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 …

Oh my Gourd ..!

It was time for the Autumn Plant Fair at Helmingham Hall in Suffolk this weekend – so I gathered up my photography gear and made my way there with great anticipation of looking around the stalls plus visiting the glorious walled garden …

I have never visited at this time of year before and it was was wonderful to see how the herbaceous borders had progressed since my visit early last month. The borders were still full of colour, yet had the added interest of seed heads and the muted yellow tones typical of late-summer.

Many visitors came and went whilst I passed a delightful afternoon wandering around the garden. By far the most talked-about feature was the tunnel of ornamental squashes, or gourds – which were providing an amazing display of colours and shapes to delight young and old alike …

The plants had been trained up and over a wrought iron arched tunnel that stretched for some 30 foot, with many hanging from its roof  like multi-coloured lanterns. As it was so popular, I was only able to take some quick hand-held shots as I moved through the tunnel – and so I decided to station myself at strategic points along the outside. I was able to get some close-up shots of as many different fruits as possible, without getting in anybody’s way.

Some were smooth and egg-shaped, others looked almost alien with their weird ridges and projections. There were cute, skittle-shaped fruits in green and yellow – that many people commented would look suitable for hanging on their Christmas trees. Gnarly orange fruits with warts and bumps drew mixed reactions – although no one could deny that they were fascinating …

I lapped up my slow progress along the full length of the gourds, enjoying listening and chatting to all the excited people who walked through this curiously strange and ‘whimsical’ tunnel. I’ve been inspired to construct a wigwam with my hazel branches next year to produce a more modest version of this amazing feature. I believe lots of people left Helmingham Hall with similar ideas !

It certainly ‘made’ my afternoon – I hope that you enjoy my images …