Last Tuesday torrential rain prevented me from visiting Blickling Lodge. Situated near the market town of Aylsham in Norfolk, it once belonged to the Blickling estate but is not to be confused with Blickling Hall. A break in the weather a couple of days later allowed the gates to unlock and swing open for me, ahead of the garden opening this coming Sunday.
On the approach to the house with the walled garden behind, there is a colourful mixed border
which is broken in the centre by the most comfortable looking seat swinging between pots of agapanthus.
The owners were out but Plug was there to greet me and quickly led me around to the other side of the house where I met head gardener Rachel.
Rachel was just dead-heading paeonia lactiflora ‘Festiva Maxima’, the plants of which were looking very healthy and well supported by home-grown hazel sticks. It is a simple but effective parterre with the white flowers of hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ now carrying on the show.
We start our tour in the walled garden situated close by the house. A path bordered by a delightful mix of herbaceous and mixed planting runs down the centre.
Unaffected by the recent rain, clematis ‘Madame Julia Correvon’ scrambles over the iron fence at the back of the border. This is a clematis that was originally raised in France in 1900 but was then lost to cultivation until it was rediscovered by the great plantsman Christopher Lloyd. I wonder who the good lady was who gave her name to this pretty clematis.
Fruit trees are trained against the wall and are just receiving a summer tidy. Cut flowers grow in blocks along the border,
flowers such as ammi visna ‘White’, so good in arrangements,
and old favourites such as sweet peas.
On the other side of the garden the border is reserved for the neat rows of vegetables,
with a fruit cage in the corner.
Cornflowers burst out from the coldframe by the neat greenhouse.
On the opposite wall and across the swimming pool, is a raised bed of herbs resting under a carved stone coat of arms.
Hydrangea paniculata ‘kyushu’ is content in a pot.
Against the wall is a climbing rose ‘The Generous Gardener’ and Rachel sings its praises; repeat flowering, fragrant and disease resistant. I discover that it was introduced by David Austin in 2002 and named to mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the NGS.
Moving away from the walled garden and walking back past the house is a dell where a small hexagonal building has been built. It is a dog kennel, constructed 5 years ago with the added luxury of central heating.
A generous planting of hydrangeas edge the wall of the building where three dark purple clematis climb the supports.
Mature trees such as oak grace the lawn,
and a monkey puzzle tree araucaria araucana is impressive, almost menacing.
An avenue of yew ‘squares’ with magnolias planted on the outside, leads to the narrow obelisk.
The sky is very grey and in the field beyond the cows are lying down, it could be an ominous sign.
A pair of Portugal laurel, prunus lusitanica are clipped into lollipops and stand by the entrance to the tennis court; benches await the keen spectators .
Buttresses neatly project from the long yew hedge which takes you back to the house,
and on the other side is the avenue of yew ‘onions’, beautifully shaped they are very appealing.
A majestic bench sits in a recess, the hedge opposite is lowered for better viewing of the cricket field beyond.
The ‘onion’ avenue narrows to a wooden bridge, recently restored after damage from a falling branch. From here the garden becomes wild and watery.
The river Bure flows by, a haven for wildlife such as the otter,
and blue dragonflies; this is a male banded demoiselle gently pausing on the Norfolk reed.
The yellow water-lily, nuphar lutea floats in the slow moving water. It apparently smells like the dregs of wine, which is why it is sometimes called ‘Brandy Bottle’.
It is mainly wild flowers growing in this area but there are some ornamentals too, such as these Siberian Irises,
which almost look exotic.
Hazel and willow are grown and cut for use in the rest of the garden. Living willow is latticed around the back of a bench.
Walking back towards the house I can’t help but admire not only the smooth lawns of the cricket pitch in front, but also the equipment that goes with it.
It is a well maintained garden around a family home. A variety of flowers and vegetables are grown in the delightful walled garden, and the formal areas contrast with the more relaxed and peaceful planting by the river. Open on Sunday 2nd July (tomorrow) between 2.00pm -5.30pm with home-made teas it surely makes for a perfect Sunday afternoon outing.