Spring is the busiest time for Sussex, seaside gardener, Geoff Stonebanks, as he prepares to open his multi-award-winning garden, Driftwood, to the public. It has seen over 21,000 visitors and raised a staggering £137,000 for various charities, notably Macmillan Cancer Support and the National Garden Scheme. Driftwood has become a popular destination for locals and tourists over the last 10 years and featured on BBC Gardeners’ World. With just weeks to go before he was due to open last year, he had a pretty long to do list and couldn’t wait to get started. So, when he missed a step and fell, tearing his Achilles tendon, the timing couldn’t have been worse.
For a few months at least, Geoff was able to experience, first-hand, trying to garden with a temporary disability. The fact that he achieved it, in a garden on many levels, goes to show that if you are determined to do something, you’ll find your own way of overcoming the obstacles before you. Then Covid-19 hit and all openings were cancelled, leaving Geoff and his family to enjoy the garden alone.
Geoff tells us about his love of gardening, which only surfaced after being able to retire early at the age of 51, back in 2004.
“I knew (and know) absolutely nothing at all about gardening but have still managed to create one that has received much acclaim and publicity since 2012, even appearing on national TV a couple of times and winning a couple of national gardening awards. Trust me, if I am able do this, then anyone reading this who puts their mind to it, can do just the same. The really nice thing most visitors say to me is that they leave the garden totally inspired, so if some of this can rub off on readers that would be wonderful too!”
People often look and are amazed that it has been created in such a relatively short space of time. Competition judges have said that Geoff seems to have the knack of making something look as though it has been long established! When asked, he often describes his style of gardening as “one of being an instant gardener. I don’t have the patience to wait for things to grow I want the finished product now!” Driftwood has no exposed soil or lawn, which makes it difficult to find space to let things grow on and develop. Plants need to have had a head start in life and be established specimens. Geoff has an inquisitive dog too, a mixed breed terrier, so the garden needs to be ‘Chester-proof’ as well.
When he moved to Sussex from London, back in 2004, the garden was simple and his efforts to neaten it up and make it a little more interesting, through 2007 to 2012, have clearly borne fruit. It is listed on TripAdvisor and has had some amazing reviews. Geoff says “as a novice gardener I knew nothing of improving the soil, the garden is on chalk, and I just got on with things as I saw fit and hoped for the best. I do however feed the garden prolifically each season and am confident that this is what helps me achieve such a high standard, with many visitors complementing me on the pristine condition of the blooms.”
Driftwood is planning to open this summer from 21st June through to 12th August on 5 public days and by arrangement on other days. Visit the garden website at http://www.driftwoodbysea.co.uk to check dates times and prices and see this delightful coastal heaven for yourself.