Meet the head gardeners of Nymans
This section of the page features an image gallery, so if you're using a screen reader you may wish to jump to the main content.
Since 1890, Nymans has only had four head gardeners. Each has put their own mark on the garden that you see today.
James Comber (1895-1953)
Nymans was bought by Ludwig Messel in 1890. His priority was the garden and in 1895 he hired the young James Comber to help him bring his ideas to life. Comber and Ludwig became a formidable partnership.
They started the tradition of breeding new cultivars at Nymans, most notably creating Eucryphia x nymansensis, a beautiful white-flowering summer shrub.
Comber's son Harold became a famous plant hunter and Nymans benefitted enormously. His South America expedition introduced several rare Argentinian and Chilean plants into England which form the basis of our impressive Chilean collection in the wall garden.
Leonard and Comber both died in 1953, signifying the end of an era at Nymans.
Cecil Nice (1953-1980)
Cecil Nice had worked alongside James Comber for almost 30 years when he took over as head gardener.
Nice oversaw Nymans being given to the National Trust and its opening to the public in 1954. At this time the National Trust struggled financially but Nice's special pride was the kitchen garden and under his leadership the sale of fruit and veg generated a good income.
However, by the 1960s the garden was starting to show signs of age. Graham Stuart Thomas criticised the lack of summer colour suggesting perennials borders in the top garden, the birth of our June borders. As a result the labour -intensive kitchen garden had to be abandoned much to the distress of Nice.
David Masters (1980-2005)
Of all the changes at Nymans, none were as instant or dramatic as the Great Storm of 1987 that saw Nymans lose 486 mature trees overnight. David Masters and his team had the unenviable task of clearing up. As many of the important trees as possible were propagated, such as the conifers in the pinetum.
It took a number of years before order was restored but amidst the destruction came new opportunities. Herbaceous borders thrived in the lighter garden and a new-look rose garden was opened in 1988, complete with arches, a geometric design and handmade fountain.
Ed Ikin (2005 - present day)
Under Ed Ikin's leadership Nymans has seen an extensive programme of restoration and development.
Ed worked with a team of consultants to produce a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) for the garden. A hugely significant piece of research, the CMP has enabled the restoration of the rock garden and croquet lawn, redesign of both the sunk and knot gardens, creation of the new Mediterranean and South African beds as well as the replanting of the Terrace with an exciting collection of subtropical plants.