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Visiting Nymans garden

Nymans looking towards the house from the rock garden
Sweeping views can be enjoyed from the Rock Garden | © National Trust Images/Laurence Perry

Discover ruins, statues and year-round beauty and interest in the garden at Nymans. Created by plantsman and designer Ludwig Messel in the late nineteenth century, it’s a garden lover’s delight with significant international and heritage plant collections. More open and flowing than a ‘garden of rooms’, the June border, rose garden, South African meadow and famous summer borders represent Nymans’ distinctive blend of formality and informality to perfection.

Summer garden highlights at Nymans

Nymans was originally planted for summer and spring interest, when the family were in residence, as the Messels spent winter at their home in London.

Colourful summer borders in the garden at Nymans, West Sussex
Colourful summer borders in the garden at Nymans | © National Trust Images/John Miller

Summer Borders

One of the highlights of the year is the summer borders, which have evolved since their creation in the Edwardian period. With a Verona marble fountain as a focal point, the current planting has an informal, relaxed feel and reflects how the borders were originally planted. Although they flower well into October, the borders peak in August, with dahlias and cannas providing the backdrop, whist perennials, such as helianthus, aster and helenium, give height and drama. Over 5000 annuals, including a wide variety of salvia, cosmos and cleome, are grown on-site and planted in drifts throughout. Each year the colour scheme changes, and new plants are trialled.

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International collection

Nymans is a mix of formal and informal areas packed full of exotic species from around the world. At 13 hectares, the garden holds one of the most comprehensive documented collections of Chilean and Argentinian species cultivated in the British Isles.

These plant introductions still surviving at Nymans today may represent genetic material that has been lost from wild populations. In the Wall Garden you’ll find plants from China and Chile, and across the road in the Wild Garden discover the Tasmanian collection.

Views and yews

At 500 ft above sea level, Nymans offers wonderful views. The lawn in front of the house is the best spot for views across the surrounding countryside, with ruins and topiary yew hedging on one side and the South Downs on the other.

Chanctonbury Ring can be seen perched on the Downs through the trees to the south west. The centrepiece is the 160-year-old Cedar of Lebanon.

Throughout the garden you'll find formal and creatively shaped topiary. Look out for yew globes around the fountain in the wall garden, topiary lions guarding the entrance, and birds on the terrace in front of the house.

Take a tour of Nymans’ garden

With informal and formal areas, exuberant planting, flower meadows and manicured lawns, the garden is constantly evolving and a joy in every season.

To help you explore it fully, we run daily guided garden tours at 11am and 2pm.

See the garden from the comfort of a buggy with one of our garden buggy tours at 11.15am, 1pm and 2.30pm. If you'd like to venture further afield and discover the estate's 250 acres of wildlife-rich woodland, join a woodland buggy tour, which run daily at 11.30am and 1.30pm. They last around 1 hour and are run by our knowledgeable volunteers.

Top garden

The deep herbaceous borders of the top garden are crammed with a range of flowers and shrubs. Fragrant and colourful, there’s something to offer in each season from snowdrops in winter to delicate poppies in summer. It’s home to a wonderful collection of trees, some dating back to 1905.

The Rose Garden

With over 600 rose bushes and 115 varieties, it’s no surprise that when in flower the scent of roses carries a long way throughout the garden, particularly on a warm summer’s day.

Filled with perfumed and repeat-flowering roses, underplanted with lavender, geranium and nepeta, the rose garden is subtly scented and has a strong visual impact. The beds are positioned to create symmetry and a feeling of order, contained within a tightly clipped circular yew hedge.

At the centre of the garden is a fountain sculpted by Vivian ap Rhys Pryce. Why not sit for a while on one of the benches, listening to the play of water and the birdsong from the trees?

The Wall Garden

From planting out in early May, until the first frosts of autumn, the display in the wall garden is a feast for all the senses.

The garden is well known for its vibrant, flamboyant mixture of flowers and has an outstanding display of bulbs in the springtime, as well as annuals, trees and shrubs throughout the summer filling every nook and cranny.

The Terrace in front of the house

With planting combining shape and texture using hardy exotics and tender annuals set against the dramatic backdrop of the ruined mansion, the architectural feel of this terrace is enhanced by tree ferns.

The South African meadow

Designed to give maximum colour, with playful textures, bold drifts and exotic planting, the South African meadow is a vibrant mix of grasses, herbaceous perennials, bulbs, daisies and annuals.

Plants have been intermingled to mimic their behaviour in the wild, dispersed in drifts to create fluidity and lead the eye around the landscape.

Exotic planting

The planting scheme is a celebration of South African flora, with many plants that are not commonly seen in the UK. Plants have been chosen that are likely to thrive within the conditions of the site with only moderate intervention.

The great British weather sometimes tests these exotic plants: the cold and damp of winter may be too much for some, but others surprise us with their resilience.

You can follow a grass path through the middle to fully experience the meadow and immerse yourself in the landscape.

Download a map of the garden before you visit.

The Forecourt Garden at Nymans, West Sussex in June

Discover more at Nymans

Find out when Nymans is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

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Nymans’ ancient woodland is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), nature reserve and home to a variety of plants and wildlife. Here’s what to look out for.

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The history of Nymans house and garden 

Under generations of the Messel family, Nymans in West Sussex has been through several transformations since the 1890s to become the house, ruin and garden you see today.

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Family-friendly things to do at Nymans 

With natural play in the Play Glade, activities and events in the school holidays and an ancient woodland and garden to discover, there's lots of fun for families at Nymans. Picnic anywhere in the garden, or pick up a snack from the cafe or kiosk. Baby change available by the house and in the cafe and car park.

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Visiting Nymans with your dog 

Whatever the weather you can enjoy winding paths and wide avenues with colourful views across the woodland or towards the South Downs. Until 31 January 2024 (inclusive) dogs are welcome in the garden between 1.30pm and 4pm. When visiting the woods, please keep dogs on leads and stay on paths to protect nesting birds. Nymans is a one pawprint rated place.

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Gardens and parks 

From 18th-century water gardens and Arts and Crafts landscapes to intimate woodland gardens, there are so many places to discover.

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Discover our gardeners’ top tips so you can make the most of your garden, plot or window box.

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Gardens in Sussex 

Beautiful gardens are found all over Sussex. The romantic gardens at Nymans and Bateman's; and Capability Brown landscapes at Sheffield Park and Petworth are all yours to explore.