See also Borde Hill Garden Sculptures
Borde Hill garden, in the high weald of Sussex, covers over 150 acres of traditional parkland comprising woodland, lakes, gardens, and views of the Sussex high weald.
Borde Hill House, in the grounds, was built in the 1580s by Stephen Borde, a physician and grandson of Andrew Borde, who was one of Henry VIII’s courtiers.
The house, surrounded by a formal 17 acre garden with ‘garden rooms’, was purchased by Colonel Stephenson Clarke in 1893. He created the Grade II listed (by English Heritage) garden in the early 1900s with plantings coming from expeditions paid by him to China, Burma, Assam, Tasmania, the Andes, and North Africa.
He also created the ha-ha and south lawn. The family money originally came from a fleet of colliers and railway trucks. Colonel Sir Ralph Stephenson Clarke (1892-1970) restored the garden, and his son Robert became an expert in rhododendrons.
Current owners Andrew John Stephenson Clarke and his wife Eleni have a keen interest in the garden. She initiated the planting of Jay Robinson’s rose garden and the creation of the Italian garden. Eleni is particularly enthusiastic about the trees in the woodlands.
There is a collection of over 100 champion trees and shrubs that are either the largest or tallest in Britain. Trees are mainly mixed broadleaf: ash, oak, and chestnut. These woodlands provide a habitat for birds and insects. Dells in the property create their own micro-climate allowing different plantings from lilies to Chusan palms to Chinese tea plants and tulip trees, and Chilean fire trees.
In the spring there are over 1000 rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, and magnolias in bloom along with the spring bulbs. Bluebells lend their scent to Warren Wood, home to Chinese spruces and pines, Italian cypress, and Himalayan juniper.
In Stephanie’s glade are rare broadleaf species: ulmus, juglans, carya, fraxinus, tilia, and quercus. In Stone Pits wood is a range of quercus, acer, and champion alders. Later the David Austin roses show their colours. In the autumn colourful borders lend interest.
The greenhouses date from Victorian times, and one contains a Mediterranean garden. The park also features two coarse fishing lakes and a children’s pond where carp, perch, roach, chub, and tench can be caught.
Old Rhododendron garden: hybrid rhodos of Himalayan species—first Chinese ones brought to Britain in 19th century. Look for the ‘Borde Hill’ in late spring. Two magnolias can be found along the path.
Jay Robinson’s rose garden: This garden was designed by Robin Williams, RHS gold medallist. It dates from 1996 but is modelled on the original 1902 garden. There are more than 100 varieties of David Austin roses. Old English roses are a feature. Edging the flower beds are either box hedging or lavender. Fifty year old topiary hedges set off high brick walls at one end, while clematis decorates a trellis. Nearby are the White Garden (colour, foliage, and scent determined plant choice).
Herbaceous border and veiled lady: planted mostly with sun-lovers and also designed by Robin Williams along with the Shady Garden. A statue sculpted by Milan artist Antonio Tantardini stands in the garden.
Victorian greenhouses: refurbished in 1997; one contains African plants including nerines. There are espaliered peach trees and figs.
Mediterranean garden: formerly a greenhouse with orange trees, now only the walls remain. Sun lovers and drought resistant plants make up a small garden.
South lawn and long walk: autumn border; toward the house on the eight is the ‘Pink Pearl’ rhodo. The far end of the lawn is home to a rock bank planted with dwarf and medium-size rhodos; evergreen azaleas on one path; asters and sedums; tree peonies.
Italian garden: originally a tennis court; pool put in in 1982 and later renovated. David Austin roses decorate the terrace above the pool. Perennials are planted on the bank.
Round Dell and old potting sheds: located to the right of the long walk, this is a sun trap area. It is planted with sub-tropical herbaceous perennials that include giant rhubarb and palm and banana trees. The romantic remains of the old potting sheds, once a propagation area, are home to tender and unusual species from the southern hemisphere.
Long Dell and West garden: This is a sunken area once a stone quarry and now home to shrubs, trees, and herbaceous plants from the Sino-Himalayan region. There is a collection of rhodos of special note.
Garden of Allah: named by Sir Ralph and created in 1925; wildlife pond, fuchsia beds, primulas, tulip tree, rare magnolia and hydrangea, rhodos.
Azalea Ring and Camellia Ring: dates from 1902; spring flowering azaleas; trees include Japanese black pine, acer, magnolia, cherries, and red oak.
Woodland walks: native oak, ash, beech, and hazel added to with specimen plantings. Dating from 1905 Warren Wood has over 200 exotic species of trees that include the plane tree; also in this area are a number of rare conifers; Stephanie’s Glade, dating from 1910, has mostly deciduous trees that include rhodos, hickories, Chinese beech, and limes . There are snowdrops, bluebells, primroses, and wood anemones at different times if the year.
South Park and Lakes, South Roadside plantation: trees of oak, maple, lime, and wing nut surround angling lakes; walled garden for the restaurant; important specimen plants; evergreen collection, rare Asiatic pear; daffodils and bluebells.
Borde Hill Garden won the 2004 HHA/Christie’s garden of the year award.
Borde Hill Garden
1½ miles north of Haywards Heath, 20 minutes north of Brighton, or south of Gatwick travelling on the A23 taking exit 10a via Balcombe and Cuckfield.
Tel. 01444 450326
Open: Garden & Parkland, 3rd week March – 1 Oct, 10am-5pm daily (6pm weekends or dusk if earlier); July and Aug–10am-6pm daily; woodlands closed from mid Sep; last admission one hour before closing; house open at times, check website for details.
Restaurant and café; shop; adventure playground; picnic area
Web: Borde Hill
Borde Hill is a member of the Historic Houses Association.
Insider Tip: There is an expensive and more formal restaurant as well as a café in the grounds. Food for both is prepared in the same kitchen. It is fresh, modern, excellent food—definitely plan to eat here after a morning in the garden or perhaps before an afternoon woodland walk. A full day will allow time to enjoy all areas of the garden and woodland. When we were at Borde Hill there was a special sculpture in the gardens show.
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