National Gardening Week 2016

Today is the start of the 2016 National Gardening Week and to celebrate I have collated my eight favourite things I recommend that you do this week…

Get outside and have fun this National Gardening Week

Get outside and have fun this National Gardening Week

Get Painting

I love all kinds of painting and this is the perfect time of year to get your garden looking spick and span. From fences and veg beds to playhouses and sand-pits, get outdoors and not only make everything look nice but keep it protected for another year.

My playhouse is lovely and fresh ready for a summer of play

My playhouse is lovely and fresh ready for a summer of play

Top dress your borders & pots

Like us, plants need nutrients to keep them healthy and growing strong. To do this we need to add compost to the garden and guess what else? Poo! Yes, actual poo! Not ours of course, farm manure. Well, I am going to leave that part to daddy! Poooeeeeee!!

Go visit a new garden

It’s always great to go visit a new garden and there are some amazing ones all over the UK. If you’re in London, go visit the new Magic Garden at Hampton Court. The RHS gardens and the Botanic Gardens are always worth a visit. More locally the maze at Scone Palace is a-maze-ing! And in a few weeks it will be the annual open day at the Garden of Cosmic Speculation. To read M&D’s list of their favourite gardens to visit, click here.

The gardens at Levens Hall in the Lake District are well worth a visit

The gardens at Levens Hall in the Lake District are well worth a visit


Plant a new veg

You don’t need much space to grow veg. Why not try growing a courgette in a pot on your back door step. Or some tumbler tomatoes in a window box. It’s cool to watch them growing and yummy to eat. Go on, try one this year and see how it goes…

Spike your lawn

Spiking your lawn is a great way of getting air into a compacted lawn and letting the grass grow better (rather than just moss, thatch and weeds!) Try that as well as some lawn feeds and scarifying to get your grass in tip top condition for the summer.

Tilda helps spike our lawn

Tilda helps spike our lawn

Sow wildflowers

There are always organisations giving out free packets of wildflowers to take advantage of. Use them in a quiet corner of your garden or see if you can find a piece of local wasteland which you can cheer up this summer.

Play a garden game

We are lucky to have a wonderful range of garden games from BigJigs which we will be featuring soon in one of my blogs. From crazy golf and skittles to quoits and croquet, there is  a great range of fun games to invite your friends round to play. Or, of course, the old favourites of hide ‘n’ seek and tag are fun garden games and don’t cost a penny.

Anyone for a game of croquet?

Anyone for a game of croquet?

Make mud soup

This is currently my favourite garden activity. Anything can be added to mud soup (herbs, sand, water, stones, you name it) but the base ingredient is, of course, mud! Mummy recommends rainsuits and wellies for this game!

Hopefully you will do at least ONE of these activities during this year’s National Gardening Week, but wherever you are and whatever you do I hope you really do love your garden.

For more information on National Gardening Week please click here.

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

A Sustainable Future

It’s a common misconception that sustainability and being kind to the environment equates to being unkind on the wallet. Here are some ideas of how you can create a stunning sustainable garden whilst still doing your bit to help the planet and without breaking the bank…

Sustainable garden: A mosaic ball is fun to create and reduces landfill

A mosaic ball is fun to create and reduces landfill

RECYCLE

Re-use all sorts of otherwise useless objects in the garden to create interesting features. Old bamboo canes, broken pots, egg cartons and old bricks can all be used to create a trendy wildlife tower. Or try using old slates stacked on their ends to create an interesting feature. Old concrete slabs are commonly lifted to be replaced by something more modern. However, they can be broken and re-laid to be a modern take on crazy paving. Or, if you are feeling like trying your hand at some crafts, how about making a mosaic ball out of left over tiles for a unique garden ornament.

FREECYCLE

Freecycle is a fantastic grassroots movement which matches people who have something they want to get rid of with people who are looking for such an item. In doing so it avoids these items ending up in landfill and reduces the requirement to manufacture and transport yet more goods. The best thing is that everything is absolutely free – you can even list what you are looking for too. At the time of going to press, our local Stirling Freecycle website was offering an apple tree, garden furniture, various lengths of wood and even some horse manure!
Freecycle is a wonderful organisation

Freecycle is a wonderful organisation

SHARE THE LOAD

Seed sharing is a great way to get free plants. Often a pack of seeds gives you far too many of the one plant. Swap some seeds with like-minded gardeners to widen your plant choice. Alternatively, you might have sown all your seeds but have too many plants for your own garden and have excess you are happy to give to a good home. Or perhaps you have excess fruit and veg you can’t get through yourself? There are some great websites that you can swap through or perhaps, if there is demand, we can create something locally. Let us know if you are interested.

SALVAGE YOUR GARDEN

There are salvage yards which are dedicated to supplying “scrap” for garden use. From sculptures and fountains to furniture and planters there are plenty of items which will make your garden completely unique and you will be saving it from landfill. If are looking for something a bit more unusual, look at non-garden salvage items and consider how it could be adapted to some use in your own garden such as an old wheel as part of a handrail.

This upcycled wheel makes a great handrail in a garden in Canada

This upcycled wheel makes a great handrail in a garden in Canada

SOURCE FREEBIES

If you are about to embark on a garden project, before you head to your local DIY superstore consider alternative ways you can source the required materials. Local builders and landscapers often have left over materials they don’t need or scrap they have removed from a job which is destined for the local tip. Contact them to see if they have materials which suit your needs – what might have been someone’s deck in a previous life might become the frame for your new green roof.

CIRCLE OF LIFE

Re-use items from your own garden to create interesting new features. For instance, an old felled apple tree could be cut up into sections to create a contemporary wildlife log feature in a quiet, unused corner of the garden. By tempting wildlife into your garden, they will help you deal with the various pests in your garden in a non-biological way.

A trendy wildlife tower is a great way to recycle materials

A trendy wildlife tower is a great way to recycle materials

HARD CHOICES

Consider your choice of hard landscaping carefully before you commit. Not only can paving be very expensive, many varieties are non-permeable, thus impacting on water levels in the area. And we all know how prevalent flooding has been recently! Consider alternatives such as gravel which is cheaper and allows excess water to permeate more easily.

SEED OF THOUGHT

If you have the time and patience, grow plants from seeds. Not only does it save money (especially if you have got them free as discussed earlier) but you avoid additional costs to the planet by avoiding the plastic pots which plants are sold in in garden centres. You are also avoiding transport costs of the plants from nursery to wholesaler, wholesaler to retailer then retailer to consumer. And of course there is the immense satisfaction of growing your own plants from tiny seeds. Priceless.

Growing plants from seed is immensely satisying

Growing plants from seed is immensely satisying

GO ORGANIC

The word “organic” can strike fear into the hearts of many a shopper as it can often seem an excuse to charge the customer more. However, when it comes to gardening, it can be a cheaper approach to horticulture, whilst doing your bit for the environment. For a start you won’t be buying any of those expensive chemicals to kill pests or keep them off your prize plants. Clever approaches such as companion planting is cheaper, can look pretty and keeps your conscience guilt free. Attracting wildlife into your garden, using some of the tips above, helps deal with the pests too. And simple old hard graft is the cheapest, most effective and kindest way to deal with your weeds (and great for calorie burning too!).

So now you can sleep well at night knowing you’re doing your bit for both your bank balance and the planet.

All at Vialii

Jump On The Veg Wagon!

These days its hard to escape from the media talking about one of two things – the credit crunch or green issues. Both affect us all so wouldn’t it be great to have a hobby which distracted us from the depressing news whilst directly tackled both issues? Well now you can with a home allotment!

The Vialii home allotment, hidden in a corner of our garden

The Vialii home allotment, hidden in a corner of our garden

You may have always dreamt of a veg patch but thought you didn’t have the space or didn’t want to ruin the look of your lovely garden. Or maybe you would love your own allotment but waiting lists are just way too long.

A home allotment could be the answer to all your problems. First of all, a home allotment doesn’t need to be a dreary veg patch tucked into a corner of your garden. Forget rectangles of earth with row after row of veg – yes they may provide some lovely home grown veg but aesthetically its far from inspiring.

Our home allotment has raised beds and a home made compost bin to match

Our home allotment has raised beds and a home made compost bin to match

Home allotments can be designed to suit your needs. Perhaps you want to incorporate trendy raised beds made from chunky timber sleepers. Not only are they lovely to look at they are also easy to use. They are at a height which means you don’t have to bend so much and the sleeper edges gives you somewhere to sit whilst you tend to your plants or simply to sit, relax and enjoy. The beds are easy to build and can be designed to fit whatever space you have. Consider adding a bespoke compost heap alongside and a water butt for easy (and eco-friendly) watering.

Our raised beds are easy to tend as we can sit while we work

Our raised beds are easy to tend as we can sit while we work

If you don’t want a dedicated area for veg then why not consider incorporating veg into your borders. Some veg and herbs such as swiss chard, chives and courgettes can be grown purely for ornamental purposes anyway. And how lovely to find a cabbage popping up amongst your perennials!

Raised beds are the perfect height for kids to help out

Raised beds are the perfect height for kids to help out

But don’t despair if you have limited space as your home allotment can be incorporated into any space. Veg and herbs can be planted in containers, compost bags, troughs – pretty much whatever space you have available. Indeed this can be an even better way to grow veg as you can ensure the growing conditions are perfect for the plant you are growing.

Our potato harvest]

Our potato harvest]

Whatever your space or aspiration, make it the vegetable crunch this year not the credit crunch! For further advice on how to create your own home allotment please get in touch.

Thanks for reading.

All at Vialii