This intimate and romantic garden of Denmans is a true hidden gem. Memories of the plantswoman Joyce Robinson and the world famous garden designer John Brookes are all over this beautiful place,
The libraries have partially opened, hooray! Like many others I am desperate for books having been starved during lockdown. One of the ordered books for which I have been waiting is ‘Glorious Disarray‘ by Joyce Robinson. In it she describes how she created the garden at Denmans, tucked away in the south-sloping edge of the glorious South Downs, not far from the sea. It is now one of the best gardens here in West Sussex. Join me for a quick visit.
In 1947 Joyce Robinson and her husband bought Denmans which had been a large private estate before the War. At first they turned it into a market garden, but in later years Joyce began to develop an ornamental garden.
In her brief chapters full of helpful notes and details you can hear the voice of a skilled plantswoman with a lifetime’s experience with plants. Beginning with a very run-down old estate we follow her ups and downs as she brings order and beauty, building what she called her ‘Glorious disarray’.
John Brookes and garden design
Another library book I had ordered is John Brookes’ new version of his ‘Small Garden‘. It reflects John’s reputation for introducing the elements of design into small city gardens. Many garden designers owe much to John’s teaching. His influence can be seen in many modern garden designs at Chelsea and other flower shows. He was master of small garden design, especially the stylish minimal look of contemporary gardens. The very well illustrated book is a town or city dweller’s handbook full of ideas for making much of a limited space.
In 1970 John Brookes discovered Denmans through the National Garden Scheme and fell in love with the garden. Encouraged by Joyce Robinson, he moved into the old ‘Clock House‘ and set up his ‘Clock House’ garden design school. He also began working with Joyce re-designing the garden. After Joyce’s death in 1996 John took over the whole garden.
John’s first book ‘The room outside‘ was followed by many others. He became an influential garden designer appearing regularly on TV garden programmes and designing gardens all over the world.
The garden ran into financial difficulties and for a time had to be closed, shortly before John died in 2018. But rtecently it has been bought by a new owner under a new Trust and re-opened to the public.We will watch with interest as this third stage in this garden’s history develops. We wish it well.
Thank you Joyce and John for leaving us with this lovely garden. By the way, three cheers for public libraries and for books too!