Spring emerges at Sienna Wood garden in East Grinstead

The ancient bluebell woodland

The ancient bluebell woodland - Credit: Leigh Clapp

The large gardens, woodland and lakes show signs of Spring at Sienna Wood in East Grinstead

Drapes of graceful wisteria

Drapes of graceful wisteria - Credit: Leigh Clapp

Home to Belinda and Brian Quarendon since 2016, Siennna Wood in East Grinstead is a charming country-style property with three and a half acres of gardens along with a six-acre ancient bluebell woodland.

“We fell in love with the garden. We weren’t looking to move although we hankered after a bigger garden as we only had around a third of an acre,” says Brian. “We saw the property online and thought we would look round on the off-chance. It was literally love at first sight; mostly the garden although the house had potential. Being in the office refurbishment business, I am not fazed by a project. It took us more than 12 months to complete on the property but we were quite determined to secure it. The garden was basically beautiful but as the property had been on the market for a year before we viewed it, it had been virtually untouched for two years and was somewhat overgrown with a lot of self-seeded plants,” Brian recalls.

The process of restoration began to bring the garden back to its former glory. More than 10,000 bulbs have been planted, including narcissi and tulips. Some 200 plants from the couple’s old garden have been used to fill gaps and replace dead plants, and they have added some statuary. “We are National Trust members and have always loved visiting gardens,” says Belinda. “Sissinghurst, which we visited soon after we moved in, inspired us in some respects because it was being restored to its former glory and we felt that we could achieve something similar... although that sounds a bit presumptuous especially as they have dozens of volunteers,” she adds. Fortunately to aid them in the process the couple had a pamphlet created by Ann Kennedy who had originally designed the garden in the early-1990s, which showed how the garden should look. “I managed to track her down and she visited us which was really helpful, as she explained her original vision and told us how things should have been,” Belinda adds.

As Belinda and Brian both have full-time jobs, it has been a challenge to manage the different garden rooms, and the couple now employs a gardener two days a week. Knowledge has developed alongside the evolution of restoring the garden and adding their own touches. “We have both always enjoyed being in a nice garden but were essentially novices. We learnt a lot from Monty Don on a Friday evening! We also use Google a lot and have picked up numerous tips from our National Garden Scheme visitors since we started opening in 2018. It’s amazing how ‘expert’ we have become in four years which proves that you’re never too old to learn,” says Belinda. Along with herbaceous borders around an immaculate croquet lawn, there’s a formal rose parterre garden, a wisteria tunnel, an exotic border, vegetable garden and orchard. Lovely trees grace the lawns as you wander down through an arboretum to the lake, and the general atmosphere is lovely and peaceful.

The first of the roses burst into bloom

The first of the roses burst into bloom - Credit: Leigh Clapp

This is a garden for all seasons, from the first bulbs to autumn colour in the woodland. “Literally from the minute it is light enough to get out there in the evening, every day brings something wonderful that we had forgotten from the previous year,” says Belinda. “I especially love the wisterias and peonies in late spring but also the daffs, snowdrops, bluebells in the woods and then rhododendrons and roses as the year progresses, followed by the autumn leaves in the arboretum. Even in January we have hundreds of bulbs poking through and a beautiful camellia in flower as well as some rare hellebores.”

As with all gardens the maintenance is ongoing and there are projects in the offing, such as possibly taking on a major task of creating an Italian garden in the field. “You cannot be in the garden without a smile on your face, it’s hard work but we love every minute of it,” she says.

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By opening through the National Garden Scheme the couple ensure that visitors can also experience the pleasure of these gardens. “We love meeting new people, showing off the garden and getting some good tips along the way,” says Belinda. “On pre-arranged visits we have time to talk to people unlike on the open day when we are busy making tea and dishing out cakes. It’s nice to share it with other people and raise some money for good causes at the same time. “It seemed silly to have such a lovely garden and not let others see it and profit from it,” she says.

To do list

To do list - Credit: Leigh Clapp

NOTE: The National Garde Scheme is currently under review due to the government advice on tackling COVID-19. You can read about the the latest updates at ngs.org.uk/coronavirus-covid-19

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