West Sussex is a county in the south of England, bordering East Sussex (with Brighton and Hove), Hampshire and Surrey. With its origins in the kingdom of Sussex, the later county of Sussex was traditionally divided into six units known as rapes. By the 16th century, the three western rapes were grouped together informally, having their own separate Quarter Sessions; they were administered by a separate county council from 1888. In 1974, West Sussex was made a single ceremonial county with the coming into force of the Local Government Act 1972. At the same time a large part of the eastern rape of Lewes (the Mid Sussex district which includes the towns of Haywards Heath, Burgess Hill and East Grinstead) was transferred into West Sussex.
West Sussex has a wide range of scenery, including Wealden, Downland and coastal. It has a number of stately homes including Goodwood, Petworth House and Uppark and also castles such as Arundel Castle and Bramber Castle. Over half the county is protected countryside, offering walking, cycling and other recreational opportunities for visitors and residents alike.
Nymans, Handcross, Haywards Heath, West Sussex, is an English garden developed by three generations of the Messel family, from the late 19th century, and brought to renown by Col. Leonard C.R. Messel. Nymans, since 1953 a National Trust property, is the origin of many sports, selections and hybrids, both planned and serendipitous, some of which can be identified by the term nymanensis, "of Nymans". Eucryphia × nymansensis (E. cordifolia × E. glutinosa) is also known as E. "Nymansay". Magnolia × loebneri 'Leonard Messel', Camellia 'Maud Messel' and Forsythia suspensa 'Nymans', with its bronze young stems, are all familiar shrub to gardeners.
In the late 19th century, Ludwig Messel, a member of an unusually creative German family settled in England family, bought the Nymans estate, a house set in 600 acres on a sloping site overlooking the picturesque High Weald of Sussex, to make a setting for family life and entertainments, with Arts and Crafts-inspired "garden room" planning where topiary features contrast with new plants from temperate zones around the world. Messel's head gardener from 1895 was James Comber, whose expertise helped form plant collections at Nymans of camellias, rhododendrons, which here, unusually at the time, were combined with plantings of heather (Erica) eucryphias and magnolias. William Robinson advised in establishing the Wild Garden.