East Bergholt Place – Place for Plants

I was fortunate to spend a very peaceful March day visiting the gardens at East Bergholt Place (The Place for Plants).  It is my nearest showcase garden – together with its lovely plant nursery – so it is always a pleasure to visit.

I was hoping to get images of some later varieties of Snowdrop – and felt eager to discover what else was on show. The weather was fine, with a gentle sun – and the air was still. All perfect for some serious photography …

I wasn’t sure where to start and so decided to complete a quick circuit around the main paths to plan my Photoshoot. Surprisingly, my friend Lisa and I were the only people in the garden. We both went our individual ways, so it was therefore very easy for me to feel at one with my surroundings and the wildlife of the garden. There was a soothing soundtrack of bird song, interspersed with the occasional cries of local buzzards soaring on thermals and the cackling laughs of Green Woodpeckers. I was amazed to hear Tawny Owls calling to each other too – all the birds seemed to sense that Spring had arrived and that there was much to organise …

Grey squirrels scampered in the trees above my head, whilst the first plant that I decided to photograph – a marvellous Rhododendron arboreum in pink – was the feeding station for hundreds of softly-humming bees, gratefully collecting pollen from its voluptuous goblet-like blooms. It was the only rhododendron flowering in the garden, so it was easy to see why they had ‘made a bee-line’ towards it !!

 

 

The fact that I was too early for the magnolia and rhododendrons in general made my Photoshoot easier – as I could concentrate on a few star species. Daffodils, late-flowering snowdrops, snowflakes, hellebores and a few specimen shrubs caught my eye – with lots more spring interest only a bud-bursting breath away.

The snowdrops in the open were thick-leaved with large bulbous blooms. There were larger drifts of different varieties in the more wooded areas, nestling up to the trunks of trees.  I know that garden owner Rupert Eley is a galanthophile, so no doubt he will be able to put a name to all of these ..?

 

 

Here and there were dotted tiny yellow ‘sunbeams’ …

 

 

There were several different types of daffodil – and the shafts of gentle sunlight encouraged me to see more in them than I have done in previous years. The weather seems to have been perfect for an amazing show of blooms this year – and these are just a few of my favourite images.

 

 

The following Narcissus bulbocodium were almost hidden away between shrubs near the top of the garden. They have the charming common name of ‘hoop petticoat daffodil’ and chive-like leaves. I’m sure that I have never noticed these before – as their delicate nodding heads and pale lemony-cream petals seemed so dainty and almost translucent in the soft sunlight.

 

 

Back on the wet meadowy-slopes of the fritillary area, I  found Snowflakes dotted around holding sway whilst the fritillaries were preparing themselves for their starring role. These beautiful plants actually made better photographic subjects than the snowdrops, as they had a poise and character about them that made for some stunning shots.

 

 

The ground was extremely boggy and I could actually hear the water trickling and gurgling down the slope. No wonder the fritillaries love it there so much. I cannot wait for their return.

A few stunning shrubs caught my eye …

 

 

…and even the different shades of green were bewitching.

 

 

There were also many beautiful hellebores  – some of which I believe Rupert is trialling – with numbers instead of names. This year has seen my awakening for these gorgeous long-blooming plants and I found a stunning white and some lovely dusky pink/purple doubles.

 

 

My last stop was to admire a budding magnolia – Magnolia ‘Sundew’ – with its gorgeous magenta-pink petals preparing to emerge …

 

 

Time flew by as is normal when I’m photographing gardens and I spent an entire day thoroughly enjoying myself. I know that I will be returning within the next two weeks to marvel at the magnolias & rhododendrons. The garden feels so full of promise ..

 

 

‘Snowdrop Heaven’ at Beth Chatto Gardens.

Just as the onset of Spring has been heralded by a magnificent show of snowdrops, hellebores and early narcissi; my flower photography has been re-awakened by the marvellous opportunity to take photographs at the internationally-renowned Beth Chatto’s Garden in Elmstead Market near Colchester.

I am thrilled to have secured a volunteer position there, which means that I can provide them with images of the gardens for their website, at the same time as enjoying all the wonderful plants on show throughout the seasons …

I have long been an admirer of Beth’s famous dry gravel garden, which survives beautifully without need for artificial irrigation. The beautiful palette of colours and the clever use of textures and plant heights have inspired many a purchase for my own modest garden. I love the gravel base, as it sets the plants off perfectly and does away with the need for border edging. Everything flows from one section to the next; beautifully.

Even in these early months, there is something very appealing about the area ..

 

 

As for the main garden, I am excited at the prospect of being able to get to know it better, as I have only visited once before, on a photography workshop in late Autumn 2015. I have no real idea of what gems I will encounter as the year progresses – but I am certain that the effect will be breathtaking…

I made my first visit last Friday, on what at first appeared to be the dullest day of the half-term holiday week. The garden was quiet and fairly calm with no sun, although there was sufficient brightness to give a good soft light for my photography.

 

 

My first impression was that of a garden reawakening from its winter rest – with clumps of pure white snowdrops dominating my first views of the upper area around the water garden. Their petals bobbed and swayed gently in the slight breeze like a mass of dancing ladies in their delicate party dresses.

 

 

I had been told that the best part of the garden this month was the woodland area,  so I made my way excitedly through the rest of the garden to reach it …I was not to be disappointed. Carpets of snowdrops of all shapes and sizes spread amongst the trees with patches of winter aconites bringing flashes of sunshine. A few early daffodils added to that effect and contrasted beautifully with the white. As I looked closer, I could see the dusky pinks and creamy yellows of a few hellebores starting to bloom, with their fat drooping buds full of promise for my next visit.

 

 

 

 

This was to be where I would spend the majority of my day. There were so many wonderful views and individual plants to capture. Every step revealed new possibilities for me and I had to be methodical in order to avoid forgetting what my next shot was going to be.  It was peaceful and calming being down there, with the woodland stream burbling and the cosseting feel of the tall tree trunks surrounding me. Occasionally, a pair of visitors would arrive, marvel at the snowdrops and point out a particular one that they liked best. It was always agreed that none of us realised how many different types of snowdrop existed …

 

 

 

 

After taking some general views, I got down low to capture some individual clumps or pairs of flower heads. I had to be patient with their gentle bobbing about (as it makes a greater difference when you are so close up)  – and I was keen to convey as much detail of their delicate petals as possible – always extra tricky with a white flower …

 

 

Snowdrops have a lovely, graceful character and so it was not difficult to spot some charming specimens. Looking at the individual stems close up made me think of tiny lanterns dangling down and I was fascinated by the way their flower heads emerged from the main stem.

Large-petalled varieties with thick leaves, small double blooms, petals with green tips and ones with textures like seersucker fabric – all happily mingled together.

As the morning progressed towards midday, the grey of the sky lifted a little and brought shafts of soft sunlight through the trees – lighting up the snowdrops and adding a magical touch to the woodland. The stream glistened and the yellow of the daffodils & aconites shone even brighter.

 

I was amazed at how much the sight of it all tugged at my emotions. I felt very privileged to be part of that glorious woodland and able to preserve at least some sense of those feelings in my images.

It is most certainly a ‘Snowdrop Heaven’ at Beth Chatto’s – with visitors over the next few weeks being treated to a spectacular array of snowdrops and so much more …