Tulip Madness and other notes!


Now that spring has sprung, the garden is in full swing with the grass growing rapidly shortly followed by the weeds. We have been busy planting the last of the trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials until the autumn. These have included additions to the prairie beds; Sedum ‘Indian Chief’, Knautia macedonica tied together by the dwarf grass Deschampsia ‘Pixie Fountain’. A number of rare unusual trees and shrubs have also been added to our collection such as Rhododendron ‘Susan’ named after Susan de Vesci daughter of the Countess of Rosse.

Sedum carpark

Sedum ‘Indian Chief’

The Sunk Garden in the heart of the garden is in full flower at the moment with the dark purple/crimson flowers of Erysimum ‘Winter Orchid’ complemented by the subtle green/pink of Tulipa ‘Greenland’. This will be followed by an injection of colour later in the year when the summer display is planted, but before that you will be able to see Germanic Iris and Cosmos ‘Chocomocha’ jousting for pride of place.


Tulipa ‘Greenland’ complemented by Erysimum ‘Winter Orchid’

The stars of the show at Nymans at the moment must be the Tulips with the burnt colours of T. ‘Cario’ and T. ‘Orange Dynasty’ on the tropical terrace with the sweet smell of honey drifting across from Euphorbia mellifera and the towering ruins as a back drop.


Tulipa ‘Cario’ with the back drop of tropical foliage


Just across to the main lawn in the aptly named Ivy bed which holds in a vibrant display of the royal purple of T. ‘Negrita’ and fiery orange of T. ‘Annie Schlider’.


Tulipa ‘Negrita’ and Tulipa  ‘Annie Schlider’ in the Ivy Bed

The Tulip bombardment starts before you even enter Nymans when you are dazzled and wowed by the flamboyant and exciting swathes of T.’Sonnet’, T. ‘Dom Pedro’ and T. ‘Night Rider’ all dark and moody colours.

107 Car park

Tulips at the entrance to Nymans


This is a complete contrast to the entrance to the Pinetum which sees the tall orange T. ‘El Nino’ amid the pristine white of T. ‘Hakuun’ with the backdrop of green from the Pinetum.


Tulipa ‘El Nino’

Stephen Herrington – Head Gardener


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Have you been to our ‘Sing a Song for S

Have you been to our ‘Sing a Song for Sixpence’ exhibition yet? Warm up pre or post visit with a hot drink served from the horsebox at the house. Find some special gifts in the shop, take a family trail around the garden or indulge yourself with a sweet treat from the café. http://ow.ly/i/BjVnR http://ow.ly/i/BjVBA

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Merry Christmas and a Happy new Year to

Merry Christmas and a Happy new Year to all! http://ow.ly/i/q9QEr

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Here be Giants!

At Nymans you can enjoy some exotic species of plants that rather look down their noses at our native counterparts. All hail from the region known as Macronesia which includes Madeira, the Azores, the Canary Islands and the Cape Verdes. They have all evolved into giants.


Geranium maderense

The above Geranium is superficially like our own ankle-high Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum) but this one grows to over a metre tall and up to 2 metres wide.

The dramatic Echium pictured below is in the family Boraginaceae which means it is related to the herb borage, forget-me-nots, and sometime bedding plant Echium vulgare, all of which are dwarfed by this 3m flower spike. This plant will flower in its second or third year after which it will set profuse quantities of seed, then die.

Echium pininiana










Our native flora boasts a few Spurges (Euphorbias) the largest of which would be shade-loving Euphorbia amygdalloides at half a metre tall. The sun-loving giant Euphorbia (pictured below) reaches over 2m tall and 3m wide at Nymans. It is a hybrid between two large growing Macronesian species, E.mellifera and E. stygiana, both of which make good garden plants themselves.


Euphorbia x pasteurii

All these plants can be grown successfully outdoors in the milder parts of the U.K. Echium pininiana seedlings may need protection through the winter. Or simply come and enjoy them and other plant delights at Nymans.

Author: Jon Keen








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Lost & Found – The Spring Borders

Once upon a time, highly scented and colourful Spring borders connected with our iconic Summer borders. Today we are carefully reinstating this lost Edwardian feature within the Wall Garden at Nymans, where a mixture of plants inspired by and connected to the early 20th Century will be showcased.


Photo of Muriel through lion arch in the Spring border

Edwardian Revival

The Spring and Summer borders were developed between 1904 and 1915, with key involvement from Ludwig Messel’s youngest daughter, Muriel. She became a pupil of eminent gardener of the time and neighbour William Robinson of Gravetye Manor. Robinson, one of the early practitioners of the mixed herbaceous border of hardy perennial plants, assisted Muriel with creating these borders.

Muriel sv b66 33

Portrait of Muriel

Aims and Objectives

By returning this lost and important historic feature, the Wall Garden shall be brought back to its original splendour, with all of the key features reinstated. All paths within the Wall Garden will once again take visitors on their intended journey. The curving paths through the Victorian Lawns shall become the key routes to see naturalised bulbs. The Spring and Summer paths reconnect the two most prolific blossoming seasons. While the circular paths of the Chilean border shall take you through the flora of the Southern Equator.


The Messel Family

Plant Collecting

The Messel family were avid collectors and particularly cherished things of beauty, meaning and aesthetics, including plants. In keeping with this family history, the border will feature a collection of spring plant species, some of which have been selected for their historic connection to the era in which this border was originally created.


Chinodoxa luciliae

During the early 1900’s Narcissus hybridization was all the rage. In particular, the production of pure white Daffodils was greatly desired by gardeners. One of the first white hybrids named Narcissus ‘Beersheba’ bred by Reverend George H Engleheart featured in the Spring Borders. We hope to return ‘Beersheba’ and create a new collection of Narcissi here at Nymans.

White daffodils growing in the springtime at Monk's House, East Sussex.

White Narcissus

Nature as Art

The new borders will be mixed, featuring shrubs, herbaceous perennials and bulbous plants. Unlike the summer borders, this border shall have visible structure throughout the year, becoming most showy and colourful in springtime. The style of these borders shall embrace a combination of the William Robinsons gardening principles notably that of “naturalised” planting within the constraints of a formal bed setting.


Nacsissus pseudonarcissus

Gertrude Jekyll, a lifelong friend and collaborator with Robinson, will also be a key influence when selecting colour combinations and in how we plant. Her artistry in planting design, especially of borders, helped to transform plant collections into beautiful pictures, into art.

Jekyll’s style grew in popularity during and following the publication of her book:‘Colour Schemes for the Flower Garden’in 1914. A style that has stood the test of time and is still celebrated today.

Work has already begun on the Spring borders’ planning and cultivating, planting starts in autumn and they will come back to life in spring 2017.

Victoria Summers, Trainee Gardener


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Winter Rose Pruning

The pruning of the Nymans rose garden is now well under way and in this edition of the blog we’ll share some practical hints and tips with you, as well as explaining the reasons for doing what we do.

Photo 1

Aerial view of Nymans rose garden before pruning

Roses are prickly plants so it is important to use the correct equipment, including gloves and eye protection. Roses such as the Moss and Rugosa types, which have thousands of tiny prickles (note: roses do not have thorns) are much more bothersome than those with larger protective hooks.

Photo 2

Prickles on a moss rose                                                              Tools of the trade

Before pruning a rose we consider its position in the bed and visualise a rough pruning height – roses in the centre, or at the back, can be pruned higher than those at the front. Otherwise, it is good to match heights between like plants and between those in similar positions, and to prune away from path edges.

Photo 3

Variation in pruning height                                                 Encroachment on a path

There are many types of rose and their pruning requirements vary, but as a general rule: remove dead, diseased and dying material; try to create a pleasing shape with a good balance of shoots, and avoid crossing stems where possible. Remember, old wood can act as a support for newer stems. Also, when pruning, we stand back to view the rose from where it will be seen by our visitors.

Photo 4

Roses pruned with the internal space and balanced shape required.

The weather can be a challenge at this time of year: pruning in very cold temperatures can potentially lead to stems being crushed by the secateurs; a good clean cut with a sharp blade will look something like this. When buds are breaking early due to warmer weather, care must be taken to avoid damage.

Photo 5

Prune at an angle away from the bud, with a gap of around 5mm

Dead or dying rose plants are easy to identify and can be dug up and replaced. Suckers (i.e. unwanted rootstock growth) can be tricky to spot, especially if they have been overlooked previously and now merge with the main plant; however, different stem colour, leaf shape and growth rate are usually giveaways. Suckers should ideally be dug out.

Photo 6

A rogue sucker left to grow

At the end of a day’s work it is important to dispose of the rose prunings (diseased or not) via a process called phytosanitation; this involves simply burning the waste material to help avoid any future fungal re-contamination.

To save time later we dig out weeds as we prune, especially from the centre of the rose, and check that the labelling is correct; a tag around the base of the plant is very effective. The next steps will be to feed, mulch and tidy the edges, and assess any gaps in the roses or under-planting.

Tom Whalley, Assistant Gardener


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The Harold Comber Collection

We are very proud to announce that Nymans Estate has been awarded Plant Heritage status for its Harold Comber Collection. Harold Comber was the son of the first Head Gardener, James Comber, and he collected plants in the Andes and Tasmania in the mid-1920’s.

Harold Comber

Harold Comber

The collection consists of 60 taxa that are either the original plants he collected, or propagated from those originals. His legacy plays an important role at Nymans as we endeavour to maintain the collection as well as add to it.

Chilean Border - August 2013 (2)

Desfontainea spinosa

A form of Desfontainea (pictured above) was collected by Harold in Chile and it is our job to make sure we propagate such plants so they can always be seen at Nymans, and also to make available a stock of such plants to the wider horticultural community.

Myrceugenia leptospermoides 3

Myrceugenia leptospermoides

We also aim to build on this legacy by introducing newly collected plants from these countries. The Chilean plant above came to us via Martin Gardiner of Edinburgh Botanic Garden. This plant is endangered in it’s native habitat.

Weinmannia trichosperma 2

Weinmannia trichosperma

Weinmannia is another Chilean plant, rare in cultivation, that thrives in the shelter of our Walled Garden. Last year we created a new border for Chilean plants in the Walled Garden and we have some new plants to add  to our collection this year including Escallonia x stricta ‘Harold Comber’ and Luma apiculata ‘Nana’ which was a gift from Plant Heritage.

Jon Keen, Gardener.

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