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 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)

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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Helmingham Hall Gardens – August 2016

Helmingham Hall is only a stone’s throw away from Otley Hall in Suffolk, yet somehow I had never thought of visiting to take flower images – until this summer.  I ‘discovered’ the beautiful walled garden whilst at the hall for the Suffolk Dog Day in July – was bowled over by its romantic beauty – and made a plan to return as soon as possible …

My first Photoshoot was at the beginning of August and I was filled with a restless excitement to capture as much as possible. I was visiting with a couple of fellow photographers – who were put off by the breezy conditions – so I struck off on my own to concentrate fully on the task in hand.  The weather was brooding and gave a fantastic atmosphere to the views of the hall and its grounds -:

The hall itself cannot be under-estimated. It has all my favourite elements – red brick, masses of handsome chimneys, elegant proportions and a moat with romantic drawbridges. So pleasingly photogenic …

 

I took a few shots of the formal knot garden before making my way to the walled garden -: