DUNSBOROUGH PARK RIPLEY: GARDEN HISTORY AND INFORMATION
Welcome to Dunsborough Park Gardens
Dunsborough Park, Ripley, Surrey dates back to the dissolution of the Monasteries when the lands of Newark Abbey were given to a local nobleman. The farmer taking over the land built a farmhouse around a single central brick chimney which has now grown to become Dunsborough House. The gardens were laid out in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Re-opened to the public in 1997 after being restored by garden statuary dealer, Dolf Sweerts de Landas Wyborgh and his wife, Caroline, this magnificent 100-acre estate comprises a series of historical gardens brought to life through vistas and garden architecture.
On their arrival in 1994, the Sweerts Family found a garden where only the structure had been maintained after a long period where both house and gardens had been in the doldrums after the death of Florence Desmond. They engaged Penelope Hobhouse to do the initial restoration of the walled gardens. Simon Johnson divided the older walled garden by the main greenhouses into “rooms” for the display of statuary and lawned the central area as a vista to show off the central Palm House.
Start your walk at the Penelope Hobhouse borders to the western side of the main greenhouse. These were originally laid out with alternate standard wisterias and viburnums and a strong reliance on acanthus and euphorbias. The borders were replanted by Rupert Golby in 2005, removing the viburnums and creating a softer blue and white colour scheme at the request of Caroline Sweerts. The borders now contain: Napeta Six Hills Giant; Napeta Siberica; Baptisia Orientalis; Galega Australis; Delphinium “Summer Skies”; Peony “Duchesse de Nemours” amongst others.
The next walled garden consists of the Dutch Garden with a cut flower garden; Ginkgo Biloba hedge; fruit trained against walls; a tomato house and other old greenhouses. This garden has a spectacular display of tulips in the Spring and is planted with annuals after the tulip bulbs have been removed, though some beds are reserved for peonies. The central Ginkgo hedge was planted in 1948 as a commercial nursery venture but the trees were never sold, hence the top and sides were lopped to create this unusual hedge. In order to form the symmetry for the Dutch Garden one row of Ginkgo was moved extending the hedge to run the entire length of the garden.
Returning to the first walled garden and immediately turning right away from the greenhouses is the south border planted with heat-loving and colourful perennials right up to Winter, including Dahlias; Hemerocallis; Helianthus, Crocosmia “Lucifer”; Salvia Guaranitica and Macleaya Microcarpa “Coral Plume”.
Turning left at the end of this border we come to the Medicinal border which contains fruit (medlar); sloes; kiwi fruit; blackthorn and apothecary herbs.
Continuing across the central axis we come to the Peacock Gate and a Lutyens path which leads back up towards the greenhouses. Halfway along this path on the right is the entrance to the Secret/White Garden where we find the ancient mulberry tree, 300 years old and still a prolific fruiter!
Coming out of the Secret Garden is a grassed area ahead with eight quince trees, four on each side of the main axis. On the nearside on the right is The Mediterranean Garden and to the left a box parterre in the form of a diamond. On the far side on the right is the Old Rose Garden containing old roses and on the left is a grassed “room” with yew hedges.
The central axes of these gardens are the parallel rows of apple espaliers which lead to wrought iron gates, the Rose Walk with the scented Bourbon roses and David Austin roses, eg Queen of Sweden, Brother Cadfael, the Alnwick rose, Young Lycidas, Gertrude Jekyll, Gentle Hermione, Blush Rambler, Alberic Barbier, Kew Rambler, Cecile Brunner and Aloha, and on to the Italian and Water Gardens.
The Rose Walk features yew hedges and old brick walls and the path is edged with Napeta (Catmint) on either side, while the Italian Garden with its central long pond is dominated by a magnificent Stone Pine.
The Water Garden has a series of descending ponds leading to the Ockham Mill Stream, the bottom pond of which is crowned by the magnificent folly bridge designed by W Braxton Sinclair and built in 1939 for Sir Oliver Simmons whose initials appear inside the folly. The Water Garden has been enhanced in recent years by creating a hedge at its perimeter which has allowed it to become more sheltered. This and the addition of tons of humus have allowed the plants to thrive and become much more luscious, notably the giant Gunnera, Rhododendrons and the Wisteria on the bridge.
The main greenhouses, now in a state of considerable disrepair and not open to the public, are divided from right to left into the Fern House, the Mediterranean House, the central Palm House, the Collection House with ancient pomegranate trees, and the Tea House containing a rampant vine.