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Sarah Wain & Jim Buckland

Flower-power superstars

Husband and wife team, Jim and Sarah, worked their socks off at West Dean for over 25 years to restore the West Sussex garden and create the beautiful, inspirational place that exists today. Retired they may be but idle they ain't! Gardening's golden couple are still as busy as ever.


West Dean Gardens: a historic garden rich in creative and social heritage

Your three favourite flowers, Sarah?


Hmm… What is a favourite? Possibly those in front of me as I write: Sweet William, Bearded Iris -especially the Benton End Cultivars and roses. This list will change next week!


Sarah, tell us about your childhood garden.


My childhood garden in a rural town in Victoria Australia was created from the 1950’s onwards by my mother (flowers) and father(veg). It had favoured ornamental trees of the time such as Claret and Golden ash trees, Washington Thorn and Malus floribunda as well as several fruit trees. Later, trees like the Lemon Scented gum were added. There were vegetable beds, ornamental borders too, and plenty of room to play. I


t was where I was encouraged to learn about gardening.


Who or what inspired your career choice?


My parents were my initial inspiration, my aunts too who also liked to garden. Local farmers wives were also a huge horticultural influence when I was young.


What is a typical day in the life of Sarah?


Having recently retired from West Dean Gardens (2019) my daily routine revolves around learning to play Jazz piano, walking for exercise and with friends, going to the gym, and my involvement with the Professional Gardeners Guild traineeship scheme and as chair of the Professional Gardeners Trust, not forgetting reading.


Something we’d find:


  • On your bedside table: A pile of unread books

  • In your flower arrangement: Flowers from the allotment

  • In your garden shed: A hori hori, a pair of Ars Snips and Felco No2 secateurs


No garden is complete without …


space, plant form, and fragrance.


The flaw you wish you didn’t have?


A bad back!


What would you be in another life?


A fitter stronger person.


Who is a horticulturist you admire?


Mr John Humphris - friend, Professional Gardeners Guild Traineeship Administrator, President of the PGG, retired Head Gardener and font of horticultural knowledge.


What is the one flower or plant you’d never plant in your garden, but don’t detest when you see others plant it?


Monkey Puzzle Tree


If there was a fire, and you could only keep one book on horticulture, what would it be?


At West Dean by Jim Buckland and Sarah Wain!


For posterity, what would you like your work to be known for?


Creating a loved environment and a place of peace for all to enjoy.


Contact:


Twitter @SarahLWain



The bearded iris gets top billing from Sarah

Quick fire: some favourite things


Book (fiction): Anything by Jane Austen

Film: Some Like it Hot

Painting: Greenhouse: Tomatoes and Cyclamen. By Eric Ravilious

Smell: Boronia megastigma

Meal: the one in front of me.

Travel Destination: Australia

A cause near and dear to me: Supporting young gardeners’ education

• Place to go for inspiration: The Great Outdoors.

A great walk near where you live: Slindon Estate

Thing to collect obsessively: Retro glass vases

Museum: V &A

Garden in the UK: Rousham

Garden anywhere else: Melbourne Botanical Gardens



JIM'S Q&A


'Snakes Head Fritillary: sexy, sophisticated like a Tiffany lamp shade and with a frisson of danger about them. Any designer would have been proud to have produced these!'

Three favourite flowers?


Impossible question but to be helpful:

Primrose – simple, innocent and the promise of spring;

Buttercup – a meadow of these distilled sunlight blooms floating over the sward is as good as any exotic display and home grown;

Snakes Head Fritillary – sexy, sophisticated like a Tiffany lamp shade and with a frisson of danger about them. Any designer would have been proud to have produced these!


Tell us about your childhood garden


My grandad’s rural Essex garden. Veg down one side of the central path from the gate to the front door, flowers down the other, hawthorn hedge enclosing the whole thing. Nothing fancy but deeply satisfying.


Who or what inspired your career choice?


My grandad via my Mum, my best mates Mum who was an upmarket jobbing gardener around Hampstead and a lot of luck.


What is a typical day in the life of Jim?


As a retiree of three years duration who said that his retirement would not be dominated by gardening I seem to spend all of the spring and summer tending our four allotments and home garden, plus other sites. It would appear that I am hard wired to be on my hands and knees although it does not get any easier with the passing years!


Something we’d find:


  • On your bedside table: A pile of books, not generally horticultural!

  • In your flower arrangement: Whatever is in season from the (allotments & garden) above.

  • In your garden shed: That’s covered by the Official Secrets Act!


No garden is complete without …


somewhere to sit, nice idea!


The flaw you wish you didn’t have?


Blimey, how long have you got!! A tendency to over commit.


What or who would you be in another life?


Jonas Kaufmann, the dashingly handsome German Tenor.


Horticultural heroes?


Peter Thoday and Harry Dodson, the co-presenters of the wonderful 1980’s BBC series "The Victorian Kitchen Garden"


What is the one flower or plant you’d never plant in your garden, but don’t detest when you see others plant it?


Oriental Poppies


Guiding principles?


Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Never let the sun go down on your wrath.


If there was a fire, and you could only keep one book on horticulture, what would it be?


Arrogantly our book “At West Dean” because it is the story of our horticultural life.


For posterity, what would you like your work to be known for?


Attention to detail and having a cohesive overall vision.


At West Dean: the story of Jim & Sarah's horticultural life

Quick fire: some favourite things


Book (fiction): The Silver Sword

Film: Il Postino

Painting: Anything by Van Gogh

Smell: Fried Bacon

Meal: Full cream milk, brown sugar and cornflakes

Travel Destination: Anywhere with good wildflower displays, the Vercors National Park near Grenoble, France

A cause near and dear to me: Plantlife

Place to go for inspiration: Phew! The South Downs

A great walk near where you live: Across Amberley Wild Brooks and their environs, Sussex

Thing to collect obsessively: Books

Museum: Victoria and Albert

Garden in the UK: Powis Castle

Garden anywhere else: Lotusland, California



Sarah Wain & Jim Buckland
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