Introducing our new tray collection! June 22, 2017 20:30
The idea behind introducing a range of trays to our collection began with an accident. With a growing collection of indoor plants, balanced precariously along a very narrow window sill in the bathroom, the inevitable happened. Saucers went flying, soil was spilled and I was one very unhappy bunny.
After a search online to find the perfect size drip tray proved fruitless, we decided to make our own. It's perhaps not the most in-depth, rational approach to product design, but for us, it works. If we have trouble finding something that fits the bill, we talk to customers, friends and family to find out if they've experienced similar. We try and find something we'd really, really love in our homes, and if after all this, we are still left wanting, we look for ways to make something ourselves.
So, what's different about our trays? Well, for starters, they are available in our four, gorgeous fruity, feathery and floral designs - namely cherry, leaf, feather & patsy. They are slim, elegant trays - perfect for your average size window sill and even cope with my extremely narrow version (see pic!). They are made from recycled materials and won't warp if they get a thorough soaking while plants are watered.
Another really important factor for us is that the trays are made in the UK. It's not that we think British products are better, or more superior. We are just passionate about keeping our carbon footprint as small as possible and truly believe that the simple act of making something keeps people, communities and societies happy. So, making our garden and homewares in the UK is our way of waving the flag for the home side.
We hope that the result of all this is a range of trays that are useful drip tray for houseplants and indoor gardening activities, as well as perfect serving trays for mealtimes and get togethers. To keep things simple, we've included post and packaging in the price. We hope you love them - please let us know either way. We always appreciate the feedback :) Here is a link to shop the tray range... Enjoy!
Evenings amid the veg: A summer solstice update June 21, 2017 19:08
What a wonderful few sunny week's we've had. While mother nature had added the sunshine each day, every evening, I've been bringing out the watering can. New life, in all its richness and abundance, has been our reward.
When I last wrote about our veg patch, which we created in January 2016, I was worried about planting too early, in case frost caused a problem (what was I thinking?!@); thrilled at the sight of nasturtiums that had seeded and reappeared from the year before; and just a teensy, weansy but excited about promise of the gooseberries, which had survived a move from another part of the garden.
Well, it is incredible what a few week's can bring. The nasturtiums that were so tentative and shy in their reemergence? Now dominating the beds and little shingle pathways all around. I love their free spirited growth and wild abandon. Just brilliant. They are also fantastic at keeping bugs and beasties off the crops. Beautiful and useful in equal measure.
The beans that I fretted over are now zooming up the bean poles and look set to create a few flowers, and therefore beans, in the next few weeks. The onions will be ready in around four weeks. But the showstoppers, the absolute divas of the veg patch, have to be the red cabbages. These girls have survived 'over wintering', when they looked extremely dicey at times, and are now in full glory, ready to harvest. I'm not sure if veg should look joyful, but these do. They are beautiful and they know it. I love them.
The gooseberries will soon be picked and then head off to demi johns to make what I hope will be the most delicious, crisp, dry white wine. Exactly the kind my Dad used to make for myself and my housemates when we were at uni. Other students would be dutifully dropped off with a baking tray of lasagne or a bag of shopping for the week. Me? Two sacks of homegrown potatoes and a box (a BOX!) of home-brewed, white wine. Result. Trust me, these kind of rations could keep you going an entire term. Well, at the very least, the potatoes lasted a good few weeks :)
At a time when we are incredibly grateful to be as busy as we are with Denys & Fielding, our newly established little veg patch offers a wonderful retreat and a reminder of what started this business - a love of life outdoors.
Stylish Garden Furniture & Accessories: Our top pick of UK Makers and Designers June 04, 2017 17:21
When it comes to stylish garden furniture & accessories, finding something a little different isn't always easy. It was this very problem that prompted us to start Denys & Fielding. However, we think the tide is turning.
Leading the charge is a mix of established and emerging UK makers and companies offering something a little different. Here are our top picks to help you style your outdoor space this summer...
Later this month, we'll be with the lovely folk from Bee Palace at the upcoming Rare Brand Summer Market at Goodwood. Their glazed earthenwares make perfect homes for solitary bees and are available in a range of beautiful colours.
Clearly, when it comes to stylish garden furniture, we like to think that you can do no better than a folding wooden deck chair for the garden... :) But if tables and benches are on the shopping list, we love Benchmark. Set up by Sean Sutcliffe and Terence Conran in 1984, Benchmark produce beautifully crafted wooden furniture for both commercial buyers and individual customers. If you are after a bench with a sense of wit and style, look no further than the Blooming Bench from Benchmark. Just add good company, your favourite flowers and you'll be stylishly seated in no time.
De La Torre Ceramics
Hanging baskets. I'll be honest here, I am not a fan. I know. This is not a popular statement. Nor am I am wild about those similar style baskets / troughs that you attach to walls. Mark De La Torre offers a beautiful, pared down alternative. Wall planters that are just perfect for one variety of trailing flowers, herbs or succulents. Simple. Stylish. Sorted.
Garden Oven Company
Nothing beats eating outside. A fellow member of 'Made in Britain', the Garden Oven Company design and manufacture beautiful wood fired ovens. Perfect for pizzas, you can also grill, smoke and roast to your heart's content.
[image: The Garden Oven Company]
I've been hankering after a greenhouse from these guys since Cat & I spotted them at Hampton Court Flower Show back in 2015. That is two WHOLE YEARS of drooling! The design and manufacture all takes place in Hampshire and for me it's those lovely lean to glasshouses that are just beautiful. All I need now is for someone to build me a wall to accommodate one... I'm serious. I'm, er, going build a wall... a friendly, inclusive, fruit growing, veggie loving type of wall.
Haws watering cans are built to last and ridiculously handsome to boot. We also love their small sprayers which are perfect for house plants and glasshouses (just seen in image above).
This Scottish based company produces brilliantly strong, quality garden twine in a tin. We love it. In fact, so much so, we stock it. Shop your garden twine essentials here.
On location: tropical garden style and inspiration May 29, 2017 10:53
Last week, we were really lucky to find ourselves in the most beautiful contemporary garden. Lush, tropical planting combined effortlessly with gorgeous mediterranean style terracotta pots filled with Cordylines and Olives. Add in sunshine and a beautiful, warm swimming pool and quite frankly, we were looking to move in.
Aside from being the perfect place to photograph our deckchairs, cushions and a NEW SECRET SQUIRREL but hugely exciting new product line (EEEK!) it also provided plenty of planting inspiration. With a notebook full of ideas, here are my top five easy steals from this beautiful garden:
Underplanting. Sounds vaguely risqué but anyway, underplanting is a tropical garden essential. Tropical gardens are all about the foliage at different levels. Many plants absolutely thrive in full shade or semi shady spots because they herald from lush, jungly locations in which shade is a given. I spotted Acanthus mollis (bear's breeches) looking very happy and handsome in the darker confines of the garden. Gorgeous clumps of ferns (ostrich ferns, I think) were growing together in a large groups, rather than dotted around and the result was instant impact. The limey green foliage looked beautiful against the dark, plum coloured leaves of Heuchera as well as Hostas and bright, yellow Lilies half submerged in a shallow pond.
Water: Talking of ponds, let me just mention the water in this garden. From the gentle rippling of the pond, nestled in and surrounded by lush, damp loving plants, through to the palm springs style swimming pool in a bright, sun filled hotspot; water was abundant and celebrated in this beautiful garden. All too often I moan about my garden being too wet or damp. Instead, this owner had made water a feature and celebrated it in style, in two very different ways. Absolutely gorgeous.
Tough Love: Up until last week, I thought my Cordyline looked pretty happy in my garden. But it looks SO different to the ones spotted in this tropical garden. So much so, I didn't recognise them as Cordylines at first. To start with, they were in flower. Mine has never flowered in eight years! I had no idea they had such delicate, pretty wafts of flowers amid their spiky foliage. The other huge difference was the planting. My Cordyline has been planted straight in the ground whereas these were planted in huge terracotta pots dotted around the patio. The result is hot, hot, hot for their roots with few nutrients in the soil. But, a little tough love was doing wonders, as they looked stunning. I now look at my solitary Cordyline and feel it is all bit pathetic & mollycoddled. Poor thing.
Gangsta's Paradise: Now, let's talk gangsters. Not real ones, obvs, but the garden variety. Trachycarpus fortunei. These wonderful, prehistoric looking plants that carry on with a swagger, irrespective of what the weather throws at them. I asked about any special care these required or feeds and the owner said they just do their thing with very little care. No wrapping up in the winter. No feeds. In fact, the owner described them as 'thugs', muscling their way through, come what may. For me, they looked magnificent, adding to the sense of glamour and style in the garden.
Thinking Vertically: As much as I loved the swimming pool area and seating in and around the garden, it was the clever, imaginative way in which the back of the garden had been terraced that for me, was just brilliant. Two staircases either side of a centre bed add drama to the garden. It actually reminded me of that big old staircase in 'Gone with the wind'. Or the one in Sex in the City when Carrie spots Big at the theatre and legs it. It works brilliantly as a frame for the planting in the centre and for the entire garden, drawing your eye up and around this beautiful space. I love the feeling of sitting 'in' a garden, literally immersed in it. The extra height this terracing provides really gives you a sense of that. It offers a retreat and an escape from the world. A tropical hiding place, not a long haul flight away, but in deepest, darkest Kent. Perfect.
Notes from the Garden: First fruits May 17, 2017 00:00
The garden in Spring always reminds me of that Zorba the Greek dance. It starts off slowly, a kick here, a nod there and all of a sudden... IT IS OFF! Right now, the garden is at full speed and I love it. The wilful, devil may care whirlwind of colour & frenetic energy is just brilliant.
But, while the riot of colourful flowers are out front, high kicking all the away, it is the quieter emergence of fruit that for me, is the most exciting thing happening out there.
The last few years have been hit and miss in terms of fruit production in my garden. Wet, bedraggled winters have resulted in a lack of pollination for our young cordons. Gooseberries and blackcurrants had sat in the wrong part of the garden for years, suffering from a good deal of neglect and all that the weather had to throw at them.
Recently, we've tried to rectify all that we can. The front garden is now the veggie garden, close enough to a tap to get watered a bit more regularly and receive a little more attention. I've a row of young apple trees, growing as cordons along one fence. Having read up a bit on apple pollination groups, I now have a happy little gang, each helping the other out to produce more fruit.
And all of a sudden, it is starting to pay off.
For the first time in EIGHT years, the pear cordons have pollinated. Honestly, I can't tell you how excited I am about this. I am literally the human version of that flamenco dancing emoji, shimmying about the place.
Moreover, the apples are showing more fruit than ever. The gooseberries and blackcurrants survived the undignified way in which they were uprooted and moved to the new veg patch last autumn and are producing the goods.
So, now all that we need is rain overnight and sunshine by day for the next few weeks and we'll be gorging ourselves on berries and blooms from the garden. Ah. The weather. Ok, well, let's see...
I'm expecting the apples to start to follow the time old tradition of the 'June Drop' in the next few weeks - nothing serious, just nature's way of thinning out the crop to produce the best fruit with minimum damage to the tree. If nature needs a hand, I have my Dad's old fruit farm diaries from the late seventies as a reference, where he recorded how and when they thinned fruit. More on that, if needed, next month.
In the meantime, if all this talk of food has got you thinking about growing your own, here are five easy ways to get started this week...
1. Tomato plants: Cheap, easy and ready to buy now, tomato plants are perfect for a warm, sunny windowsill. All they need is feeding regularly once in flower, pinching out side shoots (to keep them on the straight and narrow, so to speak, in terms of fruit production) and a bit of space and support as they grow. If you decide to position them outside, just keep an eye out for late frosts and bring in if colder weather is due.
2. Runner beans. Talking of weather, I'm going to go for it and sow some beans this weekend. Frost and cold days, begone! Sow seeds in close proximity to a pole, bamboo cane or broomstick and with fingers firmly crossed for warm weather, you'll have the sprouts of newly germinated bean seed in no time.
3. Space savers: If space is a problem, there are plenty of edibles to grow in pots. Herbs do brilliantly in all sorts of spaces, but you can also grow carrots, lettuce, rocket and chard really easily in pots dotted around the place. Just choose a tall pot for carrots as they need plenty of growing room underground. Strawberries also do well in planters as well as in hanging baskets. Ooh, and I've just remembered about my friend who grows lettuce in a length of guttering positioned half way up her fence. No back breaking needed!
4. Grow together: You often find you have more seed than you need in an average packet of seed. So go to the garden nursery with a friend, buy a selection between you and split the bounty as and when it appears. Most garden nurseries around here also offer a mean cuppa and cake (photo from King John's Nursery in Ticehurst, Kent. Literally, a slice of heaven can be found up there!). Rude not to!
5. Unplug and plant: Just like tomato plants, there are all sorts of veggies that have been grown from seed and are sat in the garden nursery, awaiting your arrival. If seeds aren't your thing, make life easy. Simply, purchase, unplug and plant. No one will ever know...
Our first internship at Denys & Fielding May 15, 2017 11:42 2 Comments
I had just read and reviewed In the Company of Women, when a friend asked if I would be interested in having an intern join Denys & Fielding for a week or two. I hesitated. A million little questions, doubts and concerns zipped through my mind at lightening speed. Mainly focused on whether I could offer an enriching experience for Andree, a talented, mature student undertaking a masters in Fashion and Interiors at the University of Creative Arts, with a background in furniture design. Gulp.
How would she feel about working in such a small company? What would she make of the 'hands on' nature of assembling the garden chairs for dispatch, packing up cushions and garden apron orders? The daily 'stop / start' nature of running a business interjected school runs and homework (theirs not mine. Although to be fair, it's a thin line...) The LONG hours that such a staccato timetable creates?
Then I got a hold of myself. How could I possibly turn down the opportunity to welcome a creative woman into this little company, having only just evangelised about the importance and the life affirming value of supporting and cheering the success of complete strangers? So, in the spirit of sharing, here is how we made it work...
I've never been an intern, but I have experienced that nullifying effect of having to 'shadow' someone in the first few weeks in a new job. Honestly. What a waste of time. I was determined that the experience I would offer would be far more rewarding for both parties. So, a few week's in advance, Andree & I met up and scoped out some ideas about how we would spend our time together.
It sounds obvious, but our initial first step was to discuss what we both wanted in terms of ideal outcomes. We started off quite broad; each taking turns to discuss the bigger picture of our respective work, and then, starting to focus down on the gaps. We looked for areas where those gaps overlapped - providing an opportunity for both of us. Together, we came up with an overview of the two weeks - which included attending and selling at a garden show, packing up orders for stockists and customers; a review of the business, prototyping and producing a canvas storage bag for our stowaway chairs - (providing an ideal, protective cover for easy storage in the boot of a car or shed) and finally, developing a new print for our collection.
Quite a ten days. But by meeting in advance, and spending a couple of ideas sharing our experiences and our ideal next steps, we were really able to get in 'sync', understanding each others' priorities.
Step out of that comfort zone!
Throughout the two weeks, there were moments when both of us felt out of our depth. For Andree, it was my insistence about the business review. Here was a great opportunity for someone to provide me with some feedback, with a unique perspective from both from outside and within the business. Hooray! And yet for Andree, the thought of undertaking this task in such a small business where the people and the company are synonymous, was uncomfortable.
For me, I worried that my 'self taught' approach to running Denys & Fielding might start to unravel. And I really worried about the sheer volume of packing and dispatching that needed to take place. As a result, we ring fenced time that would be dedicated to design and development, versus time for 'domestics'.
Reflect and Review
Last Thursday night, after a few days away from each other to reflect, we met for a celebratory drink and to review our combined experiences. For me, our review was a really special evening. A milestone if you like, not just of a two week internship stint, but of the fact that our little company is strong enough to absorb and add value to an additional person. I came away with my business review - beautifully presented of course, but packed with constructive, honest feedback. I've already implemented at least three ideas.
Thankfully, the task of the business review also provided value and insight for Andree, replacing the initial feelings of doubt and discomfort. Meanwhile, back in her comfort zone, Andree somehow managed to create two stunning new prints which blend traditional elements with an edgy, contemporary twist. To me, these new designs are two cousins to our existing collection - different but connected. I felt quite moved by Andree's interpretation of our style and her development of it. For Andree, she felt she gained a really practical insight into the running of a small business - the good, the bad and the ugly! And together, we achieved an awful lot.
Would I recommend internships for small companies? Absolutely. It won't implode your business. It will make you more organised, not less. And it will give you a rich, new perspective that money cannot buy.
Notes from the Garden: Repotting & top dressing pots and planters May 05, 2017 02:30
In and around the house, I've got a number of plants that have been experiencing the horticultural equivalent of tight trousers. Deeply unpleasant. So, over the bank holiday weekend, I snatched a couple of hours to remedy the situation.
Two of my outdoor pots are home to beautiful hydrangeas. Because they demand ericaceous soil to keep their blooms blue, I home them in pots instead of the open ground. With their growth now in full swing, they need all the goodness and nourishment they can get. In the largest pot, much of the existing soil had compacted down and reduced over the last 12 months. It is extremely heavy and difficult to move, so I just gently scrapped off the top inch or two of soil and then added a really generous layer of new ericaceous soil. For the smaller hydrangea, a similar thing had occurred, with the soil level dropping considerably, but because she was lighter, I simply eased the whole plant and root system out, removed a lot of the old soil at the root base and in the bottom of the pot, and then added new compost - bringing the level up from the bottom. Removing old and dead leaves and dressing the top soil was the last thing to do before giving both a really good water. At some point, these plants will need repotting, but by top dressing the largest, and doing a hybrid 'top dress and repot' of the smaller, I think I've bought myself another year or two.
It is a different story for my house plants. A few of the succulents are romping away and this has meant repotting them into larger pots. The result is pretty much overnight growth - the plants receive a new source of nutrients and space, which in turn leads to a new lease of life. Finding beautiful, large planters for indoors is a challenge so I've been collecting ideas on a special, planter board on Pinterest. Many of these are pure black and white, which off set the bright vibrant tones of our scatter cushions, plants and foliage that are dotted around our home.
While many guides will advise you to repot and top dress plants in mid spring, I'm never sure whether that means earlier on (you know, in that 20 degree heat we had) or now (when it is absolutely blinking baltic!) Instead, I tend to take my lead from the plants - if they are pot bound with roots showing at the bottom, definitely, absolutely move on ASAP. With perennials or shrubs in outdoor planters, I tend to wait until new leaves are established, but before the flowers or buds emerge. For me, it is a pattern and a ritual that works and luckily, I've never lost one yet.
***What are your tips and tricks? Please add your knowledge and experience in the comments below!***
Wild about Gardens 2017 May 02, 2017 18:21
Prepare yourselves. Or rather, prepare your gardens. Kent Wildlife Trust has sounded the horn and the 2017 Wild About Gardens Awards are now underway! Last Thursday, I was lucky enough to be invited to hear more about this year's awards, which includes several new categories such as best garden for wild birds and best garden for hedgehogs. There are also awards for best urban garden, best small / balcony or container garden and cool school for nature. So, no excuses, you can go it alone or look to enter a school garden or local community project!
The timing for the awards is pretty much perfect. Over the next few months, gardens experience their annual growth spurt, with an abundance of flowers and foliage galloping away. This in turn means 'dinnertime' for bugs and beasties, so it is extremely important that wildlife get an invite for tea in your garden.
A sobering statistic from last Thursday's talk is still playing on my mind. In the last 70 years, 98% of meadows have disappeared. To me, this is pretty desperate, not just for our wildlife, but for our own wellbeing. However, gardens offer a ray of hope. There are acres and acres (around 667,000 acres to be exact) of private gardens, large and small, that can create safe havens, corridors, restaurants and homes for our furry and feathery friends. And let's be honest, a silent garden is not normal. A buzz here and a flap of wings there, offering a constant humming background to your pottering, is all part of the immersive, therapeutic effects of life outside.
If your garden is more wildlife 'library' than party central, read our recent post about five easy ways to make your garden more wildlife friendly. Meanwhile, if you are on the cusp of entering and not sure whether to take the plunge, let us allay your fears with a round up of our experience of the Kent Wild About Gardens Awards last year. We'll be entering again this year as we found it to be a wonderful opportunity to receive a little feedback on the garden and swap ideas. Wish us luck and good luck to you!
Castles & Camping: A weekend at Toby's Garden Festival, Devon May 01, 2017 10:06
When the opportunity came to head down the A303 and spend the weekend selling our deckchairs, cushions and garden wares in Devon, I jumped at the chance. After a three year stint of living in Devon, it is a part of the world that has a really special place in my heart. Add beautiful plants for sale, gorgeous independent bakers, brewers and makers selling their wares in the grounds of Powderham Castle, and I was sold.
The only thing missing from this perfect busman's holiday weekend was accommodation. I was thinking cosy little B&B by the coast, however, my husband had other ideas. While I spent last week getting ready for the show, I left him in charge of finding accommodation. The result - wild camping in woodland on the edge of Dartmoor. Really?! I mean, really!?
But, as it turns out, the combination of a castle by day, and camping by night, worked perfectly. Toby's Garden Festival is a garden event brimming with atmosphere. A flower clad folk band set the tone, welcoming people into the Festival grounds. Stalls selling superb, high quality plants, gifts and garden accessories were set in and around the house and gardens. The 'open house' atmosphere was palpable as visitors meandered around, with the sight of deers doing much the same in the park and estate surrounding us. Workshops and talks were the perfect mix of information and entertainment. Hearth and Cook kept us well fed and warm with their cooking demos on a stylish range of outdoor ovens. In fact, hunger was the least of our worries with the selection of food stalls on offer (and believe me, we sampled LOTS).
Like Hansel and Gretel, we scurried back to the woods of an evening, staying at the magical Ashbourne Woods in Rattery. Don't let the name put you off. Surrounded by 68 acres of woodland, but in walking distance of a brilliant pub serving top notch suppers, Ashbourne Woods is a camping site that has just got it right - plenty of space and privacy with amenities close at hand.
Despite the long days and the long drive home, the generosity of spirit we encountered and simple pleasures offered by the beautiful landscape and surroundings left a lasting impression. And of course I couldn't resist loading the van with a few new 'essentials'... plants and shrubs for the garden including a very handsome Restios - lovely, living reminders of a great weekend.
Friend or Foe? Gardening 'freestyle' April 20, 2017 18:31
One Friday night, a good eight or ten years ago, I remember watching Gardener's World. Slouched on the sofa, and I'll admit, under the influence of the obligatory 'we made it to Friday' vino, I watched, nonchalant, until thunder struck.
A letter from a viewer jolted me out of my stupor. A guy, let's call him Malcolm, had written to the GW team about the horror of finding that the celandine, which was occupying much of his front garden, had somehow made the leap over the garage and was now colonising out the back. I'm not sure whether Monty was hamming it up, or Malcolm was genuinely beside himself at the sight of this infringement. But as soon as an image of the culprit appeared on screen, I went white.
I had this bad boy in my garden.
Cue phone call to Dad.
"Er Dad, it's me. Are you watching Gardener's World".
[Seriously. I am a young, child free, early thirty something at this point. Mum & Dad are retired. Why AM I watching Gardener's World, and they are not?! Sigh. Anyway...]
"Well, they've just shown an image of celandine and it's serious Dad. I mean, it leaps over buildings and springs up everywhere."
"Dad, this is serious, what am I going to do, it's EVERYWHERE!"
At this point, I feel the need to explain my lack of celandine awareness. In the years before this defining moment, I'd lived and weeded happily in the gardens & window boxes of rented flats, shared houses and then, finally, my own little two up two down home. In all that time, I'd never come across celandine. And now I was scared.
Dad's response had that level headed, whiff of wisdom that now, I hope I impart to my own kids. "Do you like it? Because that's all that matters, Lizzie. If you like it, keep it. It is your garden."
Ah, yes. Of course. I am a gardener. No wait, I'm an adult! I can choose. Ooh, get me.
Well, I decided to keep it. Years on, my celandines often provide the first flash of colour in the garden after winter and I love them. I've since learned that I'm in good company. Wordsworth's favourite flower was not a daffodil, but the wild, free spirited celandine. Celandines offer bugs and bees a much needed source of food and nourishment after the cold winter months. It's a native of the UK. For these reasons alone, (not the mention the fact that I suspect it is a devil to get rid of completely) it warrants a place in my garden.
Like so many other walks of life, there is a lot of information available about gardening, but not always a lot of wisdom. Your garden is your space. Be inspired and informed by others, but ultimately, fill it with things that you love. Create the environment that suits you and your style. That way, friends will be plenty and foes thankfully, few.
Deck chairs at Wiveton Hall, Norfolk April 18, 2017 11:50
Our Denys & Fielding journey has already taken us to some really interesting places. And while our small outdoor living company is pretty embryonic, thankfully, it keeps throwing up inspiration at just the right time. Yesterday was no exception.
Wiveton Hall is a beautiful mismatch of holiday cottages, a shop, pick your own farm, gorgeous cafe and garden walks with sea views over the Norfolk marshes. It is a pretty magical place and we are thrilled that a small selection of our beach chairs and deck chairs are now in stock at the shop. When the opportunity came to organise the delivery of our deck chairs and beach chairs, I was determined that this was one trip that wouldn't be made by the courier company. So, going in the opposite direction from (most) of the Easter bank holiday traffic, I headed up to Norfolk to visit this beautiful place.
As luck would have it, my visit coincided with an open day for the gardens. The sun was out, a crisp, gentle breeze was blowing in from the sea and I was kid free - HEAVEN! I took the hint and headed out to the grounds to enjoy a walk around the gardens.
The path took me around dappled woodland, brimming with bluebells in full colour. Dense clusters of cow parsley, about to burst with new blooms, danced along the edges of the wood and around a large, natural pond. Around the big house and through a higgedly piggedly set of outbuildings, a more formal walled garden appeared, with beautiful old pear trees nestled against the stone walls of the garden. I loved the mix of formal flower beds in between a small orchard at one end of the garden and potager style veggies and flowers at the other. In the corner of the walled garden was a gardener's hut - complete with old tweed coats that have seen better days, hanging from the open window. In the background, I could hear children exchanging imaginative stories with a serious 'RADA esque' dose of drama - convincing each other of the 'ghosts' that live in Wiveton Hall. No need for a smart phone or iPad here. These kids were revelling in the sights, smells and stories, real or otherwise, that this beautiful placed conjured up.
Along with gorgeous gift and home wares, there is also a 'coop' with vintage furniture and a lovely choice of retro enamel signs for sale. A seriously good cup of tea is also yours, courtesy of the cafe, which was in full swing when I visited; serving tasty, seasonal plates of food to hungry visitors.
Wiveton Hall is now open for the summer season. To find out more about Wiveton Hall, or to plan your trip, visit: http://www.wivetonhall.co.uk.
Gardening in shady spots April 13, 2017 10:04
It is a beautiful morning here. At some point today, I'm determined to get an hour out in that garden and get cracking. While I've been enjoying the sunshine, the warmer, sunnier weather has also got me thinking about the quieter, darker areas of the garden. The damp, shady little spots that get a little dappled light, if they are v. good and extremely lucky.
While I am a complete, unabashed sun lover, those shady spots in my garden hold a special place in my heart. For starters, they smell different. The air is fresh and a little damp. There is a little touch of magic about the way the lichen and moss grip to every stone and old tree stump. Little colonies of mushrooms appear at other times of the year. I love grabbing my stowaway chair and literally sitting in amongst it all, soaking it up.
But, what can you grow here? Well, as it turns out, quite a lot.
First things first. Step back a moment. Check where the shady spot actually is. Is it at ground level, but by the time you get to eye level, it is sunny? For me, it is worth taking note of these little details. In the dark confines of one part of my garden, my clematis montana 'Elizabeth' enjoys a cool, shady environment for her roots, while her mass of flowers bask in the light and warmth found in the hedgerow and tree branches overhead. The bonus for me is that I have a gorgeous, flower filled canopy over an otherwise dark area of the garden, which is lush and green with ferns (love these - check out this slightly obsessive pinterest board dedicated to ferns), hostas and a rambling, Hydrangea petiolaris. I'd really recommend this variety of hydrangea if you have a dark corner you wish to 'dress' with beautiful, delicate white flowers. It puts up with ALOT of shade in my garden. It is a little early for flowers yet, but with plenty of new buds forming, the signs are promising. When my clematis starts to wane, this lovely will start coming alive, again, injecting a little contrast into a predominantly green area. If you do decide to plant one, be warned - mine took a little time to 'get going'. It seems quite slow growing compared to other hydrangeas. But given that it puts up with a lack of light and sun, it is worth cutting it some slack and giving it a go.
Now, lets head back down to earth. Ground level. What is the soil like? If you are lucky, you'll have a shady area that is also quite damp. This is much easier to deal with than shady and dry. If you live in the UK, 'shady and damp' is a pretty apt description for much of the year, let alone a part of your garden! This actually provides a distinct advantage because we have plenty of native (and non-native) species that just come into their own in these conditions. Look to nature for plenty of advice on how to grow in these kind of conditions. Shady woodlands are a perfect example. At this time of year, bluebells are starting to transform our woods and coppices - creating dense carpets of blue flowers. The National Trust has a directory of where to find and enjoy bluebell woods in and around cities and towns, as well as in the countryside. Have a good sniff and mooch around one of these and you will find plenty of inspiration for a shady garden.
Now, let's get to the tricky one: shady and dry. Bugger. Hate this combo. A lot of spots under trees have this problem. Particularly around conifers. For me, this is the horticultural equivalent of those old wild west films. Anything goes. You just have to get stuck in, overlook the chaos and make the best of it. To increase the odds of success, as always, Mother knows best. In this instance, Mother Nature. Cyclamen, a nemesis of mine, is perfect here. There is a neglected, rough, dry old bank not far from my house which is full of tree roots and brambles. Cyclamen love it. In my garden? Under my tender, loving care? Not interested at all. But, if you can get these beauties going, you'll have an early shot of colour each year that will grow and spread beautifully.
Lady's mantle is another fantastic 'spreader' for a dry, dark spot. They are all over it like a cheap suit. Long live cheap suits, that is what I say. I think they are rather pretty myself. Plus, they can put up with quite a bit of abuse. So, if your shady, dry spot is regularly used as a football pitch, cricket ground or, to my recent horror, a racing circuit for a plastic police car and first bike (with devastatingly wide, plant smashing stabilisers, obvs) Lady's mantle will tolerate the odd 'offside' incident with remarkable candour.
Another plant that I have had some success with in these conditions is with my old comrade in arms - my camellia. She doesn't give a hoot about 'dry and shady'. Pah! Not a problem for this tough cookie. The flowers are of course, gorgeous, but I LOVE the dark, lush green foliage. Ensure you pick the right camellia for your soil conditions and situation and you'll have a friend for life.
Lastly, don't forget the tropics. I LOVE a touch of the exotic in my garden. Many plants from warmer climes are used to surviving under the dry, shady canopy of whopping great big trees and do really well here. Fatsia Japonica is a real favourite, with it's generous, open hand shaped leaves that just seem to want to grab you and give you a bear hug. Lovely.
In the mood for colour - Hans Blomquist April 09, 2017 08:47 1 Comment
We love colour - the energy, interest and creativity it can release. A love for colour is weaved into every garden chair and cushion we create and the premise is simple. We hope that they provide an accent of colour here, a splash of joyful hues there. So, when 'In the mood for colour' by interior stylist Hans Blomquist was published last year, we were keen to take a closer look.
When the book arrived, the first thing I noticed was its texture. This isn't just a book about 'how to choose colour' for a particular room or aspect. There is a clever interplay between colour and texture, light, contrast and seasons which literally grabs you from the front cover and continues until the endnotes. On offer is a sophisticated guide to colour. A considered approach, firmly rooted in the author's deep connection to nature.
This focus on nature is a continual theme throughout the book. It provides the starting point for considering colour and how to introduce it into your home. Colour is divided into tones - dark, pale, natural, soft & bold, gently guiding you as a reader to consider your own reactions to each combination and colour way. Practical ideas, for example on how to combine colour with natural wood to provide warmth and texture, are shared on every page.
Photography and styling from the author's own home creates a sense of intimacy between the reader and the writer. The breakfast table is shared. The linen strewn bed in the summerhouse. Hand made wall hangings. This personal aspect of the book is beautifully captured in the photography and the writing, encouraging the reader to see colour from a new perspective. As someone preoccupied by colour, reading this book has provided fresh inspiration and a renewed love for the dynamic nature of colour - ever changing, ever present in our lives.
The subject of bravery and colour is mentioned twice in the introduction. And for good reason. All too often, people are timid about adding colour to their homes, their gardens, even their clothes. Although I'm confident with colour, I've still been procrastinating about painting our little sitting room a dark shade of blue. This book has put aside those fears, providing a logic and a guide on how to create the effect I want. After years of living with pale walls, at the first opportunity, I'll be grabbing the paintbrush.
As the title suggests, mood and colour are inextricably linked in this book. Whether you are considering calm and comforting dark tones or wish to embrace joyful, happy bold accents, this book provides an encouraging authoritative guide. In the mood for colour? Always.
Outdoor space, indoor style: Five style ideas for your patio or garden. April 07, 2017 11:35
Five style ideas for outdoor living
With temperates set to rise this weekend, all eyes are on the garden. Borrow classic interior tricks to ensure you enjoy your time outside, in style. To get you started, here are our five ideas to add a touch of glam, outdoor living to your weekend. Enjoy!
- Opt for folding garden furniture: Yes, the weather is looking up. However, you know our fickle climes. One minute sunshine, the next, biblical rain. Invest in garden furniture that is flexible enough to make the most of the changeable weather. Our new design for our garden furniture is proving popular both inside and outdoors. Plus we have a special offer running until the end of April - grab a bargain while you can!
- Create a (garden) room with a view: Arrange planters and pots, brimming with spring bulbs and lush foliage around your seating area. Sitting in and amongst plants is one of the best ways we've found to relax in the garden, literally immersing yourself in the sights and smells. Adding plant pots at different heights, upturning one garden pot to act as a shelf for another, or making the most of a nearby wall or table top can really help add interest and texture at different levels. Plus, pots can be easily moved around - so should the sun be in a different place by June, you can shift your seating and surroundings to suit.
- Enjoy a little privacy: Time alone in the garden is to be savoured. If your outdoor space is overlooked or in need of a little more seclusion, consider investing in an outdoor screen. This can be in the shape of planting such as bamboo (prolific so choose your variety carefully) or with the use of a trellis and more traditional, cottage style climbers such as clematis or honeysuckle. If you are short on space, innovate with a fabric screen, such as one of our windbreaks. Good looking, colourful with instant impact, our windbreak poles can be pushed down and secured into pots, creating privacy for a balcony or patio.
- Add some heat: We love the garden by day, but it is still pretty chilly of an evening. Invest in a fire pit or outdoor stove to keep you toasty. We love the fire bowls created by local ironworks Cranbrook Iron. Available in a range of sizes, these beautiful fire bowls look better and better as they age and rust.
- Spring clean your space: No matter how small or imperfect, your garden should soothe the soul. It offers a little respite in an otherwise extremely fast paced world. So, get mindful, and enjoy the process of making it your very own sanctuary. Tie in climbers to fences, walls and trellis. Deadhead the daffodils, arrange the furniture and pots to suit your style, then stop. Grab a comfy chair, magazine, beverage of choice and soak it up.
Back on the veg beds: plotting and planning for summer April 06, 2017 09:33
Last November, I cleared three of my four square veggie beds and added a load of horsey poo in one, leaf mould in another. In the third, I introduced two gooseberry bushes and a blackcurrant, which had been sat in the wrong part of the garden for a quite a while. Fast forward a few months, and it is great to see that they survived the move, and new growth and the first promise of blossom is now appearing. I have planted some flower bulbs in and around the fruit bushes. Couldn't help myself. There is just something really joyful about seeing an abundance of food and flowers growing together. And it really does help to encourage a few more bugs and bees into the garden. A few nasturtium seeds survived the winter and leaves have started to emerge, promising a prolific release of flowers and scent which the bees just love. After a slow, gentle start, the bare outlines of the beds are starting to fill out with new life at quite a pace.
Because I'd gone a little OTT with the horse poo last year, the veg beds really did sink over the winter, as their content rotted down. After a quick weed with the hoe, topping up the beds has been one of the first jobs this week. By the skin of my teeth, I've got some onion sets in, which are now disappearing fast in our local nurseries and garden centres. I've popped in one or two garlic bulbs as well. Both are 'club classics' of our cooking endeavours and really easy to grow, so why not!?
The asparagus was looking extremely ropey but perhaps the sunshine we've enjoyed this week has perked it up. All of a sudden, what looked like dead straw has been taken over by green shoots. Something is occurring under the surface. I'm taking that as a good sign.
For now, that is about it. I'd love to be sowing runner bean seeds and getting some tomatoes underway, but I've learned from bitter experience that frost is still a possibility and losing tender seedlings is gutting. Patience isn't something that comes easy to me, but it is perhaps one of the most important lessons that a garden provides. Another is 'be careful what you wish for'. Rhubarb is running wild along the bottom of the hedge with a jaunty, devil may care, abandon. Seriously. How much rhubarb crumble can one family take?! Luckily, Dad's come up trumps with a rhubarb and ginger wine recipe. Which to me sounds like a spicy, sugary, sherry concoction. Could be dangerous. Only one way to find out...
Stylish shedquarters and cool cabins: garden room inspiration April 02, 2017 18:05
Sheds, cabins, summerhouses come into their own at this time of year and I for one, am a big fan. Ideal locations to propagate, paint or just ponder, a garden room can help the time poor and just plain weary to disconnect from one world, and reconnect with another.
There have been some pretty iconic shed dwellers over the years. Not to mention some serious creative outputs. Think Virginia Woolf's writing shed. Dylan Thomas' boathouse. Barbara Hepworth's summerhouse.
While shed ownership provides no guarantee for creative genius, my personal point of view is that it can't hurt. At the very least, it provides shelter from the elements, a rustic retreat from the world, and a musty, earthy smelling haven where I can lose myself for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon, under the guise of gardening or dreaming up new garden chairs and products for Denys & Fielding. Ha! How little they know. I am far more likely to be enjoying the comforts of my own little balcony deckchair on a Sunday afternoon. It is all part of the product testing. Critical and completely bona fide business activity.
Talking of sitting down... decoration and styling your shed. How do you do it? Where do you start? Well, for me, this is a space that is entirely my own with little or no rules. It is perfectly acceptable to have a work surface that is held up with string. And, entirely appropriate to stick postcards, post its and ideas up on the wall with the wanton abandon of a teenager armed with blue tack and a copy of Jackie (or was that just me?)
As much as I love 'rustic', for me, there is no need for martyrdom. Lamp lights, a socket for the kettle and the laptop, and of course, a comfy, foldable deckchair and matching foot stool makes for an easy, working environment. Notebooks are always a must, filled with ideas, drawings, cut out articles and pictures. I go for bold, colourful notebooks as I find it makes it a lot easier to remember the points I've written down in them if they have a distinct, stand out cover. And above all, remember why you have a shed. Alright, not necessarily the practical reasons for having a shed such as space, storage etc... But the life affirming benefits. Fill it with idling distractions - magazines, pots, seeds and books to enjoy the sense of escape that is yours to enjoy, just outside the back door.
Blurring the boundaries: Five easy ways to create continuity between your home & garden March 29, 2017 12:53
More and more of us have less and less space. So, ensuring the garden becomes an extra room or part of your living space is becoming increasingly popular. Add in the recent warmer weather, and you may find yourself twitching for a little home / garden revamp... Here are five easy ways to blur the boundary between home & garden, and live seamlessly between the two.
1. Let the indoors flow outside: If you are planning a major renovation and have the opportunity to plan and budget for major change, think from the feet up. Use similar or the same materials and colours for your flooring indoors and outside to create a sense of continuity. If major works are not part of the equation, use the same logic of 'feet first' for less budget busting additions. Consider adding rugs that can be used indoors as well as outside to create a sense of continuity between the home and garden.
2. Pick & mix. Take flowers and cuttings from the garden and enjoy them throughout the house. Place them in key areas around the home such as a window or table top, where your eye can follow the link between the house and garden. Don't just think flowers. Use foliage, twigs and branches from the garden to 'dress' the house inside throughout the year.
3. Mix and match indoor and outdoor furnishings. Our floor cushions are great for using indoors on stone and wooden floors. But they also make a handsome addition to lawns and patios when the sun is shining. Opt for garden furniture and accessories that complement your interior style and follow through to the exterior with ease.
4. Make the space you have work for you. Not got enough seating for friends and family when they pop round? Make your garden room your entertaining room. Short on a dining room? Head outside to enjoy dinner al fresco. Whatever you feel your home lacks, look for a solution outside. It will help you to make best use of your entire space. Don't be limited by our unpredictable weather! Fire pits, heaters, parasols and verandas can create warmth and intimacy for gatherings on colder days. Head to Houzz or Pinterest for a host of ideas on how to create something different and unique to you.
5. Don't forget your plants! Plants can and will thrive both inside and outdoors. There is a right situation for every pot and planter, it is just a case of finding it. They are the most obvious and quickest way to link your indoor and outdoor space. Add plants inside at different heights to frame and 'introduce' the garden. Follow through into the garden with pots and planters on the patio or decking closest to the house. Opt for planters that you can use both inside and outdoors to help create a seamless transition.
British Summertime begins at the Gardens Illustrated Festival 2017 March 27, 2017 20:51
This weekend, we headed west to Gloucestershire to take part in the Gardens Illustrated Festival. Held in and around the beautiful house and gardens of Westonbirt School, visitors enjoyed two days of inspiring talks from a hugely knowledgeable & entertaining line up of speakers; gorgeous plants and gardenalia from independent growers, makers and proprietors (ahem, including yours truly with our new fabric design for 2017 - click here to shop 'Patsy' - our new fabric now available across our range of deck chairs, beach chairs and stools) and wall to wall sunshine for TWO WHOLE DAYS - hooray!
If you didn't make it, or want to reminisce about the fab atmosphere of the last few days, here is a quick run down of our favourite parts of the Show:
The Location: Westonbirt School, originally Westonbirt House, was rebuilt in the 1860's by Robert Stainer Halford who inherited the family estate. He was a keen gardening and landscaping enthusiast and his son followed his footsteps, with a passion for gardens, the arboretum at Westonbirt and orchids. The legacy of these two men is evident across every inch of the school grounds - with beautiful views here, perfectly arranged vistas there. The Holfords of Westonbirt Trust manages the historical buildings and grounds of the Estate, and regularly hold open days during the summer months (from April until October). It is well worth a visit to take in this breathtaking place.
The Buzz: The mix of some well needed sunshine, a beautiful location, and a free, easy style of delivery made for a heady cocktail. Saturday afternoon in particular was buzzing. Crowds lapped up the sunshine on the terrace and lawns. Top notch speakers and garden experts wandered effortlessly around the stalls and grounds after their sessions, enjoying a chat with exhibitors and visitors. Nurserymen and women scurried around, drafting in tray after tray of unusual or interesting plants for everyone to enjoy. Brilliant.
The Exhibitors: A while ago, we had a question pop up on our Facebook page, asking for advice about cool, trendy wall planters. Well, Amy of St Albans, look no further. You need to head to de la Torre. Mark de la Torre makes the most beautiful, ceramic planters, perfect for stylish succulents or small rockery types to pour out of. Yes, I did stand next to Mark for two whole days. But I am not biased or easily swayed. Those planters are gorgeous. And don't get me started on the bird boxes.
If your plants grow a little too large for Mark's planters, repot them into these gorgeous copper planters from Ember Gate. They have a fab selection of vintage gardenalia, including planters with the best lion heads and furry paws we've seen in a long while.
However, if you don't have anything beautiful enough to plant in either of these gorgeous planters, head to Avon Bulbs. I couldn't resist their Tropaeolum tricolorum (don't ask me to pronounce that one!! Picture below). I have since discovered that it is known as a chilean nasturtium. Ha! I knew there was a reason I was drawn to it. I absolutely love nasturtiums. Plus it is a word that I can actually spell and pronounce. Move over, Monty.
If all this still feels like far too much green fingered effort, Rich Pickings were there with a beautiful selection of cut flowers to enjoy for Mothering Sunday. With an emphasis on bringing nature inside by the imaginative use of locally grown flowers, plants and hedgerow greenery, their informal hand tied flowers have a sense of fun, style and seasonality.
And there you have it. A top weekend in a beautiful place shared with some really lovely people. I'm going to make that a pre requisite for every weekend in future. Roll on Friday...
Home & garden wares made in the UK March 24, 2017 10:13
This month, we are really thrilled to have joined Made in Britain - an organisation which supports and promotes British manufacturing, enabling buyers and consumers at home and abroad to identify British-made products.
We had two reasons that prompted us to join.
Firstly, a love of making things is one of the defining characteristics of being human. It challenges you in so many ways, stimulates innovation, new ideas and creative thinking. It that it doesn't just that for individuals. For us, it has the same effect on communities. We've learned so much by being able to work closely with suppliers that we can meet or ring at the drop of a hat. It creates an energy which is wholly positive, no matter the inevitable failures, and problems along the way. Offshoring manufacturing may provide financial gain, and a cheaper product for your pound, but we lose in other ways, some of which are far more long reaching than we might first suspect. So, where we can, we'll always try and manufacture everything we can in the UK.
Secondly, our home and garden wares are about adding a little colour and joy. The thought of having them made by people working in conditions which are the opposite of 'joy' just feels completely wrong. Now, clearly, not everyone working in factories overseas are in sweatshops! Nor is everyone working in the UK having a jolly good time. But by ensuring that our finished goods are made here, we feel that we can maintain a more transparent supply chain. As a small business, with little time or resources to double check factories and environments around the world, this is important. We want to be able to talk with confidence about the provenance and creation of our products. And by sticking to local suppliers, we can do just that.
If you are keen to support British manufacturing, look for the marque, or head to the Made in Britain website for more info.
Furniture for Contemporary Conservatories & Gorgeous Gardens March 13, 2017 12:05
Spring is most definitely in the air. Last week, our Mum commented about how much she loves seeing clusters of spring flowers around and about the garden. Me too. They seem to gather together after a rough few months of winter weather, as if to exchange notes and pleasantries. "Phew, that was tough". "Glad that is behind us", nodding their heads in the breeze and turning their faces to feel the sun.
Coming together to enjoy the warmer, sunnier months is one of life's little pleasures. Not to mention the cornerstone of what our garden furniture is all about.
Recently, we've been reminded that our chairs and seats are not just useful for gardens, but make a great addition to conservatories, garden rooms and summerhouses. Around about now, these kind of rooms come into their own. They create the perfect conditions to enjoy the new spring sunshine in comfort, protecting against the chilly winds and low temperatures that will continue for some time to come. These spaces also provide fantastic growing conditions for tender annuals - enabling gardeners to sow seeds inside, extending the season.
Stylish, practical conservatory furniture isn't always easy to find. But we think our balcony chairs hit the spot. Because they are foldable, our garden furniture can be enjoyed in conservatories and garden rooms during the cooler months and then brought out when the sun shines and temperatures soar. The vibrancy of our fabric designs & colours add sunshine to dull, grey days. And we are thrilled with our latest design for Spring 2017. Patsy is a gem, combining the classic accent colours of the garden to suit contemporary gardens through to cottage garden styles. Enjoy our latest designs here or why not come and find us on Instagram? We'd love to see you!
How to Grow Stuff - Alice Vincent March 06, 2017 13:15
I first became aware of Alice Vincent early last year, when I read her review of the then recently revamped Gardener's World. She didn't mince words and I loved her style. A self described 'rookie gardener', Alice writes a gardening column for the Telegraph which is essential reading for new and 'not quite sure' gardeners. Her fresh, no nonsense advice is gleaned from gardening on a north facing balcony in south London. No mean feat in itself. So, when she started to publicise the fact that she had a book coming out for beginner gardeners, I kept my eyes peeled.
Published last Thursday, (coinciding nicely with world book day and a fair amount of sunny, spring like air around the place) How to Grow Stuff is a helpful, well written guide for those who fancy dipping their toes into gardening. Do not expect lengthy latin taxonomy (hooray for that, I hear you cry), but do expect easy to follow guides on growing houseplants, flowers, veggies and herbs. Basically, the type of easy to grow plants that deliver the goods in terms of performance. It is a particularly good read for those that have just a small garden or just a window sill. And it is perfect for those that are seriously time starved and just want a little taste of the good life, after a tough day in the office. Amen to that.
I particularly love Alice's key ingredients for gardening: "...a bit of gumption, an open mind and optimism". That needs to be on a tee shirt. It could sum up your approach to life, let alone your garden.
If you are looking for a book to guide you into gardening, How to Grow Stuff is a great starting point. It'll have you padding around, sowing seeds in your socks and enjoying the fruits of your labours in no time.
Five easy ways to make your garden wildlife friendly. March 03, 2017 16:16 1 Comment
Today is world wildlife day and the theme is a special one. "Listen to young voices" aims to encourage and engage young people (1/4 of the world's population) in the protection and conservation of wildlife.
For me, it is also a timely reminder of why I decided to stop renewing my annual travel card, and instead, plump for a life of deckchairs, cushions and garden style. It was for a love of family and a desire to spend more time with them. Ha! Eighteen months on, I'm wiser about the perils of being around, but not necessarily 'present'. But still, we try and occasionally succeed. Another heart felt belief driving the decision was the feel good effects of being outside. The desire to create items for the home and garden that share this sense of joy is a deliberate intention behind every item we produce.
Sometimes, it is important to stop and remind ourselves of the very thing that started this journey - the garden. So this weekend, I'm abandoning the computer, sewing machine & smart phone. Instead, I'm determined to spend a few hours outside with the nippers. And together, we're going to give our local wildlife an extra bit of love with five easy ideas to make the garden more wildlife friendly.
1. Reposition nest & bird boxes: The birds are literally tapping on the windows this week, looking for a nice new home. And while we have a whole load of bird boxes in and around the garden, quite a few of them are poorly situated. Similar to us at D&F towers, feathery birds are a picky bunch. They don't like a north facing aspect (too cold and draughty). They don't want to move into a squalid mess left by the previous owner (quite right). And they really don't want some kind of lapsed security system which allows next door's cat to prowl around outside their perch. So, the boys and I are going to have a spruce up by moving uninhabited boxes that are poorly positioned to better, warmer climes; cleaning out any empty boxes that still haven't had a good freshen up and move a few up out of the way of claws and paws.
2. Flowers without the Frills: As it turns out, it is not just 'out of the mouths' that children impart wisdom, it is also from their drawings. My boys draw flowers in their most simplest form. Normally a few petals. Five at a push. 'Simple' flowers are apparently the most important type for wildlife. It is far easier for pollinating insects to 'get in there' so to speak, and grab the goodness they need. Bell shaped flowers, and simple, open petalled flowers are ideal. Sounds good to me. We'll be adding a few more Geums to the borders (now is a good time to get them in) and a dog rose into a bare patch in the hedgerow.
3. Butterfly bush: Gawd, how I used to loathe Buddleja. It was ever present on the verges of the railway-line that I used to travel along on my daily commute. Scrawny stems, unwieldy and unkempt, seemed to serve no purpose. Similar to how I felt about that train journey with its delays and general sense of misery. Happily, I've moved on. Not one to hold a grudge, I have found different varieties to the common purple 'train' buddleja and now have not one but two in the garden. They are still unwieldy things, but loveable, teeming with butterflies, moths and bugs in the summer months. This weekend, we'll snip off any bits that have become broken and damaged in the recent high winds and give it a little extra support with twine and stakes.
4. Bucket pond. "NOT NEAR THE POND" is a familiar cry in our house. I've perfected the shrill, fish wife screech to a tee. However, it is like trying to keep two magnets away from each other. Boys and ponds are just meant to be. The kids love the frogs; are fascinated by newts and ecstatic at the sight of water boatmen skating across the pond. To save my nerves and sanity, we are going to build the boys their own 'mini' pond. Take one plastic bucket (those bright coloured tubs you can get are my material of choice) whip off the handles, dig a hole and then drop it in. Fill with water and 'voila' - a pond that the boys can call their own, with hazards dramatically reduced.
5. Muck and Mulch. Not exactly a strong claim to fame but er, muck is in abundance here. Lots of it. My very kind horse-mad neighbour heaps it up into hot, steamy piles, ready for myself and my other neighbours to gleefully spread it around our gardens. The boys will be SQUEALING at the sight of steaming forks of horsey poo. Oh the laughs we'll have... Anyway, now is a great time to spread some well rotten manure around the base of small apple trees and cordons, giving them a nice boost of goodness before they really get to work with blossom, and hopefully, fruit to follow. The mulch is full of worms which either survive the transition, or provide food for our resident robin. Meanwhile the manure combined with a warm, dry spring, (fingers firmly crossed) should help provide more blossom for the bugs and beasties to enjoy later this year. Everyone's a winner.
World Book Day: a peek at what is on our bookshelf March 02, 2017 19:43
What a fab, sunshiny spring day. A proper bona fide spring day. A little nip in the air, but most importantly there was a sense of warmth behind the chilly wind today. Spring. We hope that whatever you were doing today, you had chance to spend just a few minutes with your nose in your favourite book(s) and your back feeling the heat of the sunshine. Meanwhile, here are three books we are loving this spring... Gardenista, Botanical Style and In the Mood for Colour (we have this thing for colour, not sure if it comes across...?!@@!)
Gift ideas for you and your mum this Mothering Sunday February 28, 2017 21:48
Mother's Day gifts for home & garden lovers
Mothering Sunday is just a few weeks away...Eek! Here are three gift ideas & one special offer to celebrate and thank all the important and fabulous women in your life.
Grow something gorgeous
Recently crowned 'Eco Friendly gift of the year', Seedball offer a fantastic range of native wildflowers that don't just look good, but get the bugs and bees zooming happily around your garden. Designed and made in the UK too. Fantastic. Our favourite is the pick n' mix seedball gift box. If you fancy growing your own herbs, why not take a look at our small but select range of easy to grow edible seeds?
Get inspired at the Gardens Illustrated Festival
Take some time out together at the Gardens Illustrated Festival. Taking place in the Cotswolds over the Mothering Sunday weekend, visitors to the Festival will enjoy a fascinating programme of talks from leading experts covering everything from discovering the allure of umbellifers with plantswoman Marina Christopher, to understanding the finer points of what makes a great garden with designer Annie Guilfoyle. Other speakers include Tim Richardson, Roy Lancaster and Tom Stuart Smith. Come and find us and a host of other lovely retailers at shopping marquee and enjoy self - guided tours of the gardens of Westonbirt School.
Explore an Exhibition
How about enjoying some of the most talked about exhibitions that are currently in town? I'm hankering for a visit to the latest Josef Frank exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum. And then there is the new David Hockney exhibition at the Tate. Meanwhile the #LucienneDay100 programme is celebrating one of the UK's most influential designers this year with a host of talks, exhibitions and celebrations involving museums, retailers and manufacturers. Top day-tripping treats that can be enjoyed whatever the weather.
Bag a Bargain
When in doubt, order online. That's what we say. Enjoy 25% off all orders at Denys & Fielding in the run up to Mothering Sunday. Just add 'MSoffer' to the discount box at the checkout, and we'll do the rest. Enjoy!
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