Special Lecture: Fergus Garrett, Great Dixter - Designing with Plants

Written by Peter Lyle. Posted in News


This is a ticketed event also open to the public – bookings in advance. 

Tickets are now available and can either be purchased online here for payments by debit or credit card or by contacting Linda Hall on 01379 641519 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to pay by cash or cheque.

Nurseries present on the day will be Panache Plants (https://www.panacheplants.co.uk/), The Plantsman's Preference (https://www.plantpref.co.uk/) and Richard Mountstephen Sundries and Plants.


Cost is £3 and must be pre-ordered and paid for in advance

Heinz tomato soup and sandwich £3

Please choose 1 sandwich from following selection:

  1. Roast beef, rocket and horseradish – brown bread
  1. Spicy chicken and romaine lettuce – white bread
  1. Tuna and sweetcorn – brown bread
  1. Cheese and tomato – white bread
  1. Egg mayonnaise and cress – brown bread
  1. Egg mayonnaise, tomato and lettuce on seeded gluten free bread
  1. Roast chicken, tomato and lettuce on seeded gluten free bread


Garden Visit: Gable House, Redisham, 18th April

Written by Peter Lyle. Posted in Events Past

Thank you to John and Brenda Foster for opening their garden for a much needed afternoon of social interaction with both plants and people. Hot beverages and a huge selection of home-made cakes made for a delicious afternoon tea.

Images from the garden taken by Irene Tibbenham.








Garden Visit: Columbine Hall, Stowupland, 10th July

Written by Peter Lyle. Posted in Events Past

Columbine Hall, Stowupland

Finding the place was quite an adventure, and we were very grateful for the HPS signs put in place by Linda and Jan.

The drive in gave us glimpses of the moat and the lovely 14th century Manor House, where we later saw a young man making an acrobatic job of lime-washing the outside from a doubtful looking ladder.

We were met by the Head Gardener, Kate Elliot, adjacent to the car park, under the Lime Walk, where the humming of the bees was remarkable.  Kate told us they were intoxicated by the lime and would fall to the ground, where they would eventually recover and go about their business.  Kate referred us to their map and informative leaflet, telling us we could go where we liked, and she would be around to answer any questions.  It was damp enough to require jackets, but not wet enough to stop us enjoying the garden.

The leaflet gave the history of ownership of the property to the present day.  Since 1993 it has been owned by Hew Stevenson, and the house was restored by his late wife, Leslie Geddes-Brown.  The gardens were designed by George Carter, a Norfolk garden-designer who favours formal, clipped topiary on a grand scale.  Had I taken the trouble to discover that it was one of his designs, I would have been better prepared for the degree of green, and absence of very much other colour in the garden. Having said that, I am immediately reminded of the vegetable garden, again enclosed on all sides, but packed with a wonderful array of huge, decorative and colourful vegetables, from artichokes, both Jerusalem and globe, to zucchini, grown on wooden obelisks.  Brassicas were netted.  Kate told us these were ravaged by sparrows otherwise, but she thought they were now big enough to take care of themselves and was planning to uncover them next week.

The herb garden was similarly prolific, with contrasting textures and colours of herbs, including a santolina, with little yellow bobble flowers, purple-leaved sage, and a lemon-scented aloysia, which used to be known as lemon verbena.

The moat and ponds, along with the quiet, green spaces, created a calm atmosphere, even though the extent of the whole garden was small, considering the number of component parts - bowling green, herb garden, walled garden, old orchard, new orchard, Lime Walk, Mediterranean  garden, bog garden and wilderness, contained within the moated area, along with the house and some of the other buildings, the rest being adjacent to the moat, but outside it.

The Mediterranean garden was either embryonic or in transition, or perhaps a minimalist version, since it was a steep bank, viewed across the moat, bounded at one end by an arbutus (perhaps?) and at the other by a group of Eleagnus ‘Quicksilver’, and including several eucalyptus, a palm, and some young yews, backed by a mature yew hedge.

The buildings would have warranted closer inspection, not all appearing to be of the same era. The garden was well-endowed with Lutyens-style wooden benches, giving opportunities to sit and admire the vistas, which were part of George Carter’s formal design, added to by pairs of stone urns on plinths at appropriate intervals in the Alleé, and symmetrical sets of topiary, or otherwise architectural plants in other areas.

Finally, I had asked if we could take our dog, and Mr Stevenson had very kindly said that dogs were welcome. We don’t often hear that from garden owners!

Chris Davies

Open Gardens

Written by Peter Lyle. Posted in News

The Open Gardens website provides advice and assistance if you are planning on opening your garden.

It also provides listings of open gardens if you are looking for a garden to visit.



Garden Opening

Written by Peter Lyle. Posted in News

Norfolk and Suffolk HPS member, Sarah Clark, will be opening her garden as part of The Great Garden Trail, in aid of St Elizabeth Hospice, on Sunday, 4th July, 11-5.  

Beech House is not huge but within 1/4 acre there is a herb garden, summer fruit garden, pond, bog garden, woodland walk, veg patch, greenhouse, meadow, and herbaceous borders full of common and unusual plants, especially Salvias, some planted in the naturalistic style.  All the plants show what can be grown on poor sandy soil very near the sea.  

There will be a plant stall and light lunches, tea and home made cakes will be for sale.  

The address is Beech House, 82 Leiston Road, Aldeburgh IP15 5PS.  

Admission is £3.50, children free.  Hope to see you there.

Dances with the Daffodils, Warley Place, Essex

Written by Irene Tibbenham and Mavis Smith. Posted in News

Dances with the Daffodils, Warley Place, Essex

What could be greater proof of a good lecture than motivating action to do something!  We refer to the lecture by Andrew Sankey, on Ellen Willmott and Warley Place, originally scheduled at Hethersett Village Hall, but relocated online to a Zoom presentation in March 2021.  In this case, two Group members, both keen on narcissus, were moved to visit Ellen Willmott’s Essex garden after hearing the latest lecture, which included photographs of Warley Place.

As write-ups have been hit and miss since we moved online, we recommend the following article ‘Ellen Willmott:  Gardener and Plantswoman’ by Petra Hoyar Millar, who writes a blog entitled Oxonion Gardener https://www.oxoniangardener.co.uk/ellen-ann-willmott-8446/ which gives a greater account than we could write and touches upon much of what we covered in the lecture.

Having heard how Ellen gathered the breeders of her day together, including the likes of George Engleheart and Robert Backhouse, we were intrigued to reconnôitre the once famous garden at Warley Place in Essex, as soon as meeting restrictions permitted, which for us meant Wednesday 31st March 2021.  Both of us have a keen interest in narcissus, one specialising in historic Engleheart narcissus, the other in modern split-corona daffs.

Here we encountered the remnants of Ellen Willmott’s grand garden plan, now a nature reserve managed by Essex Wildlife Trust and gardened with a light touch by volunteers; a mere shadow of a grand garden where once more than 100,000 plants were looked after by 140 gardeners.

Ellen Willmott amassed more than 600 narcissus cultivars, and today few survive of that original collection.  On the other hand, those that have survived have clearly thrived and augmented their numbers naturally, testament to the longevity and resilience of certain historic cultivars.  Many of these display a delicate and fragile frame - twisted perianth segments courtesy of Engleheart’s breeding with Narcisssus poeticus - in sharp contrast to today’s cultivars.

To protect her precious narcissus from theft, Ellen Willmott is said to have had trip wires installed to trigger air rifles should any one dare to pilfer these beloved plants.  Today, barbed wire separates the millions of daffodils from serious physical incursion, and domestic dogs are banned.

The site and sight of thousands of dainty daffodils–conveys the scene from William Wordsworth’s poem ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’, written after a visit to Gowbarrow Park in Cumbria 1802:

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

He finishes his poem with ‘And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils”.  Born 56years later, is it possible Ellen Willmott was inspired by these words?  Certainly today, the sheer magnitude of planted area is just staggering and is guaranteed to warm your heart on a sunny spring day.

The following photographs are a foretaste of the botanical treasures seen that day.  Identifying cultivars is almost impossible, given today there are 27,000+ registered, but those identified with some certainty included ‘Van Sion’ (‘Telamonius Plenus’ in RHS) and ‘Seagull’.

We would recommend a visit here highly but set off in March or April so you can ‘dance with the daffodils.’



Irene Tibbenham and Mavis Smith