Garden Visit: High House, Shipdham, Thetford

Written by Aileen Butler. Posted in Events Past

10th June 2017

On a glorious summer’s day a small, but eager party met at High House Gardens at Shipdham. The bees easily outnumbered us, but they did not in any way distract us from the plethora of flowers, shrubs and trees that greeted us. Entry was by the small nursery and for a while I wondered if we would get beyond there, as plant buying was already in progress when we arrived.

It is hard to describe this garden as formal, despite the undoubted formal layout, because it had such a cottage garden feel about it, from the border near the nursery to the blossoming beds that followed.

Campanulas, peonies, geums and hardy geraniums , fought for our attention as they battled with pink deutzia and deep red potentillas. Just like the bees and butterflies we each pointed out a favourite plant or an attention seeking display.

As we wandered through a small arboretum of assorted trees we came upon a shepherd’s hut it  just needed a good book to provide the perfect hide away. In the long grass, a perfect oasis for insects, nestled rusting farm tools, somehow they looked as though they should be there. The pond was alive with bright blue dragonflies, but sadly the water lilies had yet to show us their splendour.

The garden was divided by hedges of various types and each room had borders to delight everyone. A stand of deep blue delphiniums immediately demanded our attention, amazingly still upright after the strong winds of the preceding week. Foxgloves were busy providing nectar for the bees and two brilliant gold grasses glowed in the afternoon sun. Yet again we were greeted by plants vying for our attention a crazy mix of colour and perfume.

A well ordered fruit and vegetable garden left us in awe, as our own were no near the same stage as these, nor had we any sweet peas in flower, so we three sweet pea lovers savoured their sweet perfume. The cutting garden and greenhouse did not fail to impress and everywhere you wandered in this garden there were roses delighting the eye and nose. The chickens at the rear of the garden were relaxing in the warm sunshine enjoying a dust bath and clucking with contentment, it was a pleasure to stand and watch them.

Our final foray was into the front garden, a large curving bed with a profusion of colour especially the spectacular deep red lupins, and various campanulas with their globe like flowers showing off in the bright sunlight.  A seat, at the end of the bed provide a much welcome sit down allowing us to enjoy the scene before us.

It was with equal delight we were told that tea and a choice of homemade cake was ready, which turned out to be as big a treat as the garden had been. A plant lover made this garden and plant lovers enjoyed it.

Aileen Butler

Garden Visit & Plant Sale: Fairhaven Water Gardens

Written by Chris Davis. Posted in Events Past

13th May 2017

Twenty eight members attended, and were taken on a guided tour, by Head Gardener, Ian. with information on the history of the gardens, the two types of candelabra primulas - P. japonica, which hybridised to give red and pink varieties, whereas the other gives rise to pale ones and other colours. They have self- seeded along the banks of the waterways. Of particular note was the Viburnum mariesii, with it's layers of pale blooms in the light shade.

The massive oak trees mentioned in the Domesday Book were examined, also the extensive quantities of Skunk Cabbage (Lysichiton ?) and some very large plants of Gunnera manicata.

Ian explained that there were issues with the tidal nature of the water level - 5hrs after high tide at Gt. Yarmouth. Extra high tides had required digging out to raise levels and the use of board walks.

Willow and hazel were coppiced for various uses in the garden. They made good plant support structures and were used in a layer under soil to create new paths over boggy areas, since the continuous covering of moisture delayed disintegration for some years.

The vast quantities of fallen leaves were collected in December, turned out into piles  after some months, then the coarse material  sieved out, before leaving until the following year when it is fine and ready for sale.

Boat trips were available, and it was encouraging to note that up to two dogs could be taken on board.

The Plant Sale was also managed by a few other members who did not attend the walk. There were plenty of nice plants, thanks to the time and energy of members who kindly brought them along for fund-raising. There was a continuous trickle of customers throughout the period and a total of approximately £100 was raised. In addition, two of Len Speller's Acer collection, and a couple of the large pots were sold. ( The proceeds from these go back to Pat Speller.)

Chris Davies


Group Holiday to the Cotswolds

Written by Chris Davis. Posted in Events Past

12th - 15th June 2017

John and Brenda Foster arranged a packed itinerary from Monday 12th June  through Thursday 15th June, staying over the three nights at Tewkesbury Park hotel.

Leaving from Notcutts, by special dispensation because we behave ourselves, and stopping only briefly at Birchanger on the way, lunch and the first visit were provided by Farleyhill Place Gardens, originally the vegetable plot for the house up the hill, bought five years ago by the present delightful owners, who have renovated the site and grown some lovely plants.

The hotel was set in a golf course, had wonderful views and we were looked after by young, mostly foreign, very cheerful and competent staff. Mrs Overall, who served us on the last evening turned out to be a lovely lady.

Driven by Alisdair, on Tuesday we visited Bourton House, where the garden was tended by obviously competent gardeners, showing unusual plants, well grown in lovely surroundings.

In the afternoon we visited Kiftsgate, which needs no introduction, but had an interesting variation in levels and planting.

Sezincote House, on Wednesday, was John's surprise for us. A private house, built in the Moghul style, with a beautiful orangery and furnishings. The immediate garden was in the same style. I have a photo of Colin and a large baby elephant. Colin is the one in the green shirt. The rest of the garden was English landscape and contained an extensive range of beautiful trees, well disposed in the surrounding valley.

In the afternoon we went to Hidcote, just as well known, though completely different from Kiftsgate, although a near neighbour. The poor level of customer care by the National Trust raised it's ugly head, on this occasion with till failures because they were fitting new ones - on a visitors' day.) This was a very warm day.

In the evening some of us played croquet, and Colin was severely bruised. Linda won.

We left on Thursday morning, first visiting Rousham Park, which was a most beautiful place, with formal gardens and traditional lawns and water. Another of John's gems!

We had a surprise last visit, which John had had to change at short notice, and visited Ascott House, a Rothschild home, looking old, but quite new, with interesting interior decor and an interesting collection of Oriental ceramics. Thus was also run by the National Trust, and whilst they kindly provided us with a sandwich lunch, the house was unaware that they should expect a coach party!

Good weather and a lovely, friendly group completed the holiday.

With heartfelt thanks to John and Brenda for taking such good care of us. Here's to next year!

Chris Davies

Garden Visit: Chestnut Farm, Beckham

Written by Margaret Tyler. Posted in Events Past

8th April 2017

20170408 161715The North Norfolk countryside was looking at its best as we drove to Chestnut Farm on a sunny and warm spring day.  We were greeted by our hosts, John and Judy's and divided into two groups for a guided tour of this three acre garden.  

John and Judy's have gardened here for 54 years and trees  they planted as saplings are now stately giants.  The garden is mostly informal in character, but near the house is a sunny area with paved paths and now full of tulips and other spring flowers including muscari Saffier, which John told us is sterile.  Useful information if you love to grow them, but don't want them seeding everywhere.  Much admired were the white and pale yellow double primroses along one of the paths.

In the woodland part of the garden many interesting shrubs have been planted enjoying the dappled shade cast by mature trees, including stachyurus salicifolius - so much more graceful than other forms of this interesting plant.  A very large skimmia Kew Green had been planted some years ago,  I had no idea they could grow so large, likewise Pittosporum Tom Thumb, my five year old plant is less than two foot high, at Chestnut Farm, after 35 years it is about twelve foot tall.  In the understorey,  many herbaceous perennials were flowering, including chrysosplenum davidiaum, saruma henri and scilla bithynica had spread and made a large, attractive patch in dappled shade.

The front lawn was dominated by a magnolia x soulangeana in full flower and a border shaded by the Chestnut trees which give the farm it's name, was filled with anemone blanda  and other ephemeral spring flowers which will be strimmed to the ground when they have finished flowering.

Finally, a relaxing cup of tea and a slice of cake on the back lawn, and a closer examination of the pots and troughs of alpines and dwarf bulbs that Judy grows.  On the back of the house rosa Maigold and a purple wisteria were just showing colour and will look magnificent in a week or so's time.

If you were unable to make this trip the garden will be open again on Monday, May 29th and  Sunday, July the 9th, well worth a visit

Margaret Tyler


The Diamond Anniversary Annual Lecture Day of the HPS

Written by Chris Davies. Posted in Events Past

25th March 2017

Norfolk and Suffolk Group can be proud of themselves following the successful hosting of the Diamond Anniversary of the Society's Annual Lecture Day.

Of the 173 attendees, 53 were local Group members, showing their support. These included the ALD committee and all the volunteers for the day.

Speakers were Matthew Biggs on 'Lessons from Great Gardeners' and Alan Gray on 'What is Hardiness?'.

During the long lunch break Norfolk Radio was broadcasting 'The Garden Party'  from an adjacent room, and members could drop in and ask questions of the panel between lunch and shopping at the plant stalls, books and raffle, plus garden ironmongery, until it was time for the AGM, during which stallholders and other non-members could drop in on them.

New Hon Treasurer and Hon Secretary and their introductory speeches made the AGM a long one.

The celebration cake was ceremoniously cut by Flora Bloom, before the cake that was cut earlier was served with tea or coffee, Then Flora, second wife of Alan Bloom, and the other founders' descendants, Penelope Hellyer and Fabian Sambrook, were presented with baskets of our Norfolk and Suffolk Heritage Plants, with their smart labels, and one of the lifelike sugar-paste hellebores taken from the cake, before inviting Alan to give his talk. Alan was also given a set of four mugs sporting hand-painted characatures of his own cats, since he had given his talk free of charge. (Matthew was given a Heritage Plant)

A number of volunteers stayed back to help clear up, for which the Catering Manager was very pleased. I explained to him that most of us were old ladies with well-trained husbands.

Chris Davies



Indoor Meeting: Talk by Jamie Blake "Around the World in 80 Plants"

Written by Chris Davies. Posted in Events Past


11th March 2017IMG 1099

This was the title of the talk by Jaime Blake in which he described his choice of plants with reference to a world map, picking plants from countries and regions as he went, beginning with the UK, France and Western Europe, detailing several snowdrops and a favourite hardy geranium, before moving on to Italy and some of its anemones, asters and lathyrus.

Then there was Greece, with Acanthus, among others, followed by Turkey with alchemilla, hellebores and fritillaries, and their attendant Lily-beetles, leading onto the kniphofias  and amaryllis of  North East Africa.

After that Jaime moved onto Nepal and Northern India, noting an arisaema, adiantum and favourite miscanthus. Thailand raised another arisaema, and Malaysia the hardy begonia B.evansii.

China was the source of a number of lovely plants, including cherries, peonies and Hostas , to name just a few, whilst Japan was the source of astilbe and other miscanthus species.

The USA provided the infamous Leylandii conifer, but also trilliums, verbena, phlox and a number of favourite 'daisies'.

Jaime arrived back in the UK in Liverpool, mentioning a couple of aquilegias, explaining that

 Norah Barlow was the granddaughter of Charles Darwin.

For a longer round the world trip with Jaime, you will have to wait for the next newsletter.

Chris Davies