‘As a location for my proposed school (in 1979) I started to look in the Bath and Bristol area, but I suddenly remembered a stable block in West Sussex, in a garden called Denmans which I used to occasionally visit with students in my pre-Iranian days.
We were always welcomed to this remarkable garden by a somewhat older lady who opened up at weekends. She was Mrs. Joyce Robinson, an ex-farmer’s wife. I had found the garden in the Yellow Book which advertises gardens which opened for charity. Denmans was a lovely, rambly garden looked after by one man, Bertie Reed, and Mrs. JH, as they called her. So many gardens which one visited had pretentions to being grand and this had not, which I found refreshing. It was however a plants woman’s garden who had no pretension to be a designer herself.’
John Brookes, July 2016
So wrote John Brookes in 2016, looking back at his discovery of Denmans in 1967 through the National Garden Scheme, and his ‘obsession with this little paradise’.
Denmans has enjoyed a long relationship with the National Garden Scheme beginning in 1967 when Joyce Robinson first opened her garden for the charity. Since then, Denmans has been open with the NGS for a total of 45 years.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of John Brookes’ first visit to Denmans Garden thanks to the NGS – a visit that made an enormous impression on him and eventually led him to make Denmans his home and open the Clock House School of Garden Design. It seems fitting, therefore, that Denmans hosted the NGS West Sussex Garden Owners & Friends’ Party on 27th March, which was organized by West Sussex County Organizers, Maggie Hooper, Diana Rose, and Meryl Walters. The party included garden owners that have previously opened their gardens to the NGS, and others who are opening for the first time. Also attending were NGS Chief Executive George Plumptre and regional head Mark Porter, both of whom took a moment to thank everyone and to hand out awards to several long-time NGS supporters.
Guests enjoyed a wander through the garden on a rare sunny spring afternoon, and were welcomed by Denmans owner, Gwendolyn van Paasschen, before enjoying drinks and canapes provided by Midpines Café.
Also in support of the NGS, Gwendolyn gave an illuminating online talk in February as part of the NGS’s Spring Season. The talk, ‘Breaking with Tradition: A Modernist Comes to Sussex’, explores the fusing of Joyce Robinson’s rich horticultural heritage, gravel gardens, and dry riverbeds with John Brookes’ modernist sensibilities and the flowing lines, architectural plantings, and focal points he introduced. The illustrated talk will remain on the NGS website and is available to purchase for £10 here.
All proceeds will go to support the NGS which gives visitors unique access to over 3500 exceptional private gardens in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Channel Islands, raising impressive amounts of money for nursing and health charities through admissions and refreshments on open days. In November 2022 the NGS announced donations of £3.11 million to its beneficiary charities. To learn more about the NGS and the Yellow book, please click here.
Denmans’ first NGS open day of 2023 was at the end of February with two further days forthcoming on Sunday 30thApril and Sunday 29th October. Further details can be found on here, on our events page.
Denmans Garden looks forward to continuing its historic and special relationship with the NGS for many years to come!
For more information, please contact Louise Campbell