The 300 acre Wakehurst Place Gardens and grounds are an extension of the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew. The seed bank is located here and stores more than a billion seeds from rare and threatened plants. There is a viewing area. Visitors can see species in the gardens not found at Kew. Wakehurst is home to four National Collections: birch, hypericum, southern beech and skimmia.
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On the property an Elizabethan mansion, built in 1590 of Sussex sandstone, contains an exhibition on the estate’s natural history and development. The last private owners, Sir Henry and Lady Price, donated furniture to the mansion. Two rooms are on show as well as a shop for plant themed purchases.
There are ornamental gardens around the mansion. An Asian heath garden contains dwarf rhododendrons and other shrubs. The winter garden includes witch hazel, willow, dogwood, viburnum, and berries. A walled garden is home to cottage style plantings in the summer as well as bedding plants. Rare conifers are found in the Pinetum. Native orchids and wildflowers are in bloom on a steep slope that leads to the woodland walk. Water gardens have moisture loving plants, blue poppies, and giant Himalayan lilies. Daffodils and bluebells herald the spring.
Paths into the woodlands show off trees from North America, Europe, and Asia. Westwood valley is a ravine where East Asian plants are located. In spring and early summer go for the rhododendrons. Horsebridge Wood has a collection of North American trees that include redwoods, considered the world’s largest trees.
Bloomers Valley is an open meadow fringed with European trees. Coates Wood has rare southern hemisphere temperate forest trees. Bethlehem Wood is home to the national birch collection. There is a conservation area with meadow, wetland, and woodland. An elevated walkway crosses the wetland area, and wildlife can be seen.
A large lake and ponds add more water features. Next to Wakehurst is Loder Valley Nature Reserve, a refuge for native plants and wildlife found in south-east England.
1.5 miles north of Ardingly on the B2028, near Haywards Heath, West Sussex
Tel. 0 1444 894 066 (infoline)
Open: March-end Oct, daily, 10am-6pm; Nov-end Jan, daily, 10am-4.30pm; restaurant, daily, year round; closed 24/25 Dec
National Trust members have free entry; Visitor Centre; special bluebells weekends; special events; parking, fee charged; restaurant with home cooked dishes; café; shop; plant sales
Text and photos © by Barbara Ballard