At the beginning of September, after having had Mister insist I take a morning off from book-editing, I had the pleasure of visiting Driftwood. This small and unique garden is situated at Seaford in Sussex, on the SE coast of the UK.
Geoff Stonebanks, pictured here, is the visionary who transformed what was originally a plain, rocky chalk garden into a little paradise. He views the garden as his “art”: from its conception, to the planting, to the nurturing, to the ongoing maintenance. It’s no easy undertaking to establish plants on chalk, let alone in a garden that suffers year-round assault by salt-laden air. When Geoff moved from London, bringing many plants with him, about half of them died during their first winter.
Just to prove Geoff’s perseverance and his success in realising an artistic dream, Driftwood was a double national award winner in 2012 — Garden News “Best Small Garden” and the “National Garden Competition”. It was featured on Good Morning Britain in 2014 and is due to be featured on Gardeners’ World (BBC1) this Friday, 23rd September at 2030 hrs (BST)
Since 2009, Driftwood has been open to the public 115 times, has had 13,000 visitors and raised more than £76,000 for various charities. As part of the visit, you can purchase a cup of tea and some delicious homemade cake, and as for the vintage china… need I say more? It’s all so quintessentially English. Geoff usually makes the cakes himself but on the day we visited, some of his helpers had made them instead. Of course, I chose butter-iced coffee and walnut cake as per usual on outings, although this particular slice was the best ever, and so generous in size that I couldn’t manage any lunch, even though they served light lunches there that were most likely equally as delicious.
Anyway, enough preamble. I will now take you around the garden, the first picture being of the front garden and the others of the main garden out back. You will notice some pieces of artwork, as well as various curiosities among the plants, contributing to the garden’s sea theme. The ones with price tickets on them are the work of artists, while the other ones belong to Geoff. There is also a wooden shed that was built for Geoff’s late father, and the last picture is not a real door but a folly door.
I hope you enjoyed your fleeting tour of Geoff’s garden, although I haven’t by any means photographed all of its nooks, crannies, and curiosities. To appreciate it in all its glory, you need to visit and see it for yourselves. So if you’re planning on visiting the SE England in 2017, sometime between June and September, you might like to check out www.driftwoodbysea.co.uk .