About Us

“Since Christmas 1984 John Brookes is caring for it, so Denmans will go forward as a teaching garden.  It is well to know it is in such good hands.”

Joyce Robinson
The New Englishwoman’s Garden
edited by Alvilde Lees-Milne and Rosemary Verey, (1988)


John Brookes-Denmans Foundation

When John Brookes MBE died in March 2018 he was working on renovating portions of the garden near the Gardener’s Cottage.  The Garden continues to be under renovation and will become part of the John Brookes-Denmans Foundation so it will continue on as the garden he and Joyce Robinson created.

The John Brookes-Denmans Foundation promotes and disseminates the John Brookes MBE design legacy in order to enhance the experience of landscape and garden design students and professionals as well as landscape contractors, homeowners, and gardeners.  Central to this mission is the maintenance and development of Denmans as a centre for landscape and garden design excellence and to ensure its place in the history of gardens and garden design.

Charity no. 1171609

From ‘Glorious Disarray’ to ‘Controlled Disarray’

I …. used to be constantly asked what were Mrs Robinson’s bits and which are ours.  Well it doesn’t work like that!  I came here because I liked the feel of the place – it had interest and intimacy and I liked the person from whom I took it over…  If I hadn’t liked Mrs J.R as she was known, would I have wanted to alter the garden more?

What I did strive to achieve was to give the garden a continuity as one walked round, and a sense of moving through from area to area.  The public get this one very much and say that although it is a 4 acre garden it doesn’t feel like it.

My ‘continuity’ had to take in Mrs J.R’s plantings, so that I reshaped round them using bold sweeping curves.  I was – and still am in awe of much of Burle Marx’ shapes and those of Thomas Church as well, and I worked with them in mind.  These curves make for easy mowing and by leaving areas of rougher grass I can play shape against shape.

John Brookes MBE, 10 August 2017
Denmans – Why does it “work” – or rather why do visitors like it? Click here to read.

Denmans is a contemporary country garden that lies on a gentle, south facing slope sheltered by the South Downs to the north. Featuring well-drained alkaline soil, good light and a mild climate, it is ideal for growing a large range of plants, including plants from the Mediterranean and other warmer climates which blend with plants indigenous to West Sussex. The diversity of its plants and its unique planting style have resulted in a garden with year-round interest, structure, and colour.

The 4 acre garden is a series of spaces that flow one into another elegantly but informally, including outside views in some places and focusing on an interior point in others. Far from resembling any recognizably traditional English garden styles, Denmans is relaxed and defiantly “country” but its informality is contained by carefully considered proportions, strong geometric shapes punctuating both the horizontal and vertical planes, and its indisputable link to the countryside in which it is nestled. The ground plan includes a series serpentine paths which present new sight lines, glimpses and surprises at every turn. By design there is nothing grand and stand-offish about Denmans. It provides welcoming and intimate spaces that enfold and enrich you every time you visit. True to John Brookes’ design tenets, every curve is strong and related, creating exquisite inter-linking spaces.

“I am not a gardener. I am a landscape designer.”

John Brookes MBE


Ongoing renovation

“You think you are the same, but in fact time and experience alter you – and it is the same with a garden.  Things grow, things die:  the garden is a living entity, and of course, I do things my way rather than in Joyce’s style, but the essence of the place I love remains the same:  Peace and calm.”

John Brookes MBE, A Landscape Legacy, 2018

Although he designed gardens around the world, John Brookes MBE never drew a formal plan for Denmans.  It was Denmans, he used to say, that was his home and where he pursued his hobby – gardening.  As such, he took his time with renovations at Denmans and relished the luxury of making changes to the garden in a leisurely fashion.  In 2016 he began to renovate areas around the Clock House, in the Walled Garden, the pond, and south of Joyce’s Cottage.

Work in these areas continue as he directed.  In addition to the work in the garden, the Cucumber House and 1932 vintage Dutch cold greenhouse erected by Joyce and Hugh Robinson in 1948 are also being renovated, and the café and conference facilities have been significantly upgraded.


Denmans is a contemporary country garden that lies on a gentle slope facing south on a slightly alkaline loam over gravel beds which ensures very free drainage. Sheltered by the South Downs to the north and enjoying good light and a mild climate, it is ideal for growing a large range of plants.