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8 Sandgate Close garden in Seaford is a plantsman's paradise says Leigh Clapp

PUBLISHED: 15:26 12 August 2014 | UPDATED: 15:26 12 August 2014

Leigh Clapp

Leigh Clapp explores the award-winning 8 Sandgate Close garden in Seaford with its exotic-looking abundant planting bursting with exuberant colour this month

There is an amazing palette of plants to discover behind this unassuming 1950s house in a cul-de-sac in the coastal town of Seaford. Dr Denis and Aideen Jones have made exciting use of the small corner eighth-of-an-acre plot at 8 Sandgate Close to create a garden that appears larger than it actually is, with hidden areas to explore and every inch filled with layered planting. “We moved here in 1982 as we liked its quiet spot and proximity to the Downs and the sea,” recalls Denis. The scene you see today of over 500 different plant species jostling together with not a blade of grass in sight, obelisks draped in sweet peas and vines, narrow winding paths to hidden areas and a feel of being in some exotic jungle, is completely different to the blank canvas they began with just a neglected lawn and 12 boundary Leylandii.

“The garden has had several incarnations, ranging from lawns and traditional bedding and veg plot to what we have today. Each year we have a project,” says Denis. These projects have culminated in all the garden being laid to themed flower beds with paths between, including a winter bed by the house, a hot bed, a white bed, raised beds and a cutting garden. “Plants are mainly perennial and hardy, with some items in pots, such as the dahlias, so they can be moved around as others cease flowering,” adds Aideen.

Both are keen, self-taught gardeners and their efforts were awarded by winning the Seaford in Bloom Plantsman of the Year in 2010. Aideen specialises in propagation with the two greenhouses and also likes to grow flowers and foliage for the house, while Denis focuses on maintaining and planting. Pruning, weeding and decisions with the planting schemes are shared. They are both committed to using local suppliers, recycle as much as possible and make their own compost which, over time, has greatly improved the chalk and clay soil. “We have been inspired by many gardeners over the years. Percy Thrower taught us the basics and we still use a much-thumbed copy of his Encyclopaedia of Gardening to seek advice about planting something new. Christopher Lloyd, Beth Chatto and Sarah Raven have been great influences in terms of colour, style and plants. Carol Klein is a goddess in terms of propagation,” explains Denis.

Clearly from the sheer breadth of plant material all around they are passionate plantaholics, with cottage and more exotic choices, such as cannas and callistemons, all combining magically together. “We have an eclectic style but love plants that self seed and find their own homes. We like structure but always try to soften hard lines with colour,” says Denis. Highlight plants in July include iridescent sweet peas on arbours and supports throughout the garden, towering lilies, colourful salvias and the striking foliage choices at their maturity.

Aideen and Denis have opened the garden through the National Gardens Scheme and for local charities for around five years. “We enjoy talking to visitors about plants and sharing experiences with them. Many are keen gardeners themselves and it is great hearing about their gardens too,” they comment. Children are bound to be intrigued by all the colourful flowers and will love the sense of disappearing into an Alice in Wonderland world, with towering plants to duck under and little surprises to discover with the whimsical sculptural touches dotted through. Mirrors on boundary walls lend a sense of the garden continuing further and make the garden seem larger. Allow some time to sit and soak up the lush paradise and tranquil atmosphere of this gem of an oasis. “Visitors have said ‘a magical plant kingdom’, ‘inspirational’, with lots of comments about the amount of interest in a small space, ‘truly amazing’; ‘such a lot fitted into a small space’, and about the sweet peas; ‘we love the way the garden draws you into it’; ‘a magical oasis of peace and plants’,” explains Denis.

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