We bought East Ruston Old Vicarage in 1973. It had been empty for the previous two years and there was no garden here at all, just three feet high tufted grass. At this time we were both living in London during the week to enable us to earn our livings. Each Friday evening we undertook the then arduous journey from central London to East Ruston, returning to London the following Sunday evening or at the latest very early Monday morning. This we did for many years, but it allowed us the delight to be able to start gardening which we did with great enthusiasm on an area of some two acres.

Over the years, starting in 1989, we have had the opportunity to purchase some of the former glebe land that had originally surrounded the Vicarage plus a bit extra. This meant that shortly after the mid 1980’s when we came to live here permanently we could commence gardening on a larger scale. However at that time it was not our intention to make a grand garden. When it began, the sub-division of our land was influenced by a black and white slide that somebody kindly gave us. It was taken in the 1960’s during the winter and clearly showed the former field boundaries on the ground. It occurred to us then that because of the modern farming methods a huge amount of wildlife habitat had been lost. Hedges, ditches, banks and ponds all swept away and so armed with the ordnance survey map from the 1880’s decided to put back some of this valuable shelter.

And so began the life of the garden that we all enjoy today although at this time our idea was to create somewhere for us to walk our dogs without using the local farmer’s fields, how things have changed. Gradually the original garden that we had created within the confines of our two acres was moved out into the newer land and areas such as the clematis borders were scaled up to become larger and we hope more interesting. It is important to note that the garden here is an oasis in a prairie landscape where farmers have made bigger fields for bigger yields. Within the garden there is a microclimate that allows us to grow many plants that might be tender in all but a few sheltered spots. This we have achieved by the planting of shelter belts mainly of Monterey Pi

ne, Italian Alders, Holm Oak and Eucalyptus. This and the fact that most of the gardens within the whole are relatively small in area helps to keep our main enemy, wind, above head height.

Another factor that helps the garden is its maritime influence. The University of East Anglia department of climatology published charts of weather statistics over the last fifty years. One chart shows clearly that on the Eastern coast of Norfolk and Suffolk to within three miles of the sea we experience the same mean amount of frost as Devon and Cornwall, although bending down in a stiff wind in the coldness that is January it does not always feel so!

Over the years the garden has grown further and now totals 32 acres. We promise that that is the end of the growth in area, however it will continue to become more ‘finely tuned’. Each winter we endeavour to create new or to improve existing are

as and as all of you know, a garden never stands still, it moves on, after all it is a living breathing being.

Several years ago we were approached by the Royal Horticultural Society to be a Partnership Garden. This then was an honour indeed, we were among the first six gardens to be asked, a plaudit to us and to our staff. We would just like to point out, though, we do not receive any financial assistance for this. In fact, it is the other way around. We endeavour to help, in our small way, and raise some money for this most excellent charity. The garden here at East Ruston Old Vicarage is entirely funded by ourselves from our own resources. As the garden has increased in size so has the expense in providing plants to fill it, what to do? The first step was to become good propagators, and this we did. Today we propagate the greater number of plants used in the garden and on our plant sales area. Not all, that would be impossible, especially some of the newer and rarer varieties and those that even the experts find difficult.