In making the garden, Bernard recognised that the poor soil and dry conditions at Fullers Mill resemble those of the Mediterranean region and has consciously made use of plants naturally adapted to such places. Thus the early flowering snowdrops from Greece – Galanthus reginae-olgae, start to flower in October. The wild Tulipa sprengeri is an unusual sight in late May. In winter the elegant birch grove of Betula ‘Silver Grace’, which was originally discovered by the lake, brings great freshness to the Top Garden, and in summer it becomes a romantic, dream-like scene underplanted with silver and purple. In early summer the Top Garden is transformed by flowering shrubs, which later form the backdrop for majestic displays of lilies.
The River & Mill Pond
The sound of rushing water draws the visitor to the weir and footbridge across the River Lark. This was formerly one of 23 locks enabling barges to bring mainly coal from the North Sea up to Bury St Edmunds and to take corn back. The Lark ceased to be navigable in 1900. When Bernard Tickner bought the property in 1958 the Mill Pond had disappeared under a tangle of fallen trees, brambles and nettles. Its southern bank had been washed away by the Culford Stream and it was impossible to recognise it as a pond. Much work has been done since then and now the area is planted with massed Primula, Darmera and the skunk cabbage Lysichiton along with other moisture loving plants. Over the years there were a succession of fulling mills between the river and the pond. Each mill had a water wheel which powered a set of mallets, these were used to pound locally woven cloth, to make it more full and thicker. After fulling it was put out to dry on a flat tentering ground where it was secured with tenter hooks to stop it shrinking as it dried.
Beyond the Mill Pond lie the Inner and Outer Quandaries, offering a more sunny open aspect. Different varieties of snowdrops continue to emerge throughout winter and early spring, with many large flowered varieties followed by daphnes and peonies. In summer the air carries the spicy scent of Spartium, hinting at the Mediterranean, while the indigo plant Indigofera, Crocosmia, lilies and a stunning white-flowered angel’s fishing rod Dierama, form an elegant display. The approach of autumn is detected by wafts of ‘burnt sugar’ given off by the tree Cercidiphyllum, while in October, a very large clump of Persicaria is a mass of sweetly scented bloom. Nearby, a massive Euphorbia stygiana from The Azores is a handsome plant throughout the year.
The Low Garden
To the west of the Mill Pond is the Low Garden, which was the first area of the garden to be developed. Recently the original planting has been rejuvenated with many choice new plants added. In late winter and spring the curious purple flower of toothwort – Lathraea clandestina, a parasitic plant which colonises willow roots, can be found at ground level scattered through this area. At the same time the birch bank is carpeted with Crocus tommasinianus followed by Anemone blanda, which in turn make way for Galactites tomentosa in summer. The raised terrace beds are packed with flowering bulbs, which in spring look over a wonderful fresh mass of the shuttlecock fern Matteuccia.
Beyond this, in late June the giant lily Cardiocrinum giganteum, produces its enormous spikes of amazing trumpet like flowers. This bulb has very particular cultivation requirements and takes about seven years to flower and then dies. However, it leaves behind a ring of small bulbs to start the process again and we are fortunate to have a selection of plants of different ages to ensure a display of flowers in most years. The mix of shady areas and sunny glades in the Low Garden offers ideal conditions for a whole range of charming woodland plants in spring and summer together with lilies followed by displays of colour in autumn.
The Strip contains the Chatto bed, planted with sun-loving foliage plants mainly obtained from Beth Chatto’s superb garden in Essex, and a recently formed bed called The Patch, with a Quercus macrolepis grown from an acorn collected from Crete surrounded by Dipelta, Romneya coulteri, Cistus and groups of majestic lilies.
Further along is a lovely example of Crataegus x prunifolia and a huge Himalayan rose Rosa brunonii, which is covered with very sweetly scented flowers in June.
From here there are views across the lake.
Fullers Mill Cottage & Private Garden
Fullers Mill Cottage and its private garden are not open to visitors.