Fascinating gardening facts

Umbellaria foliage, also known as the headache tree © Tina Hammond

Umbellaria foliage, also known as the headache tree

As well as experiencing the beauty and fragrance of our gardens, unravel their secrets too. We thought we’d delve a little deeper and dig out some fascinating facts that you might not know. What else will you discover on your next visit?

The Drunken Woman
Did you know that the team at Oxburgh grow a variety of lettuce in the Kitchen Garden called the ‘Drunken Woman’? The best guess is that this fabulous leaf lettuce's name refers to her frizzy headed look. The leaves are emerald green tipped in mahogany red.

A garden notebook
Found in a shed, a hand written notebook was discovered at Ickworth that revealed planting on the estate from 1889 to 1927. It showed a collection of at least 240 varieties of fruit, mainly apples and pears but also some cherries, plums and damsons. Pineapples were also once grown in the greenhouses.

Headache tree
At Felbrigg there is a ‘Headache Tree’ which, ironically, is also known as ‘Balm of Heaven’; its botanical name is Umbellularia californica, and was planted in the walled garden around 1860. They are rare in UK gardens and some people can have an extreme reaction to the scent, apparently for them it is a headache tree!

The Ickworth Giant
The largest national collection of Buxus (Box) plants with 90 varieties is grown at Ickworth. These come in different leaf shapes and forms. Some grow very slowly and stay very small, others are larger with a pendulous habit and can become small trees. We have some very old specimens that we believe are at least 250 years old. There’s also our own named variety called the ‘Ickworth Giant’, which has the largest leaf of the Box plants and is a dark blue green.

Growing for 200 years
The oriental plane trees that are grown by the Bastian wall at Blickling are over 200 years old. The lower branches of the original tree were pinned to the ground, which allowed them to produce roots. These rooted branches were then severed from the original tree and they now create a unique stand of trees.

Much ado about mushrooms
The large walled garden at Wimpole was constructed in the 18th century and no expense was spared – even the walls were heated to keep the peaches warm during spring frosts! But just beyond these walls you’ll find the recently restored bothy, apple store and mushroom house. We’re already growing chestnut mushrooms for the restaurant.