Documents: Communities in Bloom:

Local Garden Designer Discovers The Garden Link To Britain

…an intriguing tale of international garden design
by Merry Meikle
September 12, 2004

In early February, the BBC headline read “Town Bans Hanging Baskets: A group of flower enthusiasts has been hit with a ban on some hanging baskets after fears they posed a public risk”—for the townspeople of Bury St Edmunds, it looked as though the town’s annual summer floral display, “Bury in Bloom,” would be compromised when the Suffolk City Council issued a warning that the town’s lampposts could not withstand the weighty, hanging baskets of geraniums and fuchsias that summer, and posed a safety risk despite Bury in Bloom’s enjoying a seventeen-year history without incident.

Leeann Lavin, garden specialist, landscape designer, and garden historian of Duchess Designs, Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey, acted quickly upon hearing news of the ban. Lavin promptly located the town, contacted Michael Ames, committee chairman of Bury in Bloom, and donated a selection from The Garden Pendant Collection®©, her innovative and artfully designed lightweight hanging planters from Duchess Designs, to the delight of the townspeople.

“My passion is plants,” said Leeann Lavin. “Gardens and garden art are at the center of what I do. In the course of designing with plants, I never found a lightweight hanging planter that was elegant enough to hang in my home or to offer to my garden design clients,” she said. “So I set out to design a line of hanging planters that would provide a healthy and easy-to-maintain living environment for the plants that would also complement the look of a garden room—indoors or outside.”

Little did Lavin know that her two-year journey would take her to England and back to her British ancestry. The Duchess Designs logo incorporates Lavin’s British family’s gardening heritage, her early ancestors were gardeners and farmers. The seal from her great grandparents’ marriage license—registered at the Church of St Mary’s in London, now restored and new home to the Museum of Garden History—was borrowed in part for the Duchess Designs logo.

The townspeople of Bury St Edmunds accepted the donation with great pleasure and invited Lavin to visit the quaint village of Bury St Edmunds as this year’s guest-of-honor at the Bury in Bloom awards ceremony held at The Athenaeum on Angel Hill on Sunday, July 18.

The St Bury Edmunds’s Bury in Bloom Contest was a splendid success. The eighteenth annual competition bloomed in full grandeur, boasting a summer floral display with more hanging planters than ever before.

Leeann received a warm reception fit for a queen, or in Lavin’s case, a ‘duchess!’ “It was an enriching garden visit that brought my work as a garden designer full circle and filled me with a deep sense of joy,” said Lavin who is also the Director of Public Affairs at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. “It was wonderful to see a community carrying on an important historical tradition and with a real commitment to the beauty of garden art. Not only was the town a picture-postcard of floral beauty, but the historical Abbey Gardens and the town’s ‘Hidden Gardens’ are not-to-be-missed inspiration for any garden enthusiast to admire.”

Leeann Lavin of Duchess Designs received a Certificate in Landscape Design from The New York Botanical Garden, and is the director of public affairs at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. As a member of the Garden Writers Association of America, Lavin writes about gardens, garden trends, and garden history. Lavin is also noted as a contributor in the recently published Great Homes and Gardens of New Jersey book by author Caroline Seebohm; and her garden designs will be featured in Seebohm’s upcoming release Cottages and Mansions of the Jersey Shore. For more information about Leeann Lavin and the Garden Pendant Collection by Duchess Designs visit The Garden Pendant Collection by Duchess Designs is also available online at For more information about Bury St Edmunds Bury in Bloom visit



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