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.

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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