Vialii Review of 2020

It’s tempting to not bother doing a review of 2020 – do we really want to look back on this year??? Yet, despite what an awful year it has been for everyone, there has been a lot of positives when it comes to the outdoors. We have all spent more time in our gardens than ever before and appreciated our outdoor space. So let’s focus on the postives in our Vialii Review of 2020…

The Year of Growing Your Own

With panic buying at the supermarket combined with many of us on furlough and having more time to spare, 2020 became the year to dabble in a bit of fruit and veg growing. Our veg patch has never been so well tended, weeding was done regularly, we had a strict feeding regime in place and with beautiful Spring weather everything flourished! Our highlight was our broccoli which we hadn’t grown before but was a resounding success!

vialii review of 2020

Lulu and her amazing home grown broccoli

The Year of the Fire Pit

With spending so much time outdoors, fire pits became very popular so we could stay outdoors longer and socialise with friends who weren’t allowed indoors. We celebrated the trend in upcycling by making ours out of an old washing machine drum!

Our firepit made from an old washing machine drum

Our firepit made from an old washing machine drum

The Year of Camping in your Garden

This year, a garden focal point was commonly a tent! With cub camps cancelled, virtual camps became the new trend. It provided much fun as well as learning important life skills. Thanks to the amazing leaders who kept the spirit of Scouting alive throughout the year regardless of what was thrown at them.

Our upcycled washing machine drum is the perfect fire-pit

Camping in the garden was very popular!

The Year of Painting

If you were lucky enough to be able to get garden paint, then you will have joined us in painting anything that stood still long enough! From fences to gates sheds to play houses, we painted til we had no paint left!

Get the kids to help paint your fence!

Get the kids to help paint your fence!

The Year of the Garden Arch

We had planned to upgrade our garden archways for several years but this year provided us with the time to tackle the project. To create the new look, we removed one arch and changed the shape, colour and cladding of the two remaining arches. What do you think? We love the new look!

Our upcycled archway is a lovely garden feature

Our upcycled archway is a lovely garden feature

The Year of Garden Lighting

With us spending more time in our gardens, many of our clients were keen to add landscape lighting to their gardens. Some chose coloured lights, some went for warm whites, some had a mix. Whatever your choice, it’s a great way to bring your garden to life in evening and to lengthen time spent outdoors.

Garden lighting can transform your outdoor space

Garden lighting can transform your outdoor space

The Year of Technology

With face to face design consultations crashing to a halt, we turned to technology to keep our meetings flowing. Whilst less personal and a site visit is still required to do a survey, it has become a useful first point of contact and an efficient way of getting an initial brief from our clients. We have all had to learn skills (who had heard of Zoom before 2020??) but our clients, young and old have been brilliantly adaptable, so we thank you all!

Zoom has become common place in our office so we can still design gardens for clients

Zoom has become common place in our office so we can still design gardens for clients

It has been the hardest year any of us could possibly have imagined but we head into 2021 with hope in our step and knowing that whatever happens, we can rely on our outdoor spaces to keep us happy and healthy.

All the best for 2021

All at Vialii

Vialii Guide to Christmas Gardening Gifts 2020

With the craziness of 2020, we all deserve something lovely this Christmas. And with us all appreciating our gardens even more than ever this year, why not treat your loved ones to something extra special for the outdoors this Christmas. Here’s our Vialii Guide to Christmas Gardening Gifts 2020…

Solar Fairy Lights

There’s nothing quite like fairy lights to instantly make your garden feel magical as the sun sets. It’s not always easy to find a handy outdoor socket to plug them into so these solar lights are easy to install and provide enough energy to give beautiful lighting into the evening. These carnival lights are available from Lights4Fun and are £29.99.

Solar fairy lights are easy to install

Solar fairy lights are easy to install

Harmen Chair

These beautiful chairs are made purely from wood and rope and scream Scandi design. They can fold away for easy winter storage. Available from Rowen & Wren, £158.

The beautiful craftmanship of the Harmen chairs

The beautiful craftmanship of the Harmen chairs

Chesneys Heat & Grill

We recently blogged about our favourite firepits and this is one of our favourites! You would be happy to get this in your (oversized) Christmas stocking this year! Available from Calido for £1548.

The Chesneys Heat & Grill ticks all the boxes

The Chesneys Heat & Grill would be a wonderful Christmas gift

Ring Sculpture

This would be a beautiful romantic gift for a loved one – an intertwining rings sculpture. These would make a lovely focal point in the garden. Available from Rusty Rooster Metal Art, £118.

Beautiful intertwining metal rings

Beautiful intertwining metal rings

Set of 3 Planters

These beautiful zinc planters would be perfect for some herbs near the back door. Available from Primrose for £39.99 for the set.

Stylish zinc planters, perfect for growing herbs

Stylish zinc planters, perfect for growing herbs

Insect Habitat

Give the wildlife in your garden a Christmas present this year with this handsome insect habitat. Available from Oakham Gifts from £23.99.

Don't forget to give the wildlife a gift this Christmas

Don’t forget to give the wildlife a gift this Christmas

Children’s Bird Gift Box

This is a beautiful gift for the kids (and your feathered friends). The kit contains a paint your own bird house, bird feeder, seeds and a mini scoop. Available from BoxWild for £30.

This beautiful set is a gift to your child and your garden birds

This beautiful set is a gift to your child and your garden birds

Gardening Gift Vouchers

Still struggling for ideas? If you live locally to us, treat your loved ones to Christmas gardening vouchers. You choose the value and they can choose what they want to spend it on – from grass cutting to plants; a garden design to a new water feature, it’s up to them how they spend it.

The perfect Christmas gift - a garden voucher

The perfect Christmas gift – a garden voucher

Whatever you give (and receive) we wish you a very happy and healthy Christmas.

All at Vialii

For other Christmas gift inspiration check out our previous blogs:

2013; 2014; 2015; 2016; 2017; 2018; 2018 kids; 2019

Prices correct at time of publication

A Garden TransFIREmation!

We have always been a big fan of fire-pits. They are much more environmentally friendly than patio heaters and they are multi purpose – use them for BBQs, toasting marshmallows, lighting your sparklers and of course to keep cosy! And in current climates, with indoor socialising not allowed for many, being able to pop on the firepit and welcome friends around (remember to follow government guidelines!) for a socially distanced but cosy chat make it a must-have! So, we have collated our favourite outdoor fires so you can create your own garden transFIREmation!

The Bar Table

This is the ultimate in firepits! Integrated into a bar table, your friends won’t want to go back to the pub again! It uses propane gas, a green fuel and is available from Primrose, this isn’t a budget option but it would certainly add the WOW factor to your garden!

£2614.99

The ultimate transfiremation - a fire pit built into a bar table!

The ultimate transfiremation – a fire pit built into a bar table!

The Fire Bowl

You won’t go wrong with a simple fire bowl. They come in lots of sizes and materials. We love this one from All Things Brighton Beautiful  (great name!) which comes in a heavy gauge raw steel which will age to a natural rusty finish.

£89.95

The classic beauty of a fire bowl

The classic beauty of a fire bowl

 

The “Heat & Grill”

This is so much more than just a fire pit. The Chesneys Heat & Grill can cook pizzas, smoke, be a wok or grill! It is also a beautiful looking outdoor stove. Available from Calido (who are lovely!) this one is an investment piece but worth it!

£1548

The Chesneys Heat & Grill ticks all the boxes

The Chesneys Heat & Grill ticks all the boxes

The Upcycled Washing Machine Drum

If you want to save the planet and save some pennies then you can’t beat an old washing machine drum. This is what we have for our own fire pit (well until I can negotiate an upgrade to a Chesneys!) and it has served us amazingly well through Lockdown. You just need to find someone local who can weld on some metal legs for you and off you go. It works a treat and looks cool too!

£0 (if you can find a helpful blacksmith like we did!)

Our firepit made from an old washing machine drum

Our firepit made from an old washing machine drum

So, stay safe and stay cosy this winter with a fire-pit to suit your garden style and budget.

All at Vialii

Prices correct at time of publication. 

No Pectin Raspberry Jam Recipe

We did a big harvest of raspberries at the weekend, knowing the end is nigh for these beauties. They have served us well with lashings of fresh berries for over 2 months now but with the frosts nearing, there won’t be more home grown raspberries for much longer this year. So all the troops were rallied and a glut of raspberries were harvested. Said troops did a valiant effort of scoffing them but with plenty left over it seemed inevitable that a batch of raspberry jam would be the order of the day. Queue the need for a no pectin raspberry jam recipe…

Freshly picked raspberries, yum!

Freshly picked raspberries, yum!

Pectin

With no jam making sugar in our local store, we decided to try out this no pectin raspberry jam recipe. And it worked a treat. Raspberries have a high amount of naturally produced pectin and by adding in some lemon juice you are increasing the pectin levels, allowing it to set. If you are finding your jam isn’t setting, keeping cooking it for 2 more minutes at a time, doing the chilled saucer test each time. A little added lemon juice will help too.

Non Pectin Raspberry Jam Recipe:

Ingredients

As you are not using pectin you don’t need quite as much sugar (bonus!) Normally you would have the same weight of fruit to sugar. We had 500g of raspberries and used 400g of sugar. We used the juice of one lemon.

The perfect use for a glut of raspberries in the garden

The perfect use for a glut of raspberries in the garden

Method

Non pectin raspberry jam - perfectly set!

Non pectin raspberry jam – perfectly set!

If you want to learn more about making jams and try some amazing recipes we recommend the Jam Maker’s Garden, read all about it in or blog.

Enjoy

Vialii

 

Designer Dundee

We headed North recently for a weekend away to celebrate 10 years of marriage. We had planned to visit Dundee back in May but Covid-19 put paid to those plans. So it was rescheduled and we packed our bag and headed North for a visit to a revamped Designer Dundee!

On arrival we immediately hit the streets around our hotel as we had heard that street art had hit Dundee in a big way. We weren’t disappointed with painted pavements, wall art and shop windows all getting lots of lovely from talented Dundonians…

This painted pavement is a simple but effective way to brighten up streets

No surprise that this wall art of flowers and insects caught our eye - beautiful!

No surprise that this wall art of flowers and insects caught our eye – beautiful!

Empty shops are made to look beautiful with amazing window displays

Empty shops are made to look beautiful with amazing window displays

As you would expect there are nods to the Beano, Desperate Dan and Oor Wullie throughout the City. We bumped into Oor Wullie in The McManus Museum and we were glad to see he was wearing a mask and staying safe!

Stay safe and wear a mask - like Oor Wullie!

Stay safe and wear a mask – like Oor Wullie!

Gardens are always a big draw for us so we headed to Slessor Gardens in the heart of the city to see what it would behold and we weren’t disappointed. Initially it looks like a large grassy space (where events are held in non-Covid times) but look closer to find amazing garden rooms with themes such as literature, medicine, sensory or parts of the world. Each has a space to relax and these were being well used by locals and visitors. You could also visit a website to get a plant list used in each garden room created. Nice designer touches Dundee!

The sensory garden was filled with colourful acrylic panels, interactive sounds and sensory planting.

The sensory garden was filled with colourful acrylic panels, interactive sounds and sensory planting.

No designer Dundee visit could be complete without a visit to the V&A. It is just as stunning from the outside with its amazing architecture. We love the petals where you are encouraged to create your own chalky designs.

The V&A is a designer's paradise

The V&A is a designer’s paradise

One of the reasons we headed to Dundee was to visit the Mary Quant exhibition. We are a big fan of her fashion and it was wonderful to see so many of her designs under one roof. We highly recommend a visit and to the general museum at the V&A too. An amazing addition to Designer Dundee!

The Mary Quant exhibition is packed full of glorious fashions!

The Mary Quant exhibition is packed full of glorious fashions!

So if you haven’t visited for a while, go see all that Dundee has on offer. You won’t be disappointed.

Vialii

Garden Visit: Cowden Japanese Garden

We celebrated 10 years of marriage this week and decided to treat ourself to a day off work – but not a day off gardens as we love them so much! We made a much overdue visit to Cowden Japanese Garden, just outside Dollar. It was a true pleasure to explore, here’s why…

There are four essential elements used in Japanese garden design: rocks, water, plants, and ornaments and Cowden put them all to perfect use. As you enter you are immediately welcomed with a beautiful ridge and a peek through to the wonder of the gardens beyond:

Cowden Japanese Garden

There are gorgeous Japanese lanterns, sculptures and a plethora of huge boulders dotted around the garden. And always views of the perfect pond in the middle:

Cowden Japanese Garden

Whilst the renovation has only been undertaken in recent years, there has been a Japanese Garden at Cowden for over a 100 years, the amazing creation by Ella Christie. Mature trees work with the newer planting and the beautiful landscape beyond is borrowed to create a lovely, relaxing space:

Cowden Japanese Garden

As the recently planted shrubs and trees grow, this garden will evolve and become an even more special space. Autumn is a stunning time of year to visit as the leaves glow in the sunshine:

Cowden Japanese Garden

The Zen Garden is a perfect dry landscape garden. Rocks, moss and shrubs are carefully placed alongside the “ripples” of the gravel circles:

Cowden Japanese Garden

Tea House inspired structures add to the ambience. A new ceremonial lake-side Tea House is being constructed which will host events, education and tell Ella Christie’s story:

Cowden Japanese Garden

The zig-zag bridge is a clever feature of the garden:

Cowden Japanese Garden

There is also a Woodland Walk which is packed full of fun things for children to do such as making leaf boats and solving puzzles.

We highly recommend a day out at Cowden Japanese Garden, it is a hidden gem.

Vialii

Beetroot, Chickpea & Feta Salad Recipe

We have lots of lovely beetroot growing in our garden and are always looking for new and interesting things to do with it. We came across this tasty recipe for Beetroot Chickpea & Feta Salad on Food so decided to give it a whirl. It is so quick and easy to make and the bonus was that we could use beetroot, onion and apple from our garden. Wonder where we can get a feta plant!!

We used lovely ingredients from our garden

We used lovely ingredients from our garden

Beetroot, Chickpea & Feta Salad

INGREDIENTS:

DRESSING:

METHOD:

Combine beetroot, apple, onion, feta cheese, chickpeas and parsely in a big bowl.

In a dressing shaker mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar and sugar.

Pour over veggies and combine. Allow flavours to blend for 20 minutes.

So easy and really delicious! Enjoy!

All at Vialii

A Terraced Garden Makeover

Our clients in Stirling have a sloping garden which wasn’t practical for their young family so they got in touch with us asking for some help to make the garden much more usable for them. They wanted a sunny seating area, new levels that were easy to move around and flat areas for children to play on. There was also the matter of some poor drainage to tackle too – queue Vialii for a terraced garden makeover!

Our design for the terraced garden makeover
Our design for the terraced garden makeover

We designed the garden using beautiful sandstone to create a morning patio at the back door linking to a path along the back of the house. A path takes you down to the main dining patio in a sunny corner of the garden.

Before: the sloping garden was not practical for a young family

We used vertical sleepers to create a retaining wall which allows for two new flat grassy levels.

The new garden creates areas for the whole family

A gravel ditch at the bottom of the garden creates a space for the water to run down to.

The bottom fence was replaced with a new double slatted fence providing privacy for the family.

For more sloping garden inspirations check out these garden makeovers:

A Sloping Garden Makeover

A Sloping Family Garden

A Terraced Garden

A Contemporary Terraced Garden

If you have a garden which isn’t working for you, please get in touch for a free design consultation.

Thanks for reading.

All at Vialii

Beautiful Broccoli

Back at the beginning of Lockdown, like many of you, we started down the road of sowing seeds. Now, a few months on, we are seeing the fruits (and veg!) of our labour. As well as our usual fare, Lulu decided to give broccoli a bash this year. Here’s Lulu’s guide to how to grow broccoli…

Our homegrown broccoli and potatoes get a big thumbs up from Lulu!
Our homegrown broccoli and potatoes get a big thumbs up from Lulu!

Sow your broccoli seeds

First up, get something to sow your seeds into. We used a seed tray with cover to help the seeds grow quicker but you can choose anything you have (butter tub, drinks bottle, yoghurt pot etc) as long as it has drainage holes.

Carefully sow seeds in a tray, ideally with seed compost
Carefully sow seeds in a tray, ideally with seed compost

Help your seedlings grow

Keep your seedlings in a bright area, not in direct sunlight. Keep the soil moist but not too wet or your seeds will rot. If the seedlings start to lean towards the light keep turning the tray to make them stand upright (or find a brighter spot where they will grow upright).

Keep turning your seedlings to help them grow straighter
Keep turning your seedlings to help them grow straighter

Pot on your seedlings

Once your seedlings have grown a bit bigger they will need to be potted on to their own pots. Be really careful with those fragile roots and stems. Continue to give them water and light so they can go stronger.

Very carefully pot on your broccoli seedlings into their own pots so they will have space to flourish.
Very carefully pot on your broccoli seedlings into their own pots so they will have space to flourish.

Harden off your seedlings

As your seedlings grow in their own pots they will be ready to be “hardened off”. This is getting them used to being outdoors after having been cosy indoors for so long. Take them outside during the day and take them inside at night. If you have one, you will then be able to keep them in a cold frame outdoors, closing it at night to keep them safe from any frosts.

Harden off your broccoli seedlings in a cold frame or by simply potting the pots outside during the day and bringing them in at night til all risk of frosts have passed.
Harden off your broccoli seedlings in a cold frame or by simply potting the pots outside during the day and bringing them in at night til all risk of frosts have passed.

Get ready to plant out

Before you plant your precious broccoli seedlings outside you need to make sure that you have a healthy plant with a good set of leaves and strong roots; make sure it has been suitably hardened off; make sure all risk of frost has passed; that you have a suitable place to plant it.

You want to have healthy hardened off plants before you plant them outside.
You want to have healthy hardened off plants before you plant them outside.

Make your marker

Knowing what’s where in your garden is always important. You can of course just use an old lolly stick or a plant marker. With lots of time on our hands during lockdown we made beautiful pebble markers. If you want to know how to make your own click here.

Make a broccoli pebble marker
Make a broccoli pebble marker

Plant out your seedlings

It’s time to be brave! If you have a strong plant that is used to being outside and the risk of frost has passed (normally May in Scotland) you can make the leap to planting your brocolli in your veg patch. Brassicas really need to be covered though to protect them from pigeons and the cabbage white butterfly (its caterpillars will decimate your crop!) We made a frame which was covered in netting but you could simply net over the top of them to keep them protected.

Be brave, plant out your seedlings but remember to cover them with netting.
Be brave, plant out your seedlings but remember to cover them with netting.

Harvest your crop

Keep an eye on your crop as they grow. We didn’t feed ours as we had plenty of nutrients in our soil but you may need to add a feed. Keep them well watered (Mother Nature did a good job of watering ours!) You will see the florets growing up from the centre of the plant. When they get to a good size cut off a floret and enjoy!

Our amazing first floret - isn't she a beauty! And the broccoli too!
Our amazing first floret – isn’t she a beauty! And the broccoli too!

Enjoy growing and eating your own broccoli – good luck!

Vialii

Garden Visit: Glenwhan Gardens

On our recent staycation to the South-West of Scotland we couldn’t resist a garden visit. We decided to head to a garden we last visited around 8 years ago – Glenwhan Gardens just outside Stranraer. It is one of our favourites so it was a joy to head back there…

Sculpture

One of the great things about Glenwhan Gardens is the abundance of beautiful garden art throughout. From buddhas and wild boar to large pots and a towering pinnacle. Every corner has something nestling and a joy to find and our girls loved spotting the wild boar sculptures as we explored.

The Medici inspired wild boar sculptures are dotted around the gardens
The Medici inspired wild boar sculptures are dotted around the gardens

Seating

A beautiful garden should have plenty of places to stop and enjoy the surroundings and with a garden like Glenwhan the beautiful views are not only within the garden but beyond to the Mull of Galloway and the Isle of Man. There are seats at every turn from swing seats to beautiful benches. Even the simple benches made of some hewn timbers provide the perfect spot to rest.

Beautiful seats with glorious views are everywhere
Beautiful seats with glorious views are everywhere

Planting

As you would expect, the garden is brimming with horticultural delights. Nestled in the Gulf Stream, Glenwhan can take advantage of its warmer climes and enjoy a wider range of planting. Hydrangeas, hebes and crocosmia were amongst the stars on our trip. Visit in Spring to enjoy the delights of the many rhododendrons and azaleas.

Beautiful planting is pristinely maintained at Glenwhan Gardens
Beautiful planting is pristinely maintained at Glenwhan Gardens

Water

Water is used to great effect at Glenwhan Gardens, the most obvious being the two lochs, complete with boathouse, boat, fish and aquatic plants. There are many ajoining rivers and rills with delightful bridges providing easy access around the gardens.

The lochs at Glenwhan are stunning and a beautiful place to relax
The lochs at Glenwhan are stunning and a beautiful place to relax

Wildlife

The gardens are teeming with wildlife and not just the boar and eagles in the sculptures. We spotted lots of newts on the walkways around the pond, there is fish in the pond, guinea fowl running around the lawn and red squirrels in the woods.

Guinea fowl roam tamely around the grounds of Glenwhan Gardens
Guinea fowl roam tamely around the grounds

Other highlights…

We love the plethora of pathways that link the gardens so you can explore for hours and you wouldn’t cover all the paths. The girls loved exploring making the garden perfect for all ages.

The gardens are dog-friendly (they must be kept on lead) making it a great option for dog-lovers.

The gardens have a lovely tea room serving home-made food.

The plant shop is stacked full of beautiful, healthy plants (so lovely to see when so many places don’t look after their plants well.) Be careful to select plants which will work in your climate – we couldn’t resist a couple of plants for our own garden!)

The gardens are great value at only £13 for a family – a great day out, we highly recommend a visit to Glenwhan Gardens.

Vialii

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.

For more tips on building bug hotels visit our previous blog on bug hotels:

Make Your Own Bug Hotel

Thanks for reading

All at 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.

Gardening During Lockdown - Week 8...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

For more lovely rhubarb recipes try:

Rhubarb Friands Recipe

Rhubarb Chutney Recipe

All at 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