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10 unmissables at this year’s festival, by Muddy Stilettos

Lisa B’s picked her favourite highlights from this year’s festival for Muddy Stilettos Devon. Read it all here:

Dibbers poised for the best spring flowershow in the West! Muddy’s here with the inside track on the celebrity gardeners and prizes planned for their 10th birthday at Powderham Castle.

flowery strict walkers

Who’s in need of a blast of springtime flowers and garden-themed goodness? Maybe with some tasty Devon foodie and drinky goodies thrown in, and more celebrity gardeners than you can shake a dibber at?

Toby Buckland

Well, it just so happens, I can help with that – and I mean really help – because when I’m not gadding about as Muddy’s ace Devon reporter – I am helping to organise the best flower show in the West *not biased* with my other half Toby, as in Buckland, he of the eponymous Toby’s Garden Festival.

Toby's Garden Festival driveway and stalls

This year is our 10th birthday and we, and our media partner, Country Gardener Magazine, are putting out the bunting for two flower-strewn days, combining quality plant and garden gear shopping, free garden talks across three speaker venues, live music, street theatre, and the chance for visitors to win some birthday pressies from us worth of hundreds of pounds.

Toby's Garden Festival at Powderham Castle

Dig it? Check out my insider’s pick of horticultural highlights in 2024:

1/ Fabulous flowers, shrubs and trees

If you get a tingle going into garden centre, then prepare for a biiiiig tingle because here are 20+ local plant nurseries, brimming with gorgeous plants, from cottage-core lovelies and romantic climbers to veg plants and scented herbs. Plus, most of it is locally grown right here in the West Country – not off a lorry from the Netherlands so it’s better suited to our south-west gardens. Even better, you can learn how not to kill it from the person who knows best – the grower. Here’s the nursery list.

2/ An audience with Rachel de Thame

Rachel de Thame

The gorgeous BBC Gardener’s World presenter is joining Toby for a chat on Saturday 4 May, sharing her insider tips on garden design in the Castle speaker hall (repeated in the afternoon). Rachel’s latest book, A Flower Garden for Pollinators, is published on 25 April, so you can say hello at her book signing, and you’re sure to come away with lots of planting ideas for the butterflies, moths, bees and useful garden beasties.

Sue Kent with Toby Buckland

Another fabulous BBC Gardeners’ World presenter, Sue Kent, joins Toby for an chat on Friday 3 May in the morning. Sue will be talking tools, favourite plants and effort-saving techniques, and if you miss the morning session, it’s repeated again in the afternoon – both sessions are in the Castle.

3/The best curated local food

Truly Scrumptious

We’re all greedy foodies on the TBGF team so we always go the extra mile when curating our street food sellers – and we’re rather partial to a cute van to add to the carnival feel (hello Truly Scrumptious!). It’s local, quality, and made by lovely talented people who we’ve worked with over the years.

Back in the Castle Courtyard in 2024, the Food Drink Devon Market and Talks Marquee will be celebrating the best scoff and quaff in the county, represented by the likes of multi-award winning Sharpham Dairy and Sandford Orchards, plus a host of curated street food, local roast coffee, and Laura of Angelchops with her fabulous buttercream creations. The talks and tastings are hosted by Telegraph wine guru, Susy Atkins and Otter Farm’s Mark Diacono, and are all free!

4/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. (Even Judi Spiers has been spotted in one.) 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 supports endangered crafts and craftspeople

heritage crafts at Toby's Garden Festival

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, such as John Williamson (above) a traditional stave-basket maker, 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/ Free talks, tastings & workshops

Toby Buckland at Toby's Garden Festival

This year there are three speaker marquees, with two days of talks, all free, on a wild range of garden and wildlife topics. Learn about rose growing with the Cornish Rose Company; terrariums with Hutch House Plants; kitchen gardens with Ollie Hutson, the Head of Gardens at The Pig at Combe; gardening for wildlife with Grazers; plus growing organic crops, mini meadows, ancient apple trees, cottage plants, ponds, and more.

7/ The free wine tasting

Back by popular demand (and who can blame us?) Dan Farrell-Wright, owner of Devon wine merchant Wickhams is hosting free wine tastings in the auspicious surrounds of the Castle Dining Room on both days. Here, you can try and buy wine from Devon, England and beyond, and meet some of the vineyard owners and growers. Bottoms up!

8/ The crafts and garden gear

We have a buzzing Artisan Barn, filled with local makers, offering their handmade jewellery, ceramics, artwork, textiles and more. It’s a wonderful way to support local, stock up on gifts and support local – all under one roof.

9/It’s at a castle

There’s no place more pretty in Devon than Powderham in spring, with the fallow deer in the park, the oaks and lime trees springing to life, and the romantic 14th century Castle presiding over proceedings. You never know – you might get a selfie with Charlie, the Earl too, who’s often there for a wander around and always up for a chat with the commoners! Bring a rug, a picnic and just enjoy.

If that’s a tad too rustic, upgrade your day to a VIP Experience, sponsored by Hawksmoor Investment Management, where you’ll be treated to VIP parking and cloakroom, and all-day refreshments, including lunch in the tranquil environs of Powderham Castle’s Music Room and Library (above). The food is amazing (courtesy of local caterer Aimee Beamish) – the wine and fizz flows, and you’ll go home with a goody bag. £90pp

10/ We’re the only carbon neutral festival!

Toby's Garden Festival carbon-neutral status

In 2024, Toby’s Garden Festival achieved carbon neutral status, making it just one of a few festivals world-wide and the first garden show in the world to take out more CO2 from the atmosphere than we create. Never mind 10th birthdays – that’s really something to cheer about. Come and help us celebrate!

Toby’s Garden Festival, Powderham Castle, Kenton, nr Exeter EX6 8JQ. Fri 3 and Sat 4 May, 10am-5pm; Tickets from £13.50, VIP Experience including lunch £80; kids under 16 free (except VIP tickets), dogs on leads welcome.

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