Our work in the garden at Blickling
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With your ongoing support, we're able to continue our vital conservation work. Thank you for helping to protect these special places.
Behind the scenes, the team at Blickling clean, protect and conserve the hall and collections items.
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.
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.
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.
Read about our strategy 'For everyone, for ever' here at the National Trust, which will take the organisation through to 2025.