Spring Awakening In Cowfold
by Ruth Lawrence
Opening this February for the NGS Open Gardens, Westlands Court in Horsham will be full of spring snowdrops and helibores, shimmering grasses and stunning silver birches.
After an enthusiastic welcome by her tall, boisterous poodle, Blin, I met Jane Gates, owner of Westlands Court in Cowfold, who showed me round her one acre garden in preparation for her three NGS open days this spring.
Before Jane moved to Sussex six years ago she designed gardens in London; she’d had her own small garden and now intended to turn her new, substantial plot into a culmination of her ideas and passions. Her garden evolved rather than followed a strict design and it has a lovely flowing quality full of subtle colour and shapes.
The first feature I noticed was the stand of stunning silver birches, white trunks glowing in the late afternoon light, standing like frosted sentinels above the delicate plantings of decorative grasses. A winter selection of helibores and witch hazel will complement the drifts of snowdrops about to emerge, along with tulips and iris in the spring.
Jane has planted 1500 bulbs this winter and 250 fritillaria or ‘snake’s head lily’ should grace the garden during May in a large heart shape on the lawn. One of Jane’s favourites are the grasses because they look good all year round when planted en masse; stately bamboos add height and privacy and formal box spheres lend structure to the billowing grasses. The curves and flow of the beds are testament to Jane’s hard work. When she moved in, the garden was a jungle with a huge oak and a large pond to lend it character. The pond reflects the surrounding planting and mature yew, ash and a bronze beech add contrast of colour and scale.
A tropical bed will be of particular interest during the summer months when tulips and aliums will be in flower along with wild orchids. If visitors are lucky they may glimpse a buzzard that often soars overhead and when Jane begins her plan to turn another adjacent two acres into a wildflower meadow, it should attract a host of butterflies, insects and birds to the garden.
This will be the second year of Jane’s NGS open days and will be part of their centenary celebrations. She will be selling snowdrops and other plants in aid of the NGS charities and hopes to have time to give advice to visitors. Teas and refreshments will also be available, especially important due to the fact that in previous years many visitors stayed the entire day because the garden felt so relaxing! With one open day in February and a whole weekend in May, visitors will have the chance to experience this beautiful garden across two seasons.
Address: Cowfold Road, West Grinstead, Horsham, Sussex RH13 8LZ
Open: Sat 25th February 11-4pm and Sat & Sun 27th and 28th May 11-5pm