The opportunity: A chance to spend the day at Yeo Valley Organic Garden in the company of its creator Sarah Mead and award-winning designer Tom Massey as they tour the gardens, answer your questions, and reveal their upcoming Yeo Valley Organic Show Garden for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Your hosts: The able and highly-skilled staff of the garden and – of course – the Gardens Illustrated magazine and website team!
The day began with a casual tea or coffee served in the garden’s fabulous open-sided restaurant and patio area, affording a stunning view of the central spine linking the garden’s entrance to the house and its facilities, and the perfect allotment gardens below.
Time for the tour
After a welcome from Gardens Illustrated‘s Acting Editor Sorrel Everton, a full tour of the gardens began with Sarah and Tom leading the group from feature to feature, outlining each’s history and bold plans for future development while answering questions and naming the fabulous specimens for attendees looking to grow their own.
The compost production area proved of considerable interest as Sarah outlined Yeo’s 100% organic ethos and just some of the secrets behind producing organic compost in such prodigious bulk required by the gardens. Needless to say, Yeo’s famous herd of dairy cows – the not-so-secret ingredient in their 100% organic yogurt – play their vital part but the addition of on-site produced biochar was an interesting new twist (more later).
A garden of surprises
The mix of gardening styles and surprises are breath-taking at Yeo with highlights including the fabulous shady, tucked-away Birch Wood Garden, packed with perfect silver birch, and last seen providing inspiration when featured on the BBC gardening show Your Garden Made Perfect.
Similarly censorious was the BGB – or Big Grass Bed – a long and winding tight pathway of blind turns through an above-head-height bed of verdant long grasses and the party were encouraged to enter and enjoy being at one with the nature all around them as they made their way through to the journey’s end.
RHS Chelsea Flower Show preview
After a fabulous two course lunch (best brownie ever?) Tom and Sarah provided a presentation on the latest designs for their upcoming RHS Chelsea Flower Show garden. The pair spelled out the winding story of the garden’s creation so far as the May 2020 Chelsea show was shuttered, only for the May 2021 show to similarly slide out of reach.
It’s worth remembering that this will be Chelsea’s first ever wholly organic show garden and the stakes are high to produce something that bests the boosted gardens elsewhere but makes good on the organic promise while delivering suitably show-stopping results.
The good news is that Tom and Sarah’s garden is most definitely back for September 2021 and looking better than ever as changes required by the September slot afforded the team new possibilities and options.
One such major change made possible through the switch is the use of biochar in the Yeo Valley garden, replacing the previously planned rock and stone elements. Now charred wooden walls will frame the distinct areas of the garden, biochar being a valuable and useful addition to compost, retaining moisture and nutrients that are accessible to plants.
A recent expansion of the Yeo Valley Organic Garden gave the team acres of ash affected by dieback and investment in a bespoke burner has produced enough biochar to not only help the plants to perfection but to provide an arresting and beautiful wholly organic backdrop for planting too.
Your questions answered
After the presentation Tom and Sarah were joined by plant expert Marina Christopher for a lively hour-long Q&A chaired by Acting Editor Sorrel Everton as she fielded questions from the group.
Both questions and answers came thick and fast as advice and tips were swapped between attendees and presenters alike!
Relaxation and retail therapy
A quick cake break later and the group were able to explore further under their own steam and take advantage of the goodies in the Yeo Valley shop, including a selection of Marina’s own plants transported to the event especially for our attendees.
All in all a fabulous day and a great opportunity for the Gardens Illustrated team to meet and greet our readers. Thanks to all those that attended!
Full gallery below and highlights movie coming soon…