Taking a Walk on the Wild Side to Chelsea Flower Show…

When I set out on this journey across Mid-Sussex to understand more about the tranquil and beautiful garden gems tucked away in the Sussex countryside, and how they have inspired one of the coveted show gardens at the forthcoming Chelsea Flower Show, I did not imagine I would discover an enduring thread that weaves its way throughout the county.

Like an onion, I have kept peeling back the layers and revealing new and fascinating connections that link these beautiful country gardens – A thread that reflects a real passion for plants and gardening, a true pioneering spirit for experimentation and a strong belief that planting should be in harmony with nature and the landscape.

Painting a Landscape at High Beeches

It was the beautiful marriage created between art and landscape that first influenced Colonel Giles Loder in the design and development of his garden at High Beeches. This inspiration was born out of his friendship with John Millais, son of the pre-Raphaelite artist, Sir John Everett Millais. He believed that you needed to keep the overall perspective in mind and how it would evolve over time. He advocated that any planting should be in harmony with the surrounding landscape and not fighting against it. The ethos of plants being given the space to be allowed to do their thing still remains central to High Beeches today.

Key Highlights to Watch Out For at High Beeches

  • Boasting the National Collection of Stewartias related to Camellias
  • 100 year old, 4-acre, Natural Wildflower Meadow
  • Only garden in England with Naturalised Azure Blue Willow Gentians (Gentiana asclepiadia )

The Loder family have long been synonymous with gardens in Sussex leaving their mark on the gardens of Wakehurst, High Beeches and Leonardslee but I think I would have rather liked Jonny Millais, if I had had the chance to meet him. Remarkably, he was a well-known naturalist, gardener, wildlife artist and travel writer in his own right. A self-confessed workaholic, described as having the energy of a racing car but a keen sense of ridiculous, he created a garden of beauty at his home in Horsham, cultivating new rhododendrons and receiving awards in recognition of his work. Sadly, his garden does not survive today, apart from a few notable plants that were saved and planted in Windsor Great Park. However, I like to think that his spirit and passion for gardening live on through his partnership with Colonel Giles Loder in the stunning garden you see at High Beeches today.

Garden Principles of Colonel Giles Loder & Jonny Millais that Remain True Today

  • Do not overcrowd and avoid over concentration of a single genus
  • Allow space for individual plants to stand out and shine
  • Colonel Loder used only the best forms of plants and this ethos continues to be applied today