On Tuesday May 20th we were joined by Rodney Tibbs, author and retired journalist. Rodney’s talk was divided into three parts; firstly ideas, plans and schemes for small spaces, secondly what to grow and finally he showed pictures of twelve completed areas. Rodney began by posing the question, “What is a patio?” He defined this as an area where the garden begins to creep into the house. In a small garden there is often a problem to be solved – it may be a slope or unsightly boundaries and Rodney gave useful tips for dealing with both.
Rodney advised ensuring that anyone entering a small garden should not be able to see it in its entirety – if one cannot see the boundaries the brain thinks the garden is larger. Curved hedges are useful in this and provide shelter. Views through arches, pergolas, trellises are good, especially if there is something for the eye to settle on. Dividing the garden, however small, into rooms and twisting pathways to make the garden feel longer were all good hints for making the most of a small space. Rodney added that it was not always necessary to have small plants and cited as an example the large elephant ears of the bergenia which look good in small gardens. Steps and water features can add interest as can topiary and Rodney showed examples of these in his completed gardens.
As well as planting in the ground, small spaces can be greatly enhanced and constantly refreshed by the use of containers and Rodney showed a number of examples. His preferred potting medium is half good loam, half multi-purpose compost with a little Blood, Fish and Bone. I was particularly taken with the idea of planting dwarf sweet peas in strawberry pots, Rodney suggested that Snoopea was a good variety to use. Another idea was the combination of Swiss chard with magenta petunias – a quite stunning colour combination. Rodney went on to discuss vegetable cultivation – there are now lots of baby vegetables and others suitable for the patio. Lettuce is particularly successful, especially the “cut and come again” varieties such as Lollo Rosso and Salad Bowl.
In Biddenham we have a great variety in the size of gardens, but whether your garden is large or small the key message is – hide the boundaries and design your garden so that you can’t see all of it at once. Rodney was an amusing speaker and members enjoyed his presentation. Our next speaker is David Bevan who will talk about Wildflowers in the Garden on 17th June.
[Photos courtesy of Rodney Tibbs]