Local Landscapes 2 – Dramatic Drifts of Lady’s Smock

On the country drive I take to and from work there is a long straight section of hedge with a fifteen foot grassy verge in front. Each spring this verdant roadside stretch is illuminated with pointillist pale pink flowers of Lady’s Smock (cardamine pratense), forming intermittent drifts over 100 yards from end to end. Continue reading


Local Landscapes 1 – Glorious Golden Spring Poplars

My drive to work takes me along a narrow winding country road and over a little hump back bridge which is one of the few routes that guarantee I won’t sit waiting at a level crossing. I have become very familiar with this four miles of West Sussex countryside and accustomed to noting the subtle changes in the landscape. Continue reading

Trained fruit at West Dean Gardens

  • Free standing trained forms – pears in spectacular open drum and cone formations
  • Wall-trained forms – pears, apples and gooseberry in varied espalier forms
  • Arched pear pergola – pears trained in a series of arches to create a pergola tunnel
  • Glasshouse fruit – desert grape vines in several forms and glasshouse peach fans


West Dean Gardens in West Sussex include one of the finest restored Edwardian kitchen gardens anywhere in the world. If you want to see trained fruit (and veg) at its best it should be on your itinerary.

The photo above shows a view down one side of the walled fruit garden, which is laid out in quadrants, transected by two long paths. Each quadrant contains a small orchard of free-standing apple trees, growing among rough grass and wildflowers (right hand side of image above). Continue reading

Visiting Great Dixter

This May bank holiday I went to East Sussex – the county I grew up in – and to my mind the most beautiful county in England. My destination was Great Dixter – the house and gardens designed by Edwin Lutyens, and made famous by the expert gardening of the late Christopher Lloyd. However, I was in no hurry to get there as the country lanes that wind endlessly through Sedlescombe, Bodium and Ewehurst towards Northiam are as picturesque as one could wish.

They certainly reinforced my childhood memories of an unspoiled human scale landscape of small fields, hedges and copses with footpaths and farm tracks leading off, invitingly, in every direction. The road plunging through tree-arched ravines, festooned on each side with fern-encrusted banks, only to rise again into the sunshine revealing cottages and converted oast houses with pretty country gardens, tucked comfortably into the land, as if they had always been there.

Great Dixter

The house and gardens at Great Dixter were created by Edwin Lutyens from 1910 for the Lloyd. Lutyens was reponsible for renovating and extending the mediaeval Great Hall that stood on the site at the turn of the 20th century. Having been a working farm the surrounding oast houses, barns and outbuildings were retained and the gardens designed to make the most of their architectural presence. Continue reading

Cloud pruned hedges & topiary fun


Out and About in Sussex, England: musings on creative pruning

Cloud pruned lonicera nitida hedge

Most of the hedging in my garden is in the formal, rectilinear style, but I really like cloud-pruned hedges too. Here are a couple that are on public display, that I pass on my travels around Sussex…

The playful Honeysuckle hedge (Lonicera nitida) above had just been clipped. I drive past it every day on my way to work. It forms the boundary to a long thin garden of an isolated cottage near Chichester, West Sussex. It is all the more striking as the plot sits, bravely isolated, in a sea of featureless farmland.

The random curved mounds are interspersed with more angular forms, producing an effect reminiscent of the stone work of an ancient civilisation. I like the contrast with the looser form of the young oak tree that rises above like a storm cloud. Even the odd-length bleached wood poles add to the composition, whilst preventing drivers churning up the turf as they pass on the narrow lane. Continue reading