Borde Hill Garden

 In Gardens Visited, Ornamental trees, Shrubs, Travel, Trees and Shrubs, Visit Britain

Borde Hill Garden had been on my wish list for a very long time.

It wasn’t until late April of this year that I finally got to visit!

The gardens are located in West Sussex in the south east of England.

What’s it best for?

Borde Hill Gardens is renowned for it’s extensive range of woody plants and many of these are uncommon or even very rare.

Yellow flower, Magnolia, Lois,

Magnolia Lois

The gardens also have a fine selection of champion trees.

That is they have the biggest specimen in the Britain and Ireland of that particular plant.

This is undoubtedly a garden that is at its best in spring with many fine old Magnolia trees and bushes.

But Borde Hill Garden isn’t resting on its laurels since there is a substantial new area devoted to new varieties of magnolias.

At the time of my visit Rhododendron and azaleas were lighting up the garden.

Red flower, Rhododendron

One of the many fine Rhododendron



Bluebell time at Borde Hill Gardens

Borde Hill Gardens, bluebells, woodland

Native bluebells in woodland

I hit the perfect time to see the enchanting combination of tree size rhododendrons flowering below English oaks.

And both growing over carpets of bluebells!

The effect was magical and a feast for the senses. Because not only were the native bluebells an intense blue but they filled the air with delicious scent!

Planted among these oak woodlands are exotic trees and many had reached champion tree status.

Read more about this champion tree record on the Tree Register here.




Rose Garden

Crab apple, apple, blossom

Malus sargentii

Whilst spring is a great time to see this garden, summer is too!

There is a very large rose garden called the Jay Robin’s Garden. The garden is named after Borde Hill Garden owners Andrewjohn and Eleni Stephenson Clarke’s daughter.

The garden was designed by RHS Gold Medallist Robin Williams in 1996.

It’s filled with over 750 David Austin roses and Gold Standard roses. At the time of my visit these looked full of vigour, healthy and promising a great show for a June or July visit!

A lovely old crab apple tree [Malus sargentii] was filling the air with its spicy scent and rose borders are edged with neatly clipped box and lavender.


Italian Garden

Italian Garden, Borde Hill Garden, statue, garden, pool of water

The Italian Garden

As a total contrast to the rest of the garden the Italian Garden is formal with restrained planting, statues and a reflective pool.

The style of planting at Borde Hill Garden is generally relaxed and naturalistic and so this contrast came as quite a surprise to me.

Nevertheless this is the perfect place to sit and relax and take in the beauty that surrounds you.

The planting here is understated with a limited colour palette. This makes it all the more calming.




A Plantsman’s Paradise

If like me uncommon plants interest you then you’ll love this place!

Many of the oldest plants were the first plants to reach these shores during the height of overseas plant hunting period. They were the first introductions to Britain.

Some of the very large tree-like Rhododendron planted in an area called Warren Wood are first introductions.

Staphylea colchica, white flowers, bush

Staphylea colchica

At the entrance to the garden I was stopped in my tracks by a Bladder Nut in full flower!

This is Staphylea colchica and looked sensational in late April!





Meliosma alba, trees

Meliosma alba

To illustrate how rare some of the plants in Borde Hill Garden are I was impressed by one particular tree.

There are just three specimens of Meliosma alba in Britain. The others are at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and Caerhays Castle in Cornwall.

At the time of my visit this tree was in full flower!




Salix, golden willow, tree

Salix Golden Sunshine

In the Round Dell garden I saw a bright golden medium sized tree which really had me scratching my head. This area is packed full of fascinating plants!

The tree in question turned out to be an uncommon [to me] golden willow.

It is labelled as Salix sachalinensis Golden Sunshine but sachalinensis is now udensis in the latest Hillier Manual.

Whatever it’s called it is very eye catching!

The Round Dell garden was once a quarry and has its own micro climate.

This enables the garden to grow many plants that would need protection from cold if grown elsewhere.

Naturally there are many more plant gems to be seen in this fabulous garden and far too many to describe here.

I thoroughly recommend that you visit Borde Hill Garden yourself!

Seasonal highlights to see

Feb – April; Tree magnolias, camellias, hellebores and daffodils.

May; Rhododendrons, azaleas flowering trees and of course the bluebells!

June – July; Roses, alliums and hardy perennials.

August; Herbaceous borders, and the calm serenity of the Italian Garden.

September – October; Autumn leaf colour from acers, Cornus, oaks, azaleas and ornamental grasses.

I came away regretting that it had taken me so long to see this great garden but with the firm thought that it won’t be long before I’m back again!

Further Reading

If you love Magnolias then do read here about some of the best that I saw at Kew Gardens.

If you live in the West Country then there’s a great range of hardy plants at The Garden House near Plymouth. Read about my visit here.


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