West Dean Gardens, Sussex. Victorian glasshouses and a gorgeous walled garden

the cutting garden at West Dean

West Dean, near Chichester in West Sussex  is nestled in the lea of the South Downs and host to West Dean College, a world renowned place of study for conservation, making and visual arts.


The walled garden within the grounds is the former kitchen garden and home to  13 splendid  Victorian glasshouses which were completely derelict before their restoration in the early 1990s when garden manager, Jim Buckland and garden supervisor Sarah Wain came to West Dean.  Today they are crammed full with a delectable range of flowering and edible plants, ranging from exotic orchids, peach and fig trees to the more humble tomato (but clearly delicious, since the plants bear signs requesting ‘please do not eat the tomatoes!’).


The glasshouses are maintained on a regular basis, being hand-scrubbed each winter and repainted every 4 years – certainly not a task I would relish.  However, they are in danger of falling into disrepair simply due to age and the amount of maintenance required.  One glasshouse is out-of-bounds to the public and gardeners due to it being unsafe and it requires an urgent overhaul.   These buildings are beautiful for the visitor to wander around and gain inspiration from and a slice of history that should be preserved.  A feature that I particularly liked was the herringbone brick floors, and also each greenhouse door was opened with a tiny brass catch, obviously original.  As well as glasshouses, there are also lovely cucumber frames, so delightfully old fashioned and reminicent of Mr McGregor’s garden – in fact, the whole of West Dean’s vegetable garden has a Beatrix Potter air about it, with it’s traditional plantings, colour and texture.  The only thing missing (fortunately) is the pesky rabbits!


The remainder of the walled garden has been designed in the classic Victorian style of 2 cross paths with a perimeter path.  The cross paths are totally different, one housing a spectacular late summer-flowering perennial border in hot colours, and the other cross path being dominated by a luscious pear arch.  At the base of the surrounding walls, vegetable borders are neatly planted with row upon row of labelled vegetables, so varied and colourful and a real treat to the eye. Espalier fruit trees line the walls, all very carefully maintained.


A cutting garden, with swathes of flowers including stocks and dahlias leads to the other side of the walled garden, part-grassed with fruit trees and part planted with another fabulous border, this one in cool blues and yellows. The rose garden, a feature favoured by so many visitors is currently undergoing extensive repair and replanting.

With the majestic South Downs as a backdrop, West Dean is a much loved landmark in the  Sussex countryside and enjoys a large number of visitors through its doors.

West Dean are asking for donations towards repairs to the Victorian glasshouses, the link is on the right hand column here.

Sadly no tea report here, as we visited very early in the morning for a photographic shoot and were home in time for breakfast!   However, there is a restaurant, so here’s the link:







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