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Timber Hill, Chobham opens for National Garden Scheme

PUBLISHED: 12:38 23 April 2011 | UPDATED: 19:11 20 February 2013

Timber Hill, Chobham opens for National Garden Scheme

Timber Hill, Chobham opens for National Garden Scheme

Spring is at its best in the delightful gardens of Timber Hill in Chobham, looking resplendent with refreshing greens and splashes of bright colours, so take the opportunity to pay a visit when they open for the National Gardens Scheme...

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine March 2011

Spring is at its best in the delightful gardens of Timber Hill in Chobham, looking resplendent with refreshing greens and splashes of bright colours, so take the opportunity to pay a visit when they open for the National Gardens Scheme...

Words and photography by Leigh Clapp

Welcome to the season of buds, bloom and fragrant abundance. Unfurling fresh foliage, spring-flowering shrubs and emerging bulbs brighten the scene all around us and gardens across the county again open their gates for visitors to enjoy the spectacle and share their passion for gardening.

A visit to Chobham
Comprising some 15 acres of woodland and parkland, one garden that is certainly well worth a visit at this time of year is Timber Hill in Chobham.

Gradually being restored by owners Nick and Lavinia Sealy, it contains fine specimen trees, such as oaks, liriodendron and liquidambars, as well as an array of flowering shrubs, including witchhazels and camellias, and a succession of bulbs to delight visitors throughout the spring.
From early snowdrops, through narcissi and golden daffodils, to carpets of bluebells, the scene fills and changes, while camellias, magnolias and azaleas provide structure to the garden, sheltering behind banks of rhododendron ponticum.

Labour of love
Nick and Lavinia moved to the property in 1975, taking over from Nicks parents who had been there since the 1950s, and have continued the evolution of the smallholding, house and gardens.

Nicks parents had a local friend, the late horticulturalist, Graham Stuart Thomas, who changed their cottage garden with more structural shrub borders, says Lavinia. Our interest has mainly been in the woodland area of the garden, by improving and replanting. Many of the trees were beautiful but at the end of their life, such as wonderful cherries and beech. We have been restocking for around ten years.

This is not a formal style of garden; the emphasis is on a relaxed, country feel to make the most of the natural landscape and contours of the hill.

Spreading out from the house, the more regimented areas of densely-planted beds lead on to sweeping lawns and then up the hill to the informal collections of trees and shrubs.

The effect is as if one has entered private parkland, a place to stroll through and admire the variety of plants while soaking up the relaxing atmosphere, with sundials, large urns and unusual sculptures adding focal points along the way.

Springtime stroll
The idea is to start in one place and walk around the garden, one bit after another, past the various borders and trees, up to the wood, adds Lavinia. We have tried to achieve a more co-ordinated look with the slight changes we have made over the years.

In spring, you are guided by clumps of tiny narcissi, which we add to each year, although this year we are not sure if the squirrels and birds have left any of the bulbs. Gardening is a constant battle with the elements and wildlife!

Although very much a private garden, Timber Hill is open briefly each spring through the National Gardens Scheme to share experiences with other gardeners and most importantly as a way of raising money for charity.

Nick and Lavinia are actively involved in the Community Foundation of Surrey, which raises money for many local charities, and are also raising funds from the refreshments at the open days for Guildford Cathedrals 50th anniversary.

Timber Hill, Chobham, SurreyGU24 8JF. Open Sundays March 27 and April 17 (11.30am to 4.30pm). Admission 3.50, children free. Visitors welcome by appointment for groups (minimum charge 50). Tel: 01932 873875. E-mail: For more information, visit the National Gardens Scheme website:

Tips for a spring garden

  • Choose spring-flowering trees and shrubs that also have autumn colour, berries or ornamental bark

  • Try planting bulbs among deciduous shrubs so that the flowers show through the bare branches and then, after flowering, the dying bulb foliage will be covered by the newly emerging leaves of the shrubs

  • Plant bulbs in natural drifts amongst the grass on the lawn

  • Deadhead spent flowers of bulbs but allow foliage to die down naturally

  • Divide congested bulb clumps and then replant

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