Wakehurst Place is laid out in a steep, secluded valley in the Sussex Weald.
The 170 acre garden was the creation of Gerald W.E. Loder, later Lord Wakehurst, who bought the estate in 1903 and spent the next 33 years improving it.
Previous owners also contributed to the garden by planting the now mature wellingtonias and redwoods and beginning the rhododendron collection. In 1963 Wakehurst Place was bequeathed to the National Trust by the late owner Sir Henry Price.
The Trust leased it to the Royal Botanic Gardens in 1965 and the garden has now become a valuable, almost pollution-free addition to Kew's Thames-side acres.
Wakehurst Place was designed in a horse-shoe pattern to follow the valley and no part of the garden is far from water. The artificial cascades, ponds and lake give interest to the planting.
There are many paths through the garden but visitors will see the most beautiful parts by taking the circular tour which begins and ends at the car park.
The most formal part of the garden is laid out close to the sandstone Elizabethan mansion.
The mellow facade of the old house is an attractive backdrop to views across the sweeping lawns. Two walled gardens here provide a contrast to the tree-lined walks and foliage elsewhere in garden
From the Pleasance with its round beds planted for summer colour, a yew arch leads into the cottage garden designed in memory of Sir Henry Price, who continued the work of Lord Wakehurst. Soft-coloured plants such as hydrangeas, phlox, roses and sweet peas flower white, purple, pink and blue in this garden.
Close by is the heath garden which contains raised beds with a fascinating assortment of heaths and close relatives, dwarf rhododendrons and azaleas, and dwarf shrubs and conifers. The pinetum is also close to the house and has a fine collection of coniferous trees including rare cypresses and larches.
The character of the garden changes once into the valley.
Along the southern rim there are sandstone outcrops with great blocks piled into craggy tors which give views across to the wooded slopes in the distance. The woodlands here are varied with groups of native species such as beech, oak and birch interspersed with exotics including North American hickory, Monterey pine and southern beech.
Wakehurst Place is renowned for its autumn colour when a variety of trees and shrubs, grown for their tinted foliage and berry, come into their own. These include the rare American beech, the golden larch, azaleas and Japanese maples.
However, the garden is also spectacular in the spring when the woodland floor is covered with bluebells and Lent lilies. From early spring to midsummer the superb collection of rhododendrons, which thrive everywhere in the garden, provide a wonderful display of colour. Many of the tender species are rarely seen east of Cornwall.
The great storm of 1987 caused tremendous damage to Wakehurst Place, devastating the pinetum and the rock walk where falling trees dislodged huge boulders as they crashed to the ground.
Restoration and replanting has been carried out but the effects of the storm will be felt for some time to come.