We know what little time you have, so we have done all the hard work for you and collated the MUST HAVE list of the coolest things for your garden to give you ideas for gifts for Christmas 2015. You will be very popular if you give someone these Christmas pressies this year…
Garden lighting is a great addition and can allow you to use and enjoy your garden for much longer. However, it can be quite pricey to wire it up but how about these super cool bluetooth solar lights instead. AND, they can be controlled by your smartphone too. Wowsers. £39.95
There is something about the simplicity of these garden Kube Stools which we just LOVE. A row of them in different colours makes a fabulous focal point in the garden and they are easily moved to make sociable seating around the garden. £65.00
Garden art can encompass pretty much anything. We love the work of Heather Gray, a wonderful local sculptor based in South Queensferry, Scotland. This seed head is so delicate and echoes the wonderful forms we have in our garden. Prices vary depending on style and size but pop along to Heather’s website (check it out, great name!) for more information…
Forget Hunter wellies, these cool boots from BOGS look great and offer great protection in the garden. They even have a handy handle built in. Yes please Santa!
Prices start from £60
Having beautiful tools can add even more enjoyment to your pottering outside. These colourful OXO watering cans are stylish and practical. They come in a wide range of colours and have a bendable spout.
It’s all about the kids at this time of year and there’s no reason they shouldn’t miss out on all the garden fun. One of the things our kids love doing is playing in a den and this Hideout Wigwam would be a very popular present for any kid this Christmas. £65
Why not surprise them with a gardening gift voucher. Vouchers can be used towards absolutely any work in the garden from design to landscaping, grass-cutting to weeding. Just contact us to discuss what you would like.
Hope that helps with your Christmas 2015 shopping. Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas indeed.
All at Vialii
(Prices correct at time of publishing, December 2015)
Hello everyone! Well, it’s a pretty momentous week here at Vialii Towers as my baby sister is about to turn 1!! Yes, can you believe it has been a whole year since I became a big sister? Well, I have learnt a LOT about babies in the last year and I have taken that knowledge along with my gardening expertise to give all you new parents the best list ever of how to have fun with a baby in the garden…
Swings and paddling pools and plastic toys are soooo obvious. And not everyone has the space or money for larger toys or want lots of horrible plastic in their garden. Here are my top tips:
One of Tilda’s most favourite things is bubbles and we will definitely have some at her birthday party! Whether it’s a bubble machine or just a simple pot and wand babies will love watching them fly away in the wind and learn to pop them.
You can spend a lot of money on a water table (and I am sure it will be lots of fun) but it doesn’t need to be that expensive. One of mine and Tilda’s favourite things is just a bucket of water and then use some paintbrushes to pretend to paint water pictures on the patio. It’s sometimes fun to bring out a toy tea pot too and fill it with water and have a picnic on the lawn. And we always love watering the plants too!
All kids love digging in the sand and babies are no different. They love the feeling between their hands and feet, just be careful they don’t eat it! We were lucky to be built our own sand pit by Daddy but you could use anything. An old baby bath would be perfect as an upcycled sand pit in the garden (or as a water table.) Add some treasure too like foreign coins, conkers, shells etc to be dug up.
A playhouse is a wonderful addition to the garden and we were given a wonderful one by friends who didn’t need it any more and we gave it a bit of a makeover. Have a look on Freecycle or Gumtree to see who wants to get rid of an old playhouse. A lick of paint and some fabric to make curtains and bunting will easily transform it. Or for an even easier and cheaper solution, how about just draping a duvet cover or large blanket over the washing line and making a den? Brilliant!
GET THE GARDENING BUG
We don’t always have to resort to toys in the garden. Both Tilda and I have been keen gardeners from a very early edge and could probably use a trowel before we could even use a spoon! Let your babies explore the garden, dig in the borders and have fun getting dirty.
Now Tilda is a big girl, I might even let her do some blogs here too! Happy birthday Tilda, the most wonderful, loveliest, smiliest sister in the world! You’ve passed the test and you can stay!
Hugs & kisses,
It’s Halloween this weekend and I am sure some of you will be hosting Halloween parties or are just decorating your homes to be ghoulish and gruesome. Instead of spending a fortune on decorations from the shop, why not save money and have some fun by creating these amazing Halloween leaf ghosts using autumn leaves. It couldn’t be easier…
1. Firstly head outdoors and choose some autumn leaves to make your ghosts with. We chose maple and oak leaves as we think they are the best ghost like shapes.
2. Make sure the leaves are nice and dry and then paint them white. It may take a few coats of paint to make them really nice and white.
3. Once the paint is dry simply draw on eyes and a big ghosty mouth.
We think if you made lots of these you could make a really fabulous mobile from these leaf ghosts, but remember to paint both sides of the leaf if you are doing this.
Hugs & kisses, Happy Halloween everyone!
Did you know that today, 21st of October, is National Apple Day? I am glad that the Apple has it’s own special day as they are so yummy and super easy to grow. I should know as I have two apple trees which I can keep a close eye on from my playhouse which nestles cosily in between them. As an apple expert, here are my top tips on the best apples to grow in Scotland…
Apple ‘Egremont Russet’ is self fertile and easy to grow, making it ideal for gardens where there is only room for one tree. It is the most popular English russet variety.
The Discovery apple tree is fairly wee (just like me) but always check the root stock of the tree when you are buying (see below). It produces apples quite early in the season, they have a crisp texture and ruby red skins (good for playing Snow White!)
Fiesta is one of the best cox style apples and really easy to grow. It is sometimes called the Red Pippin which I think is cute!
James Grieve is the classic Scottish cooking apple but it can also be eaten fresh and is good for juice. Sounds like a fabulous all rounder, just like me!
This is an attractive and easy to grow apple, originally from Sweden and called Katya there. It’s a red eating apple and nice and juicy and great at growing in frosty areas (perfect for us here in Scotland!)
These apples come later in the season but they are worth waiting for as they are super yummy and nice and big.
The Spartan is a small, sweet apple and popular with us kids (I know why, they taste awesome!) Plus they are really easy to grow, bonus!
Sunset is another cox-style apple and is often preferred over the common Cox’s Orange Pippin as it is much easier to grow. They have a lovely aromatic flavour and the trees are generally not too big.
One of the most important things to look for when you are buying your apple tree is to buy one to suit your garden and how big you want it to get. Always check what the ROOT STOCK is and what size it will become. If you want a smaller tree you will want to consider a dwarf variety for your garden. Many trees are self fertilising so you don’t need to buy two and if you live in an urban environment there is a good chance there will be another apple tree nearby but it’s always best to check to ensure a bumper crop.
Now is the perfect time to research what tree you want and get it planted over winter (when they are sleepy, a bit like me!) and you will get some lovely, juicy apples by next summer.
Happy Apple Day everyone!
Hugs & kisses,
It’s been a busy old summer at Vialii Towers but we managed to sneak away for a couple of weeks holiday. We visited Northumberland in our first week and Lulu had a ball doing the Fairytale Treasure Trail at Alnwick Gardens. We headed west-ward for week two and finally made a long-awaited visit to Levens Hall Gardens in the Lake District. Read on to see what we thought…
As you enter the gardens you are treated to a pretty, open expanse of lawn and some wonderfully ornate pots. However, it’s not until you pass through the next gate that you are treated to the wonderful sights that Levens Hall is famous for – its topiary!
The topiary is in a league of its own and it certainly lives up to its claim as being the finest, oldest and most extensive topiary collection in the world. It is everywhere to be seen and it is immaculate. We loved that no-one has been tempted to create topiary animals or twee shapes. The gardens are a wonderfully eclectic mix of random shapes and sizes which complement each other really well. The “top hat” tree was one of our favourites! It also shows the wide array of plants which can be used in topiary from the commonly used yew and box to the less used holly.
From the topiary section we walked along (and inside!) the tallest and widest hedge we had ever seen. It was fabulous to be inside the hedge and appreciate its amazing structure.
From there we happened across the most beautiful herbaceous border which was a wonderful array of blues, purples and whites. Again, the garden was immaculate and lovingly tended by the gardening team.
From there we discovered a wonderful array of features from orchards, rose and herb gardens, grow your own areas and water features.
Tucked away down the bottom of the garden was a small play area and bug house. Our three year old daughter Lulu loved playing down here and hunting for bugs and it was a welcome addition to the garden. Levens Hall had also thoughtfully put together a wonderful children’s quiz where you have to hunt for the details in the garden. It kept us all amused for the whole day and is perfect for children of all ages.
Elsewhere, we can recommend the cakes in the cafe and the shop had some lovely gifts with thought being put into offering local and relevant gifts for visitors. We purchased some wonderful prints of the garden which will forever remind us of a wonderful day at Levens Hall. Make it a MUST SEE on your garden list. We’ll certainly be back.
All at Vialii
Like me, I bet you mainly grow plants in your garden to look pretty or to taste yummy. But did you know plants can have lots of other uses? Read on to find out just what else they can be used for in my blog “Plants & Their Amazing Uses”…
Way, way, way back in time (before even Mummy and Daddy were born) plants were the only medicines we had. Clever medicine men and women would gather them to make potions to cure everything from a cold to a sore tummy. 800 years ago there was terrible disease called the Black Death. Hedges were the chemists of the time. People made little posies from the berries and flowers that could be gathered from them and waved them in front of their faces as they thought that would stop them catching the disease. Even though we now know that waving flowers in our faces can’t stop a cold, 1 in 10 of all the really, really important, essential drugs that we use all the time come from plants.
Here are just a few examples of medicines made from plants:
A lot of the materials we use to make our clothes come from plants. My favourite cotton dresses come from the cotton plant. It would be a wonderful field to look at if it had pretty pinafores growing in it. Luckily my clever Granny Biscuits can use the cotton fabric and make them into dresses for me! Look out for other natural fibres in your clothing such as hemp or flax. I have even seen bamboo t-shirts!
While most of our vehicles run on petrol & diesel, there are alternative fuels out there. Bio-fuels come from crops including corn and soybeans. Bio-fuels are also attractive as they are renewable and have lower emissions. Let’s hope governments make wise choices to support these types of fuels going forward and support the research required to make them cheaper and more widely available.
Now, we all know the tale of the Three Little Pigs so we know that choosing a house made of sticks or straw isn’t the best option. However, you would be hard pushed to find a house that doesn’t use wood anywhere in its construction so we should appreciate our wonderful trees a whole lot more.
So, next time you are out tending to your plants, say thanks to them for being such wonderful things which we simply couldn’t live without.
Hugs & kisses,
If you are an avid follower of our blogs (and why wouldn’t you be?!) then you will be aware that we love a wee upcycling project at Vialii. And these projects are my VERY favourites that we have ever tackled. Welcome to the Vialii Garden Playhouse Makeover!
M&D are designing a garden for friends at the moment and tucked away in a corner of their garden, no longer used, was a playhouse which these (very lovely!) friends said we could have. As this saved Daddy the job of making our own playhouse, he now had the time and energy to help me and Mummy give it a bit of a makeover.
We tucked the playhouse in one of our borders so that it doesn’t take up too much space. We just needed to move a few plants.
The view from inside is lovely, across the garden the fields and up to the Ochil Hills.
My clever mummy made curtains for the windows and door and some bunting for inside and out. I hung a beautiful painting I made at nursery inside and Daddy laid some artificial grass inside which looks like a green furry rug!
While we have been very busy at Vialii Towers, my BFF Euan has also been flying the flag for upcycled Vialii playhouses. His clever Daddy has made his from upcycled pallets. Here he is loving his wee house:
I’d love to see pics of your playhouses so feel free to share…
Hugs & kisses,
Clients commonly ask us if it is OK if they can phase their garden build. We ensure there is complete flexibility with all our designs and how they are built. If it’s something you are considering read our blog about the benefits and downsides to this approach.
Sometimes it’s not possible to build your newly designed dream garden at the one time. Maybe budget doesn’t allow it or perhaps other building work going on in the house might impact on the garden. By building the design in phases, though, it is still possible to eventually get the dream garden over a longer timescale.
The most important thing is to be organised and draw up a masterplan of everything the final garden will contain. This masterplan will ensure that the phases marry together neatly and produce a cohesive overall feel once all stages are complete. The master design also becomes roadmap for every cable and pipe to be laid above or below ground and the identity and position of every tree and plant. For example if you’re laying a patio in an early phase it will be important to know if you’re installing a lighting feature at a later stage so that electrics can be properly located and the patio doesn’t need to be lifted temporarily.
It is useful to also have a mood board of the different soft and hard landscaping to be used in each phase to give a greater appreciation of how those will work together too.
In order to get as much instant gratification as possible the larger surfacing work should be done in phase one. This includes laying patios and lawns further away from access points. Not only will you be able to enjoy these spaces but getting the soil covered will help keep your house clean! Another priority should be getting shelter from wind or sun and some privacy/security. This could be boundaries such as fences and walls or trees. If you’re including any “grow your own” areas you might wish this to be done earlier in the build too so you can start to re-coup money savings on shop bought produce.
If you’re redesigning front and back gardens it can be tempting to start with the front garden to get best kerbside effect. But all the hard work can easily be damaged if there are subsequent access issues getting materials into the rear garden and waste out. It’s best not to “paint yourself into a corner”!
So if you are considering a new look to your garden please get in touch and we will be round to help you plan a master design so you can get everything on your “essential”,”nice to have” and “dream” lists.
All at Vialii
The nights are getting darker earlier (not that I would know as I’m already asleep way before it gets dark) so it must be getting towards the end of the growing season. So, what do you do with your compost in containers and grow bags once your plants have stopped producing? Read on for my top tips…
The most obvious thing is to just dig the remainder into your borders and raised beds. It seems strange that you can add more compost each year and your beds don’t overflow. It’s the same with farmers spreading muck each year, the fields don’t become skyscrapers either! But if your old compost has been healthy, without any pest or disease problems, there are loads of more interesting and helpful ways you can use it in the garden:
Those are my ideas for reusing your old compost, can you think of any others?
I hope you can tell from my pictures what brilliant fun I had helping Beauty escape the evil grip of the Wicked Queen. Alnwick Gardens are one of the prettiest gardens in the country anyway and this new treasure trail makes it super fun for ALL the family. Some of the clues are quite tricky so make sure you brush up on your fairy tales before you go. But don’t worry too much as there are some lovely resident fairy tale characters in the gardens to help out if you get a bit stuck about where to go next. So if you are looking for a brilliant day out this summer make sure you head over to Alnwick Gardens.
Hugs & kisses,
You may think fences are boring and not an important element of your garden. However, you would be wrong! There are lots of benefits of a good fence from creating a boundary and keeping your garden secure to creating a beautiful backdrop and being a design feature in itself. Here are just a few of the styles we can design and build to transform your boundaries…
Probably the most common of fences, and most often the fence of choice in new developments. The vertical slatted fence can give a good, neutral back drop to your garden. If you are looking for additional security and privacy, we recommend considering double slatting your fence. Or, if you want something just a little different, try varying the widths of the slats you use – have a section of normal widths with a section of narrower slats in between to create a “designer” look very simply.
Horizontal fences immediately give a more modern, designer feel to a garden. Whether you splash out on beautiful cedar wood or simply use soft wood in a horizontal pattern rather than the usual verticals, you will create a fantastic modern background. To finish off the “designer look” leave gaps between each slats. As with verticals, these can be single or double slatted.
In some instances it can be a good idea to create a raised fence. This is normally when you already have an attractive boundary such as an old wall but you would like more privacy above this feature. By putting the fence on “stilts” we can raise the height of your boundary without losing an important feature within your garden.
Another common choice, the ranch style fence can provide a rustic charm to a garden. A good choice in more rural settings where it is built with gaps in a “post and rail style” and is suitable where privacy is less of an issue and you can avoid the feeling of being hemmed in. They are commonly used in urban environments with no gaps between the slats giving more privacy. However, the ranch fence is an easy one to scale so not great from a security perspective.
Using fencing to create a screen can hide a multitude of sins. Whether its the back of an old garage, your utility area or just an ugly view, a screen can immediately turn the ugly into the beautiful and create a look more expected in the Côte d’Azur. You can choose your materials and colour but whatever you choose you can be assured of an immediate solution to your problem.
Trellis is a great way to add height and interest to a fence or create a boundary. It can be added to an existing boundary to give additional privacy without being too imposing. Or use trellis panels to screen off certain areas of the garden or to create “rooms”. Growing climbers up the trellis makes it look even prettier and adds to your privacy.
Log fences are fantastic if you don’t need to create too much of a screen between you and your neighbours. Or they can be a feature within the garden. They are perfect if you are fortunate enough to live somewhere with no neighbours beyond as the log fence creates a boundary which blends perfectly with the views beyond. Consider short versions of this as a boundary to a kids’ play area.
Particularly in front gardens, you may want to create a real statement which will wow the neighbours – and that is where a bespoke option may be just the answer. It may be different types of timbers, different shapes of timber, curving, different paint colour – there are a whole host of options out there and you can be sure to stand out from the rest.
For many, the picket fence is the epitomy of middle-class suburban life and has a colonial feel to it. Traditionally painted white, the picket fence remains a popular choice in the UK as well as in the States.
Willow and bamboo fences have become increasingly popular in recent years due to their easy construction and affordability and can add a rustic feel to your garden. They can be bought in panels and attached to uprights to create a natural backdrop to your garden. They can be used as a boundary or as a screen within the garden. The bamboo panels can be quite lightweight so may not be as long lasting as other options. As they are lightweight they need to be secured to a rigid framework. You can get lots of other timber fence panels too, to suit taste and budget. They won’t last as long as a hand made fence though so bear that in mind.
If you are looking to create a very contemporary garden and you want something a bit different, why not consider introducing some coloured perspex sheets into your garden. They will certainly create a wow-factor and look particularly impressive at night when lit up. These are most effective used as features within the garden. You can also use clear perspex effectively on balconies.
There are, of course, many more fences you can consider and they can easily be adapted to create a designer look or to suit your lifestyle. From fences with climbing walls and inset blackboards to inbuilt designer shelving or green walls there are countless ways to make your fence unique. We are happy to meet with you to discuss your needs and agree a fence which will suit the style of your garden and meet your requirements – just don’t sit on the fence!
All at Vialii
It’s not just gardens that we are talented at designing, we can design new ice-creams too!
The recent cold weather has given us plenty time to stay nice and warm inside and think over what a year 2014 was (aided by a cuppa or two!) Here is our Vialii Review of 2014 and what 2014 was the year of to us…
You know us, we’re always on the look-out for ways to utilise items that would otherwise make their way into landfill. In the past we’ve even been known to create an outside lounge for a client, just to utilise a Victorian cast iron fireplace that was found in the house renovations! Back in April we blogged about some other up-cycling ideas we’d tried out at Vialii Towers. We used our old trailer wheels and tyres to make unusual planters. We made a quirky container to display potted plants and encouraged wildlife into the garden by making a bird table from left over timber. We also thought we’d give you step-by-step instructions on how to make your own planters out of pallets. The herbs we planted in ours were a great success last year.
Our 3 year old blogging daughter writes for our sister gardening company Vialii Garden Services on fun and informative aspects of growing your own veg and wildlife gardening. There were lots of outdoor activities and fun crafts featured in “Lulu’s Garden” in 2014 with the wonderful perk of getting a great array of tasty food to try and colourful decorations around the house and garden. Not to mention lovely Mother’s and Father’s day gifts! With our latest Vialii team member newly arrived (more on that later), Lulu has some help at present from her guest-blogging BFF Euan. As a growing 3 year old boy his focus is always switched on to food so you can be sure there are always children’s cooking and baking ideas to use up home grown produce.
Weather conditions made working in gardens last year challenging to say the least. 2014 had the hottest summer but was also the 4th wettest year on record. The hot weather didn’t affect us too much, we just had to take extra care ensuring new plants and lawns were well-watered (and of course use lots of sun cream and wear a hat!) The wet November however saw an already challenging sloped garden turn into a precarious working environment. Not sure the team really saw the free mud baths as a perk of the job though!
Gardens of course never stay static. They are constantly evolving, be that naturally or with a little help. We gave our own garden a simple but effective revamp last year. When we first designed our garden we built troughs around the deck and painted them white. Last year we felt Michael wasn’t being exposed to enough girliness with just a wife and one daughter so we decided to add a bright splash of pink to the troughs in a quick and easy makeover. We also added new pink pots to the patio area and a bright teal coat of paint to our bird table. New upcycled planters added more colour around the garden. Reports that it has helped Michael get more in touch with his feminine side are yet to be confirmed!
The opening of Provost Park in Bridge of Allan by our daughter Lulu was the culmination of almost 4 years of discussion and planning. The design remit was to transform an underused space in the town centre that is situated immediately beside the public toilet into an inviting park that could be used by all. The space needed to be accessed by families, couples and the elderly so path widths and surfaces were important. It also needed to fit in with the Victorian spa town and be easy to maintain. We created a focal point with a cast iron gazebo in the centre of the formal gardens. This was surrounded by symmetrical planting and topiary- both favourites of Victorians. Metal laser-cut screens displaying iconic Bridge of Allan features such as the Allanwater Bridge, the local celebrity heron, the Paterson Clock and a church window help camouflage the toilet block as well as creating a great back drop to the garden.
Whilst it was a relatively small project, the build of one garden in Stirling was challenging and memorable due to the only access being through their kitchen. I think it’s a first for Vialli that the team were carting through materials whilst the client made macaroni cheese for her family. It did seem to make them work even faster so they could get to their lunch though!
It was a particularly satisfying build because prior to finding Vialii the client had been told by another uninterested landscaper that “if you ever get anybody to do your garden for you then they will be cowboys”. This was a red rag to the proverbial bull and we were chuffed to deliver the family a beautiful garden of which they are delighted with. And not a cowboy in sight! Yee-ha!
We were lucky enough to have 2 family holidays in 2014. We headed to Northumberland and to Kingussie in the Scottish Highlands. That gave us great opportunity to visit some lovely gardens in the UK. Up in the Highlands we visited Blair Castle Gardens. The extensive grounds contain a wooded grove, a walled garden, a babbling burn (Banvie Burn), a ruined kirk, a sculpture trail and a red deer park.
With the summers of 2013 and 2014 being particularly good, a lot of our clients have been looking to make their gardens into an extension of their houses. They’ve been especially keen to ensure they had outdoor spaces where they could play, relax, entertain, dine and have fun. Summerhouses, offices, pergolas and large dining patios have all been created. All members of the family have been catered for with new lawns (both real and artificial) created for kids and pets to enjoy.
Our biggest highlight in our Review of 2014 has to be the arrival of baby daughter Tilda at Vialii Towers in November. Lulu’s proving to be a wonderful big sister and is looking forward to Tilda being able to get outside and start gardening. Keep your eyes peeled for a cute pic of all the family in their Vialii t-shirts coming to your screens soon 🙂
We can’t wait to see what this year is going to bring…
Here’s to a wonderful 2015 everyone.
All at Vialii