Foggy Bottom is 50
Bressingham garden’s anniversary celebrated
HALF A century ago Adrian Bloom looked at the marshy meadow in front of his new bungalow and decided to turn it into a garden.
Today it is a paradise of flowers and foliage, huge plant-filled islands floating across the landscape, rippling rivers of blooms and waves of grasses, conifers standing sentinel, wooded glades, hidden gardens within gardens surrounded by hedging, all linked and embraced by wide, green lawn-lanes.
This is Foggy Bottom, a garden 50 years in the making and still growing and evolving.
Adrian is the son of renowned gardener Alan Bloom, who began creating his Dell Garden, in Bressingham, near Diss, in 1953. Today the Dell Garden flows into neighbouring Foggy Bottom, part of an almost literal family tree of gardening.
Alan, himself the son of a nurseryman, died in 2005, aged 98, but his legacy lives on in Bressingham Steam and Gardens, which includes not only many of the plants he bred and the innovative planting schemes he invented, but also four narrow gauge railway lines, plus exhibition galleries and engine sheds featuring historic steam engines, royal carriages, railway layouts and Dad’s Army memorabilia.
Alan’s gardening genius was to combine colourful perennial plants in island beds, which looked stunning from every direction. Adrian began by planting the grazing meadow beside his house with conifers, heathers and shrubs and transformed Foggy Bottom into a fitting continuation of his father’s famous garden.
The gardens were always test grounds for the family nurseries, the new plants demonstrating impressive combinations of colour and shape, stunning sight-lines and year-round interest. Flowing across former farmland they showcased concepts which could be adapted to smaller spaces, so that the vibrant groupings of flowers, shrubs and conifers surrounded by curving green lanes could be scaled down for a suburban back garden.
As the fame of the gardens spread the original fans returned again and again and new pilgrims were drawn to this paradise.
Foggy Bottom has starred in many television programmes, with camera crews visiting from around the world and Adrian presented plant portraits for the BBC’s Gardener’s
World programme through the 1990s. On a recent trip to America he visited the
mini Bressingham he created for a client in New England 10 years ago, inspired by, and named for, the world-famous Norfolk gardens.
The very first plant Adrian put in the original Foggy Bottom was a cedar. Now just the stump remains, surrounded by 17 acres of glorious gardens which are open daily from late March to the end of October.
Bressingham is still very much a family business, with Alan’s garden now looked after by his son-in-law Jaime Blake. Adrian is chairman of Blooms Nurseries Ltd and his eldest son, Jason, is the managing director, his middle son built the summerhouse and treehouse in the gardens and is also involved with new projects and his youngest son, Richard, is a professional photographer, and last year’s national Garden Photographer of the Year. The main house, Georgian Bressingham Hall, where Alan lived and Adrian grew up, is let for holidays and, with the High Barn, for weddings and events.
Adrian still lives in the bungalow he and his wife, Rosemary, helped build five decades ago. She died of cancer in 2014 and Adrian has planted Rosemary’s Wood, as part of the Foggy Bottom garden, in her memory.
With the glories of Foggy Bottom spread out in front of his home (although the bungalow itself is barely visible from the garden today, such is the profusion and genius of the planting schemes) Adrian is writing a book charting the first half century of the garden. He is still a hands-on gardener too and says the hardest part is not the weeding, or pruning, or watering, or pest control – but knowing when a plant or planting scheme needs changing.
“One of the most difficult things to do in a garden is to take things out,” said Adrian.
And the best? “I love the diversity I now have in the garden, and enjoy creating combinations for year round interest, and the changes in the seasons that help to create it.”
Foggy Bottom, July 1976