Inspirational Gardens in Essex and Suffolk

Inspirational Gardens in Essex and Suffolk

As a garden designer, I am forever drawing inspiration from other people’s gardens. Essex and Suffolk boast some of the most interesting gardens to visit. These are some of the most inspirational gardens in Essex and Suffolk

If you are thinking of updating your own outdoor space, it’s well worth visiting some gardens to a) find out what style of gardening you most like and b) think how your new garden might look a few years down the line.

Here are some gardens in Essex and Suffolk that you might like to visit

Fullers Mill – West Stow

Fullers Mill is a medium sized garden on the outskirts of Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk. It was built in the late 1950’s and has some lovely mature planting. This is a good place to look for planting ideas if you are struggling with shade in your own garden. There’s really good use of layering and foliage in the planting design. I also like the way they use different types of mulch to reduce labour and improve the sandy soil.

brightly coloured tulips and foliage plants beside a path

I love the colour combinations and the clever use of textures at Fullers Mill. This photo was taken in April. I can’t wait to see what it looks like at other times of the year

Great if you like informal layouts, water gardening, hidden features and cake. The tea shop here delicious sells home-made bakes.  Perennial, the gardener’s charity, look after Fullers Mill and keep it in fine fettle. At the same time as raising funds for the Charity.

More about Fullers Mill Garden

Helmingham Hall Gardens – Stowmarket

A beautiful formal garden where fruit and vegetables grow alongside cutting flowers and topiary animals.

This is a very well established garden attached to the Tudor Helmingham Hall. In Tudor times gardens were all about productivity. Here you’ll find a magnificent walled garden enclosed by a moat. The layout is symmetrical with lots of clean lines – just like a modern garden.

There’s very little hard landscaping. Well maintained grass paths run between the beds and borders. Planting is all about edibles and cut flowers for the house. For winter interest there is some intriguing topiary. Eagle eyed visitors will spot a chair, a boot, a snowman and a giant snail.

Beyond the walled garden is a wild garden. It’s bee-friendly, low maintenance and buzzing with life. A complete contrast to the more formal areas. Lots of ideas here to bring back for your own garden.


cowslips and a fallen fruit tree in the wild garden at helmingham hall

The beautiful wild garden at Helmingham Hall. If you like the idea of a low maintenance garden, this is a good place to draw inspiration


Helmingham Hall Gardens

Beth Chatto’s garden – Elmstead

No gardener in Essex should turn down an opportunity to visit Beth Chatto’s garden in Elmstead near Colchester. Sadly Beth passed away in 2018 but she has left an incredible legacy. Her ethos was always to make life easy by adapting the garden to fit the conditions. That’s something the Tapestry team will always aim to do.

By working with the soil type, the light and shade and other aspects of a garden that cannot easily be changed, Beth has created a place where the plants grow without any fuss, the maintenance is straightforward and wildlife is happy to share the space.

A scene from Beth Chattos garden in Essex with a winding path and bergenia in bloom

Beth Chatto has made good use of foliage in this part of her garden.
The ground cover plants need very little attention and reduce maintenance by crowding out any weeds

As with any of the gardens you visit, don’t expect to recreate this whole garden in your own space – they’re all individual and so are you. But there will be aspects and ideas that you can draw from. Maybe you’ll find a planting combination you particularly like or  be inspired by some of the materials used. At the very least, you’ll find out what you don’t like. And if you’re hiring a garden designer, it’s always good to tell them what not to include.

Visit Beth Chatto’s gardens

Open Days and Shows in Gardens in Essex and Suffolk

Some gardens are open all year round and are designed to entertain and educate visitors. If you get the chance to visit a private garden, it’s well worth taking the opportunity.

These are family gardens, built for fun, out of interest or to add value to a property.

This year (2019) I’m hoping to visit Little Bentley Hall.  They’re holding an open day and gardening show on 1st and 2nd June where there will be show gardens to look at too. A bit like a smaller version of Chelsea Flower Show.

I also have a hankering to leave the studio for a day and go to Little Horkesley for their garden open day in June.

Using inspirational ideas in garden design

At Tapestry Design Studios our job is to help you turn your inspiration into a real life beautiful garden.

If you see a garden you like, we’d love to see pictures and find out what it is about the space that appeals to you. Please don’t photograph private gardens without the owner’s permission. But photos from days out, garden centres, even clippings from magazines all help us to understand what your new garden needs to deliver.

Here are some images of garden features that might help you to gather your thoughts.

topiary shapes amongst herbaceous plants in a walled garden

Topiary adds form to these herbaceous borders. In winter time many perennial plants go into hiding but these beauties provide interest all year round.
Not confident you could clip a topiary acorn? Why not use conifers instead?

front garden with terraced lawns

Not an open garden but this is how we tamed a sloping front garden in Essex

brick built garden terraces with adjoining steps

Weathered brickwork gives a clue to the age of this garden. This is at Fullers Mill and the River Lark is at the other side of this slope. In these terraces lives a lovely collection of low maintenance alpine plants. I particularly like the way the bricks to the right of the path lie at an angle

swoosh shaped bed cut into the lawn

Lovely “swoosh” cut into a formal lawn at Helmingham Hall.
In your own garden, the shape could be changed and so could the materials….

small girl eating cake in a garden

The bonus of visiting gardens for inspiration – cake!




Helpful articles

Making the most of a small garden

Using colour in the garden

Design inspiration for sloping gardens

Need help designing your garden? Get in touch with Tapestry Design Studios


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