I defy anyone not feel happier after a visit to Parham House Gardens in Pulborough, West Sussex. The sense of well-being starts as soon as you pull off the A283, drive in through the main gates and weave your way down through the historic parkland, a mosaic of downland, bracken and veteran trees opening up to an uplifting view of the South Downs in which this Elizabethan house and garden nestle.
But if you imagined that you will countenance an Elizabethan style gardening palette, pickled in aspic a la National Trust, you are in for a very pleasant surprise. What head gardener, Tom Brown, has managed to achieve quite brilliantly is to maintain all the ambience of the garden’s historical roots, but bring it right up to date with the best of the new wave of North American perennials and grasses, in a series of colour themed borders that are frankly breathtaking. On the day I was there, as part of an East Sussex Cottage Garden Society visit, it was the repeated theme of the moody purple heads of Eupatorium paired with the emerging heads of a similarly coloured Miscanthus (clever) that caught our eye but I imagine that there would be similar touches of genius at any other time of the year too.
The garden is hosting trials of dahlia, gladioli and zinnias, all of which looked terrific, and with the very best sort of plant nursery where all the plants are clearly propagated on site you could go home at this point feeling completely satisfied. But the best was yet to come and the 10 minutes or so that I spent making my way down the confined space of the narrow lean-to conservatory was definitely the horticultural highlight of the year to date. Almost every tender plant that you have ever heard about was here in charming style, layer upon layer of horticultural gems jostling with each other to outshine their neighbour. Horticultural heaven!
AMENITIES: Garden shop and nursery, pushchair friendly and rather refreshingly, dogs are welcome on leads.