Helmingham Hall – Plant Heritage Spring Plant Fair

244 Reviews

Star Travel Rating


Review type

Things to do


Date of travel

May, 2015

Product name

Product country

Product city

Travelled with


Reasons for trip

With no show gardens or overwhelming crowds the Suffolk Plant Heritage Spring Fair follows Chelsea and is as picturesque as Hampton Court. The moated Tudor house may not have reached local “boy done good” Cardinal Wolsey’s pretensions but it has been good enough for the Tollemache family who built it and have descendants still living there.

As well as opening the gardens throughout the summer and inviting locals inside in aid of the village church at Christmas, when the family portraits are as impressive a family tree as can be, Lord and Lady Tollemache host the Heritage Plant Fairs in May and September. Lady Tollemache, a celebrated garden designer, leads a tour on these occasions; otherwise, visitors find their own way round.

So, to business: the first 800 visitors receive a free plant. Attendance may be judged by the last plant being handed over less than two hours from opening. With perhaps 1000 people by 1 pm there was still plenty of space to walk or stand about in. The only slight difficulty at the stalls was reaching the plant that caught your eye before someone else had bought it.

Exhibitors come from all over the eastern counties and one came from Kent. There are numerous Chelsea medallists, and Suffolk Plant Heritage had a few of its own Sarah Cook’s gold medal Cedric Morris irises. Sarah’s garden at Shelley is open on Sunday 31 May from 10 am to 4 pm, when all of her irises will be on show.

Rain had been forecast but nothing dimmed the sunshine until after lunchtime. Food and drinks of many kinds kept energy levels up through a constant to-and-fro with purchases between showground and car park. Coffee, traditional lemonade, ice cream, fudge, strawberries and cream, all were available with more substantial fare at grills and barbecue stalls. There was no doubt the plants and a variety of craft or antique items sold well. For anyone visiting on an ordinary open day there is a cafe and plants can be bought from the Helmingham gardens.

At big plant shows the only place for meeting friends or holding conversations would seem to be refreshment tents. Though there are tables to eat or drink at, it is easy to stand around and talk anywhere on site. This means many casual conversations begin on the stimulus of a plant or some other cue. For example, my casual mention of going back to Cumberland prompted someone to ask where we’d lived. At once we were in reminiscence mode about the different places we’d known. A plant set another stranger on a subject that left us both almost as friends. There were also stall holders we knew from visiting their nurseries.

Throughout the day there are events at the Plant Heritage marquees. Jim Marshall gave a fascinating talk on “Grub in a Trug,” though we had to leave just before the end to take our turn on the gate. A plant propagation demonstration followed, with another talk in the afternoon. A “plant doctor” was on hand all day to give advice.

If it’s worthwhile to travel from Kent as well as drag yourself out after an exhausting week’s exhibiting at Chelsea it’s no wonder the Spring Plant Fair at Helmingham goes from strength to strength.


Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.