Easy Christmas foliage

I love to create fresh arrangements at Christmas and what else is as timeless and decorative as a fireplace garland, a staircase garland and a table centre and what’s more as soon as Christmas is over it can all go on the compost heap and your room can return to normal.

I started creating at the start of December with my fireplace garland. I started with floral foam in nice deep trays, left over from when i’d done my evening class in floristry last year! I soaked the foam and left space so they can be watered generously throughout the month. With the amount of central heating most of us have on at this time of the year, without the water these arrangements will last about 2 weeks at best.

I then added foliage foraged from the garden which I used to cover the foam. I used privet, eucalyptus and a bit of holly which is the only foliage my garden has to offer at the moment! Note to self I need to plant more shrubs of various different foliage for this time next year!

After creating the basic greenery I then added battery operated LED lights and wired baubles which I could push into the foam. A couple of bows and some glitter stags and its done. I was tempted to add some longer stems and have a certain amount cascading down the front of the fireplace but seeing as our gas fire is a must in our quite drafty 1930s house, I thought it best not to create a fire hazard!

Next project was the staircase garland I created the following week. I will admit I started the project with an artificial garland I bought from The Range. I decided that getting floral foam in trays to sit neatly next to the banister was never going to happen so nipped off to the range in search of a suitably thick garland long enough for the banister and the newel post. Of course I had underestimated how ahead of the game you needed to be to get a choice! By the time I arrived in early December most had sold out and what was left could only be described as the dregs! Lucky for me there was one sad specimen left that was pre-lit but missing the plug! I didn’t want pre-lit so that was fine and they let me have it for £10! Once i’d uncoiled the lights the garland itself was pretty decent.

Using the artificial garland as a base i could then thread through eucalyptus and some faux white eucalyptus.

Adding lights, some white and silver baubles and white wired ribbon the job is done and my hallway looks festive, even though it hasn’t been decorated yet….a job for the new year!

The final job a week before Christmas is the table centre. Again i started with floral foam in waterproof trays, as I’m limited to the types of foliage I have in the garden at the moment, I started with an Aldi bouquet of Christmas foliage, a bargain for £4.99.

The bouquet had a nice selection of christmas tree, eucalyptus, holly and twigs, which i used as well as adding pivet from the garden.

Finishing off with baubles, candles and lights the job is done, if slightly big for its position!

The trouble is once you get started its very easy to get carried away adding foliage!

Oh well its all about being a bit extra! On Christmas day of course I may have to move it to actually fit plates and things on the table, but in the meantime I like it!

4 ‘Instaready’ locations for your day out in London

We have a tradition in our family that once we finish for Christmas we like to go to London to see the sights and get any last minute Christmas shopping of those unusual gifts you can’t pick up anywhere else.

Victoria train station on a December morning

This year as we have finished so late (for us) our trip seems so much later than normal, so we have pretty much done all our shopping however that’s not going to stop us we’ll just concentrate on the sights and the ‘instaready’ locations perfect to photograph.

Entry staircase to Somerset House and the Fortnum and Mason pop up shop

Since the summer we’ve been keen to visit the new Petersham nurseries shop in Covent Garden so this is our chance and bonus…. it’s going to be festive. We love the original in Richmond with its classic sandy floor and treasure trove of delights waiting to be discovered so I’m hoping the shop is the edited highlights.

Covent Garden in DecemberPetersham nurseries Covent Garden

As you can see it has all the classic elements of being Petersham albeit a bit smaller than I expected and also a bit too christmas, yes I know it is only 5 days to Christmas, but even so there were more decorations than anything else. There’s nothing else for it, we’ll just have to have another visit on the run up to Spring!Inside Petersham Nurseries Covent GardenFestive at Petersham Nurseries

Whilst we were in that area we did a quick walk down to the river for a mulled cider in Somerset House and into the Fortnum and Mason pop up. No time for ice skating this year but it’s lovely to see everyone else having fun.

A quick tube ride from Temple to Victoria and a short walk to Belgravia, admiring all the beautiful architecture and fast cars! we arrived at the ‘pink palace’

Peggy Porschen Cakes

I’ve been waiting to visit the Peggy Porschen shop for some pink delight for ages now and I wasn’t disappointed, you can see the shop from a distance as well as the queue to get in! to be fair though the queue was mainly of people wanting to get a selfie in the beautifully decorated doorway holding onto their delicious cup cakes. The weather was unseasonably mild for December so you could sit outside on one of their tiny tables which was a god job as there wasn’t much room inside, in fact it must be absolutely heaving in the summer.

What I didn’t realise was the shop was on the corner of a parade of lovely shops including the Joloves shop. Obviously we couldn’t resist dropping in there too to admire the styling and take in the scents.

We continued walking and within 5 or 10 minutes arrived at Sloane square so couldn’t resist a quick mooch along the Kings Road. We were pretty shattered by now so limited ourselves to a couple of our old favourites, Indian Jane and Anthropology.

We hadn’t realised that Neom have also opened a shop along there too.

So camera and phone full of images we headed home.

Creating our veg/flower plot

We’ve been growing veg for quite some time now but I’d been thinking for a while how lovely it would be to grow my own flowers to cut and bring into the house without ruining the look of the boarders. So as part of my planning I’d decided to have a veg plot with space for cut flowers.

The previous owners had cut out an area they had used for a veg plot, although it was only 18 months ago so still in need of quite a bit of attention. It was also a large unwieldy area which had already overgrown before we’d moved in.

We have plans to divide the large plot into smaller slightly raised beds which will be easier to keep under control. Around each individual bed we wanted gravel paths so you can get to all the plants from all sides.

To start this we firstly needed to clear the weeds! Then to level the area and make the raised beds. We used gravel boards from Wicks and tantalised timber to make the corner pegs to hold the beds in place.

Incorporated into this area we also wanted a greenhouse and potting shed which fitted into the scheme but didn’t dominate the area.

We planned the area carefully and set about creating it over quite a number of weekends.

We created the beds one at a time and started filling them with the plants I had started off in the temporary greenhouse.

I especially created one of the beds to be a dahlia bed containing as many different varieties of dahlia I could fit in.

Once we’d got started on creating and filling the beds we needs a greenhouse and toolshed to store all the garden tools. The greenhouse we were lucky to find on facebook. Someone locally was in the process of dismantling one and was offering it for sale for £50 so we jumped at the chance and bought it.

Levelling the area, we reassembled the greenhouse and had to buy a few new panels of glass but otherwise as good as new.

The shed we bought from shed store, as they had a choose your day delivery, which suited us to fit the delivery in around what we we doing.

We couldn’t resist creating a little seating area in front of the shed, for that all important cuppa whilst you are working!

Now we just need to paint the shed, membrane and gravel around and between all the beds and half the area can be considered ‘finished’ although there is no such thing as finished in the garden ?

New Garden Progress

Sorry to have been absent from my blog, I’ve been quite busy in the garden!

A quick update…..We exchanged and moved into the house on the planned date (after all the trials and tribulations of the purchase) and on the weekend we moved in, the heavens opened and it rained non stop for about 4 weeks. So no progress on the garden during the month of April but we did managed to decorate our study and get all our books and craft and hobby bits moved in.

I did manage to make room in our workshop, attached to the back of the garage, to get in all the bulbs and perennials I had planted up in preparation for the new garden. So for a good number of weeks the workshop (earmarked by hubby for all his tools) became a temporary greenhouse. I didn’t have very much choice about it but it probably wasn’t the best idea as the lack of enough light meant the plants started to get a bit leggy.

As soon as the weather picked up there was a real urgency to get beds prepared to get the plants in and growing properly. So we worked on 2 main areas of the garden, the part nearest the house is my white garden planned to have 4 beds set as a cross with slate chippings forming a path between.

Also the enormous veg plot was to be divided into individual raised plant beds to make the area more manageable.

Gravel board and treated timber, to make the corner pegs, was ordered and delivered along with a huge roll of heavy duty weed control membrane. We also hired a turf cutter to skim off the existing turf where the new beds were to be created.

The turf cutter cost around £100 to hire for the weekend and it was a godsend! It made the job of lifting all the grass so much easier and we were able to create turf rolls which we stored around the corner, out of the way, ready to use in the raised beds once all the grass had died off.

The process of removing the turf and digging over the 4 beds was a weekend job and had almost instant results. The heavy duty membrane was laid on the path area and we just had to make our mind up about colour before we ordered the slate chippings.

Finally we could get some of the plants we’d purchased and bought over from our old house planted up. We’d made a start and I felt at last we were making progress……..


Garden planning on a big scale

Still no exchange yet, but in the meantime we are busily planning our new garden. Hopefully 23rd March is still our completion day which means we will be in before our Easter holiday. That means we can hit the ground running preparing the ground so we have some results by the summer. Garden design, planning and planting is a long game requiring patience, but unfortunately I don’t have very much of that so I need to see some almost instant results.

One thing I know I’ll be having is a cut flower patch. Taking inspiration from recent trips to Aston Pottery in Brampton in Oxfordshire, just down the road from Emma Bridgewater’s house (she has a fab cut flower bed too) I am planning how much space I need and how much accessibility between the beds.

I have always grown flowers but always ‘within the garden’ the thought of cutting them would just make me think I’m ruining my garden ? Hence to have purpose beds where it will be designed to have the flowers cut, will be a novelty.

In preparation for this exciting area I am trawling all the shops in search of bargain summer flowering bulbs. My favourites are dahlias, lupins, delphinium just to name a few, which fortunately are very available and easy to grow. I thought if I can start with some common every day varieties I can always add unusual varieties later.

I have been keeping a diary of my purchases and have been planting them into troughs. They are too close to one another but the theory is, once I’ve prepared the bed I’ll be able to transplant them to the correct depth and spacing. At least they’ll have had a good start and I’ll be planting them at the small plant stage rather than the bulb stage.

Picking up packs of bulbs in the supermarket or garden centre is a low cost way of getting lots of bulbs together but nothing really can beat Wilko or Poundland, of course the proof of this bargain hunting will be evident when or if they flower!

However at this stage at £1 a pack it’s definitely worth a try.

I’ve also put together a wish list so that I can actively seek out the plants I really want.

For now, I’ll keep buying and building up my stocks, I’ve got a feeling even this many are not going to go very far in the space I have planned for them.

Whilst the garden is huge, we still need to plan it carefully to fit everything we want into it. This cut flower bed will go at the very end of the garden nearest to the farmers field so I can see it but at a distance.

The idea is, to make more beds in front of that one if more space is needed with a gravel path between each row.

Big plans…..let’s see if they work out

Making Plans for our new gardens

Since I last shared on my blog, things have moved very slowly towards ownership of our new house.

Our offer was accepted back in November, the valuation was done and mortgage was secured then came Christmas and everything ground to a halt. Come the New Year we had a couple of minor setbacks, one was about the additional parcel of land at the bottom of the garden (which is the reason we are buying the house anyway!)

It seems although the seller owned the land it hadn’t been fully transferred into his name with Land Registry so our mortgage company needs further checks. Also our buy to let mortgage, secured on on current house to release funds for the new house, had expired in early February. Due to a miscommunication between the solicitor and bank, but actually due to the banks error our application has been put on the cancelled pile! However as it was the banks error they have agreed to re-instate the application.

All that means we still haven’t exchanged, although hope to by the end of next week! Maybe!

We do however have a completion date arranged of the 23rd March so all being well we still hope to meet that. It is pretty essential as our temporary Monday to Friday rental finished at the beginning of March although the owner has agreed we can stay until 23rd, so there is quite a lot riding on this! Not least the prospect of being homeless in the week, or travelling nearly 1 1/2 hr each way every day!

Nevertheless we have made a start on planning that lovely garden and I’ve been buying all the bargain summer bulbs I can find ready for one of the big plans we have……

More news next time……..