The gardens at Fittleworth House will open to the public in 2013 on the following days - May 5th & 6th for the Fittleworth Garden Trail in aid of St Mary's church between 2-5.30pm. May 1st, 8th, 15, 22nd, 29th, June 5th, 12th, 19th, 26th, July 3rd, 10th for the National Garden Scheme. Details on www.ngs.org.uk
Built in around 1720 for the squire of the village, Fittleworth House nestles on an easterly slope in the West Sussex village of Fittleworth. This part of the county is both beautiful and in the newly created South Downs National Park.The house is built of locally quarried stone and is currently a private residence of a family who have lived here since 1964. This photograph from a hand tinted postcard was taken in 1908 and shows the house covered in Virginia Creeper.
Below the house is a croquet lawn and magnificent Rhododendron 'Cynthia'. Below this is the fountain garden and Rose borders. At the centre is a Haddonstone fountain placed here in 1997. Surrounding this are four borders with Box cones and stunning Stipa gigantea grasses which glow in the late evening Summer sun. On opposite sides are two Rose borders backed by high sandstone walls. These borders are filled with old French and new David Austin Roses combined with mixed perennials and annuals. This is all complemented by a solid and established Yew hedge which divides this part of the garden from the walled garden.
Close to the Fountain is a smaller walled area containing the potting sheds and Glasshouse. The old potting shed probably dates from the early 1800's and has writing on the door from earlier gardeners dating back to 1893. The Hartley Botannics glasshouse was built in 2007 to a custom design and is heated using hot water pipes. It is used to grow plants from seed and cuttings as well as vegetables, cut flowers and pot plants.
The walled kitchen garden is approximately half and acre in size and is used to grow a wide range of fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers. It is vegetables however that take centre stage. In winter approximately 10-15 tons of compost are added to the beds in order to improve the sandy soil. The wide variety of vegetables grown include Carrots, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Potatoes, Beans, Aubergines, Peppers, Leeks, Cabbages, Pumpkins, Courgettes, Onions and Beetroot.
Down the centre of the walled garden is a double flower border known as the 'Long Borders'. These borders were first put in in 2004 but in 2013 they will undergo a complete redesign and replant. This feature was put in to make the most of the length of the garden and give a great view from the Chinese Chippendale screen at the far end. This screen and the central path orignally formed the entrance and carriageway to the main house but was shut of in 1823 after the death of the then owner.
Its not all about borders and flowers however as the Southern side of the garden is given over to Spring flowers and long grass. Once these have faded this garden transforms into the wild garden complete with wild flowers, established Oak tree and wildlife pond. This give the garden a nice contrast between formal and informal as well as giving nature a breathing space.
The once Virginia Creeper covered house is clothed in a most beautiful Wisteria sinensis which in early May transforms the sandstone walls into a cascade of purple/white flowers emitting a glorious scent. The Wisteria is pruned twice a year by ladder in January and June.
Every year the estate is host to the Fittleworth Village Bonfire which raises money for the local village school. This is a lovely family event open to everyone not just the school. A large bonfire, plenty of delicious hot food and drink and a grand firework finale make for an excellent evening in late October.
Finally the garden is home to some impressive specimen trees including several Yews, a London Plane, Holm Oak and a Horse Chesnut. Biggest and most impressive of all though is the Cedar of Lebanon on the South side of the house. Planted in around 1730-40 the Cedar is approximately 110ft tall and is probably one of the biggest in Sussex and the South East.
If you wish to visit the garden please see our open day details at the top of the page or look on the National Garden Scheme website. Alternatively we accept bookings for groups of 4 or more for private visitis and guided tours. Please contact in advance for details and to arrange a visit, coach parties welcome by appointment.
Mark Saunders, head gardener.