Meet the Gardeners at West Dean

West Dean is one of the most significant restored gardens open to the public today and listed Grade II* on the Historic England Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. Our team of eight gardeners work hard to restore and maintain the Gardens, continuing the vision of Jim Buckland and Sarah Wain who recently retired after 28 years. We are very lucky to also have 50 regular volunteers, whose help in keeping the Gardens looking as wonderful as they do is invaluable.

Tom Brown, Head Gardener

Tom Brown has joined West Dean Gardens as the new Head Gardener. He comes to us from nearby Parham House, where he became Head Gardener in 2010. Prior to that, he worked at RHS Wisley Gardens for 10 years, latterly running the plant and vegetable trials.

He is a regular contributor on BBC Radio Sussex and Surrey, a member of the RHS Herbaceous Committee and an RHS Show Judge.

Tom is already familiar with the Gardens and has lecturered for West Dean College's gardening short courses for several years.

Tom tells us "I'm incredibly excited about taking up the post of Head Gardener at West Dean. I have long admired the Gardens and I'm enthusiastic about being part of its next chapter. I'm keen to develop and continue the unique artistic and horticultural collaboration - harmonising the Gardens with the College and the wider West Dean landscape."

We very much look forward to finding out what Tom has planned. Watch this space!

The Team

Laura, Gardener

Primarily Laura looks after the glasshouses as well as plant sales. After working in London for 10 years, Laura decided to career change into horticulture in 2011. After doing RHS qualifications, 6 months work experience and working for a time in a private garden as well as a seasonal job at Parham, Laura started at West Dean as a volunteer before joining the team in December 2014.

Jack, Maintenance Gardener

Jack's work involves general clearance and plant husbandry. With his team of volunteers he tries to keep the place looking beautiful! After a career change from a life in the media in London he is now a full-time tractor driver and Dad.

Anne, Gardener

Anne look's after the herbaceous borders, cut flower area, Pergola and climbers. Lately she has also been working on the early veg display under glass, the vegetable frame and the Kitchen Garden.

After studying art and design Anne moved in to horticulture, and once she began working with plants and outside she realised there was no turning back!

Will, Gardener

Will's focus is the trees and shrubs. Before working at West Dean Will studied and worked in forestry.

Stuart (Stu), Gardener/Arboriculturalist

Before coming to West Dean, Stu was a farm manager of a fruit farm and before that he worked in commercial horticulture. Stu now looks after and maintains the following areas:

Fruit trees - both bush trees and all the trained fruit. This also includes the grapes and nectarines under glass.
Pruning, thinning and harvest.
Grass cutting - both hand mower and ride on mower (various areas throughout the Gardens). This also includes the mowing of the meadows around the gardens and the Arboretum.
Hedge cutting and topiary shapes around the Gardens.
Glasshouse cleaning (exterior).
Hedge cutter maintenance which includes service and sharpening.
Steam cleaning - all patio areas and furniture.
Ornamental tree maintenance.

Christina, Glasshouse Gardener

Christina helps to maintain the Glasshouse collections which includes watering, venting, propagation and potting. She enjoys looking after her own garden at home and helping her children with theirs!

Peter, Trainee*

Peter works alongside other members of team in the Walled Garden and on the grounds.

Before getting into horticulture, he worked with the grounds team at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Arundel for eight years and studied Conservation and Timekeeping at Brinsbury College.

(*This post is very kindly funded by Perennial, The Gardeners' Royal Benevolent Society.)

Team Photos

Laura
Jack
Anne
Will
Stu
Christina
Peter

Jim Buckland and Sarah Wain's retirement

Jim Buckland and Sarah Wain were the inspirational leaders of the garden team for over 25 years, until they retired in April 2019. They brought zeal, imagination, deep horticultural knowledge and an ever-growing understanding and enthusiasm for the gardens and its history. Read the full blog.

We wish Jim and Sarah a heartfelt fond farewell from all of us at West Dean, and best wishes for their retirement.

'At West Dean' published 2018

At West Dean by Jim Buckland and Sarah Wain, is the first book to comprehensively document this extensive and unique project; a celebration of the gardening excellence and love affair with planting that Jim Buckland and Sarah Wain have established at West Dean over a 25-year period.

While West Dean's expansive site is the starting point, At West Dean highlights the persistence, skill and creativity that make for a successful garden in any set of circumstances, providing inspiration and sound advice for all gardeners and setting a sublime standard to aspire to; it is a joyful reminder of the infinite rewards to be gained from a hard day's work in the garden.

Richly illustrated by award-winning garden photographer Andrea Jones, the glories of West Dean through the seasons are shown to their full extent, mingled with shots of gardeners at work pruning, tying, mowing, raking, labelling, washing pots, stacking canes.

The results of their labours are defined by horticultural rigour and contemporary efficiencies set against a Victorian backdrop.

"I am in awe of what Sarah Wain & Jim Buckland have achieved at West Dean and this superb book is a testament to inspired, uncompromising horticulture at its very best." Monty Don

At West Dean is available to purchase in hardback from the West Dean Gardens Gift Shop.

West Dean Garden's Awards

In 2016 Head Gardeners Sarah and Jim won the Horticulture Week Custodian of the Year Award for their 25 years of glorious gardening at West Dean.
Read more.

In 2014 the restored Sunken Garden at West Dean Gardens was awarded the Sussex Heritage Trust Award in the Landscape and Gardens category.

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Support West Dean Gardens

West Dean Gardens is part of a registered charity and its upkeep and care are only possible with the support of generous donors, friends and legacy gifts.

If you share our passion for the gardens and gardening excellence,
please find out how you can help support their upkeep.