Yeo Valley Organic Garden

Meet Zelah, Our Gardener

Tuesday 5th October 2021

Yeo Valley Organic Garden
Zelah in the Organic Garden

When I look back at how I got into gardening, I can see now that it was a gradual process which developed from my life circumstances. I had a baby at 18, so my education had to be put on hold, and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. My mum had always told me how important it was to choose your career wisely, as I would be doing it most of my life, and with her support I was able to test out a few options. Unfortunately none of these led to the glittering career I had in mind, and the conundrum of having to keep everything afloat remained.

I had always been an outdoor person, spending many hours of my childhood on my parents’ allotment, but my interest in gardening really started, like many others I suspect, when I bought my first house. For the first time I had this space that was mine to do what I wanted with – well, along with my 8 year old daughter and my loveable yet troubled, alcoholic father who I was also looking after. Many grand garden plans were made over cups of tea/wine! We were considering using the old shed as a workshop, as I was training to be a Silversmith (my latest endeavour), but then the garden took over…

It became the place where I wanted to be – away from the stresses and strains of an incredibly challenging period of my life. The shed filled up with forks, spades and hoes instead of jewellers’ pliers and soldering irons. I had a light bulb moment and realised that Horticulture encompassed all the things that were most important to me; being outside, active and creative – whilst nurturing the environment. This, in turn, nurtured my physical and mental health and I felt that I’d finally found my calling.

Gardening was a chance to be outside, active and creative.

I trained as a Garden Designer, as my Dad thought that gardening would be too hard work to make a living from. Nevertheless, I also did the RHS Level 2 in Horticulture and was lucky to have a very skillful teacher called Tim Foster. His enthusiasm and good humour made for a very inspiring learning experience. As luck would have it, an old school friend took me on as a Junior Garden Designer just as she was about to enter a garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. I went along to help with the plants but must admit that I spent more time nosing around the other stands as they were being built. It was a very exciting start to my new career.

During my first year, I was given the task of looking after some of the private gardens we had designed. I still can’t quite believe that I was let loose with my secateurs but it really helped to increase my gardening knowledge. I spent a lot of time looking up and learning about plants. It wasn’t always easy to tell which ones were the weeds, and there was A LOT of trial and error, but I started to become more adept.

The offers for gardening work started rolling in. I took a leap of faith setting up as a Self-Employed Gardener and, 10 years of hard work and an RHS Diploma later, ended up at Yeo Valley Organic Garden

Yeo Valley Organic Garden Vegetables
Veg from our Organic Garden

– one of the most beautiful places you could imagine! I was promptly thrown in at the deep end and asked to look after the formal veg garden which was great fun, but also slightly terrifying as I had never grown veg on that scale before. It has to be productive, as we supply the Tea Room, staff canteen and some of our events, but also beautiful for the thousands of customers that come to view the garden.

Apart from the veg garden we have a glasshouse, cut flower garden, formal lawns and flower borders, wildflower meadows, woodland walks, a huge gravel garden and the birch grove – which I especially love. It has a simple but striking and majestic impact when you first walk in and a very calm atmosphere. Being situated on a working farm means the smell of cow poo can occasionally be a bit ripe, but it’s hard to complain when you work here! Plus, we also use the well rotted manure on our beds and borders so even the cows play their part in the garden. Gardening has always brought me joy and I can’t imagine ever stopping.

You can find out more about our Organic Garden and how to visit us by clicking here for the Organic Garden page.

Comments on “Meet Zelah, Our Gardener”

  • Zelah, thank you for sharing your inspirational story. It couldn’t have come at a better time as I’m currently undergoing a career change at the ripe “young” age of 45 😉 Your story reminds me why I am doing this… it’s about finding that thing that fires you up, that makes you feel fulfilled and like your life is on purpose.
    What a wonderful company for you to be putting all of this energy and passion of yours into. I wish you many filling years ahead xx

    Maryna Warren on 18th October 2021 at 1:47 pm

  • Zelah I feel I need to come and join you, your blog is an inspiration. I dabble but would love to know more and I believe you would understand how to encourage and neuter an amateur.

    Anonymous on 15th October 2021 at 8:09 am

  • Hi Zelah! Thank you for sharing your story. It’s really inspiring! Well done for the hard work involved to get this far. I wish you the best and thanks again!

    Frances on 13th October 2021 at 6:29 pm

  • I really enjoyed reading this post Zelah. Your story is very interesting, heart-warming, inspiring and uplifting. Thank you. I look forward to visiting the gardens one day.

    Anonymous on 13th October 2021 at 5:34 pm

  • Always a huge joy to read about somone who has found their gift and passion,
    Thank you!

    David Astley Withers on 13th October 2021 at 5:31 pm

  • Great story,
    Wish You still tended private gardens!!

    I work in mental health do have some understanding of you processes here.

    I’m still smarting from ‘gardeners’ who have destroyed things like my beautiful fragrant Clematis Montana, did not conforming sand finish my path (despite saying they knew how) and planted some or another grass weeds here!!!!!

    Really like the ethos of the company….my grandchildren adore ‘lemon moghurt’ as they call it.

    Much power to Yeo Valley and to yourself.

    Caroline Holt on 13th October 2021 at 10:53 am

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