Saturday 9th June: Garden Event and Plant Fair starting at 10am. 

Sunday 4th February will see the first Snowdrop event at East Ruston Old Vicarage. 

East Ruston Old Vicarage will host a

Snowdrop Specialist Growers Day

commencing at 10am.


Specialist Growers

Joe Sharman – Monksilver Nursery

Jelly Cottage Plants

Brian Ellis

Michael Broadhurst – Rainbow Farm

Ben Potterton


Guest Speaker

Ben Potterton will give a talk at 1pm


Entry £3.50 per person

Refreshments available.

For further information please contact  01692 650432



Saturday 10th June see our 7th Garden Event. The Plant Fair and Garden will both open at 10am. 

Alan Gray will be giving illustrated talks in the garden commecing on Thursday 22nd June at 10am with the History of the garden. The day will start at 10am with coffee and biscuits, Alan will then give a presntation, followed by lunch in our tea room. £45 per person booked in advance. 


Please click on the link below to see a lovely article written about the garden. 



January 2013

Cultivation notes on sweet peas.

The best quality flowers borne on sweet pea plants are on those that have been sown in the autumn, however if you can grow flowers that are adequate for cutting from a spring sowing too. In Norfolk the ideal time for sowing is mid October or mid March. There are many myths about sowing and growing of sweet peas from seed, for instance, there is no need to soak the seed prior to sowing.


The best compost to use is a loam based seed compost mixed in equal quantities with a soilless compost, perlite or vermiculite. Use deep seed trays filled to within an inch of their tops with compost and firm with a tamper. Place the seeds on the compost one inch apart each way and water several times with a fine rose to make sure that the compost is properly moist. Then cover the seeds with compost to the top of the tray but, do not administer any more water. As a precaution add few slug pellets and be aware that mice like to eat the seeds too!


Sweet peas germinate best at a temperature between 15 to 18 degrees so the protection of cool glass is preferable until the seedlings appear. Thereafter they must be transferred to a sheltered position outside and grown hard. This should be south facing and in good light at all times for the plants must not be allowed to become drawn and etiolated.


Once the seedlings have grown to a height of around 4 cms (1 ½ inches) before any leaves have opened they should be transplanted into deep pots, 5 seedlings to a 15 cms (6 inch) pot using John Innes number 1 loam based compost. Gently tease them from their seed tray, make a hole with a fine dibber, an old pencil is ideal and nip off the very tip of the tap root. The purpose of this is to stop the tap root which can grow as long as 60 cms (2 feet) and to encourage a strong secondary root system. When the pot is full, gently tap it to settle the soil, again add some precautionary slug bait and do not forget those pesky little rodents either.


However tempting it may be DO NOT GIVE YOUR PLANTS ANY ARTIFICIAL HEAT. Grow the seedlings on outside but, if the temperatures dip much below 5°, cover the plants. When the plants have made four to five leaves their tips should be pinched out because the best blooms are produced on the lateral shoots that will grow from the leaf joints.


Should you wish to buy pre-germinated sweet peas from a garden centre they will come in the small pots. Make sure that they are at the correct stage for being transplanted, i.e. without any leaves open, they can then be transplanted into 15 cms (6 inch) pots.


Before planting out into their permanent positions some preparation of the site should be carried out. Dig a trench around 50 cms (20 inches) deep and break up the bottom soil and incorporate some well rotted muck. If you cannot get muck then pelleted chicken manure from the garden centre can be substituted. I like to add a layer of newspaper to the bottom and sides of the trench, the pink pages from the Financial Times works best! Make sure that the bottom of your trench is moist by soaking the paper thoroughly before back-filling the trench. When this is completed you may find that the soil is somewhat raised but, after watering and with time the soil will naturally settle but, if the spoil is a little raised, it will warm up quicker which will aid root growth when the plants are first planted.


The choice of supports is up to you, if you can acquire pea sticks they will be fine, if not then bamboo canes and bean netting will be fine or you might choose to make a wigwam. Whichever method you choose, make sure that the canes are pushed well into the ground so that the whole structure is stable. When it comes to planting out your seedlings, tip them from their pot and gently tease their roots apart, do not be alarmed by this process, they will produce stronger plants with better flowers by doing it this way. Make a hole with a small border spade at an angle of 45° and fan out the roots, back-fill the soil which should then be level with the first side shoot.


Autumn sown plants will need planting into their final positions in February, spring sown plants in April. When the weather warms up, growth will be fast and you should inspect your plants on a regular basis, any that don’t climb naturally with their tendrils might need to be encouraged towards their supports. If you are growing sweet peas in double rows, these should ideally be sited north to south so that each row gets an equal amount of sunlight.


Sometimes their stems may need tying in, in fact, when sweet peas are grown for showing, their tendrils are removed so that all their energies are directed into flower production, tying in their growths is then essential. This needs careful attention if their stems are not to be damaged, soft garden twine is to be recommended or you can get sweet pea rings especially designed for this purpose. There is also a rather good device called a Max Tapener that ties the stems to their supports with soft plastic tape and staples it in place that saves an awful lot of time, look at it on a search engine. We give our newly planted sweet peas a top dressing of fish, blood and bone meal after planting and as soon as they produce their first flowers a weekly liquid fertilizer containing seaweed extract.


This is the way that we grow sweet peas in the garden here but, it is not suitable for show standard blooms however, this method gives us masses of flowers for cutting from May until September and who in their right mind would ever want to be without this quintessentially English cut flower, not only its beauty but, its scent too!




January 2012

On the subject of winter weather we have held our tongues but, at last feel that it is time to say that this has and is one of the mildest for many years. This is wonderful, not only for us but, for the plants in the garden that are thriving and giving us weeks of early colour and scent. It is also rather fun for all those ‘cup half empty’ people that predicted an even worse winter than last year, how lovely to prove them wrong, although we must not get too complacent for Dame Nature could yet have a surprise in store for us!


On Christmas day I do a flower count of all the different species that are blooming in the garden. Last year this was impossible for the weather forbade such extravagance but, this year the converse was true. I managed to gather blooms from over one hundred and twenty different species, some a little weather beaten but, blooms nonetheless! Astonishing as this was, it has only got better, for the consistently mild weather has persuaded early flowering bulbs, plants, trees and shrubs to join in so that in January we could be forgiven for thinking that the calendar had jumped forward a couple of months!


Everyone here is now gathering momentum getting the garden to ready to receive visitors once more, we always feel that spring is just around the corner when the requests for season tickets begins and a feeling of optimism pervades the garden, for spring can only be a few weeks away. During the winter, mild as it was, work continued apace throughout the garden. This involved renewing and relaying paths where they had become worn and rutted and sometimes replacing the timber edging where it had rotted.


We have also been removing some of the internal shelter belts of Monterey pines where these had become too large and were stopping valuable sunlight from reaching the new Diamond Jubilee Walled Garden, especially late in the afternoon. This is beneficial in two ways, firstly it allows more light into the garden, as neither plants nor people like to be too dark, and it also gives us more areas to plant, as if we really need that? The second thing is that we suddenly find ourselves with copious quantities of firewood.


This in turn has led to change in the house where having carried out some internal refurbishments, we have decided to install a rather smart wood burning stove that can be lit first thing in the morning gently providing warmth, this is very efficient for the whole fabric of the house then becomes warm. With the ever increasing cost of heating oil and by growing our own fuel we have our own programme of carbon capture.


Throughout the winter some of our chickens have disappeared, a fox being the culprit we suspect and we have some projects underway to lessen their presence in the garden. One of these is allowing our Alpacas to free range for it is widely believed that they have the ability to repel foxes, we shall see!


The 2012 Diamond Jubilee Walled Garden continues to be planted, planned and plotted. Alongside the green house here we needed a galvanised metal water tank to catch the rainwater from the green house roof. Our problem is that the space available is very narrow so we had no choice than to be frightfully smart and commission a bespoke water tank from our local artist/blacksmith Bill Cordaroy 01692 650724, as usual he come up trumps and we have a smart tank.


This green house is unheated but, last summer I planted a couple of plants of geranium maderense in the border along the back wall. Here they have grown lush and plump and I hope that they will flower this year. This is not reliably hardy here in Norfolk although, it may have been this winter but, I always think that it is worth a try in your most sheltered location for there is nothing quite like it in flower with a huge inflorescence carrying hundreds of individual purplish-pink blossoms. You might have to keep some horticultural fleece handy to throw over your plant in frosty weather. It is an unwilling pot subject too for it quickly fills the pot with roots and promptly stops growing, to succeed it needs a very large container, a large half barrel is not too large together with very generous feeding.


At the moment every day brings forth something new and interesting in the garden and as a consequence we all feel great optimism for the delights that are to follow. Let us look forward to a sumptuous summer with beatific summer days filled with glorious sunshine and warm moist nights so that our gardens grow and flourish as never before! If life were only that simple and not a series of necessary compromises!



10th October

During the past two years we have had several strange birds in the garden. This year we have an albino blackbird, presumably a young bird born in the garden, it is very active and feeding with others on the windfalls from our apple trees. For the past two years we have had a pair of Goshawks nest and successfully raising their young. This weekend we have a Blue Rock Thrush here, a bird not normally seen in northern Europe. This looks a bit like a starling but with blue colouring to its upper body with a rufus coloured breast. The male has an unusual but melodious call, it’s rather wonderful to have unusual visitors to our garden, I wonder what will turn up next? 




25th August

It was with great delight that we took delivery of two new and exciting additions to our family of animals. On Monday August 22nd Ben Potterton and his wife Sarah kindly brought us a pair of Alpacas that had been bred at Blacksmith Cottage Nursery, their home near Diss in south Norfolk.


We have named them Eva and Emilio and they are both settling in well, they are young animals having been born earlier this year and we hope that they will enjoy a long and happy life with us. Who knows, in time they could possibly become parents themselves which would be most exciting especially as Been informs me that their young, which are known as crias, could be cream in colour which sounds odd as both Eva and Emilio are a rich mahogany brown.


Also here is an up to date selection of photographs taken by Paul Morris during the month of August. Paul's photos can also be viewed by clicking on the link to his website.



Friday 22nd July

Work continues apace on the ‘Diamond Jubilee Walled Garden’. For many years Graham and I have both been admirers of Alitex Greenhouses and it was a joint decision to indulge ourselves in having one for this new garden. The photograph in our Gallery is of us two on the Alitex stand at the Chelsea Flower Show. When we ordered the greenhouse, it seemed it seemed an eternity before it would be ready.  However, we built the foundations in readiness and had the sandstone floor laid by Brendan who is one of those remarkable people that appears to be able to turn his hand to anything. Having completed these jobs, we now had to wait but, it was almost like being a child again, wishing that Christmas would hurry up. In other words we have been enjoying the pleasure of anticipation! This week it has arrived amid great excitement and within three days it will be erected and fully working.


Meanwhile Gary is laying the paths which are not a simple as you might think. First of all the edging boards have to be installed then excess soil has to be removed before a layer of hogging is laid mixed with some medium sized gravel as a foundation for the final layer of fine gravel that is so kind to walk on. The paths also have to be cambered up towards the middle and drainage sumps made along the sides to avert flooding all of which takes time and trouble but, this is something that has to be considered when the garden is open to the public.


Along two sides of the new walls we have planted lots of dahlias; this is a very decorative way of cleaning the ground. These and any accompanying plants will be dug up and removed in the autumn allowing us the chance to remove any perennial weeds, we can also add compost and well rotted muck at the same time thereby improving the soil.



Alan has just placed new stainless steel sprials in the new entrance border to the garden. Images are on the gallery page. These are available from our blacksmith Bill Cordary. 01692 650724.


On Saturday June 11th we held a Garden Event/Plant Fair at East Ruston Old Vicarage. Ian Roofe and the team here did the organising and on the day we had around twenty nurseries with a diverse and exceedingly interesting array of plants, in fact, such was the variety of plants on offer that there was something for everybody. However, it was not just plants that were for sale, there were ladders and secateurs from Jake at Niwaki. Vanessa Scott from Stratton’s Hotel in Swaffham was selling lots of food related items. Sue Andrews was making baskets, so useful for country people for collecting eggs, fruit and vegetables as well as shopping. Bill Cordaroy, artist/blacksmith and his wife Jan were showing sculptures, I bought a rather innovative idea which like all good ideas is very simple, a group of five metal uprights pushed into the ground that sway and move in the breeze whilst Jason Greenberry, artist/blacksmith was selling metal obelisks of various designs for supporting plants, these were galvanised so important for lastability. Paul Metcalf was demonstrating the joy and the importance of keeping honey bees, something that lots of gardeners could do. Homegrown Revolution had some of their raised beds on show, these are ideal for growing vegetables and soft fruit especially strawberries as they are easy to net to stop the birds getting the fruit before you do! Ben Potterton from Blacksmith’s Cottage Nursery had a very pretty stand with a great mass of Astrantia ‘Roma’, this is a sterile variety that does not set seed, this makes it a very vigorous garden plant. It was a very good shade of pink that had a glow about it. I thought that I should get some for the garden here but, when I went back he had sold out, luckily for me; he has some plants on his nursery so I won’t miss out.


Although we had advertised this event we didn’t know quite what to expect on the day and Graham soon realised that our advertising had done the trick when he began to run out of car parking space and in spite of having two extra fields for parking, there was a real danger at one point that there may not have been enough spaces, luckily we had just enough spaces for everyone.


Bob Brown of Cotswold Garden Flowers who attended with his son Ed produced a fabulous stand of plants, his nursery is one of the most popular in the country; he also gave an entertaining and very amusing talk in the marquee that was very well attended. BBC Radio Norfolk broadcast the ‘Garden Party’ live from the marquee between 12 and 2 o’clock with a gardener’s question time that was fun, informative and very well attended, I had a very good response from several friends who were not able to be there but listened in and laughed along with the audience in the marquee. After lunch Alison Woodhouse, a tutor of floristry at Easton Colleg,e gave a flower arranging demonstration, later auctioning off her arrangements and donating the proceeds to the Air Ambulance. The spectacle of people leaving this event rather reminded me of the end of the Chelsea Flower Show when various exhibits are sold off, it seems that everyone who came on the day left bearing a trophy.


We have received so many emails from attendees on the day telling us how much pleasure they had on the day, most of them requesting that we make this an annual event as did the nurseries and other stalls that attended. We have pencilled in the same date for next year so put a note in your diary for June   2012. Photographs taken at the event are in our gallery.   



At this time of year we are changing over our bedding from spring to summer. We are also planting up our summer pots and for this we have plants especially grown for us by specialist nurseries. At the moment these are on the driveway or on the floor of the Exotic Garden where we have been very surpirsed at just how many, so-called, tender plants have survived the cold temperatures of last winter.

This year we are growing many new varieties of Dahlias, we just hope that there will be enough for our visitors to buy so that we might all enjoy them for ourselves. These are grown from tubers so will be strong, well-grown plants that will give an optimum performance in their first season.

Work on the new Walled Garden is progressing well and we have put up to date images on the Gallery page of the website. The new greenhouse for the Walled Garden is due to be erected in July.


Ian Roofe and Joe Whitehead will be holding workshops in the garden at East Ruston.

May 28th:  Containers, baskets and bedding displays.

June 18th:  The herbaceous border , a gardeners guide.

July 23rd:  Summer in  the garden, what to do now!

September 24th:  Getting the best from the autumn garden.

November 19th:  Planning for the winter garden.


You can get more information on the workshops in the following ways:

E-mail: info@gardener2gardener.co.uk

Log on to: www.gardener2gardener.co.uk

Tel:  (01603) 211565