Enlarging the Beth Chatto inspired bed
After a hot dry 2022 we decided that the rather small Beth Chatto bed on The Strip should be enlarged.
As the plants in the famous Dry Garden in Essex survive and thrive without watering we thought this would be a perfect time to start this exciting project.
I visited Beth Chatto’s Garden and spent time with Steve Marshall (Horticultural Website Development) who told me all about the plants they had used and their successes and failures.
With this information and many photographs of the garden it was decided to make our bed in the style of the Dry Garden rather than try to copy it.
We think that we have done this and hope that as the plants grow throughout the year you will join us to see how it develops.
The bed has been edged with bricks and there is a thick layer of gravel mulch between the plants to help reduce weeds and keep the moisture in.
The planting includes many different types of grasses, some knifophia’s, sedums and eryngiums. Seeds of annual poppies and Galactites tomentosa ‘Alba’ will be sown in the spring and allowed to self-seed.
Autumn in the Garden
As the nights start to draw in the garden has a fantastic autumn display of leaves on the liquidambars, Sorbus alnifolia, cotinus coggygria and Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’. There are so many other plants I could mention but the list would go on for many pages.
The asters (now Symphyotrichum) are in full flower, the colours available range from white, through mauves, to bright blues and pinks.
As the days shorten and the weather is cooler, we slowly start to rake up the fallen leaves that form blankets on the ground, cut back the perennial herbaceous plants as they go into winter dormancy and make the garden tidy for our winter openings.
There is always so much to see in all seasons, with our first snowdrops, Galanthus reginae-olgae already open and making fantastic displays next to bright yellow Sternbergias and mauve Colchicums.
Capturing the Industrial Heritage of Fullers Mill
These fabulous aerial photos are of the River Lark in Fullers Mill. The dizzy heights of the garden and its industrial heritage were beautifully captured by drone photography for historical research.
It’s amazing to see the garden from a bird’s eye perspective. Especially being able to see the effects that the drought has had. It’s reassuring to see the plants are still looking healthy. You really get to see the beauty of the gardens from up above.
The photos are being taken as part of a heritage research and survey project called ‘Industrious Rivers’, which is being delivered by the Breckland Society as part of the Brecks Fen Edge & Rivers (BFER) Landscape Partnership scheme, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Alan Clarke and Pat Reynolds got in touch to tell us about the project. Alan and Pat are members of BrecSoc and Pat is also the society’s representative on the BFER Partnership Project Board.
Their Industrious River project is focusing on the historical use of the Breckland rivers such as the River Lark, for trade and industry. Recent River Lark restoration work in the vicinity of Fullers Mill was done with the help and support of BFER partners, The River Lark Catchment Partnership, and the garden is one of the sites where industrial heritage is still visible (though much transformed). You can find out more about BFER and these projects at www.brecks.org, or on social media @TheBrecksLP.
Alan will be returning in the winter when the leaves are gone from the trees and the vegetation growing in the water will have died back. This will provide a better view of the river features which relate to its former industrial/commercial use, principally in the 19th century.
We’re looking forward to welcoming Alan back later in the year and seeing the images he is due to take in the winter and again in spring / summer 2023, which will allow us to see how the garden is recovering.
Endless Sunny Days = Endless Watering
The summer of 2022 will be remembered for wonderful blue skies and endless sunny days. For the garden it will also be remembered for endless watering and plants dying back. Some of the plants will recover others are gone forever. Although there are old favourites that will be missed, there are now spaces for new plants that we are yet to meet. Exciting combinations of planting can be achieved. All it will take is time sourcing them, some trips to the nurseries are planned in the Autumn. We will record each of these new additions on our database for future reference.
To give our plants the best start we always dig in plenty of our own compost this is made from the garden waste we create here at Fullers Mill. Time spent preparing the soil is so worthwhile, the texture is improved from very sandy Breckland soil that we have. It can then retain nutrients and moisture much better, once everything is planted the areas are topped with bark mulch which adds another layer of water retention which is so necessary here.
All that is then left to do is stand back and wait for the plants to grow and fill the beds with colour and scent. We hope that our visitors will take their own pictures to record how the garden evolves.
Annie Dellbridge, Head Gardener
A Very British Summer at Fullers Mill
Summer is in full swing, bees are buzzing, butterflies are flitting between the flowers and bugs are stinging the gardeners! As expected with the British summer we seem to have more than our fair share of cloudy, cool, rainy days. On the positive side, most plants grow better in these conditions, the garden is green and lush with abundant foliage.
The beautiful dahlias are opening including Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ with stunning red flowers above dark foliage. Dahlia ‘Bishop of Dover’ with white flowers and the delicate Dahlia merckii with small mauve floating flowers. The flowering season can be greatly extended with regular dead heading
The lilies are later opening this year, with more still to come as their scent fills the air around them. Such a fantastic plant for colour, structure and minimal care required.
We have had the large cricket bat willows removed from the garden as they were no longer safe. Although we initially missed them, we are now excited with the prospect of new planting opportunities in the garden. Work will start during the winter, and we hope that visitors will come and see the work in progress.
The year is going so quickly with autumn just around the corner. We must enjoy the garden and flowers of this summer. Let’s share our images of Fullers Mill on social media so others can see our wonderful tranquil oasis in Suffolk
Settling into Summer at Fullers Mill
The summer has taken a long while to arrive. April showers (often heavy) and low temperatures were with us until the end of May. Changing to sunshine and higher temperatures over the Spring Bank Holiday.
As a result, the garden is lush, green and fresh. Everything is growing at a phenomenal rate before the flowers begin to open. Peony flowers are beautiful; P. Delavayi with a single red flower. P. emodi with a single white flower and the showy P. suffruticosa. We have two shrubs planted side by side in bright and pale pink with a delicate fragrance. There are 6 seedlings of P. rockii bearing white flowers with various shades of pink and maroon centres.
The delicate martagon lilies in shades of white to dark pink shine from their shady homes around the garden. Naturally blending in colour with their neighbours. The early yellow flowered Lilium monadelphum, planted by an old gnarly oak tree in the Top Garden, flowers next. After this a succession of species and cultivated lilies fill the air with scent.
There have not been any major changes during winter there are modifications in planting which further enhance our stunning garden. A young Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Amber Jubilee’ is a wonderful shrub with glorious leaf colour. Magnolia michelia ‘White Caviar’ has the most amazing shoots with a soft hairy covering and spectacular flowers. And Acacia pravissima has distinctive foliage and yellow flowers in spring.
For the garden team there is a long and enjoyable summer ahead, looking after the garden and welcoming visitors.
Annie Dellbridge, Head Gardener
The Start of a New Season at Fullers Mill
There is great excitement at Fullers Mill Garden as we open to the public for the 2021 season. There have been some subtle changes to some areas of planting and gentle sculpting of paths to improve the flow around the garden.
It has been a winter of extremes with flooding along the edge of the Culford Stream, snow covering the entire garden like a cosy duvet and hard frost for days on end where the soil was as hard as concrete. We might be in April, but the famous English weather means it’s never too late for snow…
Now we are entering spring and hope for long days filled with sunshine so that we can welcome back visitors. Some may have been many times before, others will be visiting for the first time and we are sure that they will be delighted to find a wide range of plants in our tranquil garden. Highlights are the Arisaema’s, Dactylorhiza maculate (orchid) and the unfurling shuttlecock ferns.
Top tip: If you are planning on planting a new perennial, shrub or tree, some consideration should be given to watering. Choose a suitable place for your plant in sun, shade etc. Dig a hole and incorporate plenty of organic matter into this, mixing in a sprinkling of fish, blood, and bone meal to help it establish. To help the plant really succeed, soak it well before it is planted and fill the planting hole with water, wait for it all to drain away, then put in your plant. It now has an excellent environment for the roots to grow and your plant to flourish.
I hope that you are all enjoying your own gardens and that you come and enjoy ours too.
Annie Dellbridge, Head Gardener
An unusual Summer at Fullers Mill
2020 goes down as a memorable year for many reasons, the obvious being lockdown and Covid-19. From a gardening perspective the weather has had so many extremes, hot and dry in the spring, followed by wet and very very windy and now we are having an amazing Indian summer.
The plants don’t know what they are supposed to be doing. There have been autumn crocus flowering at the beginning of August closely followed by Sternbergia lutea with vibrant yellow flowers.
When the garden reopened in June on a limited basis to the Friends of Fullers Mill and our terrific volunteers came back to ‘work’, the garden was full of colour and scent from the first of the lilies opening. Other plants of interest at the time were Arisaema candidissimum, Arisaema tortuosm and Buddleja colvilei.
July came along quickly and so did the public who were able to book to visit, the garden was almost back to normal. The plants continued to delight us all. The hardy Begonia evansiana started to appear in the dappled shade below a twisted willow, the leaves of the begonia are at their best when sunlight shines through them highlighting the red veins on the back of the leaves.
The new area for selling plants in the garden is a success, the plant displays can be easily seen, and our new labels make choosing plants to take home easy for our visitors. Our plants are propagated here at Fullers Mill with a lot of help from the apprentices and volunteers.
August brought dahlias flourishing in bright colours, Cyclamen hederifolium with pink and sometimes white flowers of floating fairies under the birch trees and the amazing seeds of Euonymus oxyphyllus opening below the changing colours of the shrubs leaves.
As autumn seems to have arrived, we are now seeing the leaves start to change colour, a beautiful time to be in the garden. I look forward to welcoming you before the season ends at the end of the month.
Annie Dellbridge, Head Gardener
June 2020 at Fullers Mill
The dry spring has led onto extremes of weather here at Fullers Mill and the plants seem to be loving it. We welcomed the Friends of Fullers Mill back to the garden on the 17 of June, only for the biggest thunderstorm and heaviest rain to synchronise with their arrival in the garden, but even the weather could not dampen the enthusiasm of our garden visitors that day. A week later and we are having the hottest days of the year so far.
Our delicate martagon lilies are open in shady areas, the Cardiocrinums are looking fantastic and the larger flowered hybrid lilies are now starting to open and fill the air with their fabulous scent.
The Arisaemas (cobra lilies) are looking fantastic, we a have a selection of these ranging from the tall but elegant Arisaema ciliatum var liubaense, the even taller Arisaema consanguineum, the contorted Arisaema tortuosm and the very pretty pink Arisaema candidissimum.
Around every corner there is an interesting plant or flower enhanced by the reflective cooling waters of the River Lark, millpond and Culford Stream.
May 2020 at Fullers Mill
Fullers Mill is so so quiet now with the occasional sound of a lawnmower breaking the silence.
The plants and weeds have no idea what is happening in the world at the moment, they are growing really well, especially now that we have had rain. The martagon lilies are just about to open, these like to be in the slightly shaded areas under the edge of shrubs and at the back of borders. Once the martagons start flowering the rest of the lilies follow them, the showy and scented cultivars will be spectacular.
The giant Himalayan lilies – Cardiocrinum yunnanense are going to open within a few weeks,, they can be 1.5metres high with large trumpet flowers. These are monocarpic plants, which are those that flower, set seeds and then die. We wait up to seven years for them to flower and then their offset bulbs start to mature, and the cycle starts over again.
In the top garden, the handkerchief tree – Davidia involucrate is looking fabulous. Although its flowers are small, the white bracts make a stunning display. On the strip over looking the lake our Dipeltas, yunnanense, floribunda and ventricosa are flowering, this seldom grown shrub is well worth a space in the garden.
April 2020 at Fullers Mill
Fullers Mill garden is a quiet oasis arranged around the River Lark and Culford Stream with its own millpond in between. This year, it is even quieter than usual, occupied by a skeleton staff and a whole lot of wildlife. Birds sing their hearts out, siskins, wrens, nuthatches and many others we can’t identify as they flit amongst the trees. The cuckoo has started to shout his name, occasionally we catch sight of them high in the willows in courtship before Mrs cuckoo heads off to find a surrogate to hatch her eggs.
There is a motion sensor camera set up in the garden at night, this has recently photographed otters, foxes and water voles, the garden is a busy place when we go home and the night shift clocks on.
We are now concentrating on the jobs that really need doing, watering, grass mowing and staking lilies and herbaceous perennials. Ideally the staking should be done before the plants start to flop, when they are 10 – 15cm tall so they grow through the supports rather than being visibly restrained. Green jute string is used to gently tie the lilies to their canes (harvested from the garden) allowing them still to have movement in the breeze. Herbaceous perennials can be tied with string or supported with twiggy sticks saved from winter pruning. We try to avoid using ones which root easily such as willow.
Fullers Mill regularly posts images of the garden on its Instagram page. Have a look and add your own pictures of the garden from the 2019 season.