Garden Design, Gardening, Make over, Outdoor Living, Uncategorized

As we enter the second lockdown of the year, our gardens and outdoor spaces come back into the spotlight. With shorter days and falling temperatures, it might seem like they’re done for the year – but that’s far from the truth. Getting outside is a key way to boost your mental health and get some exercise, even as we approach winter. Here are some top tips on how to make your garden as inviting in the winter and is it in the summer.     

Get Ahead Of Garden Maintenance

Gardening is great for mental and physical health, it can be physically demanding and it keeps your mind occupied. There is also something satisfying about setting a goal for the day and meeting it. These little wins are important when you can’t distract yourself by visiting friends and family and there is still plenty to do in the garden at this time of year. You don’t need a big space to keep your fingers green, and there are a lot of things you can grow on a balcony or in a windowsill. 

See our full list of November gardening jobs here.

Got a small space? – Find out how to get started with balcony or windowsill gardening.

Decorate for Christmas

In a year where a lot has been cancelled, there is one thing that never will be – Christmas. Celebrating may feel a bit out of place this year, but this is a time to focus on those relationships that have gotten us through,  let our hair down and enjoy ourselves.  A lot of people are decorating early to extend the festive season and end the year on a happy note. Why not join in the fun and deck your garden out with a festive display that will delight your neighbours and give you an oasis of festive cheer. 

Find the perfect decorations for your garden. 

Want to add the personal touch? –  We’ll show you how to make your own wreath this year.

Introduce Some Winter Interest Plants

Summer is the only time of the year where you can relax in a colourful garden, right? Of course not. The winter garden can be just as colourful and interesting as vibrant summer beds or trailing hanging baskets. This year the garden is the easiest to access space you have, so why not bring out its full potential in every season?  There are a lot of plants whose true colour only comes out when the rest of the garden has gone dormant. As leaves drop, colourful stems, textured bark and bright berries become more prominent. The effect is just like something you’d find on a Christmas card, and it makes your space unique

and relaxing – a great way to add a unique stamp to your space and bring it alive year-round.

Not sure what to plant at this time of the year? – Check out our guide here  or 

see all our favourite winter interest plants.

Create A Cosy Space

 

The patio is one of the best places to relax, but as we move closer to winter we often abandon it for central heating. This year, our need for more space should lead us to look at the patio in a new light. Can you relax outside when it’s cold? Of course, you can, and some of our top tips on how to get it right. 

Make it intimate – the key to getting that cosy feeling is to make space feel smaller. This is really easy to do with a balcony or courtyard, but if you have a larger garden use screens,  sail shades,   gazebos or arbours to section off the space and protect it from the elements. 

Add ambience – contrasting shadows and moving lights enhance the feeling of a small space. Add string lights or a fire pit or chiminea to the mix and space will instantly feel more relaxed. 

Heat it up – fire pits and chimineas bring atmosphere, but also heat to your space. If you don’t have the room or budget for one why not consider a heater. 

Accessorise –  The final touch is to add a few accessories to soften and fill the space. Throws and cushions are great for your garden furniture and outdoor rugs look wonderful if your patio of decking contrasts with the rest of your aesthetic.

Let us help you design your ideal cosy space here.

What are you doing in your garden this lockdown? let us know on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram

 

 

 

Current Issues, How To, Indoor, Indoor Plants

 

 With 40% of office workers expecting to remain working from home in 2021 the need to make our homes more suitable for this new way of working is important for our wellbeing and productivity. Creating an effective working environment in the home that doesn’t get in the way of the rest of your life can be a challenge, but it’s one that can be overcome in any home in a few simple steps. Here are our top tips for setting up a successful home office. 

Pick a Place With Natural Light 

 

Your space needs to be bright enough to see what you’re doing, but not too bright that it’s distracting. Setting up your workspace near a source of natural light is a great option, it increases productivity and is an effective way of boosting your mood. 

But don’t forget lamps –  towards the end of the year your working hours will likely be longer than the time the sun is out in full, and if you work in the evening or early morning your contact with natural light will be smaller. A great way to overcome this is to put a lamp near your workspace. A floor-standing lamp that is placed a bit away from your works station is the best option, but if you are on a budget or don’t have space, a table lamp or your room’s main light will work well enough. If you can, choose a cool-white bulb as they keep you more alert for longer whilst warmer lights can make you feel more sleepy. 

Separate The Space 

Creating a distinction between home and work is important for your mental health and well being. Your leisure and family time needs to be just that, and it is far too easy to want to check emails and take calls when your computer is on your sofa or in the bedroom. For those of us with a spare room, a dedicated home office is the best option, but for those with a busy family home or a small flat, this can be a bit more difficult. The number one rule should be to keep your home office as far away from the busiest part of the home as possible. If you have a busy, kitchen set up in the living room or vice versa. Try to find somewhere where you can physically separate, but a quiet corner will do just as well.

But I like background noise – a lot of people have grown used to the bustle of a busy office and need it to focus. The temptation can be to turn on the TV and have it running in the background, but this can be fatal to your productivity. We are more easily distracted by visual things, so if you need background noise consider a radio instead. 

Add Houseplants

Houseplants, especially air-purifying ones are an important addition to your home working space. They bring all the benefits of a garden indoors and with climbing and tall plants available they are a viable option for all sized spaces. Houseplants also:

  1. Reduce stress
  2. Increase productivity
  3. Make the place more attractive 
  4. Clean the air and reduce noise

Even one or two plants can improve your space. Find a houseplant that works for you and enjoy a better environment.

Get a Good Chair

Back pain and bad posture will affect concentration, blood pressure and general health. The chair you sit on for 40 hours a week is very important to your life overall. A good office chair should offer back support, be comfortable and be high enough to put your feet flat on the floor whilst sitting

Take Breaks 

47% of employees have reported a decrease in breaks taken during the workday. When you’re home already it can feel unnecessary to take time out to recharge and relax, but a whole day of uninterrupted work will most likely lead to less productivity and an increase to stress. Take the time out to make a hot drink and relax.      

We’d love to see how your working from home. Let us know on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram!

 

Flowers, Gardening, Grow Your Own, How To, Plants

How-to-grow-sweet-peas

Highly versatile, and gracing gardens with their beautiful flowers and divinely rich scents, the Sweet Pea (Lathyrus odoratus) is quite understandably a quintessential annual plant. For every garden, there is the perfect sweet pea; you can choose from flowers ranging from lilac to plum in colour, and can even opt for a dwarf variety if you don’t wish to provide support. Primed for the beginner gardener, read on to understand how to grow flourishing sweet peas.

How to Plant Sweet Peas

Sweet peas can be grown from seed in both autumn and spring; although if you are sowing them in autumn, it is wise to grow them in a location that is sheltered from the frost. 

As you would for most annual plants, sow your seeds in 9cm pots (or a tray if you prefer), and use a peat-free compost. We do believe that a tall pot is best, as their added depth is optimal for the roots.

Once sown, your sweet peas are best stored in either a greenhouse, warm windowsill, or cold frame. One aspect that gardeners find appealing about sweet peas is that they will germinate very easily. However, you can nick the seeds to provide an added boost. This is done by delicately making a cut on each seed. The cut should be shallow enough to resemble a light graze, but deep enough to allow the water to penetrate the seed. As long as you don’t harm the structures beneath the seed’s coating, you can nick with either a knife or nail file.

After any risk of frost has passed, your sweet peas can be safely planted in your garden. Nonetheless, we advise that you harden them off for up to two weeks to accustom them to the less predictable conditions. 

Depending on your preference, you may wish to pinch out your young sweet pea plants. Some believe that this can hinder the size of the bloom, while others are convinced that it allows for bushier growth and prolific flowering. If you are unsure, why not pinch out the tips of some sweet peas, and leave the rest to grow naturally?

How to Care for Sweet Peas

How-to-grow-sweet-peas

Come spring when the weather begins to warm up, any sweet peas grown from seed can now be grown outdoors. Whether you are planting in pots, or into your garden’s beds, we encourage you to use a rich, water retentive potting compost (ideally a mix of both rich potting and loam-based compost). Make sure you firm down the soil once your sweet peas have been planted, but be gentle, as you could otherwise prevent their roots from properly growing.

Do sweet peas need support?

Because of their vining habit, the majority of sweet pea plants will need support. Dwarf varieties, such those belonging to the ‘Cupid’ series, are an exception to this rule. Typically growing to no more than 30cm tall, they can be grown in low troughs, and even be used as a bedding plant. Why not plant them in a hanging basket for a floriferous display?

Before you plant out your sweet peas, you should have their support readily set up. You can support your sweet peas by making a wigwam out of bamboo canes. However, to allow for straight stems (which are desirable if you want cut flowers), you should have bamboo cane that is positioned at a 90 degree angle. 

As sweet peas grow vigorously, you should tie them to their support every few days. Using a piece of regular string, tie a double knot around the cane. From the remaining string, gently tie your sweet pea to the cane, and secure with another double knot. Try to rescind any side shoots that emerge, as this enables the plant to leverage greater energy into their stem. 

You should repeat these steps throughout their growing season, and provide plenty of generous waterings. 

Do sweet peas need full sun? 

To really thrive, sweet pea plants will need full sun or light dappled shade. Due to being perfect for pots, you’ll have more freedom in where they can be grown; better enabling you to provide a sunny site. 

Do I need to deadhead sweet peas?

To enhance the flowering of your sweet peas, you should remove any spent flowers. Try to do so before any pods of seeds have formed, as these will encourage the plant to conclude flowering. 

Using Sweet Peas as Cut Flowers

How-to-grow-sweet-peas

As long as you adopt the cordon method, your sweet pea plants will offer an abundance of cut blooms. Aside from being highly perfumed, their vibrant, frilly petals will look stunning in a bouquet or vase. As such, they’ll make pretty indoor accents, and thoughtful gifts for loved ones. 

To keep your sweet peas looking their best, you should replace the water in their vase once a day, and cut their stems once every two days. Why not begin growing a mix of varieties now to enjoy a colourful bouquet come summertime? 

Growing Sweet Peas: Common Questions

Before you begin growing your sweet pea plants, the following questions may spring to mind:

Do sweet peas self seed?

Annual plants, sweet peas will die after setting seed. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean you can’t keep the seeds they produce. Simply bring the pods indoors and collect the seeds. Allow them to dry for a few days, and transfer to an airtight container to keep moisture out. 

Do sweet peas grow peas?

Although their name implies this, the pods that sweet peas form are not the same as the pods you see on a runner bean for example. It is important to know that the seed pods on a sweet pea are poisonous so must not be consumed. 

Are sweet peas poisonous to dogs?

Sweet peas contain a chemical called ‘aminopropionitrile’, which eventually causes ‘lathyrism’ (a condition developed by ingesting seeds from the Lathyrus genus). The symptoms can affect humans and animals, so you should keep your sweet peas out of reach from children and pets. 

Are Sweet Peas available as a perennial?

Yes, typically in the form of plug plants, but many gardeners still prefer growing annuals because their flowers are more fragrant. The flowers of a perennial Sweet Pea have a scent that is much less noticeable. 

Flowers, Gardening, Grow Your Own, How To, Plants

How-to-grow-Calibrachoa

Presenting vivid displays of intricate blooms that last until the first frost, Calibrachoa (Million Bells) is a favourite amongst gardeners for keeping their outdoor spaces beautiful. Aside from being available in a range of shades, the cascading habit of this bedding plant makes it perfect for filling raised beds, hanging baskets, and containers. Wonderful for the beginner gardener, read on to discover the best tips on how to grow Calibrachoa.

Growing your Calibrachoa 

How-to-grow-Calibrachoa

Depending on how much time and effort you are willing to sacrifice, you can either grow your Calibrachoa from seed, or purchase it as a young plug plant

Growing from Seed

An affordable way to introduce floral interest into your garden, growing Calibrachoa from seed won’t require any equipment that you don’t already have (a windowsill is perfectly sufficient). As long as you can provide the right conditions for your plants, you’ll be able to enjoy a flourishing display come summertime. With germination very easy, Calibrachoa is the perfect choice for a beginner gardener; the time between sowing and blooming spans as little as four months!

  • Fill an 8cm pot or half-size seed tray with compost, and smooth out the top with a flat-edged wooden block.
  • Gently tap the container, and firm down the soil. This will create an even base of fluffy compost.
  • Sprinkle a small layer of vermiculite over the compost, and thinly distribute your Calibrachoa seeds.
  • Provide them with a good watering, and move the container to a sunny windowsill. 
  • Try to keep the temperature above 20 degrees. Anything below this can prevent your seeds from germinating. Covering their container with a layer of cling film will help sustain this optimal condition.
  • It takes around 10 – 14 days for your Calibrachoa seeds to germinate. Once a stem with two small leaves has emerged, it’s safe to assume that germination has happened.
  • Now it’s time to  prick out your seedlings; which simply entails you planting them in a fresh container, ideally spaced one inch apart. If you prefer, you can assign each seedling their own individual pot. By this point, they will have reached a good enough size. 
  • You can prick out your seedlings by loosening their roots with a dibber, and carefully lifting them out of the soil. Take care to not handle them by their stem, as this can lead to bruising (which risks plant death).
  • Once your seedlings are around a month old, you can feed them with a starter solution/diluted fertiliser.
  • By this point, your seedlings are nearing the same stage of growth that a plug plant would be at. As such, the following steps are now applicable if you are growing Calibrachoa from shop-bought plug plants.
  • Before you plant your Calibrachoa in your garden, you should initially harden them off. This will accustom them to less predictable weather conditions and lower temperatures.
  • You can start by bringing them outside on milder days, and later opt for colder, breezier days. After around three weeks (and when there is no longer any danger of frost), they can safely be planted in your garden.

Planting Calibrachoa in your Garden

How-to-grow-Calibrachoa

A tender perennial, your Calibrachoa will appreciate a site with organically rich soil that is moist but free-draining. It is important that you select a site that receives full sun or light shade. However, if you live in a warmer area, a little more shade can actually make your Calibrachoa survive for longer. Make of this what you will, but if you live in the United Kingdom, we still advise that you select a site that experiences at least six hours of sunshine a day.

Once you have chosen your site, begin preparing the soil by removing any stones or clumps of grass with a rake. Supplement the soil with compost, or alternatively top-soil with around 1 -2 inches of organic mulch.  Dig a hole that is large enough to accommodate the size of their rootball, and carefully firm down the surrounding soil. Your Calibrachoa plants should be spaced no less than six inches apart, but no more than twelve. Finish off the job with a generous watering.

Caring for your Calibrachoa

How-to-grow-Calibrachoa

It is wisest to water your Calibrachoa in the morning, as this provides adequate time for the foliage to be dry in time for the evening; reducing the chance of disease. If possible, use a drip or trickle system which expels water at a low pressure near the soil.  The key is to keep your Calibrachoa’s soil moist, but never over-watered, as these perennials cannot cope with damp conditions. When new growth becomes visible, you can begin using a light fertiliser (too powerful a fertiliser can result in root-rot).

Conveniently, your Calibrachoa plants will drop any spent flowers naturally, and as such, you will not have to worry about dead-heading. Instead, simply enjoy the abundant display that your Calibrachoa has in store for the summer months.