Ottershaw & Dunsborough Park 2021


The middle of June isn’t normally an important time of year for me. It brings no family or work events to mark on the calendar. But this year was different, for it was to be my first garden visit for some nine months, with a day run by MPG and a chance to visit two venues in Surrey that lie close to each other. While winter and spring had passed and I had been able get out and potter around my own garden, I felt that craving to get out and see what others were doing.

Jo Jackson

The day was structured around a mid-morning visit to a family-run small commercial nursery run the Jackson family and an afternoon visit to a garden in a 100-acre park in Ripley, both blessed with a warm bright day and welcomes.
Daniel Jackson has a passion for cacti and succulents that goes back to a gift of a cactus in his childhood. The interest grew and he went on after school to work in a small nursey. In time he was to buy out the business from the retiring owners and expand it. Daniel was joined by Jo his wife in what is clearly a family business. On the morning we were there we were joined by their son and daughter and the local secretary of the British Cactus and Succulent Society.

The nursery extends to nine glasshouses filled with the most amazing selection of home-grown cacti and succulents. Apart from running a successful business, Daniel also holds three collections of Astroloba, Gasteria and Haworthia. In recent years he has exhibited at Hampton Court and Chelsea as well as specialist society shows. They open the nursery on certain dates for callers and small groups. Daniel is rightly proud of his own introductions- Aeonium ‘Toffee Apple’ and Aeonium ‘Night’s Watch’ both caught my eye.
Asked how things had been during lockdown, the reply was simply “We got on with things.” It became an opportunity to grow the mail order business which now markets across the UK.

A typical show display

Succulent house

Aeonium ‘night’s watch’, Chelsea 2019

One of the cacti houses

Dunsborough Park

The afternoon took the group to Dunsborough Park for a tour hosted by Head Gardener James Gillions. The garden took its present form about 25 years ago with borders designed by Penelope Hobhouse, incorporating the water gardens (developed in the 1920s) and earlier kitchen gardens. It serves not only as a private family garden but as a gallery for the display and sale of sculpture. The site is pretty flat, with the most noticeable changes in level being within the water gardens. Yew hedging is used to create structure and form and wisteria is used in standard form.

Members viewing one of the garden rooms

Water garden with bridge

A further garden glimpsed through an arch

James Gillions, Head Gardener

Tulips are widely planted as a feature (up to 20,000 a year) both formally and informally, with those lifted being replanted in the orchard area. Dahlias are also extensively planted and left in the ground to overwinter. The sandy soil and mulching help most survive, once established.
The current owners have the house and gardens up for sale.
I returned home that evening the better for the day. I never fail to learn something new on these trips or be impressed by the willingness of those who host our visits to share their enthusiasm and knowledge. Thank you, too, to Lesley Jones for arranging the day.

Some of the remaining Penelope Hobhouse design

Report and photos by MG Jones