Sprawling out in front of the Mansion are carefully tended lawns over two levels. At the far side of the lower lawn there are 16 island beds that form one of Wakehurst’s most intriguing garden features.
In the early 1900s Gerald Loder, Wakehurst’s owner at the time, added wild-collected plants from the southern hemisphere in a mixture of trees, heathers and dwarf rhododendrons. This was the inspiration for the Southern Hemisphere Garden.
In keeping with the planting scheme, of grouping plants by geographic origin the Southern Hemisphere Garden features plants from New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and South America.
There are so many interesting plants found on these continents including eucalyptus, hebe and unusual conifers. There are also several iconic plant groups that are only found in theses area, such as the protea family and you will find several varieties of these here including Telopea, Hakea and Banksia from Australia, as well as Embothrium from South America and Protea from South Africa.
There are also beautiful white flowered shrubs known as Eucryphia, which are only found in South America and Australia, while the more familiar Fuchsia hails from South America and New Zealand.
Most of the plants have been introduced as shrubs but you will also spot some herbaceous plants including red-hot pokers (Kniphofia) and Agapanthus in the South African bed and the extraordinary Fuchsia procumbens from New Zealand.
It lies east of the Mansion Pond and was created by Tony Schilling, Curator, who was at Wakehurst from 1967 and 1991. It was one of the gardens that was badly damaged in the 1987 Great Storm, but meant it was a blank canvas on which Tony created a planting plan to mimic the high Himalayan mountains – ensuring it would be more resistant if similar storms occurred.
Tony was passionate about the Himalayas and went on extensive seed collecting trips. Most of the plants here have been raised from seed or cuttings in the Wakehurst nurseries so they genuinely represent the flora of these mountains – particularly those growing at or above the tree line.
In the gardens you will find large groups of shrubs, including a variety of rhododendrons, junipers, potentillas and cotoneasters.
The garden is at its best during the spring when the rhododendrons are bursting into bloom, but there are also interesting specimens for other seasons, including winter-flowering Lonicera setifera, summer lilies and species hydrangeas, and Roscoea and Cautleya in flower in autumn.
At Wakehurst you can take a journey through interconnecting water-based gardens, and experience the relaxing effects of the sounds of water. Take the path from the front of the Mansion down to the ornamental sundial and you will enter a shallow valley called the Slips with a stream that links all of Wakehurst’s watery areas.
This area was set out by Gerald Loder with the beds below the sundial planted with rock roses (Cistus), Jerusalem sage (Phlomis) and other plants found around the Mediterranean Sea. Water gently cascades along a stream between large magnolias, which are a magnificent sight in early spring. The banks on either side are carefully managed for spring bulbs and native wildflowers, forming a corridor of colour for several months into summer.
A magical area shaded by mature oak and alder trees. Allegedly once home to black swans, it is today inhabited by moorhens and ducks, which sometimes nest among the dwarf bamboos growing on the pond’s western edge. Black Pond is also home to several large koi carp. It is surrounded by dogwoods grown for their coloured winter stems that reflect beautifully in the water. The stream continues in a cascade from this pond through beds planted with moisture-loving plants such as candelabra primulas, day lilies (Hemerocallis) and the spectacular giant Himalayan lily (Cardiocrinum giganteum).
A raised wooden walkway allows you to walk amongst more than 60 varieties of Japanese water iris (Iris ensata). This area bursts into vibrant colour in late June and early July. The plants form a carpet of blues, mauves and purples, but they only last a few brief weeks. If you do miss them then there are consolations, you can see the yellow flowers of Narcissus cyclamineiu in March, evergreen azaleas in April and the autumn colour of the coral bark maples (Acer palmatum Sangokaku) in September.
The name doesn’t sound inspiring but the area certainly is. The Ditch Beds lie between Black Pond and the Iris Dell. They are planted with a mix of herbaceous plants including gunneras and giant Himalayan lilies (Cardiocrinum giganteum), which flower in June and leave huge sculptural seed heads.
This area combines ornamental planting with educational messages. It has a boardwalk to help school groups when pond dipping. It is home to a number of British native plants showing the value of our own flora in the gardens.
This combines a profusion of bee-friendly plants around working beehives and displays of beekeeping equipment. Here you will find everything you need to know about pollen, pollination and pollinators.
The Himalayan Glade lies in a deep cleft on the north side of the Westwood Valley. It represents the mountain flora of the Himalayas and China. The valley sides are defined with blocks of Ardingly sandstone, among which grow cotoneasters and berberis. The latter display brightly coloured scarlet leaves in autumn. A seasonal stream flows down the centre of the Glade, beside which grow polygonums, euphorbias and ginger lilies.
Visitors are rewarded with great views across the Himalayan Glade from the viewpoint on its eastern side, south of the Pinetum.
From the two viewing platforms on the eastern and western sides of the Himalayan Glade, and also from the stone seat on the opposite side of the valley, it is possible to see Wakehurst’s tallest tree, a handsome Douglas fir (Psedotsuga menziesii). Standing 43 metres high, the first branches appear 27 metres up the trunk. Coal tits, marsh tits and nuthatches are frequent visitors to the bird feeds that hang within the viewing area.
Compost Corner can be found on the eastern boundary, close to the Iris Dell. This is where waste material from all over Wakehurst is piled into heaps, mixed with manure and left to rot down.
You may see piles of prunings, bracken and dead leaves that are set out in rows and turned regularly throughout the summer to help them decompose.
Stacks of green waste can be seen in varying stages of decomposition, from weeds and raw clippings to rich dark mulch.
There are wooden boxes at the entrance to Compost corner that contain paper products, which also rot down over time.
Compost Corner can be great for children to spot large garden machinery such as tractors, trailers, even diggers.
Now closed for conservation and grazing. Reopens 1 May.
An enchanting meadow full of native flowers and grasses swaying in the breeze is a joy for the senses, especially during the summer months.
This naturally managed meadow was planted in 2015 as a response to HRH, The Prince Wales call for the creation of new wild flower meadows to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Coronation.
Working horses, pulling chain harrows were drawn up and down the meadow as a low-impact way of exposing the earth before the seed was sown.
Local children then formed part of a team that scattered armfuls of brush harvested seed onto the soil.
The wild flower seed used was collected from Bedelands, Nature Reserve in Burgess Hill. Coronation Meadow contains seven beautifully carved seats by Alun Heslop – the perfect place to stop and stare.