Shamley Wood Estate, near Guildford, to open garden for NGS this spring
- Credit: Archant
A newcomer to the National Gardens Scheme this year, Shamley Wood Estate is tucked away in the Surrey Hills near Guildford
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine May 2017
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High on the North Downs, with panoramic views to the South Downs, the garden at Shamley Wood Estate is quite enchanting as you venture up the winding drive through their 10-acre deer farm.
Home to Claire and Rob Merriman and their three young children, this is very much a family garden with play and entertaining areas as well as varied plantings.
When they first moved to the property in 2010, the structure of much of the garden was in place but there was still plenty of scope to add areas and imbue their own personality on the landscape.
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“From the moment we saw the property we knew we wanted to live here,” says Claire. “It was a hot July day, with not a cloud in the sky. We walked into the house and saw the doors open to the garden and stepped out to the most spectacular view, it was magical.”
The gardens extend over about three acres with a series of different areas. Out from the house expansive lawns edged in borders stretch out before you and draw the eye to the distant views beyond.
Originally planted in a very traditional way, Claire has added lots of perennials to the borders to create a looser effect. A keen gardener, she has graduated from a balcony to a plot in London, and now on to the challenge of a country garden since the family moved out of the city.
“We always wanted to move out to the countryside, to do more walking and mountain biking,” she says. “Rob grew up in West Byfleet and I grew up in Hertfordshire, but knew Guildford. Here we are close to London but there are lots of beautiful places to explore and the people are friendlier.”
Wandering around the side of the house, past a paved entertaining terrace, you come to a large pond backed by lush plantings of ferns and shrubs, complete with a small thatched summerhouse. When you catch a glimpse of the submerged hippos Claire has added at the grass edge beside a rustic shed, it’s reminiscent of a waterhole in colonial Africa.
Progressing further you discover new areas that the couple has put in with help from friends, a retired garden designer, Lester Hewitt and his plantswoman wife June. These include an al fresco dining space with fire pits and a naturalistic rockery with stream that extends down the slope of the garden.
Beyond is a formal parterre rose garden that Claire has refreshed by adding around 30 roses, including favourites ‘Gertrude Jekyll’, ‘Munstead Wood’ and ‘Darcey Bussell’, and fringing it with bands of lavender and standard Flower Carpet roses.
There is also a lavender lawn, a lovely productive organic kitchen garden, a hen coop, as well as meadows, complete with a working beehive. Detailing is provided throughout the garden by quirky sculptural pieces, including driftwood art. By improving the sandy soil and mulching twice a year, Claire is gradually broadening the palette of plants found across the garden and is developing new projects.
“I am quite careful about what I choose but tend to overplant,” she explains. “Every year the borders get wider and we are adding more trees and shrubs, and planning an overhaul of the front of the house to create a courtyard area of moss and grasses.”
This evolving garden is opening for the first time through the National Gardens Scheme for one day this month.
“I wrote to the NGS, as if you are lucky to have a large garden it’s nice to share,” she says. “It gives me a goal to strive for and people like to see a work in progress. The garden is fun for children, we have a small play area and our three may be available to show small guests some hidden dens and hideouts.”
• Shamley Wood Estate, Shamley Green, near Guildford, Surrey GU5 0SP opens for the NGS on Sunday May 28, 11am to 4pm. Admission: adults, £5; children, free. Home-made teas and gluten free options. Visitors also welcome by arrangement to September. Tours given by owner for groups of 10-plus. For more information, visit ngs.org.uk
Get the look
• Divide areas with low hedging, as it defines the space without blocking views
• Create different themed areas and plant with choices to suit, for example hardy choices in a rockery, romantic roses in a parterre, lush layers of green by a pond
• Include water, whether a pond or running feature
• Fringe paths with ribbons of lavender and roses
• Have fun with sculpture and detailing
• Incorporate seating areas for different times of the day
• Add a fire pit to extend the time you can sit out and entertain
• Use a design of raised beds for growing vegetables, makes for easier access and maintenance
• Unify areas with a colour theme that is referenced throughout, such as pink and purple in different hues
Tips from Claire
• Get to know the micro-climates in your garden
• Ask professionals for help – a garden designer is well worth the expense
• Think about how you want to use the garden as it extends your useable living space
• Make pictures and views to look out onto both from inside and outside
• The most successful planting has simplicity – look for 10 to 15 varieties of plants to put in, then halve the number and triple up on the actual plants of each
• Use lots of bulbs – they are both magnificent and low maintenance