Day 1 Saturday 30 June 2018:
Ellicar Gardens, Nottinghamshire:
Ellicar Gardens is a young, vibrant family garden set in 5 acres. Owners Will and Sarah Murch have set about creating a naturalistic garden that is rich and diverse in wildlife and plants.
With sweeping borders and flower gardens spilling into wildflower meadows, within a framework of young specimen trees and shrubs, the garden is as beautiful in winter as in the height of summer.
Borders overflow with colour, dance with butterflies and hum bees. The garden is a haven for birds and alive with birdsong.
At the heart of the garden is the beautiful Natural Swimming Pool – a sky mirror, watery retreat and magnet for wildlife.
‘Beautiful pond area with a mass of waterlilies. Loved the large archways with Clematis Etoile Violette’, Denise.
‘The pond area was amazing – especially the pink and white water lilies ; impressed with water boatman’.
‘I loved the idea of the swimming pond. Chatting to the man, he said they only cost £80,000 to install’, Wendy.
‘The hedges were full of birds and the borders full of butterflies and pollinating beetles.I’d have liked to try the natural swimming pool / pond. Enticing water and impressive water lilies’
‘The talk on the four favourite garden implements – some captured on video was a really useful piece of gardening advice / guidance’.
‘The naturalist style was really impressive, the combining of all the wild, trees, flowers, with the more formal flowers’.
‘Beautiful pond area and waterlilies; arranging the large metal arches added a formal touch to a lovely garden. Very good coffee and cakes.’
‘Loved the livestock; particularly the chicks’.
‘Goats, pigs, horses, geese, bantams and dozens of tiny chicks, scurrying about. Wonderful garden and home for children and wildlife. Could move in’.
‘If only Sue had told us to pack our swimsuits! Best ornamental pond and combined swimming pool I’ve ever seen, and with waterlilies’.
21 Chapel St, Haconby (NGS), Lincolnshire:
Cottage garden behind 300year old cottage planted to provide colour throughout the year. In spring there are snowdrops, primroses, hellebores and many different spring flowering bulbs. Through the year, colour is provided by bulbs and herbaceous plants and in autumn there are asters, dahlias, salvias and many of the autumn flowering yellow daises.
‘A treat of a traditional cottage garden with amazing plants – Aeoniums, Geranium ‘Summer Skies’, Clematis in profusion, Erigeron, a bit of everything and all the better for it’.
‘Beautiful cottage garden, so many plants. Dainty clematis and many succulents’.
‘Huge number of species kept in this much loved garden. Very brave owner. lots of small exquisite groupings of ‘to die for’ plants and a Galanthus keeping bed / collection’.
‘They had a whole patch in the veggie garden full of snowdrops in pots buried in the ground. It is covered by netting to stop the birds pulling out the labels. Had lots of different succulents in pots’.
‘Wonderful clumps of mature ferns, some many choice plants!’
‘Delightful true cottage garden. Wonderful collection of clematis (old varieties); loved the harebells / Tulbaghia / Erigeron and large clump of Eryngium in full flower. Picture window in tearoom – lovely. Spoilt by shortness of visit’.
‘Amazing collection of plants in a comparatively small garden. Needed more time to appreciate properly’.
‘Loved the clematis and mauve Convolvulus mauritanicus’, Denise.
‘Wonderful garden. So many pockets of superb planting. Going back in September’.
‘Lovely stems of Dierama growing out of the gravel. Veg patch full of all sorts of interest. Some beautiful clematis’.
‘Beautiful garden, lots of unusual plants – obviously a lot of love has gone into this garden. Came many years ago to see the owner’s snowdrop collection – he was a lovely man full of fun!’
‘Super garden, from the large Lobelia tupa to the tiny Anomatheca. A joy’.
‘A dream of a garden with so many drought resistant plants. Could have spent much longer enjoying them. Pity no plants for sale’.
‘Lovely village garden and with many interesting plants. Loved the Hosta ‘Dark Star”.
West Acre, King’s Lynn:
Specialist Plant Nursery and display gardens set in unusual D-shaped walled garden of an old Norfolk manor house, now owned by the sculptor Antony Gormley. This nursery is a treasure trove for plant lovers and the extensive display gardens have year round interest and beauty.
‘Plants very good and reasonably priced. Teas and cakes excellent. Well stocked garden with interesting selection’.
Very helpful nursery staff, no question too much trouble for them to find you the answer’.
‘Fabulous nursery, unusual plants, reasonably priced, Pity not nearer home. All staff very obliging with plants and refreshments. Lovely garden, cakes and plants, good choice’.
‘Fantastic choice of many (unusual) plants – but not enough time to see them all!’
Great choice of plants at very good prices. We could have easily spent more time here. Excellent tea and cakes!’
‘I’ve been looking forward to this nursery and I haven’t been disappointed!’
‘Superb tea room and cakes, and especially good plant nursery. Recommended’.
‘Gorgeous plants, could have spent a fortune!’
‘A great nursery, tea room a delight, very enjoyable’.
‘Wonderful tea and plants. Garden not so exciting. Cheap and interesting nursery; great foxgloves, hardy geraniums etc.’.
Day 2 Sunday 1 July 2018:
Chestnut Farm (NGS), Holt:
Mature three acre garden with a lifetimes collection of plants, including many unusual ones. In Spring over 90 different varieties of Snowdrops, and large drifts of crocus, together with seasonal flowering shrubs and bulbs. Later the colourful borders come into their own, including Cornus capitata and kousa and many other flowering trees and shrubs. Creating a new woodland garden for 2018.
‘Such an absolute pleasure; wonderful people – so welcoming’. Ruth C
Peaceful garden. Welcoming and very knowledgeable owners. Have a whole list of shade plants I didn’t know and roses’.
‘Wonderful woodland, unusual trees and shrubs. Rambling roses up huge trees. Also herbaceous plants in the cottage style. Delightful areas with more formal hedging around scented plants. Beautiful setting’.
‘Incredible owner John took the camera / video person all round the garden and gave superb descriptions of his ‘choice plants’ – so knowledgeable and enthusiastic’.
‘Loved the flowering Cornus kousa. Interesting to see them flourishing in shade. Impressed with the summerhouse garden; full of colour. Denise’.
‘Saw and smelt what my Daphne ‘Eternal Fragrance’ should be like. Took some tips from the owner’.
‘Superb collection of shrubs and trees, some not often seen. Lovely refreshments’.
‘Plantsman’s garden with flowering and fruiting trees. Thought I’d never see Davidia fruiting. Wonderful Calycanthus’.
”Lovely garden and plants’.
‘I saw three (not ships) but Tulips – on a TREE!!!’
‘Fantastic Aanemone rivularis – cool white blue backed buttercup, spires of Verbascum chaixii (and album) everywhere, good trees, the biggest Spotty Dotty I have ever seen and elegant Arisaema triphyllum (last seen in the foothills of the Himalayas)’.
East Ruston Old Vicarage:
When the present owners first came to the Old Vicarage there was no garden whatsoever, it was a blank canvas. This was no bad thing because it afforded them the opportunity to vent their creativity. They have developed a 32 acre iconic garden. Each separate garden was designed entirely by them as were the various buildings and this was all done without outside help.
Throughout the garden you will see many rare and unusual plants growing. The owners endeavour to propagate these in small numbers so that they may be purchased from the plant sales area. Many of these are difficult or slow to increase, hence their rarity, so if you see a plant growing in the garden that you would like do ask, as there may be some tucked away for you to purchase as a souvenir.
The garden lies 1½ miles from the North Sea in an exposed prairie landscape containing large arable fields. Many of the wildlife habitats for birds and mammals had long been swept away. The owners have endeavoured throughout the garden to replace some of these by the planting of mixed hedgerows, banks, wildflower areas and ponds.
The soil here is of excellent quality being a light sandy loam with a neutral pH. Due to the maritime influence the garden suffers less in the way of serious frost damage and they have planted large shelter belts of Pinus radiata, the Monterey Pine, Alnus cordata, the Italian Alder, Holm Oak and Eucalyptus. This enhances the garden’s unique microclimate which enables them to grow such a huge range of plants.
‘Amazing gardens, thoroughly enjoyed the water garden and walled garden’.
‘Wonderful! Every plant possible is there. Loved the long vistas framing a distant church, a lighthouse or simply a view’.
‘Wow! Wow! Wow!!!’
‘Incredible variety of unusual plants some of which would be too tender to grow elsewhere such as Acacia baileyana and Echiums…. Fabulous’.
‘Lovely to see the many roses, clematis and especially delphiniums. Every different area covered with unusual well co-ordinated planting especially the fantastic pots of annuals and half hardy perennials. Loved the architecture of the fruit cage! ‘
‘Amazing garden, so meticulously planned; something to enjoy round every corner and many plants to puzzle over too. So much floral colour’.
‘So amazing! You could visit every week and see something new. Wows around every corner’.
‘Wonderful garden – loved the Jubilee Garden’.
‘Wonderful garden, so much colour. A vista at every turn’.
‘Wonderful to return to my favourite garden, it was fantastic – colour blending was fantastic’.
‘East Ruston’s planting of pots is absolutely superb’.
‘A marvellous achievement of planting and planning for just two men. Fantastic’.
‘A very theatrical garden overflowing with stunning plants; the pots in particular showed what can be done with much warner conditions than we are used to!’
‘Incredible garden with much to enjoy. Good plant centre too’.
Day 3 Monday 2 July 2018:
High House Gardens, Shipdham (NGS), Thetford:
3 acre plantsman’s garden developed and maintained by the current owners, over the last 40 years. Garden consists of colour themed herbaceous borders with an extensive range of perennials, box edged rose and shrub borders, woodland garden, pond and bog area, orchard and small arboretum. Plus large vegetable garden. Small attached nursery stocking plants propagated from the garden.
‘Amazing what can be achieved and maintained by two people (one of whom works part-time). Such a lovely tranquil garden’.
‘Stunning garden. Wonderful delphiniums’.
‘Great variety of moods in the garden – and a well – ordered plant sales area too. Enjoyable start to the week’.
‘Very good nursery and cheap plants’.
‘Blue and yellow themed gravel area looking great in this hot dry season’.
‘Lovely garden, stunning delphiniums, loved the pond and waterlilies’.
‘Magnificent herbaceous borders’.
‘Lovely country garden. Relaxed style with some fabulous plants as well’.
‘Peaceful country garden, full of the scents of summer. Amazing they have time to maintain the nursery area as well as the garden; great selection of their own plants’.
‘Much bigger garden than expected. Wonderful delphiniums and lavenders full of bees and butterflies’.
‘Delightful garden where I acquired yet another dahlia (D. ‘Totally Tangerine’) for my collection’.
‘What a wonderful surprise this garden was, the plants were gorgeous and so couldn’t resist a lovely purple/blue phlox’.
‘Lovely garden in a lovely setting’.
‘Delightful garden with clouds of campanulas and delphiniums creating a blue haze. The pond was full of dragonflies and damselflies, and good nursery plants’.
Creake Plant Centre, Fakenham:
Stocking a wide range of shrubs, herbaceous and climbers. Specialities include Hellebores, Old Roses & Salvias. (Please note the website is under construction.
‘Wondeful nursery, good selection for Hardy Planters’.
‘Just too quick (45 minutes) !! Trevor is well and forgotten back op’.
‘Needed longer; good selection of plants’.
‘A sweetie shop!’
‘I would like to thank our patient driver; he has had a difficult job getting us to these places. The nursery was excellent and added shops of wicker and pots etc. were interesting extras’.
‘Lots of plants, excellent choices. The coach is beginning to look very pretty’.
‘Great nursery, purchased a Hydrangea I have been wanting. Convolvulus sabatius very popular!’
The 6 acres of walled garden which was originally laid out by Samuel Wyatt during the late 1700s has recently been restored.
The entrance to the garden is through Italian iron-work gates which were brought from Venice in 1908 and this opens into one of the seven sections, known as ‘rooms’. The walls within the garden act as a windbreak and reflect the sun to create a gentle microclimate. In Victorian times the garden would have provided a constant and varied supply of food and decoration to the hall, ranging from vegetables and flowers to a wide variety of both common and exotic fruits.
There is a spectacular stand of large Victorian greenhouses which have been renovated back to their original splendour with the help of English Heritage. There are also sunken greenhouses designed to be at a lower level to avoid extreme temperature fluctuations.
In the ‘Arena of Plants’ there is a variety of blooms and range of colour and scents, with seating provided to enjoy the peaceful surroundings.
A working area, the vegetable garden, provides sufficient produce for the family’s kitchen, for entertaining and any surplus food is used at The Victoria Inn. There is also a vineyard.
At the far end of the garden, one ‘room’ has been laid to lawn with surrounding flower beds and has been designated for weddings and other events.
‘Impressive layout of gardens’.
‘Loved the open – air buggy ride! You would not want to work in the walled garden on such a hot day; pity the young gardeners!’
‘Too hot to do it justice. Can’t remember much from my last visit aged 7 years’.
‘A welcome lunch and fun ride to the walled gardens and back. Well worth the visit; the greenhouses are amazing. Good to see the resurrection but I like the deteriorating old greenhouses’.
‘Best sausage rolls EVER!!’
‘Roses in walled garden stunning especially in this hot summer. Agree about old greenhouses’.
‘On our bucket list for longer visit to Hall’.
Dunbheagan (NGS), Westfield:
Relax and enjoy walking among extensive borders and island beds – a riot of colour all Summer aiming for the WOW factor. Includes unique ‘heaven and hell’ and a vibrant hot border. Vast collection of rare, unusual and more recognisable plants in this ever changing plantsman’s garden. Sculptures by Toby Winterbourn.
‘After a tiring day this garden was a lift for the spirits. The description in the yellow book was correct. A wow factor at every turn. Different moods all the way through the garden. Owners very friendly and welcoming Tea delicious with scones, jam, clotted cream and strawberries with a wide selection of cakes. Perfect end to the day’.
‘First encounter with a Wallema Pine – beautiful!’
‘Such a helpful owner and lovely scones’.
‘Loved the gravel garden full of little gems. Gorgeous rose and clematis arches. Beautifully maintained’.
‘WOW welcoming, original and wonderful’.
‘Fabulous planting with pathways through and between beds. I loved the ‘Heaven and Hell’ idea’.
‘Nice people, good refreshments and a garden to die for – especially the rockery’.
‘From seeing the front garden on arrival the back garden was a wonderful surprise full of beautiful and interesting plants’.
‘Beautiful garden. I was feeling jaded but its freshness restored me!’
‘Lovely garden and such nice owners. Especially liked the gravel beds’.
Day 4 Tuesday 3 July 2018:
The Harralds, Gissing:
Garden belonging to Dr Janet Sleep, a regular contributor to the HPS journal. (Click here to read her article on ‘Living with Drought’ which appeared in the HPS journal ‘The Hardy Plant’ published in autumn 2017).
‘Knowledgeable, helpful owner. a lovely plantswoman’s garden’.
‘Fabulous garden and very interesting plants also for sale. Clever planting but of course she is a Hardy Planter’.
‘Such a lovely gardener and so generous with her knowledge’.
‘Want to go back with my brother. Lots of great ideas and varying conditions’.
‘A garden in which to feel completely at ease, no frills, lovely planting, charming lady’.
‘Great colour combinations’.
‘Lovely refreshments, plenty to see’.
‘So much to learn from the garden and from Janet. Liked all the self – seeders which gave such a natural feel amongst structure and planting’.
‘A plantswoman’s garden. Many interesting specimens. Very enjoyable talking to the owner’.
‘Such relaxed, interesting planting. Delightful setting. Lovely obelisks with roses and clematis pairings. Lots of creative ideas to borrow! Always great to buy a plant from the garden as a memory’.
‘What a range of plants to drool over. Real HPS garden – all sorts of good varieties and combinations – brilliant clematis and pleasant divisions sections – ferns particularly good’.
The Plantsman’s Preference:
Independent nursery stocking a range of unusual perennials and grasses.
‘Wonderful selection of geraniums!’
‘Lots of special plants reasonably priced and well laid out’.
‘A treasure trove for plant hunters!’
‘Excellent nursery with some quite unusual plants’.
‘Good to see specialist nursery growing all their own stock and knowledgeable owners’.
Bressingham Gardens, Diss:
Six distinct gardens totalling over 17 acres of world class gardens including ‘The Dell’ garden, famous for the array of islands beds developed by Alan Bloom, and ‘Foggy Bottom’ garden with it’s noted collection of conifers developed by his son Adrian Bloom.
The founder of Blooms Nurseries, Alan Bloom (1906- 2005), began developing a garden in front of BressinghamHall in 1953, devoted to a new concept of using perennials, the nursery’s speciality, in Island Beds. Six acres and nearly 5000 different species and cultivars were taken in and planted by 1962, when the gardens were first opened on a regular basis to the public.
Returning from four years abroad (including two years in the U.S.A.) in 1962, Adrian Bloom began developing more gardens, starting his own, Foggy Bottom Garden in 1967 devoted to conifers, heathers, trees and shrubs.
In 2000, additional gardens were added by Adrian, linking them up to create a more diverse attraction to visitors, and joining the gardens together to create a Foggy Bottom Trail, leading from the entrance near the Steam Museum to the furthest and lowest end of Foggy Bottom. Today, although changes are still constant, the newer gardens are maturing; new planting designs and plants are being tried. Heritage and novelty exist together with the number of distinct varieties now in the region of 8000.
Bressingham Hall, near the entrance to the gardens, plays a historic role and has an iconic presence. It was Alan Bloom’s home for 50 years and that of the Bloom family. It has now been fully re furbished and is available for use as holiday lets and for wedding and other group stays.
There is also a plant nursery on site. Click here for link.
‘Outstanding, especially Foggy Bottom. Pricey plants!!!’
‘Wonderful to finally see this iconic garden on a glorious day and blue skies’.
‘The trees, the forrest of flowers stand out in my mind’.
‘Wonderful visit. Well maintained to a high standard, especially Foggy Bottom’.
‘Fun dodging the sprinklers!’
‘Discovered Kniphofia thomsonii var. thomsonii!’
‘Amazing how well kept everything is with lots of watering! Loved Foggy Bottom’.
‘Foggy Bottom my favourite – so tranquil and stunning mature planting creating special vistas – early planning shows much skill and foresight’. Denise.
‘A lovely setting to see all the plants looking very colourful in the island beds. My highlight was the carousel ride’.
‘Enjoyed the train ride but it didn’t take us round the edge of the gardens as we’d hoped, but past the rather sad derelict greenhouses and polytunnels on the Bressingham Estate’.
‘Alan Bloom’s Dell Garden was my favourite. Gorgeous island beds of wonderful colours – purples, oranges, lilacs, yellow, blues….. and so many names that were new to me’.
‘The visit to Bressingham proved a pleasant experience – the Dell garden very colourful and Foggy Bottom immaculately manicured’.
‘Lovely to see these gardens ‘in the flesh’ at last. All helpfully labelled and very colourful. The carousel and an ice cream – perfect end to another sunny afternoon!’
‘Foggy Bottom looked lovely in spite of the drought. The famous island beds were stunning’.
Day 5 Wednesday 4 July 2018:
Bank House, Marshland St James (NGS), Cambridgeshire:
An exuberant and established 2 acre garden. Range of growing conditions from damp shade to dry gravel: veg and fruit areas, ornamental grass garden, bog garden, new pond, formal lawn, mixed borders, patios, terraces and variety of secret spaces. Year-round interest but especially a range of primulas, irises and roses peaking May-July. Grasses and dahlias in August. An oasis in the Fens!
‘Has the wow factor, a secret garden with amazing plants’.
‘Words fail me!! I loved it. So welcoming, loved dogs too’.
‘Standing under the 200 year old weeping willow and gazing up at the majestic tangle of branches – awesome’.
‘Healthy glowing delphiniums’.
‘Wonderful tidy and decorative potager’.
‘A heavenly garden perfect for the house. Lots of areas and paths, roses to clematis; not enough time’.
‘Amazing use of natural materials – myriad of ideas around every bend. These gardeners have triumphed in difficult gardening conditions – 15 feet below sea level and winter flooding’.
‘Some very unusual plants – lovely Catananche caerulea’.
‘Lovely ‘secret areas’ and winding paths leaving to wonderful plants – not long enough time to appreciate everything!’
‘Lovely garden with lots of surprises as you wander round. Wonderful plants; could have stayed all day’.
‘Lovely relaxing garden with interesting planting, could have stayed there longer!’
‘What a wonderful garden, many different parts with very interesting plants as well’.
‘A really tranquil spot, we could have stayed much longer! Amazing weeping ash tree’.
‘A garden that matched the old cottage. They offered a ‘cooked lunch’ next time, so we could stay on longer. Sold out of eggs though! Shame’.
‘Real country garden – relaxed and flowery, good flowers – Catananche, day lilies, sweet williams, Digitalis. Lovely places to sit for tea and cakes’.
‘A very good garden and top of my list I think. Interesting plants, a well – stocked sales area and a pleasant, chatty hostess’.
Doddington Hall, Lincolnshire:
Extensive gardens covering an area of 5 acres which have, in recent years, been restored, nurtured and developed to fulfil their potential.
‘The Hall itself very interesting. Very good tree specimens especially Castanea (very old) and Paulownia tomentosa (in full flower). Thank you everyone for being so friendly and welcoming, I’ve really enjoyed the week’. Josie.
‘Enormous Paulownia in full flower. Should make more of mature, ? ‘king’ trees’.
‘Garden gives impression of lack of effective direction. Owner away a lot?’
‘Is the garden there specifically for the sculptures!’
‘Disappointing garden but nice lunch’.
‘Loved the large Paulownia – otherwise a bit of a letdown’.
‘Not impressed, garden needs help!! Beautiful house, enjoyed my lunch’.
‘Gardens disappointing but Hall very interesting – especially the tapestries’.
‘Gardens not as the brochure reads; plenty of trees and views but the planting was disappointing. The pair of sculptured swans was the best of it for me’.
‘Picturesque house, good eateries and the best Catalpa tree I have ever seen in the grounds’.
‘Two lovely stops for the last day. The first garden was beautiful and the owners welcoming. The lady very good at propagating and letting us have her hard work at cheap prices. Doddington made a good lunch stop and afternoon tea and the trees were old and happy with flowers on the Foxglove and Tulip trees’.
‘NOTE: Perhaps we missed the Paulownia but we did see a TRULY spectacular Catalpa’.
‘Doddington Hall looked a lovely house although I didn’t go inside, and some of the trees were very impressive. Walled garden disappointing especially as it’s only 10 years since they had lottery money to completely renew it’.
‘Too hot to really enjoy it but significant trees including a Catalpa in full blossom’.
‘Anyone for weeding? Such a shame that we ended with a poor recommendation – not Sue’s fault – goosegrass and willow herb flowering well!’
Images to follow.