Let's (garden) party

We've been celebrating 25 Years of Glorious Gardening this year at West Dean. Head Gardeners, Jim Buckland and Sarah Wain, began renovating the 19th century landscape in 1991 in the wake of the Great Storms. A lifetime's work deserves a year-long celebration and we continued on Friday last with a Garden Party on the picnic lawn.

It's always a risk planning anything outdoors this time of year but the weather held as horticulturists, VIP guests, Trustees, colleagues and volunteers enjoyed the autumn sunshine, champagne and Pimm's and delicious bites of food, all beautifully prepared and served by the hospitality team at West Dean.

How it all started...

Inspired by BBC's The Victorian Kitchen Garden (1987) a 13-part series presented by Peter Thoday, horticulturist, Jim and Sarah began by restoring the collection of 13 Victorian glasshouses, some of the few working in the UK. Peter was very supportive of Gardens Manager Jim's plans for transforming the derelict gardens at West Dean into the award-winning location they are today.

Peter says, "The gardens at West Dean are the best place in Britain to see the skills that underpin the craft of gardening practced to perfection".

Most of the gardens' restoration work has been carried out in-house and further work has included: re-building the 300-foot Edwardian pergola designed by Harold Peto; redesigning the Sunken Garden, originally a Victorian parterre; establishing a 145-variety fruit collection in the walled garden; restoring the Spring and Woodland Garden which features 1820s flint and stonework bridges virtually lost in encroaching vegetation; and ongoing work in St. Roche's Arboretum, where Calfornian Redwoods, planted in 1992 are now over 30 feet high.

Guests enjoyed a mini display of archive photos of the gardens 25 years ago. The full exhibition 25 Years of Glorious Gardening is currently open in the 'old mushroom shed' at West Dean. FREE entry with a gardens entry ticket.

Peter returns to West Dean Gardens

Peter joined the Cambridge University Botanic Garden as a horticultural student in the 1950s. He was subsequently Senior Lecturer in Landscape Management at the University of Bath. Passionate about horticulture and accessibility to it, Peter has contributed to books on the subject of accessibility, is a former Trustee of the Sensory Trust, and remains an Associate. He is a past-President of the Institute of Horticulture, was involved with the Lost Gardens of Heligan and was Horticultural Director on the Eden Project.

The presentation

Alex Barron, Chief Executive of The Edward James Foundation (the charitable trust that runs the gardens), presented Jim and Sarah with gifts as a thank you for 25 years of Glorious Gardening at West Dean.

Royal visit

Part of the restoration of West Dean Gardens was a new Visitor's Centre. In August 1996 HRH The Prince of Wales visited the gardens to officially open the new centre.


Jim Buckland, Gardens Manager is an Honours Graduate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and an Associate of Honour of the RHS (2013), conferred for distinguished service to horticulture in the transformation of West Dean Gardens.

Sarah Wain, Gardens Supervisor, Diploma in Horticultural Science, Burnley Horticultural College, Australia. In recognition of her contribution to West Dean Sarah has been awarded; The Professional Gardeners' Guild Loyal and Outstanding Service Award; and the Institute of Horticulture Award.

Jim and Sarah received the Outstanding Contribution Award by Horticulture Week earlier this year and have been shortlisted for Outstanding Contribution to Heritage, Historic England Angels Award, founded by Andrew Lloyd Webber (winner announced 21 October).