Garden Portrait: More from Nymans

In the late 1800’s Ludwig Messel bought the Nymans Estate in the Sussex High Weald to make a dream family home.

The gardens were inspired by the influential writer William Robinson, and were filled with rare plants and colourful herbaceous borders. The man most responsible for creating the gardens that Messel visualised was James Comber, who became head gardener in 1895. Comber’s son, Harold, became a globe-trotting plant collector, bringing exotic plants back to England from South America and Tasmania. Today it is still a garden lovers’ home – a place to relax all year round and enjoy a peaceful country garden.

Map of the Gardens

Map of the Gardens

Rose Garden

The rose garden is a circular space formally divided into beds intersected by gravel pathways and surrounded by high hedges. In the centre is a fountain in the form of a rose with climbing roses on arches tumbling down around it. The best time to visit is probably earlier in the summer as by late August there were very few roses still in bloom. The gardens have been well known for growing old-fashioned roses, with rich, intoxicating fragrances and pastel shades, for over 100 years.

The House

Three generations of the Messel family have lived at Nymans, from the late 1800’s until 1947 when the house was tragically destroyed by fire. Subsequently the surviving rooms were still used, occasionally to entertain friends and as a base from which to run the garden. Today the ruined house still provides a romantic background for the garden and the remaining Messel Family rooms are open to the public. At the side of the house is a Forecourt Garden with a dovecote in the corner, steps lead up to the top where you have a lovely view over the courtyard.




Rock Garden / Heath Garden

At the far side of the ruined house are the Sunken Garden, complete with Loggia, a Heath Garden and a Rock Garden which are an absolute delight.

A Glimpse of the house

View of the house from the Sunken Garden

Bench with the initial AR = Anne Rosse

Bench with the initial AR = Anne Rosse

June Borders

Obviously designed to look their best in June, these borders still have something to offer in August. Sedums and salvias compete with hydrangeas and helenium.

The June Borders (in late August)

I was delighted to see this lady drawing and painting the gorgeous sedum in the border.


And even at the entrance / exit the planting continues with a prairie style  garden which is made up of a mixture of herbaceous perennials and ornamental grasses. The style is naturalistic with swathes of planting blocks pioneered by the famous garden designer Piet Oudulf. Flowers, seed-heads and foliage all play their part in the design.


More lovely walks can be found over at my friend Jo’s place.

  • Street:  Nymans Garden
  • Postcode:  RH17 6EB
  • City:  Handcross, Crawley
  • County:  Sussex

Garden Portrait: Nymans

Late summer and a break in the awful wet weather enabled me to pop along to Nymans Garden in West Sussex. My main reason for visiting was to look at the summer borders in the Wall Garden encouraged by Gilly of Lucid Gypsy and capture some of the late summer colours. Of course I couldn’t resist a peek into the Rose Garden or a potter around the ruins of the Messel family house and a quick stroll past the rock garden, but these will appear later.

But for now let’s just have a look at the luscious, late summer borders which are also being enjoyed by lots of insects:

Wall Garden Borders

Wall Garden Summer Borders

The Wall Garden is the most beautiful part of this garden. A former orchard it is formed from an irregular shape with two paths intersecting in the centre where a pink Italian marble fountain and pool is found along with topiary. The central path is flanked by the Summer Borders, mostly herbaceous annuals and perennials with some shrubs at the back. The path between the borders is quite narrow so you feel as though you are walking through a floral tunnel.

Mixed border

The borders are a riot of colours at this time of year. Bright yellow Rudbeckia and Helianthus; dark red and scarlet and yellow Helenium; deep pink Cosmos with a bright yellow eye; violet-blue Asters; deep blue Agastache; pink-purple Echinaceae; white Cleome; tall pink-mauve sedum and brightly coloured dahlias are interwoven with silver-leafed foliage and the striking forms of coleus.

Helianthus and Echinaceae Purpureae


An exquisite display. Thank you Gilly for inspiring me to pop (or should that be hop?) along to this garden. It was well worth the effort. And I got a chance to practice with the macro lens with all those busy bees around.