Decoration, Garden Design, How To, Lotti, Make over, Sail Shades

Sail shades are one of the most versatile ways to add shade to your garden. You can use them in lieu of an awning or gazebo, to create temporary or permanent shading. You can pair multiple sails together for an eye-catching centerpiece or simple to extend the shelter. With so many shapes and sizes on offer, it can be daunting to know where to start. So we’ve gathered a few inspirational shade sail setups to put you on the right track.
sail shade inspirational layouts
Pair square and triangular shade sails to keep a wider area completely covered – great for keeping decks and patios shady and dry. Mix and match colours for a stylish final look.

gazebo sail shade layout

This modern alternative to a traditional gazebo is a stylish way to cover larger areas. Use a combination of sail shade poles and matching sized triangles.

porch sail shade

Keep a patio or deck covered with a rectangular shade sail and posts. Perfect for creating a porch area that’s cool in the summer and dry in the winter.

patio triangle sail shade

Make a place for rest and relaxation on your patio with triangular sail shades. Criss-cross a pair of different sizes for a stylish alternative to an awning on a patio or deck.

event sail shades

Combine several shade sails for true versatility, perfect for large outdoor events like weddings and festivals. Mix-and-match a variety of shapes and sizes to cover a wider space – the only limit is your imagination!

playhouse sail shades

You can even finish off a summerhouse or playhouse with a shade sail or two so you can keep cool and dry while enjoying your garden. Use existing structures to keep your shade sails taught and save money on fixtures and fittings.

For more information, read our full fitting guide or watch the video below.

Jenny at PrimroseLotti works with the Primrose Product Loading team, creating product descriptions and newsletter headers.

When not writing, Lotti enjoys watching (and over-analyzing) indie movies with a pint from the local craft brewery or cosplaying at London Comic Con.

Lotti is learning to roller skate, with limited success.

See all of Lotti’s posts.

Decoration, Lotti

For thousands of years, people have been using the power of the wind: from billowing sails giving voyagers a chance to explore the world to simple weathervanes which let people predict incoming weather. Today, you’re more likely to head over to the Met Office website to find out if you need to bring an umbrella or hop on a plane when it comes to crossing the ocean, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not putting the wind to good use. As I sit at my desk and write this, 10% of the electricity being used across the UK is generated by the power of the wind. Around the UK, we’ve got 8,930 wind turbines spinning away so we can enjoy cleaner, renewable energy. With a total capacity of around 19.2 gigawatts, our 8930 wind turbines are enough to boil a kettle for a cup of tea over 10 million times!

Most of us don’t have a wind turbine in our garden and unless you’re a dedicated skydiver you probably don’t need to pay too much attention to which way the wind is blowing. That hasn’t stopped gardeners and designers around the world from incorporating the wind into their landscapes – from gently tinkling wind chimes to pond-side windmills. The most popular, however, is the wind spinner. These amazing kinetic sculptures are now more fashionable than ever thanks to the wide range of styles available and the way they lend themselves to both highly structured, contemporary gardens as well as more traditional lawns. Not only do wind spinners make amazing focal points in any garden, they’re also popular for their relaxing, almost hypnotic effect when spinning at full speed.

Wind spinner history

So where have these magical ornaments come from, and why are they so popular? Also known as Whirligigs, from the Middle English words whirlen (to whirl) and gigg (top), it’s hard to place exactly how far back people have been enjoying their spinning sails. The first English-Latin dictionary written in 1440 described the “whyrlegyge” as a child’s game: demonstrating this unique art form’s humble origins. These enigmatic pieces have a foggy history, but it’s generally assumed that they were invented by farmers or sailors who made their trade from windmills and weathervanes before exploring these projects on a miniature level.

For many years whirligigs were children’s toys, and weren’t all powered by wind. They could also be propelled through friction or string and the most popular were “button” whirligigs, also known as buzzers thanks to the noise they made when spinning. These simple toys would be made from a button or even a coin or piece of bone with one or two holes in the centre, through which string would be threaded and the whirligig spun.

String powered whirligigs more closely resemble modern spinning tops, and would be made to spin by wrapping string around the shaft of the toy then quickly pulling it away. Friction powered whirligigs, also known as a gee-haw whammy diddles, consist of two wooden sticks, one with notches cut into the side and a propellor or sails attached to one end. The toy works by rubbing the second stick up and down the first, over the notches, which generates enough energy to spin the propeller.

One of the the earliest European depictions of a whirligig in action is thought to be from a medieval tapestry which shows a small child holding a stick with four bladed propellers on one end and a hobby horse on the other. An oil painting by the artist Hieronymus Bosch dated between 1480 and 1500 shows a child walking with a frame and holding a paper whirligig in one hand. Art historians have debated for years on the identity of the child, but one critic claims that he represents the foolhardiness of those who had chosen to reject Christ’s teachings. In the 16th Century, whirligigs and windmills were often carried by fools and were sometimes used to represent ignorance and “loose living”. Two further paintings by Bosch show a hideous devil tormenting St. Anthony with the spinning toy pinned to his robe and another shows a child playing with a spinner, complacent about the struggle of Christ and the cross.

Child with Pinwheel and Toddler's Chair
Hieronymus Bosch – Child with Pinwheel and Toddler’s Chair

It’s not all bad, however, as several paintings from the 1500s explicitly depict Christ as a child playing with string-powered whirligigs, showing the popularity of the toy and the ever-shifting face of 16th century symbolism. This iconic toy – for it was rarely seen as more than a child’s play-thing – made its way into woodcuttings and images from the 1400s to the late 1500s as a tell-tale sign of childhood. It represented fickleness, the flighty infant who “turns with every breeze”.

Virgin and Child in a Landscape
Jan Provost – Virgin and Child in a Landscape

While the earliest whirligig toys were popular in Europe, they’re now more closely associated with American folk art. Early American craftspeople perfected the art of the whirligig as it moved from being a simple toy to being a garden ornament that the whole family could enjoy. It’s speculated that whirligigs first found popularity as bird scarers – a miniature windmill or weathervane could be easily constructed and placed in a garden or field to scare away pesky birds even in a gentle breeze. These fairly utilitarian objects became smaller, more decorative, and soon transformed into something else entirely: the whirligig as we know it today.

No one is too sure when the humble weathervane evolved into the more popular whirligig and took over the American consciousness. Upon his return from the Revolutionary War, George Washington brought home “whilagigs” as gifts for his loved ones – although what sort of spinners these were no one is sure. In 1820, Washington Irving described a whirligig depicting a “little wooden warrior” battling against the wind on the roof of a barn in his horror collection “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, and by the early 1800s these intricate features were being used to decorate homes and buildings.

Whirligigs were often brightly coloured and depicted moving, articulated scenes from everyday life, war or folklore. The most simple was designed to look like a bird, with a pair of wing-like propellers, so in the wind it would appear that the bird was flying. They could show women washing or working a spinning wheel, characters riding bicycles or chopping wood. Others looked like mermaids “swimming” in the breeze. The only limit to these colourful contraptions was the imagination of the craftsman.


The American whirligig had a boom in popularity again in the 1930s as a way for farmers and craftsmen to earn a living during the depression. Easily made with scrap materials, one could sell them on for a dollar – enough to feed a family for a day! One of the most popular kinds of whirligig at the time was the simple pinwheel, usually made from cheap celluloid. These more basic spinners paved the way for wind spinners which turned with the breeze but did not have a complex mechanism or depict a scene, unlike the traditional whirligig.

With the invention of more efficient ways to manufacture steel – especially lightweight stainless or powder coated steel – making complex wind spinners became far easier, and craftspeople stepped away from traditional whirligigs towards the more complex results that could be achieved with a modern wind spinner. This started a new phase in the kinetic art movement towards kinetic sculptures: huge spinners made from metal designed to twirl in such a way that makes them resemble an optical illusion, twisting and bending in ways that at first seem impossible.

The most famous kinetic sculpture artist is Anthony Howe, who builds both enormous and miniature creations designed to move in the wind. His work is fluid, hypnotic and organic – despite the stainless steel construction. These impossible-looking giants are famous around the world for their precisely coordinated movements and innovative design which means they can perform even in strong winds.

Howe’s incredible work was even showcased in the 2016 Rio olympic opening ceremony, where one of his sculptures took pride of place as the olympic cauldron. During the olympics, it wasn’t wind that powered the slowly spinning sculpture but heat that caused the sails to move.

Anthony Howe – Lucea

While dramatic spinners are cropping up in galleries and garden shows all around the world, smaller ones are making their way back into gardens where a twenty-foot spinner might be a little impractical. These pieces combine modern techniques and forms with a long and colourful history to produce innovative garden art that feels both contemporary and traditional at the same time.

Jenny at PrimroseLotti works with the Primrose Product Loading team, creating product descriptions and newsletter headers.

When not writing, Lotti enjoys watching (and over-analyzing) indie movies with a pint from the local craft brewery or cosplaying at London Comic Con.

Lotti is learning to roller skate, with limited success.

See all of Lotti’s posts.

Dakota Murphey, Decoration, Gardening Year, How To, Make over

If you need more space in your home but an extension or a loft conversion is out of the question, how about putting a log cabin in your garden? Garden buildings have come a long way since the ‘outbuildings’ of old. Contemporary garden rooms can be designed exactly to your specifications and to meet whatever requirements you may have. From teenage den to guest suite, music studio to home office, it all becomes possible with the help of a good builder.

Here are just a few examples of how your new garden studio office might look:

garden office

home office building
Image Source: Whitehead Builders

log cabin

outdoor office
Image Source: Home Building

If you’re thinking of a garden office, this can be a clever and cost effective way to extend the usable space in your home, while adding interest by making use of your home’s natural surroundings. What’s more, a professionally designed and installed garden office will look fantastic and add value to your home too.

However, when it comes to specifying your new home office, there are some key decisions that need to be made at the outset to ensure that your log cabin offers the home comforts you need for all-year use.

1. Insulation

As a starting position, all garden buildings that are designed for year-round use need to be fully insulated. When you specify your garden office, make sure you choose a twinskin log cabin which comes with cavity filled wall insulation, as well as full roof and floor insulation.

Standard levels of insulation provide a better thermal performance than you would find in a mobile home, while upgraded insulation levels are comparable to those of a modern brick-built house. Once insulated, the walls of your log cabin garden office can be the equivalent thermal value of a solid wall, which is much thicker.

2. Heating

Even with high levels of insulation and double glazed windows in your garden building, chances are you will need additional heating to keep warm during the colder months. There are several heating options.

  • Wall mounted electric convector heaters are the traditional choice
  • Wall mounted electric infrared heating panels are energy efficient as they don’t heat unnecessary space
  • Underfloor heating is unobtrusive and space saving
  • Wood burning stoves can be fitted to an outside wall for a natural solution and real fire comfort
  • Fully fitted air conditioning can be used to provide heat in the winter months
  • Standalone oil filled radiators or electric fan heaters can be wheeled into position for extra flexibility

It makes sense to install a heating system with a programmable timer, so that you can control the temperature to suit the times that you are actually spending in your garden office. The latest systems come with smartphone app controls, which may be useful.

3. Ventilation

British summers can be hot, and usually when you least expect it! Some form of ventilation is recommended to keep the temperature comfortable, so make sure your garden office design takes account of this.

  • Glass panels can look very stylish in a contemporary garden building, but don’t forget to include an opening window in the room design to keep their airflow circulating
  • If you wish to avoid the clutter of a desktop or floor standing electric fan during the summer, think about a ceiling mounted electric fan that can be switched from the wall.
  • For full comfort throughout the year, whatever the outside temperature may be, air conditioning systems can be fitted.

4. Natural light and shade

Maximising natural light is the holy grail of many interior designers. And what could be nicer than having a garden office where light floods in through large expanses of glass? Using insulated glass panels in your home office design will provide plenty of light while blurring the boundaries between indoors and the natural environment on the outside.

That said, you may also need to make provisions for shading to screen your eyes from the intensity of direct sunlight and to cool down. If you work with as computer screen, the sunlight reflecting onto the screen can be very uncomfortable and cause long-term eye strain.

Think about where the log cabin is situated in your garden. Positioning your home office near a deciduous tree means that the leaves will shield you in the summer but not block out valuable winter light. Consider the design of the building too; deep eaves will offer a degree of natural shading.

Of course, fitting window blinds (or even curtains) to your garden office is a simple trick you shouldn’t miss. Whether you go for Venetian blinds, pleated or blackout roller blinds such as these ones, there’s no shortage of choice to give your building the right degree of shade. For a top end solution, look out for double glazed window designs that come with Venetian blinds fitted within the glass panes.

5. Electric lighting

Your home office will come fitted with standard electrics, and lighting is typically installed in the form of track spot lights or downlighters set into the ceiling to provide a general level of artificial light. Among garden building designers and customer alike, LED lighting has become an increasingly popular choice to provide good quality and energy efficient ambient lighting.

In addition, you may need to consider specific task lighting to aid your work. Depending on the amount of detail incorporated at the garden room design stage, task lighting can be built in – perhaps as a pendant light over a sitting area, wall-mounted picture lights or outside entrance lighting.

If you’re not sure how exactly the room will be configured, why not add more power point to provide flexibility later on? Then, when it comes to furnishing your home office, standalone lamps or desk lighting can be added as required.

6. Data cabling

Finally, in addition to wiring for power and light, it is essential that your garden office’s IT connectivity requirements are fully covered. Tapping into your home wireless network may not be the best solution. Very often, your computer’s WiFi reception may be patchy, particularly if your home router is in the main building and high levels of insulation in the garden office disrupt the signal.

Specifying data cabling when you order the design of your log cabin garden office will give you a much more reliable service when you need it most. You will need data connections for telephone, broadband and possibly TV too. You may also wish to consider cabling for alarms and entry systems, so you can answer the front door or gate when you’re in the office at the bottom of the garden, and to protect your garden building from intruders.

Dakota Murphey

Dakota Murphey is an independent content writer who regularly contributes to the horticulture industry. She enjoys nothing more than pottering around her gardening in the sunshine. Find out what else Dakota has been up to on Twitter, @Dakota_Murphey.

Decoration, Gardens, Lotti, Water Features

Today, if you want to make a statement in your garden you might invest in a koi pond, a gazebo or a particularly large water feature. But hundreds of years ago, the garden was far more than just the patch of grass at the back of your house, and the aristocracy were keen to show off just how much money they could spend on the acres of land surrounding their estates.


Let’s say you’ve decided to buy a fountain for your garden. You head over to Primrose to see what sort of classical tiered fountains we’ve got on offer. You pick a few out…then you notice something. No, you think, it’s an illusion – just a trick of the light – so you open a few tabs for a better look and, yes, there it is: a pineapple, bold as day, sat atop a fountain. Sat atop several fountains, in fact. Some are a little more pineapply than others, but there’s a whole range of water features finished with this prickly plant.

pineapple water feature

So…why? A pineapple of all things seems a particularly random choice when it come to water feature architecture. The pineapple, however, has a rich history both inside the house and out on the lawn, which makes it one of garden’s most enduring icons.

Pineapples were first introduced to European shores after Christopher Columbus stumbled upon them in the 1400s. He brought them back to Spain where this strange, sweet fruit became an instant hit – but was virtually impossible to grow properly in Europe. The only sure-fire way to get your hands on a pineapple was to purchase one that had been imported across the ocean. This wasn’t only expensive, it was also time consuming, and fruit regularly arrived somewhat worse for wear after months at sea.

This didn’t put people off, however, and by the 1700s a pineapple craze had swept Europe. Engineers and architects in England and the Netherlands were building specialist hothouses designed to mimic tropical climates so they could grow pineapples themselves, but the process was costly and could take years. The skyrocketing demand for the odd fruit meant that they were extraordinarily expensive, and only the most wealthy members of society could afford them.

Charles II with pineapple
Charles II being presented with the first pineapple grown in England

The pineapple very quickly became synonymous with opulence and money. Hosts of lavish parties would amaze their guests by bringing out trays of pineapples, and you could even rent a pineapple for your party (for the small fee of around $8000 today). Of course, a rental pineapple was not for eating; just for showing off how fabulously rich you were. This rent-a-pineapple scheme was so popular that the same pineapple would often appear at several different parties, only being sold to consume once it had begun to rot.

While the richer echelons of society were spending thousands of dollars just to be in the presence of a pineapple for a single evening, those who could not afford the fruit had their own ways of celebrating it. Pineapples were printed on fabric napkins, carved into furniture and even made their way into wallpaper. There were pineapple plates, pineapple teapots and pineapple china.

Architecture of the time was also affected by the pineapple’s boom in popularity, and it became a common finial on gates, columns and of course: fountains. While today the pineapple isn’t as fashionable as it once was, it had a huge impact on classic architecture and design and so still carries with it a feeling of opulence.

The Garden Folly

Is your garden enormous and you’ve got plenty of cash to burn? Then why not invest in a garden folly – a garden extravagance popular in the 18th Century. So named because they were seen as foolish due to their cost and size, follies were ornamental buildings built within gardens or on estates with no practical purpose.

The Temple of Modern Philosophy
By Parisette [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5 ], from Wikimedia Commons
A folly was built for pleasure alone – and while they were often designed to mimic Roman villas or monastic houses, they were purposefully built and regularly had an element of fakery to their construction. By the early 17th century, many houses were built near or around archaeological remains and having such ruins in your garden or on your estate was hugely fashionable, so the wealthy simply made their own. Follies were often highly decorative and represented the owner’s own personal eccentricities. Pyramids were popular, as well as castles and other fortifications. Gothic architecture was particularly in vogue, from tall towers to ruins covered in ivy. In the late 18th Century, inspiration was coming from the East and pagodas, bridges and even tents were cropping up across the countryside.

Not all follies were strictly ornamental, and many of them were used as rooms to take tea, admire one’s garden or even as hides for birdwatching (or hunting). When famine struck Ireland in the 1740s, famine follies began to spring up as wealthy landowners were keen to help starving farmers but felt that simply giving them money would be undignified. When another potato famine struck the country a century later, even more famine follies were erected. These projects were, essentially, useless – piers, gateways, roads to nowhere – but were a way to pay those who could no longer farm.

The Obelisk

So, let’s say you’ve decided to build a folly on one of your spare acres of land and you’re a big fan of the pineapple. Why not take a leaf out of the 4th Earl of Dunmore John Murray’s book, and combine the two?

Dunmore pineapple

The Dunmore Pineapple is an impressive building in Stirlingshire, Scotland, which was first built as a hothouse in which those prized pineapples could be grown. Murray left Scotland to take up the position of the Governor of Virginia, and it was only upon his return to the country that the enormous stone pineapple was added to the building. Today, the Dunmore Pineapple is widely regarded as one of the most ambitious and impressive follies and you can even rent it out as a holiday home.


You’ve got a pineapple on your fountain and a fake roman ruin at the bottom of your garden: so what now? Why not invest in your very own hermit for that added does of intelleculatism?

In Georgian Britain, it was the very height of fashion and entertainment to have a hermit living somewhere on your land. These ornamental hermits would remain in the grounds of a house or estate where they would dwell in a purpose-built hermitage or folly and pass out sage advice to your visitors.

Garden hermits would be encouraged to dress as a philosopher or druid, usually draped in robes with long, unkempt hair and beards. They would often be seen carrying around large, heavy books from which they would preach to dinner guests. Often, a hermit was expected to go unwashed and ungroomed and had to act sombre and introspective, embodying the 18th century obsession with the melancholy. Guests could gain entrance to a hermit’s residence where you would expect to find him living humbly, sat behind a desk with the key tools of his trade: an hourglass and skull (to remind his guests of time and mortality), a pair of glasses and a large book. If you couldn’t afford to pay a hermit to live in your garden, it wasn’t uncommon to leave a skull, book or hourglass outside a folly or other structure to give the impression that a hermit did live there but was currently otherwise occupied.

Hermits served a variety of purposes in the Georgian household staff. Some hermits wrote and memorised poetry while others might serve wine. Many hermits were immediately accessible to guests, answering their deep questions of philosophy, religion or morality or providing them with wisdom. Some would merely go about their business quietly and silently, designed to be observed from afar.

The job was incredibly popular and quite sought-after – if you agreed to the landowner’s often rather strange stipulations, you would be provided with food and living quarters as well as a small stipend. Charles Hamilton, in Painshill, once posted an advertisement looking for a man to live in the hermitage and temple on his estate for seven years in exchange for £700 (around £60,000 today) on the understanding that the successful applicant did not speak to anyone, leave the estate or cut his hair for the duration of the role. While this is an excellent example of the high premium that people were willing to pay for their own personal hermit, It’s not so good an example of Hamilton’s judge of character: three weeks later, the hermit he hired was found at the local pub and was swiftly removed from his post.


Let’s glance back a couple of hundred years to 1592 and travel across the sea to Denmark, where the tulip was becoming the flower of choice for the fabulously rich. In this year, Carolus Clusius, one of the most important botanists of the time, wrote the first book on tulip care and their popularity exploded. At one stage, Clusius’ personal garden was regularly broken into by fans of the iconic plant, who would steal his bulbs and raid his flowerbeds.


Tulip-mania (or tulpenmanie, in Dutch) continued into the 17th Century. Demand was at an all-time high as the flowers were unlike any seen in Europe before. The bright, intensely saturated colours were perfect for creating intense flower beds and soon horticulturalists and botanists were working to create a wider range of tulip variety – for example the white and red Rosen.

By 1623, 10 rare tulip bulbs would set you back around 12,000 guilders – more than the cost of an upmarket townhouse in the center of Amsterdam. The tulip boom, which had been started by the wealthy seeking extravagant gardens, was exacerbated by those trying to make a quick profit in what was quickly becoming one of the world’s first speculative markets. Soon, tulip bulbs were even being used as a form of currency, being traded for goods and land. Tulips were bought and sold by everyone, from the aristocracy to farmers, chimney sweeps or butchers.

And then, in 1637, the tulip market collapsed virtually overnight. Even the cheapest bulbs were far too expensive and speculators could no longer afford to continue buying and selling. Just like that, the trade vanished. But the tulip did not – and the bulbs worth hundreds of guilders had made their way into the soil at last, where they could grow.

Jenny at PrimroseLotti works with the Primrose Product Loading team, creating product descriptions and newsletter headers.

When not writing, Lotti enjoys watching (and over-analyzing) indie movies with a pint from the local craft brewery or cosplaying at London Comic Con.

Lotti is learning to roller skate, with limited success.

See all of Lotti’s posts.