Monday, August 6, 2012


Wednesday June 27th 2012
The long awaited day had arrived. I tell David that we must be outside the gate to the garden on the dot of 2pm. That is the time the garden opens. It is the main reason for coming to this part of England, tucked away on the east coast of Norfolk.
In the meantime we have the morning and must find another place to visit. I have chosen the Blickling Estate, former home of the Boleyn family.


We arrive in time to take a tour of the house and our excellent guide is Peter Kelf. Outside the main door he begins with the tale of Ann Boleyn and the day she was beheaded, May 19th 1536. Her ghost is supposed to appear every year. Ann riding in a carriage driven by 6 headless white horses, driven by a headless coachman and she holding her head on her lap. This year on that date 50 people showed up at the gates! The Boleyn house was torn down long ago and a new house built in the Jacobean style. There is a long history of ownership until the the National Trust take ownership in 1942.

The tour of the house is fascinating. In the entrance hall is a painting of Mary Tudor wearing La Peregrina. The story of this pear shaped pearl is captivating. From its discovery 550 years ago in the gulf of Panama, from whence it entered into the Spanish crown jewels and then to Mary Tudor, on her wedding to King Philip of Spain. Then a long history until Richard Burton bought the pearl at auction in 1968 for a mere $37,000. It was a gift to Elizabeth Taylor who had the simple setting redesigned into one with diamonds and rubies. It sold at auction in 2011 for $11,000,000. There were so many interesting stories we heard about the house and the families who have lived there. We then moved outside into the gardens. They themselves  have a long history of change too detailed to enter into here.
The ancient yew hedges bordering the house were first recorded in 1745.


The original parterre was planted during the latter half of the 19thC  to compliment the house. The layout and planting of the beds was done by the current owner, the Marchioness of Lothian.The parterre is set around an 18th C stone fountain. In the words of the garden designer Jane Loudon " the laying out and planting of the parterres should always be attended by the ladies of the place" These gardens were redone by Norah Lindsey in the 1930s who removed many of the Victorian beds and created just four large planting beds around an 18th C stone fountain.

The raised berm above the garden is reached by a series of stone steps. At the end is a temple, a remnant of former times.

We are running short of time and must be on our way to..

Several years ago a friend sent me an article from the The Wall Street Journal about this wonderful garden in Norfolk. "Have you been there?" he asked. I hadn't. I put the article in a British garden book thinking to myself, I will get there some day. Today is that day. On the way through the Norfolk countryside I stop to take a photo of this marvelous wicker fence.

And we arrive with just a minute or two to spare before the gates open.

This is a private garden with limited opening times so I had planned the days before and after around this day. There is no map of the property although a book is available to buy. I decided to use as our guide the article I had with me.
When I read the pages of the article I couldn't believe that this was Norfolk. After all wasn't Norfolk that rather windswept part of the country bordering on the North sea. However, here were photographs of a place that could have been Australia, South Africa end even Texas. How did this all come about for this is a young garden. Nothing was here when the owners Alan Gray and Graham Robeson bought the old uninhabited vicarage, with two acres of land, in 1973. They have since added 100 acres. There was no garden and the flat arable land stretched for miles around them. They have done all the design work themselves and the following photographs will attest to their skill at creating a magnificent garden stretching over 25 football fields and growing.

We pass through the plant area first. I am sure I will return here to check out the name of plants before I leave and will be sorry not to be able to take some with me.

The decision has to be made which way to go and I decide to the right as fewer people are moving that way.

With the skillful use of hedges and walls they have made it possible to provide a safe haven for many plants that you would never think of growing in England let alone such a windswept and sometimes inhospitable area.

This composition of Tuscan pot and aeoniums is stunning.

The garden has many newly built walls and archways. The crest above this elaborate arch
has the motto 'concilio et labore' which means 'wisdom and effort' or more loosely, think about the results of your work before doing it. I think they chose this well because immense thought was put into the design of these garden before a single hedge or wall was laid. We have our own family motto which I chose and it is 'initium est dimidium facti.' Ours too is related to the making of a garden and looseley translates as 'half the battle is getting started'.

This lead cistern is dated 1758.

We are to find all kinds of places to sit and rest. This one waiting for someone to produce an alfresco dinner.

Pathways with trellises where you have a glimpse of another garden through the loose herbaceous border.

Stone balls are a familiar feature on many of the arches and gates and although they may have had a rather sinister reason for their presence in the past today they are probably just a way to finish of the gate.

When the eye is drawn away from the palntings it is to the intricate stone and slatework underfoot.

Areas of gravel decorated with stone troughs of alpines.

We stop for a while under this arbor and discuss how we might add one to our own garden.

We now enter a more formal garden. Our first view is from this elaborate structure which looks down onto a delightful water garden with an unusual fountain.

The low wall of capped wood posts and edging echoes the lily pond.

But the garden is not all structure. Here a woodland pathway with my favorite foxgloves.

The mediterranean garden with summer house.

The wildflower meadow.

I have been dying to see the Southwest garden with dry creek. Here agaves, yuccas and mulleins with stands of California poppies. This is the driest part of England but to see such a garden here is amazing.

A pile of river rock used to secure the ends of this seating area.

Beyond the confines of walls and hedges a field of barley.

Now those are the most artistic wood piles I have ever seen.

The walled kitchen garden is clearly a recent addition. Most walled gardens would also include a greenhouse built against the south facing wall. That way more tender plants would gain benefit from the winter sun.

The soft fruit garden.

Rhubarb with forcing jars.

These hedges were laid so that the view at the end would be of the lighthouse two miles away.

The rose garden.

I wonder how many gardeners take care of this garden. None were in evidence.

This is truly a garden that must be on the garden tour list when visiting the UK. I could never say which garden I have visited is my favorite anymore than I can say which National Park is my favorite. They are all so different although this one is an Arts and Crafts garden so has similarities to the wonderful Sissinghurst and Hidcote, to name two.

We had quite a journey now to our B&B for the night but we determined that we would try to see the walled garden at Felbrigg Hall. Felbrigg closes at 5pm and we arrived with no minute to spare this time. Stay tuned for Part 2 of June 27th, the incredibly lovely walled garden of Felbrigg Hall and our resting place for the night, Kenilworth small holding, Wisbech.


  1. Oh my, oh my, oh my. That is one BIG garden. I too wondered how many undergardeners were secreted away out of sight! Although clearly newish, the walls and stonework have already taken on some signs of aging. Those with newish garden areas (like myself) take heart! Lovely plantings, path work, layout etc but the thing that really caught my eye? The woodpiles! I've never seen anything like it. Kerry

    1. and growing bigger every year. There were lots of areas I didn't photograph-chickes and orchard. Because the garden is only open for short periods there is plenty of time to do gardening when visitors are gone. The entry fee must go long way to paying their salary.

  2. That first one is quite a grand 'house'. But, the Old Vicarage garden is amazing. I can't imagine how much work must go into just maintaining it...much less, all the work that went into creating it. Glorious!
    I'm so glad you take us with you.
    Looking forward to the next stop.
    Stay cool....Linda...

    1. Glad to take you along Linda. The owners are amazing designers and that isn't their day job!

  3. Very inspirational. how many gardeners do you think it takes to care for this garden?

    1. I dread to think! All that hedge clipping.

  4. Just found your blog by way of Scott at Rhone street gardens. What a great trip you must have had! Thanks for sharing, I too can't wait to see where you went next.

    1. Glad to meet you David. Still lots more to come!

  5. I remember seeing a brief piece about this garden years ago when it was still fairly new. It intrigued me then and the name stuck in my head. Since that time I have read or seen little about it, until tonight when I got to read this post see your photos. Thank you!

    1. They had aerial photos ont he wall showing how it had developed. Quite a feat.

  6. Wow, what a wonderful garden! Of course you know which part was my favorite!

  7. I'll take either the meditt or southwest garden, please! Love the Scotch thistles too. And all this since 1973? I didn't think people still gardened in the "grand" style anymore. Wonderful tour.

    1. I would be happy with any but of course I would be foolish to try.

  8. Incredible -- and I was wondering how many gardeners they employ to take care of it as well. Do they have to water gardens in England, or is natural rainfall sufficient to keep all these plants going?

    I love those long, framed views through clipped hedges, arches, and trellises.

    1. I don't think they usually water in the UK. They certainly do not have watering systems. However, ti has been a dry year so maybe some help. Also this is the driest part of the country.

  9. I've read about this garden and seen brief glimpses of it. All the photos on this post are extremely informative and show some beautiful designs. I realize it's hard to tell from photos, but I get the sense the garden is sort of an endless loop of garden rooms. Is that so, or does it have some central garden that pulls all the individual "garden rooms" together? Some kind of organizing principle or structure?

    1. Starting with a blank canvas they felt that the garden had to look inward rather than out. They laid those hedges on an axis with the lighthouse and the church and went from there. You can read more about them and their garden on their website. Mine is just a teaser.

  10. ciekawe co to za róża ta żółta na pergoli?