Suffolk's glorious gardens

PUBLISHED: 13:40 27 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:06 20 February 2013

A bright summer day at Playford Hall

A bright summer day at Playford Hall

Visit some of the county's most beautiful gardens, meet their creators and be inspired to take some of the ideas home to try out in your own patch. Leslie Geddes-Brown on how the Invitation to View scheme can help broaden your horticultural horizons

Garden views you'll never forget

There is a huge difference between going around an open garden on your own or being accompanied by the creator, whether the owner or the gardener. On your own you probably wont learn much but, with the owner, you can ask the names of plants and question the reason for the design and how it was achieved. With the Invitation to View scheme, visitors can and do ply the owners with lots of questions, something that the gardeners really enjoy.
Many of the gardens in the scheme have moats which certainly are important in the overall design. Playford Hall has a surrounding brick-sided moat and the platform (the bit inside the moat) is mostly courtyard. The garden surrounds the moat most elegantly. At Bedfield Hall the moat meanders around the luscious two acre garden (planted to be painted by the owner) and is crossed by no fewer than five bridges. v
v At Crows Hall, the garden is mostly within the moat, said to be Anglo-Saxon, which is crossed by an arched bridge. Our garden at Columbine Hall has an acre enclosed by a wide moat which effectively makes it into a walled garden but without the wall. Our designer, George Carter (whose garden is also open for the scheme) solved this by treating the moat as a haha. At Chippenham Park and Didlington Manor there are huge areas of water most beautifully landscaped.
Anyone with water in the garden can learn all sorts of tricks from such houses. You dont need a lake to have a white-barked birch tree reflected in water or a moat bank to plant with wild flowers; the smallest pond will benefit.

Invitation to Views houses and gardens can be seen on or ring 01284 827087 for a brochure.

Five top gardens to visit

Bawdsey Manor
Architectural folly built by Sir Cuthbert Quilter between 1880-1900; Victorian Gothic, Flemish, Tudor and Oriental styles. Stands high above Deben rivermouth, near Felixstowe, in a 150-acre estate with a stunning artificial cliff facing North Sea. Radar developed here. Tour A: house and gardens; Tour B: radar exhibition, house and gardens.
Tour A: 2 hours, 15 inc tea and home-made cakes; wine and canaps in evening.
Tour B: 5 hours 22.50 (27.50 Nov/Dec) inc buffet lunch.

Buxlow Manor
Red-brick manor house, near Saxmundham, dated 1678, still in Elizabethan E-plan. Two projecting wings have Dutch gables with segmental pediments. Niche at top of E holds unique medieval statue of East Anglian angel. Five-acre gardens: spring garden, Japanese cherries, 200 shrub roses and specimen trees. Nelson and naval memorabilia.Tour approx 2 hours, 12 including drinks and canaps.

Chippenham Park
350-acre park near Mildenhall enclosed by a three and a half mile wall built in 1696. Central part of the house is early 18th century and was bought in 1791 by John Tharp. Greatly enlarged in 1895 with extra floor being added and wings extended.
The 15-acre gardens have been lovingly created by Mrs Crawley. Good Gardens Guide with star.
Tour approx 2-3 hours, 15 including tea, coffee, cakes and biscuits in summer, hot soup in winter. Tour June 30, 40 including three-course lunch.

Playford Hall Gardens
Beautiful moated Elizabethan hall, north of Ipswich, built around 1560 on the site of an older house.
Award-winning 10-acre gardens include lake, lawns, trees, rose gardens, herbaceous borders, shrub borders, herbs and an attractive miniature French chateau-style vegetable garden.
Tour approx 2 hours, 8 including tea, cakes and biscuits.

Spencers Garden
Romantic 18th century walled garden laid out by Lady Anne Spencer, grand-daughter of first Duke of Marlborough, who built the house. Supposedly oldest greenhouse in Essex. Huge tumbling wisteria, true-blue Lord Butler delphiniums (Rab lived here 1970s-80s), dazzling herbaceous border and rich variety of roses, ancient trees at this location near to Sudbury garden.
Tour 2-3 hours, 18 including two-course lunch with wine and guided tour of garden. Plants for sale.

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