How To Make A Bug Hotel

Bug hotels are a wonderful additions to any garden. They can be made with lots of things you can find in your garden or on a walk round the woods. Not only are they a lot of fun to make, they provide a safe habitat for lots of beneficial insects to shelter in. You could attract all sorts of guests from ladybirds to lacewings, beetles to bees. Here’s how to make a bug hotel…

The girls with their 5 star hotel
The girls with their 5 star hotel

You will need:

To make:

1. Find an old wooden box you don’t need anymore or make one using some old off-cuts of wood. This is your structure which you will fill with lots of lovely things. It can be whatever size or shape you wish.

2. Get some wood and drill different sized holes to attract bees.

Drill holes in a piece of wood
Drill holes in a piece of wood (more appropriate footwear is recommended!)

3. Fill a tin can with some cut up pieces of bamboo cane.

Pop bamboo canes into an old tin can
Pop bamboo canes into an old tin can

4. Stack some broken pieces of terracotta pot or slates inside your box

Old broken pieces of terracotta pots are perfect for stacking inside your bug hotel
Old broken pieces of terracotta pots are perfect for stacking inside your bug hotel

5. Stuff pine cones, straw and moss into the spaces.

Stuff lots of straw, moss and pine cones into all the gaps
Stuff lots of straw, moss and pine cones into all the gaps

And there you have it, a 5 star hotel, suitable for the most glamorous of bug guests! Pop it into a quiet corner of the garden and you will soon be fully booked!

Find a quiet corner of the garden for your bug hotel.
Find a quiet corner of the garden for your bug hotel.

Vialii

How To Make A Scarecrow

With your veggie patches full of promise, the last thing you need is for pesky birds to steal your treasures! A fun way to keep those pests at bay is to make a scarecrow – a great focal point for the productive garden and a new member of the family!

How to Make a Scarecrow

You will need:

To make:

1. Create your structure with a central post and a cross bar for arms and preferably one for the hips too!

Make your frame out of old timbers or canes
Make your frame out of old timbers or canes

2. Attach the clothes and seal off the legs/arms with string or cable ties so stuffing wont fall out.

Attach the clothes and seal off the legs and arms
Attach the clothes and seal off the legs and arms

3.Stuff the legs, body and arms (we used moss for ours). You can add some straw to the arms and legs for effect.

We used moss to stuff the clothes
We used moss to stuff the clothes

4. Put your scarecrow in place and add some old boots.

5. Make a head – we used an old bulk bag we get deliveries in but you could use an old ball, make a papier mache head, an old pair of tights, a plastic bag – whatever you have lying about! Add a face – we just drew ours on with a sharpie)

Make a head and add a hat and a face
Make a head and add a hat and a face

6.Add the head to your scarecrow and give him/her a name. Ours is called Bob!

Lulu, Tilda and Bob!
Lulu, Tilda and Bob!

Lulu, Tilda and Bob!

Have fun making your own scarecrows!

Vialii

Make Your Own Leaf Art

Like many of us, we have been finding lots of fun new projects to try with the kids as part of their home schooling. Ones which combine learning and nature are always popular at Vialii Towers so this project where you can make your own leaf art was a big hit with us all. Want to try this one at home too? Well, here’s how to make your own beautiful, unique piece of art…

You will need:

How to make your own leaf art…

1. Choose a leaf. It can be from your garden or one you find while out for a walk. We chose one from our viburnum davidii as they have quite sturdy leaves, easy to draw around.

Pick a leaf to create your leaf art with.

Pick a leaf to create your leaf art with

2. Carefully place your leaf where you want to start. Think about where your leaves will go so you can fit your flower shape in. Top tip – start with North, then South, then East then West (or 12 o’clock, 6 o’clock etc if you want to slip a bit of time lesson in there!)

Carefully draw around the leaf allowing space for the full picture.

Carefully draw around the leaf allowing space for the full picture.

3. Keep drawing around your leaves until you have made your flower shape.

Add in all the shapes to make your flower picture.

Add in all the shapes to make your flower picture.

4. Add in any detailing you wish to add.

Add in stripes, spots, geometric lines - whatever you want for your own unique picture.

Add in stripes, spots, geometric lines – whatever you want for your own unique picture.

5. Let your imagination run riot with your colouring.

Colour your leaf art in any way you wish.

Colour your leaf art in any way you wish.

6. Ta da, you have created your own leaf art!

The completed picture - well done Tilda, it looks amazing!

The completed picture – well done Tilda, it looks amazing!

Hope you enjoy making your own unique leaf art at home.

Vialii

Gardening Out of Lockdown

As we ease our way gently out of lockdown, we will ease our way out of our weekly updates on our own garden going forward. We’ll keep you posted through our blog and social media pages of progress in our garden and things we love and catch our eye. But hopefully as things ease we will be able to bring you more from other gardens as we slowly (very slowly remember!) edge back towards normality (if anyone can remember what that is!)

Despite the horrific times we have lived through recently, there will always be the good memories: of long lazy days in our gardens; of teaching our children how to grow plants from seeds; of seeing them learning to love trying new vegetables to eat and of spending quality family time together. In our latest blog, we share some of the jobs we tackled this week, and of our trusty mini helpers getting stuck in to help as we start “gardening out of lockdown”…

Planting out broccoli

At the start of lockdown, Lulu planted a selection of seeds, including broccoli. She has potted them on, nurtured them and made a stone marker for them. Michael knocked up a cage for them this week to protect them from the cabbage butterfly. And we finally got them planted in the ground. We can’t wait to harvest them in a month or two.

Keep your broccoli covered with netting to protect the leaves from being eaten by caterpillars

Keep your broccoli covered with netting to protect the leaves from being eaten by caterpillars

Planting out beans

As the storms had past and a week of sunshine was forecast, it was time for our beans to be planted into our raised beds. We had already made our cane teepee for them to climb up so it was just a case of popping them into the soil between the potatoes. They are already curling their way up the canes and we can’t wait to see the flowers and eat the beans!

Lulu planted the beans as companion plants to our potatoes

Lulu planted the beans as companion plants to our potatoes

Harvesting veg

One of our favourite things about lockdown is seeing the girls’ new found love for eating salad. Tilda munches spinach leaves like Popeye, and Lulu is loving a mix of rocket, spinach and radish. Job done!

Pick your own lunch! Organic and impossible to get fresher. Perfect way to be gardening out of lockdown!

Pick your own lunch! Organic and impossible to get fresher. Perfect!

Potting on courgettes

We were kindly donated a courgette plant from a friend. We potted it into a nice big pot with plenty of space to grow. Our top tip, is to plant a plastic bottle (cut down) or a plant pot in the soil beside your courgettes. Use this to water your courgettes so that the roots get the water without the leaves getting wet, reducing the chance of getting mildew on the leaves.

Pop an empty bottle beside your courgette plant for watering. Gardening out of lockdown.

Pop an empty bottle beside your courgette plant for watering

Potting on sunflowers

The annual “who can grow the largest sunflower” competition is well underway at Vialii Towers and this week we potted them into bigger pots to help encourage growth. We will wait until they are larger before we risk planting them in our soil where the slugs and snails love to munch on them! Will Lulu win for a third year running???

Pot on your sunflowers and stake them for the best results

Pot on your sunflowers and stake them for the best results

Sweep up fallen cherries

We have a beautiful big cherry tree in our front garden which gives stunning blossom in Spring and adds height and maturity to the front garden. But at this time of year there are lots of fallen cherries which we constantly have to sweep up. It’s important to keep on top of these simple sweeping up jobs in order to keep your paths clear and stop drains from getting clogs.

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Carry on deadheading

Tilda was out with her secateurs this week, keeping on top of deadheading. Irises, tulips, primulas all benefit from being deadheaded, to encourage growth and to tidy up your borders.

Deadhead any flowers which have gone over to maximise flowering and tidy your borders

Deadhead any flowers which have gone over to maximise flowering and tidy your borders

Stopping Japanese anemones from spreading

We love Japanese anemones. Their stature and flowers add much needed structure and colour to the late summer garden. However, they can be brutes so be prepared to keep an eye on them spreading. They will disguise themselves amidst your other herbaceous and bulbs so keep a close eye and pull them out before they get too big and take over.

Watch out for Japanese anemone sneakily spreading...Gardening out of lockdown.

Watch out for Japanese anemone sneakily spreading…

Camping!

Amidst all the gardening, we managed a weekend of camping! The whole family (even the dog!) camped outside, listening to the squawks of the nearby baby owls! Enjoy your garden, whatever you decide to do in it!

Camping in the garden, great fun!

Camping in the garden, great fun!

Vialii

Rhubarb Friands Recipe

After the popularity of our recent Rhubarb & Lemon Cake recipe, we thought we would share another favourite rhubarb recipe of ours. Friands are bite sized delights – small enough that they are guilt free (unless you eat 3 or of them at a time like us!!) So, if you are wondering what else you can do with your rhubarb, here is our Rhubarb Friands recipe…

Rhubarb friands are a bite-sized delight!

Rhubarb friands are a bite-sized delight!

Ingredients

Makes 18

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C
  2. Pop the chopped rhubarb on a baking tray and roast for 5 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.
  3. Melt the butter.
  4. Use some of the butter to lightly grease the friand moulds or mini muffin tray.
  5. Let the butter cool slightly to use later in the recipe.
  6. Sift the flour and icing sugar into a large bowl and stir through the ground almonds.
  7. Place the egg whites into another large bowl and whisk until they are white and frothy.
  8. Gently mix the frothy egg whites into the flour mixture.
  9. Add the melted butter  and stir everything together.
  10. Fill the friand pan until each mould is full.
  11. Arrange 2-3 slices of rhubarb on top of each mould, pushing them lightly into the batter.
  12. Bake the friands in the oven for about 15-18 minutes, or until they are lightly golden and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  13. Let the friands cool in the pan for about 5 minutes before removing them to a wire rack to cool completely.
  14. Serve the friands warm or cold with a dusting of icing sugar.

Blackberries make a delicious alternative to rhubarb later in the season. Hope you enjoy this rhubarb friands recipe.

Enjoy!

Vialii

Gardening During Lockdown – Week 9

Week 9 has been a week of extreme weathers, with scorching hot sunshine and paddling pools to battening down the hatches in the storms. We did manage to fit in some gardening, here is what we have been doing in Gardening During Lockdown – Week 9.

Preparing for Beans

Our bean seedlings are a good size and have been nicely hardened off. We could have had them in the ground already but with a storm forecast we decided to hold off a few days. We did get our canes in place in readiness with some string to wind themselves around. We are planting them alongside our potatoes as they are great companion plants and allow us to fit more into our home allotment.

 

Create supports for your beans to scramble up

Create supports for your beans to scramble up

Chelsea Chop

Whilst the Chelsea Flower Show has been cancelled this year, we have been enjoying the old footage on BBC and seeing designers’ gardens. It’s the time of year to do the “Chelsea Chop” which means cutting back some of your herbaceous plants to avoid them growing too big and flopping as well as controlling the flowering period. We do it to our sedum and centaurea and it makes a big difference.

Sedums will really benefit from the Chelsea Chop

Sedums will really benefit from the Chelsea Chop

Trim Your Topiary

If you have box balls (buxus sempervirens) or topiary plants in your garden, give them a trim to keep them in shape, adding structure to your garden. We have numerous box balls and cloud topiary and they are a lovely partnership to softer herbaceous planting and bulbs.

Give your topiary a haircut - no need for it to suffer like you!!!

Give your topiary a haircut – no need for it to suffer like you!!!

Protect Your Planters

With the high winds forecast we took some time to huddle our pots together to give them some more protection. It saved them from blowing over in the wind and hopefully some fruit will still appear on our various plants in coming months…

With high winds forecast its worth taking the time to huddle your pots together for protection

With high winds forecast its worth taking the time to huddle your pots together for protection

Start Harvesting

It’s getting to the exciting time that some veg can start to be harvested. First things to be picked include radishes, salad leaves, rocket and baby spinach. All organic and fresh from the garden. Perfect!

Some fast growing veg is starting to be able to be harvested already, yum!

Some fast growing veg is starting to be able to be harvested already, yum!

Weeding

The veg patch always has weeds popping up especially rogue potatoes from previous years. Don’t be tempted to leave those in and see how they grow. They will be susceptible to diseases and will just take up valuable space where your lovely new veg should be growing. Wheech them out as you see them popping up. If you are rotating your crops it will be easy to spot as they will be growing amidst different seedlings.

Keep on top of the weeding so that it's your veg and plants that are flourishing in your garden

Keep on top of the weeding so that it’s your veg and plants that are flourishing in your garden

Enjoy Your Garden

With the tulips now faded, the alliums are the stars of our garden at the moment. The graceful purple pom poms nod all around the garden, providing repetition and height. When their colour fades, keep the seed heads to provide interest in the garden. Take a moment (or ten) to enjoy the loveliness of your own garden.

Alliums are looking amazing in our garden at the moment

Alliums are looking amazing in our garden at the moment

Other jobs to do:

Stay safe

Vialii

Gardening During Lockdown – Week 8

The beauty of lockdown is that we get to spend a lot more time in our gardens! Ours has never looked so good (if you don’t look at the grass!) with every weekend allowing us to potter away. Nothing feels like a chore either as weeding is done quickly and not allowed to build up. From pottering in the veg patch to adding new edging we have had another busy week – here’s what we have tackled in “Gardening During Lockdown – Week 8″…

More Thinning

As seedlings sprout up and fill out we have been doing more thinning – this week the beetroot got our full attention. Gently pull out smaller seedlings leaving space for your bigger seedlings to grow nice and strong.

Thin your veg seedlings to give them space to grow
Thin your veg seedlings to give them space to grow

More Deadheading

Keep on top of your deadheading. We’re always sad to see our tulips going over but at least we can enjoy our alliums which are now bursting open across our garden. Snip away the dead flowers but keep the foliage so that the energy goes back into the bulbs for next year.

Dead head your tulips as they start to go over
Dead head your tulips as they start to go over

More Earthing Up

Keep on top of those tatties – it’s important to keep earthing them up as the shoots push up through the soil. This will stop your tubers turning green and inedible as well as protecting them from frost and encouraging more growth.

Add edging

Edging to borders and lawn is both practical and pretty. It stops grass growing into your borders, makes grass cutting easier with no edging to be done and generally gives your garden a smarter finish. We had already edged most of our lawn but with our new archway in place we created a larger border around it which we have now edged.

Add edging to your borders to stop grass from spreading into borders
Add edging to your borders to stop grass from spreading into borders

Potting on

We spent time this week potting on some of our seedlings. Tomatoes have been potted into large pots and popped in place in the greenhouse. We moved beans into larger pots this week. Probably in the next week or so we will plant them into the veg patch but we wanted to make sure the risk of frost had passed before we took the final leap to planting them outdoors.

Pot on your veg as they get too big for their pots
Pot on your veg as they get too big for their pots

Feeding

It’s important to feed fruit and veg that you have growing in containers so they get all the nutrients they need. We are giving our strawberries a weekly tomato feed. We also gave our blueberries an ericaceous feed this week – this should be done in early Spring and late Spring.

Feed blueberries in early and late spring with an ericaceous feed
Feed blueberries in early and late spring with an ericaceous feed

Other jobs to tackle just now:

As always, enjoy your gardens and stay safe

Vialii

Rhubarb & Lemon Cake Recipe

We discovered this recipe several years ago and has been a firm favourite ever since. At this time of year we have plenty rhubarb in the garden and are always looking for interesting things to do with it. By popular demand here is the Rhubarb and Lemon Cake recipe – enjoy!

Our rhubarb patch
Our rhubarb patch

Rhubarb & Lemon Cake

Ingredients:

For the Lemon Glaze:

Method:

Preheat oven to 350/180 degrees.
Butter a 10-cup bundt pan or a 22cm spring-form tin. (See note 3)

To make the cake, sift the flour, the baking powder and salt together in a bowl. Using a handheld mixer with beaters or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest together on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition, then stir in the lemon oil.

Stir in the flour mixture in three additions alternating with the buttermilk in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. The batter will be very thick.

Toss the rhubarb with the 2 tablespoons of flour and fold half into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the remaining rhubarb on top.

Bake for 30 minutes, then rotate the pan and cook for an additional 30 minutes, or until the centre springs back when lightly touched. Cool the cake in its pan on the wire rack for 30 minutes before inverting and removing the pan.

To make the lemon glaze, whisk the icing sugar, lemon juice and butter together. The mixture should be thick. If it’s not, whisk in another tablespoon or two of the sugar. Spread the glaze over the cake as soon as you remove it from the pan.

I hope you enjoy this cake as much as us.

The finished cake
The finished cake

Vialii

  1. We didn’t have lemon oil so we just used the zest of another lemon. You could use the juice but then you would need to reduce the amount of buttermilk you added.
  2. If you can’t find buttermilk you can substitute it with full fat milk mixed with natural yoghurt.
  3. If you are using a spring form tin, line the base with some greased baking parchment.

Gardening During Lockdown – Week 7

The weeks keep on ticking past. We are so lovely to have a garden to help pass the time, to relax and eat in and to just enjoy nature. The weather continues to be kind allowing us plenty opportunity to both work and relax in the garden. And with a birthday to celebrate in the garden during this past week there has been LOTS of eating and relaxing! Here’s what we have been doing in “Gardening During Lockdown – Week 7″…

Thinning seedlings

The seeds we planted a few weeks ago in our veg beds are starting to shoot up and now is the time to start thinning the seedlings. This will allow the veg you are keeping more space to grow and to be healthy. You can try transplanting your seedlings into another row for twice the harvest. Or plant another row of seeds now for successional planting, giving you salad throughout the summer.

Lulu thinning out some radish seedlings, allowing them plenty space to grow
Lulu thinning out some radish seedlings, allowing them plenty space to grow

Earthing up potatoes

Our potatoes are starting to pop up through the soil so it’s important to “earth them up”. This basically means covering them up with more soil which will stop your potatoes from turning green and becoming inedible, protect the leaves from frost damage and encourage bigger crops.

Earth up those tatties for healthy, large crops
Earth up those tatties for healthy, large crops

Keep on weeding

The warm weather along with some spells of rain have meant the weeds are growing as fast as all the other plants. So make sure you head out to do a bit of weeding each week and you will easily keep on top of it.

Keep checking your garden for weeds to keep on top of it
Keep checking your garden for weeds to keep on top of it

Keep deadheading

It’s important to keep on top of deadheading your flowers as they start to go over. This week we have been busy cutting back the dead flowers on daffodils, camellias and primulas. You will encourage more growth and keep your garden looking lovely.

Dead heading allows plants to focus on new growth and keeps your garden looking lovely
Dead heading allows plants to focus on new growth and keeps your garden looking lovely

Plant up spare pots

We have had a couple of very old troughs lying about so we got round to planting them at the weekend. We managed to salvage some alpines, strawberries and herbs to fill them. When planting alpines remember they like poor quality of soil so add plenty grit to the compost and then add a fine layer to the surface to finish.

The girls helped plant up our troughs and dress the top of the compost with grit
The girls helped plant up our troughs and dress the top of the compost with grit

Have a water fight

A water fight is a must-do job on sunny days! The watering of the plants quickly got side-tracked into a full on water fight. The hose won! (Excuse the state of the lawn – first job post lockdown is replace it!)

A water fight is a must on a sunny day!
A water fight is a must on a sunny day!

Have birthday celebrations

Jill joined the many people celebrating their birthday in lockdown and actually said it was the best one ever. What’s there to not like about spending a gloriously warm day in the garden with your family, eating and drinking lots of lovely things. Think this might be the new tradition!

Afternoon tea in the sunshine - it doesn't get much better than that!
Afternoon tea in the sunshine – it doesn’t get much better than that!

Other things to do:

Enjoy your gardens and stay safe.

Vialii

Gardening During Lockdown – Week 6

Another week and lots more sunshine (and thankfully for the gardens a wee bit rain!) Everything is sprouting at quite a rate so there are plenty of jobs to keep us busy in the garden. Here’s what has been happening this week at Vialii Towers in Gardening During Lockdown – Week 6…

Keep on top of the veg beds

All this sunshine along with some rain showers will get both your seeds and weeds growing fast! So make sure you keep on top of your weeding and watch out for your seedlings popping up. You will need to start thinning out your seedlings soon to make space for your veg to grow properly.

Keep on top of weeding your veg beds and thinning seedlings

Keep on top of weeding your veg beds and thinning seedlings

Protect your hostas

Hostas and other fleshy leaves are favourites for slugs and snails so make sure you give them some protection. There are lots of ways to do this from eggs shells and horse hair pellets to copper tape and nematodes. For more tips read our blog all about slugs and snails. 

Keep your prized plants protected from slugs and snails

Keep your prized plants protected from slugs and snails

Feed your plants

Tomato feed is not just for tomatoes. Lots of your favourite fruit, veg and plants will benefit from being fed some tomato feed. As soon as your strawberries start to flower, give them a weekly feed and you will get some lovely fruit as a thank you.

Your strawberries plants will be needing fed as soon as they flower

Your strawberries plants will be needing fed as soon as they flower

Beautiful bulbs

Now is the perfect time to take a moment and enjoy your Spring bulbs. Our tulips looks beautiful just now and our alliums are almost set to bloom. It is our most favourite time of year to spend in our garden – lucky huh?!

Enjoy uour spring bulbs - our tulips look beautiful just now

Enjoy your spring bulbs – our tulips look beautiful just now

Feed the birds

Keep your bird feeders topped up to maximise your feathered visitors to your garden. We added some niger seeds to our garden this week in the hope of attracting some finches to the garden. Be sure to add a variety of seeds and fatballs to get a lovely mix of visitors to your garden. They may even help you tackle those slugs and snails!

Add different types of seeds to get a wider variety of birds to the garden

Add different types of seeds to get a wider variety of birds to the garden

Fill gaps in rockeries and borders

Now is a great time to fill gaps in your rockeries, walls and borders. You may be able to split existing plants to make them go further and fill gaps. Neighbours may be happy to donate or swap some plants. Or you may be lucky enough to get some new plants delivered. Happy planting!

Fill gaps to keep your garden looking lovely and lush

Fill gaps to keep your garden looking lovely and lush

Treat greenfly

Keep an eye on your roses to make sure they are not being infested with greenfly. If they do appear, try not to reach for chemical treatments straight away. You can rub them off with your thumb or make up a soapy solution and spray your plants regularly to keep them at bay. Much better for the environment.

Make up a soapy solution to treat greenfly

Make up a soapy solution to treat greenfly

Pot on seedlings

We spent a busy morning potting on our seedlings as they grow stronger and need more space and nutrients. Be careful not to damage the stem or roots when you are potting on and keep them well watered.

You need to take care when you are potting on your seedlings

You need to take care when you are potting on your seedlings

Deadhead primulas

We love the pom pom flowers on primula denticulata (the drumstick primula) but as they go over remember to deadhead the flowers in order to keep them looking lovely and encourage more growth.

Deadhead your primulas to keep your garden looking lovely

Deadhead your primulas to keep your garden looking lovely

Add a new parasol

The amazing weather has certainly made lockdown a lot more bearable. We have even needed some shade from the sun! We have added this lovely yellow parasol to our outdoor dining are to make it look even more colourful! It will add some sunshine even on grey days!

Add a parasol for a splash of colour to your garden

Add a parasol for a splash of colour to your garden

Add focal points & lighting

We are BIG fans of garden focal points and have lots in our garden, from rusty globes to golden chickens! We love this red lantern which we have added to a shepherds crook to add interest to our border. It looks beautiful glinting in the sun and we can add a tealight when it gets dark for a beautiful glow.

Add a lantern for interest in your border and lighting at night

Add a lantern for interest in your border and lighting at night

Finish a project

We always have a LOT of ideas and often several projects on the go. Getting round to finishing them can sometimes be a challenge. So we are delighted to get our archway finished this week. It has been an idea for over 10 years and we are very happy with the finished article!

The archway is finally complete and we LOVE it!

The archway is finally complete and we LOVE it!

Put up some shelving

Our sheds (like everyone’s) are crammed full of all sorts. So additional shelving is always welcome! Michael fitted this shelf in less than half an hour this week and it makes life a lot easier getting bikes in and out! Stop procrastinating, go fit yours!

Get round to putting up those shelves in the shed

Get round to putting up those shelves in the shed

So that’s what we have been up to this week! What about you?

Vialii

Gardening During Lockdown – Week 5

Can you believe we are now five weeks into lockdown? The weeks are flying past here at Vialii Towers and we haven’t tackled half the jobs we had on our list! We have fitted lots of fun things into our week though and a bit of gardening along the way. So, to help keep you inspired, here is some of what we have been doing this week in “Gardening During Lockdown – Week 5″…

Deadheading camellias

We love Spring time as it is packed full of blooms, from rhodies to camellias, tulips to muscari. We have a beautiful white Camellia williamsii in our garden which is looking wonderful. The blousy blooms don’t last too long though so remove the dead flowers – this helps the shrub look better as well as focusing the plants energy on making new blooms and keeping it healthy.

Deadhead your camellias to keep them looking in tip-top condition
Deadhead your camellias to keep them looking in tip-top condition

Keep on weeding

We spent only about half an hour weeding our garden this week -hardly any time at all as we have been able to keep so on top of it during lockdown. Also, our generous mulching we did a few weeks ago (see Week 2 blog) is paying dividends and suppressing a lot of weeds. Little and often is the secret to keeping your garden looking amazing and to stop you getting scunnered with weeding!

Keep on top of your weeding to make your life a LOT easier
Keep on top of your weeding to make your life a LOT easier

Tidy Up

Every garden has those annoying corners where debris builds up so now is the perfect time to tackle those corners. Tidy up leaves, sweep up stray stones, pick up litter, bin things that have been shoved in a corner – if you’re not using them now, you never will!

Clear away leaves, stones and debris from those annoying corners where things get blown
Clear away leaves, stones and debris from those annoying corners where things get blown

Carry on with your projects

Our archway project is coming in splendidly and one side (the side we can see from the living room thankfully!) is now complete – we just need to clad the other side. This was an existing simple archway which we have widened in parts, painted in parts and clad with timbers in parts. We are very happy with how this is turning out and it has been made purely from off-cuts of timbers. #upcycling

Our upcycled archway is starting to really take shape
Our upcycled archway is starting to really take shape

Camping

One of the main activities in the garden this weekend was camping. Lulu and all her scouting friends camped in their gardens as part of a virtual camping weekend. This is the perfect time to dust off your tents and make some memories outside. Just remember your thick blankets as it stills gets very cold at night!

Our upcycled washing machine drum is the perfect fire-pit
Our upcycled washing machine drum is the perfect fire-pit

Eating outdoors

Another favourite garden activity this week has been eating in it! We have had breakfasts, lunches, dinners and suppers all outdoors. The weather has been amazing and we are so lucky to have outdoor spaces. Take a break from gardening and make sure you enjoy your gardens!

We have been making the most of the weather and eating outdoors lots
We have been making the most of the weather and eating outdoors lots

Other jobs you can be tackling in your garden:

Once lockdown is finished we can help you with all your gardening projects and maintenance so don’t stress if you are not getting all your jobs ticked off either, the most important thing is to relax and enjoy being outside. Stay home and stay safe.

Vialii

Gardening During Lockdown – Week 4

Can you believe that’s been 4 weeks of lockdown? A whole month? It’s a long time in gardening and with all the sunny weather things are growing at a pace and we are being tempted into our gardens all the more. What have you been tackling? Here’s what what has been happening at Vialii Towers in Gardening During Lockdown – Week 4…

Sowing veg

We had sown several seeds indoors during the first week of lockdown so our focus this week we turned our attention to the seeds which can be sown directly outdoors. Lulu and Tilda took over this task and armed with seeds and trowels set forth creating drills to fill with seeds. They have sown:

The girls sowed all the veg in our garden

The girls sowed all the veg in our garden

They also planted two types of onion sets and two varieties of seed potatoes and left space for our broccoli to be transplanted as it gets bigger and stronger. The finishing touches were the painted stones they created last week. Click here to find out how make your own plant labels.

Weeding and Tidying

Life is so much easier if you just weed and tidy as you go. Our rule is never walk past a weed you have spotted. Always stop and pick it out. Then you never have a jungle to tackle which takes hours and makes you dislike gardening. A quick weed, run the lawnmower over the grass or the odd prune here and there and you will easily keep on top of your gardening.

The Vialii rule - never walk past a weed. Stop and pick it out.

The Vialii rule – never walk past a weed. Stop and pick it out.

Encourage wildlife into your garden

Wildlife are enjoying this lockdown period more than ever. From tiny ladybirds and hedgehogs to long-tailed tits and partridges, wildlife are venturing into our gardens more and more. Encourage this by considering your planting, leaving some wild areas in your garden, creating hedgehog houses, putting out bird food, building bug hotels – it all makes such a difference. And all those animals and insects do amazing things for our gardens and eco-systems so we’re all winners.

This little ladybug is in our front garden

This little ladybug is in our front garden

Relax and enjoy the spring sunshine

We have been having the MOST amazing spell of weather recently which is helping keeping us sane. So, in between all the garden jobs, sit back and enjoy your garden, your outdoor space, the lovely view, the beautiful planting, whatever is around you. There is a lot we can be grateful for so take some time to relax and enjoy it.

Relax and enjoy your garden and being outdoors

Relax and enjoy your garden and being outdoors

Other jobs to tackle this week:

I wonder what Week 5 will have in store for us – we still have lots to tackle on our to-do list. How about you?

Vialii

Make Your Own Plant Labels

With extra time on our hands we decided to tackle a project we have wanted to do for some time. We collected some lovely pebbles on a holiday last year which we knew would be perfect for decorating. As we are about to plant our veg seeds, plant labels would be required. But why use the same boring labels we write each year? Instead, Lulu & Tilda decided to do their own creations, drawing each vegetable and writing its name beside it. A much prettier solution for knowing what seedling are popping up. Want to try it too? Here’s how to make your own plant labels.

The painted stones are a beautiful addition to the garden

The painted stones are a beautiful addition to the garden

Find your stones

Collate suitable stones to draw on. At the moment we can’t venture far so hopefully you can find some close to home. Or perhaps you could order some pebbles online.

Decide what you want to draw

Pull together all the seeds you are planting so you know what labels you are going to need. The packets will help show you what you need to draw. Or do a search online for drawings you can get inspiration from. Do an outline in pencil.

Sketch on your drawing and words in pencil

Sketch on your drawing and words in pencil

Colour in your creation

As these are going to be outside, using acrylic pens or paints will be best.

Lulu and her wonderful Broccoli creation

Lulu and her wonderful Broccoli creation

Varnish them

To protect your drawings from rain and wind, you should varnish them and they will look amazing for years to come. A good external varnish such as a yacht varnish is best

Our talented girls created a beautiful array of plant labels

Our talented girls created a beautiful array of plant labels

Set them in place

Sow your seeds and pop your stones in place – don’t they look amazing?

Ready for the seedlings to pop up

Ready for the seedlings to pop up

This project can be used towards your “Gardener” badge if you are in Cubs or for a Green Blue Peter badge.

Happy crafting!

Vialii

Gardening During Lockdown – Week 3

So, as we come to the end of Week 3 of Lockdown, many of us seem to be getting into a new rhythm. And in many ways, this strange new life is actually OK. We can spend more quality time at home, eat meals together more often, play more games, find inventive new ways of staying in touch with family and friends. And of course spend more time in our beloved gardens. Our gardens and pets will be hoping this lockdown will continue for a while. So, if you need some hints and tips on outdoors, here is our Gardening During Lockdown – Week 3 blog…

Scarify & treat your lawn

All the hair & beauty salons may be closed and our own beauty treatments on hold, but that doesn’t mean your lawn can’t get some treatments! Now is the perfect time of year to scarify your lawn and get rid of all that moss. It takes a bit of hard graft but it’s worth the effort. Other things to do include digging out those lawn weeds, aerating your soil (you can just use a garden fork) then top dress the grass and add a fertiliser. For more info check out our blog Lulu & Tilda created 4 years ago (and see how cute they are!)

An ickle Lulu scarifying our lawn

An ickle Lulu scarifying our lawn

Harden off your seedlings

If you planted some seedlings at the start of Lockdown you will probably see some of them shooting up by now. Once they get to a good size, you can start hardening them off so they get used to outside temperatures. Take them outside during the day but make sure to remember to still bring them back inside of an evening for now.

Slowly get your seedlings used to being outdoors by sitting them outside during the day

Slowly get your seedlings used to being outdoors by sitting them outside during the day

Give your outdoor dens a makeover

If you are lucky enough to have a den or playhouse in the garden, now is the perfect time to give it a bit of a make-over. Ours has been painted inside and out, some rotten wood replaced, sign updated and curtains/bunting hung up. Perfect for the summer ahead – let’s hope we can have some gang meetings soon!

Get our gang HQ in top tip condition for when lockdown ends

Get our gang HQ in top tip condition for when lockdown ends

Keep painting!

It’s been 3 weeks of painting and we have achieved a lot! This week we have finished the fences, done the last gate, painted a table and benches, our pink troughs, a retaining wall and the playhouse! We’ll soon run out of things to paint!

There has been a LOT more painting this week at Vialii Towers!

There has been a LOT more painting this week at Vialii Towers!

Top up planters and troughs

It’s important that your pots are kept topped up and given new growing medium and feeds each year. Add new compost (you may need to remove some old compost) and add some fertiliser. Many fertilisers will provide 6 months of feed allowing you to put your feet up and enjoy your blooms all summer long.

Top up your planters with compost and feed

Top up your planters with compost and feed

Start a new project

We’ve been wanting to give our “archway” a makeover for a long time, but like everyone, struggle to find time to fit in new projects when “normal” life gets in the way. This weekend, we decided to make a start. Our 3 existing structures will become two, we are going to adapt the shapes slightly and then clad them with new timbers and paint some edges. Watch this space as this project evolves.

Our "archway" has been on our to-do list for a while

Our “archway” has been on our to-do list for a while

Put up a tent

We have put up one of our tents to create another space for the kids to play. Daddy Vialii should have been heading off to Parent & Cub Camp this month with Lulu. Looks like it will take place in the garden instead! Good job we have the fire-pit from Week 2 to keep us cosy too!

Set up a tent in the garden to keep kids entertained

Set up a tent in the garden to keep kids entertained

Other jobs to be tackling during lockdown:

As always, enjoy your gardens and stay safe.

Vialii

Gardening During Lockdown – Week 2

As we skip, hop and jump our way to the end of week 2 of the Covid-19 lockdown, our gardens continue to flourish and provide a safe haven for us to work and relax. There has been a bit more working than relaxing in the garden at Vialii Towers over the last week as we take the opportunity to tackle our to-do list that has been sitting around for a while. Here’s our gardening during lockdown week 2 update…

Stiiiiiiill Painting!!!

We have a LOT of painting to tackle in our garden. This week we painted:

Painting will help preserve your woodwork as well as making it look smart and dandy.

There has been a LOT of painting at Vialii Towers this week!

There has been a LOT of painting at Vialii Towers this week!

Make Repairs

Now is a great opportunity to fix some broken bits around the garden. Some of the steps to the girl’ playhouse were starting to rot so new steps were made. The little used slide was removed and a new set of ladders added to create two entrances to the Vialii HQ. Just need to paint them now!!!

Tackle those repairs you simply never find the time to get round to...

Tackle those repairs you simply never find the time to get round to…

Add Bark to Borders

In Week 1, we added manure and compost to our borders to give our clay soil the best start to the new season. This week we added a fine bark mulch which will help suppress weeds as well as adding lots of extra lovely nutrients to the soil. Your local hardware store or garden centre should be able to deliver some.

Mulch your borders with some bark

Mulch your borders with some bark

Add Plants To Gaps

If you have some gaps in your border now is a great time to add some plants. Whether you sprinkle some seeds or order some plants online (or even see if neighbours are splitting their herbaceous plants and have some spare) adding some extra plants will add colour and interest to your outdoor space. If you make them wildlife friendly plants then even better!

Add some plants to gaps in your order for a luscious garden

Add some plants to gaps in your order for a luscious garden

Check On Your Seedlings

It’s important to keep checking in on your seedlings, keep them well watered and keep turning them so they don’t just keep growing in one direction. Our broccoli and nasturtium seeds are currently having a race!

Keep your seedlings watered as well as turning them regularly

Keep your seedlings watered as well as turning them regularly

Sort Your Fire-Pit

As the weather improves, we will be wanting to spend more and more time in the garden in the evening. It does still get chilly though so it’s time to clean out your fire-pit/chiminea and get it ready for use. Our old one had died the death but thankfully we had already salvaged the drum from an old washing machine so by simply adding some simple legs we now have a fab new fire-pit to take us through lockdown and beyond! Marshmallow anyone?

We have a shiny new fire-pit made from an old washing machine drum

We have a shiny new fire-pit made from an old washing machine drum

Do Some Cleaning

The power washer was brought out to tackle the girls’ mud kitchen which had gotten a bit, er, muddy! A quick spray, some new writing and a clean of all the equipment (the girls’ were given that job!) and it was as good as new (for now!)

We cleaned the mud kitchen - ironic we know!

We cleaned the mud kitchen – ironic we know!

Other jobs you can be doing during lockdown:

Hope you are all staying safe and sane. Enjoy your gardens.

Vialii

 

Gardening During Lockdown – Week 1

As the first, bizarre, unsettling week of lockdown due to coronavirus comes to an end, we have collated some of the things we have done in our garden during the last week. With who knows how many weeks to come, there will likely be plenty of time to undertake those outdoor jobs you haven’t got round to yet. If you are wanting to turn your hand to horticulture and not sure where to start here are some ideas to get you underway with our latest blog “Gardening During Lockdown – week 1”

Sow Seeds

It’s the perfect time of year to get some seeds sown and veg and flowers growing. We have sown a variety of seeds, from broccoli and courgettes to sunflowers and nasturtiums. All you need is some compost and seeds (your local hardware store may even deliver to your doorstep). Don’t worry if you don’t have seed trays, anything can be used – yoghurt pots, drinks bottles, butter tubs. Anything!

It's the perfect time to sow some seeds

It’s the perfect time to sow some seeds

Chit Your Tatties

Get yourself some seed potatoes (don’t just use a potato you find in your cupboard) and get them chitting in a bright, cool area. Make sure the “eyes” are pointing up. After a few weeks they will be ready to plant. Chitting will make your potatoes grow faster and stronger so it’s worth doing.

Start chitting your potatoes

Start chitting your potatoes

Paint Fences

We had a busy weekend painting fences, making sure that they don’t just look smart but are also given added protection and will last longer. We used “urban slate” on our side fences and “black ash” for our bottom fence, the perfect back drop for planting. It’s a great job to get the kids involved with too!

Get the kids to help paint your fence!

Get the kids to help paint your fence!

Prep Your Veg Beds

Top dress your veg beds with compost and/or manure to make sure your veggies grow super strong. Give it a good dig in and clear any weeds.

Add compost and manure to your veg beds, dig it in and then rake over in readiness for sowing.

Add compost and manure to your veg beds, dig it in and then rake over in readiness for sowing.

Fit/Clear Gutters

We needed to fit a gutter to one of our sheds so that job got ticked off this week. Take the time to clear any debris out of your existing gutters too. You could even fit a water butt to a down-pipe and start storing rain water for use in your garden.

Make sure your sheds have good gutters to protect your shed and harvest rain water if you fit a water butt.

Make sure your sheds have good gutters to protect your shed and harvest rain water if you fit a water butt.

Clear away overgrown ivy

Ivy can be pretty in the right place but can also be incredibly invasive. We had lots growing over a side fence so we took the opportunity to tackle that, clearing it all off in readiness for painting.

Remove ivy to keep your structures safe and strong

Remove ivy to keep your structures safe and strong

We will keep you posted on the progress of our seeds and veg patch as well as what other jobs (there are many!) we will be tackling throughout this lockdown period.

We hope you are keeping safe and managing to spend time in your own garden. They will help keep us sane!

Vialii

The Vialii Guide To Working From Home

In these extraordinary times, more and more people are finding themselves working from home. “Indoor Vialii” have been largely working from home for years so we reckon we are pretty skilled on that front. So here is the Vialii guide to working from home so you can weather the storm and come out the other side still reasonably sane…

Get Dressed

Tempting as it may be to sit in your jammies all day, it won’t help your productivity. Enjoy not having to dress quite as smart as you might have to for the office, but at least wear something you would be happy to wear to the shops (unless you are someone who shops in their PJs!) Dress smart, think smart!

Have A Proper Work Station

Again, it may be tempting to lounge on the sofa with the laptop, but it won’t be great for your productivity or your posture. Sit at a proper desk or table and make sure you have a comfortable chair. Ideally have your work station in a separate room from your main living area where you can close the door at the end of the day so you can then put your feet up and relax.

Set up a good work station. Maybe don't have a dog on your knee though, reduces productivity somewhat!

Set up a good work station. Maybe don’t have a dog on your knee though, reduces productivity somewhat!

Eat Healthy

Now this bit can be tricky. At least when you are at the office you are limited to the healthy packed lunch you brought in (unless you work next door to McDonalds!) Limit the tea and biscuits and opt for healthy snack and lunch options. The aim is not to come out of this crisis 4 stone heavier!

Get Outdoors

This bit is crucial to your mental health. Take regular breaks and go outside. It might be sitting out in the garden or taking the dog for an hour’s walk up the hills. Getting some fresh air and a break from work will help productivity and how you are feeling.

Walking the dog is one of my most favourite parts of the working day. great to blow away the cobwebs and reset the brain. Definitely get outdoors, even if it's just ten minutes weeding the garden.

Walking the dog is one of my most favourite parts of the working day. great to blow away the cobwebs and reset the brain. Definitely get outdoors, even if it’s just ten minutes weeding the garden.

Have A Plan

Creating a schedule is really helpful. Have times when you switch off your phone. Don’t get distracted by the TV just because you can. Especially just now with the constant news bulletins. Schedule those all important breaks. Working from home is great as it means you can nip to the shops or hang out the washing. Just make sure you set time aside for those things and they don’t get in the way of your work.

Take a break, read a magazine, have a cuppa. Don't eat too many biccies though!

Take a break, read a magazine, have a cuppa. Don’t eat too many biccies though!

Keep In Touch

Working from home can get lonely sometimes so it’s important you stay in touch with colleagues, people in your sector and friends. These days that is easier than ever with apps such as Zoom, Whats App and Skype allowing free video calls. Mental health is crucial and taking time to have a chat with others definitely helps.

And most of all, stay safe. We will get through this by looking out for each other, staying positive and being supportive.

Take care

All at Vialii

Vialii Guide To Top Garden Pests And Diseases

Gardening is well known for being good for the heart and soul. But when garden pests and diseases start to shoulder in uninvited it can get those stress levels rising again! In this Vialii guide we share some pests and diseases to watch out for in the season ahead…

This list is based on the 2019 most common calls for advice by the RHS and isn’t necessarily the most common garden pests and diseases to be found in UK gardens.

 The box caterpillar is the #1 most common pest the RHS received calls about

PESTS

  1. Box tree caterpillar
  2. Vine weevil
  3. Slugs/snails
  4. Fuchsia gall mite
  5. Alder leaf beetle
  6. Woolly aphid
  7. Rosy apple aphid
  8. Viburnum beetle
  9. Glasshouse red spider mite
  10. Plum leaf-curling aphid.

So the box tree caterpillar “wins” the top spot yet again, that is three years in a row! Not a great accolade to have Mr Caterpillar!  Box tree caterpillars feed within webbing and can completely defoliate box plants. It is a relatively new insect to Britain.

Honey fungus has the unenviable accolade of being the #1 disease the RHS received calls about

DISEASES

  1. Honey fungus
  2. Phytophthora root rot
  3. Box blight
  4. Pear rust
  5. Brown rot of fruit
  6. Leaf spot and canker of Prunus
  7. Apple and pear scab
  8. Rose black spot
  9. = Blossom wilt of fruit trees
  10. = Powdery mildew of Prunus.

Honey fungus is the common name given to Armillaria mellea a fungus that attacks and kills the roots of many woody and perennial plants.

If you have a particular pest or disease in your garden please get in touch with us for specialist advice. We try wherever we can to use an organic approach to eradicating garden pests and diseases.

Vialii

The Glory of Seedheads

We are great advocates for the glory of seedheads in gardens. They provide interest and structure in the winter garden as well as being important for wildlife. Birds will eke out the seeds whilst insects, and their eggs and larvae, will hide amongst the stems and seed heads and shelter or hibernate below. So, what are the best plants to grow which will provide interesting seedheads for the garden in autumn and winter? Here are our favourites…

Cynara Cardunculus (Cardoon)

This majestic perennial towers over the garden so make sure you have plenty space at the back of your borders. It’s purple thistle like flowers look wonderful in late summer but don’t cut them back once they have gone over. The cardoons will look great through winter and can also be used in dried flower arranging.

The majestic cynara cardunculus

Sedum “Autumn Joy”

Sedum flowerheads look great left during the winter to add shape and texture to your border. We advocate using the ‘Chelsea Chop’ technique on sedums – during the last week of May (Chelsea Flower Show week), cut one in every three stems back to the ground. This will produce plants that are less lush and flower slightly later.

Noodle as a puppy, hiding in the sedum!

Dipsacus fullonum (Teasel)

Teasel is a wonderful plant for wildlife, its flowerheads loved by bees. But once the flowers have gone over, be sure to keep them in place as they are prized by goldfinches (and florists!)

Foeniculum vulgare ‘Giant Bronze’ (Fennel)

The bronzed fennel produces plumes of feathery bronze-purple leaves with yellow flower heads in later summer. Leave these in place for spectacular structural treats when icy in winter.

 

Allium ‘Purple Sensation’

We love the purple lollipops of alliums that pop up in early summer. But leave the seedheads in place to keep that structure going throughout the season.

Eryngium (Sea Holly)

We love the structure of the sea holly and it’s striking blue flowers through late summer. The bees love them too! But the seedheads look just as strong so make sure you keep them in place for a double whammy of loveliness!

The thistle like sea holly has wonderful structure

Hopefully we have convinced you to add a few of these plants to your garden and to enjoy them for much longer periods of the year. And it helps wildlife to boot, bonus!

Happy gardening!

Vialii

Vialii Garden Trends for 2020

We all know that gardening is not just for the retired. Trend setters everywhere are looking to create their own cool places to relax outdoors. They want to have their own home allotments to grow organic, healthy veg and do their bit for the environment. You can do that AND be on trend. So if you want to make your garden as trendy as your wardrobe here’s what you need to know with the Vialii Garden Trends for 2020…

Vertical Gardening

Vertical gardening has been round for many years now and will continue to be a strong trend for 2020. It’s a great way to soften a wall or to  create extra gardening space in a small courtyard garden. Or you can also grow plants that don’t need deep roots (perfect for growing salads!) Even high end fashion stores are backing this trend with their own green walls in store. You can buy a bespoke system making it an easy way to give it a try this year.

The green wall in Anthrapologie

The green wall in Anthrapologie

Pantene Colour of the Year 2020

We can reveal that the pantene colour for 2020 is Classic Blue 19-4052, perfect for gardens! From blousy ceanothus to towering delphiniums there are lots of beautiful planting to give cool, blue tones to your garden this year.

Upcycling

As we continue to have the Climate Crisis at the forefront of our minds, it’s important we consider every purchase and if it is really necessary. We love a bit of upcycling at Vialii and love rescuing old furniture and giving it a makeover or creating something new and  beautiful from leftover materials. Take a rusty old table and chairs, and give them a makeover with some on-trend chartreuse paint for a new, cheap garden furniture set.

Upcycled bistro set

Upcycled bistro set

The Garden Kitchen

More and more clients are wanting to spend more time in their gardens and that includes cooking. Whilst the good old garden BBQ is still the most popular outdoor cooking option, more and more clients are looking for full on outdoor kitchens with grills, ovens, sinks and more! We can design the perfect kitchen to suit your outdoor space, get in touch to let us know what you are looking for.

Secluded Places

As we want to spend more time in our gardens, creating secluded, private areas where we can relax is becoming more important. Even in smaller gardens we can use clever design skills to create a secluded corner where you can get away from the outside world.

We created this wonderful oasis in a corner of a city garden

We created this wonderful oasis in a corner of a city garden

If you need some helping transforming your garden in 2020 get in touch to arrange a free garden design consultation. Make 2020 the year of the garden transformation!

Vialii