Our first day started with torrential rain causing delays on the motorway causing us to be late for our first garden of the four day garden visiting extravaganza that we were embarking on. Due to the awful weather, the owners of The Moat House generously invited us into their home for morning tea and cake. I think it rakes a real generosity of spirit to invite 38 soggy strangers into your home with their damp shoes and dripping umbrellas and coats particularly given the pale green carpet.
Moat House, Little Saxham
Being hardy gardeners, having refueled, we were keen to explore the first garden. The Moat House is a partially moated garden of two acres which has been developed over 2 years. The garden is very much your traditional country garden with herbaceous borders full of roses, generally in pastels shades, alliums, geraniums, delphiniums, and peonies.
As you would expect with any English country garden there was plenty of box edging and topiary around the garden. Personally, I’m not that keen on box edging but I can see that it provides a nice edge and has the benefit of hiding the legs of plants and the bare soil but you need to have the discipline to keep them looking sharp in order to achieve the best effect.
And we had the first of many parterres filled with herbs and plants for cutting.
Fullers Mill Garden, West Stow
With the rain abated and the sun shining we moved on to our next garden – Fullers Mill Garden, West Stow. The garden was created by Bernard Tickner who has gardened here for some 50 years and has now placed the 7 acre garden in trust for the charity Perennial. Bernard is a plantsman and his approach is to create a garden which is very loosely designed, giving a natural feel, and providing interest all year round. The garden is almost on an island created by the diverted mill stream which powered the Fullers Mill. The Fulling Mill has existed on the site since 1458, fulling is a process through which you make cloth thicker by passing it through a series of wooden mallets, the fabric is then stretched out on the drying ground.
I quite liked the looser planting style to the previous garden and it was the favourite garden for many that day. generously borders with gentle curves are planted up with shrubs and perennials merging together in soft mounds.
However, the real feature of Fullers Mill Garden is the stream and mill-pond. The inclusion of water in the garden was a real theme of the gardens we visited this week which was interesting as we constantly heard that we were in the driest part of the country. Presumably this is because when the houses were built there was no water on tap so the properties were located close to streams in order to have easy access to the little water that was available.
I think Fullers Mill Garden is one that would have benefited us having a little more time to explore but we spent the day trying to catch up the time lost in the morning on the motorway.
Bellflower Nursery, The Walled Garden, Langham Hill
We ended the day with our first real plant buying opportunity at Bellflower Nursery. The nursery specialising in Campanula, hence its name, and hold a national collection. I have to admit that I’m not that keen on Campanula as they never grow very well for me but I really enjoyed visiting this garden purely due to its location within a walled garden.
The owner of the nursery, Sue Wooster, not only has her nursery to run but also the ornamental side of the walled garden to maintain and she shared with us that she has also just taken on the tenancy of the edible part of the walled garden. She was doing a sterling job is maintaining the borders which I think also act as stock beds for the nursery but what I enjoyed was the slightly dishevelled aspect of parts of the garden which Sue admitted had a habit of getting the better of her. There is something particularly romantic about a walled garden especially one that has the ghosts of its past still evident.
So day 1 having started a bit wet under foot ended well with us in high spirits and our coach driver rapidly becoming aware that he was going to have to develop skills in packing plants.