Vialii’s Top 10 Plants For A Winter Border

Winter is definitely here but as we explained in our recent blog “Winter Wonderland” it doesn’t mean that your garden should look any less attractive. Different plants look great in winter for different reasons, whether it be their foliage, berries, stems or flowers. In this blog we have listed our top ten plants for a winter border…

Gardens can still be interesting in winter

Gardens can still be interesting in winter

Mahonia × media ‘Charity’

The spiny leaves of this shrub are attractive but it’s the yellow, beautifully scented flowers that make this shrub a must for winter.

Helleborus niger (Christmas Rose)

We love hellebores and the white flowers of the niger are particularly attractive, nodding above the attractive foliage.

Hamamelis × intermedia (Witch Hazel)

The witch hazel provides wonderful colours through Autumn but it’s winter when you will get the beautiful yellowy orange, fragrant flowers.

Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’ (Red Barked Dogwood)

The red stems of the dogwood make a wonderfully eye-catching feature in a winter border. Mass plant for full effect.

Skimmia x confusa ‘Kew Green’

The shiny green leaves and gently scented flowers are a great addition to a winter garden. Plant alongside a female plant and she will reward you with berries too.

Frost on evergreens

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’

“Bod Dawn” as she is known to us is a lovely addition to the garden. A vigorous shrub with lovely pink flowers over winter.

Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’

Another fragrant joy for the garden over winter, the daphne also has pretty flowers and foliage.

Sarcococca confusa (Sweet Box)

The sarcococca is a beautiful evergreen shrub but make sure you plant it somewhere you can take full advantage of its lovely scent. Lovely black fruit follows on from the flowers.

Carex buchananii

Grasses are wonderful additions to the winter garden, especially when they are covered in frost. We love the bronzed colour of the buchananii and its graceful clumped shape. Mass plant for effect. We love them planted around the base of Betula jacquemontii (silver birch) trees.

Corylus contorta (Contorted Hazel)

The contorted hazel looks wonderful all year round with its catkins in Spring and lovely crinkly foliage over Summer. But for us it looks best in winter when you can truly appreciate its magical contorted structure.

Corylus contorta comes to life in winter

Corylus contorta comes to life in winter

So with all these pretty flowers, interesting stems and beautiful scents you will be tempted back out into the garden over winter. Just make sure you have winter woollies on your Christmas list!

We are signing off now for the festive period but thank you for reading our posts in 2013 and we will be back in 2014 with lots of interesting articles on gardens. In the meantime we would like to wish you all a wonderful Christmas and New Year.

Warmest wishes,

All at Vialii

Up the apples and pears…

‘Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la la la la la! But did you know that it’s also the season to prune apple and pear trees? In my last blog of 2013 I tell you how, why, and what to do (I do love telling people what to do ;)) And if you don’t have an apple tree in your garden don’t worry, I have included a cool craft project telling you how to make your own!

Winter is the perfect time to prune apple and pear trees

Winter is the perfect time to prune apple and pear trees

The perfect time to prune your apple and pear trees is between November and March while your trees are dormant. Pruning is an important exercise so that you can:

A little bit of time spent on your apple and pear trees just now will allow you to reap the benefits next year

A little bit of time spent on your apple and pear fruit trees just now will allow you to reap the benefits next year

The aim is to create an open, “goblet” shaped tree with around five major structural branches. When pruning you should:
And look at the wonderful reward you get for your effort

And look at the wonderful reward you get for your effort

If you follow these steps then you should be rewarded with a lovely crop of fruit next summer. If you want tips on what apples to grow in your garden read this blog. 
If you don’t have your own apple tree in your garden then here’s a cool project you can do so that you have your very own apple tree and cute little apples that you can keep in your bedroom…

Create Your Very Own Apple Tree

You will need:
To make:
1. Take the kitchen roll and cut it down slightly to suit the size of paper plate. Cover it with brown paper to make the trunk. Push the paper into the toilet roll at the top.
Cover the kitchen roll in brown paper to make  the trunk (it also makes a good trumpet!)

Cover the kitchen roll in brown paper to make the trunk (it also makes a good trumpet!)

2. Take the paper plate and glue on pieces of green paper for the leaves and some red paper for the apples.

Gluing - my favourite!

Gluing – my favourite!

3. Cut two slits into the edge of the plate so it can slot onto the toilet roll trunk. You may need to add some sellotape to the back to help secure it. Your tree is ready.

4. Cut the toilet roll down to make a smaller size for an apple. Cover this in red paper. Create a leaf from coloured paper and attach it to a pipe cleaner. Attach the leaf to the apple and glue on some googly eyes and draw a mouth.
Make an apple to go with your tree

Make an apple to go with your tree

And there you  have it, your very own apple tree and apple.

Your very own apple tree and apple!

Your very own apple tree and apple!

I’m going to sign off now but I hope you all have a fun filled Christmas and a wonderful new year. I’ll be back in 2014 with lots of informative new blogs and great projects.

Lulu
Thank you to Krokotak for the inspiration behind this lovely art project

Transformers – Gardens in Disguise! Part 3

You loved Part 1 of our Before & Afters feature. And you adored Part 2 of our garden make-overs. So we are back with the third installment in our ever popular feature on our garden transformations. Below are some of our recent projects with our clients’ favourite feature – the before and after photographs!

A city retreat, Edinburgh

Before: with the old garage removed, the garden needed to be restored

Before: with the removal of the garage, the garden badly needed tackling

Before: with the removal of the garage, the garden badly needed tackling

 

After: two new patios, two water features, a dry-stane seat and new planting all combined to transform this garden into a peaceful haven in the city.

After: garden transformations for the clients and the wildlife to enjoy

After: a garden for the clients and the wildlife to enjoy

A low maintenance garden in Stirling

Before: A waterlogged garden with no focal points

Before: a waterlogged garden with no focal points

Before: a waterlogged garden with no focal points

After: A dining patio, evening patio with pergola, new veg area, standing stone water feature, wildlife friendly planting and artificial grass all transformed this garden.

After: all parts of the garden were now usable

After: all parts of the garden were now usable

A front garden makeover, Stirling

Before: This front garden was really difficult to access and maintain

Before: poor access and difficult to maintain

Before: poor access and difficult to maintain

After: The garden was given a make-over with a sandstone cobble path combining with a curving gravel path and lush green planting.

After: even in a small garden journeys can be created and interest added

After: even in a small garden journeys can be created and interest added

A contemporary courtyard garden, Larbert

Before: This back garden had terrible drainage problems and was overlooked.

a waterlogged and overlooked garden

a waterlogged and overlooked garden

After: A new drain along with fencing, patios, a bespoke water feature and feature shrubs transformed the space.

contemporary fencing encloses this garden whilst still exposing the historic wall

contemporary fencing encloses this garden whilst still exposing the historic wall

If you are interested in having your own garden designed, click here to contact us for a free design consultation.

Thanks for reading.

All at Vialii

Going Native (Hedge)…

Hey, Lulu here again! Have you met my parents? M&D are very clever garden designers and they can suggest all sorts of suitable boundaries in your garden – many clients opt for stone walls or one of the many different types of fencing available. But one of my favourite kinds of boundary is a native hedge. Now is the perfect time to plant a new hedge. In this blog I will explain to you why they are so special and how to plant one…

1. Wildlife will love it
There are two main reasons to opt for a native hedge:

Straight away you will see all sort of lovely wildlife visiting your hedge, from small mammals and invertebrates to insects and all sorts of birds making a home there and eating the berries. Butterflies and moths will also come visiting your new boundary.

2. Year round interest
You will have year round interest from foliage, blossom, flowers and berries. Planting a mixed hedge will provide a wide array of foliage which change through the seasons and some shrubs will provide berries and/or flowers to add additional interest throughout the year.

A native hedge can provide year round interest

Hedging can provide year round interest


Ilex aquifolium
 (Holly) – who can forget the wonderful holly, especially at this time of year. We all know its lovely foliage and hungry birds love its berries.Choose a nice mixture of native shrubs and trees such as birch, beech, oak, hazel (for the lovely nuts if you can get there before the squirrel!), dogwoods (for their wonderful red stems in winter) and hawthorn (berrylicious!). Look at adding in some other wonderful species such as:

Mixed hedging is wonderful for wildlife

Mixed hedging is wonderful for wildlife

The cheapest way to plant your native hedge is to get “whips” which are available now. Winter is the best time to plant a new hedge. The whips will look teeny and not very impressive when you get them (a bit like sticks) but as soon as Spring arrives they will burst into life and will soon grow quickly. Try and source your hedge locally if possible.

Next, the planting…

Prepare your area and remove any weeds, large stones or debris. Your hedge will be there for many years to come so you need to give it a good start. Dig a trench and add some compost to the bottom then plant your whips in staggered double rows, half a metre apart. You can always fill any gaps later if required. Back fill the trench with the native soil and water well and mulch. Feed your hedge once a year and be aware of dry spells when you may need to water your new hedge over the first couple of years. The best time to prune your hedge is late Autumn when you won’t disturb any nesting birds. If necessary, cut back hard as this will help thicken up your hedge.

A native hedge can be anywhere in your garden, not just the boundary

Hedging can be anywhere in your garden, not just the boundary

And remember hedges don’t just need to be used to create boundaries. You can use them within your garden to create “rooms”, add privacy, create journeys and add interest to the garden. Long live the common garden hedge!

If you need any more information on planting a native hedge or any form of boundary in your garden then please don’t hesitate to get in touch for a chat.

Lulu

 

Wild Child!

Sometimes M&D say I am a wild child – I think they mean that as a compliment 😉 Wildlife are wonderful creatures and we are always looking for ways to encourage them into the garden as they help us gardeners with pests. (1)  At this time of year we need to pay particular attention to helping out our furry (or not so furry) friends. So here are my top and super-easy ways to help look after the wildlife in your garden over winter. Oh and a cute hedgehog project you can do one evening as it’s too dark to go out and play…

Be a bit messy!

Now isn’t this just the best tip ever?!? An overly tidy garden means there are less places for wildlife to hide. So leave a few piles of leaves or upturned pots in quiet areas of the garden and you may find some invertebrates or hedgehogs come along and make a home for themselves. Ladybirds gather in large clusters on dead plant stems in quiet areas of the garden so don’t prune plants too much just now, wait until the end of winter. Also, avoid cutting your hedge until the end of winter so as not to disturb nesting birds or remove any berries. Wonder if this messy logic applies to my bedroom…

A ladybird in our garden

A ladybird in our garden

Empty nesters!

If you haven’t already done it, clean out those nesting boxes so that birds have somewhere cosy to shelter through winter. Double check no-one is in there nesting already before you disturb them though!

Feeding Time

It’s important to feed our wildlife over winter when their natural source of food isn’t readily available. As well as using traditional seeds, peanuts, fat balls etc on bird tables and feeding stations consider the planting in your garden. Berries and seedheads are popular with many birds as well as looking pretty and adding winter interest. And windfall fruits can provide food for wildlife. Remember to clean out our bird feeders regularly and keep them hygienic. (It’s not just us kids that have to wash our hands and stay clean!)

Clear out your bird boxes ready for new visitors

Hole in One

Ask a grown up to drill some holes into old logs or some left over wood your M&D may have left over from a DIY project and leave them in a quiet corner. Insects and bees will make a home here over winter.

Perfect Planting

Winter is a great time to review your garden and think you want to do in the year ahead. If there are plants you don’t like too much and aren’t providing much for wildlife or providing winter interest then look at removing some and adding in some lovely new plants that wildlife adore like foxgloves, verbena, echinops, sedum or plants with berries such as holly, skimmia and rowan.

Hopefully all sorts of wildlife will now have a cosy home and plenty to eat in your garden. But if you want to have some wildlife in the house then why not try this great hedgehog craft project…

Hedgehog Hands

You will need:

To make:

1. Draw round both hands on some coloured paper. To make it quicker, put four sheet of paper together so you can cut through them all at once. Do this again on another colour of paper to create contrasting spikes. We chose brown and orange as they are nice and autumnal but any colour would be fine. I think a purple and pink glittery hedgehog would be cool!

Draw round your hand on coloured paper

Draw round your hand on coloured paper

2. Take a toilet roll and ask a grown up to cut it down a little smaller. Then cut it in half long ways to open it up. You then need to roll it again at a diagonal so that it forms a cone. Glue it in place and then cover with some coloured paper.

Make your pointy face from a toilet roll and coloured paper

Make your pointy face from a toilet roll and coloured paper

3. Glue your paper hands onto a piece of card to make the hedgehogs spikes.

 I love gluing and sticking!

I love gluing and sticking!

 

4. Glue your cone onto the hands to make a pointy face. Add the pom pom to the end to make a nose and add some googly eyes (or buttons) to the face.

5. Fold up the spikes a little to make them spikier and more 3D.

The finished 3D hands hedgehog

The finished 3D hands hedgehog

And there you have it, a hedgehog made of hands! Happy hibernating!
For more tips on looking after wildlife in your garden try this blog:

3 Ways To Help Wildlife This Winter

Lulu

1. Sometimes M&D call me a pest too but I don’t think that’s a compliment!)

Thanks to the clever people at Fantastic Fun & Learning for the inspiration for this project.

Winter Wonderland

There’s no denying it, winter is just round the corner. The frosty mornings, the winter woollies and the sound of Wizzard emanating from every shopping centre and radio station heralds the winter season. But for us gardeners it needn’t mean bare earth and a dull garden. Here are some of our top tips to make sure your garden is still beautiful to look at throughout the winter season, is packed full of winter interest and is truly a Winter Wonderland (even if it does mean looking at it from indoors with a nice mug of tea a lot of the time!)

A fennel seed head in a Winter Wonderland

A fennel seed head provides winter interest

Evergreen plants

There are a whole host of evergreen plants which can provide structure and winter interest in your garden. Some favourites include buxus sempervirens, viburnum, camellia, skimmia, hebe, phormium and rhododendron. Also, grasses are a must for us in gardens. They look great all the year round but we particularly love them when they are frost covered. Our favourites include molinia, stipa tenuissima, deschampsia, libertia and carex buchananii.

Grasses look wonderful covered in frost

Grasses look wonderful covered in frost

Seed heads

Just because your summer flowering perennials have lost their colour, it doesn’t mean all is lost. Many of the plants in a herbaceous border provide wonderful winter interest through their seed heads. Stars in the winter border include foeniculum (fennel), verbena bonariensis, angelica, echinops, allium, eryngium, sedum and hydrangea to name but a few.

Echinops, still looking wonderful in winter

Echinops, still looking wonderful in winter

Interesting branches

Some shrubs come into their own in winter. A plant such as corylus contorta (the contorted hazel) is a nice shrub to add form and texture to the garden in summer and the catkins are attractive in spring. But for us this shrub comes into its own in winter when you can see its wonderful contorted branches. Other shrubs which look wonderful in winter include prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’ and who could ignore cornus stolonifera – the wonderful bright red branches of the dogwood.

Trees

All trees provide a wonderful structure and height in the garden and will add interest in the winter. Some have wonderful bark which will provide additional interest – ones to consider are prunus serrula, acer griseum and betula utilis jacquemontii. All suitable for small gardens and will provide interest all year round.

Trees provide structure in winter as well as somewhere to hang fairy lights!

Trees provide structure in winter as well as somewhere to hang fairy lights!

Berries

Berries are like beautiful gems glowing in a winter garden. While flowers often take a back seat it is time for berries to take centre stage. From skimmia and pyrancathus to ilex (holly) and viburnum there are a plenty of lovely shrubs to choose from. And your feathered friends will be happy too. Remember to plant both male and female holly plants and most skimmias to ensure you get berries.

Winter flowering plants

Some plants flower over winter and are great additions to the garden. These include helleborus, hamamelis, mahonia, cornus ‘Golden Glory’ and viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’.

The contorted hazel provides a magical feel to a winter garden

The contorted hazel provides a magical feel to a winter garden

Other interest

Of course gardens aren’t just about plants. A well designed garden will have structure and form which will make it still look beautiful even when your summer perennials have passed their best. Interesting hard landscaping, seating areas, focal points, water features, lighting, outdoor rooms and many more features can be incorporated into your garden to ensure it is interesting all the year round. To read about some of the many focal points you can include in your garden read some of our previous blogs on focal points:

Focal points – Part 1

Focal points – Part 2

Feature fences and sculpture can provide important focal points in winter

Feature fences and sculpture can provide important focal points in winter

If you need some help or advice on creating your own Winter Wonderland in your garden please get in touch. Or if you want to utilise the winter to get in touch to discuss a design for next year it is the perfect time to get in touch and start the ball rolling.

In the meantime, wrap up warm and have a wonderful festive season.

All at Vialii

Stirling News

An update on the Provost’s Park revamp as the initial landscaping works start to take shape and bring Vialii’s design to life.

stirling-news-november-2013stirling-news-nov-2013-2 stirling-news-nov-2013-3

Tree-mendous

Hi everyone. Did you know that this week is National Tree Week? Well, now you do! I like trees A LOT and they do lots of good in our gardens. This blog post is all about trees – why they are important, how to plant and water your new trees, ideas for trees suitable for suburban gardens and a little bit about pests (no, not me!) So read on and learn lots of new tree-mendous facts about trees such as planting in a square hole (a round tree in a square hole, whatever next?)…

A plum tree is one of my favourites! Tree-mendous!

A plum tree is one of my favourites! Tree-mendous!

Trees are good because:

Pleached trees can be a tree-mendous feature in a garden

Pleached trees can be a wonderful feature in a garden

So, there you go, lots of good reasons why you should include some trees in your garden. But I know some of you might worry that a tree will grow too tall, block light, create problems with their roots etc etc. Don’t worry, the right tree in the right place is a great addition to any garden. Here are a list of some of the most tree-mendous small trees suitable for suburban gardens:

Amelanchier lamarckii – Snowy mespilis

The amelanchier is a great year round tree. In Spring we are treated to a wonderful display of snowy white blossom. In summer there are purple black fruits which the birds love. And in Autumn the foliage turns a lovely bronze colour changing to red and gold. Even in winter it looks lovely as it provides a nice structure in the garden.

 

Malus domestica ‘Spartan’ – Spartan eating apple

Apple trees are a great additional to a garden. There are all sorts of different ones on the market, some are eating apples, some dessert, some crab apples. Decide what you want to use your apples for or what aspect of the tree is most important to you such as blossom. Personally I like eating apples straight off the tree! The Spartan is a great apple and I especially love it ‘cos it looks like apples from fairy stories, all dark red, shiny and crisp! Whichever apple tree you choose, check what root stock it is from as this will determine what size your tree will eventually become. A dwarf root stock is best for smaller gardens. Also, check if your tree is self-pollinating. If not, you will need two unless a neighbour also has an apple tree.

 

 I thoroughly recommend having an apple tree in the garden!

I thoroughly recommend having an apple tree in the garden!

Betula utilis jacqumontii – Silver Birch

The silver birch is a great, native tree and will withstand any weather. This silver birch has a wonderful white bark which looks particularly beautiful when it is under-planted with lots of grasses. Whilst not a dwarf tree, in the correct position it will make a wonderful focal point in the garden.

Sorbus aucuparia ‘Fastigiata’ – Mountain Ash or Rowan

A Scottish favourite, in gardens and the coutryside, the Rowan provides beautiful foliage, especially in Autumn, and little can compare to their lovely bright red berries. Many say that an abundance of red berries on a Rowan suggests a hard winter ahead. There have certainly been berries galore this year so let’s see what winter brings. Sledging I hope!

Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’ – Weeping pear

This tree is a favourite for gardeners. When well maintained it can look absolutely beautiful but don’t let it get out of hand or it can be a bit straggly. This pear is just ornamental – maybe that’s why it’s weeping 😉 It only gets to 5m tall so perfect for any garden.

Prunus serrula – Tibetan cherry

Another ornamental fruit tree but this tree is primarily grown for its stunning bark which is a lovely shiny mahogany.

Magnolia stellata – Star magnolia

There are many stunning magnolias out there but be careful as some may not survive cold weather, especially up here in Scotland. We recommend the stellata as it is hardy but is still beautiful with its delicate star like white flowers.

Acers can provide beautiful colour in the garden

Acers can provide beautiful colour in the garden

Acer palmatum var. disssectum – Japanese Maple

Acers are wonderful trees for the garden and there are so many wonderful varieties to choose from. Some have wonderful bark whilst
others have stunning foliage. Whichever you choose, make sure you plant it in a sheltered spot as they don’t like strong winds or scorching sun. This tree will work wonderfully well in a pot too.

Pests

Now, pests can be a problem (or so M&D keep telling me!) You will have heard all sorts of worrying stories on the news about pests and diseases which are affecting many of our native trees such as the ash and oak. Thankfully this hasn’t been widespread in Scotland and it generally doesn’t affect small, suburban gardens so don’t let it stop you adding trees to your outdoor space. We recommend you buy locally and ask where the trees have come from. Reputable nurseries will have all the information you require to put your mind at rest.

Planting and Care

So, now you know why trees are important and I have helped you decide which tree would suit you best here are some top tips on how to plant your new tree and look after it:

If you need any more advice on trees, from planting to pruning or removal please get in touch. Remember to read my blogs about Christmas Trees and things to do with leaves in the garden too.

Have a tree-mendous National Tree Week!

Lulu

Christmas Gifts for Gardeners 2013

It’s that time of year again when our thoughts turn to Christmas and what to buy our loved ones. Is it just us or does it get harder every year to think up innovative and interesting gifts to buy? Well, to make life a little easier for you we have pulled together a list of interesting Christmas gifts for gardeners 2013 so that you can give the gardener in your life something they will truly love…

Christmas gifts for gardeners 2013

Merry Christmas from all at Vialii

Gardening Voucher

At Vialii we can offer gardening vouchers to suit your budget. They are available for both our Maintenance and Design and Landscaping businesses and to whatever value you wish. So if you want to surprise your parents by getting them a voucher to have their garden tidied or their grass cut for the year or give a loved-one a voucher for a garden design please get in touch to discuss your requirements.

The perfect gift for the person who has everything. Gardening vouchers from any value

The perfect gift for the person who has everything. Gardening vouchers from any value

Bird feeder

Do you know someone who loves wildlife but their garden and style isn’t suited to a traditional bird table? Well how about treating them to this wonderful bird feeder by Eva Solo.

Bird feeder. From around £40

Bird feeder. From around £40

Teeny Tiny Gardening

The aptly named Teeny Tiny Gardening book is filled with lots of wonderful, inventive ideas how to garden in teeny tiny spaces. We are going to find some teeny tiny spaces just to try out some of these projects. A brilliant book for a quirky friend with a love for gardening, no matter where they live.

The teeny tiny book filled with big ideas. From around £10

The teeny tiny book filled with big ideas. From around £10

Wheely good design

The clever people at Water & Oil have come up with brilliant design for a wheelbarrow. It is heavy duty with non corrosive stainless steel fixings along with handy rugged grips. There are also no bolt/rivet stress points securing the barrow like in other wheelbarrows. It comes in six colours so there will be one to suit your loved one.

We choose the pink colourway! From around £70

We choose the pink colourway! From around £70

Water good idea

Another design-led product, this time by Alessi for All Modern. Available in three colours, this “diva” watering can is aptly named with it’s dramatic pose.

The "Diva" watering can. From around £28

The “Diva” watering can. From around £28

Having a ball

Garden furniture can be so much more than a wooden table and chairs and these Boom Ball Chairs by Finn Stone add a splash of colour and fun to the garden without the need to worry about the weather. They are made from recycled plastic and are durable in all weathers (even Scottish weather!) and are available in 18 colours, even a spotty version! They are also available in a smaller size for children. Yes please!

The Boom Ball Chairs. From around £135

The Boom Ball Chairs. From around £135

No butts, this is lovely

Even something as utilitarian as a water butt is getting the design treatment these days. There’s no need to hide your water butt round the back of your garden shed if you have one of these beauties from the Pure collection by Elho. Although it isn’t big it would be a good choice for someone with a small, contemporary garden.

The Pure Raindrop waterbutt. From around £200.

The Pure Raindrop waterbutt. From around £200.

So, there you go, some wonderful, design-led Christmas gifts for gardeners 2013. Hope we have helped with your lists. We have certainly added a few things to our own Wish Lists! If you see other gardening products that you think are worthy of a mention, send us the link and we will have a look.

Merry Christmas from 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.)

Fir Trade!

I am soooo excited. You may have noticed Santa is busy getting ready for Christmas and is making lots of appearances at garden centres, shopping centres and even on trains! There is only five weeks to go so you better get your letters written and brush up on your good behaviour. One of my favourite things about Christmas is the tree, especially trying to climb it! There are lots of questions about whether a real or artificial tree is better for the environment, which variety of real Christmas tree to get, how to stop the needles falling off etc. So as usual, I’m at hand to answer all your questions as well as give you a little Christmas Tree decoration project to do…

Daddy and I with a real Christmas tree

Daddy and I with a real Christmas tree

Real or Artificial?

Now whilst some may claim that an artificial tree is better for the environment as you re-use it every year, there is still a huge impact on the environment by making it in the first place. Most are made from PVC which, from an environmental perspective, is a pretty horrible material. When you are fed up with your artificial tree and you throw it out, it will likely linger in land-fill for CENTURIES – not a great legacy to leave behind! Also, there is the carbon footprint to consider as most of the trees are made in the Far East and have to be shipped over here.

At Vialii, we believe that a real Christmas tree is much more environmentally friendly as long as you buy it local to where it was grown and that there is a re-planting commitment for all trees that are felled. Plus they smell lovely! A good quality, freshly cut tree can last up to 6 weeks if well looked after so don’t worry that you can’t put your tree up as early as the fakers! If I’m not convincing enough, consider this…A study in 2009 (Ellipsos) concluded that a 7-foot cut tree’s impact on climate is 60 percent less than a 7-foot artificial tree used for six years.

Living Christmas Tree

You can buy a live tree (with roots) but you can only have it indoors for a very short time and you will need to keep it in a cool place as it will come out of its dormant phase (in other words wake up!) and may not survive when you plant it back outdoors in the cold. If you are putting a live tree back outside you will need to acclimatise it back into the cold. If you find a supplier of cut trees who will plant lots more trees for every one they sell we think that’s the best compromise.

What's the best type of Christmas tree for you?

What’s the best type of Christmas tree for you?

 

What is the best type of real Christmas tree to buy?

OK, now that we have convinced you to get real, which variety should you opt for? Here are a few of the most common Christmas trees you will find for sale and some of their key features:

Nordmann Fir – the King of the Christmas Tree accounting for a huge 80% of UK sales. It has lovely deep green foliage on the top and blue underneath. It has lovely symmetry and shape and is less likely to drop its needles.

Norway Spruce – another popular choice and one which has a lovely smell. This one can be more likely to drop its needles so watch out and don’t buy it too early.

If you can find it, the Noble Fir is a great choice for needle loss, branch firmness, scent and the softness of the needles.

Fraser Fir – this one has a pyramid shape and soft needles which can be more family friendly. It has flat green needles and can be narrow making it a good choice to smaller spaces.

Top tips for looking after your real Christmas tree:

Now that I have helped you choose your Christmas tree, here is a fun project to make your own Christmas tree decoration…

Hand Print Santa Decoration

You will need:

To make:

1. Ask your grown up to help you draw round your hand on some white card then cut it out. This will be the beard.

 

Draw round your hand on a piece of white card

Draw round your hand on a piece of white card

2. Cut out an oval shaped face from the pink card (or use more of the white card and paint it pink or glue on some pink paper).

 Here I am gluing some pink paper to my Santa's head

Here I am gluing some pink paper to my Santa’s head

3. Cut a hat shape from the red card (or use white card and glue on your red fabric/paper). Glue some cotton wool along the bottom of the hat and a cotton wool pom pom to the top.

 Make your santa hat. I added some red tissue paper to mine and cotton wool.

Make your santa hat. I added some red tissue paper to mine and cotton wool.

4. Glue your cut-out hand (the beard) to the bottom of the face and glue the hat to the top of the face. Glue the googly eyes onto the face and attach the ribbon so that you can hang it on your tree.

I love a googly eye!

I love a googly eye!

5. Hang your beautiful hand-made decoration on your tree. Lovely for Christmas and a wonderful keep-sake.

Our Santa Hand Christmas tree decoratio

Our Santa Hand Christmas tree decoratio

Remember, don’t be naughty…I’d love to see pictures of your Christmas trees and your own hand made decorations so please send them to me.

Lulu

Thank you to Parents.com for the inspiration behind this decoration

Hurrah for The Helix!

If you are a regular reader you will know that I like to take M&D out on visits to gardens and outdoor attractions. This weekend we visited The Helix which is very close to where we live. The Helix is more than just a park. A large area around Falkirk and Grangemouth in Central Scotland has been transformed and there are many more exciting plans going forward. Here’s why you should plan a visit here…

The Kelpies

The Kelpies

As you enter The Helix from the car park you can head towards the Park or take a path leading North and towards The Kelpies. We headed North. The boardwalks have been cleverly designed to lead you through The Helix. There are no horrible railings so you need to be careful not to fall in but it does make it look a lot prettier and you do feel like you are walking (or being wheeled!) through the reeds. The boardwalk twists and turns and makes you want to explore what’s around the corner:

The boardwalk through the reeds

The boardwalk through the reeds

The reeds were already there so two very skilled men built the entire boardwalk by hand, to minimise disturbance and protect the environment.

The Kelpies are a big draw. They were designed by Andy Scott who also designed the Heavy Horse on the M8. They are the largest equine sculpture in the world at an impressive 30 metres above the canal and can be easily seen from the M9 motorways which passes directly by them.
Back in the Park, this curving wall has been made from gabion baskets filled with large stones and bricks. I think it looks brilliant!:
The gabion basket wall

The gabion basket wall

In the heart of the Park you will find the Great Lawn. Here there will be lots of wonderful events taking place that you come along and enjoy. The pond (or Lagoon) is a wonderful feature of the park and there will be lots of fun water sports taking place here in the future. For now it’s a lovely area to walk around. Beside here is the splash zone and in warmer weather you can run around in the jets of water. There is also a cafe in a cool building.

The lagoon will be a space for water sports

The lagoon will be a space for water sports

The Helix is already a wonderful place to visit but there is loads more to come in 2014 including a Kelpies visitor centre, adventure playground, lagoon activities, events and lots more. Already it is a wonderful place to go for a walk, ride your bike, go rollerblading with your dog (yes we saw that here!) or just relax with an ice-cream and speak to the ducks.

Great thought has been put into every aspect of The Helix. The Great Lawn has been edged in metal grid over large stones. Even the lights are well thought through and are impressive features in themselves.

Great thought is put into all aspects of the design

Great thought is put into all aspects of the design

We really love The Helix and The Kelpies already and can’t wait to watch as the area develops, expands and matures over the coming years as well as taking part in the local events. It’s a wonderful example of different bodies working together to create something special for the community and I hope more local authorities take inspiration from The Helix.

For more information visit The Helix.

Lulu

Leaf It To Me!

Autumn’s here hurrah! I love Autumn as I get to put on my cosy coat and winter boots and kick around all the leaves in the garden! There are lots of pretty colours in our garden just now whether it’s the leaves on the trees or plants such as Sedum coming into flower. Plus Autumn means exciting times like Hallowe’en and Bonfire Night. Now, as I mentioned, the leaves are falling thick and fast now so I thought I would share with you five things you can do with leaves in the garden as well as some pictures of common leaves for you to try and spot when you are out and about. I also have a very wonderful art project you can do with leaves…

Here are some leaves I found in the garden

Here are some leaves I found in the garde

Compost

Autumn leaves, especially those that have been chopped or shredded (use a shredder or your lawn mower to do this) are brilliant additions to the compost pile. Leaves are a great source of “brown,” high-carbon material for the compost.  Like with any item you add to the compost heap, it’s important to create layers and not have too much of one thing. Alternate the “brown” leaves with some “green” waste such as grass clippings, weeds, veg/fruit waste etc. Soon this will all break down and you will have some wonderful compost to add to your garden in the Spring.

Oak Leaf

Oak Leaf

Leaf Mould

Leaf mould may sound yucky but it’s a useful addition to the garden. Create a corner where you can pile up all your collected leaves. Then leave them (excuse the pun) for a year and you will have a wonderful addition to your garden. This can be used to bulk out and improve your compost but won’t have enough nutrients to be a complete replacement to your compost.

Ash leaves

Ash leaves

Mulch

Once shredded you can use the leaves to mulch your garden. Spread a layer (approx 5-7cm thick) of the shredded leaves around your borders, taking care to avoid contact with trunks/stems of plants. The mulch will help suppress weeds as well as keep moisture in the soil. As the leaves break down they will also add nutrients to the garden.

Beech leaves

Beech leaves

Mow them

If you don’t want to bother with raking your leaves up, tackle the ones on the lawn by mowing them. Set the mower to its highest setting then run the mower over them, leaving the mown leaves on the lawn’s surface so that they breakdown and add nutrients to the lawn over winter. Do this every week until the leaves have all gone.

Horse chestnut leaves

Horse chestnut leaves

Bag ‘Em Up

It’s useful to keep a couple of bags of the leaves you have collected and store them in your shed or garage over winter. Come Spring when you are adding more material to your compost heap you may struggle to find “brown” waste to alternate your layers. To save you having to rip up newspaper or shred cardboard you can just add a few handfuls of leaves at a time.

Rowan leaf

Rowan leaf

So there you go, even the common leaf can be super useful to the gardener and not just a nuisance to tidy. Another use I have for leaves is this wonderful art project:

Leaf Glitter Picture

Make your own glitter leaf tree

Make your own leaf glitter picture

You will need:

How to make:

1. Go on a hunt round the garden for some leaves. Look for lovely, dry, crispy leaves as they make the best glitter!

2. Now you get to scrunch the leaves into tiny pieces which is great fun! If the leaves aren’t dry enough this might not work and you will have to leave them in the basket overnight to dry more.

3. Using the glue draw a shape on the card. The shape can be whatever you want. I chose to draw a tree.

4. Sprinkle the leaf “glitter” onto the card.
5. Gently push the leaves down onto the glue so they are all stuck on.
6. Let your picture dry for a bit then shake off the excess leaves (you can keep them and use them in another picture if you want.) There you have it – a Leaf Glitter Picture!

I’d love to see the pictures you make. Please email photographs of them in to me.

For other fun leaf projects check out these blog:

Halloween Leaf Ghosts!

Make Your Own Leaf Art

I need to “leave” you for now but I’ll be back soon! (Hee hee)
Lulu

Thank you to Kiwicrate for the inspiration for this craft project

Bridge of Allan Times

Our article on the re-design of Provost’s Park in Bridge of Allan.

BofA Times Winter 2013

Peek-a-BOO!

Q:What’s a vampire’s favourite fruit?
A: A nec(k)tarine!

Hee hee! In case you haven’t noticed it’s Hallowe’en this week, a time for ghouls and ghosts and of course, my favourite, the pumpkin lantern! I love pumpkins as they are easy to grow, lovely to eat and fun to carve. Oh and they have a funny name too 😉 This week I am sharing with you my top tips for growing pumpkins and Mummy’s favourite pumpkin soup recipe.

How did that light get in there?!

How did that light get in there?!

How to Grow Pumpkins

Pumpkins are easy to grow. Try growing them from next Spring and you could have some of your very own pumpkins to eat and carve by next Hallowe’en. Here’s how:

If you are looking for a variety to grow which will make a good pumpkin for next Hallowe’en, try “Jack of all Lanterns”. It also stores and cooks well. And if you have plenty of pumpkins, a yummy recipe which is perfect for this time of year that you can ask your Mummy & Daddy to help you cook is…

Pumpkin Soup

Ingredients:

Pumpkin soup, perfect for this time of year

Pumpkin soup, perfect for this time of year – serve it in a pumpkin for the ultimate effect!

Method:

For a wonderful Halloween themed craft project have a look at this blog:

Halloween Leaf Ghosts!

Happy Hallowe’en everyone.

Lulu

A (Light) Bulb Moment – Planting Spring Bulbs

Now is the perfect time of year to get outdoors, plant some bulbs and then sit back and wait for a Spring Spectacle! Here are my top tips for planting spring bulbs. I have also included a wonderful craft project, perfect for children who love gardening and art, so you can make your own daffodil to brighten up your home through winter while you are waiting on the real ones to spring to life.

 Me and my new daffodil

Me and my new daffodil

Be Prepared

Now, I ain’t no Boy Scout (I will be joining Beavers when I’m bigger though!) but when it comes to bulbs I agree with their motto “Be Prepared”. Bulbs like well drained soil so if you have heavy soil add a bit of grit to the area when you are planting. A small handful at the bottom of your planting hole is always a good idea too. And make sure you have given your garden a good old weed and tidy before you plant your bulbs too in order to give them the best possible start.

That's a BIG box of bulbs to plant!

That’s a BIG box of bulbs to plant!

No Soggy Bottoms

Now, a bit like in “Great British Bake-Off”, we don’t want any soggy bottoms on our bulbs. Give the bulbs a squeeze before you buy them and make sure they are nice and firm. If you are digging out old bulbs from the shed, discard any that are soft, mouldy or shrivelled.

The Only Way Is Up

It might sound silly but plant your bulb the right way up. The top is the pointy end. The bottom is the round, hairy end (bit like my Daddy, tee hee). If you are not sure plant them on their side as they will turn themselves round the right way as they grow (aren’t plants clever?!) Some small bulbs such as fritillaria are often best planted on their side, especially in heavy soil, to stop water getting into the bulb and causing it to rot before it has become established.

Beautiful tulips in the sunshine

Beautiful tulips in the sunshine

Label ‘Em

It’s not just our nursery/school stuff that needs labels on them, plants need labels too. A little discreet wooden label won’t be offensive and will help you avoid putting a fork through your prized Allium bulbs 🙁

Dig Deep

As a general rule, plant bulbs two to three times their own depth and around two bulb widths apart. Replace the soil after planting, breaking down any large clumps and firm in gently, making sure there are no air spaces around the bulbs.

Allium Purple Sensation

Allium Purple Sensation

Repeat After Me

After flowering, remove the seed head and wait for the foliage to yellow and die back, then lift the bulbs, clean off any soil and store in boxes or net bags in a cool, dry place. Remember to label them too! Next year you will have lovely, fresh bulbs and you can start again. You can leave the bulbs in the ground but they will eventually start to rot and die.

So there you go, a cheap and easy way to create a wonderful display in Spring and brighten up our days. But it will be a while before these beauties are ready so in the meantime M&D and I have put our heads together and come up with a wonderful craft project inspired by one of the most popular bulbs – the Narcissus. Or Daffodil to me and you!:

Make A Paper Plate Daffodil

You will need:

To make:

1. Take one of your paper plates and on the reverse side draw the outline of your daffodil shape. Ask your grown up to cut this shape out, then paint it a lovely bright yellow.

 Painting the flower is a lot of fun

Painting the flower is a lot of fun

2. Take the other plate and draw a similar daffodil shape but slightly smaller and this time draw it on the correct side of the plate. You can paint this one the same colour, or add on some coloured paper to give a different texture. We chose some lovely yellow crepe paper to glue onto the plate.

I liked adding the glue to the flower

I liked adding the glue to the flower

3. Stick your two plates together. You will now have a lovely 3D effect because the plates have been used opposite ways:

Stick the two flowers together

Stick the two flowers together

4. You now need to make the daffodil’s trumpet! To do this get a toilet roll tube. Ask a grown up to cut approx 2cm deep slits, approx 1.5cm wide, at one end of the tube (you will have roughly 9 “tabs” when you have finished. On the other end cut lots of slits to make a fringe effect. Once this has done paint the inside and out orange:

Yay, more painting!

Yay, more painting!

5. Once the trumpet is dry glue the tabs and stick it in the middle of your petals and glue a loop onto the back to hang it up:

The finished daffodil to keep us cheery all winter ;

The finished daffodil to keep us cheery all winter ;

If you need any more advice on bulbs or would like to contact us about getting some planted in your own garden then please get in touch.

Lulu

Save The Snail!

Most gardener’s don’t like snails but I have a confession to make. I, Lulu Ann Burt love them! There, I said it! ‘Nails (as I call them) are funny creatures and I love hunting for them in the garden. I say Save The Snail! Trouble is they love eating the scrummy plants in the garden as much as we do! It’s important to try and help look after our prized plants so here are a few of my top tips on being snail-savvy in the garden as well as a brilliant project to make your own snail which won’t eat any of your prized hostas!

 Me and my friend the 'Nail

Me and my friend the ‘Nail

 

As I love snails very much and as M&D feel very strongly about being organic we don’t recommend putting down slug and snail pellets in the garden. These can be eaten by other animals or even children and can be very dangerous (as well as not very nice way to treat my friend the snail!) Here are some better ways to deal with them…

Ooh ooh, ouch!

Snails hate to crawl over anything scratchy so putting a ring of something like crushed egg shells or grit around the plants they most like to eat helps deter them. Watch out for any foliage that falls into the ring as that can be used as a bridge by the canny creatures.

Ring a ring of hostas

If you have your prized plants in pots which the snails are attacking, try putting a copper ring around the pot – the snails won’t want to crawl over it and your plants stay safe.

Snail hunting!

This is my favourite method – snail hunting! Swap your spade for a torch and get out at dusk and collect the pests yourselves. You will be amazed at how many of the wee beasties you will find!

Head out and do some snail hunting at dusk

Head out and do some snail hunting at dusk

Pull on the (fox)gloves

Sometimes you need to box clever and choose plants which snails wouldn’t have at their beastly banquet. Choose plants with scented leaves such as alliums, fennel and rosemary, plants with textured leaves such as lambs ears and lavender or plants such as ferns, foxgloves and camellias. All beautiful but relatively safe from unwanted intruders.

Cheers

A method well known in the gardening world is setting beer traps for snails. If your grown-up can spare some of their well earned bottle at the end of a day’s hard graft in the garden, ask them to sink a rinsed out empty can with some beer in it, into the ground. Snails are attracted to the smell and fall in the can and can’t get back out making it easy for you to dispose of them.

Nematodes

Some gardeners turn to a biological solution in the fight against snails. A naturally occurring nematode (a tiny worm) can be introduced into the gardener by adding it to a watering can. They contain bacteria which attacks and kills snails. It lasts for about six weeks and doesn’t affect anything else in the garden. Despite the name no toads are used in this method!

Nema-toads

As you can see there are lots of ways of tackling snails but I think one of the best ways is to attract beneficial wildlife that feasts on snails. If you have space for a wildlife pond you can attract frogs and toads which love a slug supper. Creating a log pile or leaving a corner of old leaves may mean a hedgehog sets up home in your garden and it will repay you by eating up these foe. Or make a bug hotel or encourage birds into the garden to help you in your efforts.

Other simple measures such as weeding regularly so snails have less places to hide, digging over your borders to expose snails and allow birds to eat them and lifting pots regularly to see what’s hiding below can all help. And are organic too!

So, now you know how to keep snails out of your garden why not bring one into the house instead with this wonderful craft idea:

Make A Paper Plate Snail

Make A Paper Plate Snail

Make A Paper Plate Snail (Image courtesy of Kiwi Co)

You will need:

To make:

1. Draw this shape on the paper plate:

2. Cut off the top part of your paper plate to make the snail shape:

3. Use your coloured paper or stickers to stick shapes around the shell. Make your snail as funky and colourful as you wish. I liked learning about the different colours and shapes we were using as we did it

4. Finally paint the body, stick on (or draw on) your eyes and if you wish, add some pipe cleaners to make the feelers. And there you have it – a paper plate snail! All the fun but your hostas will stay safe 😉

You can make themed snails too if you wish. Grandma and I made a lovely festive snail for Christmas!

Remember to email me photos of your snail creations or if there are other garden animals you would like to learn about and see a craft project on then let me know!

For more tips on garden pests visit our blog:

Vialii Guide To Top Garden Pests And Diseases

Lulu

Thank you to Kiwicrate for the inspiration for this craft project

Funny Pets In The Garden – Part 2

You all loved my first blog on the funny pets we have come across in gardens. So by popular demand I have written a second blog on this very cute & cuddly subject. Hee hee, they make me laugh every time I look at them 🙂 Funny Pets in the Garden – Part 2:

This is the doggy which my good friend Georgia’s Mummy & Daddy used to have. His name is Murdo and he is very handsome! They now have another doggy called Sandy who I like to visit. Here is Murdo who has found a cool spot in the garden to sit:

Murdo was a "hot dog" so found a place in the shade to sit!

Murdo was a “hot dog” so found a place in the shade to sit!

Here we have my lovely friend Ruby. I have known her since she was teeny tiny. She is super cute! Here she is deciding that today she will have a picnic in her lovely garden:

 Ruby demands an alfresco lunch!

Ruby demands an alfresco lunch!

More doggies. This time it’s Simba and Harley who belong to Honor, Hope and Kai. I think they are practising their ballet moves together here!:

 Simba and Harley practise their  ballet moves

Simba helps Harley to perfect his”en pointe”!

Here’s a funny photos of Jasper who used to live next door to me. He’s really a Labradoodle but Calum decided Jasper was going to be a horsey instead!:

Gee up Jasper!

Gee up Jasper!

 

And finally, one last photo, again of Fudge. Whilst she isn’t in the garden this time, this photo was taken when it was really bad weather one winter. Daddy couldn’t get out into the garden so he stayed inside to do some work and Fudgey-doo-dee (and a funny beard) kept him warm!:

   I'm not sure who is hairier in this photo, Daddy or Fudgey!

I’m not sure who is hairier in this photo, Daddy or Fudgey!

If you have funny photos of animals in your garden please get in touch, I would love to see them and share them on my blog.

Lulu

Top Tips for Tasty Tomatoes

It’s the time of year when many of us gardeners are eagerly watching our tomato plants and hoping to see them ripen and give us a bumper crop. I was recently asked for tips on growing tomatoes so I figured two brains were better than one (even if the second one is a boy’s!) so I decided to interview my BFF Euan. He has 98 (yes 98!) tomato plants at home and his Grandad is a proper expert on tomatoes. So read on for some top tips for tasty tomatoes (that’s a lot of alliteration you know!) in my interview with Euan Boutell, tomato extraordinaire, aged 20 months!

 I just need to give our home grown tomatoes a bit of a taste test first! Top Tip for Tasty Tomatoes

I just need to give our home grown tomatoes a bit of a taste test first!

Hiya Euan, I know that if you want to grow tomatoes for super cheap, it’s best to grow them from seed. Plus it’s great fun watching them sprout through the earth and grow big and strong like you and me! So, when would you say it’s best to start sowing seeds?

Well Lulu, if you are an expert in tomatoes like Grandad and me, it’s best to start the seeds in February in a heated propagator. He says doing without heat will end up with weaker seedlings and scrawnier plants overall. However, this option might not be the best if you are a beginner with no equipment. So you can buy super plants in garden centres that have been given a good start and you can then just pot them on.

Good advice Euan. And  what would be a good variety for a beginner? Or a good variety for a pot on the patio if you don’t have a greenhouse?

Moneymaker or Ailsa Craig are good red varieties and Golden Sunrise for a yellow. They are all pretty hardy and easily available. If you are growing in a pot outdoors a Tumbler is a great tomato plant. Add a few marigolds and nasturtiums in the same pot and you have a very pretty and tasty pot! . The “bush” varieties of tomato don’t need staking, pinching out or grow so tall either so can be a good option for beginners.

 Top Tip for Tasty Tomatoes Clockwise from top left: Ailsa Craig, 2 Golden Sunrises, Roma Plum,  Tigerella, Gardener's Delight cherry. Centre is Ailsa Craig.

Clockwise from top left: Ailsa Craig, 2 Golden Sunrises, Roma Plum, Tigerella, Gardener’s Delight cherry. Centre is Ailsa Craig.

And what is it best to sow seeds in – a tray? a biodegradable pot?

Just in a normal seed tray is absolutely fine. But you can use pretty much whatever you have lying about the kitchen – a yoghurt pot would work well and we always have a lot of them Lulu!

And what kind of soil would you grow the tomatoes in Euan? A certain compost? Add vermiculite?

Again, it’s really simple Lulu – just a standard seed compost.  No vermiculite required.

So, how do you know when to pot the little plants on?

Easy – when the first true leaves have emerged.

And I know it’s important to remove trusses as this helps you get a better crop of fruit. When do you do that?

The aim is to have a single stem with four or five trusses (the branches with yellow flowers on them.) Late summer remove the top
growing tip so all energy is focused on the rest of the plant. Keep “pinching out” side-shoots so the plant can focus on those few branches. There will be less fruit but what you get will have a chance to ripen and be better. As lower leaves wilt remove these to keep the plant nice and healthy.

Cuore di bue beefsteak tomatoes. Later ripening so not the best for northern gardens but good for bulking out green tomato chutney.

Cuore di bue beefsteak tomatoes. Later ripening so not
the best for
northern gardens but good for bulking out green tomato chutney.


Now Euan, you know better than anyone that feeding is important and not just for us toddlers! When should you start feeding tomato plants and how often?

Well Lulu if I was a tomato plant I would want to be fed lots of times a day! But really feeding should start when the first truss (remember that’s thebranch which will have the yellow flowers) has formed. Everyone has different opinions on the frequency of feeds – some say every couple of weeks, some say more often, some say less. Here’s a secret from Grandad though – he cheats by adding a sprinkle of multipurpose solid fertiliser once the truss has formed in order to reduce the work.

Does your clever Grandad have any other tips he can share with us?

Grandad says nip out any side shoots that grow between main stem and side branches on cordon varieties to ensure growth goes to fruits. Obviously don’t do that on bush varieties. If you are lazy and leave doing this until the side shoots are about 4-5 inches you can actually turn them into new plants. Place the removed shoots in plain water on your window sill for 1-2 weeks until good roots form then you can pot it into compost. But you can only do this early in season (or if you have a heated greenhouse) otherwise won’t have enough time for tomatoes to form and ripen.

Euan knows it's very important to keep your (98!) tomato plants  well watered!

Euan knows it’s very important to keep your (98!) tomato plants  well watered!


Any other top tips for tasty tomatoes Euan?

Well, most people store their tomatoes in the fridge which they shouldn’t. They taste much better if they are kept at room temperature. Or even better, keep them on the vine until you need them and eat them straight from the plant.

Also, my mummy knows a thing or two about tomatoes and cooking. Because we live in Scotland where it isn’t always as hot and sunny as
we would like, sometimes tomatoes don’t get as ripe as we would like. However, don’t despair! Nothing gets wasted in our house so Mummy just turns under-ripe tomatoes into some tasty green tomato chutney instead. Here is her very own recipe which she has kindly shared with you all!

Euan’s Mummy’s Gorgeous Green Tomato Chutney

Makes about 1.4kg

Ingredients:

Method:

  1. Peel, core and grate the apples.
  2. Place in a saucepan with all remaining ingredients.
  3. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally, especially in later stages as it can stick/burn easily, until excess moisture has gone and a spoon drawn through leaves a distinct channel.
  4. Spoon into sterile jars with vinegar-proof lids.
  5. Allow to mature in a cool, dark place for 2-3 months. (3)
  6. Once opened, store in fridge and eat within 1 month

 

 Top Tip for Tasty Tomatoes The end result - a jar of lovely green tomato chutney. Do we really have to wait 2-3 months Auntie Alison?!?

The end result – a jar of lovely green tomato chutney. Do we really have to wait 2-3 months Auntie Alison?!?

So there you go, Euan and I have hopefully answered all your tomato questions. If you need any more advice whether it’s on tomatoes o
gardening in general please get in touch and we will be happy to help! If you have enjoyed this chutney recipe, read about our yummy Rhubarb Chutney recipe.

Lulu (& Euan!)

1. I find having a few red ones in the mix adds depth to flavour.

2. Normally a mixture of sultanas and apricots.

3. 2-3 months – that’s like forever!

Lulu’s Garden Review – Logan Botanic Garden

Hello everyone. It’s been hard work writing these blogs – it takes lots of research and practical work you know! So, after a few of my winning smiles I persuaded M& D that I needed a holiday! We are lucky that my Grandma & Grandpa have a cottage on the West Coast of Scotland we can use so we packed our bags and headed off for a few days of “rest”! We did lots of fun things on holiday including going to the Heads of Ayr Farm Park (1) with my BFF Euan and we also went to Portpatrick (2). One of the things we like to do on holiday is visit nice gardens. In this part of the country we are spoilt for choice – from the grandeur of Culzean to the relaxing haven of Glenwhan there is something to suit everyone. My personal favourite is Logan Botanic Garden which is south of Stranraer. It is filled with lots of beautiful things to see. I know you are busy people so instead of boring you with lots of plant names and the history (I’ll leave that for M&D to do!) I have decided to tell you my story of Logan in some lovely photos…

Tree ferns are one of the main features of Logan Botanic Garden

Tree ferns are one of the main features of Logan Botanic Garden

 

 A lot of the plants at Logan are exotic. These aeoniums look almost alien!

A lot of the plants at Logan are exotic as it is located in the Gulf Stream. These aeoniums look almost alien!

 

More exotics - this time lots of Cannas in full flower. The mild temperatures at Logan make exotic planting possible.

More exotics – this time lots of Cannas in full flower. The mild temperatures at Logan make exotic planting possible.

 

Wow - what a lovely long path round the Walled Garden to explore. This part is packed with all sorts of pretty flowers.

Wow – what a lovely long path round the Walled Garden to explore. This part is packed with all sorts of pretty flowers.

 

 Tree ferns take a while to grow big (unlike me) - here lots have been planted out for the future.

Tree ferns take a while to grow big (unlike me) – here lots have been planted out for the future.

 

I love trees. And there are some wonderful types in Logan. Here I am looking at a big old Eucalyptus

I love trees. And there are some wonderful types in Logan. Here I am looking at a big old Eucalyptus

 

 Hmmm, I wonder why the common name for Kniphofia is Red Hot Pokers? 

Hmmm, I wonder why the common name for Kniphofia is Red Hot Pokers?

 

Taking a moment to admire the carp pond

Taking a moment to admire the carp pond

 

The gunnera jungle is a great place to explore

The gunnera jungle is a great place to explore

 

 "Bug"ingham Palace - haha!

“Bug”ingham Palace – haha!

 

 I love sniffing flowers and the mopheads on these Hydrangeas were spectacular

I love sniffing flowers and the mopheads on these Hydrangeas were spectacular

If you have been to visit a garden that was really nice I would love to hear about it and maybe one day I could go there too.

Read our blogs of other gardens to visit in the area:

Glenwhan Gardens

Castle Kennedy Gardens

Lulu

1. Head of Ayr Farm Park is a wonderful day out for the family. It has lots of animals to see as well as fun things to play on, both indoors and out. It’s also close to the Electric Brae which is weird!

2. Portpatrick is a pretty harbour village south of Stranraer. We love the putting green there. On this visit M&D got three holes in one between them but I can’t possibly say who got the most…

Funny Pets in the Garden – Part 1

Hi, Lulu here. You all know that I love gardening but did you know that I love animals too? And best of all I love animals in gardens! Especially when they are doing funny things. Here are a few of my favourite pictures taken when we have been out in clients’ and friends’ gardens of their funny pets making us laugh in the garden.

This is our friend Hazel’s auntie’s cat, Bouffy disguised as a pot, waiting on some birds to come!

Bouffy The Bird Slayer!

Bouffy The Bird Slayer!

This photograph is also from Hazel and is a photo of her lovely dogs Gabi and Zara. They are at the park and have found a “stick” to play fetch with!:

 Gabi & Zara show good team work bringing their "stick" home

Gabi & Zara show good team work bringing their “stick” home

This is one of Angi and Alex’s dogs – Alfie. Alfie is watching whilst they are packing the car ready to go on holiday. I think he is desperate to go on holiday too, don’t you? Remember your bucket and spade Alfie!:

Hurry up Mummy, Alfie says, I can't wait to go on holiday!

Hurry up Mummy, Alfie says, I
can’t wait to go on holiday!

Here we have our next door neighbour Auntie Muriel’s cat (1) Leo. He loves chilling in the garden in his makeshift hammock, aka the fruit cage netting! We took this photo while we were busy helping Auntie Muriel pick her plums.

 Leo finds a comfy "hammock" in the sun

Leo finds a comfy “hammock” in the sun

If you have funny photos of animals in your garden please get in touch, I would love to see them and share them on my blog.

To read Part 2 of “Funny Pets in the Garden” click here.

Lulu

1. I am very lucky and have 3 cats. They are:

Fudgey-doo-dee!

Fudgey-doo-dee!

 

Jingles - our latest cat who gives good cuddles!

Jingles – our latest cat who gives good cuddles!

 

Bungle - he is a scaredy cat (he hides behind the sofa a lot) and is a "Munchkin" but is very, very cute!

Bungle – he is a scaredy cat (he hides behind the sofa a lot) and is a “Munchkin” but is very, very cute!