The Icy Winter of 2010…

Regardless of all the frustrations of not being able to work on build projects at the moment due to the heavy snow and icy temperatures, there’s no denying that it’s an incredibly beautiful time of year for the winter garden…

View from our back garden across to Wallace Monument

View from our back garden across to Wallace Monument

Our garden and the fields beyond are covered in snow, creating a beautiful winter wonderland for us all to enjoy.

It is important to choose plants which can provide year round interest in gardens and this time of year certainly puts that theory to the test. One of our favourites is the seedheads of the echinops which look great throughout winter:

Echinops looks stunning in a winter garden

Echinops looks stunning right into the winter months

Grasses are also wonderful all year round and look especially good when covered in frost or providing a splash of colour against their snowy surroundings:

Grasses provide year round interest

Grasses provide year round interest

…Still, after all these weeks of snow, a thaw would be nice now…

To find out more about planting which provides year round interest and that is perfect for a winter garden visit our blogs:

Winter Garden: A Feast for the Senses

Winter Wonderland

Vialii’s Top 10 Plants for a Winter Border

All at Vialii

A Sustainable Future

It’s a common misconception that sustainability and being kind to the environment equates to being unkind on the wallet. Here are some ideas of how you can create a stunning sustainable garden whilst still doing your bit to help the planet and without breaking the bank…

Sustainable garden: A mosaic ball is fun to create and reduces landfill

A mosaic ball is fun to create and reduces landfill

RECYCLE

Re-use all sorts of otherwise useless objects in the garden to create interesting features. Old bamboo canes, broken pots, egg cartons and old bricks can all be used to create a trendy wildlife tower. Or try using old slates stacked on their ends to create an interesting feature. Old concrete slabs are commonly lifted to be replaced by something more modern. However, they can be broken and re-laid to be a modern take on crazy paving. Or, if you are feeling like trying your hand at some crafts, how about making a mosaic ball out of left over tiles for a unique garden ornament.

FREECYCLE

Freecycle is a fantastic grassroots movement which matches people who have something they want to get rid of with people who are looking for such an item. In doing so it avoids these items ending up in landfill and reduces the requirement to manufacture and transport yet more goods. The best thing is that everything is absolutely free – you can even list what you are looking for too. At the time of going to press, our local Stirling Freecycle website was offering an apple tree, garden furniture, various lengths of wood and even some horse manure!
Freecycle is a wonderful organisation

Freecycle is a wonderful organisation

SHARE THE LOAD

Seed sharing is a great way to get free plants. Often a pack of seeds gives you far too many of the one plant. Swap some seeds with like-minded gardeners to widen your plant choice. Alternatively, you might have sown all your seeds but have too many plants for your own garden and have excess you are happy to give to a good home. Or perhaps you have excess fruit and veg you can’t get through yourself? There are some great websites that you can swap through or perhaps, if there is demand, we can create something locally. Let us know if you are interested.

SALVAGE YOUR GARDEN

There are salvage yards which are dedicated to supplying “scrap” for garden use. From sculptures and fountains to furniture and planters there are plenty of items which will make your garden completely unique and you will be saving it from landfill. If are looking for something a bit more unusual, look at non-garden salvage items and consider how it could be adapted to some use in your own garden such as an old wheel as part of a handrail.

This upcycled wheel makes a great handrail in a garden in Canada

This upcycled wheel makes a great handrail in a garden in Canada

SOURCE FREEBIES

If you are about to embark on a garden project, before you head to your local DIY superstore consider alternative ways you can source the required materials. Local builders and landscapers often have left over materials they don’t need or scrap they have removed from a job which is destined for the local tip. Contact them to see if they have materials which suit your needs – what might have been someone’s deck in a previous life might become the frame for your new green roof.

CIRCLE OF LIFE

Re-use items from your own garden to create interesting new features. For instance, an old felled apple tree could be cut up into sections to create a contemporary wildlife log feature in a quiet, unused corner of the garden. By tempting wildlife into your garden, they will help you deal with the various pests in your garden in a non-biological way.

A trendy wildlife tower is a great way to recycle materials

A trendy wildlife tower is a great way to recycle materials

HARD CHOICES

Consider your choice of hard landscaping carefully before you commit. Not only can paving be very expensive, many varieties are non-permeable, thus impacting on water levels in the area. And we all know how prevalent flooding has been recently! Consider alternatives such as gravel which is cheaper and allows excess water to permeate more easily.

SEED OF THOUGHT

If you have the time and patience, grow plants from seeds. Not only does it save money (especially if you have got them free as discussed earlier) but you avoid additional costs to the planet by avoiding the plastic pots which plants are sold in in garden centres. You are also avoiding transport costs of the plants from nursery to wholesaler, wholesaler to retailer then retailer to consumer. And of course there is the immense satisfaction of growing your own plants from tiny seeds. Priceless.

Growing plants from seed is immensely satisying

Growing plants from seed is immensely satisying

GO ORGANIC

The word “organic” can strike fear into the hearts of many a shopper as it can often seem an excuse to charge the customer more. However, when it comes to gardening, it can be a cheaper approach to horticulture, whilst doing your bit for the environment. For a start you won’t be buying any of those expensive chemicals to kill pests or keep them off your prize plants. Clever approaches such as companion planting is cheaper, can look pretty and keeps your conscience guilt free. Attracting wildlife into your garden, using some of the tips above, helps deal with the pests too. And simple old hard graft is the cheapest, most effective and kindest way to deal with your weeds (and great for calorie burning too!).

So now you can sleep well at night knowing you’re doing your bit for both your bank balance and the planet.

All at Vialii

Bridge of Allan Times

We explain how in these economically challenging times, you can sustain an environmentally friendly future whilst still maintaining your bank balance.

 

bofa-times-winter-2010 Bridge of Allan Times Winter 2010

Wild About Your Garden

Bio-diversity. Sustainability. Eco-friendly. They are all buzz-words in the world of gardening as more and more people realise that it can be cool to care. The United Nations have even declared 2010 as the Year of Biodiversity. No longer does having a wildlife garden mean that you just leave an area of your garden to go “wild” and inevitably become an eye-sore.

Having a wildlife garden can be truly beautiful

Having a wildlife garden can be truly beautiful

Even the Chelsea Flower Show this year featured heavily on wildlife gardens with one garden planted entirely with a wildlife meadow. Wildlife gardens can fit whatever style of garden you choose, from contemporary to traditional cottage garden. And even the smallest and most urban of spaces can attract the most surprising of visitors.

So, how can you create a wildlife garden and what, more interestingly, can you attract?

Perfect Planting

Planting should include native species and have some of the key features important to wildlife. Look at what grows naturally in the wild and what grows really well in your neighbours’ gardens. Native hedgerows such as beech, hazel or hawthorn will provide a haven for hundreds of species of wildlife.

Birds love winter berries so plants such as cotoneaster, viburnum, holly and skimmia are perfect.

Include plants that are efficient for bees to collect pollen from such allium, echinops and foxgloves as well as broad-leaved perennials which allow easy access for bees such as asters, sunflowers and echinacea. Avoid double flowers which make it difficult for bees to access pollen.

The bees loving the echinops in our garden

The bees loving the echinops in our garden

The world’s bee population is still in decline and it’s crucial we all take steps to reverse this trend. Einstein once said “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”

Plants such as buddleja, lavender, scabious, forget-me-nots and lonicera (honeysuckle) are perfect for attracting butterflies into your garden.

Don’t deadhead plants as soon as the flowers go over. Instead leave seed heads which not only look beautiful throughout the winter but are also perfect for birds looking for seeds. Ideal for plants such as echinops, sedum and angelica.

Different species of trees and shrubs provide nectar and other food sources throughout the year so make sure you have a good mix of plants.

Grow climbers against walls to provide shelter for birds.

If you want to take it a stage further and if you have space, why not incorporate a wildflower meadow. The gold winning HESCO garden at the Chelsea Flower Show this year proved wildflower meadows can be beautiful as well as a haven for wildlife. Packets of wildflowers seeds or trays of plug plants are readily available from garden centres or online these days but make sure they originate from the UK.

Wildlife such as spiders, caterpillars, butterflies and moths, bees, birds and small mammals will all be tempted into your wildflower meadow.  Nowadays wild flower meadows are extremely rare – we have lost 95% in the last 50 years. Planting one in your garden will really help local wildlife.

Water Wonderland

Incorporating some form of water feature into your garden is a great way of attracting wildlife. Water can be incorporated no matter what size or style your garden is and can be made child-friendly too.

If your garden is small then even a half barrel can be made into an effective water feature and will attract frogs and other wildlife which will feed happily on slugs and snails.

Water is a great way to attract wildlife into your garden

Water is a great way to attract wildlife into your garden

If your garden is a bit bigger, look at a larger pond. Incorporate “floating” stepping stones to make your pond very on-trend. Make sure there are sloping edges to your pond though so birds can bathe, frogs can spawn and  hedgehogs can escape if they fall in. A mesh can be incorporated to make ponds child-friendly too.

Go Organic

Avoid using slug pellets and pesticides. Many are harmful to the “good” wildlife you are trying to attract. Instead look for alternatives. For weeds, hand-weeding, mulches, ground cover plants and weed suppressant fabrics will all help keep weeds at bay. And once you have started attracting wildlife in, they will do a lot of the work for you such as eating slugs.

Happy Habitats

Create the sort of habitats that are perfect for the wildlife you are trying to attract:

Put a nesting box in your garden. These can range from the traditional wooden boxes to boxes in trendy shapes and colours to suit all styles. Boxes will attract birds and possibly even bats. Many gardens have plenty to offer birds to eat but nowhere to nest.
Create a log pile somewhere quiet in your garden, perhaps hidden behind your shed. If you are lucky hedgehogs and toads may set up home there and help keep garden pests at bay.

Introduce a wildlife tower into your garden. It can be built out of old pieces of wood and the different sections incorporate different recycled materials such as bamboo canes, egg cartons and broken pots. The tower will provide a focal (and talking) point in your garden and be home to a myriad of wildlife.

Water is a great way to attract wildlife into your garden

Water is a great way to attract wildlife into your garden

Include bird baths and bird tables in your garden to encourage our feathered friends to visit. Be careful where you site them though for curious cats…

Other easy additions are rock piles, a garden shed, a window box or even a simple hanging basket. All will entice wildlife into your garden.

Sustainable Gardening

Take simple steps to help our planet as well as saving yourself money:

So from lady-birds to lace-wings, hedgehogs to hoverflies, bees to butterflies or dragonflies to damselflies, gardens are a place both humans and wildlife can enjoy side by side.

We’d love to see pictures and hear stories of some of the wildlife you have tempted into your garden. Please get in touch with some of your tales.

All at Vialii

Bridge of Allan Times

We share our top tips on how to create your own wildlife friendly garden…

Bridge of Allan Times Summer 2010

Ermine Moth Webs

We spotted these rather fascinating webs when leaving our local Wickes recently. The shrubs surrounding the car park were covered in them, creating a rather eerie look. Closer inspection revealed thousands of little caterpillars were steadily devouring the foliage of the shrubbery they had encompassed.

It looked like a fine web over the shrubbery

It looked like a fine web over the shrubbery

A quick Google search revealed them to be Ermine moth caterpillars who quite commonly take over whole sections of shrubbery like this in order to feed. Fascinating and creepy in equal measure..

 

The ermine moth caterpillars had taken over

The ermine moth caterpillars had taken over

You can read more about these moths on the RHS website.

All at Vialii

Bridge of Allan Times

We give your insider’s tips on what will be the big gardening trends of 2010…

Bridge of Allan Times Spring 2010

Allanwater News

We discuss some of our favourite garden trends for 2010.

allanwater-news-april-2010

Top 10 for ’10

As memories of the ice and snow we experienced in January melt away, our thoughts naturally switch to the spring and summer ahead and enjoying the outdoors again. So with the dawn of a new decade, it’s time to think of new ideas for our gardens for 2010. Here are some of our favourite garden trends for this year…

Vertical gardens

Vertical gardens have been talked about a lot for the last couple of years but do you really know what it is or how you can incorporate it into your own garden? Green walls are an exciting way to clothe your boundary. French designer Patrick Blanc pioneered the horticultural technology that keeps these living walls thriving: panels made up of felt “pockets” in which plants can grow.

A vertical garden is very on trend, both inside and outside

A vertical garden is very on trend, both inside and outside

A living wall can be a great place to experiment, just like in a garden. Bergenia, an old-fashioned herbaceous border favourite is a good choice for vertical gardens. Or try tough-as-old-boots sedum, a popular choice for green roofs. Other good plants for living walls include actinidia, cotoneaster, clematis as well as ferns and moss. Due to obvious issues with access, it helps to rely on greenery rather than flowering plants to minimise maintenance. Evergreen ferns and shrubs, such as the glossy leaved fatsia, keep the wall fresh year round. As well as looking great, masking unsightly views, reducing sound and creating a nice backdrop, vertical gardens are a sound eco choice too. They reduce pollution and rainwater run-off, insulate buildings and provide habitat for wildlife.

Eco-Friendly

If being eco-friendly is your thing, other eco-friendly ideas for 2010 include:

Designer decking

If you are looking for somewhere to sit and relax in your garden this summer but don’t fancy the idea of a “normal” deck, why not consider a deck with a difference. There are simple ways you can make a deck look “designer” without costing the earth. Why not lay your deck boards on their edge rather than flat? Immediately you get a completely different look without costing the earth.

Or think about how you can incorporate some really wow lighting into your deck. Large glass blocks that lie flush with the deck boards immediately set your deck aside from the norm. Painting rendered seating bright colours is another way to stand out from the crowd.

Glass block lights and bright colours makes the decking wow

Glass block lights and bright colours makes the decking wow

Indoors Outdoors

Bring the indoors outside for 2010 with lots of ways to brighten up your garden. Garden art is popular. Instead of having the same old lattice trellis this year, think about a trellis which is just as beautiful before it is even covered in the climber of your choice. Outdoor sofas and bean bags are widely available so you don’t need to sit on your old plastic garden furniture any more. You can even get outdoor rugs to brighten up your patio. Your garden really can be an extra room these days!

Colour is Key

Pantone have announced that the key colour for 2010 is turquoise. They explain “Turquoise transports us to an exciting, tropical paradise while offering a sense of protection and healing in stressful time”. Of course, translating this into gardening isn’t straightforward as turquoise flowers can be hard to find. As an alternative, incorporate some turquoise containers and fill with exotic flowers to create your own corner of tropical paradise. Contrast with red, hot pink, coral, chocolate, green, yellow or grey for an eye catching display.

Painting old tyres turquoise is a great way to add colour to your garden

Painting old tyres turquoise is a great way to add colour to your garden

Here’s to a top 2010 in your garden.

All at Vialii

Jump On The Veg Wagon!

These days its hard to escape from the media talking about one of two things – the credit crunch or green issues. Both affect us all so wouldn’t it be great to have a hobby which distracted us from the depressing news whilst directly tackled both issues? Well now you can with a home allotment!

The Vialii home allotment, hidden in a corner of our garden

The Vialii home allotment, hidden in a corner of our garden

You may have always dreamt of a veg patch but thought you didn’t have the space or didn’t want to ruin the look of your lovely garden. Or maybe you would love your own allotment but waiting lists are just way too long.

A home allotment could be the answer to all your problems. First of all, a home allotment doesn’t need to be a dreary veg patch tucked into a corner of your garden. Forget rectangles of earth with row after row of veg – yes they may provide some lovely home grown veg but aesthetically its far from inspiring.

Our home allotment has raised beds and a home made compost bin to match

Our home allotment has raised beds and a home made compost bin to match

Home allotments can be designed to suit your needs. Perhaps you want to incorporate trendy raised beds made from chunky timber sleepers. Not only are they lovely to look at they are also easy to use. They are at a height which means you don’t have to bend so much and the sleeper edges gives you somewhere to sit whilst you tend to your plants or simply to sit, relax and enjoy. The beds are easy to build and can be designed to fit whatever space you have. Consider adding a bespoke compost heap alongside and a water butt for easy (and eco-friendly) watering.

Our raised beds are easy to tend as we can sit while we work

Our raised beds are easy to tend as we can sit while we work

If you don’t want a dedicated area for veg then why not consider incorporating veg into your borders. Some veg and herbs such as swiss chard, chives and courgettes can be grown purely for ornamental purposes anyway. And how lovely to find a cabbage popping up amongst your perennials!

Raised beds are the perfect height for kids to help out

Raised beds are the perfect height for kids to help out

But don’t despair if you have limited space as your home allotment can be incorporated into any space. Veg and herbs can be planted in containers, compost bags, troughs – pretty much whatever space you have available. Indeed this can be an even better way to grow veg as you can ensure the growing conditions are perfect for the plant you are growing.

Our potato harvest]

Our potato harvest

Whatever your space or aspiration, make it the vegetable crunch this year not the credit crunch! For further advice on how to create your own home allotment please get in touch.

Thanks for reading.

All at Vialii