Bressingham Gardens

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This is the fifth installment of multiple reports from the week-long educational trip some of our team members took in the summer of 2022.

For our entire trip, I was regularly being dropped onto the sets of my Saturday morning ‘cartoons’: British gardening shows. No longer was I simply watching Carol Klein or Monty Don visit some far off, fanciful place; I was walking down the very same paths. The experience felt quite otherworldly.

Bressingham Gardens, the product of three generations of nurserymen from the Bloom family, was no exception. At its start, in 1953, Alan Bloom emphasized the use of perennials in island beds, a novel idea for the time, allowing plantings to be seen from all sides.

Alan Bloom’s beds, remarkable for their diversity and combinations, allowed me to see so many options at once in a real garden setting.

A decade later, Alan’s son Adrian added Foggy Bottom to the gardens. This area utilizes both perennials and woody plants, most notably a sizable conifer collection. But these are no ordinary plantings. Foggy Bottom is packed with color all year long, even in the depths of winter. This is due to the fact that, although flowers exist in this area of the gardens, the majority of color emanates from foliage, and even, at times, the bark.

Silver Willows, burgundy Maples, deep purple Smokebush, blue Festuca, creamy variegated Osmanthus, and chartreuse Chamaecyparis mix into an elaborate, jewel-toned tapestry. An additional layer of embellishment is added by a whirlwind of textures evoked by the mixture of foliage types and plant shapes. Large, wavy, wine-colored leaves dangle from the spiraling branches of a squat Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick, while nearby, an overly dramatic, weeping Blue Atlas Cedar resembles a giant animal lumbering past columns of kelly green Yew and lime Thuja.

Each plant was carefully arranged and partnered with just the right companion so as to emphasize the brilliance of each.

An unexpected side effect of all this color and texture was the sudden realization of the importance of properly maintained turf and the need for visually quiet breaks in a complicated landscape design.

The healthy, weed-free, regularly trimmed grass paths throughout this area, though vibrant on their own, were a necessary relief, a place to rest the eye before continuing to the next bed.

After years of working in JWT’s Fine Gardening department I have to admit that I started to take lawn and turf care for granted; I had been focusing so wholeheartedly on the plants and beds alone. It wasn’t until the stark contrast of Bressingham that I was reminded of how much a landscape shines when all elements are care for equally. I have absolutely left this trip with a newfound respect for turf care and plan to incorporate the crisp and clean qualities it brings to the fine gardening landscapes we manage.

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