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Our work in the garden at Lamb House

Flowers growing in the vegetable garden at Lamb House, East Sussex, in beds separated by paths, with the house in the background
Flowers growing in the vegetable garden at Lamb House, East Sussex | © National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Few gardens in England can boast such rich literary connections as the garden at Lamb House, which provided inspiration to both Henry James and E. F. Benson. Assistant Head Gardener Marr Mordaunt and his team have been bringing that muse back to life.

Henry James at Lamb House

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, so he engaged his good friend and garden designer, Alfred Parsons, to develop the colourful flower borders and paths through the garden.

‘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

Fruit, veg and flowers

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.

We know that the produce grown by their gardener George Gammon was much prized, and we are influenced by what would have been grown in his time so we have continued to grow fruit, vegetables and cut flowers, and continue to bring the garden back to life.

The garden has been an inspiration to all who lived at Lamb House. It’s 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.

Plans for the garden’s future

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 while 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 in spring.

In the summer, the herbaceous borders take 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.

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