Bury St Edmunds Hidden Gardens – 19/6/16

After a successful visit to Lavenham’s Hidden Gardens last summer, I decided that it would be good fun to spend a day in Bury St Edmunds – to explore the hidden gardens of its historic town centre.

The event first started in 1987 and has been raising money for the local St Nicholas Hospice ever since.

It was a very hot and humid day with a mixture of sun and cloud – combined with a reasonable amount of walking around to see all the gardens. I managed to visit two-thirds of the gardens on show – and the following galleries highlight either favourite gardens or favourite plants that I discovered along the way …

Garden 1 – Chantry House.

This was actually the last garden that I visited and was right in the heart of the old town. Luckily by late afternoon it was cool, peaceful with few remaining visitors.


Garden 4 – 59 Southgate Street.

There was a long walk in the hot sun to get to this out-lying garden. The advantage was that it was much quieter than the central ones and there was some welcome cooling shade. It was very attractive with lots of cottage garden plants – including aconitums and geraniums.


Garden 5 – 6 Southgate Green.

This garden particularly appealed to me because of its mix of wild flowers with the more traditional garden species. It had beautiful herbaceous borders with wonderful colour combinations and areas of wild grasses with ox-eye daisies. There were lots of happy bees and other insects busily feeding – and many people ( including me !) feasting on Gabrielle’s wonderful home-made cakes …


Garden 6 – 32 Maynewater Lane.

A beautiful clematis with huge purple flowers caught my eye in this garden …


Garden 11 – 6 College Lane.

This garden had once been the exercise yards of the old workhouse and had the feel of a serene and peaceful cloister. There was plenty of room for sunny and shaded areas – and I was delighted to see numerous thriving  Astrantias – one of my most favourite plants.


Garden 12 – The Guildhall Feoffment Trust, College Square.

This garden was a real revelation to me, as I was expecting it to adhere to a certain formula – of bedding plants and conventional planting. I was pleasantly surprised at how imaginative the choice of plants was – and this ended up being one of my top gardens of the day …

There were wonderful beds of scented roses in blocks of colour for maximum impact, beautiful aquilegias with long graceful spurs, dahlias and Honey Garlic ( Nectaroscordum siculum) Anyone growing the latter two plants is always going to get ‘brownie points’ from me ! I imagine the residents really love and appreciate such a beautiful garden …


Garden 13 – Greyfriars

This was another beautiful walled garden with more interesting plantings – such as a majestic goat’s beard (Aruncus dioicus) and the most impressive and beautiful peony that I had ever seen.


Garden 18 – Turret Close

My final gallery today is from this massive garden filled with many different sections and types of plant. It was beautifully designed and cared for – and understandably appeared to be attracting ‘Top Garden of the Day’ votes from many of my fellow visitors. I prefer the more humble and understated – and this was reflected in the plants that I chose to capture from this garden …


I had a thoroughly enjoyable, albeit tiring day, exploring the gardens normally hidden from public view. The garden owners and visitors were all extremely friendly and there was a lovely atmosphere around the town.

I was glad though to have worked out a route that kept me away from the crowds that were swarming like bees around this beautiful collection of gardens, as I prefer to do my photography in a more peaceful setting, where I can truly capture the essence and atmosphere of the garden -without getting in anyone’s way.

My special awards for the day have been chosen with that atmosphere in mind – and are as follows :-

Runner up – Garden 4  Peaceful and cottagey.

Bronze Medal – Garden 12  Imaginative, perfumed and restful.

Silver Medal – Garden 11  Serene and secluded.

Gold Medal – Garden 5  Full of colour and wildlife with a wonderful feel of the countryside within the town.

A truly wonderful day in Bury St Edmunds – where the Hidden Gardens revealed Hidden Treasures …
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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 …

WC - Leaven Hall-20


WC - Leaven Hall-21


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 …

WC - Leaven Hall-27

An idyllic place to stay …


Boxford Open Gardens – 5/6/2016

A beautifully sunny and extremely hot Sunday set the scene for a day of total indulgence for me – Boxford Village Open Gardens followed by a visit to the nearby Leaven Hall in Leavenheath.

The prospect of visiting the gardens of Boxford filled me with excitement and enthusiasm, although I knew that I would be restricted in the number of gardens that I could fit in to my limited time frame. I therefore decided to choose those closest to the centre of this picturesque Suffolk village …

There was a vast array of wonderful gardens to choose from – I only managed to visit 5 out of the 21 shown in the leaflet !  I took my time in each one, especially my 3 favourites, so that I could really concentrate on getting some special images – rather than rushing around madly with the photography suffering as a result.

The weather, albeit gorgeous, was not presenting the best lighting conditions for close-up flower photography, so it was necessary to choose plants in dappled sunlight or shade wherever possible. It was also scorchingly hot and I therefore moved slowly and tried to keep in the shade as much as I could.

Here is my gallery of images from each of my Top 3 Gardens …


Garden 17 – Swan Street

My choice for  ‘garden of the day’ – with lots of my favourite plants in – including the wonderful Nectaroscordum siculum. The bright sunlight meant that I could not really do the beauty of this garden justice. Luckily, the owner had a shady area near to his house, where he kept his wonderful collection of container-grown Hosta …


Weavers House, Swan Street

The second fascinating garden that I visited was that of a truly dedicated plantswoman, named Maggie Thorpe, who is president of the Suffolk Plant Heritage group. Her garden was full of unusual varieties and she was happily explaining about them all to her many visitors. The garden was a wonderful sun trap with little space for me to set up my tripod – so unfortunately I only have photos of the one flower that really caught my eye… It was a beautiful lemon-yellow Aquilegia longifolia – with its graceful spurs lending it an angelic quality.



Causeway House

My final featured garden was the last one I visited that morning. It was leafy, cool and peaceful with a stream running along one side. The planting here was different to the other two, with many shade-loving species. It was easier to photograph here with the light filtered and softened by the trees.

Despite not normally being a great fan of shade-loving plants, I was quite taken by the Brunnera, with its flowers so like Forget-me-nots, that I originally believed that the latter were growing through the perennial forming a perfect partnership with the cream and green leaves.

The other plant combinations that caught my eye were the bold and spiky Allium cristophii surrounded by the frothy yellow and lime-green flowers and soft olive leaves of Alchemilla mollis – and a beautiful soft pink peony set off against the dark-purple leaves of a Sambucus nigra or ornamental Elder.

Sad to be leaving Boxford with so many wonderful gardens unexplored, I nevertheless decided that I had done remarkably well in choosing such a superb small selection of plant havens. I certainly hope that my images convey the beauty that I found there.

Next year I will be a guaranteed visitor to Boxford Village on Open Garden Day 2017, with the mission to explore all of the gardens and take many more images ..!

Long Melford Open Gardens – 30/5/16

With RHS Chelsea under our belts, our enthusiasm for ‘all things horticultural’ awakened and our gardens burgeoning with the wonderful colours of Late Spring – what better way for me to start my new blog than with a pictorial account of my first Open Gardens Photoshoot of 2016  ..?!

Long Melford is one of Suffolk’s most picturesque villages, with its long main street of listed buildings and cosy cottages, rising uphill to give visitors a splendid vista of Holy Trinity Church beyond an impressive village green. With the National Trust’s Melford Hall to their right and its near neighbour Kentwell Hall ( both Tudor mansions) just beyond the church – the village is a Mecca for visitors wishing to immerse themselves in the grandeur and beauty of this former wool village.

The weather was disappointing for visitors, after a reasonable preceding fortnight of sun and light breezes – however, the cloudy skies presented me with the perfect conditions for my flower photography; despite a keen wind at times.

This was my first visit to Long Melford’s Open Gardens and I was extremely excited. There were 18 gardens on show (although one was the village cricket pitch !) and I managed to visit 17 of them.

I found all the garden owners to be very friendly, welcoming, helpful and immensely dedicated to their own special ‘patch’. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting each and every garden, although I did have my special favourites. I will reveal these at the end – in case anyone reading is tempted to visit next year, or if fellow visitors wish to compare notes against their No. 1 choice ?

I must say, however, that there was certainly a garden to suit everyone’s taste – from the modest to the grand – and enough inspirational flowers and planting designs to compete with the best of Chelsea…!

I didn’t visit the gardens in numerical order, however, I think it is easiest to list them that way. If I don’t have a photo for a particular garden – it is not because I wasn’t impressed – sometimes photos don’t turn out quite how you expect them to …

Garden 1 – Doghouse Cottage

A long walk was worth the effort – although the wind had started to blow with force by late afternoon. The Wisteria sinensis was looking glorious …

Wisteria sinensis
Wisteria sinensis


Garden 2 – Holy Trinity Church


Blue Cornflower
Blue Cornflower


Garden 3 – Fern House


Small but perfectly formed ...
Small but perfectly formed …


Garden 4 – Sloane Cottage


Terracotta Glory
Terracotta Glory






Garden 5 – Melford Hall


Crimson Lupins
Crimson Lupins


Garden 6 – Brook House

A wonderful display of Iris sibirica in the garden of this handsome ‘Hall House’ originating from the Elizabethan era.

Iris sibirica
Iris sibirica


Iris sibirica
Iris sibirica


Iris sibirica
Iris sibirica


Gate to Hall Hall Street
Gate to Hall Street


Periscaria bistorta 'Superba'
Persicaria bistorta ‘Superba’


Garden 7 – Number 10, Spring Gardens

Silly Moo !
Silly Moo !


Garden 8 – Number 2, Hanwell House, Spring Gardens

One of the many glorious Hosta on display in this wonderful walled garden.
One of the many glorious Hosta on display in this wonderful walled garden.


Garden 9 – Sun House

Shades of Purple
Shades of Purple


Gladioli byzantinus
Gladioli byzantinus


Yellow bearded Iris
Yellow bearded Iris




…and the ‘Piece de resistance’ …

Nectaroscordum siculum- Sicilian Honey Garlic
Nectaroscordum siculum- Sicilian Honey Garlic


Garden 10 – Eldon Cottage

A pretty cottage garden dedicated to Wildflowers and Wildlife …

Garden 10 - Eldon Cottage
Sweet Rocket – Hesperis matronalis ‘White’.


Garden 11 – The Posting House

An amazing garden – long & luscious, with many different plant habitats. A wonderful plant stall packed to the brim with gorgeous plants propagated from the lovely species on view.


This pale lemon Aquilegia caught my eye …

WC - LM-2


Garden 14 – Mia Casa

A smaller garden with the most amazing view of meadows, with willows and grazing cows. The foxgloves suited it perfectly …

Garden 14 - Mia Casa
View over meadows.




Garden 15 – Bishops Rock

Although this was a more modern property, the garden evoked a sense of a bygone era – with its splendid herbaceous border and its cottage garden plants. I found my favourite Aquilegia of the day; along with Lupins, Alliums and an exquisitively-perfumed White Lilac …

My favourite Aquilegia
My favourite Aquilegia.


Lupin 'Manhattan Lights'
Lupin ‘Manhattan Lights’.


Allium trio
Allium trio.


WC - LM-13
Herbaceous Border Glory.


A wonderful colour combination of purple Aquilegia and Alchemilla Mollis
A wonderful colour combination of purple Aquilegia amongst Alchemilla mollis.


Garden 17 – St Mary’s Hall

Cottage planting and gravel path - a perfect combination ...
Cottage garden planting and gravel path – a perfect combination.


So here’s to a successful and thoroughly enjoyable day spent in a quintessential English village – I really hope you like my pictorial journey. Now for my own special awards …

My particular favourites evoked a sense of romanticism in me – either because they were filled with my favourite types of flowers, or because they stretched my imagination to envisage what could be possible in my own very modest garden.

Just out of the medals; my 4th place award goes to Sloane Cottage.

In Bronze Medal place is the garden at The Posting House.

My Silver Medal Award goes to Bishops Rock.

Gold for 2016 is Sun House – Just Awesome.

It was a truly special day filled with beautiful plants and the friendliest people you could hope to meet on a Bank Holiday Monday in Suffolk …

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