The garden at Lamb House

The gardeners working in the garden at Lamb House

The garden at Lamb House provided inspiration to both Henry James and E. F. Benson and Senior Gardener Maxine Clement and her team have been bringing that muse back to life. Few gardens in England can boast such rich literary connections.

" I am hopeless about the garden, which I don’t know what to do with and shall never, never know – I am densely ignorant"
- Henry James

When Henry James acquired the tenancy at Lamb House, he began a programme of improvement to the house and garden. James felt he was “densely ignorant” about gardens and plants, he therefore engaged his good friend, and garden designer, Alfred Parsons to develop the colourful flower borders and paths through the garden. Parsons planted soft fruits such as apricots, plums, pears and apples up the walls and suggested planting mulberry and walnut trees. Henry James particularly enjoyed the daffodils in his garden every spring and was delighted when white Narcissus ‘Henry James’ was created in his honour.

The garden was cherished by both Henry James and E.F. Benson. The produce grown by their gardener George Gammon was much prized by both, so we have continued to grow fruit, vegetables and cut flowers in the garden today. We are influenced by what would have been grown, and so have an abundance of root vegetables, legumes and onions in the vegetable garden this year.

We’ve been researching the history of the garden and, once this has been completed, it will help us with our future plans for the garden. In the meantime, we are busy improving the garden, making it presentable by getting rid of pernicious weeds, and improving the health of the plants that are there. Our work over winter to renovate many of the trees, shrubs and climbing plants in the garden has paid dividends. The garden was filled with colour and fragrance whilst the roses were in bloom and now the wisteria is once again growing to fill the Garden Room wall and will, no doubt, reward us with a beautiful display when it flowers next spring. Now, the herbaceous borders are taking centre stage and the flowering perennials will soon be joined by the summer annuals and dahlias to provide a lovely display right through until the autumn.

The garden is a beautiful and unexpected treat in the middle of Rye with a calm and peaceful atmosphere. It is the perfect place to relax, pick up a book and read. As we continue to improve the planting and the garden comes back to life, it will be a jewel in Rye's crown.