The 4th Earl and Clandon Park gardens

The Dutch Garden at Clandon Park, Surrey

When William Hillier became the 4th Earl of Onslow in 1870, he inherited a house and garden left idle for 43 years. Determined to restore the gardens, the 4th Earl documented the transformation in a hand written diary giving a valuable record of the works undertaken.

In 1871 Hillier consulted a landscape gardener. His suggestions included vistas to be cut into the wilderness and turfing of the pleasure grounds. The diary shows the considerable amounts spent on the gardens including payment for bulbs from Holland, maples from Japan, a lean-to peach house, hothouses, a pergola, and a gardening team of nine including head gardener William Blake.

William Hillier, 4th Earl of Onslow
The 4th Earl of Onslow
William Hillier, 4th Earl of Onslow

During his time at Clandon the 4th Earl was also responsible for introducing the Dutch Garden, Hinemihi, the bulb meadow and the double avenue of copper and green beech trees. These features still survive today.   

The Dutch Garden

This sunken garden was created between 1897 and 1902. The garden was originally modelled on the Sunken Garden at Hampton Court. The garden is formed by clipped hedges and topiary, centred around a small statue in a circular pool.

Borders in the Dutch Garden in full bloom
Borders in the Dutch Garden in full bloom at Clandon Park, Surrey
Borders in the Dutch Garden in full bloom

When we took over the estate in 1956, the Dutch Garden had largely reverted to nature. Paving stones had been removed, topiary had lost its shape and elm suckers sprouted to 20 feet high. In 1971 we began to restore the garden. The ground was cleared with the help of young people from the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. The British Airways Air Cabin Crew Fund kindly donated plants and additional funds in memory of crew members who had passed away.   

Today the garden contains small hedges of lavender that run along the tops of low walls, increasing in height around the garden. Smaller perennial plants, such as geraniums and nepeta, and shrubs like autumn glory, fuchsias and thyme, are planted along the smaller borders.  

Bulb Meadow

The 4th Earl created the Bulb Meadow drawing from the influences of great contemporary garden designers. Previously known as the Spring Garden, the meadow started close to the Dutch Garden where a pergola planted with climbing roses lead down towards the house. It originally stretched towards a lake via a renowned Iris Walk. In excess of four hundred thousand bulbs were planted across the parkland including irises and lilies as well as daffodils.

The daffodil meadow at Clandon Park in full bloom
The daffodil meadow at Clandon Park, Surrey
The daffodil meadow at Clandon Park in full bloom

The bulb meadow today is a fraction of its original size but still puts on an impressive display of yellows and golds in spring, including 22 flowering varieties of daffodils.