Garden Playhouses, The Vialii Way!

If you are an avid follower of our blogs (and why wouldn’t you be?!) then you will be aware that we love a wee upcycling project at Vialii. And these projects are my VERY favourites that we have ever tackled. Welcome to the Vialii Garden Playhouse Makeover!

 

I LOVE my new playhouse!

I LOVE my new playhouse!

M&D are designing a garden for friends at the moment and tucked away in a corner of their garden, no longer used, was a playhouse which these (very lovely!) friends said we could have. As this saved Daddy the job of making our own playhouse, he now had the time and energy to help me and Mummy give it a bit of a makeover.

Before: the playhouse needed a bit of Lulufication (yes, that IS a word!)

Before: the playhouse needed a bit of Lulufication (yes, that IS a word!)

After a bit of a jet wash and sanding down, the old playhouse was ready for some painting. I chose some lovely green paint called Willow for the outside and off-white for the inside to make it nice and bright.
Here I am busy painting my playhouse

Here I am busy painting my playhouse

We tucked the playhouse in one of our borders so that it doesn’t take up too much space. We just needed to move a few plants.

  The new playhouse is tucked in the border between two apple trees


The new playhouse is tucked in the border between two apple trees

The view from inside is lovely, across the garden the fields and up to the Ochil Hills.

The view from inside my playhouse

The view from inside my playhouse

My clever mummy made curtains for the windows and door and some bunting for inside and out. I hung a beautiful painting I made at nursery inside and Daddy laid some artificial grass inside which looks like a green furry rug!

The inside all painted, my furry rug, artwork and curtains!

The inside all painted, my furry rug, artwork and curtains!

Daddy also made a lovely flower box for the front which we planted some alpines in. The final touch was a sign for the outside saying “Lulu & Tilda’s House, No Boys Allowed” (although I will make allowances for my BFF Euan!) onto which we stuck some shells I had collected.
  My new sign: Lulu & Tilda's House, No Boys Allowed!


My new sign: Lulu & Tilda’s House, No Boys Allowed!

While we have been very busy at Vialii Towers, my BFF Euan has also been flying the flag for upcycled Vialii playhouses. His clever Daddy has made his from upcycled pallets. Here he is loving his wee house:

Peek-a-boo

Peek-a-boo

 

Euan in his wonderful, upcycled playhouse

Euan in his wonderful, upcycled playhouse

I’d love to see pics of your playhouses so feel free to share…

Hugs & kisses,

Lulu xx

Vive La Evolution!

Gardens evolve. It’s just what they do. Plants grow. New plants are added. Circumstances change. Paint colours are updated. New focal points are added. It’s part of the beauty of gardening, watching and helping them evolve over the months and years. Our own garden has changed a lot over the last four years. Read on to see how…

Gardens evolve. The deck has changed a lot this year

The deck has changed a lot this year

Back in 2010, we were itching to get out into the garden and transform it. We had spent the previous couple of years completely renovating our house and the garden had been put on the back burner. The design was ready – we had been beavering away perfecting it every time we had a minute so we were sure it covered everything we wanted it to.

The garden design

The garden design

 

Another driving force to get the garden completed in 2010 was that we had decided to get married in it that September. Cue asking all our friends for help!

We had inherited a modest sized garden (approx 15m x 15m) and it was pretty much a blank canvas. We knew there were some amazing views hidden behind an overgrown hedgerow and an old rotten apple tree – it was a priority for us to showcase that view again.

Before: the blank canvas and the hidden view

Before: the blank canvas and the hidden view

Other must-haves on our list included a morning patio, a large deck for entertaining in a sunny corner, lawn, a veg patch and to attract wildlife.

The first job was to bring in the BIG machinery and clear the garden:

The diggers arrived to clear the garden

The diggers arrived to clear the garden

We could then work on adding in some new boundaries. We opted for a contemporary horizontally slatted fence to the sides but in order to maximise the views and to work with the landscape beyond we created a log fence to the rear of the garden. You can see through the fence as well as easily seeing over the logs and we chose to paint them black to keep them contemporary as well as to be a great backdrop to the planting. A new “archway” added height to the garden. Raised veg beds were a priority so that we could get some home produce on the go:

The fencing, veg beds and archway take shape

The fencing, veg beds and archway take shape

The next consideration were seating areas. The sunniest corner was up beside the new log fence which also had a risk of being a bit boggy from the fields. We decided a raised deck was our best option but we didn’t want any ordinary deck! Firstly we built brick troughs with bespoke seating in between for additional seating:

 

The rendered troughs and seating start to take shape

The rendered troughs and seating start to take shape

Thermawood was our choice of material for the decking and we laid this in different patterns to create interest. We also added large glass blocks with lighting set underneath and in-set a feature Prunus Serrula tree.

The deck boards are laid and lights fitted

The deck boards are laid and lights fitted

[[image:blog-vivelaevolution-7.jpg=The deck boards are laid and lights fitted]]

The morning patio was our next task on our list. A contemporary limestone was our choice of material for this part of the garden:

The morning patio is laid in limestone

The morning patio is laid in limestone

We were keen to get planting in ASAP so that it could fill out as much as possible before the wedding. Laying out the plants that we had and markers for those which we we still had to source took a lot of time and planning!:

Planting starts to take shape

Planting starts to take shape

We are always telling clients that journeys and focal points are an important part of all gardens, no matter the size. As we wanted our garden to be wildlife friendly a water feature was something we were keen to include and thus the “canal” was born. The long, rectangular pond had stepping stones across it which were to become the aisle for the wedding in the coming months. At the far end we placed a bespoke sculpture made of a corten steel globe to draw the eye upwards to the wonderful view beyond:

The "canal" and the metal globe

The “canal” and the metal globe

A curving path leading up to the main deck would become obscured as the plants matured over time, adding mystery to the garden. Some turf completed the garden build (for now…):

The curving path leads you to the main decked area

The curving path leads you to the main decked area

The garden was completed just in time for the Big Day!

The chairs set out ready for the wedding ceremony

The chairs set out ready for the wedding ceremony

 

The newly married couple on the "aisle"

The newly married couple on the “aisle”

As with all gardens, they mature and evolve. And as lives change so do your garden requirements. A HUGE change for us was welcoming our little Lulu into the world in 2012. We knew we wanted the garden to be a safe place for her to play and enjoy being outdoors. Whilst there are ways of securing ponds to make them child friendly (we are about to install pond grid on a project we are undertaking for Jupiter Urban Wildlife Centre) our pond was suffering from alkalinity issues which were impacting on the aquatic plants. We decided that it was best all round to fill in the pond and create a larger, grassy area for Lulu to run around.

Lulu came along and the garden evolved again

Lulu came along and the garden evolved again

To stop Lulu wandering off we put a gate on the garden made from old pallets. We also made a few herb pallet planters for our herbs:

Jingles the cat inspects the new pallet gate

Jingles the cat inspects the new pallet gate

And while we were at it we used even more pallets to create this personalised sand pit on the morning patio:

Lulu gives the sand pit her seal of approval

Lulu gives the sand pit her seal of approval

Storage became more of an issue so we made our own garden shed out of old pallets and some fence slats. A living roof, a spoon handle, love heart peephole and chain overflow added to its quirkiness. A bespoke bird table made from left over timbers and some samples of cedar cladding was also added to the garden.

The new shed and bird table

The new shed and bird table

We decided we wanted to add a splash of colour to the garden so we introduced some lovely pink pots to our morning patio:

New pink pots add a splash of colour to the patio

New pink pots add a splash of colour to the patio

The pink then inspired us to give the troughs on our deck a bit of a makeover:

The pink spread to the troughs!

The pink spread to the troughs!

Upcycling has been a big theme for 2014 and we created a new “pot” for the deck out of some old trailer tyres:

The upcycled tyres painted bright colours

The upcycled tyres painted bright colours

And the wheel rims didn’t go to waste either. Lulu sowed some bee and butterfly friendly seeds in them:

The tyre rims planted with wildlife friendly plants

The tyre rims planted with wildlife friendly plants

The veg patch has filled out and provides lots of lovely fruit and veg for the family:

The veg patch has really filled out

The veg patch has really filled out

The planting has matured nicely and the curving path now leads you round to discover what lies beyond. A new corten steel lantern is one of several new focal points which have been placed in borders:

The planting has done its job in obscuring the deck

The planting has done its job in obscuring the deck

The planting has filled out nicely and the bees love it!:

The planting has matured nicely]

The planting has matured nicely]

The globe is still a key focal point and is now surrounded with pretty planting:

The globe is still a central feature of the garden

The globe is still a central feature of the garden

So over a short period of time our garden has grown, matured and evolved and continues to give us all a great deal of pleasure.

For more information on transforming your own garden please get in touch.

Best wishes,

All at Vialii

Winter Wonderland

There’s no denying it, winter is just round the corner. The frosty mornings, the winter woollies and the sound of Wizzard emanating from every shopping centre and radio station heralds the winter season. But for us gardeners it needn’t mean bare earth and a dull garden. Here are some of our top tips to make sure your garden is still beautiful to look at throughout the winter season, is packed full of winter interest and is truly a Winter Wonderland (even if it does mean looking at it from indoors with a nice mug of tea a lot of the time!)

A fennel seed head in a Winter Wonderland

A fennel seed head provides winter interest

Evergreen plants

There are a whole host of evergreen plants which can provide structure and winter interest in your garden. Some favourites include buxus sempervirens, viburnum, camellia, skimmia, hebe, phormium and rhododendron. Also, grasses are a must for us in gardens. They look great all the year round but we particularly love them when they are frost covered. Our favourites include molinia, stipa tenuissima, deschampsia, libertia and carex buchananii.

Grasses look wonderful covered in frost

Grasses look wonderful covered in frost

Seed heads

Just because your summer flowering perennials have lost their colour, it doesn’t mean all is lost. Many of the plants in a herbaceous border provide wonderful winter interest through their seed heads. Stars in the winter border include foeniculum (fennel), verbena bonariensis, angelica, echinops, allium, eryngium, sedum and hydrangea to name but a few.

Echinops, still looking wonderful in winter

Echinops, still looking wonderful in winter

Interesting branches

Some shrubs come into their own in winter. A plant such as corylus contorta (the contorted hazel) is a nice shrub to add form and texture to the garden in summer and the catkins are attractive in spring. But for us this shrub comes into its own in winter when you can see its wonderful contorted branches. Other shrubs which look wonderful in winter include prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’ and who could ignore cornus stolonifera – the wonderful bright red branches of the dogwood.

Trees

All trees provide a wonderful structure and height in the garden and will add interest in the winter. Some have wonderful bark which will provide additional interest – ones to consider are prunus serrula, acer griseum and betula utilis jacquemontii. All suitable for small gardens and will provide interest all year round.

Trees provide structure in winter as well as somewhere to hang fairy lights!

Trees provide structure in winter as well as somewhere to hang fairy lights!

Berries

Berries are like beautiful gems glowing in a winter garden. While flowers often take a back seat it is time for berries to take centre stage. From skimmia and pyrancathus to ilex (holly) and viburnum there are a plenty of lovely shrubs to choose from. And your feathered friends will be happy too. Remember to plant both male and female holly plants and most skimmias to ensure you get berries.

Winter flowering plants

Some plants flower over winter and are great additions to the garden. These include helleborus, hamamelis, mahonia, cornus ‘Golden Glory’ and viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’.

The contorted hazel provides a magical feel to a winter garden

The contorted hazel provides a magical feel to a winter garden

Other interest

Of course gardens aren’t just about plants. A well designed garden will have structure and form which will make it still look beautiful even when your summer perennials have passed their best. Interesting hard landscaping, seating areas, focal points, water features, lighting, outdoor rooms and many more features can be incorporated into your garden to ensure it is interesting all the year round. To read about some of the many focal points you can include in your garden read some of our previous blogs on focal points:

Focal points – Part 1

Focal points – Part 2

Feature fences and sculpture can provide important focal points in winter

Feature fences and sculpture can provide important focal points in winter

If you need some help or advice on creating your own Winter Wonderland in your garden please get in touch. Or if you want to utilise the winter to get in touch to discuss a design for next year it is the perfect time to get in touch and start the ball rolling.

In the meantime, wrap up warm and have a wonderful festive season.

All at Vialii

Castle Kennedy Garden Visit

We are always looking for lovely new gardens to visit. Earlier this week, we spent a lovely day in Castle Kennedy Garden just outside Stranraer. The weather in Scotland hasn’t been of the highest quality of late but thankfully we arranged for some good weather to be delivered for our visit!

The ruins of Castle Kennedy

The ruins of Castle Kennedy

The garden is impressive although as is commonly the case we found ourselves there at the wrong time of the year. There are magnificent rhododendrons to behold but in September they are nothing but large green masses. To see this garden in late spring would be wonderful.

Cotinus catching the autumn sun...

Cotinus catching the autumn sun…

One of our favourite spots was the large circular pond, positively packed to the gunnels with water lilies. It was captivating. Every now and then the lilies would offer up a silent ripple of applause when a breeze passed and you find yourself staring for ages in the hope of seeing a frog hopping off a leaf back into the water or a dragonfly hovering. We loved it.

Masses of water lilies...

Masses of water lilies…

The walled garden was lovely, if a bit untidy. We’re perhaps being a tad unfair here as we’re to understand that all 75 acres of this estate is maintained by just two gardeners?! It shows unfortunately. There are signs all around of how things could be in better shape. The rhododendrons are both massive in size and in numbers and are in the process of swamping out everything else. The monkey puzzle trees are being crowded by their indigenous neighbours and some bold choices have to be made to return this garden to it’s former intended glory. Even the plant sale area is in need of some care and attention with plants for sale either passed their best or just leggy and unkempt. Really not appealing to potential plant purchasers.

The walled garden

The walled garden

You can’t help feeling that, with this garden, if all the small details were addressed then it would potentially attract increased visitors numbers which would generate more sales which in turn could be invested back into the gardens. They might be able to stretch to a third gardener too. All in all, if you are in the area we think Castle Kennedy is worth a visit. But if you only have limited time then definitely choose Logan Botanic Gardens or Glenwhan.

Thanks for reading

All at Vialii

The Cream of Cornwall…

(…and we don’t mean the clotted variety.)

The temperate climate in Cornwall means that it’s a haven for sub-tropical plants and creating horticultural delights. On a recent adventure to the South West we couldn’t resist sampling some of these gardens. We couldn’t fit in all the gardens, too many for our short visit, so we carefully chose five to explore…

St Michael’s Mount

Sitting proudly on an island in Mount’s Bay, just off the coast of Cornwall, St Michael’s Mount is known primarily for its stunning castle with fairy tale turrets. The castle indeed is well worth a visit, just make sure you are feeling fit as you have to tackle a pretty challenging slope on the way up. To get to the island itself you may be able to walk across the causeway (although take what NT say about on their website with a pinch of salt!). If the tide is in and the causeway covered, there is a merry fleet of locals constantly ferrying eager visitors back and forward between Marazion and the island. From the Castle, you can get wonderful views back to the mainland, across the ocean waves and of course, of the stunning gardens below. Like the Castle, the gardens are built into a rocky cliff face.

The view of the Castle up through the gardens

The view of the Castle up through the gardens

That along with the wind blasting off the sea makes it a challenging space but the gardeners have managed to create the most beautiful of spaces. Both from above and below, the different areas are fantastic to view and despite the coastal winds, many sub tropical plants – normally more common in the likes of Mexico or South Africa, which we couldn’t risk in Scotland, are flourishing. From aloe and aeonium to tropical palm trees, it is like walking into a different world. The garden is entered along the most stunning displays of Kniphofia rooperi, a traffic light display leading you along to the main gardens. Once you have wandered around past the pillbox look-out you can then wind your way (hmm, does that make it sound like the gentle slope? Ok, you can struggle and sweat your way, especially when 22 weeks pregnant!) up through the zig zagging gardens for splendid views across the Celtic Sea then through into the walled garden. The walled garden has recently been redesigned with each level a different colour combination, designed to be seen from above. Indeed the whole garden has been cleverly designed to be viewed from the Castle. We can just imagine the Lady of the Castle demanding that she could see every plant from her perch within the Castle. Now, that’s a proper diva!

Kniphofia rooperi make a statement as you walk round to the gardens

Kniphofia rooperi make a statement as you walk round to the gardens

VGD Score: 8/10

The Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden

Hidden away in the back streets of St Ives, the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden pays homage to the great artist. Affiliated to the Tate Gallery in St Ives, you can get a discount if you visit both in the same day. Like many artists, Barbara moved to St Ives when WWII broke out and stayed there until she died in 1975. Both the museum and gardens are limited in space but there was no limitation to the vision and skills Barbara used to create the wonderful sculptures on show. Like most gardens in Cornwall, the BHSG is filled with sub-tropical planting.

The gorgeous planting and sculptures

The gorgeous planting and sculptures

The planting focuses on form and texture rather than colour and provides a great back drop to the large collection of sculptures which you discover at every turn. When we visited there were artists old and young enjoying the garden, sketch pads out, taking their own inspiration. You can also view Barbara’s studio exactly as it was when she was creating her art. Indeed it looks like she has just nipped into the house to make a cuppa. This garden is a perfect example of how art and horticulture can make a great partnership and how a relatively small space can be transformed into a peaceful haven with a real sense of journey.

It looks like someone has just nipped off for a cuppa

It looks like someone has just nipped off for a cuppa

VGD Score: 9/10

The Lost Gardens of Heligan

The Lost Gardens of Heligan were “found” in 1990 when it was decided that the overgrown and neglected gardens would be brought back to life. The gardens have been in the Tremayne Family for over 400 years and have seen a lot of changes throughout that time. At the end of the 19th Century the gardens were having their hey-day but a short time later they had been left to wrack and ruin. Work began in the early 1990s to restore the gardens and let the public share in their beauty. If you are a fan of luscious lawns and perfect flower beds, Heligan isn’t the garden for you. It’s much more about the feel of the gardens, allowing some areas to run wild and for nature to take its course. Woodland walks, jungles and wildlife sanctuaries are as important as the dedicated areas for cut flowers. We did feel it was a little too wild though with a lot of weeds, even in the cut flower beds which could easily be addressed.

Woodland walks and jungles add to the mystery of Heligan

Woodland walks and jungles add to the mystery of Heligan

Huge beds are cultivated for produce grown on site and from the huge pumpkins and cabbages on show, the team are doing something right. The interpretation area showcases the wildlife to be seen around Heligan and there are lots of interactive displays and impressive use of technology to tempt visitors. A viewing station means you can watch the various birds and wildlife come and go as well as operating cameras to spy on various bird houses around the estate.

The Jungle transports you to another world, taking advantage of the Cornish climate. There are also New Zealand gardens as well as Italian, scented, floral, productive and Northern gardens, to name just a few. For kids and adults alike, the Mud Man and Mud Maid are great fun. And work is still surging ahead as Heligan comes of age. It might not be everybody’s cup of tea and is rough at the edges in many places but there is no denying that there is a certain spirit to Heligan which 400 years on can’t be ignored.

The Mud Man is very impressive

The Mud Man is very impressive

VGD Score: 6/10

Trebah Garden

Trebah Garden, hidden in the country lanes around Helston, has forged great links with the local university and is constantly moving forward. As with Heligan, it takes advantage of the temperate climate and there are a plethora of tree ferns, gunnera and jungle type plants. Bamboozle sounded more exciting on paper, promising a Bamboo Maze which in reality was just a walkway through some mass planting. However, the mass planting of Hydrangea was something to be seen. Hundreds of shrubs, all in bloom surrounded Mallard Pond, their huge mop heads demanding attention.

The mass planting at Trebah is very impressive

The mass planting at Trebah is very impressive

As we visited late September we had missed what would undoubtedly be a spectacular display of camellias and rhodos earlier in the year. A thoughtful area for children to play had been created and certainly there were several school groups exploring the gardens. A Koi Pond and Water Garden added another element to the garden and created a wonderfully relaxing atmosphere. From the top, a fantastic view down through the valley to the beach at the bottom showcases the extent of the garden. It’s a challenging site to explore (all of the gardens we visited were built into cliffs, not the handiest for an expectant mother but who said gardening was easy?!) but it’s worth making the effort. Trebah has its own beach at the bottom of the valley which families and school groups were making the most of too. For us, Trebah was a better all round garden than Heligan and didn’t have the rough edges of its neighbour. Oh, and the fruit scones and bacon butties in the café were definitely worth a mention too!

The water garden was wonderful to see

The water garden was wonderful to see

VGD Score: 7/10

The Eden Project

We were worried that our expectations of Eden were too high and that we were going to be disappointed. As we drove down the country roads in Cornwall leading to Eden, we eagerly kept looking for our first glimpse of the famous Biomes. However, it’s not until you have paid and exited out of the Visitor Centre that you are treated to your first view of the striking structures, like aliens rising out of the hillside. From that moment onwards we were completely smitten.

The biodomes are like aliens rising out of the land

The biodomes are like aliens rising out of the land

Until you have been there you cannot understand the sheer size of the Biomes, the extent of the site and the transformation that has been taken the site from a china clay pit to a horticultural and educational haven. Our excitement was summed up by Michael’s comment that it was “like Disney for gardeners”. Whilst likening the attraction to such a commercial operation would perhaps be doing Eden a disservice, it showed just how immense and overwhelming it was. A land train regularly transports visitors around the site but despite being built into yet another hillside, Eden is much easier to get around than all the other gardens we visited. Everywhere you go, the Biome structures dominate but there is also architectural interest in the Core (the interpretation centre) and the Stage. On the day we visited temperatures were soaring which ironically meant the site was very quiet.

Eden has education at its core and does it very well

Eden has education at its core and does it very well

Many visitors think the whole site is under cover and thus keep their visit for a rainy day. Don’t be fooled though, most of the site is outdoors and there is plenty to wander around and see. The most impressive thing for us is the level of education provided throughout and the interesting way it is done. Every opportunity is taken to educate but it was always done in a fun way and you never felt it was forced down your throat or that you were being patronised. The tables in the café had fun facts on them about produce. Even the toilets had fascinating information on hand dryers they were trialling. Down in the Core, there was a myriad of information to explore. We particularly loved the interactive smart car, especially when it told us it was more efficient to use a dishwasher than hand wash!! Back outside the WEEEman is an impressive example of how recycled materials can be used to create a HUGE sculpture towering over the gardens. Computer mice were used for teeth and a microwave heart brought a new meaning to being warm-hearted!

The WEEEman is incredible

The WEEEman is incredible

Having explored the outside areas which featured everything from flowerless gardens and insect attracting plants to prairies and wild Cornwall, we eventually made our way to the Biomes to see if they were as impressive on the inside as they were from outside. First we visited the Mediterranean Biome. Not only is it filled with sub tropical plants there was a plethora of sculptures, structure, pots and features all relevant to the theme. Now, we only had the Rainforest Biome left to see. Having left this until the afternoon of a late Indian summer’s day, the heat was authentically overpowering when we entered. The viewing platform had been closed due to humidity but in reality I would never have made it up the steps to the look-out point. Regardless, the space was still fantastic to see. You would never believe you were in an indoor space with everything from lorries to native houses featuring in the Biome.

Inside the Biodomes was impressive too

Inside the Biodomes was impressive too

It was certainly humid and we were glad to exit but it was a fantastic experience. A quick visit to the café and shop then two exhausted but very happy gardeners made their way home. If you are remotely interested in gardens, and even if you are not, Eden is a must-see.

The views of the Biodomes were incredible from all angles]

The views of the Biodomes were incredible from all angles]

VGD Score: 10/10

Let us know what you think of these gardens or any others you have been to visit.

Thanks for reading.

All at Vialii