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Cathedral a serendipitous surprise

Cathedral a serendipitous surprise

Posted: Tuesday, October 11, 2011 8:03 pm

Friday, Aug. 26
Day 5 of Perennial Plant Association British garden tour
Every one of the four previous British garden tours we have enjoyed came with considerable serendipitous experiences that weren’t on our itinerary. This one was no exception.
Bury-St. Edmunds is an old city in the east of England. Go a few miles further east and you will run off into the English Channel. Just across from our first-class Angel Hotel in Bury-St. Edmunds there is an ancient cathedral and abbey.
Like most of them in England, it was originally Catholic, but turned Anglican with the “dissolution” in the mid-16th century. The notorious Henry VIII rebelled against the Catholic Church which looked down on his execution or divorce of most of his six wives. Only the homely Catherine Parr outlived him.
At any rate, Henry decided to just start his own church after the Pope refused to go along with his shenanigans, and thus came his dissolution retribution and consequent birth of the Anglican Church, or Church of England. The equivalent in America is the Episcopal Church.
The magnificent cathedral stands on the site of an older abbey covering many acres, the ruins of which are still extant behind the cathedral. The area was inhabited by Saxon kings under whose reigns a monastery was built in the Seventh century. The death of Edmund, King of the East Angles, in 869 led to the building of the abbey.
Our group enjoyed spending a bit of free time touring the cathedral and its surrounding gardens, bedded out in annuals, including tuberous begonias, in every color of the rainbow. Against the foil of deep green grass, the result was spectacular.
Our first slated stop of Day 5 was at Howard Nurseries in Norfolk. Founded in 1969, Howard’s is a classic entrepreneurial success story. The original stock of a few breeding plants has grown into 150 acres of perennial plant production, with hundreds of varieties and species lined out in large fields, then dug for shipping.
We were given the grand tour in a light rain in large tractor-pulled covered wagons with comfortable seating.
The shipping area had workers primping plants individually for sale, to the point of hand snipping any discolored blade from ornamental grasses. It was old-school pride in workmanship. Another welcomed feature was a complimentary assortment of sweet goodies, coffee and the obligatory English tea.
Then to the world-famous Bressingham Gardens, the private estates of Adrian Bloom and his late father, Alan. Here also is the Blooms of Bressingham Nursery, which ships plants around the world. You will see their labels on plants sold in our area here at home.
Adrian Bloom gave us his own grand tour of the 17 acres of his father’s Dell Garden and his own Foggy Bottom.
The Dell broke new ground (no pun intended) years ago with the introduction of island beds of mostly herbaceous perennials artistically assembled throughout the acreage. It is just as great as at our last visit years ago.
Then, at Foggy Bottom, in a sure-enough low swale, Adrian has assembled a collection of dwarf conifers and native North American perennials. “Dwarf” is a relative term, and many conifers do not lend themselves to severe pruning or shearing, so these many years on now, some of the dwarf conifers have outgrown their space. Adrian is not averse to yanking anything that no longer fits, so the garden is in the process of being slowly renovated with more perennials in evidence than I remember from before.
Our coach returned us to our last evening at our luxurious Angel Hotel at Bury-St. Edmunds. With a night’s sleep, we would be ready to depart for a long day at sunrise as we would venture onto the high seas.
Next: Seasick in rough waters.
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.

Published in The Messenger 10.11.11

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