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Visit Earleywood in Frensham – one of Farnham’s top secret gardens

PUBLISHED: 09:28 18 July 2017 | UPDATED: 13:13 19 July 2017

Dense planting in the borders at Earleywood in Frensham

Dense planting in the borders at Earleywood in Frensham


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

Take a seat and enjoy the scene at Earleywood in Frensham Take a seat and enjoy the scene at Earleywood in Frensham

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine June 2017


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Need to know

Earleywood, Frensham, near Farnham, Surrey GU10 3AT.

Open through the NGS on Saturday July 22 and Sunday July 23, 11am to 5pm

Admission: £5; children, free

For more information, visit ngs.org.uk


Each year Farnham Town Council holds a competition entitled ‘Secret Gardens of Farnham’ to find the area’s best gardens. In 2016, Penny Drew won the gold award for best large garden at her home, Earleywood in Frensham.

The half-acre garden is brimming with a wide range of plants. When I visit, the borders are full of colour, texture and form with choices that included a variety of lovely hydrangeas, prolific phlox and richly-toned roses. From the entrance, through arches adorned in clematis, the abundant palette of healthy plants and the verdant lawns with immaculate edges, you can tell this is a garden in expert hands.

“I describe my garden as informal, with herbaceous plants, shrubs and trees in mixed borders,” explains Penny, who works part-time as a professional gardener.

The garden has evolved under her care since 1998, from predominantly a lawn edged in flowerbeds with some mature trees and shrubs into the varied landscape you see today.

“I am something of a plantaholic and the beds grew to accommodate my purchases. I’ve always said my borders grew rather like an amoeba. Sense then prevailed and the beds became more organised and colour themed,” she says. Colours are separated in different beds, into hot red and yellows, pastel pinks and cool blues, or a white border to give a sense of distance.

An interest in gardening began in childhood and has become an important part of Penny’s life, both at home and for clients.

“I was lucky enough to grow up with a really beautiful Edwardian-style garden in Farnham. My own garden in early married life was small but I had an extremely large greenhouse, which kept me busy. Later on I enrolled at Merrist Wood and completed several City and Guilds gardening courses and then went on to do the RHS exams, ending up with an RHS Diploma. I now work as a gardener for other people,” she explains.

Season long interest

Working with the conditions, choosing the right plants and keeping on top of maintenance allows for a garden with a long season of interest.

“It’s a sandy, well drained, fairly acidic soil to which we apply loads of manure,” says Penny. “The long axis of the garden runs east-west and the garden is quite sheltered – there are rather too tall Leylandii on the north and east side.”

The process has not been without some challenges though: in particular, rabbits and deer have been a problem.

“We now keep the deer out with hedging, fencing and gates and, since getting a very energetic cat, the rabbits have gone!” Penny laughs.

It’s all about the plants here, there’s always room for more, either to replace plants or add to the medley.

“Phlox are probably my favourite herbaceous plants together with alstroemeria, which I hope to add to this year. I’ve tried to put in unusual varieties of trees. I have a Sorbus hemsleyi and a Styrax hemsleyana (my maiden name was Hemsley). I have a Betula pendula ‘Aurea’, which lightens up a rather dark area and a beautiful Betula jacquemontii, which is a delight particularly through the winter months. Hydrangeas are my favourite for summer and I have over 30, most of which I could not name!” she enthuses.

Penny is opening her garden through the National Gardens Scheme for two days in July, so make sure you pop the dates in your diary.

“I opened for the first time through the NGS last year and had 435 visitors,” she says. “I love my garden and I love to show it off to other people. I enjoy chatting to people and answering questions. We made £2,800 for the charities last year, which was tremendous. I am also so grateful for all the help from my friends over the two days. Last year, one lady said that it was lovely to see a garden that had not obviously been given a makeover by garden designers, and was one from which she could take home ideas for her own garden.”


Get the look: Penny’s tips

• Create deep, curvaceous borders

• Start by choosing your trees and decide on the number and size of shrubs you want depending on the size of the borders

• Consider your colour scheme and time of flowering when choosing plants

• Fill in gaps with herbaceous – don’t always place tall ones at the back and short at the front as the odd tall plants in the middle adds interest

• Use annuals to add temporary splashes of colour

• Deadhead and weed, water only if really necessary and then a good soak once a week

• Cut your lawn edges carefully for that manicured look

• Have a gully deep enough so grass doesn’t go into the garden bed and plants don’t shade and kill the grass


25 of the best secret Surrey gardens to visit

The big 5 gardens in Surrey


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