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Permission to land at Heathside garden in Cobham

PUBLISHED: 19:57 30 July 2014 | UPDATED: 20:05 30 July 2014

The vista across the parterre

The vista across the parterre


Created by a delightful couple, Margaret Arnott and Terry Bartholomew, who met when they were working as cabin crew for British Airways, the garden at Heathside in Cobham is a beautiful landscape

Need to know…


Cobham KT11 2QH

Visitors welcome by appointment and NGS openings.

Find out more at ngs.org.uk







Having worked together on board Concorde, it’s fair to say that Margaret Arnott and Terry Bartholomew now enjoy a rather more sedate pace of life tending the beautiful garden of their bungalow home in Cobham.

Since retiring from British Airways a few years ago, the couple have certainly made the most of every moment in their garden.

“After a career of working as cabin crew, which was lots of people and no fresh air, we now have lots of fresh air and no people!” laughs Margaret. “We also have a garden that looks beautiful every day of the year and we can normally find a flower in bloom every day of the year too.”

Set on a south-facing slope with sandy soil and an open sunny aspect, the third-of-an-acre plot was essentially a blank canvas on which they could really put their stamp. Working with a tight budget, yet boundless enthusiasm, the transformation began. Much of the garden needed to be rotovated, soil moved to create terraced levels with retaining walls, lawn grown from seed, and paths and steps put in. 

New plant palette

The only plants that remained were a monkey puzzle tree, a holly, an amelanchier and a laurel, so there was also the challenge of totally planting the space. Guiding the decisions was an aim to create a garden of year- round interest, with exuberant planting mixed with formality.

“The monkey puzzle tree produces seed every year, which my father then grows into new trees in the garden,” adds Margaret.

Whereas Margaret already had a passion for gardening inspired by her parents, for Terry it has become an interest honed over the process of creating their vision.

“I design the layout and planting, while Terry builds everything needed to enhance this, such as making metal obelisks to use as plant supports,” says Margaret.

To give a structural framework to the garden, they planted lots of evergreens, such as pittosporum, photinia, choisya, pyracantha and yew, put a parterre at the top of the garden using box grown from cuttings, built a small pond and widened the patio by the house for entertaining. Terry also hand-built a garden shed and summerhouse, and two greenhouses were added to the garden for growing on cuttings.

Selecting the floral infill was guided by the very dry soil with lots of sumptuous, easy-care choices such as daisies, phlox, rudbeckias and poppies. At this time of year, herbaceous perennials are found in abundance, along with urns brimming with colourful begonias and pelargoniums.

“Inspiration has come from visits since childhood to RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Shows as well as the late Christopher Lloyd’s love of bold colours,” says Margaret.

After entering the first ever BBC Gardener of the Year in 2000 and being selected as a regional finalist, Margaret and Terry decided to open their garden through the National Gardens Scheme the following year and now welcome visitors annually to share in their creation.

Open to visitors

“We are so happy to contribute to charity and enjoy meeting garden lovers – and those who do not know they love it yet!” says Margaret. “They particularly enjoy walking around the many paths, the view from the summerhouse, the green lawn, the 52 varieties of hostas in pots with no holes in the leaves and the enormous amount of colour!

“The one thing they always say is that they cannot believe that we have done the garden all ourselves with no help!”




Get the look...

• Create terraced levels with retaining walls

• Design an evergreen structure with shrubs

• Clip topiary into shapes such as spheres and spirals

• Choose flowers for each season, from spring bulbs to late perennials

• Group containers together for maximum impact

• Use urns and obelisks as focal points of the garden

• Create little areas of interest

• Place seating to take in the vistas

• Add water features for a relaxing, tranquil sound


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