Press Release: Peter Thoday returns to West Dean Gardens, 25 Years Garden Party

Horticultural lecturer and broadcaster, Peter Thoday, congratulated Head Gardeners, husband and wife, Jim Buckland and Sarah Wain, on 25 years at West Dean Gardens. Peter spoke at a Garden Party on Friday 16 September where friends, family, horticulture peers and art, design and conservation experts gathered to celebrate a lifetime of horticultural commitment. Jim and Sarah began restoring the 19th century landscape at West Dean in 1991, in the wake of the Great Storms. Inspired by The Victorian Kitchen Garden, a 13-part British television series presented by Peter in 1987, the first project was a two-year restoration of the walled kitchen garden featuring 13 Victorian glasshouses, designed by Foster & Pearson between 1895 and 1901 and considered to be some of the finest examples in the UK.

"The gardens at West Dean are the best place in Britain to see the skills that underpin the craft of gardening practiced to perfection," says Peter who was very supportive of Garden Manager, Jim's, vision 25 years ago.

"It has been a huge privilege to live and work in such a special place and with such special people for the last twenty five years," says Jim "Sarah and I look forward to the next few years, if not the next quarter century!"

Peter joined the Cambridge University Botanic Garden as a horticultural student in the 1950s. He was subsequently Senior Lecturer in Landscape Management at the University of Bath. Passionate about horticulture and accessibility to it, Peter has contributed to books on the subject of accessibility, is a former Trustee of the Sensory Trust, and remains an Associate. He is a past-President of the Institute of Horticulture, was involved with the Lost Gardens of Heligan and was Horticultural Director on the Eden Project.

Guests at the Garden Party included: John Gardiner, Executive Vice President, Royal Horticultural Society; Michael Fitt, OBE, Chairman, The Royal Parks Guild; Susan Campbell, Vice President of The Gardens Trust and an expert on walled gardens; Susan Carter, Head Gardener at Laycock Abbey; Harriet Ryecroft, gardening writer and former Head Gardener at Whichford Pottery; and Peter Budge, Mayor of Chichester and Philippa Budge, Lady Mayoress.

West Dean Gardens are listed Grade II on the Historic England Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. Further highlights ; a 300-foot Edwardian Pergola designed by Harold Peto; an award-winning Sunken Garden; a fruit collection of 100 varieties of apples including many heritage varieties; a Spring, Wild and Woodland garden; parkland and St. Roche's Arboretum, with its fine collection of trees, offering breathtaking views of the South Downs.

In the years since 1991, Jim and Sarah have overseen tremendous changes and the gardens attract visitors from all over the UK and internationally.

A photographic display 25 Years of Glorious Gardening in the renovated 'mushroom shed' at West Dean Gardens runs until the end of October. Free entry with a ticket to the gardens (adult standard entry £8.50, children go FREE).

Jim Buckland, Gardens Manager is an Honours Graduate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and an Associate of Honour of the RHS (2013), conferred for distinguished service to horticulture in the transformation of West Dean Gardens.

Sarah Wain, Gardens Supervisor, Diploma in Horticultural Science, Burnley Horticultural College, Australia. In recognition of her contribution to West Dean Sarah has been awarded; The Professional Gardeners' Guild Loyal and Outstanding Service Award; and the Institute of Horticulture Award.

They received the Outstanding Contribution Award by Horticulture Week earlier this year and have been shortlisted for Outstanding Contribution, Historic England Angels Award, founded by Andrew Lloyd Webber (winner announced 21 October).


Notes to editors

  • West Dean Gardens is part of The Edward James Foundation, a charitable trust, also comprising West Dean College, West Dean Estate and the West Dean Tapestry Studio. Charity No. 1126084.
  • Built over 120 years ago the glasshouses require ongoing maintenance. To donate to the Save the Glasshouses appeal online visit
  • The gardens are open to the public from 1 February - 23 December.
  • All photography is free to use for editorial purposes.
  • West Dean College and Gardens are situated on the A286, six miles north of Chichester and within easy access of Portsmouth, Guildford, Brighton and London.

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Sarah Wain and Jim Buckland, Head Gardeners, West Dean Gardens
Sarah Wain and Jim Buckland, Head Gardeners, West Dean Gardens (centre), Paul Rochford (L) and Jeremy Herrtage (R) The Worshipful Company of Gardeners
L to R; Jim Buckland, Gardens Manager, Sarah Wain, Gardens Supervisor and Peter Thoday

Media Contact Information

For further information, high-resolution digital images of filming opportunities contact

Irene Caswell, Senior Media Officer, +44 (0)1243 818301


West Dean College, Chichester, West Sussex, PO18 OQZ