Nymans is one of the great gardens of the Sussex Weald. The 30 acre garden was created over nearly three-quarters of a century from 1885 by Ludwig Messel and his son Leonard. During this time they assembled a remarkable collection of trees, shrubs and plants from all over the world. However, they ensured that the garden retained its intimate charm and it is the combination of the rare and exotic with a simple and friendly garden that is so remarkable.
The work of father and son was continued by the Earl and Countess of Rosse who nurtured and enriched the garden.
The garden is set on the side of a valley at 500 feet but is sheltered by the magnificent woods of the Sussex Weald.
Laid out in a series of outdoor rooms, the different levels of the garden are connected with stone steps or grassy slopes.
Hedges, walls and trees surround the rooms and provide shelter for the rare and exotic plants for which the garden is renowned. These include superb magnolias, camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons.
Many species were collected on plant-gathering expeditions to South America, the Far East, Burma and Tasmania sponsored by the Messels. Hybrids were also developed here including Magnolia 'Leonard Messel', Camellia 'Maud Messel' and Nymans forsythia and eucryphia.
The oldest part of Nymans is the Wall Garden reached through an Italian archway. This was originally an orchard and the old fruit trees are now dwarfed by exotic specimen trees. Here two peaceful walks - one planted with spring flowers and the other with summer perennials - converge on an Italian fountain flanked by formal topiary yews.
A Victorian laurel walk leads from a wood, carpeted with daffodils in spring, to a hidden sunken garden in front of a classical garden house. Here the bedding plants are surrounded by camellias. Nearby is the Heather Garden.
Other features of the garden include a wisteria-covered pergola, beds of old-fashioned roses, a rock garden, a charming gazebo with a flock of white pigeons, a wild garden and woodland walks.
Much of the pleasure of the garden is the intimacy of the individual gardens but there are also superb views from the balustraded terrace over the Weald to the South Downs. A perimeter walk past the classical summerhouse and along the lime avenue also provides good views.
From the road lawns sweep up to the ruins of the house. This was built by Ludwig Messel in the 1900s as a pastiche 14th century manor house. However, in 1947 the house was gutted by a fire.
Today the picturesque shell, with its mullions and Tudor chimneys, provides a romantic backdrop to the planting and the lawns fringed with topiary animals and shaded by cedars.
In 1954 Leonard Messel bequeathed Nymans to the National Trust.
The great storm of 1987 badly damaged the garden. Many trees in the garden were felled and the pinetum was completed destroyed.
However, the National Trust has carried out restoration work and Nymans still displays an unusually rich collection of plants.