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.


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 …