About the garden
Gwendolyn van Paasschen
Denmans Garden is a tranquil contemporary garden on the southern slope of the South Downs. Converted by plantswoman Joyce Robinson from a post-war market garden to an ornamental garden, Denmans is comprised of a diverse series of spaces connected by curving paths of gravel and mown lawn through rough grass.
Mrs Robinson, who lived at Denmans from 1946-96, was ahead of her time in considering the environment in her plantings and was a pioneer in creating naturalistic, low-maintenance gravel gardens. She started her gravel gardens at Denmans in 1970 and, inspired by dry river beds in Greece and the South Downs, created two faux river beds on a slope formerly occupied by Guernsey calves. They terminate in a pond built by John Brookes MBE, one of Britain’s most influential and renowned landscape designers, who lived and gardened at Denmans from 1980-2018.
Mr Brookes believed Mrs Robinson’s spontaneous plant combinations, which included grasses, herbs, shrubs and perennials, pointed the way of future gardening. He fused her novel planting style with his own characteristically bold design flair, focusing on structure, texture, pattern and colour. Denmans, a Grade II post-war garden on the National Heritage List for England, also features a Walled Garden and a conservatory. Sheltered by the Downs and bathed in southern sunlight, the garden is full of unusual plants, some semi-tropical and some collected by Mrs Robinson and Mr Brookes from abroad. It is known for its creative plant associations and seemingly random plantings juxtaposed against both clipped and natural architectural plants.
The garden, which has benches throughout for contemplation, has a strong year-round interest and has been undergoing restoration since January 2018. Visitors will find inspiration and design ideas for gardeners of all skill levels and gardens sizes. Staff are always happy to answer questions.