CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Surrey Life today CLICK HERE

Nordic talking at Walnut House, Reigate

PUBLISHED: 08:49 07 September 2010 | UPDATED: 17:38 20 February 2013

Nordic talking at Walnut House, Reigate

Nordic talking at Walnut House, Reigate

Combining influences from Sweden, Finland and Holland, there is very much a Scandinavian feel to the garden at Walnut House in Reigate, which opens for the National Gardens Scheme each year

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine August 2010


Combining influences from Sweden, Finland and Holland, there is very much a Scandinavian feel to the garden at Walnut House in Reigate, which opens for the National Gardens Scheme each year



When Inger and Dirk Laan moved in 1976 to their new home in Reigate, one of several newly built Swedish style houses on the former grounds of Pittyfield House, they had the opportunity to create a garden from scratch. The resulting area continues the international feel with influences ranging from Ingers native Finland to Dirks Dutch background and the odd nod to an English style.


Our main aim was always to marry the garden with the house, says Inger, who will be opening their gates for the National Gardens Scheme twice this month. We wanted to ensure it stretched out from the basement sitting room, below the bungalow level, with views to a welcoming green space.


Formerly the tennis court for Pittyfield House, the gardens at Walnut House benefit from a flat expanse that easily became the main lawn and family area to accommodate Inger and Dirks two children as they were growing up.


Then, in the early 1980s, the garden became more of a priority and the structure of an impressive pergola leading to a greenhouse saw the emphasis on greater design elements.


I wanted to propagate and start plants from seed, explains Inger. So a greenhouse was very important and it also divided the garden from the sloping drive.


In order to hone her skills, Inger decided to take a design course at the Chelsea Physic Gardens in 1989, continuing a life-long interest in plants and gardening.


My father and grandmother were very keen gardeners in Finland so it definitely runs in the family, she says. At school, I can remember collecting native plants from the woods and fields, pressing them and labelling them with their Latin names. This gave me good knowledge that laid the foundation for recognising plants, looking at them and learning all about them.


Making a splash
With her increased knowledge of design, Inger set about developing the garden through the mid-1990s. Intrinsic to her proposed layout was a large pond and the aim of dividing the garden into different sections, each with their own colour palette.


Many Finnish people live by lakes and my philosophy was for a natural look of water with a sense of both visual and physical access, says Inger.


Too often, the ratio of edging can take away from the importance of the water. I wanted there to be a slope into the water, without a boundary, so that its natural to walk into the water.


Meanwhile, a visit to the Governors House garden in Williamsburg, USA, with its wonderful walls and buttresses, inspired Inger to place a series of architectural brick pillars diagonally across the lawn. They give a sense of linear symmetry that makes it more pleasing, she says. Also echoing the framework of the pergola, the pillars offer focal points and assist in the delineation of space. The elements of height are repeated with clipped conifers that lead to a paved seating area.


Uniformity is important in the garden, adds Inger. My aim is that I dont have to explain what I have in mind; the garden speaks for itself.
To one side of the pond, island beds of clipped shrub ivies, acers and bamboo give a woodland feel. Here, the colours are verdant greens accompanied by muted creams, yellows and blues. On the other side, around the lawn, colours change to harmonious pinks and mauves, while by the greenhouse and up the drive the hues intensify to hotter oranges and golds.


Underpinning the palette is a base of green tones from the dark foils of yew to lime green aeoniums in containers.


Of particular note is the interesting use of trellises and supports, not only for climbers but also for herbaceous plants. I was also intrigued by the ingenious use of the sloping space edging the drive where Inger has created terraced vegetable beds edged in rustic metal strips.


Everywhere, careful thought has ensured maximum use of the space and the result is an abundant garden with a great deal to interest the visitor.


Its so lovely to open up the garden for the National Gardens Scheme, adds Inger. It brings the community into your garden and creates a real feel-good factor, too.

More from Surrey Life

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Surrey is full of secret hideaways and hidden gems. Slades Farm on the Wintershall Estate is definitely one of them

Read more
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The new hotel is set to open in spring 2019 and will be located in the heart of the vineyard, offering sweeping views over the North Downs Way.

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

From Santa’s Grottos, to Victorian Christmas markets and late-night shopping, we’ve covered what’s on in Surrey this season

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Whether you're looking for fine dining, pub grub or exotic dishes, eating out in Surrey has something for everyone. Here's our guide to the best local restaurants and pubs

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Having bloomed in Brighton’s restaurant scene over the past decade, The Chilli Pickle opened its second site in Guildford this summer

Read more
Monday, November 12, 2018

Historic Royal Palaces and IMG have announced that Kylie Minogue is the first headliner confirmed for Hampton Court Palace Festival 2019. These will be her only London shows of summer 2019. Here’s how you can get tickets

Read more
Monday, November 12, 2018

Enjoy this linear rail to ramble section of the Thames Down Link route taking the short train-ride from Box Hill & Westhumble to Ashtead before walking back

Read more
Monday, November 12, 2018

Great things to do in Surrey this weekend (16, 17 and 18 November): art exhibitions, walks, concerts, theatre, places to visit and other events and ideas.

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

It’s that time of year when our beautiful countryside is alight with the colours of autumn. Here, we pick out some of her favourite spots to enjoy the seasonal splendour – as well as some perfect places for a post-walk refresher

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Found on the stretch of the River Thames between Weybridge and East Molesey, Sunbury-on-Thames is blessed with a village feel where it meets the water. From antique hunts to the joys of river life, here are a few of our favourite reasons to visit

Read more
Monday, November 5, 2018

Verity & Violet are Loui and Jess – a singing duo from Surrey who specialise in blending vintage classics with modern favourites. The two have achieved success in the capital, but are now hoping to attract an audience closer to home

Read more
Friday, November 2, 2018

With the Christmas celebrations seemingly starting earlier every year, it all feels a little too ‘soon’ sometimes, but what if you want to look your best for Christmas & New year celebrations and are considering having cosmetic non-surgical procedures? The Bella Vou Pantiles Clinic offers surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures and treatments from a purpose-built private clinic in the heart of Royal Tunbridge Wells

Read more
Thursday, November 1, 2018

Living in England’s most densely wooded county, it’s always a pleasure to witness Surrey donning its autumn finery. Here’s some of the best places to do just that - plus a few pub pit stops to enjoy on route!

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

We are regularly reminded of the high cost of housing with statistics revealing that only one in three millennials will be able to afford their own home during their lifetime and that most will remain in the category known as Generation Rent

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest


Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search