View from the Gardens of West Dean College in Sussex

Looking Good in November at West Dean Gardens

Halloween celebrations are over for another twelve months and the little monster costumes packed away. Gorgeous autumnal weather - dry still and colourful meant there was something for everyone to enjoy in the gardens as well as the children's spooky activities. It was novel to share a work place with Count Dracula and I now feel up to speed with his jokes and accent!

I have recently taken an art class at West Dean College, utilising the gardens from an artistic point of view this time. I can now, hand on heart, say that there is plenty of scope here for those with an artistic temperament whatever that may be. It was wonderful to just sit and take in the awe inspiring dimensions of several trees many still clothed in their autumn robes, something I don't do enough and very therapeutic it was too. If you fancy bringing out your inner Constable, then why not have a look at our website to see the wonderful range of short courses available. There may be just the one for you or your nearest and dearest.

Glasshouse cleaning has started in earnest so the glasshouse gardeners are keeping in front of the cleaning team by dismantling the displays, taking cuttings for next year, reducing the number of plants for overwintering and emptying glasshouses at the same time. We're moving from a season of glasshouse displays in the Walled Garden to the housekeeping months of the year where we clean houses and pots, propagate plants and generally go into production mode for 2017. It's also the creative time to design new displays inside and outside the glasshouses, so still a busy time. A lot of the gardener's year is taken up with repetitive jobs like glasshouse cleaning and pot washing and each year I warble on about the latter as it's important and starts each day for two of us. The terracotta pots I feel are an integral part of the display work under glass and as such need to be cleaned and disinfected once the old crops have been discarded. The trick here is to stick with it and do a little each day thus keeping the task to a manageable level.

Elsewhere in the gardens Jack, the general gardener, is keeping weeds at bay and the gardens in good order. He is largely aided by a team of volunteers who help him speed around the pleasure grounds surrounding the house. Because of all the help he gets he is able to keep on top of this daunting task and the additional volunteer help allows him time to keep a creative eye on the development of the garden plants and tweak them as required. Volunteers make all the difference!

Stu, one of the woodies, has stopped trimming evergreens pro tem and can be found encased in wet weather gear at the end of a hose cleaning the glasshouses. Hopefully the task won't be too arduous as we have two newly built glasshouses this year which won't require a clean. Hooray! This brings me neatly to my thanks to you all who dug deep and provided the funding for the two newly refurbished glasshouses; we couldn't have carried out the work without you. We only have six more to renovate so fundraising for the glasshouses continues as I write and will into the foreseeable future.

In preparation for a healthier life, make use of the Arboretum as a regular destination for a walk at West Dean. I think you'll be charmed by the new views within the space and next year, following seeding bare areas with appropriate wild flower mixes, the site should be an even more floristic bonanza for your enjoyment. You'll also be able to see more of the trees now that a large part of the laurel undergrowth has been removed.

Christmas will soon be upon us and our Gardens Shop is full of wonderful gifts to suit all purses and for all occasions - including the big one coming up. So for pain free shopping why not visit the gardens, enjoy a delicious meal or just tea and cake and top it off with some shopping for your loved ones. It will be a load off your mind.

Sarah Wain, Garden Supervisor @sarahwestdean