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Our little piece of heaven makes garden 'bible'

PUBLISHED: 06:53 09 February 2010 | UPDATED: 11:10 07 July 2010

Any garden can bring nature's joys to those who toil to beautify their own little corner of the country.

But only the finest reach the hallowed pages of the Yellow Book, which opens the gates of the nation's private gardens for the enjoyment of everyone.

Any garden can bring nature's joys to those who toil to beautify their own little corner of the country.

But only the finest reach the hallowed pages of the Yellow Book, which opens the gates of the nation's private gardens for the enjoyment of everyone.

And just one can win the ultimate accolade of appearing on this year's front cover - an honour bestowed on a home-grown paradise at a farmhouse near Fakenham.

The Yellow Book, revered by many as the garden-lovers' bible, lists properties selected to open to the public under the National Gardens Scheme (NGS) to raise money for charity.

And anyone who lets their green fingers do the walking will find the 2010 guide adorned with a photograph of the sumptuous gardens at Manor House Farm in Wellingham.

Robin and Libby Ellis, the garden's owners and creators, have worked together for more than 20 years to expand their immaculate lawns and cram herbaceous borders with colourful flowers.

The four-acre plot also features an exotic walled garden with old fashioned roses, formal quadrants with obelisks, an arboretum and an avenue of pleached lime trees.

Libby, 65, said she was thrilled the couple's labour of love had achieved national acclaim.

“Our children tell us it is a passion which has become an obsession,” she said. “We are out there most days and if we are not out socialising we are out there together until dark.

“Everyone knows about the Yellow Book across the country, so to be on the front cover - I was dumbstruck for a bit. I couldn't take it in.

“I hope it will encourage more visitors this year and more gardens to open for the NGS in Norfolk.”

When not pruning, planting and weeding, Robin, 67, runs the mixed-use farm while his wife manages a bed and breakfast.

“It is very unusual for a farmer to be a gardener, or anything you can't do from a tractor seat,” he said.

“The NGS is very selective. Some gardens are very grand and have been there for hundreds of years. This one's just us, so we are very flattered to have been chosen out of all the gardens in the country.”

The photograph was taken by renowned garden photographer Marianne Majerus while the plants were in full bloom in summer 2008. Now, the garden is showing signs of the ravages of winter, as the weight of snow damaged barn roofs, tree branches and plant stems. But snowdrops have already arrived to herald the promise of finer weather. “Looking at it now, I can't wait until spring,” said Libby.

Robin and Libby, who have four children, moved to the farm in 1966 and created the garden in “compartments” as it evolved. When a barn roof collapsed, it was used to create an archway to a rose tunnel, which later extended into the lime walk. And in 1997 a derelict former cattle yard was redeveloped as the “Taj” garden - loosely modelled on the Taj Mahal after a visit to India - with old-fashioned roses surrounding a rectangular pond.

NGS county organiser Anthea Foster said: “Norfolk is very proud that the NGS has chosen one of its county's gardens for the cover of the Yellow Book. It is an opportunity to highlight the diverse horticultural product it has.”

t Manor House Farm will open to the public from 2pm-5.30pm on June 20.

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