Skinny Beans and Falling in LoveIsn’t it great when you look forward to something and it turns out to be even better than you had anticipated?
I had wanted to see Felbrigg Hall's walled garden for some time, but since I am a seasoned procrastinator I only got round to it a few days ago. Thankfully there are no photos of me stepping into the garden, although I am certain I wasn't the only visitor who stopped dead in their tracks and stood open-mouthed with eyes like organ stops.
The use of wall-trained plants was superb. Uncompromising mass planting resulted in a whopping wall wow-factor. I have never been the number one fan of climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris). It is a solid, dependable plant and I rely on it to do a job, which it does very well, but it has never set my heart aflutter, until Felbrigg.
Here is what the wall looked like from the other side. These are not the best photos in the world. No camera shake facility is any match for a flabbergasted gardener.
They were not in full flower when I saw them. Imagine what they will be like this week! The same full-on effect was achieved with figs in the allotment area.
The plants seemed more exuberant than any others I have seen this summer. Clearly the walls help to protect them, but we mustn't overlook the addition of a jaw-dropping 75 tons of mulch which has been applied every winter since 1999. They use their own garden compost on the main borders and mushroom compost in the vegetable gardens. Oh how I love a good mulch.
The allotments there are delightful. Trug-loads of delicious fruit and vegetables are interspersed with flowers which are grown thickly in serried ranks of great gorgeous herbaceous hedges
Areas are set aside for families to grow their own food. Fruit and vegetables grown in the garden supply the restaurant and when fruit is ripe in the orchard, visitors are invited to take one piece to enjoy. Bees are encouraged and no pesticides are used on the vegetables, fruit, or borders in the walled garden.
Bantams control insect pests in the allotments and rescue guinea fowl free range in the orchard. It is this generous, inclusive approach which makes the garden all the more special.
For me, the most relaxing area was the orchard. Mown paths meandering through longer grass and a thoughtfully placed bench is an unbeatable combination, especially when you are still recovering from Hydrangea heaven.
Having feasted my eyes on all these uberplants**, my thoughts turned to my climbing French beans which are not their usual feisty selves this year. Their stems are skinnier and the leaves are set further apart than usual. The same thing has happened with a number of my friends’ runner and French beans. I have taken the precaution of a later sowing, just in case cropping is reduced. Of course, now I have done this, we will be in for a great bean glut later this summer. It’s a good job that we love beans as much as we love mulch (although, much as we love it, we don’t eat the latter).
* Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/felbrigg-hall
** I'm sorry, I don't know where my laptop keeps its umlauts.