“Joyce had managed to group and contrast her planting in an extraordinary way, on the one hand totally out of control in its exuberance, but on the other hand structured to contain the exuberance. And this is – or was at the time – unique, for it seemed to pioneer a type of decorative gardening from which we have all learned since. And that includes myself.”
John Brookes MBE, A Landscape Legacy, 2018
Joyce Hilda Langmead was born in 1904 in West Sussex and grew up in Climping, not five miles from the garden she transformed. Denmans was her third garden, her first having been the garden where she farmed with her husband Hugh Robinson. Hugh Robinson, who had been decorated in the First World War, farmed and ran a nursery business in West Sussex that included pigs, a dairy herd and Southdown sheep. She started her second garden, a “wartime garden”, in 1941 in which she grew fruits and vegetables alongside a small flower garden.
In 1946 the couple purchased the Westergate Estate, sold off the manor house, called the rest Denmans and moved into the dilapidated gardeners bothy. Scrounging flint and brick from her sister’s bombed out house in Surrey, they renovated the cottage and transformed the neglected farm and garden into a productive enterprise which included a dairy herd and piggery, selling their produce and cut flowers locally and at Covent Garden Market in London.
By 1950, having also raised four daughters, she realised “I had to do something more about the garden, and I began to plant among the strawberries and flowers that we were growing to sell, and thus over the years I gradually laid the foundations of the garden that you can visit today.” (Glorious Disarray, Joyce Robinson, 199, page 11).