Sunday, 15 September 2013

Gravetye Manor

On Thursday, I joined the symposium group for a visit to Gravetye Manor, which is located about a hour and a half from Great Dixter, in West Sussex. Built in 1598, the manor has gone through a series of owners, but none more notable than the great gardener and writer, William Robinson, who occupied Gravetye from 1884-1935. Commonly thought of as the father of the English natural garden, Robinson was revolutionary in his planting schemes, specifically the way he blended the woods and meadows with the garden. 

The Wild Garden merging with the Croquet Lawn

Robinson's appreciation for the natural landscape has significantly influenced today's gardening practices around the world.  Great Dixter is what it is today, in large part, due to the work of William Robinson and Gravetye, specifically with the implementation of diverse meadow gardens. 

View of the Wildflower Meadow leading down to the Upper Lake

Following Robinson's death in 1935, the property came under possession of the Forestry Commision. After years of decline, the house received fresh attention in 1958, when Peter Herbert turned Gravetye into a prestigious Hotel. Today, under new management, Gravetye is making further strides towards improvement and quality in their Hotel & Restaurant, as well as the garden.  In 2010, Tom Coward, former assistant gardener to Fergus Garrett at Great Dixter, was appointed Head Gardener at Gravetye. Tom's knowledge and passion has already gone a long way in renovating the neglected garden. Tom admits one of Gravetye's biggest obstacles has been gaining control of the invasive weeds. To this end, they have patiently delayed planting perennials in heavily infested spaces. However, they believe their diligence is paying off, and they will soon be able to move forward uninhibited. 

The Long Border

Only 5 months old, the Long Border is already bursting with shape, texture and color. It's just one example of the great work that Tom and his team are doing at Gravetye. I'm glad this once great garden is again full of life and excitement, and I hope that it will continue to inspire future generations, as it has in the past.

   Long Border planting

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