by Don Hyatt

The Gardens at Denmans

We got an early start the morning we visited Denmans, a modest perennial garden located not far from our hotel in Chichester. Such is fate that we would have over three hours to visit a couple of acres at Denmans, yet yesterday we had a mere 45 minutes to see all 250 acres at the glorious Exbury Gardens. In fact, by the time we left the place it seemed as though we had seen every leaf, blossom, and blade of grass several times over. Returning once again to inspect a large stone area designed to look like a stream bed, I started snickering about apropopriate banalities, such as "no stone unturned", and "rolling stones gather no moss", and so on. No, we were not rushed at Denmans.

The original estate was owned by Lord Denman in the 19th century, and by 1980 came under the care of John Brookes, a practicing landscape designer. Formerly of the Kew School of Landscape Design at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Mr. Brooks has founded the Clock House School of Design at Denmans, so named for the Clock House pictured here to the right.

Major landscape features at Denmans include a walled garden containing shrubs, perennials, and herbs, the gravel stream bed in the center of the main garden, a small pond and wild garden, and perennial border. Perennials seemed to be carefully positioned to give a natural look in a semi-formal setting. I particularly admired the grey foliage of great mullien plants contrasting with the stone areas.

We had plenty of time to explore the plant sales area, too. I noted a number of very choice items and even found a variegated form of our native Tulip Poplar, Liriodendron tulipifera. I guess I have been amused by how enamored the Brittish are with our native yellow poplar, one of the most common trees in Northern Virginia. During our two week tour, we saw a number of highly prized forms of the tree. At home, Tulip Poplar seedlings are obnoxious weeds, coming up everywhere and in a few short years growing to towering heights. Poplars are very messy trees, too, since they are favored by aphids which exude a sticky sap that sticks on leaves of other plants and objects below. By July, this sap turns everything under the tree to a disgusting moldy black. The orange and green flower parts of the poplar litter the lawn for a full month, and the profuse seeds clog the gutters later in the season. In addition, the brittle wood of the poplar is always the first to break in a thunderstorm, usually managing to drop its branches through the greenhouse glass. I guess if the tree were scarce and difficult to grow, we'd overlook its faults.

Vistas of the Garden

Blue Ceanothus and Other Shrubs
with Perennial Border

Euphorbias and Urn
in Walled Garden

Variegated Tulip Poplar

Purple Alliums and Herbs
in Walled Garden

Natural Garden Area

Dry Stream Bed and Mullien