At the back, (plan to left) Driftwood is an immaculate, small but amazing, exposed yet tranquil, gem of a garden. There are two distinct halves at the back and a coastal seaside garden with views of the sea at the front, (plan to right). This densely packed plot, with no exposed soil, or lawn, is home to over 1600 different varieties of plants and shrubs all vying for your attention.

In September 2017, a friend flew over the garden in a light aeroplane and took some photos of the garden in relation to its surroundings! Great images.

At the back, close to the house, during the summer, you could think yourself in a small cottage garden with masses of colour around you. The area is full of pots containing camellias, fuchsias, heucheras, small shrubs and many bedding plants, along with several cottage garden perennial borders and plants specifically chosen for a coastal garden.

At the top of the garden it is more rugged and exposed to the sea winds, where you can relax and take in the view. There are 5 gravel beds and an array of coastal plants and rusted ironworks able to withstand the strong south westerly winds. A mini courtyard garden sits in front of the studio with topiary and box hedging. The sound of flowing water, echoes across the garden.

In the front, there is a beautiful seaside garden complete with groynes, small rowing boat, floats and lobster pots. Lots of small perennials and seaside plants peep out from the many marine objects. Visitors can sit on the beach garden and enjoy their tea and cakes overlooking the sea or stand on the jetty with water beneath!

In 2016 we had a great year with the garden featuring on BBC2 Gardeners' World on Friday 23rd September and becoming a finalist in the Gardeners' World Magazine Garden of the Year 2016.

In 2015 the garden featured in The Sunday Telegraph and Daily Mail Weekend Magazine.

In 2014, the garden featured on national television, on ITV's Good Morning Britain and in both a national gardening magazine, Garden Answers and etc Magazine. It was also listed as one of 25 glorious gardens to see in Sussex by Sussex Life Magazine . As well as starting a weekly gardening slot on Latest TV.

In 2013 it was the featured garden in The Mail on Sunday and in Sussex Life magazine.

Also in 2013, Rebecca Leopold, from Outline TV Production Company said after filming a test video for a wildlife programme for BBC 1, "It was such a privilege to come and see your garden- both myself and Clare were really impressed with what you have done. We will most definitely bear you in mind for any future programmes to do with gardens as yours is an exemplary example of what can be done and your garden is truly worthy of being shown on television."

In 2012, it won Best Small Garden in the Garden News Gardener of the Year Awards and it also became a finalist, out of over 1200 entries, in the Daily Mail National Garden Competition and was featured in an August issue of Weekend, an October issue of Garden News and May's edition of Sussex Society. In 2011 it was listed as a seaside garden to see in the Independent Magazine and continues to be extensively featured in local press.

In 2012, Hamish Webb, one of the Daily Mail judges said "I've seen hundreds of gardens over the 21 years of judging the Daily Mail Competition and believe me, you are up there with the best of them."

A visitor in 2011 said of it: “Beauty is something which this world values less and less. We are desperately in need of spaces like this.” A journalist recorded: "I saw a garden today that warmed my heart! It was tiny... immaculately presented and open for charity, but so filled with love and creative spirit that I'll never forget it! So do go and visit if you can!”

It remains a very personal garden with plants and objects once owned by family and friends. We look forward to seeing you.

In January 2016 I wrote a blog for Thompson & Morgan about photographs taken from the same point in the garden over a 10 year period after we moved here in 2004. You can see them all together below starting from 2004, top left, through to 2014, bottom right. The article is below.

It can be magical, inspiring or just plain stupid, to take photos from the same point in your garden over a 10-year period. I recently posted some on social media and had some amazing reaction from people saying they had been inspired to see the changes over the years. So, above, is a snapshot across 10 years, taken by me around the pond looking up the back garden.
The first from 2004, the year we moved in, shows a very green but plain plot. By 2005 I had begun to tidy the area, neatened the edges of the lawn and moved a few shrubs around as well as added a few containers. I started with many new shrubs in containers, giving me the flexibility to place them around the garden until such time as I had a final plan in my head. A new shed didnŐt go amiss too as well as a greenhouse and a studio!
Not a trained gardener, I simply did what I thought was right for the exposed seaside slope. I have done nothing to improve the chalky ground, not knowing any better. I started to use structures to help get some height as the salt laden winds blow with such force across the garden, doing much damage. Having appointed a garden designer in 2007, I soon realised that maybe I was better cutting my losses and having a go myself. So, in the spring of that year a summer house and new patio went in at the top of the garden. This was much needed as the sloping garden needed a level area upon which to put a table and chairs. I had killed off the lawn and temporarily covered it with bark chip to help create a totally new look until I could afford to move to the next stage. A grape vine was put in to cover the shed.
2008 saw more work done around the pond, digging out old shrubs and putting in new plants. My ultimate aim was to have no exposed soil across the whole garden, requiring me to put as many plants in as I could! By 2009 it was well stocked and opened up to the public for the very first time, which then inspired me to try and make it look a little different each year by moving plants around and changing the look of the garden rooms I was beginning to create. In 2010 the exit area from the pond was sealed off with a low wall and created the pond room which has become one of my favourite areas of the garden, a visitor this year, Eileen Wottsford, said absolutely magical garden, full of original ideas and inspirations.
More plants had gone in around the pond 2 pairs of tall rusted metal arches had helped create some more height and I was beginning to achieve the overall look I was seeking. Every year I just did what felt right, there was never any grand plan, each garden room developed as I went along. In 2011 the area by the shed and beyond the bench were crammed full of plants finally creating the illusion of a garden room. The rapid growth of the grape vine across the shed helped too. This was the year I was accepted into the Yellow Book by the NGS.
By the summer of 2012 the overall garden was really becoming quite special and looking very lush! This year it became one of the 4 finalists in the Daily Mail National Garden Competition as well as the overall winner of the Garden News Best Small Garden in the UK. Needless to say I was thrilled. Hamish Webb from the Mail said I've seen hundreds of gardens over the 21 years of judging the Daily Mail Competition and believe me, you are up there with the best of them. Head judge Tim Sharples said This bright, beach-inspired plot embraces its location with imaginative planting. I could not believe that my small seaside garden had succeeded in reaching the final of a national competition from over 1500 entries, let alone win outright the Garden News competition.
It just goes to show that you can do whatever you put your mind to, despite the challenging elements and lack of knowledge! By 2013 I had really become little more confident about what I was doing and was keen to show that anything is possible and the garden was featured in the Mail on Sunday too. The range of plants had increased significantly too, with over 500 on show. 2014 was a truly amazing year for the garden, it featured in a French national gardening magazine, 100 Idees Jardin in February, Garden Answers Magazine in May and on Good Morning Britain in July. 2015 was equally successful with features in the Sunday Telegraph in August and Daily Mail Weekend Magazine in June. You can see below how amazing the garden is looking each summer now. I never fail to be amazed by what visitors say and post on TripAdvisor. It makes me incredibly proud, so never doubt your own ability to create something special, just go for it.

Getting ready for 2017 Openings
At the top of the garden the plant selling area was covered with shingle which always moved down the slope! I installed some layered wooden steps up the area to hold it all in place!
With the build of an office in next door's garden, the sight of it above the wall proved too much in drawing the eye to it so I fitted a screen to help it disappear. Meanwhile lower down the garden I decided to create a small raised bed for cacti to display in the Summer. I'll be planting it up later in the year ready for opening in June!
In the build up to 2017 I decided to replant one of the borders along the fence, as the planting had begun to die off. So, in December 2016 I bought two, 8 year root ball, Holly shrubs to cover the fence. More work will be done in the plant selling area in the Spring too!
Getting ready for 2016 Openings
We've now fitted a rather grand rope bannister to the steps at the front of the house to aid visitors, along with a wooden handrail fixed to the left hand wall on the steep drive to assist visitors too.
I was given these lovely metal gates and they have been cut down and positioned by the gravel bed at the top of the garden, they look quite amazing as you can see. They help create the effect of moving between garden rooms. I am having an office built in the loft of the house so unlikely any other changes will be made to the garden before next season other than moving plants around.
Getting ready for 2015 Openings
In February 2015 the builders put in the new fence on the right hand side of the garden (viewed from neighbours' garden in centre) and built and erected the new bespoke trellis at the back of the shed to help screen the road from the garden after the tree was removed! I also had an extra level of bricks put on the edge to the central path.
On 25th November the builders removed the old fence and started to replace it with a 7 foot brick wall between the tree and the shed and new fencing to the end fo the garden. The first 3rd and 4th images taken from next doors garden.

A friend gave me the fireplace surround and I am going to plant a grate up with flowers to put in it during the summer. The brick wall now looks great with the louvred french mirror window in situ!

The fence at the top of the garden is almost falling down and I have decided to have a 6 foot brick wall built between the tree and the summer house with the remainder being replaced by a new fence. So, here are the preparations for the work to be done later this year!

With the removal of the tree in next doors garden back in September I needed to find a way to screen the road from the view of visitors on the left of the garden! Stage 1 has been the planting of a Sorbus Intermedia Brouwers. As you can see, once in leaf it will go some way to obscuring the road. Stage 2 will follow later this year or early next!

Getting ready for 2014 Openings

There was a beautiful sunny day on the 16th February. Busy day catching up! The escalonia hedge in front of the studio was infected with leaf spot last year but too late to take it out before we opened! So, it had to come out this year and you can see the before and after here! New hedge of laurel planted up fter the studio had been sanded and painted!

In order to provide some additional storage space and to protect some of the potted plants through the winter we have had a roof put over the side alley of the house. Here you can see work starting on the frame and on the right, already full of plants furniture and 2 bikes! Visitors will still be able to exit the garden, at busy times, through the covered area.
As you can now see, we have installed a rope bannister up the side of the steps at the front of the house to help visitors overcome the steep entrance and steps to the garden.
With the installation of the new back porch the view from the kitchen was obscured witht he tall planting so it has been changed and plants dug out to lower the planting scheme and improve the view from the house! The picture to the left shows the area in July 2013 and the shot to the right after being dug out and replanted with lots of tulip bulbs and some colour for the winter as well as some hardy geraniums for the summer.!

The back porch has been replaced and extended this autumn! Here you see it cleared ready to be knocked down (left) competely removed (centre) and and replaced with a new structure and sliding french windows (right)! Should make serving tea and coffee easier in 2014.

Getting ready for 2013 Openings
The pond area had a spruce up in April 2013 as all the aubretia planted as a back drop had died off and exposed the unattractive back and sides to pond area, as seen on the right! I purchased a woolly pocket and secured it to the back of the pond, allowing me to plant it up with more aubretia and some euphorbia x martini, just need to wait for it to tumble over the fabric of the pocket now!
Work was undertaken in the Autumn/Winter of 2012/13, to redesign the area at the front of the house under the bay window to accommodate a small jetty with water below.
Below you can see what the area looked like before work began, midway with the frame in place for the decking and when complete. More work will be done on the planting in the spring.
The tired look around the studio and greenhouse has been given a lift over the winter to create a small courtyard garden with a topiary squirrel and box hedging has been added along with box topiary cones and balls in terracotta pots. Below you can see what it looked like with the orange bark chipings before work started and then cleared out and finally with the lovely new brick formed patio and path, making the area level outside the studio and sloping down past the greenhouse! I hope to fill the bed on the left with penstemons behind the dwarf box hedge.
Getting ready for 2012 Openings
All the pots with perennials and bedding plants have now been removed from the area by the steps in the centre of the back garden and 5 new, small, raised beds have been built. You can see the pictures here of before and after and how they have been planted for the winter.
Some of the planting will be changed in the spring, before we open again next year. Lots of bedding plants will be put into the new beds so that they will take on a look of a mass of colour and you will not be able to see the wooden beds for flowers.

The front garden has now been landscaped and below you see three views of the finished coastal garden. The three fish crates in the top right hand corner of the picture on the right were all used by my father on the docks in Fleetwood in the 1950's and are stamped with my grandfather's name, C.F. Stonebanks Ltd. There is still more planting to do throughout the winter but the main work has now been completed. On the right a view out to sea!

On the right is the old wooden dinghy we bought, among the railway sleepers, as the work was being done to remove the old lawn before transforming it to a coastal gravel garden.
In late September 2011 work was completed on the front garden to transform it from a lawned area to a coastal garden compete with rowing boat and marine objects. On the left is how the front garden looked before work started and on the right after the lawn had been killed off and work had started.
Once we had finished Artwave in 2011, I began work to redevelop the area for selling plants for 2012. Either side you can see the new purpose built shelves that have been built at the top of the garden making it much easier to display and select the plants that will be on sale again.
Getting ready for 2011 Openings
Work was undertaken in the Autumn of 2010, to redesign the area adjacent to the pond and the shed, the building of a raised flower bed on the patio behind the house and new edging up the side of the house to the entrance of the garden. Pictures below. Hector, our 60 year old tortoise, had his personal garden landscaped as well and the green door has had a new arch put up around it.
Summer of 2010, check out the garden images page, accessed from the home page, for more shots of the garden last year.
Getting ready for 2010 Openings
In late 2009 and early 2010, I worked on the remaining lawn area on the left of the garden. I replaced it with a small sun terrace and raised brick border along with a lower railway sleeper area to create a coastal, gravel, cottage garden. The green door folly was built and I planted the raised beds in spring 2010, which look fabulous in June. See 3 pictures above of this work.
Getting ready for 2009 Openings
............................. Summer 2009.
In the autumn of 2008 I bought some old railway sleepers and landscaped the central part of the garden with a coastal theme. They were very hard to position and had to be cut with a chain saw to get them in situ. I then covered the remains of the lawn with bark chips as a temporary measure.
..................and Summer 2008.
.........and again in the summer of 2007 with the summer house installed.
The buildings, Garden Studio, greenhouse and garden shed were installed very quickly and the Summer House, aptly named “Dad’s Place”, (although originally Ron's Place) as my father gave me the money to buy it was the last building to be installed. You can see him in it to the right,with my mother just before he died in 2007.
Some of the work completed in the Winter of 2006 and Spring of 2007 to build the main patios at the top of the garden either side and below.
.........and again in the summer of 2006.
The weather conditions in Seaford, along with the salt laden south westerly winds, soon meant that the top half of the garden needed take on a coastal rather than a cottage garden design and structure!
Here you can see the garden from the roughly the same perspective in the summer of 2005.
The original garden sloped from bottom right to top left and had 2 lawns with borders and a derelict pond. The lawn was difficult to mow as there were no level surfaces. I had transported over 150 pots of plants from my container garden in North London in a separate removal van in 2004 and had learnt some hard lessons that first winter. Over half the plants were killed by the harsh conditions here on the coast.
The pictures to the left and right were taken soon after we moved in during September 2004. Work proper didn't begin until 2007. There was never any grand plan. It has just developed organically year on year. Initially I appointed a garden designer, but, after seeing his first design cut, I decided I could do it better myself and cut my losses.