Friday 24th September 2021
First organic show garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show encourages gardeners to put nature first
We created the first organic show garden approved by the Soil Association for the 2021 RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
Highlighting the importance of looking after nature and the health of our soil, the Yeo Valley Organic Garden is designed by Tom Massey, and supported by our very own Sarah Mead. It is inspired by the real Yeo Valley organic garden and farm here in Blagdon, Somerset, and shows how choosing organic and taking small steps to work with nature, makes a positive impact on wildlife and plant biodiversity.
Mirroring the diversity of life found on our organic dairy farm and garden in the valley, the garden features a range of habitats and plants to encourage wildlife and support pollinators. It offers plenty of ideas on how gardeners can give nature a helping hand in their own gardens.
Our Yeo Valley Organic Garden is one of the largest organically certified ornamental gardens in the UK. Key features of the Somerset garden recreated at Chelsea include an open perennial meadow brimming with flowering plants and a glade of silver birch.
The design also features charred logs (which will become biochar after the show) used as garden markers and rammed earth walls as boundaries, both highlighting the importance of soil health – something that is often overlooked – and the role this plays in tackling climate change and global biodiversity collapse.
Tom explains: “The soil plays a pivotal role in our fight to reverse climate change but the world of microscopic activity under our feet is often overlooked. Carbon is the building block of all life and as gardeners we need to be reminded of the role we play in locking carbon into the soil, where it can help sustain life for generations to come. We want to create a beautiful garden that inspires visitors to think about using more sustainable gardening practices. September is one of the most wonderful times of year in the garden and so it is extra special to be part of the first, and most likely only, Chelsea in September.”
A steam-bent egg-shaped wooden hide, designed and created by celebrated Cornish sculptor Tom Raffield, provides a focal point and an elevated place to observe the garden and the wildlife it supports. The egg hide will be making its way to Somerset after the show finishes to become a permanent feature of the organic garden.
Tom Massey had originally designed the garden for RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2020, but when this was cancelled and then the 2021 show postponed, he and Sarah modified the planting plan to suit the later season. The result is a rich tapestry of late summer perennials such as dahlias, heleniums and rudbeckia; a gauzy haze of ornamental grasses; and trees and shrubs in full fruit such as medlar and rose.
It is a dream come true for Sarah to bring a slice of Yeo Valley to Chelsea. While she is passionate about spreading the organic message, above all she wants to bring a sense of fun. She’s also keen to send visitors away with plenty of practical ideas on adopting easy organic principles in their own gardens and window boxes at home.
Sarah says: “We’ve been quietly growing and farming organically for many years now and we know it has huge benefits for the environment, particularly in safeguarding the soil and supporting pollinators and wildlife. We’re not in the business of telling people how to live, but we see that even small steps make a difference. We are so excited to bring our organic credentials and experience, with the backing of the Soil Association, to the world’s greatest flower show. Now is the perfect time to start shouting a bit louder about the benefits of growing and buying organic and putting nature first in everything we do.”
The environmental impact of taking the garden to and from Chelsea had to be thought about and so the garden will be coming back to the valley to be re-homed in our garden. The hard landscaping materials, including biochar logs, are coming from and returning to the farm, the sculptural ‘egg’ will be installed in pride of place in Sarah’s gravel garden for visitors to enjoy into the future, while the plants will be integrated with the current display. Importantly on the environmental front, we added homemade biochar, a proven soil improver, to the organic potting mix used to grow the organic plants for the show. The use of biochar locks additional carbon into the soil and its beneficial qualities demonstrate the importance of soil health. Healthy soil is important to all our futures, especially as we tackle global pandemics, a changing climate and biodiversity decline.
You can find out more about our 2021 RHS Chelsea Flower Show garden, and the journey to design and build it, by clicking here to go to our Chelsea hub.
You can visit us in our organic garden in Somerset, find out more here