William Robinson – The Father of the English Flower Garden
The gardens at Gravetye Manor are a very special place and can be considered amongst the most influential in English gardening history. The manor became the home of the creative, innovative and revolutionary gardener, William Robinson in 1884. Robinson spent his remarkable life as a professional gardener and botanist, but made his fortune through writing about his experiences and ideas on horticulture. His most notable works include The English Flower Garden, which is one of the best-selling horticultural books of all time, and the hugely influential title, The Wild Garden.
Robinson's ideas about naturalised plantings, allowing nature to flow into the garden were ground breaking. Previous to Robinsons books gardens were places where nature was controlled and suppressed, meticulously managed, with carpet bedding and topiary. Robinson travelled the world studying plants in their natural habitat and spent years discussing how the beauty of these habitats might be replicated in the garden. This paved the way for much that we take for granted today in modern garden design. After years of studying, gardening and writing Robinson came to Gravetye and it was here he put his ideas into practice.
Gravetye Gardens in the 21st Century
Today Gravetye is a mature, charming and very beautiful garden. The tree line and the masses of naturalised bulbs show Robinsons' genius in a way that only he could have imagined over 100 years ago. The wild garden tumbles down its south facing slopes into the contrasting formal areas of the garden, and wherever you are in the garden there is always a stunning view of the surrounding countryside.
After the Second World War the garden fell into a period of neglect until the manor was opened as a hotel and restaurant in 1958 by hotelier Peter Herbert. He threw all his energy into the renovation and management of the garden until his retirement in 2004. Over the last few years' financial constraints meant that areas of the garden suffered. Now, thanks to the backing of new owners, a major restoration project is under way.
Summer 2010 saw the appointment of Tom Coward as Head Gardener. Having worked for 3 years alongside Fergus Garrett at Great Dixter, his experience has proved second to none in tackling this project. The focus will be not only on conserving and re-creating Robinson's work but also progressing the garden in homage to his experimental style of gardening.
Watch the video of Tom Coward, Head Gardener at Gravetye Manor
Gravetye Garden Blog
For all those eager to read more regular updates from the garden, then we have good news. Our head gardener Tom and his team are delighted to introduce the Gravetye Garden Blog. Packed full of pictures and information on their work at Gravetye - look out for Tom’s plant of the week, as well as posts from exciting contributors.
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