Belonging at the beginning of the 1900’s to Lord Denmans, Denmans Gardens reflects the history of Britain in the twentieth century. Lord Denmans sold the estate before the World War One, and it changed hands several times in the early part of the century. The garden and its manor house were requisitioned by the WRAF during World War II. After the war the house was sold off and the garden was transformed from a neglected mess into a productive market garden and then in the 1950’s began its transition into an ornamental garden, reflecting the increasing availability of plant material from abroad. It ended the century as a contemporary garden designed by its then-owner John Brookes MBE. It remains a timeless, tranquil garden featuring a broad variety of interesting and unusual plants that are creatively and brilliantly combined with shingle paths, water features, faux dry river beds, a walled garden, conservatories, and wandering paths dotted with benches and statuary.

From glorious disarray to controlled disarray

Denmans Gardens once was part of the food production side of a minor estate owned by Lord Denmans from the end of the 1800’s to the beginning of the 1900’s.  The estate changed hands several times before being requisitioned by the WRAF during the Second World War.

In 1946, Hugh and Joyce Robinson bought a large portion of the estate, sold off the manor house and “called the rest Denmans”.  It took them several years of exceedingly hard work with their loyal gardener, Bertie Reed, to convert what had become a derelict garden into a working market garden.  They grew soft fruits, vegetables, and flowers for the market in Covent Garden and local shops.

As the privations of the war years receded and there was more time and resources to devote to gardening, Joyce began gardening for her own pleasure and interest, experimenting with plants and with growing mediums, especially gravel.  She would pack a lunch and spend the day at Hillier’s nursery or another horticultural organization, taking notes and learning all she could about plants.

By 1970 she retired from farming and began developing the ornamental garden creating gravel gardens, planting unusual and interesting plants in the Walled Garden, and eventually built two dry river beds inspired by a trip to Delos.