I started a draft for this post back in August, immediately after visiting Fullers Mill Gardens for the first time. However, since I’d recently written about a couple of other water gardens I though it better to wait a bit and maybe return to the garden in a different season to get a more rounded feel for it before having another go. Well, I’ve not managed to make it back yet, but sadly the creator of these beautiful gardens, Bernard Tickner, died last week and so it seemed like a good time to share some photos of his slice of heaven on earth.
The gardens cover seven acres and run along the banks of the river Lark. A key feature of the gardens, both historically and visually, is the wonderfully romantic Mill Pond.
The mill that stood here was once one of many fulling mills along the river. However, at the start of Bernard Tickner’s adventure here, the mill pond was overrun with brambles and fallen trees and partially eroded by the Culford stream. After much remedial work the pond was cleared and rebuilt as a tranquil oasis in the centre of the plot, with quaint, rickety, wooden bridges connecting it to other areas and lush, wild planting around the edge. Thick stands of phlox and campanula are juxtaposed with golden fuchsia, rodgersia, yucca and euphorbia stygiana.
The Top Garden is the first area that you come across and it seems to emerge gradually from the surrounding forest. It is naturally fairly shady and has dry, poor soil conditions. It is heavily planted with various bulbs and lilies, but I can’t say that I was particularly enamoured with it. There were too many short paths and small beds. In fact, I don’t seem to have taken any photos there to speak of, except of astrantias, which are always lovely:
Once you get to the weir by the Mill house (private) …
and cross the river Lark, things get much more interesting. There are a number of distinct zones with paths that lead to views of the nature reserve beyond and more wooden bridges to wander over as your fancy takes you.
The Low Garden is a network of island beds, bounded by rivers and streams.
The beds used here are larger and better matched to the topography and feel less twee than in the Top Garden. Gravel covers not just the paths, but various beds, suiting plantings of seaside/ dry garden flowers, such as dianthus carthusianorum and sea kale or eryngiums punching through grouped masses of lychnis coronaria alba. The feeling is much more homogeneous and naturalistic.
I loved these free flowing arrangements, but in the open sunny patches you couldn’t help but be stopped in your tracks by the sight of various lilies, including the giant lily (Cardiocrinum giganteum). Bernard was particularly fond of lilies and euphorbia and the garden reflects that.
On the other side of the Mill pond is an area labelled the Quandaries. It was my favourite. The area is on a gentle hillside and is a sun trap. It is stuffed full of gorgeous, hot combinations. Take a look at these:
I love this combination and will be trying it myself. Interestingly, Bernard Tickner was colour blind, so put much more emphasis on plant forms than colour.
Great textual combinations along the Culford stream.
Bernard Tickner was 93yrs old when he died, but he seems to have lived a full life, firstly working as a head brewer and production director for Greene King, but more importantly to this post, as a local wildlife campaigner, co-founder of the Lackford Lakes Nature Reserve and the developer (over a 60 year period) of Fullers Mill Gardens. In 2013 Bernard entrusted his gardens to the horticultural charity Perennial to safeguard its long-term future as a garden open to visitors. During his 93rd year he was awarded an MBE and managed to secure an additional 77 acres of land to extend the Lackford nature reserve and facilities. He was involved and interested until the end. Lackford Lakes and Fullers Mill Garden is an impressive legacy to leave behind.