What's looking good in spring 2023

West Dean College has a very special garden, our Arts and Conservation College is uniquely and fortunately placed to be able to benefit from the near 100 acres of inspirational and recently restored grounds.

As we move into the spring of 2023, it is time to evaluate how the garden can meet the future needs of our visitors, students, and community with an increasing number of new challenges.

Where the plants come from, what they are grown in and the amount of plastic used to produce them are at the forefront of our minds.

West Dean Gardens Nursery and the new Market Garden
Since last autumn we have been developing our very own West Dean Nursery, growing plants produced from the garden in peat free compost with a minimal amount of plastic to sell to our visitors.

We are moving away from bought in plants to a much more unique selection, reflective of the garden with a far more sustainable approach. A full range of plants will be available from our Visitor Centre from the Spring.

Our recycling scheme continues to reuse old pots and avoid buying new plastic. Please bring any spare plastic pots you may have at home to our drop off point at the visitor centre.

Where our food comes from and how it is produced is also very important, and something that our Garden could help to forge a new direction. Last year we produced a large amount of food from our Walled Garden which was seasonally reflective. This year, we will be establishing a new Market Garden with the potential to grow a much greater quantity of produce, to provide food for our restaurants.

Our new West Dean Nursery and Market Garden are two major elements of our new sustainable direction, in which our wonderful Garden will continue to make our college a unique place.

Within the garden itself, we are setting up a new Arid House as a permanent home for our Cacti and Succulent Collection. We will be introducing a new range of dahlias to the Walled Garden, as well as a new Chrysanthemum Display, running alongside are delphiniums.

Beyond the College, in the Spring Garden, there are a number of new developments taking place this spring, our Dry Meadow will be in its second year, and having put up with extreme drought and now flooding, this group of plants is certainly resilient.

Our Winter Stem Landscape will continue to recover from the deer damage and will be increased to make the area have more impact in the Garden next winter.

There'll be a new Spring Flowering Shrub Border and Dye Garden around the Tennis Courts, look out for the new River Borders, on either side of the river which will be freshly planted this spring with a range of colourful spring flowering woodland perennials.

At the far extremity of the garden, we will continue to create a haven for wildlife with more deadwood habitats, and increased numbers of snowdrops with the freshly renovated wildlife pond, all contributing to a more biodiverse and thriving garden for birds, bees and insects.

Our beloved Pergola will be repaired and renovated over the coming months, to retake its place as one of the most iconic features of our Garden. As you can imagine, the restoration and repair of this feature need to be carried out in a sensitive way, which takes time but will be worth it in the end.

Take advantage of our garden membership scheme and I promise you there will certainly be something different to see every time you visit.

Tom Brown, Head Gardener