Once, it was fashionable in gardening circles to mow down any piece of grass that got above a few inches. It was radical to let anything look too natural, let alone to plant your borders almost exclusively with grasses and wild-looking perennials. But, as ever, fashions and tastes change.
Over the last 15-20 years the ‘New Perennial’ or ‘Prairie‘ style of planting has become increasingly popular, delivering in one philosophy a painterly, naturalistic way of planting that extends the season of interest as well as encouraging wildlife – both of which are important considerations for most contemporary gardeners. Sedum, rudbeckia and echinacea are just some of the star plants of this style, but arguably it’s grasses that take centre stage.
The person most associated with the ‘New Perennial’ style is Piet Oudolf, the Dutch garden designer who has championed the style for the last few decades, making celebrated gardens in Germany, The Netherlands, the US and the UK – most notably here at Wisley and The Serpentine gallery. However, for those living in the South East The Sussex Prairie Garden, designed by Paul and Pauline McBride (both of whom worked with Piet Oudolf), is well worth a visit.
Planted in May 2008, the borders are designed in a nautilus, spiralling shape and spread over 8 acres. The planting is free flowing and types of plant are arranged in large swathes to give impact. Visitors are also encouraged to walk in amongst the plants as well as around the borders to fully immerse themselves in the experience of this wind-animated garden.
There is also a newly developing Kiwi-inspired garden, as well as a cutting garden and frequent displays of art and sculpture. Events coming up this summer/ autumn include the ‘Bazaar’, a festival of Indian arts and crafts (26th – 29th August), as well as the ‘Unusual Plant and Garden Fair’ (3rd September).
Adult tickets are £7.00, children £3.50 and familiy tickets £18.00. For more information on admission costs see here. Directions can be found here. The garden is open 1pm – 5pm every day except Tuesdays, until 16th October.