Foggy Bot­tom is 50

Bress­ing­ham gar­den’s an­niver­sary cel­e­brated

EDP Norfolk - - Inside -

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

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