Bordering on the exotic at Nymans

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By Ness Simon (HBGBS trainee gardener)

2011 has seen the complete redesign of the terrace border. This was my project for the duration of my year as a Historic and Botanic Garden Bursary Scheme (HBGBS) trainee at Nymans. The new design embraces the spirit of the gardens and increase the drama and impact of the stunning ruins that are the perfect backdrop.  

Project brief:

My brief was to create a design using plants from the sub-tropics, areas like lowland Asia, Southern Africa, the Canary Islands and Madeira. Such plants are generally tender and will thrive on the south-facing terrace border.

An important component of the brief was to embrace the Messel’s gardening philosophy. The creators of Nymans were three generations of the Messel family who were great plant enthusiasts and ensured they always worked with the latest and most exciting plants. They pushed the boundaries of hardiness experimenting with tender plants outside.


I have undertaken a lot of research for this project taking trips to Tresco gardens on the Isles of Scilly and East Ruston Gardens in Norfolk to really improve my knowledge of sub-tropical plants.

Creating the design:

The design has a structural framework created using hardy exotics, complimented by tender exotics that will require winter protection. Annual exotic bedding will be planted out every spring to provide colour and increase the seasonal interest. The border will be at its peak from July through to October.


The site was cleared during the latter part of 2010. Some plants were removed and composted. Other more rare or significant plants that do not conform to the new Sub-tropical design were transplanted elsewhere in the garden. Whilst plants such as the bananas and Tetrapanax have remained and are now integral to the new design.

This spring a sea of daffodils sprouted from the border and these needed to be dug out and a war was waged on the bindweed to make sure I planted into a clean border. Our own compost was used as a mulch and planting took place over a very wet weekend in July. Since then the plants have flourished. Come and enjoy the new border and take in some of the rare and unusual exotics seldom seen in Sussex.