<div style="display:inline;"> <img height="1" width="1" style="border-style:none;" alt="" src="//googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/viewthroughconversion/1028731116/?value=0&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0">
6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Surrey Life today click here

Visit the home of gardening guru Penny Snell, chairman of the National Gardens Scheme

PUBLISHED: 11:59 16 May 2014 | UPDATED: 17:41 17 March 2015

Topiary adorns the entrance

Topiary adorns the entrance


Surrey Life catches up with gardening guru Penny Snell, chairman of the National Gardens Scheme, at her pretty Cobham home

charm, talent and a sincere empathy for people come some way to describing the irrepressible character of Penny Snell, chairman of the National Gardens Scheme (NGS), freelance florist, lecturer and masterful gardener. An icon of the gardening world, she is certainly my ‘go-to’ person for all things gardening, both here in Surrey and further afield. I have often heard her aptly described as the epitome of the expression, ‘if you want something done, ask a busy person’!

After two very successful terms as chairman, Penny will be retiring from the position in October. “It is a full- time job, not that anyone told me that at the outset,” smiles Penny, who is also the NGS county organiser for London. Carrying on the mantle and continuing the progression of the NGS, which was founded in 1927, are responsibilities that have been gladly taken on, while putting her own stamp on the position. During her leadership, Penny is particularly pleased to have helped increase awareness of the NGS through initiatives such as the Garden Festival, the largest ever national garden opening that took place for the first time last June and saw 800 gardens open to the public. She also created a bursary in memory of the garden journalist and author Elspeth Thompson that provides funding for community projects.

“We are not well-known outside the gardening world, not seen as fund-raisers and money givers,” says Penny. “But that’s in spite of the fact that the NGS gives away more than £2.5 million each year to nursing, caring and gardening charities, and over £40 million since the NGS was founded.

“However, I feel improvements have been made over the years, particularly in the relationship with beneficiaries who now see themselves as partners rather than recipients of grants. Their support for the festival weekend was wonderful and helped increase the profile of the NGS.”


A Surrey gem

The opportunity to visit Penny’s own enchanting garden, Moleshill House in Cobham, which she has been opening through the NGS for 23 years, is one not to be missed – not just to come under the charm of the garden or see the latest projects, but to have the chance to chat to this eternally young doyenne of the gardening world and be inspired to try out some ideas in your own garden. “It’s lovely to share the garden, chat with people who are interested in gardening and opening gardens fosters a community spirit,” says Penny.

At the heart of the garden is structure, infilled and softened with a wide palette of plants. Trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants ebb and flow with the seasons, creating interest year-round. From spring bulbs and blossom, layered foliage, peonies and roses to the textures in the new gravel gardens, there is much to enjoy. Rustic touches, topiary, a conservatory and beehives complete the scene.

There is also a delightful balance of tradition, from elements such as a pleached avenue and garlanded cisterns, with innovation that keeps the garden evolving. A highlight is a new central grass garden, replacing much of the circular lawn by the lovely Victorian house. Here you’ll find a timeless take on grasses and perennials, with wafting stipa, spires of agastache and dancing crocosmia enclosed by pleached hornbeams.

So what’s the best piece of wisdom she can impart to fellow Surrey gardeners? “On light, sandy soil, consider a gravel garden,” says Penny. “It is amazing how plants thrive in gravel, particularly plants that wouldn’t grow anywhere else.”

Following this success, Penny demolished a rockery and created another gravel circle with a colourful gypsy caravan as a focal point.

“Gardens must evolve,” she concludes. “New projects make them more exciting for those developing the projects and for visitors.”



If you visit any of the gardens featured in Surrey Life, remember to share your photos with us at surreylife.co.uk/photos



Need to know:

Moleshill House, Cobham, Surrey KT11 1BG

E-mail: pennysnellflowers@btinternet.com


5QJ. Sunday April 27 (2-5.30pm)

More from Homes & Gardens

Friday, November 10, 2017

See our breakdown of Surrey’s districts and compare how much a square metre of land costs in your area. You might be surprised...

Read more
Monday, September 4, 2017

A restaurateur with a passion for gardening, French chef Raymond Blanc is set to jump out of the frying pan and into the perennials to open the 25th RHS Garden Wisley Flower Show.

Read more
Friday, September 1, 2017

Sash windows are an integral feature of British architectural history, first making an appearance in the late 17th century and continuing to be popular ever since. Whether your property is traditional, modern or rustic, Jack Brunsdon & Son’s sash windows are a versatile and timeless option.

Read more
Friday, July 21, 2017

At Odstock in Bletchingley, Averil and John Trott have developed a real plantsman’s garden over more than 40 years and specialise in dahlias

Read more
Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Keen plantswoman Penny Drew has created a tranquil oasis at Earleywood in Frensham, near Farnham. Leigh Clapp visits to discover more about her award-winning garden

Read more
Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A love of Liberty fabrics and the idea of being able to create something from that fabric motivates designer Amy Hunt of Willa & Bobbin. Janet Donin meets her at home in Reigate

Read more
Monday, June 26, 2017

A look at some of the issues arising in relation to second homes or investment properties

Read more
Tuesday, June 20, 2017

As she continues her ventures out and about in Surrey, this month, bestselling author Adele Parks drags her husband to one of Europe’s best antiques markets

Read more
Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Traditionally crafted wardrobe designs blended with luxury modern style and The Heritage Wardrobe Company go hand in hand as their designers work with you to understand your storage needs

Read more
Wednesday, May 31, 2017

British heritage brand, Jack Brunsdon & Son, understands the importance of exterior design and takes great pride in their unrivalled collection of doors. Each order is bespoke and carefully designed to enhance the architectural integrity and value of your home.

Read more
Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Andy Smith, Surrey branch director of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, takes us to one of Surrey’s most precious, yet undervalued, heritage assets – Painshill in Cobham – and explains why its peace and tranquillity could now be at risk

Read more
Tuesday, May 23, 2017

With a decade of gardening journalism and a host of award-winning landscape designs to his name, Dan Pearson’s latest book is chock-full of insights gained from a successful career at the forefront of global horticulture, which began at the sprawling RHS Garden Wisley

Read more
Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The passing away of well¬known Surrey resident Mary Wondrausch OBE, on Boxing Day last year, created a high demand from those wishing to own a piece of her work. The exhibition of her work at The Watts Gallery in February, subsequently sold out very quickly

Read more
Monday, May 22, 2017

A newcomer to the National Gardens Scheme this year, Shamley Wood Estate is tucked away in the Surrey Hills near Guildford

Read more
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad
Surrey Life Application Link

Local Business Directory

Surrey's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area

Property Search