The history of the garden at The Homewood
Rather like a classical landscape, the garden at The Homewood is designed around a series of vistas that offer glimpses of the landscape beyond. Transformed to Patrick Gwynne’s vision of a carefully choreographed landscape, discover the history of Homewood's garden.
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 to the road, 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 the Second World War 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. 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 the Gwynnes' 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.
Patrick Gwynne conceived The Homewood's expansive surrounds as ‘a woodland garden, not a park’. The planting celebrated 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.
A garden like a painting
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 was 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.
Restoring Patrick’s vision
When Patrick handed over the garden to the care of the National Trust, he prepared an explanatory guide known as the Green Book, a ring binder 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.
The garden is maintained by the tenant of The Homewood, with help from an enthusiastic and multi-talented group of volunteers who visit each week.
Find out more about the design and furnishings of The Homewood, Patrick Gwynne’s extraordinary early 20th-century country villa which is a masterpiece of Modernist design.