Denmans quickly became a garden rich in diversity and unique attributes that made it as beautiful in winter as it was in summer. She opened the door to the public through the Yellow Book, sold plants she’d grown to various visitors, and wrote articles for local publications. She described her garden as “glorious disarray”, a phrase that became the title of her 1990 book about Denmans. As Joyce became recognized as a highly knowledgeable plants woman, the garden’s plantings became known for their unusual varieties and combinations,
….it was not trying to be something it was not. So many gardens in my youth (and still no doubt) try to be grand – playing an 18th century game, but on the cheap. Nor yet was it too cottagey either…
John Brookes MBE, Denmans – Why does it “work” – or rather why do visitors like it?, August 10, 2010, in Articles, My Favourite Garden
John Brookes MBE discovered the garden in the early 1970’s when, as the Director of the Inchbald School of Garden Design, he took his students to look at gardens. What immediately attracted him was that Denmans was not trying to be something it was not.
He also was attracted by her inventive use of plant material – not the plants themselves as much as but the remarkable manner in which they were planted and the way she played with colour, shape upon shape and texture upon texture. In 1980 he persuaded Joyce –or “Mrs. J.H.” – to let him renovate the old stable block which he named Clock House, and he moved, in starting his own Clock House School of Design.
Over the years he revised the lay-out of the gardens to make the most of her planting approach as well as the garden’s sloping topography and views. He added a pond at the bottom of the garden, a circular pool at the top, and accentuated his curving lines and paths with shapes of roughly mown grass filled with bulbs. The inspiration for the shapes of the beds derived from the work of Roberto Burle-Marx, Brazil’s most reknowned landscape designer, whom Mr. Brookes had once met as a young man. They also acknowledged the difficulty Mrs. J.H. had navigating corners in the buggy which she drove around the garden, a necessity brought on by illness in her later years.