A brief History

Borde Hill consists of a stunningly beautiful and botanically-rich landscaped Garden, traditional parkland, magical woods and tranquil lakes, which captivate and delight visitors of all ages.

Listed by English Heritage as being of Grade II* historic importance and situated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the High Weald, it is among the most popular gardens in Sussex for visitors seeking horticultural inspiration, a peaceful stroll in the countryside or a day out with the family.

Borde Hill was purchased by Colonel Stephenson R Clarke in 1893 with the express intension of creating a magnificent garden from seed collected by the greatplant hunters, including EH Wilson and George Forrest. The Colonel quickly established a collection of rare trees and shrubs by sponsoring important plant-hunting expeditions to China, Burma, Tasmania and the Andes.

For more than a century, four generations of the Stephenson Clarke family have lovingly tended the extensive 200-acre estate, ensuring that, like any living entity, Borde Hill does not ‘stand still in time’ but continues to develop and grow. Andrewjohn Stephenson Clarke, who now lives with his family at Borde Hill House, takes an active involvement in the garden and is keen to continue its development and enhancement.

In 2018, Borde Hill celebrated the 125th anniversary of its purchase by the Stephenson Clarke family.  Open for over 50 years to the public, the new plantings through the formal garden and the additions to the playground inspire visitors. For more details click here.


The Garden

Borde Hill House, an Elizabethan mansion dating from the 1590s, provides a superb backdrop to the formal 17 acre Garden that flows into a series of distinctive, ‘garden rooms’, each with its own individual character and style.

Over the past century, the plantings have evolved with the aim of providing seasonal colour and interest. Early spring-flowering bulbs are followed by magnolias, camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas into April and May. Spring is magnificent throughout the Garden and ‘rooms’ of special note at this time include the Old Rhododendron Garden, Azalea Ring and Garden of Allah. The sub-tropical Round Dell and Long Dell planted with a Sino-Himalayan theme, have a magical air and these sheltered areas within the mature landscape bring unexpected pleasure to visitors during the opening seasons.

The sumptuous Rose Garden and herbaceous borders add a blaze of colour for much of the late spring, through to late summer. With colours ranging from soft pinks to crimson, intermingled with the heady fragrances of old English roses, Jay Robin’s Rose Garden hosts a lavish display of some 100 varieties of David Austin roses. Box hedges and lavender line the walkways to stimulate the senses.

Two recent rose borders designed by noted rosarian Charles Quest-Ritson and plantsman Dr Tony Lord were planted in early 2011.  The Gold Standard Roses, kindly donated by BARB (British Association of Rose Breeders) are healthy and floriferous, varying from very strong to pale cream colour and are planted together with unusual shrubs and perennials.

The elegant Italian Garden, one of Borde Hill’s most popular ‘rooms’, with the rectangular pool swathed with Italian pottery filled with agapanthus and pelargoniums, has been replanted with a new design to strengthen its formality and ambience.  The two rectangular borders either side of the pool edged with neatly trimmed box are planted with spring and summer bulbs and followed by perennials in the summer.


New plantings over the last couple of years include the enhancement of the blue and white scheme in the Rose Garden and the vibrant coloured herbaceous border in the South Lawn. The Paradise Walk was planted with a new design by James Alexander-Sinclair and has become a very popular area in the summer months.  A new ‘Gardiner’s Grove’ full of magnolias and named after RHS vice president Jim Gardiner was planted in 2018.

New sculpture in the form of the RHS award-winning ‘Jewel Box’ will wow visitors with its infinity mirrors and intriguing plant collection.  Originally designed by Gabrielle Evans in the Conceptual Garden category at RHS Hampton Court 2015, the installation of the box at Borde Hill has been undertaken by Brighton garden designer Jade Goto.


In the summer of 2019, Borde Hill Garden will unveil the Round Dell; a brand new design by Sophie Walker as part of the Garden’s 125th anniversary celebration.

The Round Dell has transformed an area which was formerly a quarry containing sub-tropical plants.  Sophie works closely with plant hunters Sue and Bleddyn Wynn-Jones of Crûg Farm Plants. Her designs reflect her fascination with wilderness and our response to it.

February 2019