CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Surrey Life today CLICK HERE

Visit the tranquil Old Croft garden near Dorking

PUBLISHED: 09:43 18 May 2015 | UPDATED: 13:37 18 May 2015

The quirky pot man and Gulliver's chair

The quirky pot man and Gulliver's chair

Leigh Clapp

The gardens at The Old Croft brim with a series of picturesque scenes as you wander the diverse areas of natural and enhanced beauty

Virginia and David in their beautiful gardenVirginia and David in their beautiful garden

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine May 2015

***

Share your Surrey gardens photography @ www.surreylife.co.uk/photos

25 best gardens to visit in Surrey this year

***

Need to know:

The Old Croft, South Holmwood, Dorking RH5 4NT. Open through the National Gardens Scheme on Sunday May 24 and Monday May 25 (2-6pm) and Saturday August 8 and Sunday August 9 (2-6pm). Admission £5, children free. Web: ngs.org.uk

***

When Virginia Lardner-Burke and husband David moved to The Old Croft near Dorking in 1978, the scene was rather different from the one that greets visitors today. Back then, the grounds had been thoroughly neglected, with the plants overgrown and the lake silted up, and were just a shadow of their former glory.

“The garden really just consisted of paddocks and an impenetrable habitat of birch and alder searching for the light and enmeshed with brambles and butterbur,” recalls Virginia.

Before long, however, Virginia set about creating a garden that would not only enhance the five acres surrounding their elegant Edwardian house but also complement the adjacent National Trust Holmwood Common, of dappled woodlands and sunny clearings, which provides the character of the wider area.

Gradually, after a lot of hard work, the garden evolved into different, loosely linked areas and interesting features, with water at its heart. Indeed, with a stream running through the property, reinstating the lake became a priority – and also the inspiration to develop the garden in a natural way, sympathetic to its setting.

The next task was one of clearing usable areas, followed by a planting programme with about 700 trees, shrubs and perennials placed to look as natural as possible. “For example, we have a range of cornus, including Cornus capitata, that were first grown in this country at the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall where we bought ours,” continues Virginia.

A spring visit

In May, when the gardens open to the public, you are greeted with an array of iridescent azaleas fringing the drive, before entering under the wisteria-clad pergola to a paved terrace, punctuated with clipped buxus spheres and seasonal containers by the house. Then, a circuitous route takes you for a journey as you explore the garden.

Passing verdant green lawns and densely planted borders under canopies of mature ornamental cherries and rhododendrons, you walk through a small wild area, a picture of daffodils and then bluebells in the springtime, with sentinels of sunlit maples as you reach the lake. Crossing the curved timber bridge, you then find a very naturalised style with plantings of ornamental trees and shrubs, including Nyssa sylvatica that are spectacular in autumn, as well as silver birch beside 
the stream.

Winding paths, cut-through grasses, bluebells and wildflowers lead you on to woodland where seats made from fallen trees, and an owl sculpture carved into a trunk, add to the naturalistic feel. A small hide on stilts made of railway sleepers, with a tiled roof and partly hidden amongst the rhododendrons, affords a view over the lake to observe any visiting wildlife, such as the occasional group of mallards.

“Our aim is to give a sense of gentle tranquillity and peace to ease the pressure of everyday living,” explains Virginia.

On a journey


Passing weirs in the stream, dancing with dainty candelabra primulas, the path then takes you through the bog garden with towering gunneras. The journey continues through a wild area of ornamental apple and cherry trees underplanted with carpets of oxeye daisies and geraniums. Then, next, it’s on through a timber gate, adjacent to a maze of bamboos, tree ferns and other exotic foliage, that leads intriguingly to a pair of whimsical oak thrones, where you may enjoy sitting briefly to survey the scene. “We used 10 varieties of bamboo, some clump-forming and non-invasive, while the invasive ones are enclosed in impenetrable trenches,” says Virginia.

From here, your tour continues to the back of the house with terraced gardens, including a formal rose garden. “Look for a couple of butterflies carved into one of the paving stones, a special memory to my mother,” adds Virginia. “As children, my sister and I grew up in Zimbabwe, and we thought our mother was Madam Butterfly as she had a wonderful singing voice, loved opera and would often sing One Fine Day as she strolled in her beautiful rose garden.”

Finally, in one of the highlights of this garden, to the side of the house is a flowerpot man with rake sundial backed by a unique topiary buttress hedge and a giant ‘Gulliver’s’ chair’, set within a billowing herb garden.

Good for the soul

Virginia and David have been opening their garden through the National Gardens Scheme since 1993, with visitors returning year on year to take in the tranquillity of the space.

“What we enjoy most about opening is seeing the joy people experience and hearing how much pleasure it has given them,” says Virginia. “Also, so many people come back again and again and stay all afternoon, having tea.

“This is a garden to explore slowly, discovering its peace and serenity as it reveals the beauty of God’s amazing creation – a place to restore the soul.”

 

***

Get the look...

• Plan a series of areas to discover on a journey through the garden by including mown grass paths, gates within the garden and gravel paths

• Choose a blend of naturalistic planting to suit the location, but with formal punctuation as contrasts

• Create picturesque vistas in a landscape style, using any ponds or streams, expanses of lawn and copses of trees

• Try to include a wide range of different habitats – shade, woodland, water, marginal, bog, clearings, meadow and sunny – all considered for appropriate planting that will thrive

• Include layered planting, from mature trees, shrubs, perennials, bulbs and ground covers

• Go for harmonious colours, including a play on greens with ferns and hostas, mauve irises under wisteria and muted pinks from cherries and rhododendrons

• Use occasional splashes of brighter colour highlights, with brilliant red poppies, rich purple aquilegia or potted red pelargoniums

More from Surrey Life

33 minutes ago

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

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
Yesterday, 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
Yesterday, 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