Sunken Garden

The beautiful Sunken Garden at West Dean reopened in the Spring of 2014 after a six year period of restoration and in July 2014 was awarded a Sussex Heritage Trust Award - Landscape & Gardens category.

Situated at the eastern end of the spectacular Harold Peto-designed Pergola, the Sunken Garden gives the area an intimacy and sense of shelter, in marked contrast to the spaciousness of the surrounding lawns.

The original Sunken Garden is thought to have been built around the late 19th century to replace a late Victorian rose parterre. A complete rebuild was required due to the collapse of the unmortared walls, uneven paving and steps and the tiered planting being heavily infested with weeds. The restoration process allowed the gardeners to expand the proportions of the Sunken Garden so that it is more in keeping with the grandeur and loose formality of the Pergola structure to which the Sunken Garden is linked.

The whole project was carried out in-house by the Gardens team using the original wall stone and other hard landscape materials. The garden was completed, turfed and planted up in Spring 2013. The new planting has been designed to be perennial, to give a long season of floral interest and fragrance throughout the summer months and reflect the nature of the space.

Plants Grown

A range of small, choice plants was selected for the planting scheme that would be unlikely to survive and be visually lost in the broader landscape. Plenty of bulbs were planted, including Crocus, Scillas, Iris and Puschikinia to hail the arrival of spring as well as plants which provide variety of leaf texture and shape (Artemisia canescens), colour (spring flowers in the pink and purple range such as hellebores and primulas) and fragrance (sages, thyme and other herbs). Low-growing plants such as Snow in Summer and Aubretia will clothe the walls whilst Rosa 'Natalie Nypels' will ensure a display of light pink repeat flowers all season long. A new planting feature is the 'shelter belt' of Box, Buxus sempervirens, around the perimeter of the space which in a few years' time will be a feature in itself as it becomes a manicured green clipped ribbon.

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