A jewel in the Blickling crown

A view of a path in the walled garden lined with lavender
Published : 15 Jun 2017

A carefully planned, beautifully eye-catching garden which serves a practical purpose is a fine thing to experience. It is an even greater pleasure when you have had the opportunity to watch it built from scratch, as Ed Foss from Just Aylsham explains.

I remember visiting this garden two and a half years ago, when the walled garden project at Blickling was in its infancy – rundown glasshouses, bare earth and no clear visual structure.

But even then there were a whole pile of exciting plans and ideas which sounded impressive, if a little optimistic.

That optimism was well placed. This isn't yet an entirely finished product but it is fast becoming another jewel in the Blickling crown – and a very shiny, rare one at that.

Walled garden Project Manager, Mike Owers and his team are in the process of pulling off something special here and one wouldn't bet against their project being more widely recognised in the future.

Is there an award for Most Impressive Walled Garden? There should be.

Flowers, vegetables, fruit and annuals for the main Blickling garden are all sharing space here, just a stone's throw from the main hall. This isn't a garden purely focused on heritage varieties, although they have a notable presence.

An abundance of produce in the walled garden
Mike Owers sitting among rows of strawberry plants
An abundance of produce in the walled garden

There are also modern varieties with more reliable yields and better disease resistance, which is particularly useful when you realise this garden has the practical job of supplying produce to the estate's kitchens.

The culinary uses of purple artichokes prompt a question from a visitor to Mike as we walk on the neatly gravelled paths underneath newly installed iron archways.

This is a big part of the project – education. Amateur allotment holders like me will carefully inspect these rows of produce to see if we're doing better (unlikely) and to pick up pointers (highly likely).

Mike and the friendly walled garden team, many of them volunteers, answer questions with ease and pleasure, whether they are horticultural, scientific or kitchen-related.

Information and knowledge flows freely as the peas and beans sway gently in the warm breeze.

For the growing geeks there are 80 varieties of apple, 20 of pear and a fourbed rotation for starters.

For the story collectors, there are tales of rented pineapples, potted cherry trees brought into 18th century dining rooms (showoffs!) and the historic acreage needed per head for self sufficiency.

For the weary-legged there are welcoming benches to sit and look awhile, perhaps to plan next year's home planting plan.

“It feels like a garden now,” says Mike. It does indeed – 1.2 acres of glorious garden to be precise.

Re-produced by kind permission of Just Aylsham

A garden volunteer kneeling down in the walled garden

Meet Peter 

Having spent 27 years in Australia with a 43 acre farm, on his return to the UK, Peter decided to come back to his roots, and volunteer at one of his favourite places, Blickling Estate.