Henstead Exotic Garden – what happened next

Written by Alison Willis.

February's talk was given by Andrew Brogan from Henstead Exotic Garden . He entertained us all again with his story of how he had moved from urban London to rural Suffolk, and had gradually planted and landscaped his garden, whilst increasing its size by befriending the eccentric owner of the adjoining estate.

Andrew showed lots of photos of the garden (and an eclectic selection of additional images) on the large, new screen, which certainly enhanced the experience. He described arranging 35 tons of Derbyshire rocks, and showed some of the hard work required to construct the different areas of hard landscaping in his garden. One of his main themes was that it is not necessary to bring exotic plants indoors in the winter, as long as you plant carefully and are prepared to take a risk- one of his photos was of his plants covered in snow and ice. Although hardy palms do not like wind, he assured us that they can survive down to minus 17 degrees.

He also stressed the importance of creating a micro-climate in your garden and learning what will survive where. Andrew also uses a mixture of true exotics and other plants which help to create the impression, such as ferns. He has been very successful with bamboos, and mentioned one type which can grow up to a foot per day and reaches 30 feet high – not for the faint-hearted! He has also left native trees at the back of his garden as they help to create the right backdrop, despite not being 'exotic'.

There were two trees he showed, which particularly struck me - the strawberry tree – which I have looked up and shall be buying soon - arbutus unedo, which has beautiful red bark. Although it is mediterranean it grows in Ireland (and Suffolk!), so should be safe in Norfolk. The other was the evergreen magnolia, with huge, but short-lived lemony flowers in August.

Andrew also brought plants to sell.