Skip to content

Our work in the garden at Blickling

The gardens at Blickling with views towards the Hall
The gardens at Blickling | © National Trust Images/Gerald Peachey

The formal garden at Blickling includes 55 acres of planting, the result of three centuries of influence by prominent landscape designers including Humphrey Repton’s son John Adey Repton, and garden designer and socialite Norah Lindsay. The gardens also include a walled kitchen garden and orchard. Our work aims to restore and preserve these historically significant spaces for generations to come.

A year with the Blickling Estate Gardeners

The Blickling Estate Gardeners are the custodians of extensive grounds surrounding the house. They care for the formal gardens including the famous yew hedges on the front drive and the giant turkey oak next to the lake, as well as the productive Walled Garden. The gardens western side includes the lake, which creates a beautiful natural boundary to the garden and creates one of the most iconic views in the east of the country.

Spring

Spring is an exciting time in the garden as the days grow longer and the soil begins to warm up. The garden team begin the year by sowing seeds in the greenhouses and planting vegetables out in the Walled Garden. Around the garden, the team are up to a range of jobs like finishing the last of the winter pruning, encouraging over a quarter of a million daffodils and crocuses to thrive, and mowing the lawns for the first time. This produces that wonderful smell of cut grass, reminding us that those long dark days of winter are behind us, and summer is just around the corner.

Summer

The summer sees an explosion of colourful flowers, vegetables and wildlife within the garden of every colour, shape, and size. Increasing biodiversity and working sensitively at this time of year by offering homes and food to as many insects, birds and small mammals as possible is one of the aims as we shape and manage the garden. In late summer, the Walled Garden slowly fills with vegetables and fruit ready for harvest.

Autumn

Around this time, two members of the team begin the enormous task of trimming the giant Yew hedges. This task will be finished in late autumn and is an annual task that has been undertaken by gardeners here for the last 400 years! As the leaves begin to turn from green to reds, oranges, and golds, we begin tidying the garden away ready for its winter sleep. Our fun begins with jobs such as blowing millions of leaves into huge piles and collecting them with our giant tractor hoover for making compost and leaf mould. We also harvest the different varieties of apples from the orchard and Walled Garden and supply produce to the cafés for visitors to enjoy.

Winter

Since 2021, we have adopted a no-dig approach in the walled garden, meaning lower input, better carbon storage and a more friendly way of gardening. During the winter, we prepare the soil by mulching it with tonnes of nutrient rich compost. Adding a thick layer of compost to the soil surface traps carbon in the ground instead of releasing it by digging. This environmentally friendly process also helps retain moisture which reduces the amount of water we use the following summer.

As the nights grow longer, we prepare the garden for our Wild Winter After Dark event. Both the garden and countryside teams work hard to put up miles of fairy lights and other props that border the garden paths, taking you on a mile long twinkly journey around the hall, up to the temple, orangery and along many of the most impressive illuminated views.

At the end of the year, we reflect on what has worked and looked or tasted good this year, and what has not gone to plan so we can make changes for following year.

The walled garden at Blickling with rows of lavender and fruit tree espaliers
The walled garden at Blickling | © National Trust Images/Gerald Peachey

Maintaining the garden avenue paths

Either side of temple walk, the formal gardens feature a pattern of tree lined avenues. Behind these avenues, the planting provides a tapestry of habitats for birds, mammals and insects.

To maintain these areas, the garden team carry out seasonal coppicing and pollarding to a small number of select rhododendrons, holly and yew trees. This also provides an opportunity to reinstate the flowering shrubbery sadly lost in the 1987 gale and more recent storms.

Following the 1987 storm, cherry laurel was planted as a temporary infill to many of the lost flowering trees and shrubs, and we are now working to remove this species with the aim of increasing natural light to boost the quantity of the spring daffodil display, enhance biodiversity and to maintain and improve the views and health of the trees in the avenues.

Our work on the parterre terrace

As part of our commitment to looking after Blickling for future generations, we have recently removed the double border planting and large north hedge and have been replacing the retaining wall.

The parterre terrace in the past

When Norah Lindsay designed this terrace walk in 1937, she created a shady spot from which to enjoy undisturbed views of the parterre, house and lake beyond.

“You would like a half-shady walk on a top terrace which in Spring is all Polyanthus and that forget-me-not border…”

The parterre terrace in recent years

Over time, larger amounts of soil and plants built up behind the retaining wall. This coupled with increasing periods of heavy rainfall meant that water wasn’t draining away from the area as it needed to, which led to the terrace wall becoming unstable due to the weight behind it, and we needed to dismantle it before it fell down. We have also removed soil, plants and the hedge to further reduce the pressure on these walls.

The current stage of work involves a complete re-build of the 19th century terrace wall so it can be enjoyed for many more years.

The parterre terrace in the future

We are working with curatorial and garden experts to put back planting that is appropriate and reinterprets Norah Lindsay’s original design for this space, re-creating Norah’s half-shady garden, making it accessible to all.

We will keep a hard, level path so everyone can enjoy the best views of the parterre, house and lake on the estate. We’ll also create a beautiful grass lawn – perfect for a picnic! Norah’s planting list will be used for inspiration and we plan to and grow an avenue of flowering cherry trees, alongside shade loving herbaceous perennials, a beautiful early spring bulb display and wild flower meadow. Our aim is to protect this special space, balancing history and practicality for everyone, for ever.

Thank you

With your ongoing support, we're able to continue our vital conservation work. Thank you for helping to protect these special places.

The Parterre Garden viewed from the Long Gallery at Blickling Estate, Norfolk

Donate

Everyone needs nature, now more than ever. Donate today and you could help people and nature to thrive at the places we care for.

You might also be interested in

Three people polishing the floor at Blickling Hall, Norfolk
Article
Article

Our work in the house at Blickling 

Behind the scenes, the team at Blickling clean, protect and conserve the hall and collections items.

Garden volunteers in the walled garden in summer at Blickling Estate, Norfolk
Article
Article

Volunteer opportunities at Blickling Estate 

Discover more about getting involved and becoming one of the more than 500 volunteers who help in various roles as part of the team at Blickling Estate.

Project
Project

Restoring the River Bure in Norfolk 

Working with the Environment Agency we’re working to improve the health of the River Bure. Find out more about a special project to keep this river and tributaries healthy to provide diverse habitats to let nature thrive.

Aerial view of Blickling Estate in Norfolk showing the house, grounds and lake
Article
Article

Explore the wider Blickling Estate 

There's much more to Blickling Estate than its famous house. Covering 4,600 acres with 950 acres of woodland and parkland and 3,500 acres of farmland, Blickling Estate is great for exploring alone, with family or your four-legged friends.

A group of hikers climb a path through woodland towards the camera
Article
Article

For everyone, for ever: our strategy to 2025 

Read about our strategy 'For everyone, for ever' here at the National Trust, which will take the organisation through to 2025.

Ranger in National Trust fleece inspecting white blossom on tree in orchard

Our cause 

We believe that nature, beauty and history are for everyone. That’s why we’re supporting wildlife, protecting historic sites and more. Find out about our work.