Wells Voice Article November 2021

According to Keats we are in the middle of the season of “mists and mellow fruitfulness”. Heaven knows what the Romantic reaction would be to the current climatic upheaval. But then, as the man said, “what are Keats?”

One dullish morning of last month, the mists over the Mendips lifted as members’ cars dropped down into the Avon valley towards Chelwood on a visit to those magnificent gardens of Lady Farm. As the enthusiastic owner Judy Pearce led us around the site on various levels it was abundantly clear why this garden is so highly rated. It has everything to appeal to a variety of garden enthusiasts; a topiary enclosure of clipped hedging and box balls, wide lawns sweeping down to ponds and lakes, large plantings of herbaceous mixed with grasses, mature trees beautifully positioned to enhance the whole prospect.

The first time that the club paid a visit was at least a couple of decades ago when our guide was Mary Payne who had designed the huge border in the new prairie style and introduced us to the name of Piet Oudolf. Grasses are now more familiar to us as is the name of Oudolf with his design in Bruton and internationally. These influences get toned down and incorporated according to the individual taste and needs of each gardener, whether amateur or professional. As they are at Lady Farm, where coffee and excellent cake baked by Judy’s husband, Malcolm, rounded off a morning of delights. 

The previous month saw us a little further to the west at Holt Farm, the resplendent gardens of Yeo Valley Farmers in Blagdon. Furthermore, this organic garden was the inspiration for a Gold winning award at Chelsea which to Somerset’s gratification also won the People's Choice Award in the face of fierce competition. Again, the influence of the prairie was evident.

Add to these the lovely gardens of Watcombe, the Bishop’s Palace, Stoberry and Milton Lodge, and Wells Gardening Club calendar of events for 2021 saw off the dullness of the restrictions we were and are all enduring. Thanks to Sue Campbell for whose enthusiasm and planning we owe much of our gardening pleasure this year.

Next year’s programme presents another challenge. Various events are being pencilled in and we live in hope that these will all take place in normal circumstances. We have a number of special guest speakers in mind including Helen Yemm and Timothy Walker of Somerville College, and are trusting the greater picture will not interfere. At the time of writing, an Indian Summer is brightening this elongated autumn and wiping out the memory of those dull rainy days which was, as Alan Bennett wrote, “like living inside Tupperware”. Pip