CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Surrey Life today CLICK HERE

Going Dutch at Dunsborough Park gardens, Ripley

PUBLISHED: 10:39 14 April 2015 | UPDATED: 11:52 14 April 2015

The scene across the Dutch garden

The scene across the Dutch garden


Some 20,000 dazzling tulips will be on display at Dunsborough Park in Ripley this month, a treat that is not to be missed

The Baron and BaronessThe Baron and Baroness

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine April 2015


Share your Surrey gardens photography @

24 more great Surrey gardens to visit in 2015


Need to know:

Dunsborough Park, Ripley GU23 6AL. The Festival of Tulips takes place on Saturday April 18, Saturday April 25 and Sunday April 26 (1pm to 5pm) and Thursday April 30 (1pm to 7pm). Admission: £6. For more information on other opening dates, visit the website at



For Dutch-born Baron Dolf and Baroness Caroline Sweerts de Landas Wyborgh, tulips are a must-have beauty in the spring garden at Dunsborough Park in Ripley. Indeed, every year they plant some 20,000 of these glorious bulbs, some in neat regimented colour-themed rows, others randomly distributed in flower meadows, creating their famous Festival of Tulips each April. “We love tulips, both in the garden and also as cut flowers in the house,” says Caroline. “They make me feel very happy because they are so bright – and some, such as ‘Angelique’, look like peonies, another of my favourite flowers.”

A potted history

Dating back to the 16th century, the estate was formed during the dissolution of the monasteries, when a local nobleman was granted the land from Newark Abbey. Since then, the property has grown from a small farmhouse to the stunning building we see today with Queen Anne and Georgian accretions. It wasn’t until the 18th century, however, that the gardens were first professionally laid out and encircled by red brick walls.

Over the years, they were gradually extended and improved by the various owners, though as with many estates, the grounds fell into a state of disrepair in the 20th century. Thankfully, in 1994, Caroline and Dolf moved into the property and, since then, they have been guiding a transformation of the gardens to a beautiful landscape blending formal and informal areas.

“The gardens were completely derelict when we arrived,” says Caroline. “We started on our own initially and later worked with garden designers Penelope Hobhouse and then Rupert Golby.”

The structure of the gardens at Dunsborough now reflects exuberant planting schemes and impressive definition. Six acres of formal gardens extend around the house in a series of garden rooms and vistas, and also as ‘showroom’ spaces for their collection of antique garden ornaments for sale. The walled garden includes a white garden with an ancient 300-year-old mulberry tree, a rose garden of David Austin varieties, a Dutch garden with a sophisticated potager, as well as shrub and herbaceous borders.

Also of special note are the Edwardian glasshouses, a Palm House, long grassed walks edged with hedges and a large water garden, created in the 1930s and being gradually redeveloped.

“I am very involved in the garden and design,” continues Caroline. “Not so much the planting, but the colour and symmetry, and I meet with the gardeners every morning.”

Festival of tulips

Three main seasonal interests have been developed – spring is the tulip extravaganza; herbaceous and roses feature in June; and dahlias dazzle in September – but it’s the tulips for which they are perhaps most famous.

Every autumn, around 10,000 new tulip bulbs are planted in the formal beds, colour-themed in neat designs. Colours are bright and eye-catching, including massed ‘Temple’s Favourite’, a stunning red splashed with orange, lily-shaped flower that Caroline particularly loves. An idea inspired by a visit to Keukenhof in Holland also sees ribbons of violet blue muscari lining and interweaving the display.

“This year, we had to give some areas a rest from tulips and have planted thousands of blue and white hyacinths as well,” adds Caroline.

In contrast, a large bulb meadow has been created over the past few years near the bridge by the water garden in a wild, naturalistic style. Each June, when the tulips finish in the formal garden, they are lifted, peeled, dried and stored, then replanted in a totally random fashion into the meadow in the autumn.

“Originally, we tried placing the bulbs in a pattern but that really didn’t work, so now we literally throw them randomly without knowing the colours they’ll become and plant them where they fall,” explains Caroline.

The effect is mesmerising with a meld of bright colours jostling together. Other natural areas can be found by the water where meandering paths under a canopy of weeping willows are planted with white tulips, creating little lights in the dappled shade, and circles of soft pink ‘Angelique’ are echoed overhead by blowsy cherry blossom of the same colour on a grassy bank.

National interest

It’s no wonder that their spectacular display has attracted the attention of TV producers. In fact, you may have seen the ever-enthusiastic plant hunter and TV presenter Tom Hart Dyke interview Caroline for the superb BBC Great British Garden Revival Series just recently, on his campaign for more people to grow tulips. His enthusiasm for these flamboyant flowers and ideas for how to grow and display them in the garden included the showcase at Dunsborough with both the bedding uses and wild meadow. “We had such a lovely day filming and chatting about the tulips,” adds Caroline.

Happy to share their beautiful gardens with the public, they also open to visitors through the year on various open days, raising money for some of the couple’s favourite charities, as well as holding weddings and events. “I enjoy chatting with visitors and also do the teas,” adds Caroline. She even takes orders for tulip bulbs, which she will collect along with her own when she drives over to Holland to buy them later in the year before the planting regime in October begins the process again.


Get the look...

• By selecting a variety of early to late flowering tulips, you can create a succession of bloom

• Plant in colour-themed rows and within parterres for a formal style

• Decorative impact is increased by edging with vibrant muscari

• In small gardens, try containers of layered tulip bulbs to flower in a succession of timings

• Good drainage is important as tulips will rot if the soil is too wet

• Species tulips can stay in the ground and will continue to thrive

• For other varieties, lift and store, and replenish beds with fresh bulbs as well

• Try a ‘meadow’ effect by planting the bulbs randomly in a mixed colour palette in the grass


More from Surrey Life

Yesterday, 16:06

Education expert Dr Ryan Hinchey, Coordinator of College Counselling at ACS International School, with campuses in Cobham, Egham and Hillingdon, answers your questions

Read more
Yesterday, 11:34

Surrounded by reservoirs and located on the banks of the famous river from which it takes its name, Staines-upon-Thames (as it is now called) is a town working to reshape its future and celebrate its picturesque riverside setting

Read more
Mon, 16:30

She may have recently moved to the seaside, but Surrey still holds a uniquely “precious” place in the heart of legendary children’s author Dame Jacqueline Wilson – not to mention the crucial role the county played in bringing everyone’s favourite and newly-returning feisty foster-kid to life

Read more
Mon, 11:59

Great things to do in Surrey this weekend (23, 24 and 25 November): art exhibitions, walks, concerts, theatre, places to visit and other events and ideas.

Read more
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
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

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