Ems Valley U3A Garden Visit June 2022: Crookley Pool, Hordean

It is not an easy task putting together a monthly program and always pays to keep options up your sleeve in case of a last minute change of plan. This is exactly what happened with our June visit to Highdown Gardens near Worthing. After discussing the traffic issues around Chichester, coupled with the low number interested, possibly due to the distance involved, we had a quick rethink.

As group leaders of Ems Valley U3A Garden Group, Diana and I recently visited a nearby garden on their NGS Open Day with a view to next year’s program. We both loved the garden, aptly described as ‘Not a garden for the tidy minded’. After checking with the owner to see if she could accommodate us on the 14 June we speedily advised the group we would now be going to CROOKLEY POOL, BLENDWORTH LANE, HORNDEAN – just a 15 minute drive. We had a good turn out of 21 members and the weather was very much in our favour.

It was incredible how the garden had changed in the 2 weeks since our visit. The alliums had made way for the penstemons and the phlox were poking through. Crookley Pool has a series of gardens, the Pool Garden (so called because of the swimming pool, which many years earlier was twice the size) was the first port of call for our usual start to our garden visits of coffee/tea and homemade cakes. The owner, Jenny, gave us a short history of the house and gardens, which have been in the family for many years, passing down the generations.

Jenny (the owner) in the foreground wearing a blue shirt.
A colourful border of red Altroemeria and a Coral Bells Heuchera.

The border in the above photo goes the full length of this part of the Pool garden and is mainly planted in repeat waves of whites, pinks, blues and purples. It was full of unusual plants that even the most garden knowledgeable struggled to identify. Jenny told us she sees a gap in a border and fills it with a cutting or part of a plant growing somewhere else she has pulled up. This is why many of the same plant can be seen dotted around in other parts of the garden.

The Erigerons cover the steps leading to another area to visit and we were told the Wisteria is thought to be 100 years old. The next garden has beds framed by low box hedging with paved paths hidden by a myriad of herbaceous plants, in what can only be described as a magnificent jumble. Again, shades of pink, purple, white and blue dominate. Just beyond is a small vegetable and fruit garden.

Finally, easy to miss, was the orchard which has been purposely left to grow wild. There were some spectacular large shrubs and trees, including a Cornus Kousa, with large white bracts. The orchard floor was strewn with Wild Orchids.

You need to look closely at this photo to see the purple flower of the wild orchid.

The greenhouse at the entrance has lots of interesting plants mixed with tomato and cucumber plants. As with all good NGS gardens, there was a table of plants for sale – mainly a large variety of Salvias which are growing along the edge of the tarmac area.

All sorts of things growing here including several thriving Dierama (aka Angel’s Fishing Rods)

Crookley Pool garden opens by arrangement from May 2022 to Sep 2022 for groups of between 1 and 99. Details can be found on the NGS website and the NGS local handbook.

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