Summer in the garden at Standen
Divided into many outdoor 'rooms', each with its own theme, colours, texture and detail, the 12 acre garden at Standen is almost entirely the creation of a self-taught gardener - Margaret Beale. Inspired by the Arts & Crafts movement, she developed this hillside garden so that it looked like a natural part of the High Weald landscape.
Every season is special at Standen and the summer provides a range of colours and aspects to admire.
The house terrace and quarry garden
Around the house itself is where Margaret showed her real passion for plants, the rarest, most showy and those that were most special to her were planted within a few yards of the door to the garden from the conservatory. Only the most privileged guests were allowed into this area, which includes the shady and surprising quarry garden. It’s so close to the house itself, but feels a lifetime away. On a hot summer day, the shade cast by trees in here favours ferns and mosses, climbing hydrangea and rare and unusual bulbs, relics from over a century ago when the quarry was fresh and open and tended to by its own full-time gardener.
On the sun-baked terrace just outside the quarry, plants from an altogether different clime thrive, including the gorgeous yellow Banksian rose and the willowy alternate-leaved buddleia.
The lavender lawn
Further around the house, the lavender lawn and house courtyard brim with summer colour. Annuals, perennials and shrubs all work together to give a stunning overall effect before you get drawn into the smallest detail of a honeybee on the waving flower of a lavender.
Top terrace and rock top walk
The upper garden, once thickly wooded lost many trees in the great storm of 1987, but their replacements, now approaching over 30 years in age are quickly re-clothing the hillside with colours, shapes, textures, scents and sounds as the breeze gently wafts through. Here you will find the most spectacular views across the Medway Valley to Ashdown Forest – virtually unspoiled by any development, save for the 1950s Weirwood Reservoir, which meanders through the landscape like a river, and is now a well-established part of the scenery.
Further round you’ll find the Bothy, built in 2017 in an area of garden lost for decades to scrub, it too boasts fine views towards the tower of East Grinstead Church and into the intimate landscape of the High Weald in which Standen sits.
A garden of history
In front of the house, the main lawn sweeps to the south, bordered by a ha-ha that links the garden to the wider landscape with barely a join. To the east are two of five trees that survived the 1987 gales, the magnificent tulip tree, a relative of the magnolia, and across the farm track is a large Monterrey pine, the sole survivor of Margaret Beale’s notable collection of conifers. It gives the impression of great age, although it is only just over one hundred years old.
To the west of the lawn is grandfather’s walk, lined with pollard limes, it was created as an area for the elderly James Beale to be brought to when he could no longer manage the steep steps and slopes of the rest of the garden. Here the family would picnic in the shade of the limes, or sit in the summerhouse and look back at their country home.
A family home
The lower garden is where the family had fun – the croquet lawn is and was, a place for sitting and games. The summerhouse, glorious in the morning sun was where the family came for breakfast when the weather allowed. Surrounded by rare and unusual rhododendrons, the lawn is a delight to find as you round the corner, and many visit several times before they find it.
The rosery, so recently lost to invasive bamboo, is currently being restored and is the site of the swimming pond where the Beale children used to learn to swim and is a place of many fond memories. Here Margaret Beale tried for numerous years to grow a pink China rose to have as a cut flower in the house, but never did she succeed, in fact she eventually gave up and moved her roses closer to the house, where the growing conditions were more kind.
The kitchen garden
Nearby is the orchard, home to hives of honeybees and many old varieties of apple. Here the grass is left to grow long, allowing wild flowers to flourish including delicate orchids and the diminutive yellow rattle.
The kitchen garden is close to the house, and intentionally so as the Beales wanted to show off their new self-sufficient life in the countryside and stretching originally to nearly three acres this area was almost a quarter of the whole garden. Recently brought back into production after quite some time as private gardens, it is full of a wide range of tasty crops that are supplied to the café throughout the year. This area is run on organic principles and is also no-dig, allowing the soil to build up a rich natural diversity of insects and bugs.
Any visit to the garden must start and end at goose green, the heart of the property for a century and more. Three large plane trees dominate this space, surrounded on each side by domestic and rural features – the kitchen garden, the old farm buildings, the servants wing of the house and the medieval farmhouse on a small rise above. Once home to geese, cows and horses, it is now a wonderful place to relax and enjoy these most beautiful of surroundings.
Explore further afield
The wider estate includes ancient meadows and woodlands, with wildlife and flowers to be seen. Pick up a walk from reception, grab your wellies and head for Rockinghill or Hollybush woods, or perhaps down to Weirwood Reservoir.