Another highly horticultural area of the garden was the Quarry Garden. This type of garden was very popular in the 19th century and at Standen served a double purpose of also providing the stone for the sandstone dressing for the main house. This ensured that the beautiful rock face alongside the drive was not spoilt by further excavation.
The Quarry Garden was designed and built by James Backhouse III. They were a family of Quaker missionaries who travelled to Australia and New Zealand. They used to send back seeds and plants and a nursery business grew from this. In its prime this area was immaculately kept and had its own full time gardener. The pockets between the rocks were planted with alpines and ferns with gravel covering the soil. All the plants would have been labelled. A plant list of 535 varieties was supplied on completion.
It was far more open that it is today. We now have a very interesting collection of native Wealden ferns, some quite rare and so any restoration work that we are doing here will be sympathetic to ensuring that we don’t damage these more recent colonisers. The Fern Society has visited to look at the collection and want us to make sure that we preserve the environment around them which has supported their growth.
The large Acer in the entrance to the Quarry Garden is an original Beale plant. This was brought back along with other Acers from their world tour in 1906.
The gardens were also a place for the Beale children and grandchildren to play. In the middle of the quarry garden is a pond and we have pictures of the Beale grandchildren floating toy boats on here in the early 20th century. The children’s accounts say how they would be sent out to play, the boys in white starched sailor suits and the girls in white lace summer dresses – they would sail their boats on the pond here and it would nearly always end in at least one of them falling in.
As part of the revival of this area of the garden some of the paths and steps will be rebuilt and some more rocks added where needed to replace those lost due to erosion. The new rocks will come from Philpots quarry in West Hoathly. The entrance to the Quarry Garden is where most of the restoration work will take place. Some of the soil that has washed down over time will be removed and then with the addition of the new rocks new planting pockets created and planted up. The main restoration work will not be happening for another 2 years so in the meantime we will be experimenting with some new plants from the original planting list to see how they cope with the changed conditions now that the garden is much more shaded.