Gardeners show small plots can be wonderful
Tiny yet perfect - these are the stunning city courtyards that are putting the rest of our gardens to shame.
Our judges have examined hundreds of photographs submitted in our £4,000 Blooming Marvellous competition and these are the entries that have been shortlisted in the Small Urban Garden category.
It doesn't matter if you have a balcony or a microscopic backyard, as long as you have poured love and attention into your space – and these are the ones that captured our judges' attention.
For example, Carol and Brian Mackey decided to make the most of their small garden in Dromore, Co Down, by concentrating on flowers instead of grass.
They have developed an inspired space featuring a lot of hard landscaping with three beds filled with an architectural mixture of perennials and annuals.
Willowy delphiniums in a wealth of jewel like shades are interspersed with vivid cosmos and glorious sunflowers so that there is always something new to look at every season.
They've even brought in architectural qualities with plants that aren't traditionally floral, such as the six-foot globe artichoke that they grew this year.
"We saw this as the best solution to bringing garden colour into our house, as the garden extends along the back of the house and is in constant view from the main living areas," Brian explained.
Meanwhile, Shirley McKigney has transformed a bare stretch of lawn into a gorgeous plot since she bought her Ballymena house in 2003.
"I recently built a wall and laid new paving stones so the planting on that side is not as mature," she said.
"As I work almost full-time I have aimed for low maintenance with shrubs, trees and perennials. I also choose plants and shrubs that support wildlife."
And Helen Trainor has also transformed a stretch of grass into a colourful garden over the past 15 years. Her Eglinton garden features cottage-style planting and has attracted frogs because of its wildlife friendly nature.
"Roses are my favourite plant, though I have verbena bonariensis, arum lilies, astilbes and crocosmia," she says.
"But I spend very little time chilling in the garden – I spend a lot of time dead-heading and weeding."
Our last finalist is Elizabeth Mackay, who loves working in her Belfast garden despite being in her 80s and being restricted due to arthritis. Her garden was entered in the competition by her friend Victor Corrie.
"The garden was laid out for easy maintenance before I came here 10 years ago but it had not been maintained all that well," she said.
"I was fortunate in that I was able to get hold of the gardener who had originally planted the place out and we took it from there.
"Because of the arthritis, digging and cutting hedges is not within my capacity, but I put in a few extra bits and pieces and developed it."
Silver birch, bamboo and a bird table have been added and Ms Mackay has planted begonias just outside her French windows.
"I enjoy opening my windows in the morning and they are all bright and beautiful regardless of the weather," she said.
Small urban garden finalists:
- Brian Mackey, Dromore
- Shirley McKigney, Ballymena
- Helen Trainor, Derry
- Elizabeth Mackay, Belfast