I went today to see an absolutely delightful garden, just north west of Bury St Edmunds off the Mildenhall Road. It is called Fullers Mill, and represents the lifetime work of Bernard Tickner and his late wife. Bernard Tickner is still on the scene, indeed I met him today, and was able to tell him how much I liked his garden, but ownership of Fullers Mill has been safely vested in a charitable trust and management passed over to the gardening charity Perennial, to ensure its long term survival and stability.
Bernard Tickner is a plantsman, and his love and knowledge of plants shows very clearly. There were all sorts of rare and unusual things, some of which I recognised and many which I didn't. A good garden is more than a collection of rare plants, though, but possesses atmosphere and an intangible something special. Fullers Mill has all that in spades. You can tell that it is an immensely loved garden. Some gardens, even very swanky ones that get glowing write-ups in glossy magazines, don't convey the extra sense of being cherished in the way that the best personal creations do.
What you see is lots and lots of beds, containing an eclectic mixture of shrubs, herbaceous plants, trees, bulbs and climbers, with winding paths aong them, alternating with larger areas of lawn and long grass, and the waters of the river Lark and what I assume was the mill race. Moving water always adds an extra charm to a garden, and the Lark looks a clean and salubrious stream. Decent sized areas of clear green space help give a garden a sense of repose, compared to ones where every last piece of lawn has been eaten away in the owner's eagerness to accommodate as many interesting plants as possible. Fullers Mill has that unhurried air of calm.
It is really a very, very good garden, and I urge you to visit it, though you would be well advised to study your road atlas and Google Maps carefully first, as it is not so easy to find from the A1101 as the directions on the website would lead you to expect. At the top of the garden is a natty and new looking ticket kiosk cum tea room, which serves excellent locally made cake, and a plant stall selling unusual and very reasonably priced plants. I bought two, and am delighted with both of them, though they further undermine my plan to finish planting out the stash by the front door. The friend I visited with was as charmed as I was, though not to the extent of succumbing to the plant stall, and will be going back with her husband.
From the garden I had to go directly to a music society committee meeting, as I realised on the way back to Colchester that there wasn't going to be time to go home and then go out again. My plan to have a drink of water and a packet of mini cheddars beforehand to keep me going was undermined by meeting one of my fellow committee members in the village car park. I suggested she go on ahead, as I had been out all day and was just going to have a drink of water, but she said she'd wait for me, and I'd have felt uncouth bolting the cheddars down in front of her. I ended up sharing the water with one of the plants, which had started to droop in the heat of the car. It was a productive meeting in the end, but went on rather.