, a long walk off which some of the other gardens are accessed, was abundant and colourful. Currently the gardens are also home to many and various statues and sculptures, either standing as statement pieces in open spaces or nestled among the planting and shrubbery, several becoming talking points among us all, with some quite coveted!
Some of the much older parts of the gardens remain, the Old Potting Sheds, for example, and the Victorian greenhouses. All that remains of the potting sheds are a number of low walls, but they have been incorporated as architectural features, interspersed with judicious planting, into a very pleasing and calm space with a timeless feel. As we walked from one area to another we found ourselves overlooking the Ouse valley with the amazing railway viaduct – yet another feature of the gardens being the great vistas over the scenic Sussex countryside. At different times of the year each area of these vast gardens comes into its own, bluebells in the woods in spring, rhododendrons and azaleas in May, with autumn colour bringing the many trees into focus as the winter nears. Borde Hill is a Garden for All Seasons – well worth repeat visits to fully appreciate all it has to offer.
Our final outdoor meeting of this year, on August 10th, will be our Annual Plant Sale and Social, details of which, once finalised, will be emailed to members. At this time we will be taking subscriptions for the rest of the year and we look forward to welcoming new members too.