While some gardens are designed intentionally to stand out from their surroundings, this isn’t the case with Hill Farm. Created by garden designer Helen Thomas, this garden sits snuggly within the contours of the picturesque Surrey hills. Helen’s love of the natural landscape has resulted in a wealth of different habitats, which look fabulous, encourage wildlife, and come alive throughout every season.
“I love natural combinations, like those that you can see all over this area of Surrey,” says Helen.“I’ve tried to make a garden that fits in with the fabulous landscape beyond it, with a predominance of grasses and late-flowing perennials and woodland glades.
“I like to create structure using trees, hedges and en masse plantings, including plenty of native species,” she adds. “The plants are all tough and can survive pretty much anything thrown at them, as well as all weather conditions.”
She has created distinct areas that are all different by using the garden’s natural contours, and these provide a journey around the garden, linked together with grassy paths. “There are no ‘garden rooms’ as such, but each area has a different feel due to the nature of the conditions present,” says Helen. Wildlife is very important to both Helen and her husband Martin. They keep everything as simple as possible with natural habitats, such as a wildlife pond full of dragonflies, newts and frogs, woodland with a winding walkway, and wildflower meadows. These are gathered seamlessly together by adjoining flowing borders, packed with grasses and perennials and brimming with harmonious colours and numerous textures.
“I love the pond, which is always packed full of wildlife. This area of the garden feels more hidden and is always wonderfully cool,” she says. Numerous dogwoods (cornus) are planted around the back of the pond and down the slope to the pond area, where their fiery stems always catch the low winter sun and ‘glow like fireworks’, according to Helen. These include a mix of Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’, with red stems, Cornus sericea ‘Flaviramea’, with yellow-green stems and Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’, with glowing orange stems. These set off the gleaming white bark of the silver birch, Betula utilis ‘Grayswood Ghost’. The garden is now very,different to the one the couple moved into in 1997. It has only been developed since 2008, when Helen started a garden design course at Painshill Park, Surrey. Then it was mostly a blank canvas of meadow grass and a few very old apple trees and boundary hedges.
“There was very little planting,” Helen remembers. “But it had a lovely open feel to it and its original contours have remained largely intact. I wanted the garden to retain a lot of the original open spaces, as well as open up all the views from the house, create interest for every
season and to blend into the landscape beyond.”