Visit to Yeo Valley Organic Gardens in March 2023

Primroses pale under distant hedges and roadside banks, magnolia trees beginning to bloom. Bright daffodils and pasture turning emerald green, flock of blackest sheep, and trees waking up, some orange and others acid green. Tamed Somerset, county of dairies, mistletoe hung trees, lush hedged fields leading to gentle wooded ridges.

Plant stalls: gentle hues of blue, white, pink and green behind which is the all-important compost zoning.  Raised beds and hard landscaping softened by spring bulbs and vegetable planting.  Rusting metal work for supporting, ornate smithing, copper beach hedging and pleached trees.  Roses are twirled around more metal work and symmetry is found in a long pond where a man squats, holding onto a pole against the backdrop of a Mendip ridge. Ornamental grasses with metal seed pods adding interest aside from soggy paths and a cockerel indicates ‘way out – man’.

In the orchard oversize chairs from the land of Jeff Koons await clambering children under the gaze of golden hound.  Beyond, a bridge leads to winding path through yellow daffodils, ornate and multi coloured hellebores, beneath stream-side gnarled and twisted winter trees.  In the distance a grand village church tower glimpses through bud bursting thicket leading to a less salubrious metal watch tower. 

Beehives are tucked away from wind behind a wall of twigs and branches, or perhaps to protect guests from adventurers on the wing, who may not enter a yurt with a bright pink door and a handle which used to dig. The high gates to this field of daffodils are a patchwork of discarded planks laid out in warp and weft but without weaving.

A diagonal trained hedged avenue with views of Blagdon Lake forks to a fairy tale wood of closely packed silver birch underplanted with the blues of anemone and scilla, the path leading to a large metal mirror of distortion, a magical place. Alternatively pass to open ground of grasses, pond, stream, gravel, rock and pot, where an oak egg pod suspended from rusting post is sited above deepest red gunnera, before reaching a formal path and steps edged by ornately trained tree, and topiary bushed terrace.  Here succulents reside high on re-purposed corrugated tin and a shed of prickly cacti catch the sun. Yew trees stand guard in recycled tin tanks on wheels and a glass ball set on harsh hard landscaping trickles water.

Around the side of the house euphorbia create a lush pathway to the front door and an unexpected bumptious pear.  Doleful dragons, topiary Moomins, perhaps they are dogs, sit either side of the steps together with repurposed, painted trash bins filled with hyacinths.  Looking down over a redundant cow trough, now a water tank, are topiary portraits of the inhabitants?

A lush path leads to a corner bed of white hellebores and three exotic plants cradled in wooden supports beneath a twisted tree of fine quality.  Beneath glossy leaves, steps take one up and over a mound past the shingle roof of a shaded garden room, flying trout atop, below is a surprise worth investigating.  Two otters play beside a waterfall and are reflected in the mirrored rear wall of the garden room, a place of secrets and shadow.  While much is recycled, up-cycled and re-purposed there is humour everywhere not least in the lavatory and canteen signage, where the menu was limited but warming.

The day was cool and overcast at a time of year when a garden is not at its best but this one had so many unexpected delights and quirks, the only thing missing was a garden plan and my knowledge of garden plants.

Article and photographs copyright Sarah Herring