Yeo Valley gravel garden – a little-known gem

by Jane on September 27, 2017

Yeo Valley, the company that produces organic dairy products, has a gravel garden and organic cafe in the countryside south of Bristol.  It’s a beautiful, open area near Blagdon Lake.

It’s only open Thursdays and Fridays from 29th April to Sept 30th – but it’s worth diarising a visit.  It’s £5 entry.  A few plants are for sale in the car park, and there is a great little ‘car garden’ as you go in:

Garden in a Mini

There are veg beds near the cafe, growing what’s needed for lunch:

and some of the growing techniques are ingenious.  Wool from their sheep is used to keep out slugs:

Below this are herb beds and one of the several wrought iron sculptures that are integrated into the gardens.

Herb beds and fountain sculpture

The place is pretty child-friendly, with a little grass garden and a straw bale maze:

Straw bale maze

OK, now (after a nice quiche lunch) on to the main garden.  A pair of fiery beds follow the veg beds, with a nice combination of deep red dahlias, day lilies, crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ and pittosporum ‘Tom Thumb’ with its deep purple older leaves and lime green new shoots.

Red border

Two red beds

Then to the main gravel garden, constructed with gentle hillocks and island beds which one walks over and round.

Some lovely agastache in the foreground, with the blue globes of echinops behind:

Terrible photo below but verbascums nicely contrasting with a haze of pale purple verbena bonariensis:

Contrasting shrubs in flower – a hydrangea paniculata with its conical white flowers, and berberis thunbergii ‘Rose Glow’:

Hydrangea and pink berberis

And lastly, some quirky ‘accessories’:

Pretty iron gate of 'grasses'

Cabinet of succulent plants framed with wood 'curtains' like a theatre

I hope you have gained some ideas out of this post, even if you haven’t got such a huge space to fill.  If you want to buy some late summer plants like these, now is a good time to establish them in your garden before the winter, so they have a head start in spring.

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How do you tell whether the plants you see on sale are any good?

I have just been sent a generous sample box of evergreen hedging for review from Hopes Grove Nurseries. Looking on their website, they say they are the largest specialist hedging grower in the UK, only selling direct to the end user. I thought readers might like to know how to evaluate plants in a nursery, so here is my review.

Hopes Grove sent me a photo of their sample:

Hedge sample in nursery

And this is what I got:

Hedge sample I received

Which is pretty like the promise! In the box, I got two samples each of regular box (buxus sempervirens), dwarf box (buxus sempervirens ‘Fruticosa’), euonymus ‘Emerald n’Gold’, yew (taxus baccata) and Golden Japanese Holly (ilex crenata ‘Golden Gem’).

Looking at the RHS book on hedges, its advice on examining plants before buying is to examine roots and top growth.  One examines the roots by taking the plant out of its pot; it should have a well-developed root ball, but not be pot-bound.  There is a fine line sometimes between these two, and a few of the pots overstepped it a little with roots tightly packed in the pots, but the plants all had well-developed roots.  The top growth should be ‘robust, closely-branched and healthy’ with ‘no sign of pests or disease’.  All the samples fulfilled this except one pot of the Golden Japanese Holly which I thought was slightly sparse on top, but still mostly healthy  Here are some of the samples:


Above is the dwarf box (Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’ which is good for edging when you want a low, formal hedge.  A healthy plant, just slightly pot-bound.

Above is Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald n’Gold’ – as you can see, a healthy, well-formed plant.

Lastly, this is the Golden Japanese Holly (Ilex crenata ‘Golden Gem’.  It seems to have a more branching habit than box, but it can be clipped in the same way and is a useful substitute as it does not get box blight.  The species plant Ilex crenata is green; this one has gold leaves though the sample did have green leaves underneath.  I would cut this back a bit on planting so it grows more densely from the bottom, thus making a better hedge.

The box and yew were both healthy and well-branched.

All of these are good plants for an all-green evergreen hedge, and Hopes Grove should be happy with their plants.

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Canons Ashby: a Baroque garden in open country

July 13, 2017

For my birthday in May, I spent the day at my nearest stately home and gardens – a small ‘stately home’ but one with an unspoilt feel, as it is not much altered since it was built in the 1550s.  Canons Ashby used to be a twelfth century priory, and the medieval priory church still […]

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Update on the meadow, and May blossom

May 25, 2017

The meadow has changed radically from April to May. In April the bluebells overpowered everything else. Unfortunately Spanish ones, hard to eradicate – I take care they don’t spread beyond the garden as there is a danger they cross-pollinate with our native bluebells, almost unique to Britain. In May, I am reaping the benefits of […]

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Porcelain – the new wonder paving material

February 7, 2017

 You may think of exquisite Chinese pots, or bathroom tiles – smooth and slippery – when you think of porcelain. But porcelain is now a fantastic non-slip material for paving, in all kinds of finishes. It’s made of earth and ground up stone, basically quartz, kaolin, feldspar and clay, fired in a hot oven then […]

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How to get ideas for your garden

January 7, 2017

It’s nearly time for gardens to come alive again. If you have recently moved, or want a change, you may be thinking how best to use your plot when it gets warmer. Where do you start? Magazines like Gardener’s World may seem overwhelming if you are not familiar with gardening or want advice on layout, […]

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Mediterranean planting with a difference

July 27, 2016

Now is the height of the season for plants from the Mediterranean – suiting that warm but temperate climate that features mild, wet winters and hot dry summers. I aim to post this in time for you to get ideas for your garden when you go on holiday. Whether we will eventually have this climate […]

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Tropical gardens

June 29, 2016

Now that it’s been pouring down for weeks, and we all want to go anywhere warm, here is an article from ‘Houzz’ about how to get a tropical feel in your garden.

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Action Week for Flowering Blossom (and Chelsea)

May 31, 2016

It’s time for the countryside to explode in frothy blossom. The Northamptonshire hedgerows are decked out like a wedding cake in creamy white hawthorn blossom, with masses of cow parsley flowering below it. The artist David Hockney called this short period of time ‘action week’, as everything seemed to come out at once after the […]

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Trees for small gardens

April 15, 2016

I have been designing a planting plan for a small garden, about 9m across by 11m deep, overlooked by other houses as are many new gardens nowadays. The problem is that to provide a screen one must also cut down on sunlight a little, as the garden faces southwest. I have included a tree on […]

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