The Bishop’s Garden, Norwich
- By Richard Walters
- 12 Sep 2018
- Show Gardens
If you’re after looking for a novel and fun garden visit without travelling too far from Norwich, then you should certainly consider The Bishop’s Garden. Occupying 4 acres of formal gardens the Bishop’s Garden is located in the centre of Norwich near the Cathedral, opposite the Law Courts. This is an ancient garden site dating back to the 11th century when the Cathedral and Palace were originally constructed. In the early 14th century the grounds were enlarged to reach their current size whilst the grand encompassing walls around the garden were constructed some 700 years ago.
Main Herbaceous Border
The first thing you come across when entering the Bishop’s Garden is the large lawn (looking a little parched during our visit in early July) elevated above the main garden complex. Your eyes (and feet) are naturally led down towards the double herbaceous border flanked with Dahlias, Alstromeria, Sedums and Centaurea (thistle-like perennials) and framed by a large and attractive dark green yew hedge.
Kitchen Garden and Bamboo Copse
Meandering around to the left you walk through the more functional netted fruit and vegetable area to a wonderful bamboo copse. For anyone interested in bamboo this is a real gem, with a good variety of mature bamboos including the enormous Phyllostachys ‘Shanghai 3’, impressive P. nigra (Black Bamboo), P. vivax aureuocaulis (Gold Bamboo) and many others.
Continuing up to the north part of the garden towards the towering Catalpa bignonioides ‘Aurea’ (Indian Bean Tree) you pass the delicate Albizia julibissin or Persian Silk Tree with very attractive fluffy pink flowers (actually many small flowers forming a flowerhead). Other interesting and unusual plants include Indigofera howellii (Indigo Bush) and the maroon Phymosia umbellata. Tucked away in the extreme north east corner of the garden is a comfortable recessed bench, perfect for a quick snack and view of the Cathedral behind the large Catalpa tree. At the base of the Catalpa there is a young hornbeam hedge, designed to provide secrecy and interest for the future.
Walking back southwards along the towering ancient walls through the Tropical Walk provides a snapshot into a shady jungle. A boardwalk surrounded by frondy palms and huge ferns is one of the many small highlights to be found in the Bishop’s Garden.
Wildflower Area and Shade Walk
At the bottom of the Tropical Walk you come back past the Herbaceous Border and then down into the south east part of the garden where the wildflower meadow has been cut into a large labyrinthine pattern. Although past it’s best during my visit, it’s clearly worth seeing when in full flower. Then comes the Shade Walk lined with a great variety of Hostas and bordered with large circular metal structures to act as trellis for climbing roses. A young yew hedge should create structure and stability when established in the future, certainly something to look forward to.
The Rose Garden
Finally you get to the geometric rose garden, with the lily pond in the centre, enclosed with low box hedges. Apparently this area is being phased out, so it should be interesting to see what the head gardener, Simon Gaches, comes up with in it’s place.
Although this is not the largest garden, The Bishop’s Garden can certainly lay claim to be one the most varied of it’s size, certainly in Norfolk. Specialising in rare and unusual species it has many things to recommend it and certainly deserves a mention in the top 10 gardens in Norfolk. A major achievement for a garden of its size and complexity with only one full time gardener and one part time gardener!
My favourite areas included the Bamboo copse and the Tropical Walk. It was also great to see so many new and different areas being created to ensure that this garden, like all the best ones, continue to evolve and grow, hopefully entertaining and relaxing people for many, many years to come.
Richard Walters 2018
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