For many horticultural enthusiasts, the ‘gardening bug’ usually bites once you begin to tend and care for a garden of your own. It’s the absorbing nature of rummaging about in the soil, standing back to thoughtfully prune a rose, or carefully sow a tiny seed in damp compost that really hooks us; the promise of colour, life and splendour to come.
Indeed, it was this devoted and enthusiastic attitude to plants and place that brought about the creation of the beautiful garden at Standen House, East Grinstead, by amateur gardener Margaret Beale, in the 1920’s and 30’s. The Beales took up residence in their new country retreat and set about developing the garden in keeping with the principals of the Arts & Crafts movement, following the philosophy of William Morris, that a “house should be clothed by its garden.” Across the 12 acre site they enhanced the views towards Ashdown forest, created swimming ponds and purchased new, rare and exotic camellia and rhododendron species to compliment the rocky hillside aspect.
Sadly much of the original garden’s spirit was lost over the years, culminating in severe damage during the 1987 storm. However, since 2012, The National Trust have undertaken a 5 year project to restore Standen’s garden to its original philosphy and beauty, re-creating the swimming pond, rosery garden and extending the kitchen gardens. The project will be complete in February 2017, so now is a wonderful time to visit as you’ll be able to see the project nearing completion, but also see the process of restoration in action.
For those wanting to find out more about the specifics of doing a garden restoration on this scale there are tours running 12.30 – 13.30 and 14.00 – 15.00 on 25th August and 1st September. The tours are free but normal admission prices apply.
Standen is also part of the National Trust’s ‘Contemporary Arts Programme’, and will showcase a piece by artist Will Shannon this autumn called ‘Bothy.’ This site specific work will explore the nature of shelters, environment and craftsmanship, echoing some of the core values of Standen, whilst showcasing a modern interpretation of a ‘folly’.