The garden at The Homewood

The Homewood garden in early autumn, with house in background and pond in foreground

Rather like a classical landscape, the garden at The Homewood is designed around a series of vistas that offer glimpses of the landscape beyond.

Patrick Gwynne conceived The Homewood's expansive surrounds as “a woodland garden, not a park”. The planting celebrates Surrey's heathland species, including silver birch, firs and heathers, with azaleas and rhododendrons adding an exotic blaze of seasonal colour. The landscape appears naturalistic, yet is carefully choreographed, with serpentine borders, classically inspired vistas, and endless eye-catchers - a rhododendron tunnel, a serpentine bridge, a bamboo thicket, a set of stepping stones and more. Colours ebb and flow through the seasons in a never-ending wave of changing spectacle. 

History

The Victorian era

During the course of the 19th century, a Victorian villa occupied the plot - a heavily wooded site on Esher Common bisected by a stream that fed into the River Mole. The original house (Homewood) was located nearer the road and to the south east of the current house (The Homewood), and was surrounded by luxurious beds, lawns, shrubbery and trees. Many of the rhododendrons and mature trees (the oaks, the pine trees and some of the silver birch) date from this period. After World War II, the gardener concentrated on growing food and flowers, and it was not until the late 1950s that the project to tackle the woodland garden started – thinning trees, creating pools and planting themed gardens.

The early Gwynne years

The Gwynne Family lived in the victorian house from 1913, and Commander Gwynne (for whom The Homewood was built in 1938) was a keen amateur garden designer. He planted many of the willows and the Japanese maples that provide such spectacular autumn colour. 

The 1960s and beyond

During the 1960s Gwynne's son Patrick refined the design of the garden, removing trees, planting more azaleas and rhododendrons, laying out heather beds, and excavating the main pond and water gardens. When Patrick handed over the garden to the care of the National Trust, he prepared an explanatory guide known as the Green Book, a ringbinder containing over 100 pages of notes, designs and practical tips. Since his death in 2003, this guide has shaped and informed the ongoing restoration of the garden.

Patrick's vision

Patrick designed the garden with the layered composition of a painting, with plants in the foreground, shrubs in the middle distance, and specimen trees that draw the eye skyward. The garden is bisected by a spring-fed stream, the Spa Bottom tributary, whose flow has been enhanced and elaborated to create numerous water features: a pond that reflects the house, a lily pond traversed by a curved pathway of floating stepping stones, a colourful and exotic bog garden, and a series of weirs and cascades.

Patrick's carefully planned vistas stretch across acres of woodland garden
The Homewood as seen from the Stepping Stone Pond

Cleverly positioned within the wider garden structure are a series of special gardens, where the emphasis is on contrasting colour and seasonal interest. Near the house and just below the rhododendron tunnel is the grey and yellow garden, which frames views around a paved 'circus' and gives spring and summer interest. Over the bridge is the 'secret' blue and white garden, with its roses and tumbling summer blooms, whilst to the south of the stepping stones in the foreground is the bog garden. In the background lies the mysterious bamboo and fern thicket, which in turn leads to the purple and variegated walk.

The garden is maintained by the house's tenant, with help from an enthusiastic and multi-talented group of volunteers who visit on Thursdays throughout the year.

Note: For safety reasons, certain areas of the garden are opened only occasionally (on special garden open days). You can explore the wider garden on a booked guided tour of The Homewood on set days between April and October.