A Prairie Garden in the Sussex Downs

A little while ago Charlotte/The Galloping Gardener suggested a day out at Sussex Prairies near Henfield. West Sussex.  It was the first time I had heard of this garden, sadly because of other events, I didn’t manage to meet her there.  Yesterday I and my friend MB made our first visit to this amazing garden.

There is a small garden at the back of the house, full of tall interesting grasses and initially we thought that was it, until we got to the little humped back bridge and saw before us a breathtaking view of an incredible expanse of garden. We both stood there and said “Whow!”, it was not at all what we were expecting.

The next day (4 September), there was an Unusual Plant and Art fair, so when we met the lovely, enthusiastic, Pauline McBride she was busy with the organisation, but she did have time to have a chat with us.   The garden was started by her and her husband Paul in 2008, with the help of 45 members of their family and friends.    Sussex Prairies Garden is 6 acres containing 30,000 plants of 550 different varieties and along with the tall grasses there were swathes of Heleniums, Rudbeckia and Echinacea.

It was a relaxing afternoon just to wander around the garden, in and out of the various narrow paths that wind through the beds.  There were higher beds with places to sit at the top, so  you could absorb the sheer expanse of the Prairie.

Not everybody likes sculpture placed in and amongst flower beds.  MB for one doesn’t see that it sits well.  I, on the other hand, thought they were fun and like the juxtaposition of nature and art.  There were a number of ceramic abstract flowers on metal poles scattered through the garden which gave rise to debate and then we came across a tea-set in the middle of some grasses.  It looked as though they perhaps had been tipped out of an aeroplane and just hovering where they landed.  Even MB laughed at this.

Visits to gardens require a stop at the tea room and this one did not disappoint.  It was great, we were given large mugs for our tea, perhaps because the china tea service were out in the garden somewhere!  The choice of home-made cakes all looked delicious and I chose a wonderfully moist Bakewell Cake.

The garden is haven for photo opportunities too and below are just a few of the many many photos I took.

I love these bird houses, which you can buy.

Please don’t think, “what a lovely garden such pity it is too far for me to visit”.  Sussex Prairie also run a  Bed and Breakfast.  As we left we thought how sad it was that we lived so close because this is just the sort of place we would love to come for a few days away and be able to wander around a beautiful garden in a marvellous setting.

61 thoughts on “A Prairie Garden in the Sussex Downs

  1. Wow! this garden looks wonderful. i have friends who used to live in Henfield, and I don’t think they knew about it or I’m sure I would have visited it when staying with them, is it very new? Christina

    1. They started the garden in 2008. I have lived in the area for years and only found out about it this year. It closed now but when open again your friends must visit especially as they are so near.

  2. These are such wonderful pictures! We were thinking on doing a blog on a long weekend in Sussex and this is just what we are keen on- wonderful, almost fantasy like gardens.

    Would you be interested in allowing us to use some of your images? (There’s no cash I’m afraid- just glory!) Let us know if so!

    Elaine – info@goactivities.co.uk

  3. Ronnie, am I correct in assuming that you are in the U.K.? I am retiring next year, and one of my goals is to see England, Ireland and Scotland. Now I REALLY want to come there!!! I’m signing on to follow so I can see what to plan for!

    Jane (U.S.)

  4. Thank you everybody for stopping by to take the time to read my post about Sussex Prairies and then leaving a comment or hitting the like button. It is very much appreciated. I hope those of you who have signed up for further posts are not disappointed. Ronnie

  5. next time maybe include names of the flowers for me and the other undereducated… villagebandwidth.com

  6. I am on fal break. I’m a teacher. Unfortunately, I am planted for the week in my Tennessee home. Thank you for my “virtual” vacation. The scenery was breathtaking. I can only dream of visiting there in person.

  7. This garden looks like a fantasy wonderland. It completely reminds me of when I was a child, I absolutely and totally believed in Fairies and Unicorns… this garden reminds me of the “enchanted woods” I used to try and draw when I was little, I wallpapered my room with my creations… my mother still has some of them in a trunk somewhere.
    Thanks for sharing – brought back great memories, glad you had a fabulous time!!!

  8. These are such a beautiful photographs. I was in UK last August, in Bournemouth and Devizes, Wiltshire… How fascinated me gardens and flowers… This is so true there is not any house without garden or flowers… I remembered once again my beautiful days in there. But I haven’t seen this garden, I wish(ed) to visit too. Thank you, nice to meet you and congratulations on being Freshly Pressed. With my love,

  9. Beautiful pictures and it looks like a really lovely garden. Thank you for sharing and congratulations on being freshly pressed!

  10. Lovely, just lovely! I love the photo of te cups and tea pot in the flowers. England, actually all of the United Kingdom is on my bucket list. Funny, a few years ago, I had no idea what a bucket list was…now it’s 2 pages long. 🙂

    Glad I found your blog!

  11. Ooooh…now that is a place that I that would be very happy to stay in for a while! I’m not a gardener or anything, but I love the outdoors, and that garden just looks so peaceful. You’re right; it’s the perfect place to just “get away” for a few days. 🙂

    Lovely photos and congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  12. What gorgeous colors. My favorite photo is the spike-y bright red one. The echinacia is almost enough to make me like pink. 🙂 Here in western Massachusetts, we don’t have too many formal gardens, but we have a lot of farms, walking trails and mountain views that allow for good photography (especially since the colors change so dramatically this time of year). Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

  13. I could be very happy spending a day there, love late summer flowers such rich colours, especially fond of echinaceas (see my blog) but bergamot is stunning too. Also I NEED that cake! thanks for the day trip!

    1. It is a garden that is certainly worth a visit. My timing was a bit quirky too…. there were several reviews of the garden all within a few days. One was the Saturday Daily Telegraph and another was on Thinkin Gardens, they were all from a different angle though.

  14. I had to laugh at the tea set out in the garden! Not something I would have, but a fun sight. On the other hand, I love the birdhouses. The gardens look like a great place to visit; it would be a treat to stay in the B&B.

  15. Dear Ronnie
    thankyou for a super review of our garden ! we are so glad you enjoyed it .As you can understand our garden is all about getting in there and experiencing the gorgeous plants ,textures ,shapes ,sensations,sounds ,colours and accompanying wildlife. The sheer indulgence and exhuberance of mass plantings are still a veritable delight and wonder to us . Paul and I are looking forward to sharing it further with your readers !!Looking forward to welcoming you back again .

  16. Stunning photographs. the echinacea and rudbeckia show the benefits of having plenty of land so that you can plant in drifts instead of one of everything. I feel a long weekend coming on!!

    1. It was a delicious moist cake, with a wonderful almond flavour. The filling was a butter cream but not sure if that had almond flavouring, don’t think it did otherwise it would have been too overpowering.

  17. Years ago, a friend told me that her son had lived in England for a year or so, and came back said that there was not a house without a respectful garden. Your beautiful photos reminded me the Hyden Park, gardens in Cambridge, and Hampton Court which we visited some years ago.

  18. I visited this garden in August & then again in October last year & loved it. You can read about it on my blog if you are terribly keen. I particularly loved being able to get in amongst the plants & almost getting lost amongst the colours & textures along with the accompanying insect life. If there was a small criticism or 2 it was that perhaps it would have been good to see a bit more of the surroundings & a bit more height to see over the garden but they are minor against being able to wallow, metaphorically speaking, in the planting. Was hoping to perhaps get to the fair today but not to be.

  19. As you know I do enjoy art in the garden! For me my small garden is another ‘room’ at the back of my house. Because it is my favourite ‘room’ 6 months of year I like to mix the plants with objects that am particularly fond of. I have been known to add the occasional artificial flower as well. I will definately be going to the prairie garden. Your photos are fabulous, particularly the Echinacea.

  20. Sounds like you had a lovely time – we don’t have that many gardens in Leics. to visit unfortunately. Love those mass planting pics – sadly you need a helluva lot of space for it – which I don’t have.

  21. Thanks for this Ronnie – I really want to visit this garden so next year so I am going to plan a garden bothering trip ‘down south’ next year.

    From your photos the planting looks stunning, though I think I might share MBs reservations about the art!

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