Jul 6, 2008

West Dean

There are so many things I want to share with what I am seeing, doing and learning but find it difficult to really get all of this information out. A lot of driving has been happening to visit different gardens during my time off from a busy work week that I find myself short on time to sit in front of the computer. The summer is different here too because not only is the weather wonderful here but the sun rises at 4:30 am and it doesn't really get dark until 10- 10:15pm. So if the sun is out, I am usually outside..........

The other week I was speaking with a fellow gardener while I was taking some Foxgloves, Digitalis purpurea, out of one of the garden beds. We started talking about how these plants are used in making certain heart medicines. Louise started to tell me about how back in the yesteryear's people would take leaves off the plant and chew them to self medicate their heart problems. -I must say that these plants are poisonous.... so please, I don't want anyone to hurt themselves...... just say no!- So I was told that one of the side affects of taking too much of these leaves was to have your sight go yellow. Louise said that Van Gogh, the painter, was known for having some heart ailments and took Digitalis leaves; maybe to the point of poisoning himself and researchers believe that this what might have been the cause of his "yellow period". These are the odd facts about plants and history that make sense.

Here is a more interesting in depth look at this:


So while there are no sunflowers in this field I did find it inspirational enough to pull the car over and take a shot of while on my way to West Dean in Chichester, West Sussex. It is about a two hour drive west of Great Dixter. West Dean was the home to a man named Edward James, who was born into a privileged life and found himself to be a huge supporter of the arts, specifically Surrealism. He supported painters by purchasing their work (Dali and Magritte to name a few), set up a publishing house to publish the works of poets, and helped finance some ballet specifically Balanchine productions. He also created a large garden in Mexico that you might be familiar with called Xilitla, which has large temples and staircases running through the jungle and is completely covered in vines and ferns. He loved trees and plants and after he passed away he was buried in the Arboretum that is at West Dean. He was a real eccentric man and was a poet and writer himself. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_James

West Dean is now a school for artists, craftspeople, conservators and restorers and is home to an amazing walled garden where there technique is almost next to none. The gardens are run by Jim Auckland and Sarah Wain, husband and wife, who turned the Victorian walled gardens around from decay into the glorious splendor that they are today. The fruit and vegetable gardens here are immaculate and the attention to detail in the way they grow everything is exactly how you would like to know that your food is being grown.
Here is inside the grapevine glasshouse, where the vines are trained up against the glass roof which will then let the bunches of grapes hang down once they start to mature. Notice how clean and orderly the glasshouse is.....
Here is a closeup of some of the vines. Note how they are all growing from one plant, and the thickness of the trunk.
Here is the Nectarine house where it is espaliered against the walls .

Here in the melon house, great precautions are taken against splashing water onto the plant to prevent foliar diseases. Note the raised level of the soil beds to help with quick drainage and how the empty plastic pots are used, pushed slightly into the soil, to help get water to the roots of the plant without splashing soil upwards again.

Outside in the walled garden you will see the orchard where all sorts of hard fruits such as pears and apples are grown. All of the trees are trained to grow in different shapes such as pyramids and circular forms that would help with air circulation to prevent disease and to make it easier to harvest fruit from.

Here is one of the fruit storage houses where they would put their harvests to keep for months after. They would line these shelves with apples and pears.

There were a dozen or so glasshouses in the walled garden which were surrounded by cutting gardens in one area. One of the large fig tree of cultivar 'Brown Turkey' in the glass house, again beautifully displayed, with their cacti and succulent collection on show outside.

Inside one of the many Victorian glasshouses, with a collection of many potted plants such as begonias, nepanthes, ferns and such. Each plant had gravel at the top of the soil level to help with watering, to help prevent the harboring and spread of disease.

Look how clean it is everywhere, the benches, the plants, the pots!! Nancy, who was my teacher in all things greenhouse related at school, would have been proud........

The lovely Pepper house, where every type you could imagine was grown. The aroma in here was so strong due to the heat of the sun. If you love peppers then look no further. They have a huge chili pepper festival here every year.

Here is one of the many vegetable beds filled with every type of Brassica possible. There were some heads of cabbage that were 2x the size of a basketball.


In a corner of the vegetable garden there was rhubarb being blanched (say it with me Liz!) in their cloches.

The view from the walled garden looking towards the glasshouses with the rolling hills beyond, which is where the arboretum was started.

These fields were at the base of the arboretum where there were sheep grazing everywhere.
One of the many picturesque bridges on the estate.
There was a road that led away from the school up into the rolling hills on footpaths, which took you through sheep pastures up to a 40 acre arboretum. It was full of exceptional trees and I saw a grove of Monkey puzzles which is always fun but my camera battery ran out of juice. It was a good thing though because now with digital cameras, we spend so much time taking photos that it is difficult to sometimes put them down and enjoy the moment rather than trying to capture it. And enjoy it I did.....

1 comment:

  1. Jimmy it is all so pretty. The vege gardens are exceptional.You are still so lucky.luv u and miss u Aunt Helen