Book Review: Secret Gardens of East Anglia

Go West young man, go West. There is health in the country, and room away from our crowds of idlers and imbeciles.” – Josiah Bushell Grimmell

After being enthralled and inspired reading about 22 very different gardens in 4 counties, Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, it really is a case of “Go East”, a part of our country I rarely visit but am going to rectify.

The foreword is written by Beth Chatto who tells us she “…rarely had enough time to get out and visit other gardens, it is a pity since we can all learn from one another. Learning what to do is important, but learning what not to do is equally important.” How true that is!

Barbara Segall, a horticulturalist and garden writer visited each of the 22 gardens and has written about them so beautifully and enticingly it was a hard task to pick out just a few in this review, buying this book really is a must. The photographs taken by the late Marcus Harpur are a delight, he was a brilliant photographer who sadly died on the 6th August but not before he and Barbara were able to celebrate the arrival the first copies of the book in June.

The 22 gardens range from acres and acres of land to a very small town house garden – something for everyone. These are just four I have picked out, mainly because each one is so different in its own right.

Parsonage House, Helions Bumpstead, Essex


Photograph taken by Marcus Harpur

Annie Turner and her husband The Hon. Nigel Turner have lived at Parsonage House since 1990. It is an English country garden with mixed borders and a small kitchen garden. There are 3 acres of garden and then another 3 acres of wild flowers and woodland. A quote from Annie Turner in the book is something we should all try and follow but, if you are like me, you rarely do: “..having the discipline not to do too much too soon has it rewards.”


Photographs by Marcus Harpur

Above is an illustration of one of the borders at Parsonage Farm and a selection of the flowers grown there.

Silverstone Farm, North Elmham, Norfolk

Photograph by Marcus Harpur

Silverstone Farm is a very different garden. George Carter was inspired by 17th and early 18th century Dutch and English gardens. His garden is designed with hedges forming rooms, topiary and a fine array of structures around the garden as can be seen in the photograph above.

38 Norfolk Terrace, Cambridge


Photographed by Marcus Harpur

38 Norfolk Terrace is a tiny town house garden and goes to show that you don’t need a lot of space to create an enchanting garden. This garden is full of ideas for the use of space with raised beds, low growing shrubs and pots giving shape and height.

Ulting Wick, Ulting, Essex


Photographed by Marcus Harpur

I have to declare a personal interest with Ulting Wick. Although it is a garden I am yet to visit, it has been on my ‘must-visit’ list for a while. The owner Philippa Burroughs and I follow each other on Twitter and over the last few years I have seen some inviting photographs of her charming garden. Now I have read more about the history it is a MUST visit garden.


Photographs by Marcus Harpur

The tulips at Ulting Wick are a sight to behold, and Philippa told Barbara Segall that no plan is made on paper!

This review really is just a taster of this captivating book and I really recommend it. Some of the other gardens featured are:

COLUMBINE HALL – A moated garden with a series of green rooms
HELMINGHAM HALL GARDENS – A gem of a garden hidden in its own moated island
KIRTLING TOWER – A field of daffodils for a Tudor gatehouse
RAVENINGHAM HALL – Exquisite planting in the RHS president’s private garden
ULTING WICK – Thousands of tulips against a backdrop of black wooden barns
WYKEN HALL – Vines and roses around an Elizabethan Manor House

Just to finish off, I include a further quote from Barbara Segall’s introduction – “It’s only walking in a garden…you can really appreciate the picture that has been created.”


Secret Gardens of East Anglia A Private Tour of 22 Gardens
By Barbara Segall Photography by Marcus Harpur
Published by Frances Lincoln on 7th September 2017

Book Review: Raised Bed Revolution by Tara Nolan

I usually enjoy writing a book review, but occasionally I am sent a book that leaves me totally uninspired.  This is not because it isn’t a good book, it is, if you are into DIY it will be just what you are looking for.    The Raised Bed Revolution by Tara Nolan is published by Cool Springs Press in 2016 with an imprint by Quarto Publishing Group Inc.  


Thinking it would be packed with information and ideas about growing things in raised beds, I quickly discovered it was far more of a build your own DIY guide and I was disappointed,  it was just not my sort of book.   However, if you are adept at wielding a saw, screwdriver and electric drill, you will find it a book to motivate you with great ideas into building your own raised beds.   It might be that you are the gardener and your partner is happy making things, or the other way around,  in which case the book would suit you both.   With detailed shopping lists of the items required to make a variety of beds, it comes with clear pictorial instructions. 

 Growing edibles or flowers in a raised bed has countless advantages, such as economy of space, water conservation, portability, and accessibility. Raised Bed Revolution offers complete reference information on how to get started, covering subjects such as growing-medium options, rooftop gardening, cost-effective gardening solutions, planting tips, watering strategies.


There are lots of interesting ideas, including a wooden potato growing box, recycling an old table into a lettuce box and a laddered herb planter, which I particularly liked, but I would have to find someone to make it for me.  There are informative pieces within the chapters on the do’s and dont’s of gardening with raised beds, but the Raised Bed Revolution still struck me as being predominantly a ‘How to Build your Raised Bed’ book.


Tara Nolan is a freelance writer and writes gardening articles in Toronta Star and Canadian Living magazine.   A few years ago, along with three members of the Garden Writers Association, Tara co-founded a gardening website at http://www.Savvygardening.com.  If you are a Facebook user you can find her on FB – Facebook.com/raisedbedrevolution. 

Book Review: The Crafted Garden

It is always exciting to get an email from Frances Lincoln Limited asking if I would be interested in reviewing a book due to be released. This time it was The Crafted Hour written by Louise Curley with photographs by Jason Ingram.

Louise Curley, also wrote The Cut Flower Patch, a book I reviewed in February 2014.


I like books with matt textured covers, which this one has.  It is a comfortable size also, measuring 24cms (9.5″) by 19cms (7.5″).  It is fully of stylish projects inspired by nature in a good font size with detailed and  interesting photographs.

This is a book not only fully of 50 craft ideas, with step-by-step instructions using flowers and twigs from your garden and the hedgerows, it also covers lots of other things such as key plants, themes, growing plants and saving seeds.   A useful full book not only for handicraft ideas.    It’s like following a recipe book with ingredients, detailed photos to follow so you know what you are making is supposed to look like whilst making it and a photo of the finished product. 

With Christmas coming up this book would make a very welcome present.

The Crafted Garden was published by Frances Lincoln Limited on 3 September 2015

READER’S OFFER

To order The Crafted Garden by Louise Curley at the discounted price of £13.99 including p&p* (RRP: £16.99), telephone 01903 828503 or email mailorders@lbsltd.co.uk and quote the offer code APG355.

*UK ONLY – Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.

Book Review : First Ladies of Gardening. 

Thank you Frances Lincoln Press for sending me The First Ladies in Gardening to review.  I am a little late with this post, the book was published on 5 March 2015.



The first thing that struck me was the fabulous photo of Himalayan blue poppies and purple aquilegia on the end papers.  I wanted to stop before I had even begun to take in the beautiful photograph by Marianne Majerus.  Just the first of many photos in the book.

On turning the pages I knew this was going to be a book to linger over and savour.  I only got as far as the first couple of pages before dwelling a while on the next photo, and make notes of ideas. 

The First Ladies of Gardening, written by Heidi Howcroft, explores the influential role of women garden designers on English gardens, particularly their own gardens.  The first garden is the glorious Upton Grey Manor in Hampshire, originally owned by Gertrude Jekyll and restored by Rosamund Wallinger. 

The book has two sections, chapters about “Pioneers of Design” with gardens such as Waterperry (Beatrix Havergal)  Sissinghurst (Vita Sackville-West) and Beth Chatto’s garden.  The second section is “New Directions” featuring newer and less well known gardeners including Sue Whittington’s London garden and Helen Dillon’s garden in Ireland. 

It is packed with informative details about the gardens, the history, how they are laid out and the specialities of each garden such as the vignettes at Kiftsgate Court, along with the famous ‘Kiftsgate’ rambling rose.  I particularly liked the list of signature plants at the end of each chapter.

I have been luck enough to have visited a number of the gardens but now have added a few more to my “must visit” list. 

This is not a small book by any means, definitely one for the coffee table to be browsed through at leisure.  Whilst you may not buy this for yourself, it would make a wonderful present for anyone who loves gardens.  In fact, it would even whet the appetite of those who have yet to discover the joy of beautiful and interesting gardens. 

The publishers Frances Lincoln have very kindly given me a reader’s offer,  to order First Ladies of Gardening at the discounted price of £16 including p&p* (RRP: £20), telephone 01903 828503 or email mailorders@lbsltd.co.uk and quote the offer code APG290. 

*UK ONLY – Please add £2.50 if ordering from oversea

Book Review: Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds’

The idea of a secret garden is fascinating, and to be given the privilege of actually viewing a secret garden is all the more exciting.  “Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds – a Personal Tour of 20 Private Gardens” opens the gate for us to sneak a look at gardens. Thank you Francis Lincoln Publishers for sending me this book to review which I have thoroughly enjoyed browsing and making a note of those I would like to visit.

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The author, Victoria Summerley, is a gardening journalist, and blogger, who moved to the Cotswolds in 2012 and lives in what William Morris called “the most beautiful village in England”.  Accompanied with photographs by Hugo Rittson-Thomas, who also is lucky enough to live in the Cotswolds, this coffee table book takes us on a visit of 20 privately owned homes with beautiful and interesting gardens, many of which are influenced by Rosemary Verey, Isabel and Julian Bannerman, Repton and Capability Brown.

We are given a history of the gardens and the designs and inspirations which has developed them through the years. Being particularly nosey, whilst in awe of the gardens rather than the fantastic houses they come with,  it is always of interest to see who owns them and each chapter also has a photo of one or both of the owners as well as, in some cases, the head gardeners.  For me it added an extra personal touch rather than just a book of photographs of gardens.

Disappointingly, only 14 of the 20 are open to the public, the other 6 remain a secret unless you have been lucky enough to see them in this book.   Those 14 are, however, only open at certain times of the year and mostly for the National Garden Scheme.  At the back of the book is a sketch map together with details of opening times, so you can plan your visit to the Cotswolds around those gardens you particularly want to see.

‘Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds’ is published on 5 February 2015 and would make a wonderful gift for anyone who not only has a love of, or desire to visit, the Cotswolds, coupled with a love of beautiful gardens.

To order ‘Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds’ at the discounted price of £16 including p&p* (RRP: £20) telephone 01903 828503 or email mailorders@lbsltd.co.uk and quote the offer code APG281

*UK ONLY – please add £2.50 if ordering from abroad.

Francis Lincoln Publishers have a number of other lovely garden books just waiting to be published, including ‘Gardens of the Amalfi Coast‘ in February and ‘First Ladies of Gardening‘ in March.

Book review: Giftwrapped by Jane Means

If you are anything like me, you probably take a lot of time deciding what to buy someone as a gift, whether it be for birthday, Christmas or just to say thank you. However, do you spend as much time in selecting the wrapping? I know I don’t always do this and just use any spare paper I have in my draw at the time.

There is something almost breathtaking to receive a gift that is beautifully wrapped and this gift will give as much pleasure on the giver’s behalf to see the recipient’s response. Why not, therefore, go that extra step and spend a little time in turning your simple gift into a glorious gift? Even the most plain present can be transformed into a sensational gift when wrapped in interesting paper and tied with an intricate looking bow.

Jane Means is a professional giftwrapper and has a fabulous blog http://janemeansblog.com full of ideas to wrap even the most intricate shape, as well as a website http://www.janemeans.com which sells a myriad of ribbons, tissues and papers to name but a few items. Jane also runs courses across the country on giftwrapping. You can even buy course vouchers to give as gifts, and I bet if you look on the website you will find an interesting way to wrap the voucher!

Can’t afford a course, or find the time? Then all is not lost, Jane has written a book called ‘Giftwrapped’ which is due to be published by Jacqui Small LLP on 20 November 2014.

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There are no end of suggestions on how to wrap the oddest of shapes. One particular idea I love is for a magazine subscription. Choose your magazine, buy a current copy, roll it into a tube shape and wrap it up in a vintage scarf.

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The book provides detailed guides on wrapping, tying and great ideas for special occasions, accompanied with wonderful photographs.

At this part of a book review post I usually give away the book in a competition. Sometimes, I find it hard to part with a book I particularly like, and this is one occasion where I am going to disappoint you as I am going to keep this one for myself!

I thoroughly recommend Giftwrapped which is published on November 20th and retailing at £20.   The publishers are offering a special discount at £16 including P&P to the UK  . Telephone 01903 828503 or email mailorders@lbsltd.co.uk and quote the offer code APG252.  Please add £2.50 if ordering from outside the UK.