Known as a ‘planter’s paradise’, Borde Hill is a splendid Grade II listed garden in West Sussex. At the heart of the 200-acre estate is an Elizabethan Mansion House (1598) that adds a timeless chimneyed backdrop to the formal gardens. Filled with botanical heritage and embracing stunning landscapes, the more recent, surrounding Edwardian garden is a showcase of rare shrubs and registered Champion trees.
We need to turn back the clock over 120 years to a time when the Great Plant Hunters literally scoured the globe in search of exotic trees and flowers. In 1900, Borde Hill was the home of Colonel Stephenson Robert Clarke, a keen garden who collected and planted some of these rare gathered seeds. Four generations of his family have continued to nurture the garden which was designated a registered charity in 1965.
Surrounding the house, the 17-acre formal gardens are laid out in a series of tranquil garden rooms, each one revealed as you step through ‘doorways’ within the verdant hedges. These linked gardens each have their own individual character, style and colour scheme.
Brimming with seasonal colour, Borde Hill has sensational plantings of azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons providing a vibrant swathe of colour in spring and summer with their showy blooms. Some of the rhododendron species were the first to be planted in England, and they continue to thrive. The Rose Garden and tiered herbaceous borders take over and steal the show in summer before the autumn foliage reveals itself in the park.
The Garden of Allah was developed by Sir Ralph Stephenson Clarke in the 1920s. Designed as a garden of peace and tranquility, it has many mature trees that are registered Champions of their species. (This means they are recognised as exceptional plants due to their size, age, rarity or historical significance). Look out for the Chinese Tulip Tree with its bold lotus-shaped flowers and unusual shaped leaves. The rarest specimen of all is the Magnolia fraseri, planted as a seedling in 1933 and laden with creamy perfumed flowers in late May.
A more recent addition to Borde Hill Garden is the Wildlife Pond, created in 1997 with Heritage Lottery funding. Darting dragonflies flit over the glassy surface which is broken by an abundance of flowering waterlilies.
The parkland has trails through areas of woodland, meadows and lakes with panoramic views across the Sussex High Weald, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Borde Hill is a delightful historic garden that transports you to new and interesting places as you pass through its various garden rooms. It offers an eclectic mix of specimens planted with the most unlikely of bed fellows, yet somehow resulting in glorious colour, form and textural combinations. This garden really is a delight throughout the year.
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Images © Eliza Ford