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A Bespoke Steam Bent Egg for the Yeo Valley RHS Chelsea Flower Show Garden

17 January 2020

Our egg-citing collaboration with Tom Massey x Yeo Valley.
Artist's impression of the ‘Yeo Valley Organic Garden' designed by award-winning Landscape and Garden Designer, Tom Massey.

The Tom Raffield team were commissioned to design and make a unique sculptural, egg-shaped structure for Tom Massey’s ‘Yeo Valley Organic Garden’ at this year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Using sustainable materials and mixing traditional crafts with a pioneering steam bending technique, our design bonds form and function to create a bespoke installation for this inspiring and organic Show Garden.

"Partnering with Tom Massey and Yeo Valley is a fantastic opportunity to showcase our creativity, sustainable ethos and unique steam bending technique. Our experimental outlook combined with our ground-breaking design process gives us the capability to create complex curves on a large scale and offer a bespoke service to our clients. We are looking forward to seeing the egg come to life and hope the visitors to this year's show enjoy using it as much as we did making it!"

- Founder, Tom Raffield.


About the show garden

Founded on organic principles, Tom Massey’sYeo Valley Organic Garden’ has been designed with sustainability in mind. Taking inspiration from the dairy farm’s idyllic countryside setting, the rich and diverse tapestry of flowering plants featured in the ‘Yeo Valley Organic Garden’ will provide numerous wildlife-friendly habitats to support and encourage pollinators.

All plants will be grown organically (a big challenge for a show garden) using no chemical pesticides or fertilisers in compostable pots. The organic compost the plants will be grown in will be peat-free and certified by the Soil Association.

Furthermore, the hard landscaping of the show garden will use walling stone and boulders sourced from the Yeo farmland to ensure it is as low impact and as ecological as possible.

"The aim of the garden is to showcase organic principles and the range of benefits organic farming and gardening provide for the natural environment. All the materials used in the garden will be returned to Yeo Valley after the show and the carbon produced will be locked into the farmland as biochar".

- Tom Massey, Landscape and Garden Designer.

Garden details

The landscape of the garden itself is situated on a gentle hill. Originating in the woodland planting area of the show garden, a mellifluous, slow running stream will flow from a simple steel trough (reminiscent of a cattle trough) and make its way through a pasture area, rich with clover.

Gently meandering its way through the landscape, the stream will culminate in a wetland habitat featuring aquatic, marginal planting purposed for toads, frogs, dragonflies and damselflies.

Suspended above the lake on an interactive winch system, our steam bent ,egg-shaped 'nature hide' will provide a place to sit and observe the wetland environment. Curved dry-stone walls divide the site into distinct habitat zones. The boundary walls are dry-stone topped with mixed native hedging plants, representing the importance and diversity of British hedgerows.

The commissioned design will be steam bent at our workshop in Cornwall by our talented team, handcrafted from sustainably sourced oak from the Pyrenees.
The structure will feature a glass floor to allow a picturesque view onto the water below.

Q&A with Tom Massey

TR: The egg's organic shape marries beautifully with the garden design – but was it always destined to be that shape?

TM: The shape was always intended to be organic, but the egg came out of a group design session with myself, Tom Raffield and Sarah Mead (Creative Director and founder of the Organic Garden at Yeo Valley). We all agreed the egg shape was fitting with the organic messaging of the show garden and when inside, would feel cocooning and sheltered. 

TR: What did you decide to put a winch system on the egg? Is there any messaging behind the idea of it moving?

TM: The idea of the winch is to create a kinetic and playful element to the feature. When inside the visitor will be able to physically winch themselves up to get a different view. The bottom of the egg is glass so you will be able to see as you move further away from the ground. There’s an idea of playfulness and a sense of peril!

TR: Why is it important the egg can house people inside?

TM: We want it to be interactive. It started life as a static nature hide, but Sarah wanted to incorporate a playful and perilous element. It still functions as a nature hide, but now also provides an escape, a welcoming space to get away and winch yourself up away from distractions. We want people inside to feel cocooned and calm. 

TR: Is it significant that the egg is made from steam bent wood?

TM: Steam bending is an ancient process, using an organic material - wood. We felt this tied in well with the organic message both in terms of sustainability and low environmental impact, but also in shape and form. The Tom Raffield team design and make beautiful organic shapes using this technique and were the perfect partner.

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Taking inspiration from the dairy farm’s idyllic countryside setting, the rich and diverse tapestry of flowering plants featured in the ‘Yeo Valley Organic Garden’ will provide numerous wildlife-friendly habitats to support and encourage pollinators.

Take a look at the garden live from RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2021... Read the blog

Posted: 17.01.20
Updated: 08.06.23

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