The Fantastic Four: Glorious Suffolk gardens to visit before autumn

Now this is different... River Cottage at Lavenham Picture: JENNY REEVE

Now this is different... River Cottage at Lavenham Picture: JENNY REEVE - Credit: Archant

If you feel that summer is going iffy on us - that the nights are drawing in too fast - here’s the perfect antidote to a premature sense of resignation

Woodwards at Coddenham Picture: JENNY REEVE

Woodwards at Coddenham Picture: JENNY REEVE - Credit: Archant

There are opportunities aplenty to enjoy some gorgeous gardens before we are obliged to wave the white flag and accept that summer is being elbowed out of the way by the advance guard of autumn.

Here's a quartet opening to the public over the next three or four weeks - all part of the National Gardens Scheme effort that raises many thousands of pounds a year for wonderful causes such as Macmillan Cancer Support and Marie Curie.

What visitors see will obviously depend on the time of year, but here's a general guide to the gardens.

River Cottage, Lower Road, Lavenham, CO10 9QJ

Aptly named, this is a plantsman's well-labelled garden with a 400ft river frontage ending with a hydrangea walk, with hostas, dahlias, lilies, roses, clematis, ivies and grasses.

A woodland garden contains many rare plants, including Paris Arisaemas, a "Spotty Dotty" and a giant Amorphophallus.

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The garden also has many rare Aroids, Cardiocrinums and Trilliums.

Bridges, Woolpit Picture: JENNY REEVE

Bridges, Woolpit Picture: JENNY REEVE - Credit: Archant

The front garden offers many unusual trees and shrubs, under-planted with hostas and heucheras.

Surrounding the door of the 17th Century house is an exotic display of potted plants. There's also a Victorian-style greenhouse.

At the back of the cottage is the 400ft river garden, with new beds of late-flowering grasses and colourful plants.

The owners have put in many new lilies and exotic plants, such as Tetrapanax, gingers, Isoplexis, helianthus and Justitia (including a rare yellow one).

Open: Sunday, August 11

Times: 11am to 5pm

Adults: £5

Teas and cakes provided by charities Success after Stroke and Lavenham Dementia Alliance.

Henstead Exotic Garden Picture: NGS

Henstead Exotic Garden Picture: NGS - Credit: Archant

Woodwards, Blacksmiths Lane, Coddenham, IP6 9TX

Marion and Richard Kenward's award-winning, south-facing, gently-sloping garden of one-and-a-half acres is no stranger to our pages.

It overlooks rolling Suffolk countryside and was crafted from a derelict field over three decades.

The couple devote hours to ensuring the garden offers year-round interest and colour. (More than 30,000 bulbs have been planted over the years for its spring display, for instance.)

There are many island beds and it's well-stocked with thousands of bulbs, shrubs, perennials, a vegetable plot, and a hanging basket display from spring to autumn.

Woodwards also has a newish hosta collection in pots, topiary, well-kept lawns and mature trees.

Open: Tuesday, August 13 and Sunday, August 25

Times: 10.30am to 5pm (both days)

Adults: £3.50

Home-made teas in aid of St Mary's Church, Coddenham.

Henstead Exotic Garden, Church Road, Henstead, near Beccles, NR34 7LD

If you haven't yet seen Andrew Brogan's two acres of horticultural exotica, you really ought. Alan Titchmarsh described it thus: "like Belize comes to Beccles".

This hardy plot a couple of kilometres or so from the North Sea has garnered a huge amount of publicity over the years because of its unusual character, including being seen in all its glory on the 2015 Alan Titchmarsh TV series Britain's Best Back Gardens.

Visitors can marvel at 100 large palms; 200 bamboo plants; 25 bananas (all grown in the ground and not fleeced over winter); a couple of streams; three large ponds with fish; Mediterranean and jungle plants; a Thai-style, wooden, covered pavilion on stilts; a 20ft tiered walkway, and 60 tons of rock!

Open: Sunday, August 18

Times: 1pm to 5pm

Adults: £4; children £1

Home-made teas (served in a gingerbread-style summerhouse!)

Bridges, The Street, Woolpit, IP30 9SA

There's a new kid on the block among the four opening soon - a newcomer to turn heads. It's got decidedly-quirky DNA. For "Bridges" - betwixt Stowmarket and Bury St Edmunds - has as its formal centrepiece a Shakespeare Garden. It features a bust of the Bard and the Umbrello, a recently-built Italianate pavilion.

The original property (a 15th Century grade II listed terraced house) was once the home and business of the village butcher. Extra land was acquired over a couple of decades, and the garden was given new life.

The fact little had been left in the walled garden at the back of the house presented the chance to cover the walls with a variety of climbing plants, trees and shrubs.

Out went a breeze-block workshop and garage; in came a greenhouse and matching potting shed - around a small parterre.

In 2002 a narrow conservatory was replaced by a bigger one that nowadays hosts a seasonal selection of flowering plants.

The Shakespeare Garden, meanwhile, is bordered by prunus and beech hedges, and the lawn in front of the bust of the playwright is planted with 7,000 crocuses.

Beyond are formal fruit, vegetable and flower beds. An old box-bordered asparagus bed made way for peonies and dahlias, giving a longer season of colour.

There is much trained fruit, including 23 old and new varieties of apples.

Near the top of the garden is a mature walnut tree. From this spot, visitors can see The Ring Cycle - three large circular steps made from recycled bricks and materials dug from the garden.

Nearby is the compost enclosure: much "waste" material produced by the garden is shredded and composted in a brick bay.

There's also a relaxed area with a large pond and informal planting. Three very old willow trees have been reduced and pollarded, and hydrangea petiolaris allowed to climb. A small range of camelias, rhododendrons and azaleas grows.

There is also an area planted with cyclamen coum, grown from seed, that brightens any late-winter gloom, and a "ditch walk" - an old water course planted with "robust varieties that are left to fight it out with each other".

Open: Sunday, September 1

Times: 11am to 5pm

Adults: £5

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