Yews Farm – Fabulous garden

This ‘my’ perfect garden,  not only does it look stunning in the summer with its romantic planting, carefully chosen colour schemes and its embracing of productive vegetable beds and trained fruit but this is a garden that will keep its dignity throughout the winter months as well, with its gnarled apple trees,  clipped bay and box shapes and crisply edged lawn.  (is that sentence too long?)  Elements of this garden remind me of Hanham Court garden near Keynsham, for example it is a garden enclosed by walls and not allowed to spread beyond these, the topiary, the timber detailing of the r0se clad ‘arbour’ and the romantic planting.

The garden at Yews Farm was started in 1997 by Louise and Fergus Dowding , they started with a blank canvas only retaining the existing apple trees in this beautiful walled space. Beds are block planted as they believe this makes maintenance easier, it is one of the best approaches in our gardens at home which so few of us fail to achieve because buying 9 plants at a time of only one sort feels rather too extravagant.

Keeping maintenance low is key to Fergus and Louise; beds are not dug and well rotted manure is added to all beds annually. By maintaining a  healthy soil you improve the health of your plants “for a plant to thrive, the soil must be alive”.

Plants are not only chosen for their colour but also for their form, for example clipped shapes, Hydrangea quercifolia, Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’, ferns, Dracunculus, Paulonia, Yucca, Globe artichoke, Helleborus corsicus, Eryngium, Euphorbia mellifera, Eucomis (most of these were in the gravel ‘jungle’ garden), whilst white flowering plants are used along a shady path.

Self seeding is allowed in this garden as this does reduce maintenance however Louise is ruthless, if a plant fails it will not be replaced similarly if a plant is not quite right, it will not be kept either. A hidden away cutting garden might be a place for those outcasts! Good plants for self seeding include Eryngium ‘Miss Willmott’s Ghost’, Allium Christophii and Hellebores.

Other plants that impressed were:
Ligusticum lucidum Rosa ‘Eden’ (cream, pink, green) – a recent French bred climbing rose
Iris ‘Kent Pride’ (lovely blue tinge to base of leaves)
Rosa ‘Hot Chocolate’ (dark rusty orange / red with different interesting tones)
Dryopteris erythrosora (the Autumn fern)
Nicotiana langsdorffii

Tips (and cider tipples) shared with us by Fergus:
1. Hostas tend to stay slug free if grown on gravel but where their leaves are not touching other plants (which creates a slug bridge).
2. Manure from silage fed cows tends to be less weedy than field grazing cows
3. Louise is using horticultural grade Neam oil insecticide / soap against box blight

notes and photos by Angela Morley (