Nowadays, anybody who’s anybody can be found bedecked in flowers, henna tattoos and artisan cider, ‘doing’ one of Britain’s many amazing festivals.
Not to be outdone, I’m joining in – not quite as rock’n’roll as Glastonbury (although I have been there, done it, got the juggling balls), Bestival or Download, I’m taking my mum (who has also done Glastonbury, just for the record) to Toby’s Garden Festival at Forde Abbey.
Running on 16th & 17th September, this is a celebration of all things garden-related, and is timed to coincide with the harvest festival season, and show off Forde Abbey’s incredible walled vegetable garden and dahlia displays at their absolute best.
There will be celebrity talks, guided walks, demonstrations, displays and lots of shopping, with a large emphasis on food as well as flowers.
Toby Buckland and his wife Lisa have been on our screens for years, presenting shows such as Gardeners World and Garden Rescue, and after several successful garden festivals at Powderham Castle in Devon, they decided to do an autumn festival to compliment the Powderham spring festival.
With well-known speakers such as Charlie Dimmock and The One Show’s Christine Walkden, there will be lots of opportunity to learn new skills, see new techniques and discover new plants and combinations. As well as talks on subjects ranging from growing a cut flower garden, scything and seasonal gardening, there are informal gardening talks and demos all day, and also many demonstrations of loosely garden-related topics.
For example, Flora Arbuthnott will be showing you how to grow and use dyeing plants to create your own dyed fabrics, and Kamil Osaka, head chef at The Pig, is demonstrating how to preserve your produce to get the best out of it year-round. If Tom Archer has got you into the idea of kefir and fermented foods, you can learn all about it from Kate Venner, who advised The Archers on the techniques and processes involved. Fermentation is the process of fermenting vegetables in brine, and is enjoying a revival with the renewed interest in probiotics and the wider availability of foods such as sauerkraut and kimchee. I will be heading for the cut flower talk by Grace Alexander, as I sell a few bunches at Axminster Country Market and need a few top tips!
I am looking forward to the plant sales, too – I have a few gaps in the garden to fill, and have been holding off buying anything as events like this are great places to buy some top-quality plants at competitive prices, and because the nurseries man the stall, you can ask any questions and get recommendations to suit your exact needs. The Forde Abbey nursery is excellent, but there will be lots of competition from specialist nurseries from across the south west.
The food & drink on offer sounds great, again with a local, seasonal bent, and if you fancy a bit of pampering there is even a VIP option, with a private lounge area in the Refectory.
Forde Abbey is special at any time of year, with its fountain, meadow areas, spectacular borders and vistas and colourful alpine area, but late summer is always a last hurrah in any garden, so it will be a real treat to just have a wander and see the beginning of the autumn colour.