National Trust team completes Arts and Crafts garden restoration at Standen

Gardeners at National Trust Standen have completed a five-year restoration at one of the country's most important Arts and Crafts gardens.

Grandfather's Walk with lime trees. Image: National Trust/Andrew Butler
Grandfather's Walk with lime trees. Image: National Trust/Andrew Butler

The house Standen, with views over the High Weald and Weir Wood Reservoir, was designed for James Beale and his family in the late 19thcentury by leading Arts and Crafts architect Philip Webb.

The five-hectare hillside garden was designed by Beale’s wife Margaret and saw its heyday in the 1920s. An accomplished gardener and plants-woman, Margaret was inspired by a world tour she took in 1906 and 1907 to create a series of outdoor rooms at Standen, including a scented rose garden – the Rosery – and a lime tree walk, along with more exotic areas with bamboo, ponds and lush foliage.

Volunteers discovered the Beale family swimming pool underneath some overgrown bamboo more than 10 years ago. Following research, the trust began the garden revival project in 2012 and it is one of the biggest it has yet undertaken.

Head gardener James Masters said: "In the latter part of the 20th century, Standen’s gardens saw alterations and replanting which covered or removed some of the original features. When I was first investigating the undergrowth in areas of the gardens I realised there was much more than met the eye.

"Over the years our discoveries have included lost walls, a rock garden and rare and unusual plants all overgrown by the vigorous modern planting that had masked the original beauty of Margaret Beale’s design. So we were lucky to have a wealth of archive material that has helped us research how it would have looked, ranging from family photographs, maps and receipts, to Margaret’s garden diaries which she kept for over 40 years. These have enabled us to piece it together and bring the garden back to its best."

Head gardener James Masters. Image: National Trust

Among the garden features that have been restored in the £500,000 project are the original swimming pond and rose garden, an oak trellis rebuilt to the original design by Philip Webb, lime trees along Grandfather’s walk, 10,000 tulips including rare varieties, the kitchen garden and the original espaliered apple trees, and the medieval quarry face which inspired the Beales to build Standen in its location. Masters’ team have also added new Arts and Crafts-inspired planting in the house courtyard.

James Masters adds: "I look back at photographs from before we started the restoration to remind myself of the remarkable changes the team of staff and volunteers has made since then. We have worked so hard to do justice to this lovely lost garden and make it shine again and I hope our visitors will enjoy discovering something new down every path and around each corner."

An exhibition about the garden and its revival opens on Saturday (May 6) and runs until September 3. Standen is also holding a tulip festival and a midsummer celebration will include talks, teas and tours from June 1.

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