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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