I had been coming to Bressingham gardens as a visitor on my summer Viaggi Floreali garden tours since 2018, each year promising myself I’d be back in winter to enjoy what, even the summer, could be perceived as a treasure chest of scenes and emotions. Earlier this year in February we organised an East Anglia Winter Garden tour and finally had the wonderful opportunity to see the gardens in all their winter splendour. As it turned out, this Winter Garden trip was the first and last trip of the year as we were all locked down on day after we returned to Italy.
As a small Tour operating company specialising in garden tours, mainly in the UK, I had to cancel the 30 sold out trips for 2020, and was left with plenty of free time and energy to spend elsewhere. The first month of lockdown was actually quite pleasant, but as time passed and the realisation struck that I would not have been able to work at all, I have to confess I felt lost. Having no purpose nor the certainty of when things would go back to normal made it impossible to plan anything. I am pretty sure this must have been the same for most people in similar situations. One things I had clear: I love gardens, due to my travels I had not been doing much gardening at all in the past few years and thought this would be the perfect time to do more, learn more and possibly be of help to someone. I sent my application to Adrian Bloom hoping he’d need a volunteer for a month. It turned out that the gardens had been locked down too, the gardeners partly forloughed and my help was very welcome. I felt I had purpose. As soon as flights from my town resumed in July I came over.
Spending a month in a 17 acre garden, being able to witness the daily evolution of plants, the seamless succession of attractive features given by blooms and foliage over time was a new, enveloping experience which made me want to come back and see it happen over the Autumn and into Winter.
My expectations have been largely exceeded by the colors I found upon arrival. The winter garden possibly offering the most spectacular displays in early October with the Betula apoiensis ‘Mount Apoi’ contrasted by the rich variety of conifers, grasses and heathers.
But what stuck me the most was walking through a part of the garden which in summer I felt more like a link between the two main gardens being the Dell and Foggy Bottom. In the summer Adrian’s Wood was predominantly green, a lovely dappled shade, with little colour. It felt almost a necessary feature to calm the senses after the intense arousal given by the Dell’s bright colours, before entering a whole new dimension at Foggy Bottom. A very clever feature indeed, and very pleasant in the hot Summer days.
Adrian’s wood is essentially a garden planted with native North American plants – a land the Blooms have had a long lasting both professional and personal relation with.
The tall towering giant redwoods to the North offer shelter from the winds and serve as a backdrop to the flaming hot colours of today’s main players: red and purple heart shaped leaves of Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’, a bright yellow Nyssa, a vivid orange Cotinus coggygria, an imposing burgundy Liquidambar, an impressive 5 metre tall curtain of Vitis coignetiae. On the south side the wood is bordered by a line of bright yellow Betula papyrifera St. George underplanted with masses of light blue Michaelmas daisies (all seedlings of American asters the likes of A. ericoides, A. laevis and A. cordifolius) on the west side of the path and Rhus typhina on the east. It is rather special to be walking through this tiny wood and being surprised with different colours at every turn of the winding path.
Autumn offers such a rich experience for all our senses. The winds blowing through the dying leaves, the wonderful scents like cercidiphyllum japonicum and fungi, the soft layer of cracking leaves under your feet, the bright colours and the realisation that it is all so ephimeral.
Ah, the most wonderful discovery of all? Adrian’s wood is a Spring paradise as well – I can already see the leaves of plants that will strike with their beauty after the Winter…. and … I will want to be here to see it in person.