The parterre at Helmingham Hall

We’re getting about a bit this week with the posts I’m sharing, so in between quick visits to Lisbon on Tuesday and Italy tomorrow, today we’re somewhere a little closer to home and have landed in Suffolk. In the parterre at Helmingham Hall to be precise. It’s a great garden to visit, another independent garden where you’re never quite sure what you’re going to find.

We visited during our Suffolk break, and I was surprised to see I’ve only shared a single post from our visit so far, and if you’re a fan of knot gardens, then this is worth a visit if you’re in the area. I originally planned to share photos from the Potager, but somehow my fingers had other ideas, but who am I to argue?

formal lines provide a relaxing space at Helmington Hall in Suffolk

While first off this garden might look very traditional, and its choice of plants - box hedging and santolina, it’s not quite as traditional as you’d expect. It’s in good company as that’s the combination used in the formal gardens of Chenonceau too, though the santolina (the light coloured plant) was more densely planted in Suffolk, which brought a bolder ‘stripe’ to the parterre.

great lines that you just want to follow

The other less traditional thing, but gorgeously so, are these pink cosmos which on our visit were used in the central bed.

cosmos fill the central bed

From a distance, I assumed they were roses, so it was quite a discovery when I got close enough. While I’m converting to roses, i think because these weren’t roses, it was even more of an exciting discovery. It’s quirks like this, or the plant you don’t expect to see that makes a garden a garden and not a forumaic reproduction of what we know works.

the symmetry is reasuring
box topiary in the parterre at helmington hall in Suffolk

It’s a great space, calming and viewable from the house across the moat - which if I’ve not mentioned before is pretty and fascinating, though sadly not open, but I mean, it has a moat. And surely that means you can imagine anything you like about the place and the reality would never match up to it.

The other thing this garden has, which appeals to me, is those gates which lead to the Potager. So soon, I’ll share more of what’s behind them as I’m rather partial to those too, as i discovered at Cheverny.

Overlooking the rooftops in Lisbon

I’ve finally made a start at editing my photos from our trip to Portugal at the start of June. I know, it’s taken me a while, but with so many photos I haven’t really known where to start. Eventually I worked out that the best thing to do was actually start, and so I have. And I’ve been quite traditional about it and I’m sharing some shots of the first place we stayed in Lisbon. Actually we only stayed in one place in Lisbon, but it was the first place on our trip.

I’m much more partial to an apartment than to a hotel. It gives us the flexibility to eat what and when we want, and even if we want - sometimes our days feel like they’re punctuated by food, and quite often it’s hard work fitting in three meals. Then on other days, it’s no problem at all! Anyway, once again i’d found a great looking apartment in Portugal, and I was later to recall the great lights in our Porto apartment - hold onto that thought, we’ll come onto the lights.

But first the view. I’d specifically chosen this apartment over another for its garden. As it turned out, while it was nice to look down on we never actually stepped inside it, despite its inviting shade in the mid-thirties heat.

the view from the bedroom to the garden below

The pastel buildings in the street behind us proved to be a good foil for the garden’s lushness, the blue of the sky and the terracotta tiles. And it was a view I was quite enthralled by, so seeing it from ground level and without air conditioning didn’t seem quite so important.

stepping back to get views of the lisbon rooftops

The bedroom had a juliet balcony, and if we didn’t have the air conditioning on (it’s nice, but it gets on your nerves doesn’t it?) the door was often ajar, but even so it framed the view nicely.

tiled rooftops in lisbon

I could take many pictures of roof tops and their tiles, and I probably have taken countless similar shots over the years, but I’ll never tire of them. But I wanted to share more than the view outside, as the furnishings inside are also worth seeing. In the small dining area, the copper light and tubular chairs added a certain panache to our first impressions of the space.

A copper light above the table.jpg
the table and chairs in our lisbon apartment

The red lacquered wall hanging in the bedroom was a great way to add some interest, colour and design to a quite plain space (excluding the view, obviously!) It was the sort of piece that your eye could just wander over and explore, without ever finding the reason why, or losing interest.

the wall hanging in the bedroom

Throughout the apartment red was used to add colour, and it’s here that we start to get onto the lights. Clearly the Portuguese have a thing for great lights, or I just have a knack of choosing apartments with great lights. I’ve a feeling it’s probably the former, I mean, just look at these bedside lamps.

bedside lights - modern and simple

Simple, modern and effective. And easy to replicate.

In the living space we were spoilt with a couple of free-standing lamps. This silver coloured ‘branch’ light and the giant anglepoise lamp, which I totally fell in love with. I’d seen them before in magazines and online, but didn’t really get them, or the need for the size. Now though, I’m sold.

an apartment full of great lights, including the standard lamp with branches
a giant anglepoise lamp

It’s a design classic - whichever size you go for - and it’s an easy and effective way of adding light, and style, to the right space. Overall, as I said before, the Portuguese have great lights…

Reflecting on my week #91

After the celebrations for MOH’s birthday last week, this week was slightly less sociable, but no less busy. It started by cramming with a week’s worth of work into just three days, and trying to make a plan for some time off at home. Even though we’ve not long come back from Portugal our heads have been quite quickly filled up with work stuff and deadlines, which despite our good intentions post-holiday happened much more quickly than it should have done.

So the plan was to take a few days off here and there between now and the middle of August, and this was the first of these. However, we did such a good job of emptying our heads of deadlines and generally pootling around trying to tick things off our house list, that we forgot other things that we really shouldn’t have, which wasn’t so good.

The house list had way more than we could achieve - that sounds familiar doesn’t it? - but we did achieve some, including finally buying my long-lusted after and never quite finding exactly what I wanted pots. At the Garden Press Event in February I’d identified a maker, and a potential stockist, but not the actual pots. I was confident that I wouldn’t need to backtrack on the calamitous online order and non-delivery from last summer.

Bringing new pots home from the garden centre

One short visit to a bit further away than normal garden centre later and we were the proud owner of four new pots. Ideally I wanted more, but I settled for this, for now. If you remember when we gave up the allotment my plan was to grow some edibles in pots which would hug the edge of the greenhouse.

I’d measured and measured and knew what I needed, but just couldn’t find it. But now I have. Though of course I wasn’t really expecting too and left my tape measure at home. Which meant at the garden centre I needed to find one on the shelves, or as it turned out, borrow one. Thankfully the latter was much easier than I expected, and the pots were cheaper than my online foray too.

I think they were meant to be, and so to celebrate, we also left with some yellow dahlias which I plan to pot up and add a pop of colour to our patio.

yellow dahlias for the patio

I’m not much of a morning person, and so, it was nice to have a slower start to the day. There was breakfast in the garden, which is a really good way to start the day. And the day after we spent way too long in the garden centre discussing the pros (him) and cons (me) of having a gas burner on the barbecue, he almost made a point by cooking an egg, as well as bacon and black pudding, on the barbecue.

He used a tray - which was my argument - rather than a gas burner (as we don’t currently have one) and I think we could now be in agreement that the additional price tag didn’t quite justify its inclusion. So now to identify which make of barbecue, and where we’ll buy it from, and when. All minor questions now we’ve worked out the what!

This isn’t unusual for us, we know we want or need something, but nailing it can take a little time. But when we do, we get exactly what we want, and like everyone are impatient for it to actually arrive!



Over the winter our conservatory has attracted a lot of dirt, and MOH was almost itching to clean it. Partly I think, despite what he says, because it’s a chance to walk on the roof and partly so he could use the new hose-brush which we bought at Grand Designs.

MOH on the conservatory roof

It actually worked well, and was much less fraught for me. Usually my job is to pass things up as requested from the ground, and to dodge the water which he tells me isn’t directed at me. This time though I was almost redundant, and dry!

So I made the best use of my time and set about getting the stones out of the cherries. Sadly not the ones from our garden, they had far too many wiggly things in, which I wasn’t keen on eating. And it was pretty much cherry carnage…

cherry carnage
cherry and gin trifle

The resulting trifle was pretty good - and fairly easy to make with shop bought swiss roll and custard. I’m not that much of a purist, or that keen a baker if I’m honest. It tastes good too, it’s a bit of a retro dessert, and I just want to add that it was MOH that wanted the sprinkles. Deep down, he’s got a pink streak too!

How’s your week been?