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Small gardens: planting ideas for small spaces

PUBLISHED: 08:23 26 April 2016 | UPDATED: 08:23 26 April 2016

Toby Buckland has big ideas for small spaces

Toby Buckland has big ideas for small spaces

Matt Austin Images 2013

Whether you have a windowbox, a bare square of earth, or a patch of scrub that needs breaking up, you can grow a beautiful small garden. Let your creativity take root at Toby Buckland’s Garden Festival

Powderham Castle, set in an ancient deer park on the banks of the River Exe, provides a perfect location for the premier South West Gardening Spring event of the year.

Here, among the fabulous rose garden and the multitude of spring bulbs, under the massive oaks of the extensive castle gardens, the show will be exploring Big Ideas for Small Spaces relevant to today’s smaller gardens, in addition to wider gardening themes.

Toby Buckland explains: “There are two major trends in gardening at the moment: those blessed with bigger plots are concentrating on specific areas near the house; while gardeners in new-builds are wanting to maximize every square foot of their plot and make their gardens a ‘living’ room.”

Garden ‘shrinkage’ has been happening in our towns for decades as land is grabbed for development and front gardens paved for parking spaces. Meanwhile, in the countryside plans are afoot to build upwards of 200,000 new homes in the West Country alone, the most desirable of which will have garden plots.

Toby says: “But as the old saying goes, good things come in small packages. With clever design and the right choice of plants, small gardens can be very beautiful indeed. And this year’s 2016 Festival, is all about showing and empowering gardeners to make the most of their plots, whatever the size.

“Plants are the key; especially smaller trees, shrubs and flowers bred to brighten and not out-grow smaller gardens – and the festival will be show-casing these mini-me plants. Where space is at premium less is always more. Instead of cramming borders the art is in choosing plants that flower or look good through three or even four seasons. As well as listing some of my favourite hard-working flowers, our nursery exhibitors will display their choice of plants for adding colour to ‘spatially-challenged plots’ whether it’s clematis for a cottage garden or a rose or tree for a pot.”

Although only small, together our gardens create an ever-growing habitat and safe-haven for wildlife that comes under and over the garden fence. As more land is developed, so the importance of our borders, trees and hedges as nest sites for birds and as a food-source for pollinators increases.

Small gardens have their challenges. Often they lack sunlight or have little or no soil. The easiest way to address these problems is by planting into containers, raising flowers and foliage into the light, and brightening balconies.

Design-wise, pots are like sculptures, providing focal points and a way to link elements of any garden together - as well as creating the illusion of space. “As part of my ‘Big Ideas for Small Spaces’ talk at the festival, I’ll be giving a container-planting and care master-class and sharing the tricks-of-the-trade for containers that are useful, beautiful and (potentially) the envy of the neighbours,” says Toby.

The choice of hand-picked specialist nurseries means you can get instant answers to your garden questions, direct from the people who have spent a lifetime devoting themselves to raising plants. Visitors will also get insider tips on everything from sowing seeds to growing tropicals.

There’s a packed programme of talks, demos, and inspiration for all. w

Toby Buckland’s Garden Festival takes place at Powderham Castle on Friday 29 April and Saturday 30 April 2016. Find out more at


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