Southern Belles

Nestled in the foothills of the South Downs are a group of gardens, some managed by teams of experienced gardeners, which are well worth exploring this July and August.

Book in for a treat at Sullington Old Rectory

Sullington Old Rectory, Storrington, which opens by arrangement for groups during July, has a stunning backdrop of the South Downs. Managed by Head Gardener Mark Dixon, his passion for the naturalistic style sits well into the surrounding landscape. With many areas to explore, including a potager, orchard, herb garden, pleached lime walk, perennial borders and moist meadow there’s also a strong framework of established trees and shrubs, new plantings and areas under development.

Head gardener at Sullington Old Rectory, Mark Dixon

Head gardener at Sullington Old Rectory, Mark Dixon

“I’m quite passionate about perennials of all kinds but particularly those from grassland habitats,” says Mark. “The owners of The Rectory are inspired by the naturalistic style of renowned designer Piet Oudolf, so when I was interviewed for the position in 2014, my experience and interest in this field came through and landed me the job.   During my time here I have designed and planted quite a few new perennial borders in a naturalistic style. Some are really coming into their own this season and some still need a little bit of development work to fine-tune them, but are still looking good.”

Large drifts of Perovskia atricpliiflolia, and the unusual and beautiful Monarda bradburyiana grown from seed, are looking resplendent while Penstemon digitalis, and many varieties of Salvia, Rudbeckia and Achillea add stunning colour and shape.

“Sullington Old Rectory also has a bio diverse two hectare meadow, so my naturalistic style sits well with it and links to the beautiful aspect of the South Downs National Park,” adds Mark.

With the help of two students from Brinsbury College, Mark has worked flat out all season to get the standard of presentation up to as high a level as possible, and the borders will just be about to peak for our open days on July 9, 10 and 11. Booking is essential and there will be two tours per day over the three days. Phone or email your booking. The price is £12 per person which includes the tour, and teas at Workshop Cage at Sullington Manor Farm. For more information click here.

Wednesday Welcomes at Fittleworth House Garden 

Head gardener at Fittleworth House garden, Mark Saunders

Head gardener at Fittleworth House garden, Mark Saunders

Half an hour’s drive from Sullington Rectory is Fittleworth House garden, overseen by Head Gardener Mark Saunders and his assistant, son Pete. With open days on Wednesday’s on July 10 and 17 and August 14 and 21 this tranquil three acre, romantic country garden features a working walled kitchen garden growing a wide range of fruit, vegetables and flowers. A large glasshouse and old potting shed lend character alongside mixed flower borders, rose beds, rhododendrons and lawns. The magnificent 112ft tall Cedar stands sentinel to the Grade II listed Georgian house (not open) while a wildlife pond, wild garden, long grass areas and a new, naturalistic water cascade all add to the tranquillity of the space.

Head Gardener, Mark Saunders, has been nurturing the garden at Fittleworth House for twenty years and was the inspiration behind it opening for the National Garden Scheme. With a wealth of experience gained at Peper Harrow, Hascombe Court and Dunsborough he’s a plantsman with a wealth of knowledge and a passion for vegetables that’s he’s happy to share.

For more about Fittleworth House Garden click here
Read Pete Saunders story ‘Shaping a Future in Gardening’ here

Also in the area:

Bignor Park – 11 acres of peace – opens on September 29

Champs Hill – a natural landscape developed around three disused sand quarries -opens on August 11 and by arrangement until September 30.

Durrance Manor – two acres with uninterrupted views to Chanctonbury Ring – open August 26 and by arrangement July – October.

Dachs – open by arrangement in July and August.

Dale Park House – set in parkland, enjoying magnificent views to the sea – open by arrangement in July.

Five Oaks Cottage – an acre of delicate jungle surrounding an Arts and Crafts style cottage – open by arrangement during July.

The Old Vicarage – three and a half acres to explore – opens August 26 and October 13.

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