Finally we have had our sheep sheared today - this year's cold weather has delayed it from the traditional time at the end of May, to be fitted in around the Suffolk Show, until nearly the end of June. They look beautiful and sleek without their wool and it really shows off the structure of the Suffolk breed.
Tim our shearer also shears several other flocks in the area; he and his son Ben show their own sheep very successfully and are also called to judge shows too. Later this week they will be taking their sheep to the Royal Norfolk Show. This morning it was lovely to watch them being sheared, Tim talks to the sheep whilst he works, keeping them calm and making the whole procedure look so effortless! We know, however, how big our pedigree Suffolk girls are though and also that there is a real knack to turning them.
Our flock comes from the 'Kersey Flock' of R Partridge & Sons which I believe dates back to 1927 and is the 4th oldest pedigree Suffolk flock in the country. The breed evolved from mating Norfolk Horn ewes with Southdown Rams and were first recorded in 1797. Chris Partridge manages the Kersey flock, which is currently one of the largest flocks in East Anglia and his rams, ewes and lambs regularly win prizes at the shows.
The Suffolk breed are a particularly good meat breed. This year we have not had lambs, but when we do have them they are very engaging, amazingly black when they are born, gradually changing to white bodied sheep with black face and legs. We enjoy maintaining our small flock of this local special breed!
For the last few weeks I have been enjoying the pleasure of seeing my Cedric Morris irises come into bloom. They are so beautiful - the colour, patterns, textures and fabric of the flowers are amazing - almost like exotic insects. They have been slowly unfurling and standing in stately grace despite the recent bashing of the rain and wind.
Sir Cedric Morris, artist plantsman, propagated his own irises at Benton End in Hadleigh, where he ran an Art School from 1940 and lived there until 1982. According to local writer Ronald Blythe , he had Iris Parties there in June, when hundreds of irises were in bloom inside box hedges and other famous gardeners including Vita Sackville-West would come. ('Benton End Remembered' G Reynolds & D Grace). After his death his irises became scattered, but in 2004 Sarah Cook retired to Suffolk and started collecting his irises together and now has the Royal Horticultural Society National Collection of Sir Cedric Morris Irises in Shelley. She opens her garden each year at the end of May/June and you can see this splendid collection in a beautiful setting www.malmaisonsandiris.co.uk. Her plants can also be found at the plant heritage fairs at Helmingham Hall in May and September www.suffolkplantheritage.com
Last year I bought about 10 irises from Sarah and planted them in September - I was thinking that they would look best on a west facing border by the bottom wall of the garden - but that area is not under control enough at present. So I planted them somewhere where I could keep my eye on them - right outside the kitchen window at the front of one of the raised beds in the vegetable garden. They have been such a treat to watch each day!
Suffolk is well known for its Irises and as well as Sarah Cook's garden it is also worth taking a trip up to Woottens of Wenhaston, near Southwold www.woottensplants.com. They open their iris fields each year usually at the end of May/June and they are an amazing site - full of colour and spectacular blooms. They specialise in both bearded irises and iris sibirica.
Have just been getting the Dairy ready for our next guests and I thought it might be good to show some details of how it looks today - in June, using instagram. I've always liked black and white photography - it makes you notice things in a different way - light and texture become all important. Many of our visitors say it has a timeless and somewhat French feel - perhaps this comes over here?