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Plastic pollution and the quest for a more sustainable garden February 14, 2018 19:11

Can a garden ever be truly green? 

Like most people, I was truly moved and slightly heartbroken by that Blue Planet programme. Ever since, have been looking around at the plastic in our lives, wondering how, in our own small way, we can make more of a difference to such a huge, catastrophic problem.

While we do our best to recycle as effectively as possible from within the home (and business), my thoughts soon headed towards the direction of the shed. Inside my decrepit old shed are piles of black plastic gardening pots. Concerned that they were not recyclable, and unable to bring myself to hurl them into the 'black' bin, I've been inadvertently hoarding them for years, thinking 'when I have time to really get going on cuttings, this lot will be useful'. 

Er, I've been thinking that same thought for eight years

As it turns out, I am not the only one. According to AShortWalk, it is estimated that we each own about 39 redundant plastic plant pots. Furthermore, across the UK, there are over 5 million plastic pots languishing in sheds. 

Use of plastic in the garden doesn't stop there. While I don't really go in for plastic pots and planters, my pond is lined with some kind of plastic. I've lined my big apple bins with a thick polythene to grow wild flowers. It hadn't occurred to me that the plastic I use not only may end up in landfill, but it may also be leaching out harmful chemicals that make it into plants - eek!? All of this has left me wondering if my efforts to maintain an organic garden, and create an environment that is as wildlife friendly as possible are, well, a little naive? 

I've tried to look into things a little deeper, and to be honest, it's a minefield. However, here is what I've gleaned so far...

1. Not all plastics are the same.  So this one had completely passed me by. Just because a piece of plastic has that triangular looking sign on it, it does not mean that is safe, or unsafe. Nor does it mean that you can put it out in the recycling bin. Instead, the code inside the triangle indicates the chemicals used in it's creation; likelihood of leaching, biodegradability and more. A quick check on my stack of plant pots in the shed indicates that all they appear to be code 5: polypropylene. The good news is while it won't be collected by many council refuse collections, it can be recycled. More on that in point three. 

2. Garden hoses might pose more of a problem than pots: So, when I was thinking about plastic and it's role in the garden, I was thinking about the single use stuff - plastic pots; that polystyrene stuff that surrounds a lot of bedding plants and plugs that you can buy in garden nurseries. One thing that never crossed my mind was the common garden hose. However, a study undertaken by Healthy Stuff - a project born out of The Ecology Centre - a nonprofit environmental organisation in Michigan, USA, changed all that. Having previously examined over 200 hoses in separate studies undertaken between 2011 - 2013, the 2016 study tested 32 garden hoses on sale in major US retailers and online. Although improvements had been made in the intervening years, the 2016 study found that high levels of toxic lead and phthalate chemicals are still present in many garden hoses. The new research also discovered that half of the vinyl (PVC) hoses tested contained electronic waste along with vinyl contaminated with toxic chemicals. When I started looking into plastic in the garden, my thought had been about those awful scenes of mile after mile of sea water, littered with rubbish. Now, my thoughts turned closer to home. Suddenly, I was reading about chemicals that cause premature births, cancer, hormone disruption. So, moral of the story for me, check the label when you buy a new garden hose, see whether it is safe to drink from. And don't let the kids drink the water from the hose.

3. Something to be cheerful about. Companies such as AShortWalk are creating design led, innovative new products using old rubbish, including those plant pots!! Hurrah! AShortWalk has a recycling scheme that allows you to return your pots to a nearby garden centre, which in turn, pass your pot back to AShortWalk. The circular economy in action! Fantastic. Against what I'd read over the last few week's, finding AShortWalk provided a much needed tonic. 

Big changes start with small steps

Most gardeners I know are pretty handy when it comes to making something out of nothing. After all, that is one of the simple pleasures of the garden - having a bare patch of earth and cultivating it into something that can provide food or flowers. In the same vein, recycling and renewal is deeply connected to gardening. Whether it is composting garden waste; making a plant pot stand from an old set of ladders; or whizzing up a contraption to keep the birds off the berries, gardeners are a canny lot and tend to have their own methods for combining style with substance. 

    But for me, I think it would be pretty great if garden nurseries and customers could really work together to find new and different ways of doing things. Independent garden nurseries are undergoing huge change, diversifying to offer something different from the big DIY centres. Many are beautiful, experiential places; offering food, snacks, gift shopping on top of well maintained, high quality plants. They are a place to meet up with friends, or get away from it all. And I think together, customer and retailer could make some headway. I'd love to be able to take my own container down to my local nursery, choose my shrub that is still in the ground and take it away in the box, bag or trug I had brought with me. I have no idea how doable this would be, but wouldn't it be great to apply the same philosophy of pick your own to plants as well as edibles? Joining forces to create compost, rather than buying peat based compost in plastic bags might also be another area where community and local retailer could join forces. A few creative conversations and small changes could help to create a better, greener garden for all. And there has never been a better time to get going. 


    The budding gardener - introducing our new garden gift range for kids! February 02, 2018 17:48

    Children's gardening apronThis year, we're thinking big about being small and introducing a range of new products to encourage children to get out in the garden. The first of our new range is 'the budding gardener' gift set. And even if we do say so ourselves, we're a little bit thrilled with the result...

    Available from March 1st, our new Budding Gardener gift set includes a hand made pinafore style apron, complete with double lined pockets for little hands. The dark canvas base of the apron is ideal for hiding all manner of 'delights' earned from time in the garden, and is also great for messy play etc... To accompany the garden apron and to really encourage small, green fingers to flourish, we've gift wrapped the apron in a sturdy, handsome box - ideal for storing treasures and keepsakes, whether they have been foraged or just unashamedly pinched from the garden! 

    A strip of handmade wildflower paper wraps up the garden apron, and can be planted out in the garden while a packet of seeds and biodegradable pots make growing really easy - just sow the seeds in the pots and once ready, plant the whole pot in the ground. The biodegradable pots will rot down over time, allowing the germinated seeds to flourish and grow. 

    Buy a gardening gift set for children UKThe garden aprons will be available in two different designs / colour ways. Because of the hand made nature of the gift set, we're expecting to sell out of our initial stock pretty quickly. To get ahead of the pack, click here register your interest and receive priority shopping. You'll also receive a free copy of 'Rewilding your wildlings' - a guide, packed with ideas and activities to prise your kids away from Power Rangers (it's not just me, is it?!) and into the garden. Hooray! 


    A weekend spent in the garden January 28, 2018 20:16

    News from a waterlogged gardenThe sight of blue skies on Saturday morning had me out of zipping bed yesterday, with a spring in my step. With the immortal optimism of Fred Flintstone, I too had a "yabadabadoo" moment and wanted to get stuck in. Hooray!

    Sunshine.

    Well, not quite 'sunshine', but definitely not raining. Which is a vast improvement on a very grey, soggy week. 

    Wrapped up in my grubby old 'gardening' coat and welly boots, I headed outside with a cuppa to survey the damage. 

    It's been a rough couple of weeks. Not in terms of a 'proper' winter - there have been very few hard frosts to speak of, so far, in our neck of the woods. And not a whiff of snow since before Christmas. But plenty of sleet, rain and high winds. All a bit grim. 

    The result is a garden under water. Walking up to the back of the garden is a sloshy undertaking. The bare root willows I planted up there when we moved in are sucking up as much as they can, but they are sleeping, and so won't be hugely thirsty until the first leaves start to appear. They have help to improve things in the last few years, but our recent weather has been testing. The outcome is feast and famine - a garden that cracks and groans under the heat of the summer sun, and a swamp in our mild, grey winter months. Still, the cordons and dwarf apple trees putting up with it all in stoic style. The fruit buds look promising and this weekend, the girls have had their annual haircut - I've given the apple trees a light prune, removing the unwieldy branches that have been turning up on themselves, and the upstarts - looking to usurp the old leader with a new model. Or twelve. It's all been getting a little heated 'up top' on our oldest apple tree. So, the rebels have had a good talking to, and things have quietened down a bit. 

    Because the ground is so soggy, I haven't been able to plant the bare root apple and cherry trees. I was hoping to train both as cordons, to disguise more of our v. ugly fence. These have had to be heeled in to the veg patches in the front garden: a temporary home while everything else dries out a little. I'll be honest, it is all looking a bit weird and dishevelled - trees in our teeny, tiny square patch of a front garden; a waterlogged trench around the back; holding out for drier days and the arrival of their fruity inhabitants.

    Saracocca Confusa - Sweet box - winter flowering and with berriesWhile the incessant rain has been bad news for some parts of the garden, other areas have prospered. The moss and lichen around the pond has never looked so glossy and healthy. Another happy camper is the celandine, which looks ready to open up for business any day now. I'm trying to embrace it. Celandine are traditionally at home in damp ditches, woodlands and hedgerows. And, as it happens, our flower beds. Once they get hold, it's hard to get rid of them. On the plus side, celandines are a great, early nectar source for queen bumblebees and other, (though not quite as posh) insects. And they do add a splash of colour. They turn up looking like a bit of an upstart, against the slightly aloof, pale hues of saracocca confusa and viburnum. So, for their anti establishment connotations alone, the celandines can stay. In moderation. When they start to get bit boisterous and take over, I have a tendency to oik a few out. Just to keep them in their place. 

    All of this has made for a wonderful, grounding weekend. In terms of Denys & Fielding, things are a little crazy -  in full flight, finalising a new range of products for Spring, which we'll be sharing with newsletter subscribers late next week for an early peek. I'll also be packing them all up and heading up to Birmingham for Spring Fair, a big old scary retail trade show in just SEVEN DAYS TIME!! Eek! So, in true distraction theory style, it has seemed entirely appropriate to hide in the garden for the weekend. When it comes to finding a 'legit' distraction, I am an expert. Now, where is my head torch, I'm sure I can do a little more pruning before the weekend is out, and reality really does take hold... 


    Creating a contemporary conservatory for the UK climate (and how to furnish it) January 08, 2018 20:02

    Conservatories, glasshouses and everything in-between...

    Stylish conservatory furniture by Denys and Fielding

     

    The word 'conservatory' can conjure up a bit of a nightmare: sweltering glass box in the summer, baltic conditions in the winter. But, conservatories have come along way since the seventies, and have slowly, but surely, been losing their "Margo and Jerry" suburban persona. Now, you can opt for a sleek, minimalist glass extension through to an oak framed rustic style addition, and everything in between. Pinterest has had us drooling over a whole host of conservatories and extensions in recent months. Here is the lowdown... 

    Why have a conservatory?  

    As well as bringing in a whole lot of lovely light, a conservatory can add that little extra room to a house, even in the smallest of areas. Conservatories also act as an ideal bridge between indoors and outside, often providing lovely views to the garden. In fact, their heritage is linked heavily with gardening - originally used to provide protection to shrubs and herbs. Many people still use them to enjoy the extra light and heat that is provided to tender plants. Adaptable to your needs, a conservatory can double up as a seating area, dining room, play room - in fact, the list is endless. 

     

    Glass Extension by HUT, London

    Glass extension or conservatory? 

    Perhaps, in a bid to shrug off that old reputation, or just to purely describe it more accurately, 'glass extension' is now a term regularly used by architects and builders. It appears interchangeable with the term 'conservatory' - although the latter typically has a lockable door between it and the main house. The conservatory also tends to have more traditional connotations - a pitched glass roof, short, brick walls, or floor to ceiling glass walls. Meanwhile glass extensions are maximalist on the glass front, minimal on the structure - think steel supports often underpinning strong, modernist shapes - angular square and rectangular glass boxes. To the right of your screen is a gorgeous example by London based Architect's HÛT. The glass extension provides a wonderful new dining room for owners. The brick interior wall blends indoors with outdoors, as does the brick built bench running the length of the wall. Meanwhile, the continuous flow of the flooring and lighting makes it clear that this glass extension is a contemporary, but fitting addition to the existing home. 

    While we're at it, lets cover  off two other types of 'indoor / outdoor' room: the Orangery and the Sunroom. The term orangery harks back to an age where growing and owning citrus fruit was a symbol of wealth and status. An orangery was often a separate building - positioned away from the main house, located in a spot that was perfect for making the most of every sunbeam. As its name suggests, an orangery would traditionally house citrus fruits - growing gorgeously exotic fruits to 'wow' visitors to the Estate. Orangery's often have less glass than a conservatory or glass extension. The shape of the roof is often different too - with a flat roofing area around the perimeter of the building. 

    Sunrooms are hotspots - warm, sunny rooms, usually integral to a house with a solid roof. The ceiling is often interspersed with windows for extra ventilation and light. 

    Planning regulations differ for each type of addition to your home, so it is worth consulting with an architect or conservatory fitter before undertaking any work.

    Aren't conservatories a little cold in winter? 

    Not necessarily. Many suppliers now use clever techniques and technologies to improve insulation and energy efficiency. This includes glass that has a special coating to insulate during the winter, and deflect heat in the summer. There is also 'self cleaning' glass, to make smears, mould and stains a thing of the past... or at least reducing the regularity of the chore. 

    How do you go about furnishing a conservatory? 

    That all depends on how you intend to use the space. For us, it's all about comfort, colour and style. If you are worried about a conservatory feeling cold, there is no better way to inject a sense of heat than by adding rich, warm tones to your decor. Add lush, green houseplants and you'll start to blur indoors with your garden, creating a sense of continuity to your space. Opt for furniture that is flexible - dining tables that can reduce down in size as well as supersize when you've got a crowd in; garden chairs that can be put away, enjoyed outside when the weather is warm, and good looking enough to use indoors as well as outside. 

     


    Garden Goals for 2018 January 02, 2018 19:01

    Garden Goals for 2018Phew! It is here. 2018, with all it's lovely newness and glory, as arrived. The minute our last orders went out for Christmas, 'flu descended upon D&F towers and we've been barking / sniffling / sneezing ever since! But, now, already, Christmas is a distant memory. Itt is a new year. With it comes an irrepressible sense of optimism and hope for the year ahead. 

    For me, I. just. can't. wait... for the garden to slip into gear and start getting a move on. Things are already looking up. By the time we hit Friday this week, we'll have gained extra couple of minutes of daylight since the Winter Solstice. HURRAY for that little factoid!

    Shoots from bulbs are already appearing in and around the garden. I've spotted a frog or two rolling over, opening their eyes for a millisecond, deciding whether it is time to put in an appearance (keep your heads down, boys, that is what I say). But, the inevitable is happening. We are on a slow march to Spring, and I for one am delighted about that. 

    When we were little, our parents would be all over the seed catalogues and the garden magazines, willing on Spring. As a child, I didn't get it. As an adult, I'm smitten. I can't wait to get going in the garden. This time of year is hard. You want to get on with things, but you have to hold back a little. There are plenty of cold, dark days a head. Our sleeping shrubs and trees just want a little TLC, at this time of year. As does the wildlife. There is a defiant sign up - 'DO NOT DISTURB!' and I feel it is my job to creep around, letting nature build up her resources, ready for next year. 

    But, I can't help but dream. And this year, I've got a list brewing. No resolutions - just goals. Things I'd love to see flourish in my garden. Here are our top five: 

    • More Wildlife!: Anyone (er, anyone?!) that reads this blog regularly will know that I LOVE a wildlife friendly garden. In fact, for me, a garden is not a real garden without a serious amount of humming, fluttering and zooming about in the background. By Summer last year, I'd somehow managed to get 'planning permission' to create teardrops in our lawn. I can't tell you how excited I am about this. My teardrops are five in total. They have been allowed to go 'wild', and I've been artistically mowing around them ever since.  I'll be honest, so far it's a miss mash of dandelions, buttercups and tall grass. However, I've got a feeling that this year they will come into their own. The tall(ish) grass has provided a perfect safe haven for lots of insects to hibernate. So what if I just have big old buttercups next year?! At least I'll have a good understanding of what lies beneath in terms of my native wildflower seed bank. Then I can add to it - introducing wild flowers and seeds. These tear drops have provided so much more interest than I could have ever imagined. Plus, my little boys love whizzing around on their bikes on the 'race track' in between the teardrop shaped beds. So everyone is happy! Who needs a football pitch for a lawn?! Not me. I can't wait to see how this experiment works out in terms of increased wildlife activity. Watch this space... 
    • Blackberry blossomMore Fruit! We haven't got a huge garden, but we have got a west facing fence that holds onto a lot of the heat of the day. We also have two darling boys that are complete fruit bats! So, my plan is to grow more fruit next year, working up cordons and espaliers along our fence. I've started digging the ground in front of the fence to create a small strip, no more than a foot, to add more fruit and also plenty of companion plants. Eventually I'd love to 'top' the fruit with some pleached trees - having native hornbeam growing overhead, the fruit in the 'middle' section along the fence and then lots of lovely herbs and companion plants to keep all the unwanted bugs and beasties at bay. I feel the three would work brilliantly along our ugly old fence - creating a system that is self supporting - plants, trees and fruits that are mutually cooperative - protecting and sustaining each other. Not to mention making it easy for pollinators to hop from one delicious source of nectar to another. 
    • More Hot Stuff! You have to grow what you use most. Otherwise, what is the point? And for us, that is chillies, peppers and lots of flavoursome foods. Unfortunately, many of these do not suit our cold, Kentish winters. However, my clever Dad has been building a gorgeous, teeny, tiny glasshouse for us from remnants of an old school loo (yes, that's right) and it's shaping up a treat! I can't wait to show it off to you, but basically, it's a big glass box. It is positioned in the warmest part of our garden and I reckon it is going to become the perfect little hothouse in which to grow chillies and lots of flavoursome, tender crops. 
    • More indoor gardening "There are more plants than people in this house!" Honestly, my husband says this like it is a bad thing. But I love my houseplants. They give me hope for warmer, brighter days. They literally add life and soul to a room. One or two of them, such as my calamondin orange, are just bonkers - producing fruit and gorgeously scented flowers at the same time. They make the perfect houseguests and I just want to fill my home with them. So, now I've managed to get the knack of looking after my houseplants, I'm adding to the collection. 
    • More of what I love: Without doubt, my garden is my sanctuary. It is a complete escape from the rest of the world. It looks after me as much as I look after it. It is Geum 'Flames of Passion'a place where it is completely appropriate for me to have 'favourites'. Favourite places to sit, favourite plants, favourite little views. Lots of little spots that are just spoilt rotten with flowers and foliage that I croon over. So, we're going to have more of the same - I'm going to squeeze in a few more Geum - because I love them and they just keep on going from Spring through to Summer. I love the sight and sound of bees about the place, so I'm going to encourage as many as I can with extra homes for them that I can. A neighbouring village has a beekeepers club and I'm going to find out all I need to know about my current furry friends as well as encouraging a greater diversity and volume of bees into the garden. And I am smitten by the mixing up fruit, veg and flowers - there is something really wonderful about seeing this concoction growing together, supporting each other. So more companion planting for me.  

     What are your garden goals for 2018? We'd love to know, please share! 


    Notes from the Winter Garden December 13, 2017 16:55

    The garden in winterFor me, the garden in winter time is a spirited, wild affair. Yes, it is muddy. Yes, it is all a bit dishevelled. But I love its bare, pared down beauty. At this time of year, my garden is just like my feisty, wizened old aunt; slightly dazed and confused, wandering the about in just her socks but with a keen look in her eye. Ever elegant, immune to the panic, chaos and turmoil around her, she cocks her head in a jaunty, disdained fashion and saunters on.  

    In this instance, the turmoil is the weather. And my overly anxious hand wringing brought about by the hard frosts, smatterings of snow and, worse still, the gusts and gales that whip around our garden, snapping branches and taunting our old roof tiles. 

    And yet, just when you feel like rolling over and staying in bed, there are moments of sunshine - bright blue skies that lift the spirits and provide a good, well needed dose of vitamin D. Or is it C? Either way, at these moments, I disappear outside as quickly as possible, to soak it all up. Find a sheltered, south facing spot and you can still enjoy a little warm sunshine on your chops. Lovely stuff. 

    Now is a great time to enjoy and assess the structural elements of the garden. It is the easiest time of year to literally see the wood instead of just the trees and plan any adjustments you need to make to move your garden forward. I tend to look across the garden - at the heights and how my eye is drawn from one point to another, as well as from the top down - how does it all connect? I do this from my favourite places to sit in the garden. After all, there is no point creating a beautiful little view or a nice little detail if you can't enjoy them. I also try and do this from a wildlife point of view - e.g. is my garden making it easier or harder for bees to pollinate the dwarf fruit trees and cordons? What is thriving under the shade of the tree? What could do with moving? 

    As plants, shrubs and trees move into their dormant, hibernating phase, it is possible to start moving some of these about. A prune here, a snip back there. I'm planning on moving a couple of cordon apple trees  - I didn't space them out very well last year and every since it has been like having a wonky picture on the wall - it's got me seriously twitchy! For other plants, I've got to wait until spring before I mess about. They won't thank me for fiddling around while they doze. I don't blame them. 

    jobs to do in the winter gardenTo prevent damage, I've been tying branches in and securing things down. For some time now, my tender plants are either inside the house (I continue to be extremely unpopular for this move "There are more plants than people in this house!" Apparently this is a bad thing...). And I am (well, my Dad is) in the midst of creating my very own mini glass house from the remnants of the old school loo. It's a long story. A blog for another time. 

    But for now, in amongst the craziness that is build up to Christmas, I'm just trying to appreciate the beauty amid the bleak - the bare trees and branches; the lush green of evergreens and the pops of bright colour from berries and hips. 

    Resources: 


    Introducing Creeper & Knotweed: The Gift Emporium for Garden Lovers December 04, 2017 11:01

    Creeper & KnotweedGardening is in the DNA of Denys & Fielding. A search for garden furniture was the starting point for developing our initial range of outdoor chairs and is a constant as we develop new products for the home & garden. For us, the joy, sanctuary and wellbeing that a garden provides is simple, and yet incredibly important. So, when we were approached to be part of Creeper and Knotweed, an exciting new online emporium showcasing a unique, beautiful collection of gifts for gardeners, we were THRILLED!

    Launched last week, Creeper and Knotweed offers a range of high quality gifts for gardeners. Think elegant trees such as olive and fig, beautifully presented through to garden inspired fine art, with a collection of unique prints, exclusive to Creeper & Knotweed. 

    We also love the fact Creeper & Knotweed donate an average of 5% of all item sales to the Christie Hospital in Manchester - a hospital we know well through a previous, personal connection. The Christie Hospital supports leading treatments, outstanding care and the opportunity for the best outcomes by funding cancer research, new facilities, high-tech equipment and extra patient services, helping cancer patients both cope with and survive cancer. 

    To find out more about Creeper & Knotweed and to explore their exciting new collection, please visit: www.creeperandknotweed.co.uk


    Gifts for gardeners & plant lovers November 27, 2017 11:18

    Gifts for gardeners: Five of the best

    From budding, young gardeners, to houseplant enthusiasts and seasoned 'horti' aficionados, gardeners are a lovely bunch to buy for! If you are present shopping this Christmas for a garden lover, and looking for a special gift for the gardener in your life, here are a few ideas to get you going... 

    New 'Berry' Macrame Plant Hanger: Gorgeous, soft and chunky - each one of these beautiful plant hangers is hand made in Kent. 'Berry Red', our new colour lends itself to the Christmas season perfectly with the added advantage of keeping your plants looking perky, long after the tinsel comes down. Great for pale, neutral interiors or dark, glam, maximalist homes, these plant hangers add a splash of colour throughout the year. Ideal for Valentine's day too! 

    Navy & Black Gardening Aprons: Available in five different patterns and designs, our gardening aprons are ideal for those that like to potter. These short, quarter length gardening aprons come with generous, wraparound waist ties, a large, double-lined pocket and carefully wrapped and presented tissue paper and gift box. A great gift for gardeners. 

    Good reads: There is no shortage of good gardening related books on the market, but if you are looking for something a little different,we'd recommend 'The Almanac' by Lia Leendertz. Read more about this wonderful little book over in our recent review

    Stylish Watering TraysDo you have a friend or loved one that is potty about houseplants? My husband does. I am that person. There is always an extra 'guest' appearing on a windowsill, or, much to his annoyance, sat on a low stool right by the back door. Bath time is a ritual not just for the kids, but for my beloved plants. And once they've had a good water, and a lovely feed, I now pop them onto our new serving trays that double up beautifully as a watering tray. Gone are the days where saucers balanced precariously along our window sills and ledges, they now sit, quite defiantly, on one of our trays. Hurray!

    A seat in the sun: If your garden lover is more of a sun worshipper than a weeder, why not treat them to a comfortable seat in the sun. The Balcony Chair, our most popular garden chair in the collection neatly packs away, is good looking enough to enjoy both indoors or outside and adds a perfect splash of colour to summerhouses and winter cabins. A generous, thoughtful gift for the gardener in your life. 


    Keen as Mustard: How to add orange & yellow tones to your home (and why you should) November 22, 2017 14:56

    2018 home decorating trend: MustardI have a confession. I am completely smitten with the colour mustard. And marigold. Oh, alright... basically anything orange. While I have never been shy of colour, I'm now in danger of becoming slightly obsessed by it. It isn't just the trees and hedgerows that are showing off gorgeous, rich-gold tones. This season, in homes & interiors, shades of mustard, marigold and mellow yellows are popping up all over the place.

    For me, I put this down to two very specific things. Number 1: 'Hague Blue'. Number 2: Downpipe. 

    To those unfamiliar with these terms, they are the names of two formidable paint colours from the Farrow and Ball stable. Up and down the country, soft neutrals and white walls are being updated with these darker, moodier tones. Not just from Farrow and Ball, I hasten to add. We're very partial to a splash of Little Greene about the place and I recently tried Valspar - a paint that I'd not used before, and was really impressed with the coverage, colour and finish of it's eggshell paint. Anyway, I digress, the point is, people, we're going dark. Glam, edgy, dark. Oooh! 

    Which is where yellows and oranges come in - from rich, earthy shades to light, buttery tones. What better backdrop is there for adding a zing of bright mustard, or a zesty lemon to a room than those that use strong, dark colours in their scheme? These dark colours need a colour pop! And that is what orange and yellow hues deliver. 

    Why choose Orange & Yellow for interiors? 

    Possibly one of the happiest colours going, yellow is literally sunshine - a joyful, optimistic hue that apparently stimulates mental processes and encourages communication. Not that we need much more chat in our house! Meanwhile, orange is also associated with joy and socialising, but with more heat, warmth and creativity - think the rich, spicy hues of turmeric and terracotta. 

    And yet, despite the feel good factor, a lot of people shy away from adding yellows and oranges to their home. Gold is perhaps the original, most visible definition of 'bling'.  Which might be one reason why it is avoided by so many. For some, orange and yellow are overly simplistic colours; not very intellectual or smart. Tosh, I say. Create the right setting and every hue can shine - look at the come back that 'peach' has made in the last few years?! Less eighties throwback, more contemporary chic 'blush'. 

    Complementary colours for orange and yellow

    A whole raft of colours work brilliantly with orange and yellow, but it really depends on the shade you are considering. If it is a rich, marigold orange, try a sample alongside blues and dark grey. Lighter, pale yellows also work well with these colours as well as purple and some shades of red. Consider the mood you are trying to create within a room. Colours that sit opposite each other on the colour wheel will create an energising, emotive scheme. Other combinations are calmer, more harmonising or cooler. Take into consideration how you use the space, and experiment with samples of colour shades and fabric textures to help you narrow down and hone in on the style and scheme that works for you.  

    Adding orange and yellow to your home: The inspiration list

    There is no shortage of inspiration out there for those looking to add a pinch of mustard or hint of saffron to their interiors. Here are our top picks of home decor inspiration and styling ideas: 

    1. Beyond walls: If you want to start gently with adding colourful oranges and mustards to your home, accessories are a great, low cost, low risk option. Think cushions, vases and even cookware to add a splash of colour to your home decor. 

    2. Stylish statements: I absolutely love this mustard headboard which I spotted on the instagram feed of interior styling guru Kimberley Duran. No other colour would have quite the same impact in this room. The gold accents around the room - from the pendent lamp, pineapple table lamp and shade through to the gold detailing on the bedside cabinets complement and underline the glamour of this bedroom; rich in texture and style.  

     

    3. Go Retro: For me, there is something deliciously mid century and 'mad men' about yellows and oranges that feature in interiors. Yay Retro has a fantastic selection of vintage homewares that date from the forties through to the seventies. Head on over to their website for unique, colourful gifts for the home. 

    4. Think Fresh. Golden flowers are perhaps the easiest way to add pops of colour to your home. Get in quick with a few late bulbs, and you'll have a host of daffodils and tulips to enjoy in Spring which are ideal for cutting and bringing into the house.   

    5. Add Art: Sandy Dooley is one of my favourite local artists. For me, her work is truly inspirational and extremely moving. I love the colour, texture but also lightness of touch that is evident in every impressionistic style painting she creates. She manages to capture the essence of what I really love about my part of Kent. Yellows, oranges and every shade in between feature heavily in Sandy's work. Perhaps that is why I love it so much. A beautiful painting is perhaps the most obvious way to appreciate colour in all it's glory, but what a centrepiece. 


    How to transition your home from Summer to Autumn October 30, 2017 20:27

    This morning was the first truly 'chilly' start we've had this Autumn. With the clocks changing over the weekend; the wisp of woodsmoke in the air and the altogether sleepy feeling that has crept over our garden and home, I for one am in the mood for autumn.

    This time of year is full of ritual. Our Gran used to have winter weight curtains which, around about now, would replace the summer voiles. Mum used to clean the silver at this time of year, ensuring it was all twinkly for the winter months. Me? My thoughts turn to my stomach. I start planning more get togethers - carb busting dinners with friends and family. Subconsciously, our senses guide us - adding different textures, sights, smells and tastes into our every day lives, helping us appreciate all that this wonderful season has to offer. These simple, seasonal habits are a signal that is time to unwind and a time get ready for winter. Here are five easy ways to get yourself, and your home, in the mood for this cosy months ahead...

    1. Smells good - What is it about a smell that can evoke memories so vividly? Or transport you to another place and time? Nothing makes you feel more in the mood for Christmas and the wider winter season than the smell of cinnamon or the lung full of damp, earthy air you breathe while enjoying a walk in the woods. Light a scented candle and you get the best of both two senses - the evocative sight of a gentle flame serene in a still room, as well as a fragrance to soothe, nourish and restore. We love Wild Planet's 'Soft Embers' - a blend of pure essential oils creating a wonderfully seasonal, evocative scent. 
    2. Colour & texture - Rich, warming colours and textures in your home help to make you feel toasty when the temperature's drop. Extra cushions, colourful home accents and accessories, lit by candles and lamps, rather than overhead lights... Perfect.
    3. Dress for dinner - or rather, dress your table for dinner. Go the whole hog this season and dress to impress - table runners, twinkly lights, foraged foliage from the garden to adorn hearty, wholesome meals with friends or just your 'run of the mill' Friday night in.  
    4. Under cover - I love my Mum's homemade quilts. Nothing beats a snuggle on the sofa under one of those beauties. Mix and match home made quilts with lovely, woolly ones such as those from Atlantic Blankets. I'm currently drooling over their mustard shoal throw. Lush.
    5. Berries, hips and twigs: Can't help it, I love a hip. Aside from making me want to sashay around the place singing 'I said a hip, hop, hippie to the hippie', they are just plain cheerful... with or without a classic rendition of The Sugarhill Gang. Fresh, dried, singular stems in a small vase, or full on 'en masse', to me, they are have the 'bed head' cool of the foliage and flower world. Snip around your garden and bring a few stems in to enjoy on window sills and table tops. 

    Pantone colours 2018: Introducing 'Red' to your home with five updates. October 17, 2017 11:08

    Cherry red floor cushionEarlier this year, Pantone released it's predictions for colour and design trends for 2018. The good news? There is a colour combination to suit every persuasion - especially those that love bright, bold hues. 

    Speaking at the International Home & Housewares Show in August, Leatrice Wiseman,  Executive Director at the Pantone Color Institute, highlighted eight key palettes that are predicted to feature heavily in 2018, including one that is very close to our hearts...

    Interior Trend 2018: Rich reds

    While the upcoming Christmas season always beckons rich, ruby red tones, expect to see these colours long after the 12th night.  Evident within these palettes is a key trend that moves away from pastels, towards brighter, bolder colours, including lots of red shades. 

    Many designers have already taken on the mantle and started to champion colour, including US paint company Benjamin Moore which has already set out its own colour for 2018: Caliente AF-290, described as " a lush carpet rolled out for a grand arrival". Woo hoo! Bring it on. 

    What makes the colour red so dynamic? 

    Seeing the colour red can literally make your heart beat faster. That was the finding of a study published in 2011 by the University of Rochester. After black and white, it is the first 'true' colour babies can see. Symbolising power, love, anger, courage and danger, red is an evocative, complicated colour. It is deeply connected to much of our history and our past - seen as a symbol of divinity in the middle ages, revolution in the 20th century,  and everything from beauty, virility to wealth in the years in between. 

    Bright bold colours: lessons from natureLiving with colour: Red 

    Used carefully, as an accent colour in homes and living spaces, red can be an incredibly warm, joyful addition to a room. In this book 'In the mood for colour' celebrated interior designer Hans Blomquist suggests that when it comes to introducing bold colour into your home, take a hint from mother nature. "When it comes to nature, bold colours mostly appear in moderation.... My view is that if you mimic the way bold colours are used in nature when you are decorating your home, the result will be very successful."

    The current trend for dark interiors really accentuates this point. Bright, bold colours add pops of colour against dark walls in the same way that bright, red holly or the slightly tomato hue of pyracantha 'orange glow' looks stunning on grey, dark days. But red is also incredibly warming, bringing depth and richness to paler, cooler interiors, as shown in this hallway below, (photo from Farrow & Ball)

    Introducing the colour red into your home: five easy updates. 

    1. Experiment with colour If your home has been mainly neutral for a while, adding a bright bold burst of colour may feel a little daunting. Start gently by adding bright red accessories such as a rug, cushions or lampshade first. Live with it for a while, see how you get on and then add more layers of colour as your confidence increases. 
    2. Rethink the term 'Feature' Adding colour as a feature to a room doesn't have to mean painting one singular wall. Instead, think about adding colour in the form of displaying fabric or a bright coloured picture to a wall. Colour coordinate your books on the shelf to have varying shades of colour in distinct areas. The result is a 'feature' that, if necessary, can be temporary and easy to move around should you change your mind or fancy creating a whole new look. 
    3. Choose classic colour Combinations Remember that good old faithful - the colour wheel. Complementary, or contrasting colour combinations sit opposite each other on the wheel. Hence why red and green go so well together and are really vivid, energising colours for Christmas. Use one or two contrasting colours together in your accessories to add a little zing to otherwise neutral rooms. 
    4. Explore shades of red: From pink to brown, red is a colour with depth and range. If a bright, tomato red isn't your thing, consider plum tones, or softer brown hues.
    5. Be inspired by nature: Introduce dahlia flowers, berries, hips and foliage - really embrace nature's love of colour, especially at this time of year to see how it can enliven and enrich your home. 

    How to make nasturtium pesto October 09, 2017 14:17

    Nasturtium Pesto Recipe Nasturtiums have been running amok in the veg patch all summer. Perfect companion plants to our runner beans and cabbage, they have literally been having a knees up for months. However, the party is very nearly over. The lights are up, the music is off and it's time to call it a day.

    Night time temperatures have started to dip significantly in recent weeks. Most of the butterflies, bees and caterpillars seem to have taken the hint. Having munched away on our nasturtiums all simmer, they've moved on. And so, finally, it's our turn. We've now got lots of tender new shoots and leaves which I'm quickly harvesting before the first frosts appear. Perfect for pesto. 

    The recipe given below for home made nasturtium pesto is a little variation on the classic basil pesto. I can safely say that neither Martha Stewart or Mary Berry have anything to worry about with me. But, I am really keen on the whole 'fork to fork' mentality of cooking and eating seasonal, local food. Earlier this summer, while we were camping in North Wales, I'd been told about nasturtium pesto by a Welsh-Italian management consultant. Serious stuff, I thought. If someone of Italian descent felt this was a pesto worth making, it had to be good...

    how to make home made nasturtium pestoIngredients

    • Nasturtium leaves: 150g. (I was tempted to use the juicy stems, but the aforementioned Welsh /Italian Consultant looked absolutely horrified when I asked. So, I opted for leaves only.)
    • Parmesan: 150 g
    • Pine nuts: 150 g
    • Garlic: four / five cloves
    • Olive oil: approximately 200ml

    Method 

    1. Prepare a jam jar or preserve jar by washing thoroughly and placing into a hot oven to sterilise.
    2. Wash the nasturtium leaves and pop into a blender with the pine nuts and garlic. Slowly add the olive and blend until you create a nice thick paste.
    3. Now slowly add in the parmesan. At this point I needed a little more oil and added pepper into the mix. I avoided using salt, just because I felt there would be quite a lot already in the cheese, but if you fancy adding a little more, now is the time to do it. 
    4. Pour your gorgeous new pesto into your sterilised jar. Once in situ, add in more olive oil to 'seal' the pesto. This should help it to 'keep' for up to one month in the fridge. 
    5. Watch your young child's face light up as they scream 'Eeeeew, what is that?!' while you explain that 'that' is dinner :) 

    VerdictHome made nasturtium pesto

    I have to say, while the kids looked appalled at the sight of the lush green mixture, the end result is pretty tasty. It is a little more peppery or bitter than your sweet tasting basil variety. It is great for giving roasted veg a bit more oomph, lovely when mixed up as a base for home made pizzas and is a tasty addition to pasta. I'd also use it to make home made garlic bread. Plus, you do get to enjoy that slightly smug feeling having cooked something you've grown yourself. Domestic goddess, ticked.  


    The Almanac - A seasonal guide to 2018 by Lia Leendeetz October 05, 2017 14:16

    A review of The Almanac by Lia LeendertzMy copy of The Almanac arrived on the morning of the Autumn Equinox - I felt this, in itself, was a good omen! But before I get into full review mode about the actual book, let me just provide a little context behind the way in which this wonderful new read has been published...

    Sometimes, something comes into your life that just tickles your imagination. That is exactly how I felt when I read a tweet about a kickstarter project looking to fund a new book by Lia Leendertz. I'd read, loved (and reviewed) a previous book by Lia - Petal, Leaf, Seed. And to be honest, I'd heard a bit about kick-starters, but didn't really understand how it all worked. So, couple together curiosity for the process, an appreciation for the author, and a real sense of 'this needs to get published' about the proposed book, I put my name down and signed up to be a supporter. 

    I wasn't alone. In total, 555 people stumped up the cash to get this book published. Ever so often, an email would drop into the inbox with an update on the publishing process and how things were working out. I loved that connection to the project. Really nice. The other weekend, as a special treat, an early bird copy arrived, looking and smelling fresh. Lovely stuff. But, importantly, was it all worth it? 

    Well for me, absolutely.

    Reading this book reminds you of how much there is in the world to cherish and love. As the full title suggests, The Almanac looks ahead to 2018. Each month is given a separate section, which start with a run down of all the special dates in that month - things to look forward to, learn more about or just to be aware of. Then, the book takes you on a guided tour of that month through the eyes of Mother Nature herself - the timings of the tides, the phases of the moon, the likely temperatures and growing conditions for the weeks ahead. What to harvest and ideas on how to cook it up is also included. The Almanac paints an intricate, beautiful scene of nature, dancing around you, going about it's business with such fluidity and grace. Your role is to observe, learn, nurture and of course enjoy this purposeful sequence. 

    For me, The Almanac gives me the same sense of well being as a full, carbo-loaded dinner. Or the shipping forecast... which I don't understand, but just love to listen to. It's calming, warming, slightly hypnotic and just plain lovely. It is full of the kind of wisdom you'd love to share with your kids; magical observations made about the stars, oceans, soil and air. The real world. The one that is so rich, beautiful and precious, and yet so often overlooked. 

    If, like me, you find yourself saying 'Er, October, we're in OCTOBER?!!', this book will help you slow down, focus and enjoy the details of our changing seasons. Nourishing, thoughtful and enlightening, The Almanac is food for the soul as well as the stomach. Definitely one for the Christmas list. 


    The Autumnal Garden: Jobs (not) to do September 26, 2017 14:37

    The garden in Autumn - acers at Denys & FieldingOn bright, sunny autumn afternoons like today, you can really feel the magic betwixt and between the seasons. The orange, yellow and red tones of autumn are emerging in and around the garden. There is still some heat left in the daytime sunshine, but by the evening, there is a hint of woodsmoke in the air, as neighbours light their stoves and fires. It's a time when the garden is neither one thing or another. The brakes are on, but we're still moving. The inevitable is in sight, but not in reach. 

    The result is that my poor old garden is, unsurprisingly, in a bit of a tizz. The runner beans are still producing flowers, but they are working against the clock. The tomatoes, which were fairly laissez faire in their arrival this year, are trying to make up for it with a late surge. I feel their days are numbered. Meanwhile, all that lovely sunshine we enjoyed at the start of spring has led to a bumper (and early) crop of apples. These were whipped off the trees & cordons last week, just in the nick of time. 

    Autumnal garden - the jobs not to do by Denys & FieldingThere is always a lot of advice at around this time of year to start tidying up and cutting back. "Get stuck in!" they scream, start planning for Spring. Well, can I offer an alternative? Just don't. Don't be in a rush to go headlong into a new season or start tidying up from the last. Instead, have yourself a moment. Take it all in. Enjoy the sunshine because it will get colder and darker. Let the leaves fall. If you are in any doubt, just take a look  up - there is plenty more to come down yet. And, when you are ready, rather than clear them away, sweep them onto your flower beds. They will provide a natural protection to your flowers, a winter home for bugs and beasties and a fresh workload for the worms. Your efforts, other than to guide the leaves onto the your borders, away from lawns and ponds, are surplus to requirement. Nature is slowing down, encouraging you to enjoy the descent, so be a dear and follow suit. 

    Instead, get the BBQ lit. Enjoy a little fire pit blaze, wrapped up in an extra jumper on a clear night. Take stock of the garden, what you've loved this year, areas that could do with a little update or swap around. As plants prepare to go into their dormant phase, now is a great time to start thinking about what you can move around once they are all snoozing away, blissfully unaware of what is occurring above ground. Embrace a little decay - seedheads that look a little lacklustre now will create beautiful shapes and statues as soon as the first frosts arrive.

    Autumn gardenAside from taking the pressure off you, there are plenty of plants that will actually thank you for being a little less gun ho at this time of year. I have found peonies produce MASSES more flowers if you let the stems and stalks remain over the winter months, rather than cut them back. Once you have plenty of new growth next spring, you can cut the old back, but until then, I let them stay as they are. It is the same for roses. They will get a minor haircut in the next few weeks, as they have all summer, but I give them a real good scalping in early spring. And it is seems to work. I have far less disease for doing this than I used to have. Other shrubs and hedges get a 'short back and sides' job but other than that, it's all quiet for the next few weeks until we're a little further into the season. For now, it's all about enjoying those late blooms, rich, autumnal tones and exquisite details in and around your outdoor space. 


    A weekend away at Forde Abbey September 22, 2017 15:04

    Dahlias at Forde AbbeyLast Friday, we packed up D&F HQ and sauntered (well, crawled) down the A303 all the way to the Dorset / Somerset border to take part in Toby Buckland's Harvest Garden Festival, held at Forde Abbey. 

    I've been itching to get to Forde Abbey for a while now, quietly following their account on Twitter. It is without doubt, the garden of the moment. While recently writing about the garden in an article for the Sunday Times, Rachel De Thame commented: “Even the green-fingered are not immune to fads: as with Dahlia ‘Cafe au Lait’ or ‘Labyrinth,’ suddenly it seems everyone is talking about a particular thing. And this year it’s a garden – Forde Abbey.” 

    So, having read so much about the place, I was thrilled that we got to give our summer season one last hurrah at Toby's first festival to take place in this truly lovely garden. Neither the Festival or Forde Abbey disappointed. 

    A brilliantly curated celebration of all things late summer & harvest, the Festival combined stalls brimming with seasonal food, plants, homeware and gifts with cooking demonstrations, talks, workshops and tours. Meanwhile, Forde Abbey provided the perfect backdrop. Sweeping lawns, borders full of colourful dahlias, asters and grasses, a swirl of wild flowers, still very much in bloom, and, my absolute favourite thing -  a walled kitchen garden; there is a lot to love about Forde Abbey.

    Kitchen garden at Forde AbbeyDespite it's obvious long history, the garden feels like a space that is very much moving forward - it's thirty acres absorbing new ideas, planting combinations and experiments with the same youthful thirst as it had no doubt offered to it's earliest inhabitants. As such, Forde Abbey was the perfect place to host a brand new garden festival taking place on the cusp of a new season. And the weather held!! 

     

    wildflowers at Forde Abbey

     

    Forde Abbey


    Creating a garden for butterflies: Notes & ideas September 11, 2017 20:21

    butterflies on the verbenaI'm going to say this in hushed tones. Literally, a whisper. Because, I'm feeling a touch heretical.

    Let me explain. 

    Over the weekend, I settled myself down to enjoy the oracle that is the Gardener's World magazine. I read Nick Bailey's article about the decline in butterflies and found myself in a strange position. Only last week, I was in the front garden, our neighbour in theirs, and together we exchanged glowing remarks across the boundary about the abundance of butterflies this year. And yet, clearly, in the wider world, there is a problem. 

    Ooh, hello I thought. This is spooky timing. What's more, we're bucking a trend over here. And, in a good way! 

    Our garden has been awash with butterflies all summer. The nasturtiums have provided the main canteen for the caterpillars. The south facing window panes have proved to be useful incubators for chrysalis. Flowers and foliage have delivered some much needed R&R and 'grown up time' for the fully formed butterflies. From the outside, it's all looked rather efficient! 

    gardening for butterflies - ideas and tipsBut what do I know? I tend to think of my garden as a glorified B&B or small hotel. The guests are in charge. I am merely the gardening equivalent of 'Manuel'. Feathery and furry visitors come and go, using the facilities like their own. Some are welcome. Others, well, quite frankly, you're pleased to see the back of them. But for the lovely ones, butterflies included, I find myself wondering how we tap into a little repeat business. What do we need to keep doing to get them, and all their new offspring, back next Spring?  

    Purely from personal observation and gut feeling, I'd say there are several things that make quite a difference. Firstly, it is pretty obvious to say that butterflies love flowers. But from what I've seen, they are a picky bunch. They each have their favourites. The white butterflies (both small and large) love the nasturtiums. The blue butterflies MUNCH solomon seal to within an inch of it's life. However, this normally happens after its flowered, so I don't mind their decadence. They are the insect equivalent of Oasis - smashing up hotel rooms like no tomorrow. Rock on boys, that's what I say. 

    The Comma's, Red Admirals and the Tortoiseshells love a club classic - Buddleia. Large Whites, Brimstones and Orange-tips have been swaying on the verbena with wilful abandon and in recent weeks, the Painted Ladies have put in a fashionably late appearance. Caterpillars are all about the place, making the most of the nasturtiums (again!) along with the leaves of an old twisted hazel and a small, silver birch. So, varied planting seems to be popular; creating a rich, diverse menu for these discerning guests to enjoy. 

    Secondly, I'd like to think that clean living is having an effect. We've been developing our little cottage garden for around eight years now, without the use of weedkillers or pesticides. Relying on companion planting, pulling out weeds as and when, and trying to create a garden that literally looks after itself, has been the focus. It feels as if, finally, we're starting to really get a sense of balance in the garden. The frogs keep on top of the slugs. The bats munch the mozzies. The herbs keep the crops in good shape. Instead of being in a rush to have the perfect, manicured garden, it feels as if we've lucked out - slow and steady (not to mention regular disasters and failures) was the only option, and yet, as it turns out, it's been the right course for us. It has also given us a host of regular visitors we might not have otherwise attracted.

    Lastly, diversity, not just in terms of flowers as already mentioned, but environment, seems to be important. Having shady, damp areas; brambly, dare I say wild, areas as well as flower beds and borders that are producing the goods from early Spring through to the first frosts, seems to help create the right environment for butterflies, as well as many other moths and insects, to flourish. The bonus of all this is that it also delivers an diverting, enjoyable garden escape for us humans, too. Brilliant. 

    Have a top tip to share? We'd love to hear it. Simply drop us a note in the comments below! 


    Create your own sunshine: Discover our new range of vibrant, colourful homewares September 09, 2017 18:19

    marigold orange cushion from Denys & FieldingI'll be honest, I'm still hanging out for an Indian summer. Yes, I know, the signs are not altogether positive. But imagine a good dose of early autumn sunshine towards the back end of September and beginning of October....Ooh, that will do nicely. Because, as much as I really enjoy getting cosy in a woolly jumper, I'm not ready to be confined to barracks, just yet.

    In fact, bonfires, rosy cheeks, winter walks, steaming hot cups of tea on a crisp, blue skied morning... I love it all. But I'm a summer baby. A love of 'the rays' is in my blood and I don't really cope very well with the other side of winter... you know, the one that's all rain, more rain interspersed by grey, dreary days. Sigh. 

    The antidote? Aside from a five star holiday experience in an exotic, far flung land, (not happening any time soon) I'm thinking it's time to dig deep and create our own sunshine. Which leads me nicely to our new range of homewares... :)

    Combining small batch, British based manufacturing, along with traditional, hand made craft, our new collection provides something unique, joyful and practical for the home. Each item within the homewares range complements another - with mix and match styles, designs and colour ways used throughout to help create a contemporary, connected look for sitting rooms, kitchen / diners, and which, on warmer days, can extend out to the garden. Oooh lovely! 

    Hand made lampshade in orange and blue leaf design by Denys and FieldingSo, if you haven't already taken a look, dive in! Our vibrant cushions provide a real zing to this season's love of dark, moody interiors and yet are equally at home in lighter, more airy settings. The serving trays double up as stylish, colourful drip trays for houseplants and those outdoor types that just enjoy a slightly warmer home over the winter months. And our colour popping lampshades will add light and atmosphere to your home. The collection is growing almost daily as our months of preparation finally come to an end, and we start to add more items onto the website. We'll keep updating Facebook and Insta as we go - so come on over to keep in touch! 

    Enjoy!


    Styling the Seasons: How to create your own wild berry & bramble flower ball September 04, 2017 18:02

    plant hanger flower ballWhen we were little, Mum, a florist, used to make the most beautiful flower balls to hang from the lynchgate of our local church. They were a gorgeous welcome for wedding guests. So, what better way to welcome a new season and visitors to your home than with your very own? Given a modern twist, thanks to our our macrame plant holders, these DIY floral arrangements look great over a table for dinner parties, brilliant in a porch or hanging in an entrance hall. 

    What you'll need: 

    • A pair of secateurs for cutting brambles, blooms and foliage
    • chicken wire  - enough to make a ball of wire (for ours, we cut out a rectangle of wire, around 75cm wide and doubled it over)
    • Macrame plant holder - I opted for the burgundy tones of our plum coloured plant holder (visit our homewares section for these!) to complement the autumnal berries and foliage.  

    Selecting your foliage 

    I love a good autumnal hedgerow! And luckily, I've got a load of brambles and all sorts lurking at the bottom of the garden in an overgrown 'wilderness' area. When deciding on what to use, my advice is to start with a restricted colour palette. You can always add to it, but I find the results are much better and more effective if you go for up to three main colours only. So for me, I limited my colour choices red tones of the berries & hips; greens in terms of foliage, ivy not quite in bloom and green acorns; and the browns of teasels, corn ears and bits of long grass.  When cutting your stems, try and get a good length, more than you need, so you have plenty to play with. Try and collect your 'showstopper' stems, the ones that aren't just for covering the wire mesh but are your really gorgeous gems, in odd numbers. Pop anything that is fresh into a bucket of water. Strip the stems by removing any low leaves that would otherwise end up in the water. Keep any dry material, for example seed heads, to one side. 

    Setting up your plant hanger

    make your own plant holder flower ballIf you have a hook in a nearby ceiling - wonderful, hook up your plant hanger and you are ready for action. If not, a hanging basket bracket works really well outside, or hang from a branch. Ideally, you want to be able to work around the entire plant hanger while it is suspended, so you get a good, round shape. 

    Creating your wire ball

    Really easy, just take your chicken wire and mould into a wire mesh ball. Ideally, you want to make it so that it is roughly round, with a couple of layers of wire, one on top of the other. Hook any exposed ends round so they don't snag your plant hanger or stab you while you work! Place the wire ball gently into the plant hanger and then tease it out, loosening the wire a little to fill the space. 

    Arranging your flower and foliage

    Now the fun part. Getting stuck in. Start by selecting one of your foliage pieces as the initial covering for your wire mesh. We opted for the ivy buds. Then, build up from there. The beauty of the wire mesh is that if you don't like something, just take it out. As you add more and more to your plant hanger, remember to take time to stand back, enjoy the process and move around. Either twirl your plant holder to look at all the angles, or work around it yourself. 

    As autumn gets underway, you'll have more and more to use from the garden, including lots of dried seed heads. Gorgeous. When one part fades, simply replace with new pickings. And can I just say, how awesome are these for Christmas?! Think mistletoe, holly, small cuttings of fir trees and pine cones against our dark grey plant hangers. Ooh! I can't wait! If you get making, please send us a pic! We'd love to see any of your creations. Simply tag us (@DenysandFielding) on Instagram or post to our Facebook page. 


    September: New month, new term and new beginnings in the home & garden September 03, 2017 20:12

    Astilbe in SeptemberFor me, September in the garden offers the best of both worlds. It is such a transitionary month - often coming hand in hand with lovely warm days (gawd, that's jinxed it!) and crispier, chillier evenings. Add a woolly jumper, swap the flip-flops for wellies and an altogether cosier feeling begins to descend. 

    A new school term means a return to some sense of structure. I'm all for a little spontaneity, but for the sake of sanity and maintaining friendly relations, this house needs to get back into a routine.

    It is a similar feeling in the garden. The beds and borders are looking weary, a little shell shocked by the prolific partying & growth they've experienced in recent weeks. "Put us to bed, we've overindulged!" they scream. Haven't we all?! Cornettos by day, wine by night. That's been my summer holiday survival kit and as a result, there's a lot more of me swinging about the place too. 

    So, when it comes to both myself and the garden, there is a distinct sense of 'cutting back' this month. Let's all just ease down a little and show a bit of restraint.

    It is a gentle readjustment rather than full on austerity measures. There is still plenty of colour in the garden. Hydrangeas are still in flower (just); the roses continue to put on a show and quite a few other perennials are back for yet another encore. But the pace has relaxed, the pressure is off, and it's time to look to the winter months ahead. 

    Age old autumnal rituals are slowly getting underway. This weekend, I've been painting some of the woodwork outside, trying to give it a little extra life and protection for the upcoming weather months. Meanwhile, Papa Bear has been some of the chopping wood that has been drying out all summer. And, for both our business and our home, our love of colour and my love of plants is slowly migrating from the garden to the house. At home, the houseplants are increasingly becoming the centre of attention. The larger of these have been quite happy outside on the patio over the summer months, but they soon have to make their way back into the house. I'm wondering how I approach the inevitable negotiations about their space allocation versus ours...

    Meanwhile, our garden chairs & growing homewares collection are now transitioning into the home - the balcony chair is perfect for looking out into the garden; soft, luxuriously thick plant hangers keep the houseplants in order and our scatter cushions & floor cushions, perfect for lounging, add a shot of colour indoors. Keep an eye out for our latest tableware, which will also be heading to the website soon.

    For anyone reading this, dreading the winter months, take heart in forget-me-knots. Mine have already created new colonies in and around the garden, ready to put on a big, blue haze of a show next Spring. I'm planning on sowing kale this week and cabbage, which will also produce the goods next year. But for now, the first few leaves of trees overhead are starting to gently unhinge themselves, one or two breaking loose already. Rose hips are forming in gorgeous red & plummy tones. Flower and seed heads are drying out around the garden. The inevitability of it all, working as clockwork, is nothing if not reassuring. Whatever obstacles and struggles are happening, known or otherwise, taking place now or that lie ahead, the garden keeps moving forward. And there is something rather lovely about the month of September that reminds you of all that.  


    How to protect your outdoor fabrics: Three fabric protectors August 31, 2017 17:08

    Having beautiful furniture and fabrics ruined by the weather is no fun. One of the great things about our range of deck chairs is that they fold down for easy storage - perhaps the most simplest and straight forward way to keep your furniture in good condition. 

    But if your furniture is too bulky for easy storage, there are other ways to extend the life of your garden furniture & furnishings. I recently donned the marigolds and tried out three leading fabric protectors - Scotchgard, 303 Fabric Guard and Liquiproof. Here is what I found...

    About the Fabric Protectors

    Scotchgard™

    When it comes to stains and spills, Scotchgard™ is probably one of the most well known brands. Its formula was accidentally discovered by two scientists in the early 1950's and very quickly grew in popularity. I used the outdoor fabric protector and found the aerosol spray easy to administer. It left no residue or marks. To me, the fabric felt ever so slightly more 'crispy', but not at all sticky or unpleasant. It did a good job in ensuring that rain and water simply beaded and ran off the fabric. The only downside was the heavy solvent smell - it was extremely strong and as the packaging advises, should only be applied in a well ventilated space. 

    303® Fabric Guard™

    Recommended by outdoor fabric aficionados Sunbrella, 303® Fabric Guard™ is a fabric treatment that is often used for the rooftops of convertible cars but can also be used on garden furniture, umbrellas and a host of other surfaces. It is a pump action spray, goes on wet and then dries to leave a coating, which for me, made the fabric feel physically tougher. In fact, to me, it literally gave the fabric 'muscle'. Again, this one worked well in terms of repelling water, but similar to Scotchgard, it did come with a very strong pong during application! However, neither fabric protector smelt noticeably different after application and drying time.

    Liquiproof

    Unlike the first two fabric protectors tested, Liquiproof is a relatively new British brand, appearing on Dragon's Den (spoiler alert - they successfully secured financial support - no mean feat)

    Liquiproof is a different beast form other fabric protectors that were tested. When it arrived, the branded brush and little sprays look like they had turned up for an occasion rather than a chore. This is a product that wants you to celebrate and protect what you love. A bit like polishing the silver, as opposed to scrubbing the floor. Does it work? Absolutely. In fact, if you don't believe me, watch the film! The water beads up and rolls off. But more than that, it contained nothing of the odour and heavy solvent smell that I had come to expect. It carries no allergic warnings. In fact, it boasts strong eco credentials. For that reason, it is my personal favourite.  

    Further tips for protecting your outdoor fabrics and furnishings: 

    • When using a fabric protector, always test a small, inconspicuous part of the fabric first. 
    • Always check that you are using the right protector for your type of fabric. Not all fabric protectors are suitable for every type of material. 
    • If you are a keen crafter, consider making a cover for your garden chairs or purchase covers that are easy to adapt to the size and shape of your furniture.
    • If you can, always put your furniture away after use in a dry, clean area. Make sure your fabric is dry and clean before you store away, otherwise you might return to find mould and mildew!  

    Climate Control: Five tips to help improve & enjoy your garden's climate August 28, 2017 10:35

    Glasshouses & microclimates: increasing the temperature of your gardenNothing provides a better reminder of 'climate' than a trip to Wales. Camping trip, I hasten to add, which we undertook last week. West Wales - gorgeous. Camping.. well, for me, less so. But, in the immortal words of Robbie and Kylie, I was very much 'doing this for the kids'. They loved it. Enough said.

    Amid the mizzle, we found sunshine and the enchanting, self sufficient estate of Llanerchaeron. Mix Georgian villa, woodlands, a lake, farm, walled gardens and meadow land and you have yourself the heady cocktail that is Llanerchaeron. It is such a magical place, but for me, my favourite part was the walled garden. 

    As soon as you walked through into the garden, you felt the temperature lift and your shoulders relax. Such warmth, created by those lovely old walls which were adorned with a glass house; either standing proud, or slightly tiddly, with a 'one sleeve sliding down the shoulder' look about the way it was slumped against the parameter. I love that. In the same way I love the slight sense of faded glamour in seaside towns. Beauty enhanced by age. Long live that mantra. 

    Beds, neatly separated by box hedging, were filled with herbs, fruit, veg and flowers in both formal formation as well as overflowing more naturalistic planting. Again, here I was reminded of the fragility of our climate - even within the cosy confines of the walled garden, many of its fruit, flowers and veg were a good two to three weeks behind my now ripe, or lets face it, leggy crops at home, a mere 280 miles away. 

    Walled gardens and microclimates - tips and hints for your gardenWhile most of us can only dream of a beautiful, enclosed walled garden, it is possible to learn a lesson or two from their success and charm. Climate is often such an overlooked consideration in a garden. And there is often a sense of resignation about it. However, there are lots of little tricks you can perform to help maximise your space, nudge the temperature up a little and create the perfect oasis for you and your plants.

    Hard Landscaping 

    Our patio is at the entrance to our north facing back door. From May until late September, most of the patio receives some sun. One part in particular is sunny pretty much all day during these months, so this is the ideal spot for our garden chairs, nestled amid cannas, fragrant jasmine and our more tropical plants. The benefit of the patio is that its stones stay warm, if not hot, for most of the day and evening, which makes me, and my jungly, tropical friends, very happy. 

    Water 

    Water has a cooling, calming effect for us as well as plants. It takes longer to heat up, but is also longer in terms of cooling down. Create a shady area around a pond or stream, and you'll have the perfect conditions for so many shade loving plants, as well as a gorgeous contrast to your hotspots around the garden. Not to mention the wildlife you will attract.

    Windbreaks

    Nothing removes heat, or water quicker than a good strong breeze. Use planting, or hard landscaping around your seating area, or an area of the garden where you want to increase the temperature. Going back to our patio as an example... when we put a small extension up a few years ago, we kept the old bricks back from the wall that was knocked out. These then helped to form a retaining wall around the patio which is around 2 foot high. The result was a 'sunken' seating area. I love the feeling of being surrounded, and at times dwarfed by the garden. It also helps retain the heat and provides a natural windbreak for us in our most used part of the garden. 

    Keeping an eye on soil temperature

    I've read a few sniffy articles about raised beds - suggesting that they don't really make a difference to soil temperature. I've found the opposite. I'm a big fan of raising soil levels up a bit for fruit and veggies for a few reasons. Firstly, my raised vegetable beds get a good dose of farm manure, leaf mould and garden compost spread over them. 'Steaming muck' is not a phrase for nothing! This decomposed / decomposing matter is, in my mind, essentially 'cooking' and therefore adding nutrients and also a little heat to proceedings. Secondly, if you have raised beds for the specific purpose of growing veg, or say, cut flowers, they really easy and manageable to cover. Putting the beds to sleep over the winter period, under a nice, thick piece of polythene will keep the temperature higher by a degree or two, which makes a big difference when sowing early spring veggies. Lastly, my raised beds are positioned within the confines of old, wooden scaffold boards, that have had a coat of paint. In our small, south facing front garden, the scaffold boards get warm, so it stands to reason that the soil inside them is enjoying some of that transferred heat. Depending on your position, flat beds might not be right for you. If you want to maximise the sun rays, consider sloping the beds, like you would a deckchair or sun lounger! Alternatively, add a cloche or make a cold frame to warm things up. 

    Microclimates

    Walled garden of LlanerchaeronRemember that even in a teeny, weeny garden or outdoor space, you can have lot going on in terms of temperature and microclimates. Different microclimates are not a bad thing - they provide diversity for your planting, wildlife and your enjoyment. Just don't get caught out by them. For example, just because the entire garden has enjoyed a really good drop of rain, it doesn't mean that the whole garden is now sufficiently watered. Natural slopes or areas sheltered by walls may have received very little, despite the downpour. My two dwarf apple trees provide another good example of these gentle differences. They are just a few metres a part, but one receives about 1 - 2 hours extra morning light per day. The tree sat in the sunnier spot has noticeably more fruit, which is also ever so slightly more mature than it's neighbour. More sun, more growing time, more blossom, more pollination, more fruit. Simple really. Nature has it all sussed. Sometimes in our haste and busy lives, we miss the obvious stuff that you only really see when you slow down a little. Places like the walled gardens of Llanerchaeron offer that perspective and remind you that nature knows what its doing. All we have to do is learn the signs. 

    Notes & resources: 


    A Tale of Trees - A book that will make you want to plant a tree, or five, immediately. August 15, 2017 12:15

    local woodland seen through fresh eyesConfession time. Late last year, I bought my Dad a copy of A Tale of Trees by Derek Neimann for his birthday, safe in the knowledge that I would be shortly 'borrowing' that book back to enjoy myself. Shameless, but true. 

    Generous to a fault, I did let him read it first, only to snatch it out of his mitts the moment it became available. And I have to tell you about it, because along with The Garden Awakening by Mary Reynolds, this book has left a lasting impression. 

    A Tale of Trees charts the demise and near destruction of Britain's ancient woods. Candid and with good humour, the author draws you deeper and deeper into the plot; involving a hungry, postwar Britain, a farming community under pressure to feed the nation and a small, disparate band of government departments, charities, community groups and conservationists, all working with the best of intention, but often under false pretences. 

    Don't be fooled by the unassuming size of this book - it packs a punch. Like all good dramas, it is full action and the story is told at a pace. Within one paragraph you can be transported from Kent's coppiced woodland to the firs and pines of the Scottish highlands. At times, I wanted to grab a map, just to see where I was. And I'll be honest, I felt a little like Martin Freeman's Watson when Sherlock Holmes was trying to explain the findings of his 'mind palace' - mouth open and slightly stupid, in dire need of a few pictures.  

    Towards the end of the book, just when you think that the woodland is safe, it's plight finally understood; the delicate balance that is needed for it to prosper; the absolute need for man and wood to work together, to create the right conditions for so many of our native woodland flowers, birds & butterflies, at just that moment, a cruel twist, carried on the winds of the Far East, casts an even darker shadow. 

    At this point, I wanted to run outside, dig up the garden and start sowing acorns. This book gets you by the guts and your response is equally visceral. You want the hero, the ancient woodland, to survive and I for one, feel moved to do something about it, no matter how small.

    A Tale of Trees is an enlightening read about one of our most precious, treasured habitats. It is a call to action. It is a generous gift; patiently imparting a deeper understanding of our woodland and countryside. And it is an ultimately hopeful tale, told with a good dose of humour and compassion for every party involved. 

    Resources & Further Info


    Death of the Deckchair? August 11, 2017 18:21 2 Comments

    deckchair Nope, we're not branching out into some weird, horror movie involving scary, carnivorous deckchairs. But, it was a question I was asked this week on BBC Radio Kent. Ooh, get me! 

    The interview was prompted by a recent report that appeared in the Telegraph, highlighting the decline in deckchair rentals across UK beaches. 'Phased out' is the expression they used (boo) as councils opt for the continental sun lounger over the traditional British deckchair.

    Ah, I can't help it, this news makes me sad! For one thing, how can you possibly eat your chips, drink a glass of wine (out of a plaster beaker, obvs) and keep the travel rug over your knees in a force five gale while lying on a sun lounger?! Those continental things are wonderful when the sun is high, the temperatures are in their thirties, and quite frankly, the most sensible thing to do is to lie down. But Margate isn't the Med, is it?! The last fortnight has been downpour after downpour. In August!! You can't throw your eyes to the air, transport your sun lounger to the shed or summerhouse and crack open the malbec. But you can with a deckchair. And therein lies their magic. They are portable party lovers, great for a gathering whenever the opportunity arises. 

    One of my strongest memories from my childhood is my grumpy old grandad sat in a deckchair on Dymchurch beach. Fully kitted out in a tweed suit and flat cap (like you do), absolutely steaming on one hot summer's day, back in the eighties. That's the special sauce that they hold. Deckchairs just make you smile. They hold memories of times with family and friends. Memories that may not even be yours, but sat in an old family album somewhere, of summer's spent at the coast. 

    Most of us have a habit of valuing what is no longer readily on tap. And, as councils opt for loungers over deckchairs, you may find yourself pining for that touch of nostalgia and comfort that comes with a good old deckchair. So, remember, this summer, when the sunshine does finally come out, go to the beach and rent a deckchair. Otherwise, there will come a time when this is no longer possible. And, if you are organising your own celebration, you can hire a deckchair from us :)  


    Wildfowl & weddings at Elmley Nature Reserve August 07, 2017 19:30

    deckchair hire at elmley nature reserveIsn't it amazing how you can live with someone for YEARS and still find out something new? When I mentioned that I needed to disappear for an hour to collect deckchairs from the wedding of a really lovely couple that had taken place at Elmley Nature Reserve this weekend, up piped the husband, 'Oh I love Elmley, I studied bird migration there for my final dissertation at uni'.

    Er, love Elmley? Not once has that man uttered a syllable about this place before. And as for bird migration -  since when did that become a specialist subject?! Honestly. 'Do you fancy coming with me?' I said nonchalantly, hoping that he'd come along to do the donkey work. 'Yep, that would be great'. Get in. 

    Weddings at Elmley nature reserveSo, off we went. What a place to get married. Driving to Elmley across from our little part of Kent is a reminder of what a beautiful, diverse county we live in. Rolling countryside and the sprawl of nearby towns morphs effortlessly into wild marshland, rich with native and visiting birds. Large fresh water habitats sit alongside the vast expanses of salt marsh and mudflats of the Swale. The result is fiesta time for waders and wildfowl, who literally come in their droves for a little R&R of their own. Cattle gently mooch across the marshes; their grazing helping to keep grasses at an optimum level for visiting birds. It's pretty magical stuff.

    This sense of balance extends to the wedding venue itself - the barn is set in the middle of the wilderness, offering breathtaking views across the marshes. Head out from the barn and you'll find yourself in a grassed walled garden; the perfect place for a party, and later, as the evening progresses, a fire pit or two, to keep you warm and toasty. 

    Nature trails and hides offer a great way to enjoy this very special place, which is open throughout the summer months. We're planning to head back with our own little wildlings very soon. 

    For more information or to plan your trip, please visit: www.elmleynaturereserve.co.uk


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