In September I revisited this amazing garden after a gap of many years and I was bowled over by the energy and imagination and I have to say the money that has been spent on it.
Alan Gray and Graham Robeson have developed it over many years and gradually expanded their boundaries so that they now have 32 acres. They live near the wind- swept coast of North Norfolk and so their first job was to plant a shelter belt. Now, within these tall trees they have a garden which takes advantage of the maritime climate without suffering from the depredations of salt-laden winds. The landscape round here is flat and uninteresting, but they have cleverly taken advantage of the landmarks of a lighthouse and the church by making holes in the hedges.
Sorry, the above is not a good photo but you can just out make out Happisburgh lighthouse. In between the blocks of evergreen oak, Quercus ilex, there are Chusan palms, Trachycarpus fortunei.
There are many long green corridors throughout the garden which rest the eye between the different areas. Some of them have glimpses of the church at the end and some of them have unusual sculpture.
I have heard people complain that this garden is ‘too much’ and ‘exhausting’. I wonder what delicate sensitivities people have to find a glorious garden full of treats too much. Another criticism I have heard is that it does not relate to the countryside, which is unfair. The strong winds demand a shelter belt and in any case who wants a view of flat turnip fields? I love the exuberance of this garden and the soaring imagination which has gone into its design. I heard Alan Gray speak this year and I loved his enthusiasm. These are hands-on gardeners who grow things from seed if they cannot find the plants they want. They are always pushing the boundaries of tender and exotic plants outside.
In the garden by the impressive entrance which they call the ‘Postman’s Gate’, they grow succulents. I suppose these must be dug up every winter unless the large ones can survive a mild winter.
I loved the way the colour of the succulent matches the verdigris of the copper containers.
You leave this part of the garden through another fabulous gate.
Here are are more succulents, this time displayed in pots.
Alan and Graham have a liking for the exotic. There is an Exotic Garden, a Mediterranean garden and a Desert Wash which is designed to look like parts of Arizona. This is a gravel garden and there are four hundred tonnes of flint stones. I saw this some years ago when it had just been completed and I thought it looked wonderful. Now it has grown up and many plants have self- seeded, I don’t like it quite so much because it doesn’t look so desert -like.
Here is the entrance to the Mediterranean garden. It is surrounded by brick walls and consists of a series of south-facing terraces. I love the way the Lobelia tupa matches the brick.
At the far end of the Mediterranean garden you can see the pavilion. From the other side of the pavilion the King’s Walk leads back to the house. It is flanked by ten beautifully clipped obelisks of yew.
Many of us dream of having a walled garden and in 2012 Alan and Graham built a fabulous Diamond Jubilee walled garden. Here there are vegetables and flowers for cutting as well as stock beds.
My favourite part of the garden is the Dutch garden. This consists of eight box-edged beds and topiary in the form of balls cones and a pair of peacocks. The brick paths here set off the garden beautifully.
One of the glories of this garden in late summer is the imagination and flair which has gone into the creation of flower filled pots, some of them huge.
There is so much to enjoy here at all times of the year. The woodland walk is criss-crossed with paths and it is easy to lose your way. It looks good in September with so many hydrangeas. I don’t know how they kept them looking good during this year’s drought.
There is a rose garden and an amazing wild-flower meadow for early summer. It is a garden which is worth visiting at any season. And of course there are always new projects. Alan has become very interested in growing fruit. There is a lovely apple walk. I asked what this structure is going to be and was told it is for fruit. They don’t do anything by halves here.
A visit to this garden gets me dreaming about what horticultural delights I would treat myself to, if I had plenty of room and unlimited resources. I think it would be a natural swimming pond and a greenhouse. Not just any old greenhouse, I have two of those already. I am thinking of something on the lines of the Palm House at Kew. OK, maybe a little more modest. But somewhere I could enjoy exotic plants and warmth all year round. It would open up a whole new area of gardening and keep me out of mischief all winter long. Or, I would be quite happy with a large greenhouse like the one Peter, The Outlaw Gardener enjoys, even though his greenhouse is rather unnervingly decorated with dismembered bodies. I think I would rather go for a tree top walk and a cascade and bright, tropical butterflies.
What would your horticultural extravagance be if money was no object?