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