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West Dean College & Gardens


West Dean College is situated in the 6,350-acre West Dean Estate, of West Dean near Chichester. The Estate was formerly the home of the poet and patron of the arts, Edward James. He was an avid admirer of the Surrealist movement, and formed one of the largest collections of their works during his lifetime. He inherited West Dean House and the estate after the death of his father.

In 1939 Edward wrote to Aldous Huxley expressing his fear that after the war, certain arts, and particularly the techniques of the craftsmen would be lost. As a solution James suggested that his Estate be set up as an educational community where the techniques of craftsmanship could be preserved and taught, whilst restoring old work and creating new art works.

In 1964 James conveyed this Estate including West Dean House to the Edward James Foundation; in 1971 the Foundation established West Dean College as a centre for the study of conservation, arts, crafts, writing, gardening and music, providing both full-time and short courses.

West Dean Gardens feature a restored Victorian Walled Kitchen Garden, a spectacular 300 foot-long Edwardian Pergola, a Spring Garden and beautiful parkland walk and arboretum with views over the surrounding South Downs.

(You are advised to have refreshment close by, this is quite a long blog!)

We didn’t do the parkland walk as the garden and glasshouses took some time, but it was lovely to see the walk begins by crossing the field of sheep, the sheep being oblivious to the walkers!

The river Lavant was crystal clear and flowing moderately fast, with some pretty Grey Wagtails darting along the bank.

If the weather had been warmer I imagine the Picnic area would have been popular … the views of the areas planted with Primroses and Frittilarias were lovely.

A wide variety of fruits are grown at West Dean, including Pineapples, Figs, Peaches, Nectarines, Grapes, Cherries, Plums, soft fruit, Pears and Apples.
Have a wander through the glass-houses and admire the contents.

Nectarine blossom


Pots of Strawberries

A large selection of Mint varieties … Pineapple, Moroccan, Ginger, Guernsey, Lavender to name a few

It was really warm in there, for obvious reasons, and we were glad to come out and take a look at the cold frames and their contents.

The white blocks, on the ground until required, are used to determine the amount of ventilation … simple but effective!

There were salads, herbs and flowers for the cutting garden.

Beautiful displays of Tulips in pots

This display of Spring bulbs was a delight to see … but I am still not tempted to plant any Muscari … they are just one of those ‘Marmite’ flowers to my mind and I take great pleasure in removing any that still dare to grow in my garden!

This sign stops you wondering if you should leave the door open or closed!

A sunken glasshouse filled with Pelargoniums

Time for refreshment … looks as though the artist had the same idea!

After eating a lunch of what was possibly the best quiche I have ever tasted, we set off in search of the very long Pergola.

Walking past some huge trees at West Dean, including this very old (pre 1645) ‘Cedar of Lebanon’ (Cedrus libani)

Pretty Magnolia sprengeri ‘Diva’ Goddess Magnolia from 1900 (or as my m-in-law calls them ’Mongolian trees!)

Jackdaws in their nests and on the ground

Walking past the Orangery … no class today

If any of you are still reading this blog, here at last is the 300 foot long Pergola, not a hope of getting a single shot of it!

A return visit in the Summer is planned, as I really would love to see this clothed in the Rambling Roses and Clematis.

I think this is a variety of Euonymous.

One end of the Pergola leads to a Gazebo where a stunning mosaic is laid. It is made from knapped flints interspersed with horses’ molars!

Walking back to the other end where there is a sunken garden, as yet unplanted but sure to become a place to sit and admire the surroundings.

Many outdoor fruits, especially Apples, are grown as half standards, 4-winged pyramids, goblets, oblique cordons, espaliers, palmette verniers and cross-bars.
These Red and White currants should produce a bumper crop in later years.

Lovely traditional labels.

Traditional supports for the perennials.

Bygone days of gardening.

I thought of GoY members Yorkshire and Homebird when I saw these forcing pots for Rhubarb!

Wonderful, clear labels, something I often think more gardens should have.

Well, I hope you enjoyed the walk around West Dean Gardens and weren’t too tired at the end.

There’s a bench to sit on before the walk back to the car park!

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Wow that's a wonderful blog Shirley loads of info and pictures, I'm like you with muscari, I only have my yellow fragrant one that doesn't and any blue that's still here gets pulled out..

27 Apr, 2013


Oh, Shirley! Thank you very much for this blog. It was a pleasure to read it and see it through your camera. I love places like this, especially when they have so much positive history behind. The river Lavant has probably Roman origin of its name (lavare=to wash). That old Lebanon cedar is astonishing. Beautiful man, lol. Those glasshouses are beautiful, I wonder how many people must work there to keep it in such a good condition. And they also reminds me similar huge white glasshouses, which were once built close to TBC sanatories in our mountains. People were there often several months, so during that time thay could learn some things, like how to grow vegetables and flowers, could requalify to electrician or carpenter, if they didnĀ“t have education yet.
I would be pretty satisfied, if I have a house for me like that pergola, lol. Great blog, Shirley. A place worth to visit.

27 Apr, 2013


Great blog Shirley, I really enjoyed that tour of the gardens. I really like the glasshouses and the trees. I've never like muscari either and won't grow it, but we all have our preferences:)

27 Apr, 2013


Hi Shirley...
Super blog with lovely pics. :o)

27 Apr, 2013


What a great place to visit Shirley, all those plants so neatly set out and in perfect rows, all labelled too, they obviously have a great team of gardeners looking after it. Was there a cafe there too and did you partake? I'm not sure about muscari either, I like it but in the right place and I have never found the right place, Lol.

27 Apr, 2013


thats a great blog Shirley, thank you ~ i would love to go there one day ~ had never heard of it before. Loved the trellis and the way they had grown some of the fruit trees, also loved the 'natural supports' for the plants.

The trees are magnificent and those beautiful spring flowers growing in the grass, my favourite part was that clear stream and the lovely willow tree.

27 Apr, 2013


WOW.... that was a "blog and half" Shirley, but I really enjoyed it. What a wonderful place to visit. Can't really name a favourite, like it all and I know I'm going to be in the minority..... you know what I'm going to say don't you..... I think my fav was the nectarine blossom, but I'll have to go thru it again, when I've got a bit more time lol! :-)))

27 Apr, 2013


Thanks Shirley for this very in depth blog and excellent photographs, have not been in the Spring, only the summer with some very dear friends, it is in such a beautiful part of the countryside, I have a photograph with the sheep also.
I think you managed to cover everything, it is such an interesting place to visit, and on our doorstep!!
We had a very good lunch also, homemade soup if my memory serves me well with homemade bread, and cake!!
Unfortunately our dear friend died this year, but we will always remember with affection West Dean and how much he enjoyed the lovely hot summers day we spent there..... so thanks again...for lovely memories.

27 Apr, 2013


Thank you very much, Shirley, for a brilliant blog! I love this place, and although it is about 3 hours drive from us, I have done a couple of short courses there. The interior is almost as fascinating as the grounds: Edward James was given various works of art by famous artists, including Dali. There is a carpeted spiral staircase with a footprint woven into each step . . . apparently representing the wet footprints of Dali's wife Gaia! The rooms are very comfortable, and the food excellent too.

27 Apr, 2013


Its been very enjoyable sharing your day with you Shirley I could just imagine walking along the river Lavant and sitting under that magnificent Willow. I bet the pergolo is breathtaking come the summer months.
The planting of the fruit trees in the walled garden looked so precise obviously done with an eye for perfection.
Glad you had a good day and enjoyed your quiche but hope you don`t mind me saying that I love Mascari ~ hope that hasn`t upset you too

27 Apr, 2013


What a lovely day out. Those cordons are incredible - fancy having the strength of mind to cut off so many shoots. I haven't got it in me! Hope you post another blog when you go back int he summer.

27 Apr, 2013


S'lad - glad you enjoyed the walk around the gardens - I have just been reading up about the yellow Muscari (Golden Fragrance) and the fragrance is described as a cross between banana and gardenia ... not a scent I can conjure up easily ... but I do like the appearance of it ... thanks for mentioning it.
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Kat - thank you for your comments ... I believe the Romans diverted the river from going out to sea.
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Thanks Louisa and Terra ... :o))
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Gm - we did have a light lunch in the restaurant ... roast chicken for OH and a fabulously flavoured quiche with salad for me ... quite a wait for the food but definitely worth it!
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Sticki - I have a feeling that the fruit training methods were featured on an episode of GW some years ago ... I loved seeing the various ways they were being grown ... and I agree the Willow tree is stunning.
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Gralew - I know it went on a bit! ... The blossom on the fruits in the temperate glasshouse was beautiful.
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Dotty - I am so pleased this brought back some happy memories for you ... we are only about 20 miles from these gardens yet don't visit that often ... which happens when things are close by! The drive there was lovely too ... past Goodwood with some lovely views across the Downs. Oh yes, home made soup and bread are both still on the menu ... :o)
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Sheila - so pleased you found this blog as you mentioned you had visited in the past. We really do have to return now ... to see the carpeted spiral staircase if nothing else!
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Stroller - it would be terrible if we all liked the same plants ... you may remember when I first joined GoY that I sent a shoebox full of the Muscari from my garden up to David in Scotland ... I expect they've spread around a lot now! I pull them out regularly from Mums garden too ... grr! ... :o)

27 Apr, 2013


great and interesting blog shirley, so enjoyed the walk round with you, love the white glass houses so traditional and all them pots of tulips and large looking muscari, mine looks smaller flowers but i do like them. The gardens look so well looked after there and love the ways the apple trees grow across the walls, lovely photos :o))

27 Apr, 2013


I hope they let you in, Shirley - you might find they'll want to accompany you as the place is heaving with "precious" antiques!!

29 Apr, 2013


A lovely blog Shirley, and very interesting :o)

30 Apr, 2013


Thanks, San - I would love even one wall in my garden to train fruit against! ... Fence panels all around though ... :o(

Lol, Sheila - I'll tell them you recommended a viewing!

Thanks, Hywel - funny how it's close by, yet we rarely visit ... that's often the way though ... :o)

2 May, 2013


Yes, I know. That's how it is. There are many places around here but we never go to them.

2 May, 2013


It's been fantastic to re-visit this wonderful place all over again, and I've just added your blog to my faves, Shirley, as everything is so clear and exactly as I remember it. I loved walking down that fabulous pergola walk, aka 'memory lane'! Thanks : ))

22 Mar, 2014

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