Nymans in June

The topiary crowns and the Verona marble fountain in the Wall Garden at Nymans. ©National Trust Images/Clive Nichols

These images are from a recent photoshoot by Clive Nichols at Nymans, in West Sussex. Nymans is a grand and yet intimate Edwardian garden which has continued to evolve up to the present day.

A Japanese stone lantern appearing beyond a bank of santolina. ©National Trust Images/Clive Nichols

The garden was started by Ludwig Messel, a succesful stockbroker who had come to Britain from Germany and who bought Nymans in 1890. With the help of his expert head gardener, James Comber, and encouraged by other notable gardeners in the area such as Sir Edmund Loder  and William Robinson, he began to create an extensive garden full of rare trees and shrubs.

One of the views outwards into the countryside from Nymans. ©National Trust Images/Clive Nichols

Features from Ludwig Messel’s day include the pinetum, the rock garden, the heather garden, a Japanese-style pergola and stone lanterns, a lime avenue, a prospect platform and an enclosed Wall Garden. Exotic species such as magnolias and rhododendrons were introduced, many coming from plant-hunting expeditions in east Asia.

Yew hedge near the house, nicknamed ‘the Toblerone hedge’ by the current gardeners. ©National Trust Images/Clive Nichols

Ludwig’s son Leonard Messel and his wife Maud had the house at Nymans rebuilt in the 1920s in medieval manor house style. Maud created the rose garden and Leonard continued to add botanical rarities to the garden, many of which subsequently won prizes at Royal Horticultural Society shows.

The Forecourt. ©National Trust Images/Clive Nichols

Disaster struck in February 1947 when the house burned down, destroying the important botanical library. Some parts of the house remained inhabited, but others were left ruinous as a romantic garden feature.

View across the lawn to the picturesque ruins. ©National Trust Images/Clive Nichols

Nymans came to the National Trust following Leonard Messel’s death in 1953. His daughter Anne, Countess of Rosse, continued the family’s involvement, working with head gardener Cecil Nice. More Chinese plants came to Nymans through an exchange programme with the Ross family seat Birr Castle, in Co. Offaly, Ireland.

The dovecote. ©National Trust Images/Clive Nichols

The great storm of 15-16 October 1987 wreaked havoc at Nymans on its hilltop site, destroying many trees. But this disaster did also allow the new head gardener David Masters to rejuvenate the garden by opening up views and bringing in more light.

Hedge regularly clipped by Alistair Buchanan, which has almost come to resemble a Henry Moore sculpture. ©National Trust Images/Clive Nichols

Following Lady Rosse’s death in 1992 Ludwig Messel’s great-grandson Alistair Buchanan has been the family representative at Nymans. The current head gardener, Ed Ikin, has continued the tradition of innovation by introducing new species and successfully experimenting with a reduced watering regime in summer which encourages root growth. He recently published a book entitled Thoughtful Gardening on how to garden in harmony with nature.

6 Responses to “Nymans in June”

  1. Susan Walter Says:

    Nymans always brings two utterly disparate memories to mind for me. The first is that Lady Rosse was one of the fashion designer Charles James most loyal clients and I saw her collection of his clothes once in Ireland – wonderfully complicated cutting that required instructions for the wearer to be pinned on the garments so they could work out how to put them on and fasten them as it was not always obvious. The second is that I was discussing the Eucryphia trees at Nymans with someone when Simon rang to tell us that a plane had flown into the twin towers in New York.

  2. columnist Says:

    Lady Rosse was the mother of Lord Snowdon, and her brother Oliver Messel the great stage designer, who’s work and interests had a great influence on Snowdon. The bank of santolina is really quite beautiful. (As is the rest of the garden.)

  3. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Susan, yes and as you probably know there are wonderful photographs of Lady Rosse looking very chic among the greenery at Nymans.

    Apart from her personal style and her role in nurturing Nymans, she was also instrumental in setting up the Victorian Society in 1958, to preserve the built heritage of the Victorian period which was then still rather unpopular. Among other things this led to the preservation of the wonderfully evocative interior of 18 Stafford Terrace, Kensington, which had been the home of Lady Rosse’s maternal grandfather, the cartoonist Edward Linley Sambourne (http://bit.ly/bl05z8).

    And yes I think many people still have vivid memories of where they were and what they were doing on 11th September 2001.

    Columnist, yes as you say over several generations the Messel family seems to have produced and attracted a number of interesting and talented personalities.

  4. Ana Says:

    Toblerone hedge, indeed! :D

    Is it just me or do others have trouble loading some of the pictures (the topiary crowns, the forecourt, the dovecote), too?

  5. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Ana, I am sorry about the issue with the images. It looks OK from this end – hopefully it’s just a blip…

  6. Ana Says:

    Thanks, it was just me – everything is visible now.

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