10 October 2012 By Billy Hawkins
It was a beautiful sunny weekend which has become the habit of this group’s annual weekend meet up.
A unique opportunity to visit some of the private Walled Kitchen Gardens of Suffolk could not be passed up by our Sales Directors, Chris Sawyer and John Lawson. There is so much passion and interest involved with this dedicated group of people that the atmosphere is charged with shared knowledge and learning and as Chris enthused,
“It’s a privilege to be a part of such an exciting weekend, visiting beautiful kitchen gardens and learning so much…I took particular pleasure noticing an early Alitex greenhouse nestling comfortably in the corner of the walled garden at Glemham House. Lady Cranbrook commented on how well the structure has worked for the past 41 years. It was great to see an Alitex greenhouse constructed in1971 which was still cherished and well used.”
Each garden visited had the benefit of being bathed in the best possible light, bringing the colours to life and sparking light off the dewy grass. Fiona Grant did such an admirable job organising the event alongside Sue Campbell the founder and chair of the Walled Kitchen Garden Network (WKGN). Sue is one of the UK’s leading walled garden historians and with her guiding hand, the group toured gardens hosted by their keen and hard-working hosts who had opened their walled gardens for the group to enjoy.
John Lawson of Alitex commented,
“It is such a fabulous opportunity for like-minded people and old friends to get together and admire the work put into these beautiful Suffolk gardens. Aside from it being interesting and valuable it was also a great laugh – what better way to spend the weekend?”
Our friends Jim Buckland and Sarah Wain from the Walled Gardens at West Dean were there as were old Alitex clients that we don’t get to visit that often as they live in all four corners of the UK. Lectures were given by Dr Tom Williamson from East Anglia University entitled “The Kitchen Garden in the Landscape: the East Anglian Evidence”, Jason Gathorne-Hardy about his parent’s garden at Great Glemham and Phil Mizen, owner of Langham Herbs. All were fascinating and illustrated by the gardens visited over the weekend – Chris particularly enjoyed learning of the kitchen garden’s placement in the landscape of the house and how that had changed over the years.
The weekend continued with a visit to another fine estate in Suffolk, Heveningham Hall,one of the last gardens designed by Capability Brown, a whopping two thousand acres of parkland and two kilometres of lakes. A grand undertaking built with similar scales to our more local Petworth House. The walled garden was a fascinating delight, with a stunning example of a “crinkle –crankle wall” bisecting the walled garden. With the undulating wall, the design was created to maximise the fruit trees exposure to sunlight. Another gem for Chris and John was the magnificent orangery designed by James Wyatt at the turn of the 18th Century.
At Helmingham Hall Lady Xa Tollemache who resides here, designed,developed and maintained her gardens and horticultural passions. Chris commented on how much he had admired Lady Xa Tollemache’s work at RHS Chelsea over many years, but had never had the opportunity to see her own garden. He was not disappointed, the garden is a triumph.
“The garden at Helmingham truly reflected Lady Tollemache’s ability to design a working and decorative garden without compromising the landscape and indeed the house that it framed.”
The walled garden had a series of garden paths over which frames and supports created beautiful vistas of the house and garden beyond. Grown over the supports were gourds and squashes, which not only looked lovely but also stopped them getting eaten by slugs on the ground. A great tip from the top!
In all, a fabulous weekend organised with great care and attention to present some of the most wonderful kitchen gardens of Suffolk. Thanks all round to the hosts and organisers who created a most memorable weekend.