10 things we dig about Toby’s Garden Festival
Potty about your plot? Then here's why you need a trip to the south-west biggest and best spring garden show, this Bank Holiday weekend at Powderham Castle.
Full disclosure. Muddy’s other hat is a green-fingered garden guru and once a year, I roll out the green carpet of a Garden Festival with my horny-handed-son-of-the soil hubby, Toby, at Powderham Castle, Kenton, near Exeter. It’s next weekend, Friday 29 and Saturday 30 April, our 8th year (no wonder I’m tired) and it’s always a really life-affirming couple of days, with ace plant and garden shopping, amazing food and lovely local musician and stilt walkers. I’d love you to join us, come say hello!
Here’s my personal pick of the highlights for 2022:
1/The plants, obvs!
If you get a tingle going into garden centre, then prepare for a BIG tingle because here are 25 local plant nurseries, brimming with gorgeous plants, from unusual protea and restios, grown by Cornwall’s Kelnan Plants, to cottage-core lovelies, veg plants, herbs and twining climbers, it’s all here. Plus, most of it is locally grown – not off a lorry from the Netherlands so well suited to our south-west gardens. Even better, you can learn how not to kill it from the person who knows best – the grower.
2/Arit Anderson is there on Saturday
The BBC Gardener’s World presenter and ultra-cool garden designer is there on Saturday morning at 11am, sharing her insider tips on garden design in the Castle speaker hall (repeated at 3pm). You’re sure to come away with some on-trend urban inspo – and some tips on looking after wildlife while you’re at it. Naturally I twisted her arm for her garden tips for Muddy too.
3/The scoff & quaff is excellent
The organisers of Toby’s Garden Fest include Gabrielle Jackson, a former TV producer and keen foodie who discovered the likes of TV chef Gary Rhodes and the great and good of Bake Off. So only the best street food and local food producers make the cut – including multi-award winning Sharpham Cheese, local gin makers including Papillon, Fossil Coast and Thunderflower, Swanaford Vineyard, Good Game (the guys who run Topsham’s Pig & Pallet), plus local roast coffee, cake, brownies and ice cream. It’s gastro-heaven.
4/It’s an excuse to wear flowers in your hair
It’s a tradition for the fab florists of Devon’s British Academy of Floral Art to run all day flower-crown making sessions. (Last year, even Judi Spiers was spotted in one.) Everyone wants one so hotfoot it to the Artisan Barn (aka the Castle’s Riding School) to get your mitts on your floral barnet-topper early. If anyone deserves a crown – it’s you!
5/It’s good for endangered crafts and craftspeople
Did you know that some traditional crafts are on an endangered list because so few people still practise them they’re at risk of dying out? Go support woodcrafts like stave-basket making and sieve and riddle maker, Steve Overthrow (he’s the only one in the UK) in the Heritage Wood Crafts Zone. You can also see how to make your own charcoal which could save you a bob or two on the barbecue.
6/ You might get to mow a meadow
If your idea of garden nirvana is a midsummer meadow full of poppies and cornflowers, then get your bottom on a seat in the cool Country Gardener tipi by the castle lake to hear Meadow in My Garden’s Paul Jupp explain how anyone can grow a meadow from seed (yes, even you with the dead house plants.)
7/You can quaff wine for free
Admittedly not gallons of the stuff – this is a wine tasting – but it will be topnotch and local. Susy Atkins, the Sunday Telegraph wine guru (who Muddy interviewed recently) is doing an English Wine Tasting in the tipi on Saturday at 3.30pm with Duncan Schwab of one of Devon’s oldest vineyards, Sharpham Wines and Ben Goulden of the award-winning sparkling wine, Swanaford. Bottoms up!
8/The show offers on hard landscaping
Planning a garden project? New patio, path or, *cough* mini Taj Mahal in the offing? Show sponsor Edward Hitchens are offering 10% off all stone, brick and hard landscaping materials on orders made at the festival, plus free delivery. Bargain! Plus, you can buy vintage brocante, handmade sculpture and plant supports from Mr Fox’s Garden, Dingle Design and more.
9/It’s a gorgeous location
There’s no place more pretty in Devon than Powderham in spring, with the fallow deer running by all Bambi-like in the deer park, the trees springing to life, and the romantic 14th century Castle presiding over proceedings. You might get a selfie with Charlie, the Earl too, and his wife, gorgeous Californian Countess and driving force of good stuff, AJ. Bring a rug, a picnic and just enjoy.
10/It’s not just plant shopping…
There’s so many treats and gifts to buy – get ready to flex the credit card! – handmade jewellery, pottery, paintings, landscape photography, natural-dyed yarns, kimonos, silks, totes and bags, homeware, sheepskin, fresh flowers and loads more. You will not leave empty-handed!