Leaven Hall Open Garden, Leavenheath

WC - Leaven Hall-1Mark and Shirley Ellis run a luxury Bed & Breafast at their home in Leavenheath. The hall, which originally dates from the 15th century, is peacefully located down a long gravel drive and surrounded by a beautiful 2 acre garden. I have travelled past this driveway several times a week for the past 5 years and always wondered what was hidden at its end.

So – when on a scorchingly hot Sunday afternoon in June – the Ellis family opened their garden for charity as part of the National Gardens Scheme – I had to tear myself away from the very enjoyable ‘Open Gardens’ event in Boxford to ensure that I didn’t miss my opportunity to visit it and find out …

Arriving to park in one of Leaven Hall’s surrounding fields, amongst row upon row of other cars, I was amazed to see that an awful lot of other people obviously thought the same thing !

Luckily 2 acres, including a delightful area of garden given over to a temporary vintage tea garden, was enough room to absorb the crowds and leave us freedom to wander around peacefully. It was far too hot to rush anyway, so I found myself a shady bench beneath some trees to the south side of the house from which to admire an informally planted area of foxgloves, candelabra primulas and astrantias.

Once cooled and rejuvenated, I began to capture some images of the wonderful array of plants – starting with the foxgloves and primulas.

The garden had a section to suit every plant-lover’s taste – the practical vegetable plot and ‘cutting garden’, herbaceous borders and a ornamental pond surrounded by flag irises and adorned with lily pads. There were beautiful colours all around me. I loved the vivid magenta spikes of the gladioli and the delicate blue of the irises.


WC - Leaven Hall-24My favourite part of the garden was an area of flower beds encompassing a flagstoned central section with a decorative stone urn as its focal point.  Although the design sounds formal, it was far from it – with its intermingling of geraniums, columbines and meadow rue around the outside and its red lupins with purple alliums in the inner beds. The stone paving was delightfully uneven with thrift and Verbena bonariensis growing through the cracks between the stones in a romantically, unkempt fashion. The stone flower urn was reminiscent of a church font and had a tumble of pink rock cress escaping from within. I would like to think that this is the oldest part of the garden; the design and perhaps the stones and urn dating from when the hall was first built. I have no doubt that the owners work hard to maintain its unnurtured appearance …

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My top plants of the day were the Alliums – these 2 images are my favourites …

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It seems to be a great year for Aquilegia and I’m really appreciating the wonderful variety I’ve seen growing this season -all shapes and colours. These were my favourites from Leaven Hall -:


As the afternoon wore on, the visitors started to leave, so that by 5 o’clock there was only a handful of people remaining. My friend Lisa and I stopped for tea, cake and delicious local strawberries next to our favourite part of the garden and soaked up the late afternoon sun. The heat had lost its overpowering intensity and the light was much more suited to photography – which we carried on with enthusiasm until the garden closed at 6pm.

We found the family to be very welcoming, friendly and keen to chat with us about our photography – their lovely tea garden and the relaxed atmosphere of the whole event made the visit a pleasure.

When I had arrived 3 hours earlier, I had been unsure whether the decision to leave Boxford had been a good one. The hottest day of the year so far and the strong light were initially hampering my efforts to enjoy my photography and be creative.

Patience – and adapting my methods to suit the conditions paid off – and the rewards of being left as the last visitors in the early evening sun at the beautiful garden at Leaven Hall made me immensely glad that I had driven down that long gravel drive …

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An idyllic place to stay …


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