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13 glorious East Anglian gardens to enjoy in 2019

PUBLISHED: 16:30 24 March 2019 | UPDATED: 20:03 24 March 2019

Freston House    Picture: Andrew and Judith Whittle

Freston House Picture: Andrew and Judith Whittle

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They're open as part of the National Garden Scheme, which raises thousands of pounds for charities such as Marie Curie and Macmillan Cancer Care

The Mannington Estate  Picture: COURTESY NGSThe Mannington Estate Picture: COURTESY NGS

Alfred Austin, one of our past Poet Laureates, wrote: “The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body but the soul.”

No wonder we feel outside is where we want to be. Here are 13 of the gardens opening this year under the National Garden Scheme banner.

Mannington Estate, near Little Barningham, Mannington, Norfolk, NR11 7BB

Open: April 14

Time: 11am to 5pm

Adults £6, children free

Open: June 20

Time: 6pm to 8.30pm

Adults: £8, children free

The home of The Lord and Lady Walpole is 18 miles north-west of Norwich.

The gardens – 20 acres – feature some cedar trees and yew hedges from the 19th century and mature trees from the 19th/early 20th century. That said, the gardens are mainly the result of the work of the current Lord Walpole, from 1969 onwards.

The main borders have been established since the 1970s, the Heritage Rose and scented gardens from 1980, the arboretum from the same decade, and the sensory garden this century.

The gardens are managed for wildlife. There’s a wild flower meadow and boardwalk leading to a bird hide and scrape.

The 15th century moated hall was added to in the 1800s when a folly garden was created around the ruined Saxon church. The moat has water lilies and there’s a lake, wood walk with native trees, and a grove with less-usual trees.

Cattishall Farmhouse, Cattishall, Great Barton, Suffolk, IP31 2QT, three miles north-east of Bury St Edmunds

Open: April 28

Times: 1pm to 5pm

Adults £4, children free

Home to chickens, bees and a boisterous Labrador. The farmhouse garden runs to about a couple of acres. It’s enclosed by a flint wall and beech hedge. It’s mainly lawn, with formal and informal planting and a large herbaceous border.

There are numerous roses, a small wildlife pond and a newish kitchen garden that has fruit cages and a wild flower section.

The garden also has a couple of water features and a small lavender walkway. You can stay in a B&B, too, in a converted stable block.

Greenways, Blacksmiths Lane, Hindringham, near Fakenham, Norfolk, NR21 0QB

Open May 11 and 12

Times: 11am to 4pm

Adults: £4, children free

A long season is a boon, and you get one with this mature one-acre garden close to the centre of the village – and with a meandering stream.

Geraldine Maelzer and Anne Callow have used informal planting to nurture continuous colour and interest.

Visitors can sit and listen to birdsong and enjoy the wildlife habitats, featuring many species of bumble bee.

There are displays of tulips and geums to relish, and island beds. The emphasis is on encouraging self-seeding and wildlife.

Spring bulbs add colour, while year-round interest comes from the perennial borders and woodland sections. There are chickens and ducks – a source of eggs.

Drinkstone Park, Park Road, Drinkstone, Suffolk, IP30 9ST, six miles from Bury St Edmunds

Open: May 12 and June 9

Times: 1pm to 5.30pm

Adults £4.50, children free

This three-acre garden has wildlife and ornamental ponds, herbaceous borders, roses, orchard, woodland and wildlife area, vegetable plot and greenhouses. But that’s not all.

There’s also an original ha-ha with views across the landscape. A folly is a sunken garden created from part of unearthed cellars (of a mansion knocked down in 1950) now planted with ferns.

Over 13 years the garden has evolved, and still is. “On the three-acre site once part of the grounds to the mansion demolished in 1950 we started with beautiful mature trees, a paddock and masses of concrete – a legacy from the American tank regiment in WW2,” report owners Michael and Christine Lambert.

Lexham Hall, near Litcham, Norfolk, PE32 2QJ. Six miles north of Swaffham, off B1145

Open: May 19 and July 31

Times: 11am to 5pm

Adults: £6, children free

The hall itself isn’t open but the gardens are – on certain days.

The sheep-grazed parkland, and lake and riverside walks (the Nar runs through the woodland garden), surrounds the hall. There are great views over the parkland.

The formal garden features terraces, yew hedges, rose borders (re-planted in 1997 by Beales Roses) and mixed borders. A kitchen garden includes an orchard and cutting borders, with a crinkle crankle wall dating from about 1680.

There is an extensive collection of scented winter-flowering shrubs. A three-acre woodland garden has fine trees, azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias and magnolias. It’s been extended to include cornus and other shrubs.

New borders in the past 10 years or so have focused on late-summer/early-autumn interest, with an emphasis on winter form.

A major new planting scheme in the walled garden happened in the spring of 2010 and offers experimental plantings and ideas. The pièce de résistance is the 15ft wisteria-clad “Dome”.

Freston House, The Street, Freston, near Ipswich, IP9 1AF

Open: May 26

Times: 12noon to 5pm

Adults £5, children free

The 20-acre garden to a large Georgian rectory set in parkland on the Shotley peninsula was planted from 2006 by owners Andrew and Judith Whittle.

There are colour-themed “roomed” gardens, a cottage garden and formal long borders with mass plantings of hundreds of shrubs and perennials.

Visitors can also enjoy a one-acre kitchen garden, wildlife pond, winter garden, gravel garden and woodlands – with more than 1,000 varieties of hostas and other shade-loving plants.

The owners’ passion for plants such as bearded iris, agapanthus, penstemon, hemerocallis, roses and dahlias is very apparent!

Wood Farm, Back Lane, Gipping, Stowmarket, Suffolk, IP14 4RN

Open: June 2

Times: 1pm to 4.30pm

Adults £4.50, children free

There can’t be many gardens that were used as a backdrop for a photoshoot by an international fashion brand. But this was – last summer – to shoot some of the brand’s autumn/winter offerings.

Wood Farm is also included in Barbara Seagall’s book Secret Gardens of East Anglia.

An old farm with ponds, orchards and an eight-acre wild flower meadow (with mown paths) bordered with hedging, trees and woodland.

The big cottage garden was laid in 2011, with beds planted with flowers, vegetables and topiary. Wildlife is encouraged, particularly bees and butterflies.

Manor House Farm, Wellingham, Norfolk, PE32 2TH, seven miles west of Fakenham

Open: June 23

Times: 11.30am to 5pm

Adults: £6, children free

Robin and Elisabeth Ellis’s four-acre country garden surrounds a farmhouse. There are formal quadrants (flowers and obelisks), a “hot spot” of grasses and gravel, a small arboretum with unusual specimen trees, pleached lime walk, vegetable parterre and rose tunnel.

There is also an unusual walled “Taj” garden with old-fashioned roses, tree peonies, lilies and a pond. Visitors might also look out for a variety of herbaceous plants and a small herd of Formosan Sika deer...

Hillside, Union Hill, Semer, north-west of Hadleigh, Suffolk, IP7 6HN

Open: June 23

Times: 11am to 5pm

Adults £4, children free

A new garden with real history behind it: on the 10-plus acres of land around the old Cosford Union workhouse. (There are only very small remains left of the workhouse itself.)

The house hadn’t been lived in for a couple of years, and there was only grass and trees outside.

The owners began work on the revamp in 2016. The land at the back of the stables became a fruit and vegetable garden, with large greenhouse. Island beds feature a combination of shrubs and perennials for a long season – and there was a battle of wits with rabbits and deer early on, while the plants established themselves.

Tyger Barn, Wood Lane, Aldeby, near Beccles, NR34 0DA

Open: July 7

Times: 11am to 5pm

Adults £5, children free

Ah… the creation of a garden. It doesn’t happen overnight. It was 2007 when a former farmyard began to be transformed, and it’s still a work in progress. Mind you, much has been achieved.

The garden includes densely-planted borders with hot, exotic and “ghost” themes; a secret cottage garden; wild flower swathes and colonies of bee orchids. Not forgetting a traditional hay meadow and ancient woodland.

The garden is designed to blend into its surroundings of meadow and ancient woodland, and to be a place for all seasons. Border planting is dense and layered for dramatic effect, with unusual and exotic combinations of colour and texture.

The wildflower swathes change subtly every year. Some wildflowers, such as ox-eye daisies, are allowed to seed into the borders to give a sense of continuity. Grasses are important, and meadow grass is cut to delineate space and volume. There are sculptures, too.

In the cottage garden, sun and shade planting in different beds creates contrasting scenes of colour and foliage.

Paget House, Back Road, Middleton, near Saxmundham, Suffolk, IP17 3NY

Open: July 21

Times: 10.30am to 5pm

Adults £4, children free

A wildlife-friendly garden begun in 2012.

It was originally half of a long and established garden. (Some mature trees, such as deodar cedar and a redwood, remain.) More recent plantings include birch, larch, yew and cherry.

Birds noted include barn owls, and house martins that nested for the first time in 2017. Owners Julian and Fiona Cusack have been recording more than 40 bird species each year, as well as butterflies and wild flowers, including orchids.

33 Waldemar Avenue, Hellesdon, Norwich, NR6 6TB

Open: July 28 and August 18

Times: 11am to 5pm

Adults £4, children free

A suburban garden with a combination of exotic and tropical plants mixed with unusual perennials, many grown for seed. The late Will Giles was owner Sonja Gaffer’s gardening hero and friend. Dahlias are a passion. A big collection of succulents and cacti should be on show.

Don’t miss the palm-thatched Tiki hut, or the pond packed with wildlife and rare plants.

River Cottage, Lower Road, Lavenham, Suffolk, CO10 9QJ

Open: August 11

Times: 11am to 5pm

Adults £5, children free

The Healds’s pride and joy is billed as a plantsman’s garden, with the owners always having an eye out for new and unusual plants. Even if they’re not in flower, attractions such as rare Aroids, Cardiocrinums and Trilliums can still promise interesting foliage.

The 400ft river garden, with new beds of late-flowering grasses and colourful plants, is behind the 17th century house. The opposite bank is a work in progress, with rare grasses and heleniums.

The owners report many new lilies and exotics: such as Tetrapanax, gingers, Isoplexis, three varieties of helianthus, and two pink and one rare yellow Justitia.

There are many unusual trees and shrubs in the front garden, under-planted with heucheras and hostas. Around the door is an exotic selection of potted plants.

More details: www.ngs.org.uk

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