Andi Strachan, gardener for Yeo Valley

Yeo Valley’s Andi Strachan

As head gardener at Yeo Valley organic garden, Andi’s guiding principle is to find solutions that work to nature’s advantage Portrait Andrew Montgomery

Early garden memory My Dad grew a lot of vegetables and used to give me a penny for every cabbage white caterpillar I picked off his brassicas. I made enough for a bag of sweets each week.

Advertisement

First plant love Probably trees, just any tree that I could climb. I would love to sit in a tall tree – see all the birds and insects that would come and go. That tranquillity of sitting quietly and just watching all that nature around me; I must have spent hours up trees as a kid.

Gardening in lockdown
© Annaick Gutteny

Horticultural heroes Geoff Hamilton and Lawrence Hills (founder of the Henry Doubleday Research Association) were, and still are, my heroes of horticulture. Lawrence for his pioneering work in organic horticulture. He gave us the inspiration and the will to find new ways to garden that are beneficial to nature. Geoff for his weekly enthusiasm, gentle nature, knowledge and total commitment to organic systems.

I would love to sit in a tall tree – see all the birds and insects that would come and go

Most valuable training My first training at Bournville College and with Ashram Asian Vegetables initiative, fundamentally changed my life. My tutors Laura Davies and Noor Akbari were key in taking a complete novice to someone who had the confidence to devote a working life to organic systems.

Favourite planting style I like an intelligent use of colour and for that to be the main basis for any planting style. Gertrude Jekyll’s books were what made me think more deeply about how we use colour and definitely helped me understand plant associations.

In what direction do you see horticulture heading? I think, and I hope, that many more gardeners will look for more sustainable options to look after their gardens. The plant diversity in most gardens is often far greater than the same area of natural habitat, which means that gardening can help sustain nature and be a hugely beneficial part of our national ecology as opposed to something detrimental.

Favourite gardening book One of my most recent favourites is Hidden Natural Histories: Herbs by Kim Hurst, a fantastic book and the best herb book ever written, in my opinion. Full of interesting facts and herbal usages, it was a joy to read.

Next big project you’ll be tackling in the garden We are going to tackle one of the final areas of the garden this year. The old front drive to the farmhouse. We are going to make a lovely space with water and self-seeding plants, very loose and ephemeral. Oh, and the Yeo Valley Organic Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Advertisement

Andi will be talking at our Hortus Loci Chelsea Preview Day on 24 April. 

Book for our preview of the Yeo Valley Organic show garden