Diaries Magazine

A Prairie Garden in the Sussex Downs

By Hurtlingtowards60 @ronitee
A little while ago Charlotte/The Galloping Gardener suggested a day out at Sussex Prairies near Henfield. West Sussex.  It was the first time I had heard of this garden, sadly because of other events, I didn’t manage to meet her there.  Yesterday I and my friend MB made our first visit to this amazing garden. There is a small garden at the back of the house, full of tall interesting grasses and initially we thought that was it, until we got to the little humped back bridge and saw before us a breathtaking view of an incredible expanse of garden. We both stood there and said “Whow!”, it was not at all what we were expecting. The next day (4 September), there was an Unusual Plant and Art fair, so when we met the lovely, enthusiastic, Pauline McBride she was busy with the organisation, but she did have time to have a chat with us.   The garden was started by her and her husband Paul in 2008, with the help of 45 members of their family and friends.  Sussex Prairies Garden is 6 acres containing 30,000 plants of 550 different varieties and along with the tall grasses there were swathes of Heleniums, Rudbeckia and Echinacea. It was a relaxing afternoon just to wander around the garden, in and out of the various narrow paths that wind through the beds.  There were higher beds with places to sit at the top, so  you could absorb the sheer expanse of the Prairie. Not everybody likes sculpture placed in and amongst flower beds.  MB for one doesn’t see that it sits well.  I, on the other hand, thought they were fun and like the juxtaposition of nature and art.  There were a number of ceramic abstract flowers on metal poles scattered through the garden which gave rise to debate and then we came across a tea-set in the middle of some grasses.  It looked as though they perhaps had been tipped out of an aeroplane and just hovering where they landed.  Even MB laughed at this. Visits to gardens require a stop at the tea room and this one did not disappoint.  It was great, we were given large mugs for our tea, perhaps because the china tea service were out in the garden somewhere!  The choice of home-made cakes all looked delicious and I chose a wonderfully moist Bakewell Cake. The garden is haven for photo opportunities too and below are just a few of the many many photos I took. I love these bird houses, which you can buy. Please don’t think, “what a lovely garden such pity it is too far for me to visit”.  Sussex Prairie also run a  Bed and Breakfast.  As we left we thought how sad it was that we lived so close because this is just the sort of place we would love to come for a few days away and be able to wander around a beautiful garden in a marvellous setting.  

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