Posted 20th April
Helmingham Hall has been crowned the winner of the Historic Houses Association (HHA) Garden of the Year Award
The national award, sponsored by Christies, has been presented annually since 1984, and recognises the importance of some of the country's most spectacular gardens with outstanding horticultural and public appeal. The Award is voted for by HHA Friends, who judge the gardens based completely on their enjoyment.
The Grade I listed gardens at Helmingham are owned by the Tollemache family, who had lived in the house since it was built in 1490. The home is currently occupied by Timothy and his wife Xa, a landscape designer and gardeners.
On approaching the house, visitors are met with the incredible unchanged early Tudor house, surrounded by a moat and with a drawbridge that lifts every evening.
Visitors to the garden will then reach a Parterre and Hybrid Musk Garden, approached along a wide grass causeway, and flanked by a large yew domes. The Parterre is surrounded on three sides by a rose garden which contains hybrid musk roses and is edged by Hidcote lavender and under-planted with London Pride.
Visitors will be able to see a working walled kitchen garden, including sweet peas, runner beans and gourds, and are surrounded by double herbaceous borders in cruciform style. In 1986 the area was restored to the original eight sections as per garden plants. Arched tunnels are added to the vegetable plots creating new walks and vistas, while two bridges lead to an Apple Walk and Wild Flower Garden.
There are also wildflowers which are abound with primroses, cowslips and marsh orchids, providing a refreshing contrast to formal gardens and a natural wildness not often found at historic houses.
The borders at Helmingham consist of shrub, topiary, grass and colour-themed flowers, while there are separate areas which have been planted to flower in early spring and summer, providing a beautiful variety of plants to look at across the season.
Xa recently planted a new woodland garden in the area, taking in some of the surrounding parkland which is home to large herds of both red and fallow deer. Ornamental trees and shrubs will sit nestled in long grass with winding paths between them, while there are two land form sculptures complimenting the setting.
A Knot and Herb Garden have been added in recent years, historically sympathetic to the house. The area is also home to the main rose garden, and has been planted with a huge variety of roses, along with small shrubs and herbaceous plants that span the season.
The gardening is directed by Xa Tollemache, who commented: "We were so excited to hear the wonderful news that Helmingham has won the Garden of the Year Award. We have worked so hard to create a beautiful garden and to keep on, every year, with new improvements. We want our visitors to be constantly stimulated and inspired in what we do and to have a fabulous day in this very unexplored part of Suffolk. Russell Page said that the Garden must curtsey to the House. I would like to add to this that a historic house such as Helmingham deserves and indeed should have a garden worthy of its stature, beauty and historic importance. Helmingham has taught me so much and so for that and to Roy Balaam, I am deeply grateful."
Helmingham House gardens are open to the public from 1st May - 17th September from 12:00 to 5:00pm, every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday.