I’m hardly green fingered, a matter of regret given my father’s pride in his garden and memories of the vegetables and salad crops he used to grow when I was young.
But I can appreciate the skill of the plantsman in choosing what to grow, the dedication to carving something out of unpromising ground and the architectural skill that goes into planning so that there’s always something to catch the eye or nose.
So East Ruston Vicarage Garden was a joy to discover on a grey day when East Anglia was blanketed under low cloud and drizzle while the rest of the country still basked in the sun.
It was my umpteenth visit to Norfolk but my friends live closer to the gardens now so it was a natural alternative to sailing on Barton Broad in the rain. And there was the promise of tea and cake too.
Alan Gray (you might have seen him on TV) and Graham Robeson took on the 1913 Arts & Crafts style vicarage set in open fields in 1988. It’s only a mile and a half from the North Sea, so the maritime influence protects it from frost and evergreen shelter belts shield the gardens, planted as a series of rooms that are larger the further you get from the house, from the winds.
Work in progress
I’ll leave the discovery of each themed garden room for you to stumble upon during a visit that I can heartily recommend. There’s a lot of information on the website but it can only whet the appetite. Work is always in progress somewhere in the gardens. Two years ago, I was told by another enthusiastic visitor, the new walled gardens were bare. Now there’s a profusion of colour.
From a desert garden where a deep gravel mulch permits the survival of Californian species you can peer across a hedgerow to a wildflower meadow.
My own photographs can capture only a little of what’s to be seen at the moment. And the little visual surprises (ask any accompanying children to watch out for Happisburgh lighthouse) suffered in the poor visibility.
What about the cake? You’ll need more tea, Vicar, for such generous portions.