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Bressingham Garden

Come Celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Elm Bank’s Bressingham Garden


1AdrianBloom-RBD3186-94Anniversary Years for the Bressingham Gardens!
A letter from Adrian Bloom

There’s more to the Bressingham Garden than meets the eye!

To all of us who were involved in the creation of the one-acre Bressingham Garden at Mass Hort’s site at Elm Bank, the planting day in August 2007 will always be memorable. Apart from the fact that it was around 90°F, and over 180 people from ages 6 to 93 were involved including Mass Hort staff, trustees, experienced professionals (very few) and volunteers (well over 140), it was the excitement and passion of sharing in the creation of this garden and the promise of what it could be in the future. No doubt that at the special Bressingham Garden Symposium on Tuesday July 25th, organised by Kathy MacDonald in consultation with others, more stories will be told.

Has the Bressingham Garden at Elm Bank fulfilled its promise?

For most visitors this garden, once established, has appealed for its informality, year-round interest and wide range of plants. Like most gardens, there have been successes and failures, plants that have struggled (and a few given up) and plants that have thrived, even to the point of being invasive. Like bringing up a family, a garden needs constant attention and, like both, at times they don’t always get it!

I have visited Elm Bank at least once every year to see how the Bressingham Garden has been developing and to advise on cultural aspects and plants, and I now feel greatly encouraged that as the Mass Hort Society has rebuilt, so interest, involvement and enthusiasm for Elm Bank as a venue and the Bressingham and other gardens as attraction has grown.

The Elm Bank Bressingham Garden – what does it stand for?

The garden (closely modeled on my own garden, Foggy Bottom, part of The Bressingham Gardens in England – of which more later) was first planned for year-round interest. It was to be designed with vistas and sweeping informal grass pathways, and to have a wide range of plants with striking combinations.

How did we do on that one? It aimed in time to;

  1. become a visitor attraction, which would encourage visitors to make seasonal visits;
  2. give gardeners ideas about plants and combinations that they might try in their own gardens;
  3. act as ‘learning garden’ for children to senior citizens; for Mass Hort teaching courses; for group visits from amateur garden groups to nursery and garden centre staff learning; and customer recommendations to see plants in a garden setting, plant identification etc;
  4. act as a backdrop to summer events, horticultural or otherwise;
  5. and as a standalone garden for peaceful reflection and therapy (probably early morning or evening?);

Some of these have happened; more are planned.

The 40-Year Gap

Elm Bank’s Bressingham Garden at 10 years old has seen some changes ... and in 2017 my own garden Foggy Bottom is 50 years old ... which must make me, well, older than 60 anyway!

In my talk at the Symposium on July 25th I will be telling the story of how Foggy Bottom grew out of an empty meadow and became part of the 17-acre Bressingham Gardens, whose first creation was my father Alan Bloom’s Dell Garden, where he pioneered the use of hardy perennials in island beds.

I developed Foggy Bottom as one of year-round interest, originally specializing in conifers and heathers, the former with many deciduous trees and shrubs forming the structure needed on such a flat site. Over time many other plants were introduced – perennials, grasses, ferns and bulbs; trees and conifers I planted had to be removed...

In time we hope to develop a link between our websites, but if you have time to browse you can watch our ‘flying visit’ by drone, some videos in the gardens, and then may begin to see some similarity between Foggy Bottom and the Bressingham Garden at Elm Bank.

I look forward to meeting many of you on July 25th, and hope to continue a close association with the Mass Hort Society as it promises to have a very exciting future.


Before. The site for the Bressingham Garden in March 2007, nice view of the Mansion across a meadow and old tennis court (of which more later).


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Announcement for August 3rd 2007 planting day. Plants in front of the sign mentioning sponsors and contributors.


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Looks like a desert in the bright sun! Putting out plants and planting in 90° F. The river of Geranium ‘Rozanne’ is about to be planted on the (as we found out) badly drained site of the old tennis court


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Where are they now? Junior Mass Hort gardeners being given some training Monique Caffarelli


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Not quite finished but something to celebrate at the end of the day! Some of the volunteers came back to help the next day.


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September 2008. The Bressingham Garden at Elm Bank a year after planting – the main entrance to the garden.


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June 2012, Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ catches the eye.


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Large swathes of perennials on the north side of the garden. Eryngium ‘Big Blue’, Geranium ‘Rozanne’ and Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’ show up.


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Part of the ‘river’ of Geranium ‘Rozanne’, a trademark of Adrian’s in most of his gardens. Parts of the river were poorly drained leading to some losses, now being put right.

Foggy Bottom Images


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Photo taken by Adrian in 1974, after planting had started around the house in 1967, and before the rest of the 6-acre meadow was planted.


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A photograph taken by Adrian from the same position in 2016, the house of course no longer visible.


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Foggy Bottom on a foggy winter’s day, taken from the tree house built by Matt, one of Adrian and Rosemary’s three sons.


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The same view in summer.


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This July view highlights Rosa ‘Bonica’ and Cercis canadensis ‘Hearts of Gold’ in the foreground in Foggy Bottom, the tree house in the distance.


A plea for support of the Bressingham Garden at Elm Bank
and the Mass Hort Society

Ten years ago many people volunteered to help plant the Bressingham Garden, and many nurseries donated plants. I should mention Joe Kunkel, at that time working for a Blooms of Bressingham program, supporting a ‘giveaway garden’ each year, Joe was my right-hand man at several of those garden plants and the Elm Bank Bressingham Garden would have been unlikely to happen without his involvement. Paul Miskovsky will be known to many, but we should thank him for his input with time and machinery to do the extensive landscaping to fit my design.

The ‘pioneers’, including master gardeners, Mass Hort trustees and staff, have come through a baptism of fire to enable the garden to become an enduring entity. Now a new team, headed by Kathy MacDonald and Wayne Mezitt, with support from staff and advised by Kerry Mendez and Suzanne Thatcher, and with me, very much in the background, have plans to create the Bressingham Garden and all the gardens at Elm Bank as a ‘centre of excellence’. Fine words, and used before, but the Bressingham Garden is looking to build an endowment to fulfill its mission, largely set out in my article. This garden can be a catalyst for increasing and maintaining an interest in gardening and horticulture, not only in Massachusetts but also throughout New England.

I wrote in a recent book, Bloom’s Best Perennials and Grasses, seeing again the picture of some of the volunteers at the end of the day’s planting in August 2007, “If only we could bottle up such enthusiasm and distribute it, we would multiply many times the number of people who are motivated to garden”. The motivation for me to make my Foggy Bottom garden in England second to none is hopefully a motivation that can be created for the Bressingham Garden at Elm Bank.

Your generous contribution will be gladly accepted by Mass Hort and their Bressingham Garden.

Thank you.

Adrian Bloom



 Thank you to Russell's Garden Center sponsoship of the Bressingham Garden.


Volunteering in the Bressingham Garden

If you would like to volunteer in this garden please visit the Gardening Volunteer Schedule

About the Massachusetts Horticultural Society

Mass Hort logo newFounded in 1829, the Massachusetts Horticultural Society is dedicated to encouraging the science and practice of horticulture and developing the public's enjoyment, appreciation, and understanding of plants and the environment.

2018 Calendar & Courses

2018 Masshort Courses

Mass Hort Shop

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Mass Hort Classes & Events

Thu May 24 @ 7:00PM - 08:30PM
Greenhouse Growing
Wed May 30 @ 9:00AM - 03:00PM
Spring Landscape Tour
Wed Jun 06 @ 7:00PM - 09:00PM
Hands-On Floral Design
Thu Jun 07 @ 7:00PM - 08:30PM
Bio-control of Lily Leaf Beetles
Tue Jun 12 @ 1:00PM - 04:30PM
Eco Printing: Fiber art workshop
Tue Jun 26 @10:30AM - 12:00PM
Explore the Teaching Herb Garden
Wed Jul 11 @10:00AM - 02:00PM
The Art of Planting Design
Wed Jul 18 @ 7:00PM - 08:30PM
Summer Stroll: Garden tour
Sun Jul 22 @10:30AM - 12:00PM
What's Buggin' Me?
Sat Aug 04 @10:30AM - 12:00PM
Fall Planting Workshop
Thu Aug 09 @ 7:00PM - 08:30PM
A Summer Stroll: Garden Tour
Sun Aug 12 @10:00AM - 04:00PM
Meditations in Ink with Bruce Iverson

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