Enjoy one of the most beautiful months of the year with the National Trust

Spring is well and truly sprung by May and many people believe it's one of the most beautiful months of the year. Emma Ward tells us what the National Trust has to offer

Mention beautiful flowers, sweet-smelling blossom and colourful gardens, and for many people, thoughts of the National Trust and the beautiful places in its care are not far away.

As we move into May, the preparatory work that the Trust’s gardening teams carry out in the winter and early spring months really starts to pay off. Vibrant displays of flowers, shrubs and blossoming trees will delight visitors across East and West Sussex as we celebrate one of the most floral, fragrant months of the year.

Let’s look at some of the floral stars of May and early June and show you where to see them at their very best. Just make sure you look, enjoy and take photographs, but please don’t pick them or take them away.

Blue velvet

Bluebells are at the height of their beauty right now, and there are plenty of places where they can be admired at National Trust locations.

A good site to spot them in West Sussex is in the woods at Slindon (particularly around Slindon Park Woods and Nore Wood on Nore Hill) or Newtimber Holt on the South Downs. Or you can also see their splendour in the woodlands of the wider estate at our Arts & Crafts showhouse, Standen in East Grinstead.

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Across the county border into East Sussex, Rudyard Kipling’s former home, Bateman’s in Burwash offers breathtaking displays of bluebells that carpet swathes of the two estates’ woodland areas in shades of rich, velvety blue. Look out for other wildflowers too as you enjoy a springtime stroll around the gardens and wider estate.

Rhododendrons are red…

Another stunning plant at its best this month is the rhododendron, with many, many varieties represented in our Sussex gardens and countryside areas. It is no surprise that so many show gardens at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show (taking place this year on 22 – 26 May) include examples of the vibrant shrub in their planting schemes. Back at the National Trust, keep your eyes open at Sheffield Park and Garden in East Sussex once more, and Nymans at Handcross in West Sussex for some truly lovely rhododendron displays of our own that will remain at their best throughout May and June.

Amazing azaleas…how sweet the scent

Often where there are rhododendrons, there will also be azaleas flowering at their best at the same time, around May and June. Many of our gardens contain this lovely shrub, in varying shades of red, pink and purple. Come to Sheffield Park and Garden to admire the National Collection of Ghent azaleas – some of the finest examples of the species to be seen in the world.

Salad days

Finally, plants don’t need to boast impressive flowers to be a lovely or useful addition to a garden. This month many of our gardeners are busy looking after the edible crops in our kitchen gardens around Sussex. Some of their jobs for May include sowing salad crops fortnightly to ensure an even supply for our restaurants and farm shops later on in the year, as well as earthing up the soil around young potatoes as they grow.

On the Slindon Estate in West Sussex, pumpkin seeds are planted now too, in anticipation of harvesting Hallowe’en lanterns come October. The cycle of planting, tending, picking and eating is everlasting if properly managed, and the choice of locally-grown produce available to buy from National Trust farm shops and other local outlets is vast.


If you are in need of a floral boost, why not come along to one or more of the following wildlife events?

Nymans, Handcross, Monday 30 April – Friday 4 May, 11am & 2pm. Woodland Walks: Bluebells and Wild Flowers (guided walks). Free after entry has been paid.  Sheffield Park and Garden, Sheffield Park, every Tuesday and Thursday in May, 11am. Spring Garden Tours. Free after entry has been paid. Standen, East Grinstead, Friday 11 & Saturday 12 May, from 11am. Get Growing. Planting and compost advice from the kitchen gardeners. Free after entry has been paid.

Alfriston Clergy House, Alfriston, Tuesday 20 May, 11.30am. Garden Tour (with the gardener). Free after entry has been paid.

Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk to find out what else is going on at The National Trust, including some exciting family fun for the summer holidays: scarily, they’re not that far away now!