CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Surrey Life today CLICK HERE

RHS Wisley volunteer opens garden at 35 Tadorne Road, Tadworth for NGS

PUBLISHED: 19:08 20 July 2011 | UPDATED: 05:11 20 May 2014

RHS Wisley volunteer opens garden at 35 Tadorne Road, Tadworth for NGS

RHS Wisley volunteer opens garden at 35 Tadorne Road, Tadworth for NGS

For keen gardener Rodney Lay, working as a volunteer at RHS Wisley has helped provide inspiration in his own garden. Surrey Life paid a visit to 35 Tadorne Road, Tadworth, which opens to visitors later this month, to see the results

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine July 2011

Words and photography by Leigh Clapp


Described by owners Rodney and Thelma Lay as ‘colourful and curvaceous with hardly a straight line’, the garden at 35 Tadorne Road, Tadworth, is gloriously abundant at this time of year, when it also opens briefly for the National Gardens Scheme.

Densely planted borders softly edge around the lawns; island beds brim with shrubs; climbers happily scramble over pergolas; and there are hidden seating areas to discover too.
Although Rodney and Thelma bought the property back in 1980, it wasn’t until after many years based overseas that they finally came to live there in 1994.

“It was a bit of a kick-around garden at first with a large, square, boring plot with straight edges,” recalls Rodney, the passionate gardener of the pair. “But as I had just retired, I was able to devote more time to the garden and decided to transform it into an English cottage style look.”

Helped by Thelma, some professional advice, as well as a man to do the lawns, Rodney has honed his interest in gardening that was sparked originally in childhood, and through trial and error has gradually developed the garden.

“I was a wartime baby and remember my father ‘digging for victory’ and then later returning the garden to a herbaceous, ornamental focus,” he says. “I enjoyed gardening with him and knew I liked gardens, but hadn’t a great knowledge – and it wasn’t until we returned to the UK that I had a garden to develop.”

Making a start
The first step was to shape the garden beds to create a sinuous effect and break up the square plot. “I knew I wanted to have curved shapes and remove straight lines,” says Rodney. Then, after visiting lots of nurseries, and gaining inspiration from some of the county’s flagship gardens, the planting began in earnest.

“I also volunteer at RHS Wisley and so work alongside many horticultural people and gather a lot of information,” continues Rodney. “An awful lot has rubbed off about plants and gardening techniques.

“I am quite shameless – I see something I like and am happy to copy it,” he laughs. “For example, I saw a beach theme in one of Wisley’s demonstration gardens and have created a miniature version here with a trickle of water and grasses.”

Muted tones of blues, yellows and white feature in the herbaceous plantings, while in one hot-themed bed there are more strident colours from plants such as cannas and dahlias. “I rely on the tried and tested plants, propagate and grow lots from seed,” Rodney adds.

Since 2001, the garden has been open on selected days through the National Gardens Scheme and, after enjoying the garden, another highlight is taking tea in the plant-filled conservatory, resplendent with a collection of scented pelargoniums.

“We enjoy opening; you meet such lovely people who say such nice things and it’s a great way to raise money for charity,” says Rodney. “Plus, Thelma makes delicious cakes as well – the only time I get them is when we open!”


35 Tadorne Road, Tadworth KT20 5TF
Open Saturday July 30, Sunday July 31 (2-5.30pm). Admission £3, children free. For more details, see

More from Surrey Life

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

Read more
Yesterday, 16:05

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
Tue, 10:53

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

Read more
Tue, 10:47

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
Tue, 10:41

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

Read more
Mon, 14:32

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
Mon, 12:56

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
Mon, 12:13

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
Friday, November 9, 2018

We round up 10 of the most beautiful photos of Surrey shared on Instagram this week…

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

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