A delightful visit to Parham House and Gardens

I received an invitation a few weeks ago to be the guest of Tom Brown, Head Gardener at Parham House and to have a tour of the gardens and house.  It was not a garden I was aware of but after a quick look at the website and a check of location I decided this was not an invitation to say no to.  We agreed that it would be good to visit when the rose garden was in bloom.  So the other day it was finally time to head down south.
I shall start with the basics, Parham is pronounced Parrum - with a hard 'a' as in cat not a long one as in car.  The house dates back to the 16th century and after a couple of changes of hands it was bought in the 1920s by the great-grandfather of the current occupants, The Hon Clive Pearson. The house is currently lived in by Lady Emma Barnard and her family.  The family decided to open the house and gardens to the public in the late 1940s as they wanted to share this beautiful place with as many people as they could.  It remains a family home and a family garden that is open to the public most days but it is usually closed on a Monday, Tuesday and most Saturdays.  It is a good idea to check the website before visiting just to be sure.

On arrival, as you walk down from the car park, it is hard not to notice the lion set into the wall of the water tower.  Apparently it has only been there from the 1960s and I think it is a fine addition.
It is a beautifully proportioned house, the guide book tells us that it is a fine example of an Elizabethan H plan house and it is constructed from local stone.
This is probably why it sits so well within its landscape, it is sympathetic and does not jar.  The sun shone well on this day and it brought out the colour beautifully.
The gardens are contained in the four acre walled garden and there are pleasure gardens that surround them.
I am not going to show you everything, it would make far too long a post and like most gardens, I think discovering for yourself is always the best thing to do.  I do want to give you a flavour.  These are the long borders that lead you towards the dovecote that is just outside of the Walled Gardens.
There are these wonderful old apple trees lining the borders.  The colour of the borders start from blue and range down to yellow and gold.  They are very skillfully planted and whilst Tom talked of their battles with bindweed, all that was really visible was the hard work and dedication of his team of only five gardeners who look after this wonderful space.
The colour combinations in the borders work extremely well.
The garden is divided into sections and has good paths of local stone that make it very accessible.  The gardens are currently hosting some trials, there are these alliums which are all flowering extremely well and also some sweetpea trials which are just starting to come into flower.  You can read more about the trial here in the Telegraph article that was published at the weekend.
You can wander along the borders and consider which are your favourites.
Parts of the gardens are more formal, such as this area called the Memory Walls, developed in memory of Clive Pearson.
They are marked at the with some delightful sculptures,
and at the far ends are these statues that were originally part of a fireplace.  I am always a fan of using reclaimed items in the garden.  It can really add a sense of character and uniqueness to a garden.
There is a Wendy House, built by Clive Pearson for his three daughters, that is built into the wall. This forms the underneath of the Belvedere that gives a viewing platform to the garden.  The Wendy House is still used by the family, it has a working oven and apparently they have a tradition of spending one night a year in the house and cooking sausages in the oven.  This sounds a fine tradition to me.
This is the arches of the Belvedere from the Pleasure Garden side of the wall, you can see the small round window of part of the Wendy House if you look carefully.
There is an orchard and meadow area of the garden,
where we gained an escort of chickens.  These chucks were real characters and they made me laugh and laugh as they bumbled along by the side of us.
This statue is Urania, she keeps guard over the rose garden.  There is a lot of scent all around the gardens and in here it is particularly intense.   The colours are very pink and blue and the feel of this part of the garden is soft, romantic and frothy.  I later sat in this part of the garden for a while, reading the guide book, and it is the perfect place to just pause for a moment and listen to the comments of the other visitors as they walk around.  There was much musing about how many gardeners must it take to look after a garden this size, a lot of compliments about how wonderful the gardens were looking and one passer-by said that the statue looked a bit smug.  I had to stifle a giggle.
There are parterres full of vegetables and cutting flowers.
These icelandic poppies were brightening up the borders.
and these orange geums looked amazing in the hot border.
I did stop and admire these hostas that had no slug damage at all, there was some envy of this.
As you walk around the gardens you will see this semi-circular dipping pools, for the gardens to collect water for the plants.
There are also these pumps throughout the garden.  As above, they have beauty and function.
Out into the Pleasure Grounds there is a walking maze.
With clear instructions on how it should be tackled.
There is a lake lined with veteran oaks.  The Great Storm in 1987 did wreak much damage, but some of the oaks survived and the gaps created have been used as an opportunity to develop this area anew.
There are clipped yews,
and a rather fine River God.
There is much to see inside the house, but I am just going to share this one photograph of the some of the many cut flowers from the garden.  The more eagle -eyed of you will appreciate that the colours of the flowers match that of the painting.  Tom also told me that in the Long Gallery (which has the most wonderful painted ceiling) there is the chair that Mrs Tritton used to sit in.  Mrs Tritton was the aunt of the current owner and used to sit in this chair and pretend to be a guide so that she could hear what people were saying about the house (I wonder what she would have made of the smug statue comment?)  Next to the this chair is a cabinet that has 'Mrs Tritton's vase' on it.  In this vase the gardeners try to make sure there are scented flowers as part of the posy.  I loved this anecdote and if you visit the house you must look for this vase.
Back outside and there are daisies, I have written before how much I love a good daisy.
The garden has a very fine glasshouse containing a huge range of plants and in particular pelagoniums, fuchsias and some very nice begonias.
The nursery sells the 'Parham Collection' of pelagoniums and they have a good choice.
There are also old photographs in the nursery of gardeners from days gone by.
It is a well-stocked nursery and very neatly laid out.
and poly tunnels of vegetables for the family to enjoy.
and a fruit storage area with some implements that would have been used by previous gardeners.
It is always a privilege to be shown around by the Head Gardener; Tom demonstrated not only great knowledge and passion for the garden but also a clear sense of who he was gardening for.   As I said at the start this is a family garden open to the public.  This is a vital distinction and I think what makes it so special.
The tea rooms are based in the original kitchen of the house, I can vouch for the quiche and the cake.
There is, of course, a gift shop.  Look at how beautifully these baskets are displayed with a fine collection of hostas in pots.
I also bought a small jar of quince jelly, made from quinces from the garden.
A peony and a perestroika might have had to be purchased as well, well it was rude not to.  (yes I know it is a perovskia. shh).

In July it is the Parham Garden Weekend, now in its 23rd year.  Sadly I cannot get back for then as it looks a great event.

I have to give a huge thanks to Tom for showing me around and to everyone else I met on the day.  Everyone was very kind and very welcoming and I shall definitely be returning to visit again.


  1. Oh my gosh, I adore the statue of Arania, and my mouth waters at the thought of visiting the tea room. I especially love the photo of the gardeners!

    1. The old photos were great- and the tea room is definitely worth visiting.

  2. It looks to have a bit of everything, fascinating place. Not to mention the all important nursery :)

    1. It is a really good nursery too, the plants are all really healthy and not too pricy either. I am really pleased with the plants I bought.

  3. Really lovely place! We love to organise team buildings and this looks like the perfect place for our next visit! It is only 50 miles away from London. Thank you for sharing it!

    1. My pleasure -I hope you do get to visit and enjoy it.

  4. What a lovely place to visit, a bit of everything! I will certainly look it up with a view to visiting.

    1. Thanks the comment, it is definitely worth a visit.

  5. One of my friends lives close to Parham and I've visited it several times over the years. It is indeed a lovely place, well loved and well cared for

    1. I luckily have relatives not too far away so I can visit again and pull in a visit to them at the same time. It's nice to have good places to visit.


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