Boxford Open Gardens – Sunday 4th June 2017

The prospect of another gloriously sunny weekend added to my eager anticipation of visiting Boxford Open Gardens in Suffolk – celebrating its 20th year.

In 2016, on a scorchingly hot day, I had to juggle my time between Boxford’s delights and the beautiful garden at Leaven Hall in Leavenheath – which had its doors open under the National Garden Scheme.
I was therefore looking forward to covering more ground at Boxford this year and definitely managing to visit some of the outlying gardens in Edwardstone & Groton.

Full of determination and excitement, I purchased my programme and made a start opposite St Mary’s Church – at Chequers, a former coaching inn …

Chequers.

My quest of photographing 24 Gardens in 6 hours seemed remotely feasible until I stepped over the threshold into this awe-inspiring garden, which managed to captivate me for well over an hour !

I started in the Walled Garden and was amazed to find that the land behind the house was far ranging. There were many beautiful flowers, arranged in an informal style – the borders flowing harmoniously from one colour to the next.

When I turned around to face the house, I was pleasantly surprised by the most picturesque view of St Mary’s church tower rising up behind the characterful Chequers itself.


I loved the gentle nature of Walled Garden. Nothing grand or showy – just charming … I found the palette of colours – provided by Geraniums, Veronica, Alliums and Euphorbia – to be very pleasing.

There were many individual flowers that caught my eye -:

A path from the Walled Garden led through a vegetable patch to a gate in a crinkle-crankle wall …

Once through, the garden opened up into an area of more greenery – trees, shrubs and a slope down towards a wooden bridge.
This bridge led me across the River Box (which flowed delightfully through the wider expanses of the garden) and took me onto a huge meadow area with trees, a pond and natural planting.

I was enthralled by Chequers, despite now being seriously behind schedule – yet couldn’t think of a better place to lose all track of time …

 

Mary’s House.

This was my first stop along Swan Street – a tiny, but quaint cottage garden. It belonged to a home bequeathed to the church by its owner and was a sun-trap full of colour.

 

Hendrick House.

The sun was at its hottest whilst I was visiting this beautiful garden, presenting me with some tricky conditions for my photography. It was a fun challenge to work with that in order to produce images which truly represented the beauty of the place.

The garden occupies a large area backing onto the River Box and the garden at Chequers. It has similarly beautiful views of the church.

The following are my favourite photographs, with a special mention going to the impressive delphiniums, whose bold blues & purples were still able to wow me even in the extremely bright sunshine -:

I mustn’t forget my favourite garden sculpture, which I remembered fondly from last year …

 

Number 17 – Swan Street.

This was my favourite garden from last year and it was easy to see why I had been seduced by its beauty. Smaller than the previous garden (which it abutted), this still had the wonderful feel & atmosphere to it that I had loved so much before. The look of the garden was quite different to last year, due to the flowers all blooming earlier. There were, however, most capable & beautiful replacements to step into the limelight. It was tricky to pick out individual areas as favourites because it was the overall planting design and combinations of colours that meant the whole garden worked for me as a delightful place to sit, relax and stare ( and take photographs, of course).

Mention must go, however, to the gorgeous climbing rose, Constance Spry (above & below),  which I had spotted eagerly from the previous garden.

The Iris siberica were coming to an end – yet were still as beautiful as last year.

I especially loved the owner’s new planting arrangement of Poppy, Geranium, Cerinthe and Valerian.

I was also lucky enough to catch a cheeky photo of Hacker the dog …

 

Weavers House.

Next stop was the garden belonging to Maggie Thorpe, from the Suffolk Plant Heritage Society. Always a pleasure to meet and so knowledgeable; Maggie has a gorgeous suntrap of a garden with an abundance of beautiful plants worked perfectly into a small courtyard area,  full of interest and attractive combinations and colours.

My favourites this year (as it looked quite different to last) were the dainty rose, Ballerina, and the exotic Carpenteria Californica – with flowers like Japanese anenomes.

 

Number 55, Swan Street.

This was a new garden of a recently-built property, a little further along Swan Street. Related to the family at Hendrick House, the owner had set out some very attractive landscaping & beds – ready for what will be a beautiful garden of the future. The owner explained that lots of plants had come from her family’s garden, so it is clear that it will be a garden with an excellent choice of species. Starring already were the striking delphiniums and lupins in the rear borders – as well as a lovely rose in the front garden.

 

I look forward to seeing how the garden has matured by 2018 !

 

Crown House, Groton.

My last garden of the day involved a trip out to Groton on the shuttle minibus. Maggie had encouraged me to visit – saying that Crown House was a garden not to be missed – and one to linger in for the remainder of the day. I was also swayed to venture up the hill by a message I had recently received, regarding last year’s Boxford article on my Wildcarrot blog.  A fellow blogger, under the pen name ‘Chloris’, had visited my post and sent her hopes that I would come to visit her garden this year. I had no idea which of the outlying gardens ‘Chloris’ had created, but was keen to see if I could find out. I was delighted to find that I chosen the correct one – and was able to meet ‘Chloris’ in person !

So many delightful plants, unusual varieties and a lovely serene, peaceful feeling about the garden, soon let me know that I had chosen well. There were lots of interesting elements – such as the beach garden – which inspired me and renewed my interest in getting my beach hut & beach area finally underway. It was especially interesting to see the horned poppy – which I will definitely be planting at Marlborough House.

There was also an interesting alpine gravel garden – with an eye-catching Rhodhypoxis baurii …

Here are a few of my other favourites -:

My overriding pleasure from this garden, however, came from the roses. Firstly the 2 tree-climbers: although one, Grace, is not a climber – it has just taken to its location superbly well and adapted to tree-living …

The single/semi-double roses were a joy and it made such a refreshing change to see them featured so prominently.

There were also plenty of beautiful doubles in a myriad shades of pink. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a lovely collection of roses in such a natural, cottage-garden setting – truly wonderful.

I’m so glad I finished my thoroughly enjoyable day here, as there was so much to see & photograph.

I would love to discover the name of every rose I’ve featured and I’m hoping that ‘Chloris’ will let me know in due course, so that I can update my galleries.

 

This is the longest post I’ve completed so far on my blog, which is a testament to the extremely high standard of gardens at this year’s event. It is much too tricky to pick a favourite …

 

Thanks to all the friendly, welcoming owners who were happy for me to spend a long time in each of their gardens, enabling me to get some amazing images. I do hope that you’ve enjoyed seeing your wonderful creations displayed in my post.

See you all – and hopefully a few more in 2018 …

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Nayland Open Gardens – June 2016

Nayland is Boxted’s neighbour, down in the Stour Valley and just across the border into Suffolk.  It is an extremely picturesque village, with listed buildings and quaint cottages whose gardens line the river and mill stream.

The weather threatened rain for my visit, although it was hot and humid. My backpack of camera gear and brolly seemed heavier than normal – however the latter was a great deterrent – as the afternoon thankfully stayed dry. The sky was cloudy but the light was soft rather than dull, which was perfect for taking my photos.

I decided at the outset not to try to visit every garden – as I knew that this would hamper my creativity and concentration – so I took my time enjoying just 6 of the 16 gardens open to visitors. There was one particular garden that I had really enjoyed on a previous visit – so my only plan was to make sure that my walk around the village would take me to it.

I would like to feature 4 gardens from my afternoon – each special yet with very individual styles. These particular gardens gave me inspiration and planting ideas for my own garden, as well as providing an array of beautiful plants and vistas to photograph.

Garden 14 – Loretto, Church Lane

This garden was a revelation to me. It had been created only 3 years ago by its present owners, who have tastefully matched its design to reflect the ‘feel’ of the village and the era of the victorian red-brick house to which it belongs. It has a superior location near to the parish church and is blessed with a wonderful feeling of space surrounding it. There is no other building to overlook it – and this has an extremely calming effect. The owners have created a croquet lawn, a red-brick path which appears to have been laid for many years and a choice of planting that upholds the great tradition of the herbaceous border.

I was amused, when once again ( as had happened in Long Melford) I was asked by the owner to identify the Thalictrum, which was drawing the attention of the many visitors for its soft-pink blooms adding height to accentuate the borders.

 

To reach the next set of gardens, I walked alongside the mill stream, which ran along the front of the picturesque cottages of Fen Street. I had forgotten just how breathtakingly beautiful this area of the village was – as it is “off the beaten track” – and I had not ventured this way for some time. The houses that line the street are joined to the roadway by quaint bridges across the stream and their gardens are unashamedly ‘cottage’ in character.

 

 

Garden 12 – Lopping House, 28 Fen Street

This garden belonged to a modern property, which was part of an attractive line-up of cottages bordering the village mill stream. I was pleasantly surprised by the choice of plants, which certainly did not represent mainstream conventions. The garden may have been small compared to the others I had visited, however the borders were ‘big on’ appeal to plant-lovers. I was swayed immediately by the presence of a Cephalaria gigantea in full bloom – whereas mine is hardly visible above ground. There was also a gorgeous purple semi-cactus Dahlia in bloom – which seemed very early – and a striking Sambucus nigra with its plate-like rose white blooms and finely dissected leaves.

 

Garden 10 – Longwood Barn, 38 Fen Street

This garden was my 2016 favourite, because it seemed to have a ‘Secret Garden’ feel to it. The walled garden bordered the mill stream and the owner had opened the gate to allow visitors a wonderful vista towards the timbered-house and its beautiful garden. The air was filled with the scent of roses and the atmosphere in the garden was one of serenity and beauty in perfect harmony …

 

Garden 8 – 14, Stoke Road

This was the garden which I had planned not to miss. It had been my favourite on my previous Open Gardens visit and I was eager to return.  It was also my last garden of the day and a fitting end to a lovely afternoon.

The garden rises up the side of the Stour Valley to overlook an open field as the land continues to rise – and the views back over Nayland village alone are worth the climb to the top. The garden itself is filled with attractive trees, shrubs and perennials and has been designed perfectly to suit the terrain – which some may have found too daunting to transform. The owners have lived here for 41 years and admitted that they now had help to mow the steep lawn areas …

I loved it as I had done so before – especially the beautifully proportioned suffolk-brick facade – with its canine sentinels. The late-afternoon sun finally broke though as my visit came to an end – lighting up the plants and throwing a warm glow onto the garden as a whole. What a perfect end to a perfect afternoon …

 

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 …

https://leavenhall.com/2016/07/09/618/