It is always amazing that it is possible to live in a relatively small country and have not visited all the various parts of that country. It was for this reason we decided to have a short holiday in Suffolk, a location that would also enable us to visit Beth Chatto’s garden and explore the Suffolk county.
First stop of interest was the National Trust property Ickworth House. Ickworth house is dominated by the impressive Rotunda commissioned by the 4th Earl of Bristol to house his priceless treasures collected on tours around Europe in the 18th-century. For 200 years, the eccentric, and sometimes infamous, Hervey family added to the treasures inside and out, also creating the earliest Italianate garden in England. The Italianate garden was interesting but not very photographic. It is essentially an evergreen garden with miles of box hedging. Sadly much of the hedging is suffering from box blight and, as a result, now looks very neglected. Interestingly the balls in the picture above were not box but nevertheless look very effective.
The grounds of the estate offer a number of walks in a very “Capability Brown” landscape although there is no evidence that he actually did any work on the gardens. The kitchen gardens are huge and as is often the case have mostly become grass and weeds. However, there are plans to renovate them which will give an extra point of interest for garden enthusiasts. However, there is much work to be done!
Suffolk is well endowed with beautiful medieval villages and Lavenham is one of the best. Apparently the reason there are so many medieval buildings is that the town had been very prosperous. By the middle of the 15th century Lavenham was one of the most significant weaving centres in England, and remarkably for a town that never had a population greater than 2000, it is said to have been the 14th richest settlement in the country. However, this did not last and it went into rapid decline. This relative poverty helped preserve the place in its medieval glory for us to admire, as the residents could not afford to improve their properties. As a consequence many medieval houses still exist. There is a guided walk which describes many of the medieval buildings and is well worth doing if you visit Lavenham.
Numbers 10 and 11 Lady Street, now a very nice bistro. And there are many more similar properties.
Beth Chatto’s garden
For many years I have read articles by Beth Chatto and have always wanted to visit her garden. The gardens started in 1960 when she took an overgrown wasteland of brambles, parched gravel and boggy ditches, transforming it using plants adapted by nature to thrive in different conditions to create the garden we see today. What was once a car park is now the much publicised Gravel Garden (which is never watered).
The garden is as you would expect very well maintained and some of the vistas are very attractive however, for me, the gardens lacked the ultimate wow factor. I would also have liked to have seen more plant labelling which I would have expected given the garden’s heritage.
The Gravel Garden was a little disappointing particularly given Beth Chatto’s writings on plants for dry places. There were plenty of plants surviving the dry conditions but they did not work as a whole. This may have been that we were seeing the garden after a long very hot period.
Our next garden visit was the Royal Horticultural Gardens at Hyde Hall. The RHS took over the land in 1993 and have been developing the gardens since then. It is 10 years since we last visited Hyde Hall and the developments and maturity of the gardens since then have been significant.
Grasses are used to good effect throughout the garden.One of the colour coded borders which were looking fantastic for the middle of september.
The Dry Garden, above, was one of the first developments when the RHS started to develop the garden. They are really very interesting with a huge range of plants and are a star attraction in the garden.A new development for 2017. The hard landscaping for a new vegetable area which will be based around a circle divided into quarters, each representing a different area of the world. Other developments include the landscaping and planting of the acres of land and the planting of a winter garden. Lastly it is always nice to take home some new planting ideas such as this Rudbeckia.
Glebe House Garden
The garden had to look after itself this week!
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