Gardening Gifts For Christmas 2011

Shops are selling it, TVs are advertising it and radio stations are playing it. There is no escaping the advancing march of Christmas. Each year the pressure is on to find the perfect present, something a little more thoughtful than a selection box and a pair of socks. Fret not, to help you find something special for the gardener in your life, we at Vialii have pulled together our favourite gardening gifts for Christmas 2011 to suit all tastes and budgets…

Recycled deck chairs

So, the grass is mown and the flower beds weeded – it’s time to relax and enjoy your garden. And what better way to do that than on these recycled deckchairs. Made entirely in the UK from recycled sails, the chairs can be personalised with a name or a date too.

£150 from Not on the High Street

Recycled deck chairs

Recycled deck chairs

Wine Glass Holder

Now, this has got to be a favourite of ours – a recycled wine glass holder. Made from recycled plastic it well and truly ticks the green box. Simple to use, just push the spike into the ground and it’s ready to use. So get out the recycled deck chair (see above) and relax with a bottle of wine and now you don’t have to worry about the glass falling over on uneven ground any more. And a bargain at £4.99 for a pack of four from Lakeland.

Wine glass holders

Wine glass holders

Ladies Floral Gauntlets

Gardening gloves need not be boring and utilitarian. These leather and linen gauntlets cover much of the arm allowing you to get stuck into some good old pruning without ripping your arms to shreds. And with this pretty floral design you can be stylish to boot.

£32.90 from EBay

Ladies floral gauntlets

Ladies floral gauntlets

Personalised Crate

There is little as satisfying as growing your own, and with this personalised crate it is the perfect place to grow your choice of annuals, herbs or shrubs. Alternatively the crate could be used as a log store or somewhere to keep all your hand tools organised. There is plenty of space for personalisation and the crate is made from high quality pine.

From £31.99 from Getting Personal

A personalised crate

A personalised crate

Bee Hotel

There has been a lot of publicity in recent times about the reduction in the numbers of the humble bumble. We are always big fans of anything which will encourage wildlife into the garden and this is a great way of helping our friends the bees but ensuring the garden remains stylish at the same time. As well as attracting non aggressive bees such as the Mason bee, other wildlife such as lovely ladybirds will use it as a winter home. Available in a range of colours.

£19.95 from Not on the High Street

Bee hotel

Bee hotel

Personalised Rose

Having a rose named after you has to be the ultimate accolade. Normally the domain of the rich and famous, now you can give this gift to someone you love. Included in the present is seed for the recipient to grow and the opportunity for them to name their rose and get a certificate with its details. Certainly a talking point for the garden.

£9.99 from The Gift Experience

Name a rose

Name a rose

Kettle Watering Can

This alternative to the traditional watering can is so much fun and will bring a smile to your face every time you use it. They are recycled and come in a wide array of funky colours. Yes please Santa!

£9.00 from Hen & Hammock

Kettle watering can

Kettle watering can

Make Your Own Scarecrow

We are big fans of encouraging kids to get involved in gardening and what better way than getting them to help make your very own scarecrow. Whether you have a larger garden with your own veg patch or are lucky enough to have an allotment, this is a fun and practical addition to any plot. The kit includes the basics you need to make your own scarecrow, illustrated instructions and ideas of how you can embellish your scarecrow to make it truly unique.

£28.00 from Hen & Hammock

Make your own scarecrow

Make your own scarecrow

Seedboms

Grow your own kits have been doing the rounds for some time now but these “bombs” caught our eye. The quirky holders are filled with local, recycled, organic material and are sold in a pack of 4 .

£10.95 from Kabloom

Kabloom seedbombs

Kabloom seedbombs

So happy shopping, and from everyone at Vialii, can we wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful 2012.

All at Vialii

 

All prices and suppliers correct at the time of the blog being posted. Apologies if any of these change but it’s outwith our control.

As Safe As Gardens…

As we at Vialii waddle into our third trimester, our minds are turning towards making our house child friendly. Whilst relegating our trendy shell door-curtains and glass coffee tables to the attic may delight our friends who already have kids who can’t relax round ours for fear of something being broken, it’s made us think about what really needs to be changed for our little one’s arrival. Does Baby Burt really mean that our home has to be all safety measures and no style? And how do we create a child friendly garden?

Make your garden safe for your toddler

Make your garden safe for your toddler

Of course you can be both stylish and safe. There will of course be certain common sense action to be taken but your child should be able to share your existing world without too much upheaval (well other than the sleepless nights from here on in!) This of course applies to your garden too. Whilst having a huge expanse of lawn may be perfect for kicking a ball about, is it the answer for creating a space for the WHOLE family? And will it encourage a passion for nature or foster their imagination? How can you encourage social interaction and be educational? Here are our tips to how to create a child friendly garden which is still a beautiful, relaxing place for adults and doesn’t compromise your style…

Water

OK, let’s tackle the big taboo of gardens straight away – water. We have a pond in our garden and so many people have asked when we will be getting rid of it for the little one arriving. The short answer is we’re not. We are of course going to take some safety measures (we can hear our friends rejoice!) We will be purchasing a grid which is made bespoke and will sit just under the surface of the pond. Plants can still grow up through the grid and wildlife can still enjoy the water. However children (and other little animals like hedgehogs) can’t fall into the water. Technically, the grid can be walked over (great as a party trick!) but we don’t recommend doing this in front of the kids in case they think all ponds work like this. For us, keeping water in the garden is important for lots of reasons – it looks stylish, it adds another feature to the garden and of course attracts wildlife. We will also use the pond as an educational tool for Baby Burt. We want them to be able to get close to nature but also, importantly, understand the danger of water and how to respect it.

Having a pond may not be your thing, or you may not have the space or it. However, it’s worth considering a smaller water feature – anything from a rusty spout shooting out water to trendy metal spheres which gently spurt water can be placed anywhere in the garden. It will provide a relaxing sound, attract wildlife and children just love playing with water, filling cups and pouring it back in.

Make your pond safe for little ones in your garden

Make your pond safe for little ones in your garden (www.crinklecrankle.com/)

Play Areas

Now, garden toys are an area where we struggle to engage with the wide variety of mass produced plastic apparatus which seems to find its way into many family gardens. And don’t get us started on the dreaded trampoline! Of course, if that’s your thing then fine but there are lots of other options available which can be even more stimulating for children. And aesthetically, these options can fit into the most stylish of gardens so you don’t need to compromise your space.

Create raised beds or a box using chunky timber sleepers or an old pallet which can be used as sand pit while your children are young. A lid can be constructed for the top to keep the sand clean (and local cats out!) When your child outgrows the sand pit, encourage their interest in gardening but turning it into a veg bed, starting off with carrots to take advantage of the sandy base!

Make your own sand pit from an old pallet

Make your own sand pit from an old pallet

Children love stepping stones and these can be placed anywhere around your garden – in lawn, in gravel paths, through borders. Think about creating interesting patterns using the stepping stones. As an alternative to stepping stones, consider setting short logs on their end for kids to run along. Or introducing small boulders can have the same effect and then be turned into a rock garden at a later date.

If you have big old trees in your garden, use these to create play areas for kids. Is there anything more romantic than a rustic old swing hanging from a tree? Or hang a knotted rope for kids to climb and swing from. Feeling handy? How about creating a tree house? Take care to ensure that the tree is strong enough to support those who will be playing on it (big kids too!)

On A Budget

We are already discovering how expensive kids can be but with a little imagination, you can create fun areas for the kids in the garden with very little money at all:

Create a den using a sheet hung over your washing line (or hang a new washing line if the existing one doesn’t suit).

Ask your local timber yard if they have any chunks of old tree trunk which you could use in your garden for kids to sit or climb on.
If your child shows an interest in your garden, be sure to encourage it. Start them off growing seeds on your window sill and show them how that translates to plants growing outside. Perhaps they would like their own area to look after to grow flowers, herbs and veg or they would just like to potter with you. Educate children on plants to avoid for their thorns, stings or that are poisonous to eat. Introduce them to the wildlife in the garden from the good wildlife such as frogs, hedgehogs and ladybirds to the less wanted ones such as slugs, snails and greenfly.  You don’t need a lot of space of fancy containers to grow your plants. Everything from bags and old watering cans to scrapped sinks and even old boots can be used to grow plants!

Create a wildlife tower using lots of recycled materials. Old timbers can be used to create the structure which children can then help you fill with various materials such as bamboo canes, old egg cartons, broken bits of slate or old straw packing. Not only will it be a fun project to make, you and your family can then keep an eye on what wildlife it then attracts into your garden.
Grand Plans

If you have bigger expectations (and budget) then consider one of the following ideas…

Instead of buying plastic toys look at investing in or building something using natural materials. There are some fantastic wooden dens and tree houses on the market. Some can be pricey but keep an eye on eBay, Gumtree or Freecycle where people are often looking to get rid of something their little ones have outgrown.

At the 2008 Chelsea Flower Show, Marshall’s created a garden that Kids Really Want. Introduce tunnels, rock stacks and dens along with dense planting to create an area which wont fail to fire your child’s imagination.

Turn your deck into a ship wreck by throwing up some rope pulls and climbing nets. Make sure there’s a comfy landing though! When kids have outgrown it just lower the Jolly Roger!
We are huge fans of Charles Jencks’ work and especially love his land forms. We know how much kids love running around these spirals and you don’t need the biggest garden in the world to introduce one into your garden. Reduce the height to around 6ft tall so that it’s still safe for kids to climb and ensure the slopes are gentle enough. Not only will kids love running up and down the land forms you will have your very own art installation in your garden.

Creating a Journey

Even the smallest of gardens can be designed cleverly to create journeys which kids will love to explore and spend hours running around. Our own front garden, whilst not designed for kids, has swirling paths which we have discovered kids just love. They chase each other in circles or are intrigued with the bench under the tree or the topiary balls hanging from the shepherd’s crooks. If you have a bigger garden, create a woodland area with paths running through barked beds which can be filled with trees and shrubs. You know your children will be safe but they will think they are being allowed freedom as they hide in the “wilderness” and spend time with nature.

Create fun journeys in your garden or small landforms to climb

Create fun journeys in your garden or small landforms to climb

So next time you are pondering a plastic chute hopefully you will think about the other possibilities open to you and choose a solution which favours the planet, your child and the harmony of your outdoor space.

Thanks for reading.

All at Vialii (especially the Bump!)

Faking It

More and more in recent times, clients have been asking us about using artificial grass. It used to be fake grass looked just that – fake. It was more akin to the base for a Fuzzy Felt scene (Google it kids!) and was far from being the building blocks of a stylish garden. These days, there are a myriad of products in the market place ranging from the cheap and cheerful (think old style football pitches) to the luxe end of the market. Many of the qualities on offer look just like real turf – some even have thatch in them to make them look even more real!

Now, it’s not for everyone and if you have the conditions and time to care for the real thing we would always recommend that route. A beautiful real lawn is one of life’s real pleasures. Sometimes though, the fake stuff can be the right choice for you. Here are just some of the benefits…

Artificial grass is commonly mistaken for real grass

No need to cut the grass anymore! Get the lawn mower on eBay and from now on Sunday afternoons can be spent with your feet up with a nice cuppa instead of tackling the cobwebs in the shed to get the mower and strimmer out. You just need to find a way of getting out of cleaning the car instead!

No need for fertiliser, lawn weed killer, aeration, scarifying or the many other lawn treatments required to keep your grass looking green and lush. Some of these can have an adverse effect on the environment too so you are being eco-friendly by switching to the fake stuff.

Artificial turf is a great solution for pets and kids who can be prone to digging or generally getting everything, especially themselves, covered in mud from playing on grass. It is also a great solution on high traffic areas.
Cost! OK, so the initial costs are comparably higher than traditional turf, but long term you save money on mowing, treatments etc.

Fake grass can help with drainage issues although you will need to ensure a suitable base and possibly a drainage solution are installed along with the new grass.

There’s no need to water your new fake turf. A new laid traditional lawn needs a lot of TLC whilst it beds in and in hot summers with little rain (OK, we can but dream) you will need to keep your traditional lawn watered.

Before: a waterlogged lawn

Before: a waterlogged lawn

 

After: a lawn for all weathers

After: a lawn for all weathers

Whilst most clients want to consider artificial turf as a direct replacement for a traditional lawn there can be other, more innovative ways to utilise fake grass in your garden. One of our favourite ideas was showcased in the Urban Plantaholics Kitchen Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show 2010. The garden was created for an eccentric chef who had a passion for plants but didn’t want to cook at home. A fitted kitchen became plant pots with plants growing out of kitchen drawers and appliances! A cave-like seating area was encased with artificial turf with water cascading down the front. The magical grotto created using the fake turf showed that it doesn’t need to simply be used on flat surfaces that are to be walked upon.

The Urban Plantaholics Kitchen Garden

The Urban Plantaholics Kitchen Garden

For more information on introducing artificial turf to your own garden either as a lawn or as an innovative art installation, contact Vialii now for a free consultation.

Thanks for reading.

All at Vialii