Looking good in spring 2024

As I write this garden update, at the beginning of March, the winter and the cold wet weather seem to be endless, but there are few signs of life that are starting to appear in the garden.

Those brave souls in the form of snowdrops, daffodils and hellebores, along with a peppering of perennial foliage are starting to erupt from the ground. One highlight of the past winter has been our winter stem beds which have provided a riot of colour and much-needed fiery tones over the past few months. The team has been working hard to increase that planting, so in the next few years that drama should increase, to the point that makes West Dean a real destination as a winter garden in the southeast.

The team has also continued to develop new growing areas to produce an increased quantity of food in our kitchens, with numerous potatoes chitting and broad beans sprouting in the greenhouses. You may have also noticed that this year we are collaborating with the National Sweetpea Society to trial several new varieties that have not been released into the market, so do keep your eyes peeled and look for our new Bothy Garden which will house that trial along with a range of soft fruit to supply our kitchens this summer.

It will be hard not to notice that the Sunken Garden renovation has begun with the dramatic removal of the box hedge. Over the coming weeks, we will relocate the perennials to other parts of the garden, backfill the area with local sandstone and then plant an exciting and dynamic community of plants in the sand, with the ambition of demonstrating a community that can cope with the extremes of drought and flooding of recent winters, conditions that the previous planting struggled to thrive in. Although it is a sad day that the box hedge has been removed from that area, we look forward to and will be planting several box alternatives to provide a more informal and diverse perimeter planting to the Sunken Garden.

As the weather warms up, the Apple Store will house our second-hand book shop to help support the work in the Garden, if you have any unwanted gardening books that you would like to donate please take them along to our Visitor Centre and we will be very, very grateful.

With best,

Tom Brown, Head Gardener