A Suffolk Cottage Garden

Last week I was privileged to be able to visit The National Collection of Sir Michael Foster’s Irises – planted and cared for by his Gt Gt Granddaughter Lucy Skellorn in her inspiring Suffolk garden.

As well as photographing the Foster Irises ( please see my previous blogpost), I was drawn to the romantic beauty of Lucy’s cottage-garden planting.

 I envy people who can create a mass of intertwining plants that form such a beautiful, cohesive flow of texture and colour like this.  I know it has to do with having enough of each plant type to form a drift – not using too many different species and introducing plants for foliage interest ( grasses, Stachys and Cardoons in Lucy’s case) amongst the patches of colour in order to accentuate the effect of both foliage & flower. The creation of different heights and textures is vital, along with – in the best examples- a coherent colour palette. This one was perfect for my taste – purples, soft blues, dusky pinks and whites, nothing jarring or out of place.  It all looked relaxed and natural, although I’m sure was the result of tasteful and careful initial planning – and then the patience to wait for your plan to develop over a few years.

The final ingredient, perhaps, is that added touch of magic that only Nature can bring to a scheme when it sorts out exactly how it wants things to appear. What plants will struggle and fade away – or thrive, spread and mingle together.  

Papaver orientale ‘Patty’s Plum’

Here, in Lucy’s garden, the recipe above, together with the golden light filtering into the garden through the surrounding trees and hedgerows adding its magic, made this a summer’s evening to remember. It was the perfect time to be there enjoying the sights, perfumes and birdsong – and hopefully capturing a spirit of this in my images

A cottage garden is always best with its adjoining cottage – and climbing roses covered the walls of this one, giving a perfect backdrop to the flower beds.

There was Gertrude Jekyll, wonderfully crammed with its ruffles and full of old-fashioned fragrance, next to the paler pink St Swithun.  I was pleased to discover 2 new varieties for me – Buff Beauty and Meg. The latter, with its semi-double flowers, was Lucy’s favourite and I could see why. I don’t think single or semi-double roses are represented enough in the average garden – and people are really missing out without these beautiful flowers. Perhaps it would be a choice for me if I decided to clear away my ever expanding Bay bushes from either side of my porch to grow roses around my door ? So romantic …

There were other roses in the garden, arranged to add height to the planting scheme.

Rosa ‘Mme. Isaac Pereire’

The roses were not the only inspiration from Lucy’s garden. I’m definitely going to be trying the Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’ with my new white Foster Irises.

– and also grow some purple and white Hesperis

– and my favourite flower of the whole garden – this dusky poppy. I’m going to see if I can get some seeds from Lucy, although I believe most don’t come true. I shall need to ask her which variety it is.

Here are some more views of Lucy’s beautiful plants …

If I’d been invited to visit Lucy’s garden without her Foster Irises being there, I would still have been spellbound. The natural, romantic feel of this intimate garden offered me such an enjoyable experience and the late evening sunlight cast a magical spell over everything, as each plant took its own special place within the garden’s wonderful tapestry …

Foster Irises – The National Collection

I first met Lucy Skellorn at Helmingham Hall Autumn Plant Heritage Fair in 2019, where I found she was selling historic Irises. I’ve always been interested in finding out more about the origins of our garden flowers, so stopped to chat with her about it.

Lucy Skellorn

 I discovered that Lucy is the Gt Gt Granddaughter of Sir Michael Foster (1836-1907) – a Victorian Professor of Physiology at Cambridge University, who loved to collect and breed bearded Irises as a hobby.

A contemporary and friend of Charles Darwin, he set about collecting Iris species plants from far flung corners of the world as was the Victorian tradition. He was able to breed new varieties by mixing what he chose to be the best species and is now thought of as the Father of the modern Iris hybrids. His ground-breaking plants were stronger with better and bigger flowers – and highly scented. These more successful new plants turned out to have a greater number of chromosomes than the originals, although scientific knowledge was not advanced enough at the time to realise that this was why the plants were more successful. Sir Michael’s progress was based purely upon his observations, note-taking and contemporary scientific skills, as he continued to strive to produce the best hybrids. These plants were later found to be tetraploids ( 4 sets of chromosomes) and this factor, because of his work, meant that later breeders were able to produce an almost never-ending list of colourful varieties – although the scent has diminished considerably from many.

Whilst on the subject of chromosomes; there was obviously a strong enough ‘genetic memory’ for Lucy to switch her career after 10 years to retrain in Horticulture – and through this – and some previous research carried out by her mother, she began to discover just how important her ancestor had been. Her quest to collect her Gt Gt Grandfather’s creations and preserve them for posterity had begun …

When I met up with Lucy again – at the 2021 Spring Plant Heritage Fair – she invited me to visit her Suffolk garden whilst the Irises were in bloom in order to take some photographs.

 Lucy’s cottage is in the middle of nowhere, where just a few houses are dotted along a small country lane in rural Suffolk. Stepping into the garden felt like escaping from the world’s mayhem for a while, especially as the overall style was relaxed, informal, definitely ‘cottage garden’. Lucy apologised that the grass and general appearance was rather unkempt, as she had just been away for a week’s holiday. I actually thought that it was delightful; the lushness adding to my feeling of escape to a simpler time and place – where children explored and played hide and seek amongst the wildflowers and tall grasses, chickens clucked contentedly and a small scruffy-haired black dog darted about the undergrowth keeping watch over his territory. There were no long gardening ‘to-do’ lists, no garden manicuring required – just some dead-heading of spent Iris blooms here and here – heavenly.

It was a wild, romantic garden, separated into sections by informal hedges, culminating in a rented meadow-like area, past the chicken run and overgrown with nettles, cow parsley and wildflowers – within which Lucy has expanded to create a cultivated section for her to grow more of her historic Irises. Lucy had told me not to expect anything grand for the setting of her National Collection – however I loved the fact that these beautiful flowers existed in this informal wild space. The Irises, unperturbed by their surroundings, were all growing happily, their rhizomes baking in the hot, afternoon sun. They had all that they needed.

Juxtaposed with this peace and solitude is an army helicopter base within a few miles of the cottage and I asked Lucy if this bothered the family. She told me that they honestly didn’t notice it too much, as it had been something they had become accustomed to. I had to admit that I found it hardly intruded during my visit and decided it was a small inconvenience when set against the benefits of such a swathe of unspoilt and largely uninhabited Suffolk countryside.

After a tour of the Irises from Lucy and an introduction to the hens by Lucy’s children, I set about exploring the garden on my own. I’d picked one of the sunniest days in June to visit, so photographs were mostly reserved for much later when the sun started to set and a golden glow pervaded the garden. 

There were 5 main varieties of Sir Michael’s hybrids in bloom, plus one notable collected Iris, called Amas (collected 1885), the latter being used extensively in his breeding programme. Some were planted within the cottage garden itself and giving height and structure to the borders. The rest were in special Iris beds, each hybrid having its own section. To keep Bearded Irises at their best, they need the space around them so that their rhizomes are exposed to the sun and not shaded by other plants. In addition, Lucy has kept Irises sourced from different places separately, so she can keep a watch on whether there’s any difference in their growing patterns.

Sir Michael created around 68  hybrids and also had his collection of species plants from which his cultivars were created. Lucy has managed to source about a dozen of these in total – and has 2 exciting newcomers arriving from the US later in the year.  It’s not an easy thing to track down these plants and some have sadly disappeared forever – so her research started with the most obvious ones. I asked if she had Sir Michael’s notebooks detailing his Iris breeding work. They were interestingly bequeathed to his friend and fellow plant breeder, Ellen Wilmott of Warley Place ( which I love and have visited several times) and they are now kept in the Linnean Society’s archives. Lucy has visited but says the notes are difficult to follow and very technical. I wonder if a knowledgeable hybridiser could recreate any lost varieties – if expense was no object and if the species Irises used in the breeding were still obtainable?

For my visit, I was treated to 3 white cultivars :-

Firstly, the striking and tall ‘Kashmir’ (1912); white with its golden-patterned falls –

Kashmir

Next, ‘Mrs Horace Darwin’(1888) and ‘Mrs George Darwin’ (1895) – named after 2 of Charles’ daughter-in-laws. The former is white with purple streaking on its falls and the latter has gold mixed with the purple veining. I have purchased a small group of these two  for my own garden and I’m very excited because they looked beautifully pure and ethereal in Lucy’s – especially the ‘Horace’ grown in her borders with the smoky purple of Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’. An idea that I am definitely going to attempt to replicate next year at home.

‘Mrs Horace Darwin’ with Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’
‘Mrs George Darwin’

There were 3 blues – all tall with multiple levels of blooms. Caterina (1909) with its copper-coloured streaking and Crusader ((1913) with its scented violet blue blooms.  Amas, a very striking Iris collected by Sir Michael, has pale violet standards with rich violet falls.

‘Caterina’
‘Crusader’
‘Amas’

The lighting conditions gave me many different effects on the petals, as did the myriad of shapes produced by the standards when viewed from different angles. The beards, in differing intensities of yellow and gold provided a flash of contrast to the petals, the latter having, (on all the varieties),  a lovely glistening lustre/ frosting which adds a touch of magic to the flowers, especially if you can catch it on the photographs.

‘Mrs George Darwin’

Here are some more of my images of the different Foster Hybrids – starting with ‘Mrs Horace Darwin’ which was my favourite of the day -:

Next is ‘Kashmir’ -:

…and finally for the whites, ‘Mrs George Darwin’

‘Amas’ was so striking and beautiful …

‘Amas’
‘Caterina’

One of Sir Michael’s collected Irises was this delicately simple paler blue species from Italy, called Loppio. It was found growing on the northern slopes of Monte Baldo overlooking Lake Loppio in the Trentino region. Monte Baldo was given the epithet ‘Hortus Italiae’ – ‘The Garden of Italy’ – because of its richness of vegetation and number of botanical rareties. I wonder which hybrids Sir Michael created from this beauty ?

Loppio

Lucy is also very interested in – and collects – the Irises created by one of Sir Michael’s mentees, W R Dykes – who went on to produce many beautiful hybrids, with the help of his wife, in the 1920’s. Unfortunately, the sun was too strong to get suitable images, however, I hope to focus on those another time.

To complete Lucy’s Iris collection are some Cedric Morris ‘Benton Caramel’ in the borders, which complemented the other garden colours beautifully in the evening sun. Lucy is very much involved in promoting the re-establishment of Cedric Morris’ Benton End House in nearby Hadleigh. However, that’s a very interesting subject for another day….

Cedric Morris Iris ‘Benton Caramel’

By the time it has passed 8 o’clock, the sun, still not set, had cast its golden glow over the garden and the irises stood, still resplendent and fresh after a day of baking hot temperatures. That’s an amazing quality to have when you think of how delicate the petals appear with all their ruffles, twists and turns. I guess we have Sir Michael Foster (and now his Gt Gt Granddaughter Lucy) to thank for that !!

My Hosta Renaming Project

I’ve been a Hosta fan since the early 90’s, when I first discovered the miniature varieties which I planted around our first pond.

Upon moving to Marlborough House, I planted 2 varieties in my front garden – all around my new pond. Nowadays, however, they are swamped by a mass of Knautia and Linaria. Torchlight and Siashu Yahne Sito   had proudly survived slug & snailess in my pond patch for many years with only the addition of Tête-à-tête daffodils in the Spring. My ex-husband wasn’t one for flowers on a big scale, preferring symmetry and order to the romantic wilderness of my imagination.

The Hostas came from Mickfield in Suffolk – home to Mickfield Hostas ( who own the National Collection) and another grower whose name I have long-since forgotten after she retired from her business.

I’ve added to my collection since those early days – mostly buying from Mickfield Hostas at shows and by visiting their amazing nursery. I defy anyone with a love for plants to leave that place without at least half a dozen fledgling varieties …

My visit last year coincided with a couple who were definitely more ‘Hosta Mad’ than me. The floors of the various greenhouses were littered with their newly chosen additions to bump up a collection which already numbered over 300 varieties !

My purchase was more modest, although once home and repotting into my terracotta pots, I realised that I was running out of space for them.  I vowed to stick there and resist future additions, although I was guilty of buying a few new ones at a Helmingham Hall Plant Fair last autumn, where Mickfield Hostas had a stall which held me under a similar spell to that of my childhood sweet shop.

I now have 27 different varieties – small, medium and large, which sit in the shade nearest my house on the north-facing patio.

The pots have customarily been topped with pea shingle, which I gauged to be a perfect deterrent to leaf-munching pests and also set off the foliage well. At the end of last Hosta season, however, I bought some organic wool slug pellets to try. I’ve never had a major issue with pests, however this year I’ve noticed an increase in nibbling on a couple of varieties – so I think I will return to the shingle pretty quick. In fact, I’ve just found a baby snail on the underside of one of the leaves. Definitely a thumbs down for the organic wool pellets!

My major task for this season is one I needn’t have had. All plants had new labels written out last year and marked with a so-called permanent ink marker. Unfortunately, the labels have faded and my task today is to rediscover which variety is which and take photographs of them all. Establish a proper catalogue. There are one or two that haven’t opened their leaves yet – so I will have to add them later on.

Luckily, the Mickfield Hosta website is an excellent one – with detailed descriptions and photographs of all their varieties. That coupled with the labels, my list of names and the existing photographs should mean that I can be 100% successful. Only one of my Hostas lacks a name – I never knew it, as I picked it up for a snip at the end of a Suffolk Show when a fancy display was being dismantled. I could probably give a good guess – although I will never be entirely sure.

Time to set to work … First job is to look at my existing images and match up the most obvious ones. I have 10 photographs. Then I will see if I can read any of the invisible ink labels at all. I’m so glad that I wrote down all the names last year and I now know why so many gardeners at the village ‘Open Garden’ events cannot tell you the name of that wonderful variety you’ve just spotted for the first time in their garden.

2 hours later …

I’ve taken all my photos and I’m left with 3 mystery Hostas. One hasn’t come into leaf yet – and could be either Stiletto or Whirlwind. I’m thinking it’s the latter, as I seem to recall losing the Stiletto early last season.

That leaves 2 plants where it’s impossible to read the labels and I have stupidly forgotten to record them anywhere. My plan is to see whether Mickfield Hostas can identify them for me, so I have sent them an email with the photographs attached. Fingers crossed.

Tomorrow’s job is to give them all a thorough soak, remove the wool pellets, replace the shingle and set them out nicely on their display table to be admired.

Mission Complete !

Helmingham Hall – Illuminated Garden Trail

My Helmingham assignment for November/December was to visit the Hall during one of its special Illuminated Garden nights, held between 23rd November and December 8th.  This was very exciting, as I had neither experienced such a spectacle before – nor been asked to take images after dark.

So armed with tripod, wide angle lens, remote shutter release and dressed in several warming layers of clothing; Rusty and I set off for the Hall on our mission …

I arranged arrival just before dusk, so that I had the chance to set up my equipment and do a few practice shots before the first visitors arrived. I love the architectural style of the Hall itself, so knew I wouldn’t be disappointed with how it looked at night. Needless to say, it looked amazing.


What I couldn’t have anticipated was how beautiful the main structural elements of the garden would look either adorned with lights or strategically lit.

The Yew topiary domes that line the causeway between the Hall moat and Parterre were covered in bands of fairy lights, which reflected beautifully in the water. The Box topiary of the parterre was lit with a misty blue, the urns with a soft white light that emphasised each flute and scallop of their lichened surfaces – and the brick wall was lit with a warm golden hue.

Wonderful mistletoe-like balls of light hung from the two Mulberry trees.  The wind was brisk and chilling and served to swirl these balls delightfully in a mesmerising dance. I decided to capture their movement in a long exposure in the second image.

The nearest tree to the hall stood majestically bathed in a green and purple light; and a double row of white paper lanterns heralded the start of the trail around the garden.

The spirit of Christmas was enhanced with musical excerpts from the Nutcracker Suite and traditional carols – synchronised with the changing colours of the lights adorning the Apple Tree Walk; the latter forming a dramatic backdrop to the view from the Hall, garden moat and across the Parterre. The ‘Carol of the Bells’ was particularly stirring.

As the first throng of people arrived, Rusty found visiting each and everyone irresistible, so unfortunately I had to return him to the car so that I could fully concentrate on my images. The guests, arranged in timed tranches, followed a designated trail of lighted paths throughout the garden, after first being welcomed in the courtyard for either a Christmas Punch or Mulled Wine. On my return to the Hall, I took advantage of the wonderful warming cup of mulled wine. The intoxicating smell of spices and the heat of the wine as I drank added perfectly to the magic of standing on the cobbled courtyard of this wonderful building, admiring its chimney, towers and gateways from a privileged new perspective.

As I followed the trail through the trees to the south-west of the garden, there were plenty of delights to charm children and adults alike, such a glitter balls, bubbles, fairy jars and Christmas Bambi.

Once the trail reached the walled garden, I could see that the long tunnels had been beautifully lit with thousands of fairy lights, glitter balls and paper star lanterns. I particularly enjoyed the line of illuminated eggs.

Over the bridge crossing the garden moat was an area for visitors to sit, eat and drink – and toast marshmallows on open fires.

The route back to the Hall took me along the avenue of apple trees with its stirring music and changing colours. There was also a beautiful view of the bridge, reflecting in the moat and changing from orange to blue to purple – magical.

The Hall itself with its yew domes gave me my favourite views of the evening. I loved the reflections in the moat, the warm glow from inside the hall …

… and the glimpse of a beautiful Christmas Tree.

October at Helmingham Hall

It was bright and sunny when I began my October tour of Helmingham’s Grade 1-listed Gardens, although the fresh breeze was hurrying along some darker clouds. It felt strange to be there when it was so quiet, without the hundreds of people milling about and the grounds filled with parked cars. It was extremely peaceful and the  sheep and deer grazed close to the hall itself.

I started my visit in the Rose Garden, with its accompanying accents of purple provided by Asters and Aconitum. One of my favourite David Austin roses – the wildy romantic Harlow Carr – was swirling in circles in the wind as Flora looked on unperturbed.

I’ve always loved the view of the Knot Garden from the raised walkway that runs beside the moat. It was designed back in 1982, specifically to provide such a vista from the house and for those progressing, as I was, towards the walled garden on the opposite side of the hall. The two urns flanking the steps down to the Knot Garden are always a favourite photographic subject for me with their richly-coloured Pelargoniums.

The Hall itself is one of my favourite historic buildings and always seems more romantic when the dark clouds gather in the sky above its orange/red brick facades. There was definitely a brooding nature to the sky as I walked closer to the Parterre Garden.

The two large stone urns in the Parterre’s round beds had been emptied and the white Cosmos taken away. In its place neat rows of Wallflower were newly planted. I’m looking forward to the privilege of seeing them when they first come into flower. It was at this point that the heavens’ opened, giving me the chance to capture the Parterre in the rain as we sheltered under a delightful canopy to the side of the garden.

 

Thanks to the fresh breeze, the rainstorm was soon over and I was able to continue through the wrought iron gates into the Walled Garden. I love the way the pink and white Anemones provide  a soft counterpoint to the statuesque gate pillars with their majestic Pegasus finials.

Entrance to The Walled Garden

Once inside the walls, I visited each area in turn, trying capture the spirit of the garden as it begins its period of hibernation. The gardeners had been busy cutting away spent foliage, clearing the wildflower spiral and spreading manure on the flower borders. The Gourd Tunnel still hung with fruits, which glowed in the autumn sun.

The flower borders seemed asleep apart from the purple and pinks of Asters – yet the Sunflowers in their wrought iron tunnel seemed to be refusing to acknowledge the end of Summer.

Beautifully vivid pink Nerines lined the inside of the west wall and provided a perfect backdrop to the glossy green leaves of the box sculptures.

Dahlias in the cutting bed dazzled me with their jewelled brilliance – the gardeners told me that they would remain until the first frosts, although the tubers in the herbaceous borders had already been lifted.

It was time for me to think about finishing for the day and starting my journey down to Sussex. I couldn’t resist a few more images of favourite things, as I left the Walled Garden.

As I left Helmingham Hall and gazed back up the long main drive with its wonderful avenue of trees, I felt honoured and very happy that I will be able to follow the Hall and its beautiful gardens each month as it gently and peacefully makes its way through Winter and into Spring.

I look forward to seeing you again in November …

Helmingham Hall & Gardens – New Venture for Wildcarrot Photography

After my enjoyable experience at Suffolk Plant Heritage’s Autumn Fair, I was really pleased to hear from Helmingham Hall’s event manager – Katy Day.

Chairman, Maggie Thorpe, had forwarded her a copy of my blogpost for the event and Katy was delighted with my images, saying they were the best she had seen in her 10 years involvement with the fair.  I was naturally delighted !

This prompted me to arrange a visit to see her;  with the result being that I’m now going to officially photograph all the public events held at Helmingham,  as well as providing year-round images of its Grade 1 Listed garden ( which normally open to the public only from May until mid-September).

Katy and her colleagues will be using my images for promotional purposes and also to provide an out of season insight into the life of the gardens – for its many devotees. 

 My cameras were packed ready for my trip to Sussex,  it was a pleasant October day – and I had my ‘trusty’ companion Rusty the Labrador at my side.  It made sense to start right then and there.

So follow me through the gates and read my October Blog …

 

 

Helmingham Hall Plant Heritage Autumn Fair

 

I was delighted to be asked by Maggie Thorpe, President & Chairman of Suffolk Plant Heritage, to take photographs at the society’s Autumn Plant Fair on Sunday 15th September.

A wonderful array of plants and garden accessories was on show, together with glorious September sunshine – all against the wonderful backdrop of Helmingham Hall; with its gabled, red brick facades and grand drawbridge across its wide moat.

One of the main aims of Suffolk Plant Heritage is to rediscover and reintroduce cultivated plants that are under threat of extinction – and there were many examples of such at the fair. Members ran a special stall from which I purchased some ‘Lucifer’ narcissi bulbs to pot up for Spring.

Keeping to tradition, there were 800 paper bags containing bulbs of Tulipa linifolia (Batalinii Group) ‘Bright Gem’ distributed to eager visitors as they arrived at the Suffolk Heritage Marquee. They will be my only example of early tulips – and my only ‘Botanical’ ones. Botanical Tulips are the ancestors of the Hybrid Tulip, the former having bred naturally and so focus on survival. This means they are able to bloom year after year and their study low-growing habit makes them more resistance to bad weather conditions. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how ‘Bright Gem’ compares to my fancy, hybridised varieties !

Visitors collecting their free bulbs

The marquee also had examples and information about some of the rare plants as well as listing the important National Plant Collections. I was thrilled to find that Mickfield Hostas ( who have the largest National Collection of Hostas in the UK) had brought along some potted examples of a beautiful and uncommon small Hosta – ‘Remember Me’. It’s a sport of my favourite Hosta ‘June’ – so was bound to attract my attention.  Needless to say, I was the 1st person to reserve my own plant to take home !

 

The National Plant Collection of Sir Michael Foster’s Irises was represented by Lucy Skellorn, Sir Michael’s Great-Grandaughter. Sir Michael was responsible for the first hybridisation of the Bearded Iris, back in the 1880’s. I would love to have purchased an example of Lucy’s 2 favourites – ‘Mrs Horace Darwin’ and ‘Mrs George Darwin’ – both delicate white flowers with purple veining. Perhaps I will have to visit her early next year when I replan my pond border.

Lucy Skellorn

As I had arrived early, I was able to wander around the stalls as the owners were preparing their wares for the public. There were many selling interesting garden ephemera, as well as a host of autumn plants. I was especially interested in the large number of galvanised buckets, tubs and troughs with the potential to display my planned tulip display next Spring.

There were several artisans working as they displayed to the public …

As well as ‘everything garden’, there were stalls selling vintage collectibles, clothing, bags and hats. This young lady and her friends caused quite a stir by sporting bright-coloured summer hats, which led to a succession of impressed ladies visiting the hat stall. They were soon to be seen throughout the fair. Unfortunately, my coveted pink version was not to be, because the stall only accepted cash.

This young lady started a craze for the colouful hats on sale …

Dogs are always welcomed at Helmingham – and here are a few of my favourites.

Helmingham Hall, owned by the Tollemache family since 1480, has Grade 1 listed gardens  – as well as its extensive grounds and deer park. Lady Xa Tollemache is responsible for designing the present gardens and conducted a special tour of them for a small number of visitors. It was extremely interesting to discover the reasons behind her design choices, both creative and practical; especially as the walled garden is one of my favourites.

Other entertainment was provided by musical performers, dancers and birds of prey. Suffolk Plant Heritage also held a number of informative talks throughout the day – such as Matthew Tanton-Brown’s on choosing the best shrubs for autumn colour.

There were many happy customers at the Fair, including myself – and the Plant Creche had an amazing number of purchases in its care.  My favourite purchase, a vintage potato fork, can be seen below.

Riverside Bulbs, with Imogen Long’s captivating smile and bubbly enthusiasm, succeeded in encouraging me to buy 5 more varieties of Tulip to add to my online orders – which sent me off in pursuit of yet another galvanised tub !

I had a fabulous day, surrounded by happy visitors and friendly stallholders, in one of the most picturesque places in East Anglia.

I’m very grateful for the opportunity given to me by Maggie Thorpe and extremely pleased with my purchases, as seen below – back at Marlborough House.


Boxford Open Gardens – 2019

The arrival of June heralded Open Garden Season with a flourish – and saw me visiting Boxford’s annual celebration for the 4th year in a row. It is always a highlight of my year !

The weather was sunny and very hot, as usual – and I knew that visiting 31 gardens in 5 hours would be impossible, especially as I wanted to ensure the quality of my images was kept to a high standard. I still had a thoroughly enjoyable time even though I only managed to visit 11 gardens.

The following images are my favourites from the day …

 

Chequers

Always my starting place for the day’s visits;  I am never disappointed.

The plants on show are always impressive – and this year I was particularly struck by the ferns and other foliage species near the stream.

 

5, Church Street

This courtyard garden had undergone a major transformation since first opening last year. The new owners have worked hard and created a delightful extension to their living space. I would be extremely happy to have such a wonderful garden for relaxing in.

 

Mary’s House

I always love to pop my head into the back garden of this little house. Preserved as a museum by the church and cared for by the village parishioners – it has a quaint backyard filled with cottage garden plants & vibrant colours.

 

Hendrick House

A delightful, large walled garden, where the owners have successfully blended several different themes together, providing plenty of interest for the visitor. Gorgeous roses, vintage touches and cottage garden plants. I was especially pleased to see the lovely irises – always a joy ( and challenge) to photograph.

 

17 Swan Street

I’m always pleased to see Guy’s potted Hosta collection, which was looking splendid, as always. His Constance Spry rose is late flowering this year, however, there were other beauties to enjoy – such as the warm orange foxglove working perfectly against the old brick wall. Hacker, the Norfolk Terrier, made a brief appearance to have his tummy tickled !

 

Weavers House

Maggie Thorpe’s garden is always one of my favourites. Although it is relatively small, she has designed it beautifully, with lots of more unusual plants. The cascading urn always looks splendid, as does the Carpenteria californica.

 

18, Goodlands

This was a new garden for 2019 and the owner was an artist; displaying her attractive lino cut artwork. My favourites here were the Clematis – especially ‘Ville de Lyon’, as well  her vintage rhubarb pots.

 

45, Swan Street

This was another new garden for me. It had a perfect cottage-garden feel to it, with Foxgloves, Lupins and Roses. Unfortunately, the owner didn’t know the name of the wonderful pale pink rose which rambled against the wall of the cottage, as it had pre-dated her move there.

 

2 Cox Hill

It was time to leave Swan Street and walk a short distance to Cox Hill. These were my favourite images from Ginny Budd’s garden. I have to admit that is was Ginny’s beautiful new dog, Gyp, who stole the attention this time !

 

Boxford Views

Time was passing by quickly, so I headed back to the car in order to make my way to Groton & Edwardstone. There were many pretty gardens in view on the way – and these were my 2 favourite images …

 

Crown House, Groton

I always look forward to my trip up to Crown House to see Chloris’ wonderful garden. I could spend the whole day just photographing the beautiful plants there. Always keen to expand her planting, there have been new beds created since last year with some impressive Irises. A mixture of Cedric Morris and new varieties created by Chloris herself. I never fail to fall in love with the impressive rose collection and ‘Phyllis Bide’ was looking wonderful on the archway in the secret garden.

The French Lavender ‘Papillon’ was my favourite plant this year  – looking wild & romantic, set off perfectly by its gravel bed.

 

Dormers, Edwardstone

My last garden of the day, which was luckily open until 5pm. I was the last person to visit this very special place – and there were many many views and beautiful plants to capture. This was my favourite garden of 2018 – and I have to say that I haven’t changed my mind for this year. The vistas, roses and especially the gorgeous Lupins were enthralling. The owners and their friends were very welcoming, as were their 2 dogs – Bella & Daisy. I would really love to own this garden, although I’m sure a great deal of hard work goes on behind the scenes to create the finished effect !

I will be writing a separate blog dedicated to Dormers because I so many images that I wish to share.

Time had unfortunately run out for my garden visits, however the heat of the day had made me feel very tired so it was probably just as well.  Although I should have liked to see more of the gardens, I was so pleased to have seen such beauty and creativity in the ones I did explore.  I suggested longer opening hours to the organiser as I left, although the village seemed deserted of all other visitors as I drove on my way home.

My own “Garden Awards’ for this year are as follows :-

1st Place – Dormers

2nd Place – Crown House

3rd Place – Weavers House & Hendrick House ( Jt)

Long Melford Open Gardens 2019

Every once in a while, one has a ‘perfect day’ – where everything fits into place and makes for a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

This year’s Open Gardens at Long Melford was one of those special days – with lovely weather and a feast of beautiful gardens to visit.

I had great fun capturing some memorable images to pay tribute to the hard work of the villagers in caring and preparing their gardens for this day of celebration. Long Melford is a very picturesque village at any time of year – so to go ‘behind the scenes’ into individual gardens was a great treat for me and hundreds of fellow visitors.

This year I was determined not to miss out on some gardens that I had left out before due to lack of time – so I decided to start at the far end of the village at Doghouse Cottage. I then worked my way numerically through – and managed to visit 11 of the gardens on show. I am very pleased to share my images with you.

 

Garden 1 – Doghouse Cottage

I do hope this beautiful garden will continue to be cherished by its prospective new owners – and I look forward to the current owners creating a special garden at their new home in the village for us to visit in years to come …

Today, the Dublin Bay Rose was looking magnificent against the side of the house and the overall effect was one of a beautiful cottage garden.

 

Garden 2 – Beech Cottage

This was a new garden for me to visit – and I was enthralled by the beautiful plants – especially the Ali Baba Rose on the archway, the Actinidia kolomikta vine and the Hosta/Agapanthus arrangement on the patio.

 

Garden 3 – Holy Trinity Church

The planting around the almshouses and church really impressed me this year. It was so lovely to see the Cornflowers featured again – and the roses set around the church were magnificent. I especially liked the Ox-Eye Daisies and Valerian which had been left to grow naturally around the gravestones.

 

Garden 4 – Sloane Cottage

Always a favourite of mine, Sloane Cottage did not disappoint this year. Such friendly hosts, together with Teddy, Gordon and Dolly – and wonderful planting, as always. The Peonies, Gladioli, Lupins and Clematis were all perfect …

 

Garden 6 – The Mill

This was another first for me – and I was delighted to spend some time chatting with the friendly gardener who tended this peaceful haven. I was particularly drawn to the outstanding Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’, which had entwined itself around an attractive arbour seat.

 

Garden 7 – Hanwell House

Another favourite of mine – by virtue of the owner’s superb Hosta collection. This garden has inspired my own love of Hostas and I have chosen my varieties based on the examples grown here. I am keen to source a Hosta with blue/grey leaves, so was pleased to chat with the owner to discover that I need to find ‘Halcyon’ when I visit the Hosta specialists at Mickfield next week.

 

Garden 8 – The Posting House

This garden is one of my favourites – and I was so pleased to be visiting again. I was lucky to meet some very interesting people including the botanical artist Sandie Hawkins and her husband David – a keen amateur photographer. I was able to take time out for refreshments and watched Sandie work on an amazing drawing of an Iris.

The garden itself was beautiful, with plenty of Alliums for me to enjoy. I also really loved the Raspberry Ripple Rose.

 

Garden 9 – Melford Court Care Home

This garden was all about the magnificent Copper Beech – which was too large to capture with my camera. I would love to know how old it is …

The other highlight was an impressive Ceanothus by a weeping willow.

 

Garden 10 – Greenways

I was so pleased to visit this garden again – as I love the views of the meadows beyond. The extremely friendly owners have not been here long, however, they have created a wonderful garden. I was impressed how quickly it has matured and it is clear how much care and attention has been paid here. I also enjoyed meeting Lexi, the gorgeous Cream Retriever, who was very laid back about people coming into her garden !

 

Garden 11 – Mia Casa 

Next door to Greenways, with the same enviable view of the meadows, Case Mia is a lovely garden – with the bonus of a bird singing beautiful songs during my visit …

 

Garden 13 – 8, St Catherine’s Road

A beautiful white rose was the highlight of this garden …

 

Other Beautiful Flowers & Views of the Village

Long Melford is truly a wonderful village – and there was no shortage of beautiful views to photograph. Melford Hall, the Old School and some lovely front gardens near to Holy Trinity Church were all there to add to my enjoyment of the day. A truly splendid rose in Prospect Terrace was also a highlight – and Brook House, with its brick & timber facade and rambling white rose was a sight that made me catch my breath.

I always find it difficult to decide on my favourite garden of the day, however, I feel that I should choose my top 3 gardens in recognition of the high standard of creativity & hard work displayed by the garden owners this year. Many apologies to those gardens I didn’t have time to visit …

I am pleased to announce that my favourites were as follows -:

1 – Sloane Cottage

2 – Holy Trinity Church & Almshouses

3 – Joint honours for Greenways, Hanwell House & The Posting House.

Every garden was wonderful to visit and I would like to thank all the owners for letting me take my photographs.

The only thing that remains is to say that I will be back next year for yet another perfect day !