• Steve Speller

    The Unique
    Chalk Garden

    The Garden was created by Sir Frederick and Lady Sybil Stern.

* Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Journal, March 1967

The Experiment

The owners of Highdown Gardens, Sir Frederick and Lady Sybil Stern, made a huge investment in this obsession that started from 1909. They joined collectors’ syndicates to hire plant hunters to go on dangerous collecting expeditions around the world, many in China. They purchased and swapped thousands of seeds and cuttings. Stern set up a laboratory in Highdown Tower to count plant chromosomes. He shared his experiences in public lectures and his book ‘A Chalk Garden’. After Stern’s death, in 1967, the Gardens have been managed by Worthing Borough Council.

The Library

Today, the Gardens are a living library. The original plants collected by the Sterns, that have survived, hold vital genetic material for plant breeding. With this unique pedigree Highdown Gardens was recognised as a national Plant Collection in 1989 by Plant Heritage. The support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund has helped us to kickstart the Sterns legacy. We are developing volunteer training, a propagation programme and sharing unique Highdown seeds. We can now also share some of the forgotten stories of Highdown in a new Visitor Centre and this website.

Hamish MacGillivray
New Highdown Gardens Visitor centre, April 2021. Hamish MacGillivray