Don't miss Helmingham's huge plant fair this autumn
- Credit: Barry Pullen
A big event...with a village fete feel. That’s how I’d describe a day out at the Helmingham Hall Autumn Plant Fair.
I remember the first one I went to a couple of years ago, pre-pandemic. I’d just moved house and inherited a large outdoor space, with scope to truly sink my teeth into the green-fingered world.
I had no idea what to expect. Certainly not for hundreds of people to be tumbling towards the entrance, desperate to get their mitts on the ‘very best’ specimens before they sold out. Indeed, as we rocked up, a minute or two after opening, there were already punters making the way to their cars, dragging behind them a trug cart or two of towering delphs and hollyhocks.
My message is this. Get there early!
This year’s fair takes place on September 19, from 10am to 4pm, with tickets (£8 for over 15s) online now at helmingham.com.
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The setting alone is worth the journey out to Helmingham. I’ll never fail to be impressed by the meandering driveway, framed by parkland and ancient, twisting trees. Nor by the Grade I listed red brick moated manor house, whose gardens (entry included) which span an orchard, rose borders, sunken knot garden - and even a little pet cemetery – look stunning at this time of year.
There’s nothing nicer, as summer bleeds into autumn, than sitting around the moat with an ice cream or jam-smothered scone.
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As already mentioned, get there early. The first 800 entrants will get a free plant!
Here's what you can expect:
The Garden Zone
Absolutely enormous, with everything you need to fill your borders and prepare for spring. Look out for the folk from national plant collections – be it gorgeous, frilly, rare French-style pinks with their heady clove aroma, or fuchsias.
Suffolk Plant Heritage are worth a look in here as well. They can advise on any local plants you have growing in your garden, and will be selling rarities. There’s something quite special about taking home a pot, knowing you’re helping to preserve a species. I was thrilled to find a plant named after my brother last time.
There are roses, cacti, perennials, annuals, house plants. And a really really good range of bulbs from various suppliers. The double-blooming peony-style tulips I bought from a specialist here two years ago have naturalised up the garden path and always stop passers-by in their tracks. I’ve even had people knock on my door asking what they are. They include blousy, off-white and lime green Verona, and ballerina pink Angelique.
You’ll also find trees, tools, sculptures and furniture.
The Conservation Zone
Charities and societies are ready here to have a chat with you, and the Garden Marquee hosts workshops and talks all day, as well as ‘plant doctors’. Take along your queries and pictures and see if they can help you.
There’s a feel-good vibe at this part of the event, where you can take to the temporary dance floor for a swirl to the sounds of Chocks Away Vintage DJ.
Discover gifts and nice things for your garden amongst the crafty and vintage stalls. From traditional pottery to show off your spring displays, to baskets, scarves, pet treats and more.
And there are multiple food and drink stalls serving tea and cake, proper sausage hot dogs and plenty more to treat your tastebuds.
The courtyard shops, café and ice cream parlour at Helmingham will be open too.
It’s expected to be a sell-out event, so get your tickets now if you’re planning on going.