Words and Pictures

SECRET GARDENS OF EAST ANGLIA

 

Barbara Segall. Photography by Marcus Harpur

Frances Lincoln £20. Hardback.  Published 7th September 2017.

It’s impossible to resist dipping into the pages of any book with the words “secret” and “garden” in the title.

We all love peering over the garden gate  to get a glimpse of other people’s property.

And in Secret Gardens of East Anglia, Barbara Segall is our excellent guide, taking us straight down the drive and through the front gates of 22 privately owned gardens.

It is quite a revelation. We see sumptuous planting, grand sculpture, rose parterres, moated gardens,  and wildflower meadows galore! A real  treat – in words and pictures.

Here is just a flavour of some of the glorious gardens featured.

Wyken Hall, Stanton, Suffolk

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Photo credit Marcus Harpur. Perfectly co-ordinated, one of Wyken Hall’s peacocks is poised beneath a blue wooden pergola covered in climbing Rosa Blairii Number Two. The pergola is reminiscent of one at Bodnant in Wales. Owners Kenneth and Carla Carlisle have created a sumptuous rose garden, favouring highly-scented old rose varieties with soft coloured perennials such as delphiniums, astrantia and artemisia. The sound of water and the scent of roses always draws  me in. I could picture myself sitting in this beautiful garden on a hot, sunny summer’s day. Yes, I would be quite happy here!

Columbine Hall, Stowupland, Suffolk

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Photo credit Marcus Harpur. In my opinion, the most romantic of the gardens featured.  I’ve long been entranced by the walled kitchen garden which I first spotted on twitter. Head gardener and estate manager Kate Elliott ( @columbinehall) has worked here for 20 years and rightly describes the garden as her “pride and joy.”  Blue-grey paintwork used for gates, bridges and obelisks caught my eye, along with the planting scheme of silver and blue-mauve through to pink. Purple kales such as Cavolo Nero, Redbor and Rouge de Russie are set amongst  the silver leaves of globe artichokes.  I wasn’t surprised to read the owners’ comments :”We pick from the Kitchen Garden only with Kate’s permission, so as not to upset the colour co-ordinations or symmetry.”  A rare glimpse behind the scenes into the work and dedication that goes into creating a garden such as this.

 

Elton Hall, Elton, Cambridgeshire

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Photo credit Marcus Harpur. Home to Sir William and Lady Proby who chose to make a modern garden, rather than recreate the past.  The stately house has been in the Proby family for more than 300 years. It’s  fascinating to see how the contemporary design of the fountain and the pyramid topiary is set against a Gothic style house with turrets and castellations.  Proof that a modern style can work in a setting that’s steeped in history.

Wood Farm, Gipping, Suffolk

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Photo credit Marcus Harpur.    The photograph shows irises, cornflowers, mounds of lavender and box. On the other side of the property, the house appears to drift on a sea of white ox-eye daisies. The golden centres of the daisies are an exact match with the colour of the 500 year old Suffolk farmhouse. A very pretty house and garden and I would love to have the chance to ramble along that  garden path.

I must mention Ulting Wick, Ulting, Essex. Long on my  special-places-to-visit list, the owners Bryan and Philippa Burrough  have planted 10,000 tulips in the Old Farmyard garden. A particular feature of the garden is the bold and jewel-like colours set against the black paintwork of three listed barns. In spring, the bulbs take centre stage, but in late summer, it is the dahlias and bronze-leaved Ensete that turn up the heat. The garden has opened to the public for the past 14 years in aid of the National Gardens Scheme. After reading Barbara’s book you will want to follow  Philippa’s garden tweets @UltingWick. The sheer amount of work that goes into creating a garden such as this is highlighted in the stunning photos in the book.

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Barbara is a most entertaining “host” on what feels like the best holiday road trip /garden visit tour- ever.  Reading this beautiful book is like walking alongside Barbara. She expertly points out the secret areas and the special treasures in each garden.  The history and the background information is fascinating. And it feels such a treat to be “let in”  to these treasured, private spaces.

It’s a joy to read the stories behind the gardens and  to “meet” the people who own them.  And if the book has whetted your appetite- all but one of the 22 gardens are open to visit – on selected days of the year or by appointment only.

BARBARA SEGALL is a well-known horticulturist and garden writer. I’ve always looked out for her writing in the English Garden Magazine and also on the Richard Jackson’s Garden website. She is editor of The Horticulturist,  the journal of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture, also editor of Herbs magazine for the Herb Society. Barbara lives in Suffolk and her first book for Frances Lincoln was Gardens by the Sea with photos by Marcus Harpur’s father, Jerry.  Barbara’s blog is http://www.thegardenpost.com.

MARCUS HARPUR . I’ve know Marcus since about 1992 when he left book publishing to join his father to form the Harpur Garden Library.  Sadly , Marcus died on August 6th this year after 18 months of illness. He saw finished copies of the book, but poignantly didn’t live to see it go on sale. When I spoke to him last, he described working on the book as “A joyful and satisfying project.”  He was a much loved and well respected photographer whose  skill in capturing the light and beauty in a garden is plain for all to see in this his final book.

Pre-order on Amazon at  amzn.to/2oqHgM2

Thank you to Frances Lincoln/ Quarto Group Books for supplying this advance copy for review.

 

 

 

 

 

A peek at my week. What I’ve seen- where I’ve been

Took Mum to Norfolk to see East Ruston Old Vicarage. A feast for the eyes. Loved this sunny wild flower meadow.


Got lots of container planting inspiration. Much scribbling down of names and taking of photos went on. Just look at the size of that brugmansia! You can see why it is called angel’s trumpets. The scent is out of this world. It’s underplanted with yellow argyranthemum, purple verbena, and lobelia. There’s even a grey-leaved melianthus squeezed in. Such an enticing entrance to an archway. 


Every second word we used had “exotic” in front of it! Loved this avenue of cannas planted with blue verbena bonariensis and orange tagetes. 

Saw two sumptuous deep red dahlias. Sadly no labels so we don’t know the names. I’m searching books though, so will post an update when I know for certain. 


I grow this tender purple-leaved Aeonium plant in the greenhouse at home. I might set it outdoors for the summer, now I’ve seen how lovely it looks. 

Also have this blue-tinged echeveria in a pot in my greenhouse. And I’ve got this Stewart Garden low planter which looks like stone, but is actually plastic. Much lighter to carry in and out of the greenhouse. 


Should NOT  have looked at the plant sales area. Fell in love with these two dahlias. Can’t wait to get home to plant them in my cut flower patch. 


Here’s a quick look at the barn we stayed in. It gets a five star rating from us. More information to follow. 


Do get in touch and let me know what you have been up to this week. It’s been sunny and hot in Norfolk and I’m expecting to arrive home to a lot of weeding and dead heading on the plot! 

Last chance to visit bluebell woods…..

Cold weather has held back the bluebells this year. They are still looking glorious. Last chance to visit Coton Manor tomorrow.  Here’s some photos from our visit today. As usual, we started with a picnic. Spreading our rugs under the branches of some apple trees, we  tucked into home-made bread and warming soup, followed by an array of cakes and shortbread. A great start to our garden visit.


Our little haven can be found at the far end of the car park. Funnily enough, we’d never noticed the orchard before. But full of blossom today, we could hardly miss it. Next we set out to visit the bluebells.

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As you can see, the bluebells are at their peak of perfection. It’s a sight I’ll hold in my memory until next spring. That blue, with the unfurling lime green leaves, and the honey scent. Just glorious!

We found the dogs’ graves. What a peaceful resting place.


The gardens always provide breathtaking planting, deserving of a separate post. But for now, here’s a taster of what we found.  Luckily the wisteria escaped any damage from the recent hard frosts.


I love this view from the terrace steps.

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I wrote about visits to bluebell woods here mentioning Coton Manor  and Hodsock Priory .  For more information click on the highlighted words. Also look at the Woodland Trust website for bluebell woods all over the country.  Be quick to visit. They are at their best right now.

#wordlesswednesday 

First picnic of the season. We visited Hodsock Priory for the bluebells.


No picnic is complete without jam jar flowers- and chocolate cake.


And this is the glorious view. 


I wrote about Hodsock snowdrops here. Also a must-visit for bluebells. Last chance to see them this coming weekend 6th and 7th May, 10-3pm. I’ve shared more photos over on twitter @kgimson. 

Do you have any favourite bluebell woods you like to visit? Are you a fan of picnics? 

#snowdrops. Out of Hibernation-for Hodsock Press Day 

img_9173All winter I’ve found a kind of sanctuary in the potting shed. There’s a deep peaceful silence. A protection from the cold. A place to think. I can plot the progress of the seasons from the pottingshed window. Just now I can see gaunt willows bordering the pond. They look like charcoal drawings. I think of my farming ancestors who would have lopped the willows to make sheepfolds at this time of year.


I’m fascinated by old farming almanacs. My grandmother used to read them and occasionally I’d hear talk of Imbolc and Candlemas, mentioned in the first week of February. Imbolc meaning lambs milk or the start of the lambing season. And Brigantia, the Celtic female deity of light, St Brigid in the Christian tradition, calling  us to celebrate the sun – halfway on its advance from winter solstice to the spring equinox.

I map the progress of winter through the pottingshed  windows, watching the angle of the sunlight as it hits the huge table where I work.

Suddenly there’s a day -usually in the second week of February – when I notice the light has returned to the garden.  There’s a shaft of sunlight that shines through the side window like a wake up signal for spring. A kind of sundial for the seasons.


It’s a signal for me to reconnect with the world and leave the pottingshed behind.


So I make my annual pilgrimage to Hodsock Priory- accompanied by my Mum, as always.  And it is a place of pure magic. I stand in wonder under a 500 year old oak- the same age as the  brick tower gatehouse.

We call Hodsock the Chelsea of the snowdrop season. This is the first of many gardens Mum and I will visit over the coming weeks. We are lucky, and grateful, to be invited to the annual press day and enjoy a guided tour of the garden.


The woodland walk makes the heart sing.  Pyramid-pruned beech trees flank each side of the path. Such a simple idea, and it works, adding interest without being too formal.


Pools of colour from the Cyclamen Coum look  as bright as stained glass windows in the sunshine.


This Garrya Elliptica wrapped around the corner of the house always puts on a stunning display. It has every right to be called the silk tassel bush. We all decide it’s the best we have seen.

Wintersweet   or Chimonanthus Praecox. Glorious Scent  is as much a special feature of the garden as snowdrops. I particularly love  the winter honeysuckle walk. Lonicera Fragrantissima has  such tiny, almost translucent flowers  A delicious treat for the senses.


We take a new tour around the house and underground tunnels, and emerge in the dry moat. This is a view of  the house I haven’t  seen before.


We find an inviting side door to the tower. Amazing to think this stone and brickwork has been here for 500 years.


Before setting off for home we find  Narcissus Cedric Morris along a bank in front of the house. Such a cheerful sight for mid February.

There’s a  plant sale at the entrance to the cafe. I treat myself to this beautiful hellebore, Harvington Yellow. I’m drawn to the  dark eye in the centre. Such a beauty.  I shall plant it in front of my pottingshed  to remind me of  our visit.


And on the pottingshed window to welcome me home- there’s a pot of snowdrops I bought at Hodsock last year. They are just the common Galanthus Nivalis. But I like them just as much as all the fancy  named varieties. They suit the humble setting.

Hodsock Priory is open every day until March 5th.

#Perennial Party…..Taking a piece of my garden with me.

I don’t travel well. I’m much happier surrounded by familiar sights and sounds. I’ve become accustomed to green fields and birdsong.  My favourite place is the potting shed. A quiet, peaceful haven- shared with a cheeky robin. The scent of potted Carnegie white hyacinths and creamy Paperwhite narcissi wafts around. I’m reluctant to leave….

But I need to travel to London. So after much fussing with packing and checking train times and tickets, at least 50 times,  I set off for the unfamiliar.

Just at the garden gate, I see some violets in flower.   Nearby, the first snowdrops are in bud. There’s a primrose poking through the leafmould. And there’s a tiny hellebore flower wearing a hat of  compressed beech leaves. The leaves have protected the plant and forced the flowers into early growth.

So I pick a few flowers and gather them into a tiny posy. I wrap them in dark green gutta tape  to lock in moisture. I twirl around some string, add some lavender from the potting shed table, and set off for London- carrying a tiny piece of my garden with me. A talisman. A kind of amulet. Protection against the noise, hustle and bustle.


Propped up on the flip-down table on the train, the scent from the violets is a welcome reminder of home. I look about to see if anyone else is bothered by the noise and diesel fumes. They don’t seem to notice.


I’d forgotten that snowdrops have a strong honey scent. The flowers start to open as we travel along. These are   Galanthus elwesii, the first to flower in my garden.


The hellebore is called Jacob. It’s a  strong, healthy variety. Dependable and hardy. The violets and primroses arrived  as seedlings from my grandfather’s garden. I have happy memories of grandad Foulds arriving each Sunday with a little piece of his garden; a cutting, a seedling, or division. He loved walking around the plot, pointing out the weeds, giving advice on growing veg and cut flowers. After we had  pottered in the greenhouse and orchard, he’d settle down in a cosy armchair with home-made cake and tea. Such memories are a comfort, brought back to life by these few flowers.


And this is the place I’m travelling to. The Barbican conservatory, for the annual party for Perennial. I’m a fish out of water. A country mouse. But I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone to support a charity that is dedicated to helping all people who work in horticulture.  I’ve been lucky enough to make my living from horticulture for this past 20 years, and I care about the gardeners, contractors and tree surgeons I work with. Perennial provides a “lifebelt” to anyone in a crisis. Advice, help and financial support, for anyone of any age.


The auction featuring luxury holidays and events  raised more than £11,000, and there were raffle prizes too. It’s the most hectic and noisy event I’ve ever attended. But I’m glad I’ve pushed myself out of my little potting shed. The chance to support a valued charity, and see friends from all over the country, has been worth it.


Looking in the pink are from left to right  Fran SuermondtTanya BatkinPerennial’s Laura Garnett,  host James Alexander-Sinclair,   writers Naomi Slade , Alison Levey, and in front, Barbara Segall.

Do you have a favourite charity to support? Do you ever carry a piece of your garden with you on your travels? What measures do you take to cope when you are stepping outside of your comfort zone? I’d love to hear your news and views. 

Read more about Perennial here.

A Visit to the Garden of Ninfa

These photos are for anyone who, like me, can’t visit the RHS London Rose Show this weekend. 

Curated by Rachel de Thame, the second annual show at the RHS Lawrence Hall, promises to be a “celebration of England’s favourite flower.” I’m really sorry to miss out, as Rachel tends to have an eye for all things elegant, and is well known for her knowledge and passion for roses.

Instead, I’m beavering away at work – but in my tea break, I thought I’d share my photo album of Ninfa. 


I was lucky enough to be invited on an Italian gardens tour at the beginning of May. Family commitments and work means I’ve not ventured abroad for around 10 years. I’m not complaining, I love British countryside and gardens.

But when a friend decided to celebrate her birthday with a tour of gardens, and invited 12 pals along, I couldn’t turn down the chance to go along.

We spent a week touring the gardens of Lazio near Rome. On our last day, we visited Ninfa. 

The garden planted among the ruins of the ancient town of Ninfa, is the work of generations of the Caetani family, most notably, Princess Lelia. Virtually every wall, tower and tree is draped in roses. They look as if they have grown naturally-all on their own- with no help from anyone. 

The approach to the garden is down a path with white rambling roses engulfing the boundary wall.

It was our lucky day. Our guide was the Director’s wife, Stella. Wherever there was a Sign saying no entrance, Stella lifted the rope barring our way and ushered us through. What a treat to see the secret areas of the garden, not open to the public. Such kindness is always appreciated, and never forgotten. 

The whole garden is filled with such fragrance. 
American Pillar, possibly. So beautiful against the blue/green walls. All the roses look so healthy.


Rosa Mutabilis- an old fashioned China  variety-quite often called the butterfly rose. 


We ducked down under this cloud of tiny red roses to cross the bridge.

The garden of Ninfa is open infrequently to protect its delicate environmental balance. More information from http://www.fondazionecaetani.org. We travelled on a bespoke gardens trip organised by  Success Tours  www.successtours.com accompanied by tour manager  Wendy Viney. We had the most luxurious coaches ever  and the best driver, Enrico (who saved our lives at least five times a day).Coaches by http://www.corsiepampanelli.it . We stayed at Villa Vecchia Hotel http://www.villavecchia.it   

Read more about Ninfa in RHS Lessons from Great Gardeners by Matthew Biggs, published by Mitchell Beazley.  www.rhsshop.co.uk 

Look out for next year’s RHS London Rose Show. http://www.rhs.org/shows-events/rhs-london-shows/rhs-london-rose-show. I’m determined not to miss it next time.

Have you been to any gardens that have had a big impact on you?