We caught up with Iain Parkinson, head of landscape and horticulture at Wakehurst, to find out what groups can expect from the gardens in West Sussex.

Two people exploring Wakehurst Winter Garden

Source: Jim Holden / © RBG Kew

Groups can explore countless green spaces at Wakehurst.

What would you say is a must-see for first-time visitors?

The beauty of Wakehurst lies in the variety of landscapes that visitors can experience from unique collections of trees from around the temperate woodlands of the world to meadows, woodlands, and wetlands. The Water Gardens interweave all of these special qualities to create an area that captures Wakehurst’s sense and spirit of place.

Iain is head of landscape and horticulture at Wakehurst

Iain Parkinson.

The Winter Garden recently celebrated five years since opening. Why was it created and what does it bring to Wakehurst?

Just over five years ago, garden manager Francis Annette felt that the area needed reinvigorating. He took inspiration from landscapes such as the Siberian tundra, Himalayan rhododendron glades and the South Downs. The aim was to create a sensory overload of colour, scent and textural contrasts. Now, the Winter Garden is a centrepiece in the winter months, bringing beauty even in the depths of that season. 

Is there anything new for groups to enjoy?

Our landscape is continually evolving. Plants mature and new colours appear each season, with bright spring blooms across the gardens and our American Prairie putting on a show in the summer. Last spring, we opened Wild Wood, an enchanting woodland trail of hand-woven sculptures.

This summer, Wakehurst transforms into Meadowland, our new summer arts programme. Visitors are invited to dive deep into the grasses and wildflowers of breathtaking meadows and discover spectacular thought-provoking art installations inspired by the beautiful and powerful yet threatened habitats.

What’s the best thing about your role?

It’s certainly not easy to manage the diverse range of plants that we grow at Wakehurst, but the challenges of the role are offset by the opportunity to work with amazing plants and people.

Cyclamen inside Wakehurst Winter Garden

Source: Jim Holden / © RBG Kew

Wakehurst’s Winter Garden brings colour no matter how bad the weather is.

Can you name the highlight for each season at Wakehurst?

In spring, the landscape is carpeted with vast drifts of bluebells. Summer comes alive with the sights and sounds of the wildflower meadows. In autumn, the tree canopy turns a myriad of vivid colours while the wider landscape provides wonderful opportunities for long winter walks. 

What is your favourite plant or aspect of the garden?

I find the colour and character of Wakehurst’s wildflower meadows irresistible.

Why should groups give Wakehurst a try if they haven’t been before?

Whether you like the clean lines of the formal gardens or the wildness of the woodlands, Wakehurst provides something for everyone in all four seasons.

Iain is head of landscape and horticulture at Wakehurst in Sussex which is connected to Kew Gardens.

He oversees the management of the gardens and wider landscape which includes the arboreta, nature reserves and outlying woodlands. More information on visits can be found at www.kew.org/wakehurst.