Cross the new bridge heading out of Tilford towards The Reeds Road and shortly on your left hand side you will find a gardeners’ delight. Opening under the auspices of the National Gardens Scheme, Tilford Cottage is a must to visit. Over the last twenty years, The Burns have turned a grass field surrounding their 17th cottage into a piece of paradise. Rod Burn is the renaissance man of gardening: an engineer by profession, he is an artist by nature.
Don’t be surprised by trees with a golden bole, white stemmed birch trained into a two-dimensional wall, or somebody falling head first into a yew hedge. With moulded chicken wire, the hedge-diver is created and then the hedge allowed to grow into its outline but not beyond. ‘So that’s how to do it’, you will say to yourself as you go round.
But it is not only the plants that will intrigue you here. Following a devastating fire, Rod and Pam have re-built an artist’s studio, and what a visual delight it is, blending in seamlessly with the period house. So too with glazed trellises, arbors and walls, all magnificently constructed.
Even the apple trees conform to the will of the gardener-engineer, growing along a small wall at a surprising 90 degrees, making them parallel to the ground. This encourages heavy cropping, as well as producing a visual delight.
Deep in the garden towards the River Wey, which forms a boundary, you will find a huge giraffe among the trees. Veering back towards the house you can pass under an arch of golden yellow willow shoots before being drawn into the Japanese garden. Sprawl on a Lutyens’ style seat to take in the long views of the garden and the wonderful surrounding countryside.
Press on into the hedged herb garden, but be careful. Here, your every move is watched by a huge mask-like face peering out from one of the corners. Or is it keeping an eye on the man who fell into the hedge?
Laid out in geometric designs, you will find a huge range of herbs, not only growing, but also used by Pam Burn in her holistic healing work. Her Healing Centre, set in a charming rose clad cottage, is also within a lovely courtyard.
A pyramid water feature bubbles within the lily pond and soothes clients who can partake of many healing therapies.
Beyond this is the intricate box knot garden, recreated from a design influenced by Versailles and beautifully executed. It is very hard to understand how photographs of the beginning phases have produced this wonderful result. Stones found their way between branches of trees some years ago and are now jammed solid into the trees’ branches.
You can find ironstone, Bargate stone and intricate geometric waves of stone forming a patio and including beautiful Chinese black washed stone. Even if you do not know your Astilbe from your Elwoodii, (horticulturally speaking) here is much of sheer visual interest.
Oh, and the children? Well if they have got fed-up with the giraffe (made out of steel of course) they will have found the tree house by now, or will be luxuriating in the heat and damp of the greenhouse along with palms, ferns and Strelitzia. Then there is the oriental garden with its intricate water system flowing down through a series of split bamboo trunks. The secret Fairy garden is a hidden delight for children and adults too!
Why not treat yourself to a visit to this Gardeners’ delight, groups of 6 or more are welcome at any time of the year by reservation. But be careful not to fall into any of the hedges on your way round! The National Gardens’ Scheme enables keen gardeners to have a look into private gardens not normally open to the public.
What better way to pick up ideas for your own garden than by actually going to see what has been done in Tilford. Magic is possible with a little love and imagination.
The gardens are open all year by appointment for groups of 6 or more in aid of the National