Burrow Farm Gardens, East Devon


It may still be early in the season for garden visiting, but isn’t that often the best time for inspiration?

Burrow Farm (here) is a privately owned 13 acre garden nestled in rolling hills between the towns of Axminster and Honiton. Originally a traditional dairy farm worked by John and Mary Berger, the fields nearest the house have gradually succumbed to Mary’s passion for gardening. What is now the woodland garden was originally an old Roman clay pit. Full of brambles and deemed unsuitable for farming, it was one of the areas that Mary homed in on first and has now been under cultivation for over 50 years.





But it is Mary’s eye for contrast, not just in colour but in form and texture too, which makes this garden so special. Everywhere you look the planting knits together in an exquisite tapestry, even in this cold, late Spring when so much has still to come fully into leaf.




It was a masterclass, just as I start to think about incorporating more shrubs into my own woodland garden and how to combine them to best effect. I even found myself admiring rhododendrons.. right plant, right place. Exactly as they would be found growing in the wild, given space to soar up to their full height, bold colour glimpsed from a distance through the trees, tempting the viewer to explore further down the path.



Long time readers of the blog might recall the rather strident red azalea which dominates the terraces chez rusty duck. Mine is not out yet, so I still have time. Could this be the perfect companion to quell the azalea’s histrionic tendencies .. a euphorbia? It would take its place on the eastern most boundary of the lower terrace, right in the path of that set of tracks I found left in the snow last month. Ha! Checkmate.



Lysichiton americanus beside the woodland pond.

It’s the second time this week I have enjoyed this spectacle, the yellow skunk cabbage is currently brightening up a shady marshy area at RHS Rosemoor too. These days it is not recommended for planting in the UK and you can easily see why. It can rapidly become invasive. But there is no requirement to remove it where it has already become established and it is one of the truly glorious sights of early Spring.



Ducks are a recurrent theme in this garden. As if I needed any further confirmation that I’d come to the right place.



These two were less obliging for the photographer.

The previous denizens of the lake were sadly taken by foxes so perhaps they have a reason to be cautious. And moorhens have apparently just moved in and taken over their nest box. That wouldn’t make your day either.



The long view down to the lake



Hellebores line a path through the woodland garden



The summerhouse, built in 2002.




Burrow Farm has its more formal areas too. The rill in the Millennium Garden.



With a wonderful view of the hills beyond.



Chaenomeles, the flowering quince.


Each part of the garden has been developed with its own season of interest. While there is plenty enough to engage and inspire in early Spring, there is more still to come. The rose garden, the terrace garden, the wildflower meadow, the grasses garden, they’re all quietly awaiting their own moment to shine.



And you know the best bit? They have a nursery area too. Packed full of exciting and unusual plants.

Well, it would have been rude not to. Wouldn’t it.