The Old Rectory, Pulham
Susy and Colin Varndell visit a Blackmore Vale garden that is a feast for the senses
Published in May ’15
The garden at The Old Rectory, Pulham is full of variety and is well worth the journey to find it. The rectory itself is the backdrop to the formal front garden, which has yews sculpted into pyramid shapes leading one down to the farmland beyond. Surrounding the house on the other sides are the large bog garden, which is still in its infancy and circular herbaceous borders, which are brimming with late summer flowering plants. There is also an arboretum to explore and a woodland and shrubbery.
The entrance to the garden is through a gate in a rather inconspicuous sidewall, which gives no indication of the beauty you are about to behold. Once through the gate one is entranced by the beautiful terrace in front of the house as well as the rows of clipped yew pyramids which march the eye to the serenity of the farmland beyond. Alongside these sculptured yews there are box parterres containing standard umbrella shaped laurels and santolina. It is the foliage which is encouraged as a contrast to the dark green box and laurel in the winter.
The terrace has various plants growing through the stones including lady’s mantle, a pretty little euphorbia and alliums which readily self-seed. There are tubs of white tulips on the terrace, which mirror the purple and white of the Putney High Bed, which is based purely on purple and white. This colour combination is a result of the owners’ daughter attending Putney High School, where the uniform was purple and white!
Leaving the formal area through the Sermon Walk one arrives at the stunning bog garden, which is situated at the outflow from the septic tank (which has now been diverted). The present owners, wishing to enlarge the bog area, drafted in a digger. This enabled islands and channels to be created in the allotted area. This maze of streams and islands has sleepers strategically placed over the channels so that the whole of the bog garden can be reached. Most of the plants, including candelabra primulas, pink persicarias, irises and hostas, have either been split or seeded themselves. In May the bog garden is alive with an array of pinks, reds and oranges with some yellow trollius scattered around. The darmera peltata and iris sibirica are an added element to the colour scheme. There is also a couple of gunnera which are in the early stages of their development. Millions of tadpoles have colonised the bog garden, which in turn attracts the heron. Neither seems to be perturbed by the crocodile sculpture lurking in the foliage! From the bog garden there are wonderful views to the distant countryside.
One can then wander through to the woodland area, which was planted in 1995. Wayfaring trees, dogwoods, oak, ash and hazel stools combine to make a shaded area where bluebells fringe the woodland paths in spring. Deer are obviously frequent visitors here as there were many deer slots encountered on the visit.
Across the front of the house one then reaches the pond and arboretum. Here one can sit in peace on a circular metal seat under a plane tree admiring the pond, which is apparently a favourite with toad tadpoles, and sometimes otters. Flag irises surround the pond, which is kept clear of duckweed with a circular pump. Early on in the year snowdrops and daffodils brighten this part of the garden.
As one meanders through from the informal area to the sickle bed the contrast is striking. One minute nature can assist in the garden design but in the next, the sickle bed area, it is clear that it is well sculptured and maintained to a high degree with little help required from mother nature. It is also an area which is well sheltered, thus ensuring that the enfolded plants are protected from the worst of the weather. The curved symmetrical beds are full of late summer flowering herbaceous plants including many phlox, in a variety of colours. The one colour not permitted here is yellow. The backing hedges are extremely well maintained and the lawn edges are trimmed neatly. At the far end of the sickle bed area is the bench bed and hornbeam circle. Snowdrops and crocus thrive in this area in spring.
Back to the front of the house one is then made aware of the hot bed, which had not caught our attention on the way in. Orange, reds and yellows mix together to make a cacophony of colour.
This garden is of interest, not only for its wealth of garden features but also for the variety of wildlife you may well encounter. Frog tadpoles, herons, otters, chiff chaff, goldfinch, great spotted woodpecker, willow warbler, blackbird, songthrush and green veined white butterflies. Wild flowers including cow parsley, buttercups, ladies smock and daisies were all in evidence on this visit in May. It was a feast for the senses. ◗