Suffolk gardens

Top award for Xa Tollemache

Enormous congratulations to Xa Tollemache whose fabulous gardens at Helmingham Hall, Suffolk, are just about to be named 'Garden of the Year 2017' by the Historic Houses Association. This is a prestigious award, voted for by visitors, that goes to the very best garden open to the public by owners of some of the most beautiful house in Britain.

I visit Helmingham regularly as it is also home to one of the best plant fairs in East Anglia in aid of Plant Heritage. Run twice a year, the first in 2017 will be on 28 May from 10am to 4pm. Loads of specialist nurseries - it's impossible to come away empty-handed!


For more details on the award, follow this link: 

Mulch admired: garden of the year award goes to Helmingham Hall


Photographs © Catherine Horwood

Lily-sniffing parties in Suffolk

Not far from where I garden in Suffolk is the exquisite village of Boxford full of the honey-coloured wood-framed houses that the county is so famed for. One has just come on the market but for those in the know, it isn't the house that's the big draw but the garden. For this was the home of Jenny Robinson, veteran plantswoman, who died aged 94 years old last August.

I never met Jenny but her reputation as a great 'Gardening Woman' lives on. So I'm delighted to reproduce (with their permission) short memories of Jenny from the latest edition of the Plant Heritage Suffolk Group Journal (Spring 2011).


[Jenny Robinson] persuaded many of us to join Plant Heritage (then the NCCPG) having been a founder and President of the Suffolk Group and was unstinting in her gifts of plants to be sold for the cause. For many years, Jenny kept the National Collection of Muscari in her garden and had one named Muscari 'Jenny Robinson' which she discovered in Cyprus. Two other plants from her garden she gave to us for distributing amonst members, Narcissus 'Osborne's Grey' and Narcissus 'Jenny's Little Sister'.

Her garden was a triumph and was still being opened to the public right up to the spring before her death in August [2010], four days before her 94th birthday.



Jenny's garden at Chequers, Boxford, [was] featured in Alvide Lees-Milne and Rosemary Verey's book, An Englishwoman's Garden, published in 1980.

Lilies were among her plant passions, and she was a member of the RHS Lily Committee, then the Lily Group Committee from 1976-89. Many friends will remember being summoned to her 'Lily-sniffing Parties', held at short notice on the summer evening when she judged the lilies in her garden to be at their best.



If you'd like to find out more about Plant Heritage or the local Plant Heritage group in Suffolk, please click on the links. They will be running the bi-annual Plant Fair at Helmingham Hall in Suffolk on Sunday 29 May which attracts dozens of specialist nurseries to the grounds of the famous gardens created by Xa Tollemache at Helmingham.

Two very different Suffolk Gardening Women

I'm doing the rounds of Suffolk gardens at the moment and recently took advantage of 'Gardener's Friday' openings to visit Lucy Redman's garden at Rushbrooke and The Walled Garden at Langham Hall. Both are not far from Bury St Edmunds. And what a contrast!


Lucy is a self-confessed 'maximalist' plantaholic who runs design courses at her home throughout the year. When I arrived, she emerged from her home apologising for not having heard the bell as she'd just been dyeing her hair pink! No photograph to prove it but indeed she had.  And she claims she's just about to take some mauve paint spray to her dried allium heads as well - and I think I believe her!


The latest addition to this unusual garden is a 'river' of metal dramatically created by Lucy and her husband and newly planted with gravel-loving succulents. Even ever-energetic Lucy admits it was a labour of love in its creating.

Moving on to the Walled Garden at Langham Hall was a very different world. Here Phil Mizen runs Langham Herbs but I was there to met Sue Wooster, holder of the NCCPG's National Collection of Alpine Campanulas. Tucked away at the end of the recently restored walled garden, Sue's Bellflower Nursery is a relatively new venture allowing her to display her collection of alpine campanulas as well as selling a selection of them and other perennials.

August is not the best time to see alpine campanulas but such is Sue's enthusiasm, I'll be back in the Spring to see the display in all its glory. The garden and nursery are so peaceful that it's a place to linger and learn.