Run by Paul and Pauline McBride who had the good fortune to work with Piet Oudoulf in Luxemburg. If you don’t know Piet Oudolf, he is one of the poster boys of modern garden design, pioneering naturalistic planting. He counts the High Line Park in NYC and Serpentine Gallery in London amongst is works.
The Gardens are situated on a former farm and you walk through the farm house garden to enter the main gardens, which in itself is charming with a more relaxed style, oh and a pig! What struck me as I came to the large borders of the spiral garden are the depth of the borders and the large luscious groupings of plants in huge swathes. Feathery white Persicaria polymorpha combined with the fluffy lavender spikes of Staychs monieri ‘Hummelo’, Filipendula ‘ Venusta Magnifica’ and splendid grasses like Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’ and Deschampsia ‘Goldtau’ . The concept is to create naturalistic planting more akin to how flowers and grasses propagate in the wild, hence the reference to prairies, combined with planting which is harmonious to indigenous wildlife.
The garden is set out on as a spiral form with undulating hornbeam hedging, interspersed with hornbeam standards, mirroring the profile of the downs in the horizon. Be prepared the scale is wonderful and will make you want to rip up all your lawn and just plant, well maybe that’s just me….!
Highlights for me where the purest white achillea (Achillea ptarmica ‘The Pearl Group’), pink Sangisorba officinalis and the deep pink of the knautia, all working so well together combined with soft frothy grasses of Hordeum and Melica uniflora ‘Alba’.
BIG PLANS TO LITTLE OASIS
Tucked away in a peaceful corner is the cutting garden, with the grass-like dierama, which I must use soon with stipa in a planting scheme. Fresh lime green sedums reminding us it was only early summer and a Hepworth inspired sculpture all created a very relaxed area which on such a hot day was a lovely refuge.
Pauline talked us through the process involved in conceiving the naturalistic planting style and getting the garden started. I won’t give it away (it’s the McBride’s story to tell and you MUST go and hear it for yourselves!). However, I am in awe of their vision and “can do” attitude, a truly inspiring couple. Best of all, if you like a plant, there is a good chance that you will be able to buy it in their shop…getting to take a little bit home with me was bliss.
Once the garden is at it’s best they use an interesting and ancient technique to clear the site for the next year – burning the years dead vegetation thus making it less labour intensive and putting nutrients straight back into the soil via the ash – genius! although readers I won’t recommend this in your average suburban back garden.
Sussex Prairie Garden is close to Brighton off the A23, and with a car comparatively easy to get to from London. I intend to come back to Sussex Prairie Garden in late summer when the grasses are in full show…so watch this space.