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AgapanthusFollowing Jamie Blake’s July gardening tips in the last Bressingham blog post we thought it would be nice to know which other Norfolk gardens he enjoys and gets ideas from.

Jamie has been working in the gardens for 25 years, rising to his current position as Head Gardener.

What do you learn when you visit other gardens?

I really struggle to find time to visit other gardens - it’s the nature of the job!

It is vitally important to do it in order to gather inspiration from other people - see what they’re doing with plants I’m already familiar with - Also to see how other people have enjoyed success with plants that I’ve struggled with.

Occasionally I see plants I haven’t come across, but the main benefit seems to be giving me ideas on how to grow things I know more effectively.  I also pick things up from combinations other people have used in their gardens.

Do you have any favourite gardens in Norfolk to visit?

To start with there’s Pensthorpe which, although it’s a nature reserve, it has a nicely designed garden by Piet Oudolf, a renowned plantsman.

It comes into it’s own in late summer.  It’s got lots of plants I know and like, using them in big blocks whilst still retaining a nice, naturalistic feel.

A lot of herbaceous plants in recent years (particularly by this designer) have been used in what’s called Perrenial Landscape Planting - so bigger areas but all Perrenials.  No shrubs or conifers.

I also like Raveningham Hall - whilst some of the borders are more traditional compared to those at Bressingham they are a well maintained and looked after.

It also has historical significance for me because Pricilla Bacon, the garden’s designer, had done an awful lot of work on plant breeding, particularly of Agapanthus which come into the fore in summer.

They are a plant I’m particularly interested in being involved in a Royal Horticultural Society trial of Agapanthus this year - I believe the Garden Advisor in Ravingham Hall is also on the committee.

The Plantation Gardens in Norwich quite impressed me - it’s a garden made in an old quarry by a businessman in the 1800’s.

It fell into disrepair and a bit like the Lost Gardens of Heligan, someone got hold of it and it’s now being run as a trust and maintained by volunteers.

It isn’t anything dazzling but it’s a really nice place to have a walk around. It’s a nice relaxed kind of garden.

And finally you can’t really talk about Norfolk gardens and not mention East Ruston, a garden by Alan Gray and Graham Robeson.

It’s a huge area of garden containing lots of exotic plants and a tremendous amount of money spent - which is nice to see.

Alan Gray also writes in the EDP about the work he gets up to which well worth a read.

Formal or informal garden design?

Absolutely, definitely informal.

Formal garden design - gravel paths and clipped hedges - I know all gardening is about man or woman controlling nature to some extent. but I do find the rigid lines don’t please me at all!

I think it’s probably influenced by working at Bressingham where everything is really informal.

It’s nice to walk around somewhere and feel relaxed in your surroundings, it may sound slightly pompous but I feel I interact more with a nice informal garden.

With a formal garden I feel, when I walk around it, it should be dressed up or something!

Do you have any favourite gardens?

Horticulture is such a massive subject we always welcome suggestions and experience from visitors.

If you do, get in touch and let us know – you can also do it on Facebook or Twitter.

By Alastair Baker at 7 Jul 2015, 11:00 AM