25 of the best secret Surrey gardens to visit
PUBLISHED: 08:35 02 May 2017 | UPDATED: 08:35 02 May 2017
From woodland glades to film set masterpieces and vineyard wonders, Surrey has a wealth of beautiful gardens to visit throughout the open gardens season. Surrey Life gardening editor, Leigh Clapp, picks out 25 of her favourites*
*The gardens featured are listed alphabetically, not in order of preference
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine April 2016
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Surrey’s NGS organiser, Maggie Boyd and husband David have created a haven in Haslemere. Their two-acre garden has distinct areas: the front is themed in pink, purple and white, and there is a parterre filled with wafting wildflowers in strawberry and cream, along with ribbons of lavender; further down, you’ll find colour-themed borders and a vegetable garden; and there’s a wildlife pond and mature trees. Ducks and chickens supply the eggs for their cakes, so allow time to enjoy tea.
• Bardsey, Haslemere GU27 1BS. Opening times: Saturday July 1 and Sunday July 2; Saturday July 29 and Sunday July 30 (1pm-5pm). Admission: adults, £5; children, free
2. Chinthurst Lodge
Plant enthusiasts Hilary and Michael Goodridge have long welcomed visitors to their one-acre country garden. From the white garden, herbaceous borders, ornamental ponds and laburnum tunnel to the veg patch with its fun scarecrow, there’s much to enjoy.
• 2 Chinthurst Lodge, Wonersh GU5 0PR. Opening times: Sunday June 25 and Wednesday June 28 (11am-5.30pm). Admission: adults, £5; children, free
3. The Coach House
Garden designer Barbara Brooks has created an atmospheric garden at her home, within a one-acre walled garden and courtyard space adorned with containers. There are lovely ideas for establishing an abundant garden in a short period of time, with different areas divided by trees and shimmering herbaceous borders, a white garden, wildflower meadow and kitchen garden. Colours are beautifully put together with harmonious schemes.
• The Coach House, Chiddingfold GU8 4TU. Opening times: Saturday June 24 and Sunday June 25 (2pm-6pm). Note: Visitors also welcome by arrangement May to Sept, groups 8+. Admission: adults, £4; children, free
4. 53 Commonfield
First created by the owner in 2012, this small colourful garden displays a passion for both plants and nature. Year-round interest is important and there are lots of little details to enjoy around every corner. The front garden is designed for butterflies and bees; while in the back garden there are log piles, a pond, wildflower areas, feeders and nest boxes. Colours, textures, scents and shapes mix together in borders and there are places to sit and enjoy the garden.
• 53 Commonfield Road, Banstead SM7 2JR. Opening times: Thursday April 27, Thursday May 25, Sunday June 4, Thursday July 27, Thursday August 24, Sunday September 3 and Thursday September 28 (11am-3pm). Admission: adults, £3; children, free
5. Dunsborough Park
A six-acre walled garden laid out in the 18th century and redesigned by Penelope Hobhouse and Rupert Golby. Home to Baron and Baroness Sweerts de Landas Wyborgh, this is an elegant garden with formal and informal rooms. The framework of box hedging, infilled with stripes of vibrant tulips and muscari is stunning in spring, followed by roses in summer, while in late summer and autumn massed dahlias are the stars. There is also eye-catching statuary, standard wisterias and an informally planted water garden.
• Dunsborough Park, Ripley GU23 6AL. Opening times: Thursday April 20 (3pm-7pm), and Saturday June 17 and Saturday September 16 (12noon-4pm). Note: For other opening times, see dunsboroughpark.com. Admission: adults, £7; children, free
A gold-award winner in the large garden category at Farnham Secret Gardens, Earleywood has half an acre planted densely with a wide variety of plants. Mid-summer is a highlight time of the year, with flowering shrubs, such as lovely hydrangeas and colour-themed borders of hot colours in one area, with cooler pinks and blues in other spots. The layered planting of trees, shrubs and herbaceous creates shady areas resplendent in ground covers and shade-loving choices.
• Earleywood, Frensham GU10 3AT. Opening times: Saturday July 22 and Sunday July 23 (11am-5pm). Admission: adults, £5; children, free
7. The Garth Pleasure Grounds
It’s the bluebells and spring shrubs that are the main draw here, along with the interesting history of the building that goes back to 1729, when it was built as a workhouse and then later, in 1918, converted to a single house. The mature nine-acre woodland gardens are divided into different ‘rooms’ by hedging and walls, linked with paths to explore. This is a garden for strolling, relaxing in and coming under the spell of the haze of bluebells.
• The Garth Pleasure Grounds, Lingfield RH7 6BJ. Opening times: Saturday May 13 and Sunday May 14 (2pm-5.30pm). Admission: adults, £5; children, free
This immaculately cared for garden is full of interest. Margaret Arnott and Terry Bartholomew created this terraced garden from scratch, transforming it into little vignettes with structural ideas and planting combinations, from a parterre sundial garden to decorative colourful containers. It’s expertly planted for year round interest with a riot of colour from roses and clematis tumbling over hand-made obelisks.
• Heathside, Cobham KT11 2QH. Opening times: Sunday July 23 (11am-5pm). Note: Visits also welcome by arrangement. Admission: adults, £4; children, free
9. High Clandon
New to the NGS, you can enjoy stunning views over the Surrey Hills from High Clandon. Wildflower meadows blend to the vineyard, while closer to the house garden areas unfold. There’s a small, enclosed potager, a Japanese garden, herbaceous beds and an aviary. The Glass Barn is used for exhibitions and sparkling wine tastings.
• High Clandon, East Clandon GU4 7RP. Opening times: Monday May 29 (11am-4pm). Admission: adults, £6; children, free (wine tasting available at extra charge of £5)
10. Hill Farm
A family garden, designed by owner Helen Thomas who re-trained as a professional garden designer, Hill Farm features carpets of heather. Textural plantings of grasses have also been used to great effect, and there is a wildlife pond and woodland walk. Colours are carefully considered and planting areas are designed to come alive in different seasons, with late summer and autumn particularly attractive.
• Hill Farm, Westcott RH4 3JY. Opening times: Sunday September 17 (11.30am-4.30pm). Admission: adults, £3.50; children, free
11. Little Priory
A mature five-acre country-style garden, where old blends with new, awaits. The vistas across the large pond are one of the best views in Surrey. There is a modern flower garden, an orchard meadow, pretty borders for both sun and shade, and a Victorian kitchen garden. You will even find cherries and kiwi fruit in the greenhouses.
• Little Priory, South Nutfield RH1 4EJ. Opening times: Saturday June 10 (4pm-8pm) – adults, £6.50; children, free – and Sunday June 11 (11-5) – adults, £5; children, free
12. Loseley Park
Home to the More-Molyneux family since 1508, in spring the must¬see flowers are the blue meconopsis and splashes of tulips above a sea of frothy bedding including erysimum, lime-green euphorbias and forget-me-nots in the flower garden. In addition, the purple alliums against clipped buxus domes in the herb garden are elegantly executed. You may also glimpse the peak of flowering of the 150-year-old wisteria.
• Loseley Park, Guildford GU3 1HS. Opening times: The grounds, garden and tearoom are open from May to September (Mondays to Thursdays, and Sundays). Admission: adults, £5.50; children, £2.75
13. Moleshill House
Gardening guru Penny Snell, the former NGS chairman, has created an inspiring garden. Trimmed ivy garlands and topiary adorn containers, while masterful combinations of form and infill abound with beautiful plants. Each area has Penny’s attention to detail and yet appears romantically natural – from beehives, eclectic artefacts and a gypsy caravan to the textures in the gravel garden.
• Moleshill House, Cobham KT11 1BG. Opening times: Sunday June 25 (2pm-5pm). Admission: adults, £6 (combined with Fairmile Lea garden); children, free
14. The Old Croft
With its sense of tranquillity, The Old Croft is full of pretty vistas with the lake, reflective pond, planted bog gardens and herbaceous borders. Attractive collections of seasonal containers, a tropical bamboo maze and a unique topiary buttress hedge, all inspire.
• The Old Croft, South Holmwood RH5 4NT. Opening times: Sunday May 28 and Monday May 29; Saturday July 22 and Sunday July 23 (2pm-6pm). Admission: adults, £5; children, free
15. The Old Rectory
A setting for the BBC’s Emma, you will find a beautiful Georgian manor house with an Italianate topiary garden, box parterres, statuary and elegant containers. In addition, there is an ancient moat, woodland and walled kitchen garden.
• The Old Rectory, Bletchingley RH1 4QW. Opening times: Sunday June 18 (11am-4pm). Admission: adults, £5; children, free
16. Pratsham Grange
Created by Alan Comber, these gardens have a mathematical undertone. Expect herbaceous borders, roses, a knot garden, geometric beds and two ponds joined by a cascading stream.
• Pratsham Grange, Holmbury St Mary RH5 6LZ. Opening times: Sunday July 2 and Sunday August 20 (1pm-5pm). Admission: adults, £5; children, free
With spring flowering shrubs, such as rhododendrons, azaleas and magnolias, underplanted with bluebells, May is a dream – allow yourself time to explore the 20 acres. A glade of Japanese maples, along with canopies of oaks and conifers provide the dappled shade that has allowed the display to flourish.
• Ramster, Chiddingfold GU8 4SN. Opening times: From April to Sunday June 11 (10am-5pm). Admission: adults, £7; children, free
18. Shamley Wood Estate
Opening through the NGS for the first time, Shamley Wood is set high on the North Downs with far-reaching views. You enter the garden through a 10-acre deer park and children and adults alike will delight in finding sculptures, such as hippos emerging from the grass.
• Shamley Wood Estate, Shamley Green GU5 0SP. Opening times: Sunday May 28 (11am-4pm). Admission: adults, £5; children, free
Serenity pervades this manicured four-acre garden created by Anne Barnes. Perfectly striped lawns are edged with planted borders, shrubs and trees. Formal areas include a Buddha head overlooking a pond, a sunken gravel garden and paved terraces. Each area is designed to showcase pieces from overseas travels and be a haven for relaxing.
• Spurfold, Peaslake GU5 9SZ. Opening times: Visitors welcome by arrangement May to August. Admission: adults, £6; children, free
20. Tilford Cottage
This is a unique garden created by artist Rod Burn since 1992. Complete with Rod’s sculpture it’s inspirational. There are playful touches for the younger garden visitors.
• Tilford Cottage, Tilford GU10 2BX. Opening times: By arrangement April to September, groups 6+. Admission: adults, £7; children, free
21. Titsey Place
Titsey Place has been enjoyed by many generations of garden visitors. The 15 acres are found in an idyllic setting, including rose gardens, lakes, woodland walks and the colourful walled kitchen garden, which was restored in 1996. It’s my personal highlight.
• Titsey Place, Oxted RH8 0SD. Opening times: Select days every week from Monday May 15 to Saturday September 30 (1pm-5pm). Admission: adults (garden), £4.50; children, £1
A regular on our Surrey Life list for spring, with its important Gertrude Jekyll water garden. This English Heritage listed garden has a timeless atmosphere. The Yew Walk is especially pretty later in spring.
• Vann, Hambledon GU8 4EF. Opening times: Monday May 1 (2pm-6pm); Tuesday May 2 to Sunday May 7 (10am-6pm); Sunday June 4 to Saturday June 10 (10am-6pm). Admission: adults, £6; children, free
23. Westways Farm
A six-acre garden surrounded by mature woodlands with carpets of bluebells under colourful rhododendrons, camellias, magnolias and azaleas.
• Westways Farm, Chobham GU24 8HH. Opening times: By arrangement April to June, groups 10+. Note: Enquire about price when booking
Annie Keighley has created a romantic cottage garden loved for its relaxed planting. Roses scramble over arches and the quirky potager is a delightful jumble of organically grown veg, fruit, herbs and flowers.
• Wildwood, Frimley Green GU16 6HE. Opening times: By arrangement in June, groups 10+. Note: Enquire about price when booking
25. Woodbury Cottage
Wonderfully colourful with grasses and perennials, this sloping garden is set out in two parts. Shirley and Bob Stoneley’s aim for ‘a more structured approach to colour, texture and contour than a traditional cottage garden’ is beautifully realised.
• Woodbury Cottage, Reigate RH2 9JJ. Opening times: Saturday July 8 and Sunday July 9; Saturday September 2, Sunday September 3 and Wednesday September 6 (1pm-5pm). Admission: adults, £4; children, free
Need to know
For more about all of these garden openings, visit the National Gardens Scheme website at ngs.org.uk