Sunken garden restored at West Dean


KNOWN for enviable architecture and stunning landscapes, the house and gardens at West Dean have always been popular with visitors.

But after six years of dedicated labour, the estate now boasts a new delight for visitors.



Major restoration work has transformed the picturesque sunken garden at West Dean.

Situated at the eastern end of the Harold Peto-designed pergola, the new area contrasts with the spaciousness of the surrounding lawns.

Jim Buckland, garden manager, said: “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 unmortared walls collapsing, uneven paving and steps and the tiered planting being heavily infested with weeds.



“The restoration process allowed us to expand the proportions of the garden so that it is more in keeping with the grandeur and loose formality of the pergola structure to which the sunken garden is inextricably linked.”

The project was carried out by the inhouse, by the gardens team. Using original wall stone and other hard landscape materials, the garden was completed, turfed and planted up in spring 2013, but has just opened its doors to visitors.

The planting has been designed to be perennial, to give a long season of ‘floral interest’ and fragrance throughout the summer.

Gardens supervisor Sarah Wain said: “We have selected a range of small, choice plants that would be unlikely to survive and be visually lost in the broader landscape.

“We have planted plenty of bulbs 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 cansescens – colour – flowers in the pink and purple range such as hellebores and primulas which flower in spring, and fragrance – sages, thyme and other herbs.

“Low-growing plants such as snow in summer and aubretia will cover the walls while 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.”

Over the past 20 years, head gardeners Jim Buckland and Sarah Wain have redeveloped 90 acres 
of the grounds and arboretum to bring the 
19th-century gardens in to the 21st century.

Included in the showcase of horticultural variety and quality, the award-winning gardens include many interesting and architectural delights, including a 300ft Edwardian pergola, 16 restored Victorian glasshouses, a walled garden, kitchen garden, orchards, ornamental gardens, and spring wild and woodland gardens.

To find out more visit West Dean’s website