Visitors to the garden at Tilford Cottage comment on its aura of tranquillity yet extraordinary energy. It is the perfect spot for holistic therapist Pamela Burn to relax and meditate. The peaceful riverside haven has been created by her and her artist husband Rod. Designed from a bare canvas, they planned and planted the two-acre garden to give interest with every step.
Originally part of the Tilford House Estate, the cottage had no garden, only a field leading down to the river Wey. Work started in 1992 and the main construction work and design was completed in 2000. “The gardens have been arranged to make numerous areas, each linked to the next but clearly defined to give a degree of surprise at every turn. Although the garden is small by many standards, a huge number of features have been included,” explains Rod.
By the house a Mediterranean terrace is resplendent with colourful pots and bedding plants. Lawns and paths lead to a traditional herb garden hidden by yew hedging, a parterre with topiary and a Japanese garden. Water features are placed throughout the garden, including a Monet-style bridge, carp pond, bog gardens and a river walk.
Ethereal woodland areas merge into wildflower meadows near the river. Formality and natural style planting is balanced by the use of hedging, pleaching, herbaceous borders, willow arches and massed foliage plantings. Colour, texture and form are intuitively combined to lend an air of unity.
Rod has always had an interest in the arts, frequently painting or sculpting alongside a career in engineering and invention. In 2000 he formalised his skills by studying for a degree in Fine Art at Farnham Art College, the University for the Creative Arts.
The link between art and the garden is a strong influence in Tilford Cottage Garden. Many pieces of art are placed throughout the garden. Made of natural materials, some static, others living topiary, they blend into the landscape.
“My work is a direct response to my immediate environment. Observations have led me to compare nature’s remarkable ability to replicate patterns. A fascination with plant life, growth, regeneration and degeneration has led to my working as a sculptor using plants, trees and wood,” Rod says.
Influences from artist Andy Goldsworthy can be seen in some of Rod’s installations placed in trees, transforming as they weather naturally. Carvings, woven willow structures, shaped hedges, plants growing through wire shapes and even panels of glass decorate latticed fence panels.
Coloured glass adorns the garden in many areas. Environmental issues are also important to Rod. He uses a camera to record changes in the landscape, both in the garden and the surrounding hinterland.
Living close to Bourne Woods has been an inspiration to research the ancient craft of chestnut and hazel pollarding along with the desire to enhance the environment. “I have studied land art since its inception in the 1960s. More recently the environment has played a larger part, often resulting in community projects.
As a result artists are using natural materials that will eventually regenerate and are incorporating environmental issues in their work, cleaning up derelict areas and reusing materials that would otherwise be dumped,”