The winner of the People’s Choice Garden of the Year
An astonishing 3,781 of you voted to crown Richard Small’s tiny courtyard the winner of our People’s Choice vote
Richard Small Tyne & Wear Garden size 3.2m x 6.6m + 1.9m x 2.5m
Many people would have dismissed the bare concrete yard as too small to do anything with, but not Richard. He saw past the gloom and flaking paint to visualise the calming, plant-filled oasis that it would become. He has spent the past 22 years creating it, painstakingly caring for the plants, which are all grown in pots. The judges were so impressed by the cohesion and restrained colour palette that he only narrowly missed out on being Highly Commended.
So refreshing! I love the way he’s focused on green. He’s created rhythm by grouping plants of different heights
What you have done to make the garden?
First, I repointed the walls and painted them white to make the space feel brighter. Then I laid terracotta-coloured tiles and gravel over the existing concrete. From there, the garden has evolved over the past 22 years, constantly being added to. The concrete means that the whole garden has to be grown in containers, with nothing actually in the ground. I’m a bit of a pot obsessive, always trying to squeeze in one more plant or container! My other obsession is solar-powered water features − I’ve got several around the garden, which come on at different times as the sun moves around. This year, inspired by Princess Diana’s white garden at Kensington Palace, I decided to limit the planting to all white flowers, and I plan to build on this next year.
What have been the biggest challenges?
Vine weevils! Several years ago I lost a number of plants due to the horrible critters. Initially I resorted to chemical treatments to tackle them, however, for the past two years I’ve been keeping the blighters at bay with nematodes – plus the occasional evening foray to hunt out and remove any adult beetles. It’s an ongoing battle, as plants in containers are especially vulnerable. I have to keep up the treatments otherwise their numbers can build up again, and it’s easy to reintroduce them if they’re lurking in the soil or compost around new plants.
What are you most proud of?
It’s my own little oasis. I’m proud of how much I’ve managed to fit into such a small space. I love the greenness and the feeling of calm it provides. I also like how the garden evolves, as I come up with new ideas and there are occasional edits to allow for the arrival of new plants.
What do you love most about your garden?
I love that wherever you look, there’s something of interest tucked away among the foliage. My favourite place is sitting on the bench, with a cup of tea, surveying the garden from there. Although this never lasts long as, invariably, I’ll spot something that needs a bit of a nip and tuck.
This epitomises greening grey Britain. It’s clear how much work is required to keep it going
1 Lighting brings the garden to life in the evenings 2 A palette of all-white flowers, including alliums, foxgloves, lobelia and lupins, creates a calming effect 3 Terracotta-coloured tiles and gravel provides a link between the garden and the house brickwork
Richard’s bench is painted to match the windows, other garden furniture and several pots