East Ruston Old Vicarage Gardens, Norfolk

The Dutch Garden, East Ruston Old Vicarage

East Ruston Old Vicarage Gardens, near North Walsham on the Norfolk coast is snugly protected from the prevailing North Sea winds by extensively planted trees and walled areas, creating a sheltered wonderland for the visitor to explore.  It is hard to imagine such delights given that the surrounding land is windswept fields overlooking the sea, but at East Ruston the owners have worked hard to create a haven of loveliness in its own microclimate and have very kindly opened their garden gates for the public to explore and gain inspiration.


Inspirational this garden certainly is, and with approximately 18 individually named gardens to explore, there are fresh ideas and surprises at every turn, with breathtaking colour and adventurous planting guaranteed to send the visitor home eager to implement new discoveries, be it a planting scheme seen at East Ruston, or a plant (or two) purchased from the on-site nursery.


Owners Alan Gray and Graham Robeson purchased East Ruston in 1973 and together they lovingly used their passion for planting to design an exotic masterpiece in their own individual style. Each immaculate section of the garden leads to the next, with opulent planting, statues, hard landscaping and clever topiary.  Beautifully composed views have been thoughtfully formed through ‘portholes’ in hedging and each vista leads the eye to another masterpiece.


At the time of our visit the Dutch garden was at its splendid best, with generously planted tulips and hyacinths totally stealing the show.  The overall effect is opulent madness and it’s hard to believe so many tulip bulbs can be crammed into one garden. At the edge of the Dutch Garden is a greenhouse where we were surprised to see a glorious climbing rose in full bloom – in April!  The new Diamond Jubilee garden is a delight, a walled garden with traditional greenhouse. This area has clearly been designed as an old fashioned ‘walled garden’ with flowers, fruit and vegetables competing for attention, alongside beautifully planted troughs of herbs.


It is clear that East Ruston Old Vicarage Garden does not confirm to tradition and the owners have used their passion to create something quite unique. What is particularly exciting is that the garden is constantly evolving, with new schemes and concepts being introduced all the time.  I have read in other garden reviews of East Ruston that the used of ‘extensive’ hard landscaping is not to everyone’s taste.  I disagree, and find that each area has it’s own separate character, giving an overall charm reflecting the owners personalities.  A chalk board at the entrance advises visitors not only of the best areas to view but also of planned events and new intentions for the garden. With an on-site car park, tea room and plant centre, East Ruston should be on everyone’s ‘to do in Norfolk’ list.





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