Gravetye Manor is a country house hotel deep in the Sussex countryside. The garden is open for all residents, those who visit just for a meal and pre-booked tours. We went for afternoon tea on Saturday. The sky was grey and the clouds looked as though rain was being threatened. It stayed away fortunately and we went into the garden after our sandwiches, scones duly heaped with cream and jam and cake.
The house and garden were originally bought in 1884 by William Robinson, a professional gardener and botanist. He encouraged naturalised planting and was against the formal Victorian garden, he loved herbaceous borders with perennial planting. The garden is now under the exceptional care of Tom Coward, head gardener, who used to be part of the team at Great Dixter. He has brought the Dixter ethos of continuous planting to Gravetye.
Our visit saw purple alliums of different sizes, statuesque lupins, colourful ladybird poppies, orlaya and apricot lupins.
There was also an abundance of beautiful bearded iris, mixed in amongst the allium.
The iris were also impressive in another bed further along in the main garden, known as the Flower Garden. Here they were planted with white lupins.
To the left of the Flower Garden is a pergola with white Wisteria and pale blue bearded iris. Our walk was not hampered by the strong wind, but it did make taking photos difficult, as you can see from the Wisteria below.
The other side of the pergola was a large bed of allium, underplanted with nepeta. The alliums were just going over but it was clear that in earlier weeks this would have been a breathtaking sight.
The Kitchen Garden is on a grand scale, with cutting flowers for the hotel mixed in with vegetables and fruit for the restaurant. As we entered through the gates the first sight is a corner bed of white lupins and ladybird poppies.
Leaving the Kitchen Garden we went down the hill through the Woodland Garden towards the greenhouses. Here you can see all the renovation work being undertaken on the Victorian greenhouses. They were packed with plants waiting to go out and seedlings in readiness for the continuous planting, the canas and dahlias were obviously the next to be moved into the flower beds.
Then the sun came out!
We wandered back through the Flower Garden, now bathed in sunshine. We saw Tom (and his dog) working and stopped for a chat. I toyed with the idea of asking him if I could take their photo but decided against it, shame really I now wish I had asked.
Gravetye Manor is in East Grinstead, West Sussex. The garden is open to hotel and restaurant guests. Pre-booked tours of the garden are available for small groups. Contact the reception team on 01342 810567 for further information. Further information can be found on their website http://www.gravetyemanor.co.uk