One of a series of online talks held by FOLAR (Friends of the Landscape Archive at Reading) and the Gardens Trust reviewing the 21 recently registered post war landscapes and gardens and their designers.  The purpose of the series, entitled ‘Why So Special is to focus attention on the ideas, ingenuity and quality of each of these 20th century designs. 

The first part of this talk details the early history of the nineteenth-century site, once the home of the Denman family, and then the development of a market garden and later an ornamental garden by the Robinsons in the early post-war decades. Mrs Robinson’s innovative gravel garden formed the basis of Brookes’s garden, which introduced a stronger design, a pool to culminate the dry gravel streams and additional native and exotic plants. These experiments paralleled the design and planting concepts used in his clients’ gardens and those he outlined in articles, lectures and his books. In the four years before Brookes’s death in March 2018, Denmans went through a critical and potentially high-risk period. The second part of this talk focuses on the efforts to restore the garden starting in December 2017, how these efforts evolved after Brookes’s death and, looking to the future, what historic resources will be used to help create a conservation plan for the future. 

Saving Denmans

To book please click here.  

Dr Barbara Simms is a garden and landscape historian, who has been Course Director of the MA in Garden and Landscape History at the Institute of Historical Research since its inception in 2014.  She was chair of London Parks & Gardens Trust (2002-8), a trustee of The Garden Museum (2002-14), and chair of Parks & Gardens UK (2012-18). She has been editor of Garden History, the journal of The Gardens Trust (previously the Garden History Society) since 2004. Dr Simms’s interest in the history, conservation and interpretation of gardens of the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries has led to the completion of research commissions on post-war landscapes, journal articlesand the publication of two books, Eric Lyons and Span (2006) and John Brookes, Garden and Landscape Designer (2007).  

Gwendolyn van Paasschen is a garden designer and writer. Having worked with John Brookes on a major multi-year project in Upstate New York, she helped him write his memoir, A Landscape Legacy (Pimpernel Press, 2018), and now is chairman of the John Brookes-Denmans Foundation (JBDF) which she co-founded in 2017. The JBDF is dedicated to perpetuating John Brookes’s design legacy and to the renovation and preservation of Denmans Garden, his garden in West Sussex. She currently owns and runs Denmans Garden, which includes a plant centre and retail space. She is also a contributor to the Georgetown Dish, a daily news and entertainment site, writing occasional articles about gardening and garden design.  Ms van Paasschen has compiled and edited How to Design a Garden, a forthcoming book of writings by John Brookes, published by Pimpernel Press (October 2021).