Aug 11, 2010

To Die In An Interesting Way: Sussex Prairies

Sussex Prairies
6 acres of garden

Garden Designers:
Paul & Pauline McBride
"Starting from scratch 
is always a thrilling thing." 
were the first words Pauline McBride said at the beginning of our interview.

And she should know.  Paul and Pauline McBride left Luxembourg and a garden design practice to move to England and begin a new garden:  SUSSEX PRAIRIES
During my time at Nymans, Head Gardener, Ed Ikin arranged for the garden staff to help out at Sussex Prairies.  The night before, I googled prairie, curious that an English garden has such an American name.

"The French got there before the English, and they had a word for it: prairie, their name for meadow.  But what they encountered, in what is now Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and points north and west, was more than your everyday meadow.  It was a seemingly endless sea of grasses as high as a person's head, teeming with flowers and bugs and other critters.  And not a tree in sight."   -from

When I arrived at Sussex Prairies, I understood the name.  The landscape (flat and open) lends itself to the style of planting the McBrides are passionate about.  Each plant and planting combination (dream partners as they like to call them) have been carefully chosen. 

I asked the McBrides why they made the garden?
1.  It's a showcase for our garden design business
2.  We do so much propagation, we might set up a nursery
3.  It's a visitor attraction - we hope to have garden travel companies, horticultural societies, etc.  
4. We are evangelists for this type of garden design
5. It's an experience for the people who stay in our Bed and Breakfast

"They have to merit a place in the garden." 

The McBrides have requirements for their plants.  They must have interesting structure, texture, foliage, seedheads and simplicity of flower.  

As Pauline said "We are interested in the way 
the whole plant works."

And lastly, "all the plants in the garden need to go out with a bang, rather than a flutter. "
And so does the visitor when he leaves Sussex Prairies. 

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee.
One clover and a bee.  And revery.
The revery alone will do, if bees are few.
Emily Dickinson

Sussex Prairies
Morland Farm
Wheatsheaf Road
Henfield, West Sussex, BN5 9AT

All photographs copyright Peter Mauss.  No usage without permission.


Marguerite said...

This post was so inspirational. Just what I needed to see. We recently bought a property, rectangular and flat and I've pondered over and over what to do with it. I have some ideas but the vast majority of the property has simply become a wild meadow. Looking at these photos gives me ideas of how to take that meadow to the next level. Thank you.

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