The Friends of Fullers Mill had a special reason for having the garden open at the end of October. It normally closes at the end of September until April, but if your Friends have contacts with the likes of the Buckingham Palace gardener there are such reasons.
Gardens in Norway was another such. Tommy Tonsberg had come to talk about the history of gardening there, and once the laptop-projector link had been made to work he gave a fascinating insight into what is grown and can be grown in the many different conditions from Oslo to Tromso, where they have the most northerly botanic garden in the world.
Talks are difficult to review adequately for travellers because of course they are finished before the notice appears. Nonetheless, if anyone interested in unusual kinds of gardening – certainly in contrast to the UK – hears he is giving another talk they really should try to attend
What is easier to review, even if frustrating for readers who will have to wait until next spring, is the wonderful 7 acre garden created over 50 years by Bernard Tickner. All the more remarkable in that, as he once said to us, he is colourblind.
His house was once one of the numerous fulling mills along the river Lark leading to Bury St Edmunds, hence the name. The mill stream remains as a feature of the garden. The Lark flows by and just beyond the boundary fence is the Lackford Lakes nature reserve leased at the end of a gravel extraction scheme by Suffolk Wildlife Trust. Bernard Tickner generously funded a bird hide near his garden so wildlife is borrowed in the way landscape in hillier country can be. A skein of geese flew over during our visit.
The garden is a maze of planting areas through which it is easy to find a way. Paths and bridges lead to woodland areas, spring planting, exotic planting and of course aquatic and river bank planting. Among the October delights was a clump of early flowering (ie before next spring) Scandinavian snowdrops. Appropriate to the event, especially as Tommy was to point out that Norwegian snowdrops are companions to tulips in their delayed spring.
Colour, despite Bernard’s problem, is very much in evidence and provides constant interest as do the textural contrasts that would seem easier for him to achieve. He does little or no work now as the garden is cared for by the Friends aided by Perennial, a gardeners’ benevolent trust.
The other constant feature is water, with small cascades giving streams a faster pace than the river and of course their sound as a background to bird song. A balmy late afternoon reaching 18C could have been June instead of almost November.
Paved and mulched areas lead through different garden experiences, from the hard surfaces and rockeries to cyclamen beneath tall trees. Bamboo is magnificent in large clumps, both black and yellow. Grasses are also widely used in groups, with some still flowering. Large pebbles are arranged around pots and planters near the house. There are seats in different spaces, each with its view of something special. It is a garden for leisurely enjoyment, with at the end a splendid slice of cake to go with your tea or coffee.
We had been several times before but not in the last three years or so. We made up our minds not to miss visiting next year and to go whenever we are in the Bury area with an afternoon free. It can’t be praised enough.