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.


2018-04-15T09:58:11+00:00April 12th, 2018|Tags: |


  1. Jill Chandler April 12, 2018 at 10:53 am - Reply

    How lovely. Thanks for sharing that one. Cant wait to see what you indulged in.

    • Jessica April 14, 2018 at 8:07 am - Reply

      It was a lovely place, I came home with lots of ideas. Too many!

  2. grammapenny April 12, 2018 at 12:47 pm - Reply

    Oh my….. the gate in the last photo would have been worth the trip alone…. hope you purchased some lovelies

    • Jessica April 14, 2018 at 8:09 am - Reply

      Isn’t it fabulous? You can just see the other side of the gate in the shot of the Millennium garden.

  3. susurrus April 12, 2018 at 1:46 pm - Reply

    Very rude… you had no choice. Those skunk cabbages are spectacular. I nearly slipped into a ditch trying to take a picture of one earlier this week. What I’d have done faced with so many, I really don’t know.

    • Jessica April 14, 2018 at 8:12 am - Reply

      They do seem to favour boggy places. They also have the look of something that would be very difficult to remove if you had to. I hope you survived with dignity intact!

  4. Jacqueline Mumford April 12, 2018 at 1:48 pm - Reply

    Beautiful Jessica … parts of it remind me of your garden. That summerhouse looks like it’s been there for hundreds of years and I love that arched gate.
    You would have been a very bad visitor not to have popped in to the nursery and an even ruder one not to have purchased a few plants !!! XXXX

    • Jessica April 14, 2018 at 8:14 am - Reply

      They have a plant fair today so they were well stocked. I couldn’t have wished for better timing 🙂

  5. Jennifer April 12, 2018 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    You had no choice whatsoever, nobody would. I can’t get over those azaleas, how stunning! What an incredible place, thank you for sharing.

    • Jessica April 14, 2018 at 8:16 am - Reply

      I saw the plant centre on the way in and there was no way I was going to miss it. I think I have an addiction. There are worse ones.

  6. Mark and Gaz April 12, 2018 at 2:44 pm - Reply

    Nothing like plant shopping to finish off a beautiful garden visit!

    • Jessica April 14, 2018 at 8:18 am - Reply

      Indeed. I would feel rather cheated if unable to take home a souvenir. Or several!

  7. Peter Herpst April 12, 2018 at 3:31 pm - Reply

    The combinations are divine! Love the euphorbia/azalea and the holly, photinia, and rhododendron. Another glorious garden. No, indeed, one would not want to be rude. Inquiring minds want to know what came home to grow in your garden.

    • Jessica April 14, 2018 at 8:21 am - Reply

      Last week there were several indulgences I’m afraid. I will try and get a list together for the next post.

  8. Heyjude April 12, 2018 at 4:25 pm - Reply

    What a lovely wander with you, and such a great door in the wall at the end. Gardens that sell plants are soooo very tempting. I managed to ignore some succulents the other week, but I am of a mind to go back now the weather is warming up.

    • Jessica April 14, 2018 at 8:24 am - Reply

      There is nothing more infuriating than leaving plants behind. It nags at you forever doesn’t it? There is only one cure, you’ll have to go back.

  9. bumbleandme April 12, 2018 at 4:54 pm - Reply

    What a treat! X

    • Jessica April 14, 2018 at 8:25 am - Reply

      First of many this season I reckon. For research purposes, naturally.

  10. Ali April 12, 2018 at 5:02 pm - Reply

    Beautiful pictures. I love the summerhouse and the gate! I’ve written a post about euphorbia, if you are tempted! It is the perfect partner for a red azalea!

    • Jessica April 14, 2018 at 8:27 am - Reply

      I must grow more euphorbia. I do love them. And even better nothing eats them! I’ll definitely catch up with your post. I’m a bit behind at the moment 🙁

  11. Anna April 12, 2018 at 6:40 pm - Reply

    Oh thanks for the guided tour Jessica. Garden name added to the must visit list if we find ourselves in that neck of the woods. Of course you had to leave with plants in your paws. You were only doing your civic duty.

    • Jessica April 14, 2018 at 8:31 am - Reply

      I knew you’d see it my way Anna. It was also lovely to see a private nursery selling the more unusual species. As I said to Mike at the time, I could have spent a fortune. He turned rather a funny colour so I thought I’d better not.

  12. Caro April 12, 2018 at 7:40 pm - Reply

    You can’t go wrong with euphorbia, it goes with everything. Looks amazing next to the irises in my washing line (drought) border. This garden looks the perfect antidote to spring; I’m now going to line a path with all the hundreds of hellebore seedlings that I have but I fear copying the summerhouse will be beyond me. Looks like it’s been there far longer than 2002!

    • Jessica April 14, 2018 at 1:51 pm - Reply

      The paths through the woodland were lovely and I can see me doing exactly the same with all the hellebore seedlings that seem to have come up this year. I’m just thinking of all the work involved, especially on a slope. Worth it though, wandering through the woodland at Burrow Farm was such a delight.

  13. Kris P April 12, 2018 at 7:41 pm - Reply

    All I can do when I see broad garden spaces (not to speak of lakes!) like this is sigh, Jessica. It feels as though you live on a different planet, not just a different country. Over time, I’ve become more enthusiastic about adding shrubs (and perennial ornamental grasses) to provide definition in my own garden too. As to the nursery, skipping it wouldn’t have been so much rude as criminal! What did you bring home?

    • Jessica April 14, 2018 at 2:35 pm - Reply

      I shall get a list together for the next post. I’m trying to get the new acquisitions in the ground as quickly as possible, but finding so many other jobs along the way, as you do! Spring has suddenly sprung with a vengeance here and I’m totally overwhelmed.

  14. snowbird April 12, 2018 at 7:45 pm - Reply

    What a delightful place, I can only imagine what it looks like in summer. Such breathtaking views! Loved the gate in the stone wall. Oh, I agree, it would have been highly offensive not to have indulged! Wonder what you bought?xxx

    • Jessica April 14, 2018 at 2:37 pm - Reply

      Yes, I shall have to go back in summer I think. And autumn. With the possibility of more indulgence. Oh dear.

  15. Anne April 12, 2018 at 9:34 pm - Reply

    What a beautiful garden. I hope you went home with some treats from the nursery. Have fun showing your red azalea who is in charge. X

    • Jessica April 14, 2018 at 2:40 pm - Reply

      I fear the azalea knows very well who is in charge and it isn’t me! But I moved it a couple of years back and it does actually serve a purpose at the end of the border. It draws the eye into the distance. The addition of euphorbia can only enhance the effect.

  16. Linda from Each Little World April 12, 2018 at 9:47 pm - Reply

    Every view was better than the last. Lots of inspiration.

    • Jessica April 14, 2018 at 2:41 pm - Reply

      Indeed. If only the to-do list that came out of it was as easy to achieve.

  17. Brenda April 12, 2018 at 10:17 pm - Reply

    Wow. Mary really had an eye that I admire. I love your use of the word “tapestry” to describe these gardens–she really wove in the contrasts to make a gorgeous whole. On another note, we have lots of skunk cabbage here, but I’ve never seen the yellow version. Good luck with the euphorbia taming the azalea exuberance. Azaleas don’t take kindly to being toned down. They will probably devour the euphorbia one night when you aren’t looking.

    • Jessica April 14, 2018 at 2:49 pm - Reply

      Mary is still very active in the garden. I can only hope that a lifetime of gardening has a similar effect on me. Yes, the azalea certainly knows its power. Its season is brief. But unforgettable. Seared into the retina for the rest of the year.

  18. Susan Garrett April 12, 2018 at 10:35 pm - Reply

    Lovely photos and a lovely garedn

    • Jessica April 14, 2018 at 2:50 pm - Reply

      Thanks Sue.

  19. wherefivevalleysmeet April 12, 2018 at 10:35 pm - Reply

    Love the rill with the splendid view beyond, I wonder just what plants might have returned home with you?

    • Jessica April 14, 2018 at 2:51 pm - Reply

      The rill leads the eye beautifully to the view.
      Too many!

  20. Cortney April 12, 2018 at 11:42 pm - Reply

    Loving their borrowed views and collection of shrubs. Thank you for sharing!

    • Jessica April 15, 2018 at 9:39 am - Reply

      It was the shrubs that caught my eye. I may inundate you with shrubs this year, all part of the learning process!

  21. Finn Clausen April 13, 2018 at 6:00 am - Reply

    New to your site. What a lovely and inspirational site you have build. Greetings from Denmark

    • Jessica April 15, 2018 at 9:40 am - Reply

      Hello Finn. Thank you, and welcome!

  22. Jayne Hill April 13, 2018 at 9:43 am - Reply

    That looks absolutely gorgeous, definitely one to return to. I don’t envy you narrow Devon lanes, or hoards of visitors, and I don’t believe you have any proper pointy bits of rock (sorry, Tors don’t count as mountains) but I DO envy your early season colour and what always seems like a much longer growing season than we have.

    • Jessica April 15, 2018 at 9:42 am - Reply

      It’s taken its time coming this year, I was losing patience. I just hope that now Spring has finally made an appearance she will choose to linger.

  23. derrickjknight April 13, 2018 at 10:45 am - Reply

    Inspiration, indeed. As is your photography – always. I really like the varieties of euphorbia we have

    • Jessica April 15, 2018 at 9:43 am - Reply

      Thanks Derrick.

  24. derrickjknight April 13, 2018 at 10:45 am - Reply

    I meant to describe euphorbia as sculptural

    • Jessica April 15, 2018 at 9:44 am - Reply

      They are, almost architectural. And better yet, nothing eats them!

  25. germac4 April 13, 2018 at 12:27 pm - Reply

    Nothing quite like a walk around an English garden in Spring … Wonderful….so thanks for the tour .. and some parts are like your garden. I was crazy enough to plant a rhododendron in our garden years ago … Wrong country for that one! What is it about gardening? .. You always want a little of what you can’t have! Happy planting in Spring.. 😀

    • Jessica April 15, 2018 at 9:47 am - Reply

      I will swop you rhododendron for Kangaroo Paws anytime. I did actually see some of those growing this week, under glass. And Grevillea ‘Canberra Gem’. Ah, Cornwall. They can get away with so much more than I can.

  26. Pauline April 13, 2018 at 3:25 pm - Reply

    Thank you for sharing your visit with us, the last time I went, the Millenium garden had just been finished, so that is quite a while ago. The views are stunning and the garden is so beautiful, no matter what time of year you go. My yellow skunk cabbage only has 2 flowers on it, it doesn’t seem to want to spread, maybe I should be grateful !

    • Jessica April 15, 2018 at 9:50 am - Reply

      Yellow skunk cabbage is a beautiful plant, you are lucky to have it. It does seem to like it very wet. Both places I’ve seen it this week were pretty much waterlogged. I have just the spot too but as it’s close to the river I doubt those downstream would thank me.

  27. smallsunnygarden April 13, 2018 at 5:45 pm - Reply

    I can only sigh over that lovely rill… let alone the summerhouse and that luscious gate… It’s certainly a reminder that I need to finish my very amateur bits of hardscaping – if I liked concrete pavers better, it would probably already be done! 😉
    The plantings seem so well balanced with the long views across the hills. Thank you for the beautiful tour!

    • Jessica April 15, 2018 at 9:53 am - Reply

      Anything that involves hardscaping is a daunting task. The Millennium Garden apparently took two years to complete. So there is hope for us yet!

  28. hb April 14, 2018 at 6:25 pm - Reply

    Very, very rude not to, yes.

    Thank you for the wonderful tour of early spring.

    • Jessica April 15, 2018 at 9:55 am - Reply

      I’m just so glad Spring looks to be here at last. It’s been a long wait. Thanks Hoov.

  29. Brian Skeys April 15, 2018 at 5:51 pm - Reply

    It’s never to early to visit gardens Jessica. That one looks fab. We have visited an NGS open garden today here in Worcestershire, absolutely stunning, even in the rain. They had a plant stall too!!

    • Jessica April 16, 2018 at 9:47 pm - Reply

      I always feel so sad when it’s raining for an NGS opening. Knowing how much work goes into preparing for it, not least from your own experience. But then us gardeners are hardy types. No choice really!

  30. Sarah April 19, 2018 at 6:56 am - Reply

    That’s one of the gardens close by so we visit it quiet often as there is so many different types of planting and inspiration. It looks so different in the summer, you will have to return there sometime..I hope you left some plants for me to buy! I can see that some parts of the garden will be similar to your planting areas. Sarah x

    • Jessica April 19, 2018 at 7:02 pm - Reply

      I’m sure that now we have discovered it we will have to go back in different seasons. And, as you know, the nursery is very good. I left one or two plants behind.. 🙂

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