Tag Archive: hedging

The Old Vicarage Garden at East Ruston is a particular favourite of mine, and one I take students to as it beautifully demonstrates a lot of key design principles and ideas. It also has a wonderful vibrancy and variety, including a dry river bed garden and other areas designed with a particular style. The owners are very knowledgeable plantsmen and come up with some delightful combinations.

It also has a very strong structure, largely created by the lines of hedging that the owners have planted as shelter belts; given it’s proximity to the North Sea coast. Though the overall style is ‘modern arts and crafts’, in keeping with the house, the hedges create a series of garden rooms with their own micro climates and connecting pathways, where a range of different garden styles have been successfully introduced. It’s located between North Walsham and Stalham in Norfolk, and well worth a half day if not a full day visit. I hope you enjoy the pics I took on a recent visit with our friends Jen and Dave…

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Further information: East Ruston website

Old School Gardener



wp_20170202_11_40_17_proMy first New Year session at Blickling was just a morning. Just recovering (hopefully) from an inflamed hip I wanted to ease myself back into physical work gradually.It was a lovely bright morning after a foggy start, I had a warm (if ‘bantered’) welcome back from the gardeners and volunteers and it was great to be back.

Gardener Rob was in the course of trimming the yew hedging around the double borders, so I set to raking up and dumping the cuttings in a trailer for later disposal. Over a number of years these cuttings (and especially those gathered in the summer season), have been sold off to a company which turns them (or rather more specifically the oil/resin they contain) into cancer fighting drugs- all the way from Italy. Rob told me that in recent years sales have been dropping off and the money received has also been reducing as the company now has it’s own yew plantations.

I may have mentioned before that the yew used to surround the double borders (Taxus baccata) should eventually grow to form a dense hedge that can be cut to the traditional sharp-edged shapes reminiscent of many ‘heritage gardens’. however, there is a bit of doubt about the purity of the variety we have here, as the Trust’s gardens advisor thought it might be from a commercially-developed strain which is less dense. Certainly here at Blickling after about ten years growth, whilst there are some nice thick areas, there are also patches where holes are evident. Hopefully with continuous trimming new, short growth will sprout and so eventually we’ll get the full effect anticipated.

In any event the carefully cut returns on the hedges- shaped using templates to mirror the gables on the windows in the House- are starting to look nicely defined-see the pictures below. Rob was also having to measure the heights of the hedging as the land slopes upwards towards the end, meaning to keep the whole thing looking visually right he would need to progressively shorten the height of the hedge (and so the top facet of the sculpted returns would be lost at the end).

As we progressed through the morning Rob and I discussed ideas for improving the ‘Black Garden’ which sits at one end of the double borders, from where there is a ‘classic’ view of Blickling, taking in the House, parterre and lake beyond (see pictures below). This area suffers from a definite slope and this and a lack of continuity of the hedging and edging helps to divorce it from the double borders. Ideas include trying to more closely tie it into the rest of the area by repeating a circular gravelled area (which needs to be wide enough to allow a tractor and trailer to turn), and repositioning the large seat from where you get the ‘classic’ view. I think levelling the space is important and I like the idea of tying it into the rest of the double borders, but it will be tricky trying to get paths to fit visually and to meet the practical needs of the gardeners. I gather that there’s also the possibility of a viewing tower being erected nearby which would also afford wonderful views over the parterre and the wider estate. It will be interesting to see some designs on paper.

Well, my morning went by and my leg caused me no problems, so hopefully I can gradually build up my strength once more and get back to longer sessions here- and in my own garden.

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener


Beckley Park topiary garden, Oxfordshire

Beckley Park topiary garden, Oxfordshire

‘I doe not like Images Cut out in Juniper or other Garden stuffes: They be for Children. Little low Hedges, Round, like Welts, with some Pretty Pyramides, I like well.’

Sir Francis Bacon

‘What right have we to deform things given us so perfect and lovely in form? No cramming of Chinese feet into impossible shoes is half so wicked as thwe wilful and brutal distortion of the beautiful forms of trees’

William Robinson- ‘The English Flower Garden’ 1898

Personally, I really enjoy topiary- growing it, trimming it and admiring others’ creativity and skill in producing the rather more fantastic forms it can take; oh, and they also make me smile!

OK, so you are cutting back natural growth, but aren’t we doing that when we prune things anyway? What do you think?

Old School Gardener


Griselina littoralis- a good seaside hedge

Griselina littoralis- a good seaside hedge

I’ve had a few queries about hedges recently and this one, from Robert Galbraith is my choice for this week’s GQT:

‘We live in a bungalow near the seashore in Sussex, where the soil is rather sandy. Could you suggest some suitable hedging plants to give our garden a bit of privacy, please?’

There is quite a wide choice of suitable plants Robert. You could go for Grisselina littoralis which has thick yellowish – green leaves forming a dense, solid hedge if formally clipped and will grow in most soils. Escallonia ‘Langleyensis’, with red flowers in June – July is often grown in seaside locations and has glossy evergreen foliage. Other varieties are E. macrantha with deep red flowers in June – September and E. ‘Slieve Donard’ with large pink flowers in June- August.

Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) has silvery grey foliage and orange berries (if both male and female forms are grown). Tamarisk pentandra has feathery flowers in August whilst the form T. tetranda is May – flowering.

Euonymus japonicus, with evergreen shiny leaves is also available in variegated forms which can withstand close clipping as does the shrubby honeysuckle Lonicera nitida with small golden – green leaves.

More generally, and not necessarily suitable for a seaside home, the best ornamental evergeen hedges for formal training and clipping are Yew and Holly. Box is also suitable, but is very slow growing and expensive so is best kept as low hedging (up to about 1 metre tall) or feature, perhaps topiarised, bushes. Hedges of Cypress and Cherry Laurel are also good for an evergreen barrier and Privet, provided it is trained correctly from planting, will supply a satisfactory semi-evergreen barrier.

Cherry Laurel

Cherry Laurel

Old School Gardener

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