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)

East Bergholt Place Gardens (Place for Plants)

My favourite local garden to visit is that owned by Rupert & Sara Eley, on the outskirts of the pretty village of East Bergholt, just over the border in Suffolk.

East Bergholt Place is a mere 10 minute drive away from where I live; houses a wonderful plant centre ‘The Place for Plants’ and allows RHS members free access everyday but Sunday. This all means that I often pop there for a few hours photography during the week – and always find it to be a most peaceful and rewarding location.

There are many trees and large shrubs, with winding paths along which one can wander freely. Both these things lend a natural setting to the garden, with no starchy formality for the visitor – and this is also reflected in the planting. The latter flows, lives and breathes with the undulating terrain of the Stour Valley, as if it has always been there …
The garden opens between Spring & Autumn – and there is a much to recommend it throughout each season.
Personally, I like to start with a snowdrop visit, complemented by beautiful magnolias & camellias – followed by a slightly later trip to admire the fritillary meadow – and marvel at my favourite rhododendrons. In the late summer, the hydrangeas steal the show in shaded wooded areas and around the ponds, whilst the echinaceas in the upper garden mesmerise both me and the bees.
There are hosts of other wonderful and unusual plants & trees in the 20 acre area of garden – but for now I am going to concentrate on what inspired me during my last 2 Summer visits – :

Part 1 focuses on the Echinacea purpurea and Part 2 on the Eleys’ impressive hydrangea  collection – as each deserved a visit in their own right …

Despite the intense heat of summer, I found the garden shady – and much cooler than at home. It was remarkably easy to lose myself in this plant haven, surrounded by its natural beauty – and totally absorbed in my photography …

 

    Part One –  July 21st 2016.

Echinacea purpurea – The dancing ladies in pink party dresses begin their lives as spiky, crowned buds – which to me are as glorious as their finished ball gowns .

 

As they begin to dress, they pull their petticoats over their heads and stretch their skirts out to each side for a while to unfurl …


before allowing them to fall neatly around their stems …

 

I have included images of 2 other plants that caught my eye during my visit -:

A climbing rose with blooms like cascading blossom with petals of pale pink with a wash of candy-pink.
The other was a single flower spike from a drift of crimson pink Astilbe – whose delicate flowers deserve to be admired at close quarters. The drift itself contrasted well with a stand of variegated iris leaves – both in terms of colour and texture.

 

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

 

Geranium
Geranium

 

Dolly
Dolly

 

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

 

Aquilegia
Aquilegia

 

…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.

 

Foxgloves
Foxgloves.

 

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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