How many of us must have driven along the narrow road through Petersham, Surrey enroute to Richmond and admired the stately Georgian town houses and quaint cottages, wondering what lay behind them? All was revealed on Sunday 22nd May when Petersham Village opened 12 of its private gardens to the public to raise funds for local charities.
Despite parking being a little tight, visitors flocked to the village by the Thames, eager to see this year’s private gardens open under this annual event. Armed with a handy map which helpfully also noted refreshment stops, we set off to explore.
From smaller family orientated plots to sweeping lawns and topiary, the variety was wide. Our adventures took us firstly to Petersham Lodge, dripping gloriously with wisteria and
overlooking neat lawns leading to a lake with charming Monet style bridge. This was probably the most traditional of the gardens, with small potager and woodland walk.
Birch trees and topiary at The Glasshouse, Petersham
The Glasshouse was a total joy but not completely unexpected having been featured in many magazines. A beautifully manicured lawn dotted with birch and edged with pollarded bay trees, the effect was simple yet stunning against the backdrop of the modern home behind which was a smaller garden with a tranquil water bowl amidst topiary and tree ferns.
First impressions counted at Twntyre, where a smart gravelled entrance led to a water canal and ornamental grasses planted beneath a towering magnolia. The entrance fitted perfectly with the extremely modern house which seemed to attract as much attention as the garden!
The biggest surprise was Harrington Lodge, where an amazingly well-ordered and picture perfect kitchen garden led to an immaculate lawn, neatly edged with shrubs. To our complete astonishment, there were not only hens at the end of the garden but three pigs, snoozing in their muddy enclosure!
Another unexpected wonder was the turf roof on the outbuildings at Arreton Lodge, where a meadow, complete with overhanging apple tree and model sheep was planted on top of the garage and garden room. Not content with just one unusual aspect, the garden owner had placed an airstream caravan in the garden,serving as a teenager’s den!
Some gardens appeared to be ‘work in progress’ with the owners cheerfully admitting that there was always ‘more to do’ – but then aren’t all gardens?
Finally, the biggest treat of all – the tiny St Peter’s Church, tucked away down a narrow lane which had been host to a ‘society wedding’ the day before and had opened its doors, enabling the garden visitors to view the glorious English country flowers decorating the entrance and pulpit. Here, delphiniums, foxgloves and cow parsley were densely packed into beautiful and generous arrangements in exquisite pastels and were much photographed by passers by.
With teas provided by Petersham WI, home-made cakes were going down a storm in the Village Hall and by the time we left the roads and pavements were jammed with pedestrians enjoying their unusual day out, exploring beyond the garden walls of some of Richmond’s most exclusive houses.