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.

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.


Wyken Hall Gardens

 

As my followers will already know, I have a very good friend & neighbour who inspires me to visit new gardens each year. Lisa is rather like my researcher, finding delightful places to visit and photograph – often well away from the ‘madding crowd’.  Wyken Hall, near Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, is just that sort of place – an Elizabethan manor house surrounded by woods, fields and quiet lanes …

The estate is situated on land that has been occupied since Roman times and today is home to the Leaping Hare Vineyard, restaurant and country store – yet everything is tastefully low-key, resulting in a distinct atmosphere of ‘country life’ at its most peaceful. The house and garden are privately owned by the Carlisle family – Kenneth Carlisle being a descendant of the Mclarens of Bodnant Gardens in Wales. It is Kenneth and his wife Carla who have created the beautiful gardens here at Wyken Hall.

The Manor House is in itself an impressive sight, with its glorious chimneys, gables and woodwork bleached to a pale ashen. It originates from the 16th Century, appearing deceptively compact from the entrance – with its full extent only apparent from the rear.  Further wings were added in the following century, with a major face-lift in the 1920’s. A fascinating aspect for me was the copper red lime wash covering the exterior walls. Apparently, this is the original version of the ‘Suffolk Pink’ we know today – or at least how it was in Elizabethan times. Hardly pink at all !

 

The front of the house pays homage to Carla’s homeland – she was born in Mississippi;  and the blue rocking chairs amongst the espaliers of apples serve to create an english version of a southern state verandah.

My initial impression of the garden here was that it was wonderfully understated. The strong structural elements of flint walls, pergolas, hedging, fountains and paving did all the major work, leaving the planting to be romantic & relaxed, simple & pleasingly natural. The rose garden was beautifully fragrant and there was no hint of trying to fill the available space with variety after variety. Just a few choice plants grouped together to form a pleasing colour range – from delicate pinks to vibrant magenta. My favourite close-up shots of the day were those deep pink roses and the delicate lilac Wisteria flowers.

The main things I loved about the garden were the vistas – from one ‘garden room’ to the next – made possible by the classic structural elements. I really enjoy the lure of ‘the view beyond’ – it somehow conjures up a magical journey through the gardens; eliciting excitement and promising wonder …

Fruit played a prominent role with old apple trees, ripening pears and grapes – the latter being most apt for a house with its own vineyard. I especially enjoyed seeing the chickens roaming free in the orchard area – one of my personal dreams …

The Hot Border was also of great interest to me, as I have my own version in my front garden at Marlborough House. Vibrant, without being showy – Heleniums, Helianthus, Coreopsis and Achilleas blended together with scarlet Dahlias, Trumpet and stunning Mina Lobata Vines. Very inspiring …

The views and details continued to arrest my attention – yet the resulting effect was one of calm.

I have saved my favourite view and image of the day until last. The twin gates enclosing the lime tree avenue planted to commemorate Kenneth Carlisle’s father presented themselves to me as one of those perfect vistas – one I knew instantly would not be surpassed by any other from my visit.

Otley Hall – 29/6/16

Otley Hall is an enchanting 16th Century timbered hall in Suffolk, surrounded by beautiful gardens. It is unmistakably Tudor and supposedly the oldest house in Suffolk to have remained largely unaltered by the passing of time and fashions.

There is something magical and mysterious about the place, which is difficult to explain. It is a certain feeling that I get when I visit – rather like entering a secret garden that only a few people know is there.

This may be because it’s only open in the summer months – and only on a Wednesday for a few hours ? Or perhaps because it is still a private home with a completely separate identity when visitors are not around  ? It may also be because it is located in a ‘sleepy’, unspoilt area of Suffolk which many pass by on their way to somewhere more famous, such as Helmingham Hall ? Or it may be because the planting has a relaxed informal feel about it – with areas given over to wildflowers, orchards, and a soothing labyrinth. I always feel that I can lose myself there, totally absorbed in my photography, as if it were just me and the flowers and no one else …

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On this particular visit, I was too late to see the mass of Ox-Eye Daisies and Columbines – which are a speciality of early Summer in the garden. In their place were many other species that I had not been able to photograph before – such is the beauty of Nature – always being able to produce something beautiful to please us. I was lucky enough though to spot a small patch of the daisies amongst the trees …

 

 

I started my day in the knot garden, which was looking delightful – with old-fashioned pinks, lavender, corncockles and roses.

 

 

From there, I was attracted towards a shady walkway where I had spotted one of my favourite flowers – Astrantia major. There are so many different versions of this flower ranging from white, through rose, to deep claret. The original white, with its pink-tinged stamens always remains my favourite. ‘Hattie’s Pincushion’ is a wonderful common name for this flower, as it describes the bloom so much better than its old-fashioned name of Masterwort. It also has the most artistic way of flowering, with each main flower-head surrounded by radiating blooms at a slightly lower level – rather like a princess attended by her ladies-in-waiting. My aim is to get a perfect image of this effect, with exactly the right focus on all the beautiful elements. Whatever the outcome, I certainly have immense fun trying …

 

The herbaceous borders closest to the house are set out around a square area of lawn – with 3 sides in the sun and the 4th a shade border. Although it would seem like a suitable template for a more formal area of the garden, the planting has a cottage garden feel to it, with a definite romantic nature. It is a prime example of a great deal of hard work being undertaken to give the impression of a nonchalant planting scheme. This results -in my opinion- in an enchanting area of the garden ( and my personal favourite ) with the wonderful timbered hall as its backdrop.

 

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wc-3Unfortunately, the wind was quite fresh on this particular visit and so flowers like the gorgeous Cephalaria gigantea were swaying in the breeze. Not good for photography – although beautiful to watch – with a multitude of different bees feeding greedily on its creamy-yellow blooms.

 

There were plenty of other exciting flowers to photograph, whose blooms were closer to the ground – so I spent the rest of my visit happily working my way around the borders – watched only by one of the resident peacocks, who was resting in the rose garden closest to the house.

 

 

wc-1 I would like to end my piece by giving a mention to the Head Gardener, Simon Nickson. I have been lucky enough to speak to him on each of my visits to the garden, finding him to be very approachable and friendly. He has always been happy to chat about the garden and help with identification of particular plants. It was great to be able to thank him for the root of Epilobium angustifolium ‘Stahl Rose’ (a garden version of the Rosebay Willowherb) which he had saved for me last Autumn. I had admired it the previous summer – and it is now blooming beautifully in my pond border. I feel proud to have a small part of the wonderful gardens of Otley Hall in my own modest patch.

I believe that the romantic beauty of the garden here owes a great deal to his hard work and vision, which in turn creates the magical, mystical atmosphere that I love so much …

 

 

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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