In a corner of Seaford lurks one of our “once in a lifetime” Sussex gardens, as well as a local legend! Driftwood Garden is the work of Geoff Stonebanks and the most incredible wonderland of creativity. You may have heard of it because it’s fair to say that over the years it’s attracted a fair bit of attention from gardening bigwigs as well as the media, including Gardener’s World, BBC and ITV Meridian. And rightly so.
Driftwood isn’t a large garden but every inch is put to good use. In fact, it’s not so much of a garden as a series of short stories or experiences. There’s a beach garden at the front complete with lobster pots, a boat, shells, and decking and at the back, a network of small areas lead on seamlessly from each other.
There’s a couple of 1950s rocking horses, a line of teacups, a mysterious ivy-clad door, mosaic birds, metal sculptures in the shape of flowers, the occasional gnome, and the obligatory driftwood. And that’s just for starters. You need a keen eye to spot everything (and probably several visits) and if you think a coastal garden might be lacking in interest, you’d be very wrong.
There are dozens of wonderful blooms, all of which are set against a background of evergreen colour, ferns, agaves, palms, and unusually shaped succulents. It’s a riot of interest that includes texture, colour, structure and conversation starters. But I get the feeling what I see today, won’t necessarily be what you see tomorrow as it’s a garden that seems to evolve and change all the time. What’s more, if you’ve visited before, well stand by, because over the winter, the garden underwent a bit of a transformation and now has a new sunken garden area.
To be honest, I was a little daunted at the prospect of speaking to Geoff. After all, he gardens, he writes (prolifically), he’s a social media guru, he bakes (over 5,000 cakes over the years) and he fundraises (Driftwood has raised somewhere in the region of £152, 634 to date and this summer he expects to have donated £100,000 of that figure to Macmillan Cancer Support )! But in fact, my anxiety was unfounded as he’s utterly charming and down to earth. Which left the burning question, where on earth does he find the inspiration and passion for what must be an all consumingly love affair with nature?
“Well, I retired early from the Royal Mail in 2004 and moved here to Seaford.” Geoff explains, “By 2009, all the projects in the house were done, so I turned my hand to the garden. I had no previous gardening experience so I learnt by trial and error. Gardening by the sea has its own challenges. I’d try and create environments within the garden that worked and it has evolved from there.
I get my inspiration from all sorts of places, and it’s a sort of mish-mash of plants and artefacts that somehow all seem to work well together. In fact, I think the artefacts are as important as the plants to bring it all together and it certainly seems to engage people as different areas develop.
For example, a few years ago, a lady gave me an old typewriter, and that was the beginning of a writer’s corner. I added an old phone, and some bottles and then I was contacted by someone who had written a poem about it, so I’ll add that to the typewriter. Similarly, I acquired an old fireplace, so I added a grate and a mirror and some plants called burning embers. The best way to describe the process is that I feel like I’m dressing a film set.”
But Geoff’s talents and passion don’t stop there because he’s also the driving force behind the Macmillan Coastal Garden Trail which runs across 2 days in July, this year the 23rd and 24th July, and which allows visitors to enjoy a number of coastal gardens (this year 17 in total). This year sees the event’s Patron, gardening expert from The One Show, Christine Walkden, join Geoff at Driftwood for the opening ceremony on the 23rd July.
Time spent at Driftwood is time well spent. It’s uplifting, inspirational, and just good for the soul. And you can’t help but think, we need more Geoffs in the world!
This stunning Sussex garden is open every summer by arrangement only, just call Geoff on 01323 899296 to arrange or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Pre-booked tickets only via this link
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