New Flower Bed: Update

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It is hard to believe that it was way back in March when I wrote about planning two new flowers beds in the vegetable garden. I had to put the hours in digging over the beds and making preparations for the new additions but it seems to have paid off as the plants quickly filled out over the summer, as you can see from the picture above (taken in July).

Some plants have been real stars: the Geranium ‘Rozanne’ just goes on and on, clambering over the box ball and contrasting beautifully with the lime green of the Alchemilla mollis. The Helenium ‘Moerheim Beauty’ are still going strong too although I must remember to stake them next year as they are currently flopping all over the place!

Flower Bed - Update

As predicted there are a few tweaks that I’d like to make: the yellow flowers are possibly a little dominating (cue spending an unhealthy amount of time deliberating as to what the right shade of yellow would be instead) and I think the Heuchera ‘Marmalade’ might be better elsewhere as it doesn’t blend in especially well. I’ve also decided I’d quite like some asters as I have spotted some really striking ones when out and about recently and I think some more blue would work well.

All in all though, it’s been a good start to the makeover and I’m sure I’ll be back out with my spade before too long.

P.S. As you may have spotted, I’ve been nominated for an Amara Interior Blog Award which was a really unexpected-yet-lovely surprise. Voting runs until 3rd October so should you feel inclined you can vote for me here and can catch up on posts about my home and garden here. Thank you!

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Outdoor Lights

Rookery Barns

It was a while ago that I mentioned we were in the throes of trying to obtain planning permission for some alterations to the house and that our resident bats were causing a few hiccups along the way. Well, I am pleased to say that after having the ecological survey conducted and then drawing up a plan of action to mitigate any impact on the bats – a process which took a the best part of a year – we have finally got the green light from the council.

The work is too expensive and disruptive to do in one go so we’ve decided t0 phase it over the coming years; I’m therefore excited to report that Phase One (a.k.a. Rebuilding the Garage) starts next week. The damp, rotting, flat-roofed monstrosity with the broken door is finally going to be replaced by a beautiful oak framed building with a store room upstairs and a log store to the rear, not dissimilar to the one pictured above. Much of the detailing has already been finalised with the builders but I am in the process of hunting down some outdoor lights to go above the barn doors and side door (any excuse for a bit of interiors, or rather exteriors, shopping).

Here’s a few that have caught my eye:

Outdoor Lighting

  1. Nordlux Luxembourg Outdoor Copper Wall Light
  2. Davey LED Mastlight
  3. Garden Trading St. Ives Downlight
  4. Garden Trading St. Ives Ships Light
  5. Jim Lawrence Boathouse Wall Light
  6. Hunza Wall Down Light

Images: Rookery Barns, John Lewis, Davey Lighting, Garden Trading, Jim Lawrence, Moonlight Design

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Viva España

Andalucia Sunset
It’s lovely to be back blogging after the inevitable hiatus while the kids were on holiday. The summer seemed to whizz by which is probably testament to the fact the we packed so much in: we ventured to Spain with friends, Northumberland with family and had lots of fun closer to home in between. I’ve also been working on a much needed revamp of our bedroom and en suite which I am really looking forward to sharing here in the coming weeks.

Andalucia

Our fortnight in Andalucía was a definite highlight of the holiday. We stayed in the mountains inland from Estepona which afforded us peace and quiet (well, to a point given we had five kids in tow), stunning scenery and the chance to explore the charming whitewashed villages of Casares and Gaucín on our doorstep.

Gaucin

Apart from the odd trip to the beach, most of the days were spent poolside and the evenings involved either home cooked feasts or a trip out to a local restaurant. As a group of gluttons foodies we were spoilt for choice with what was on offer locally: we stocked up on white peaches, gazpacho, chorizo and manchego from the supermarket and dined out on delicious tapas, barbecued fish and roasted meats (all washed down with plenty of rosé). Suffice to say, we ate well.

Flowers & Olives

Despite being warm(ish) at the moment, it feels as though we’ve said goodbye to summer now that the kids are back at school and the garden is starting to take on the odd autumnal hue. I think we’re all relishing the return to a vaguely normal routine though and I’m looking forward to having the time to share lots of projects, updates and discoveries with you over the coming months.

Until next time…

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Peas from the garden

Pea 'Hurst Greenshaft'

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This year is the first time we’ve grown peas from seed and they’ve been a resounding success. Picking them has become a daily ritual in the last week or so and is especially enjoyable in the early evening when the sun starts to sink behind the hills and the pods are backlit: silhouetting the bounty within and highlighting the tendrils which coil their way around anything in their path.

We are making good use of the harvest in the kitchen; earlier this week I livened up some barley couscous with raw peas, lightly cooked broad beans, mint and feta which were lightly dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. Just perfect on a warm summer’s evening.

Barley Couscous with Peas & Broad Beans

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RHS Chelsea Flower Show: Part 2

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Slightly later than planned, but I’m back with Part 2 of my post about The Chelsea Flower Show: this time with my highlights from inside the Grand Pavilion.

With a vague threat of rain on the day, a lot of people spent the morning looking around the show gardens outside. Being contrary types, Mum and I decided to do the opposite and head indoors to enjoy the spectacular displays put on by various nurseries and specialist growers in relative peace.

After the spectacle of the show gardens, the Great Pavilion offers the chance to window shop and chat to the growers: we sought advice on deterring slugs from the the gentleman at the Bowdens Hostas stand (use WD40 on the sides of pots apparently), Mum had a mystery clematis identified and we swooned over the delicious smell of newly launched The Lady of the Lake rose at David Austin Roses.

For sheer charm though, The Peter Rabbit Herb Garden won me over; the judges were impressed too it seems as it was awarded a well-deserved Gold Medal. Replicating illustrations from the books, the garden was planted with a medley of culinary and medicinal herbs, heritage vegetables and cottage garden flowers; Peter himself nestled amongst the radish patch and his blue jacket was used as a scarecrow in the vegetable plot. Forget manicured lawns and prairie planting; I think this is garden we all secretly want to spend our days pottering in!

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It was nigh on impossible to come away from the show without a host of ideas for our own gardens: on my wishlist are the beautiful rose that I mentioned and the ethereal Silene fimbriata which would look beautiful in the shady woodland garden I’d like to create at the front of the house one day.

The Lady of the Lake & Silene Fimbriata

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Cable & Cotton

Cable & Cotton

When decorating my son’s room last year I bought a set of Cable & Cotton string lights to hang behind the armchair where he likes to sit and read; a little finishing touch that he was thrilled with as they look great and add a bit of interest. Since then my daughter has dropped the occasional (unsubtle) hint about getting some of her own, so when Cable & Cotton got in touch recently and offered to send me some to review, I knew exactly which room they were destined for.

I chose some string lights and decided to get creative with the ‘Pick your own’ option which allows almost endless colour combinations, although should you find yourself stumped there are pre-selected options available too. My daughter’s room is decorated in shades of aqua with the odd hint of pink and white so I opted for shades in Pale Pink, Pure White, Moss Green and Ice Blue: the online design tool cleverly divvies up the colours according to the number of lights you’ve chosen so you get an idea of how the finished string could look.

Assembling the string lights is pretty straightforward as it’s simply a case of pushing the individual fairy lights into the shades: thankfully the balls – which are made from cotton thread and natural gum – are surprisingly robust and were easily pushed back into shape when the odd dent occurred. In fact, I think the hardest bit was deciding what order to put the colours in so there was a fair amount of chopping and changing but the lights were none the worse for wear at the end of it.

Cable & Cotton - Assembly

Hung from a clear hook behind my daughter’s armchair they give off a gentle glow and cast twinkly shadows at night: another lovely finishing touch and hopefully an end to the heavy hints… for the time being anyway.

Cable & Cotton - Assembled

These lights were kindly sent to me by Cable & Cotton - all opinions are my own.

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RHS Chelsea Flower Show: Part 1

Chelsea 2014 - The Telegraph Garden by Tomaso del Buono & Paul Gazerwitz

The Telegraph Garden by Tommaso del Buono & Paul Gazerwitz

After watching the BBC coverage wistfully for the last few years, my Mum and I finally realised a little dream of ours this week and visited the The RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

It’s always a worry when you’ve built something up into being a Big Deal that it will somehow fall short of expectations but, despite the crowds, we had such a fun, inspiring day and came home buzzing with ideas for our own gardens, lists of plants to search out and a few thoughts as to how we might spend any future lottery win.

Whilst the TV coverage is great at showing you sweeping panoramic views of the gardens and providing interesting insights into the work of the designers and growers, what was brilliant about actually being there is having the time to take in all the detail: seeing the colours, textures and little touches close up gave real insight into what makes these gardens so beautiful.

Needless to say, I took a lot photos (many of which fall into the somewhat geeky ‘future reference’ category). Of those that are blog-worthy, here are some of my favourites from the Show Gardens, Artisan Gardens and trade stands.

Show Gardens

Chelsea 2014 - M&G Garden by Cleve West The M&G Garden by Cleve West

Chelsea 2014 - The Telegraph Garden - Tomaso del Buono & Paul Gazerwitz

The Telegraph Garden by Tommaso del Buono & Paul Gazerwitz

Chelsea 2014 - The Laurent-Perrier Garden by Luciano Giubbilei The Laurent-Perrier Garden by Luciano Giubbilei

Artisan Gardens

Chelsea 2014 - The Topiarist's Garden by Marylyn AbbottThe Topiarist’s Garden by Marylyn Abbott

Chelsea 2014 - The DialAFlight Potter's Garden by Nature Redesigned

Chelsea 2014 - The DialAFlight Potter's Garden by Nature Redesigned

Chelsea 2014 - The DialAFlight Potter's Garden by Nature RedesignedThe DialAFlight Potter’s Garden by Nature Redesigned

Trade Stands

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Alitex

Chelsea 2014 - Willie Wildlife SculpturesWillie Wildlife Sculptures

To avoid Chelsea-overload I’ll leave it there for now but I’ll be back soon with some of my highlights from the Great Pavilion.

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Willow & Hall

bayf_angle_dressed_1_1Bayfield Corner Sofa Bed

Having devoted large areas of our home to toy storage over recent years, it is with mixed emotions that I acknowledge the fact that the kids’ approach to play is a little different these days: less focus on role play, messy play and vast amounts of coloured plastic and more on Lego construction, artistic/scientific endeavours, and the inevitable computer games.

Given I like to have a steady stream of projects in the pipeline, the playroom has therefore been earmarked for a little makeover this year as I think a family room arrangement might be more suited to the kids’ changing needs and our wish to accommodate overnight guests a little more comfortably.

Bayfield bed open dressed

Bayfield Corner Sofa Bed

I’m no doubt woefully behind the times here, but I don’t think I’d seen a corner sofa bed until Willow & Hall recently got in touch to let me know about their new range. With the same classic-yet-contemporary styling as the rest of their collection, the Alderton, Bayfield and Shalbourne are all available in left- or right-hand versions and come with a slatted wooden base and a deep sprung mattress as standard (mercifully banishing memories of thin mattresses and uncomfortable trampoline springs to history).

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Shalbourne Corner Sofa Bed
left_alde_bed_open_dressedAlderton Corner Sofa Bed

Founded in 2012, Willow & Hall may be a newcomer to the interiors market but has quickly made a name for itself thanks to its skilled craftsmanship, attention to detail and great customer service: sofas are handmade to order by a family-run business in Wiltshire and customers can choose from over 70 beautiful fabrics, safe in the knowledge that sofas come with a five year guarantee and no quibble returns policy.

After some deliberation, I’ve decided I’m quite taken with the Bayfield Corner Sofa in ‘Dove’: it looks like it would be just the spot for some serious lounging and the grey fabric would not only look gorgeous, but would also stand up to the rigours of family life.

This is a sponsored post written by The Cupboard (all opinions are my own)
 

Images: Willow & Hall

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Planning Flower Beds

Crocus - Soft Summer Border

Now that the weather is – for the most part – becoming more spring-like, I’ve seized the opportunity to make a start on some changes to the flower beds in the vegetable garden. It’s been about two years since the beds were first planted up with perennials and I’m starting to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t, as well as the little jobs that need doing to keep things looking their best: inevitably some plants have thrived and now need dividing, whilst others need moving because they’re not being shown to their best advantage, and then there are the gaps that need filling (which will give me a great excuse to get some new plants).

Inspired by the ‘Soft Summer’ border plan on the Crocus website (shown above), I’ve come up with my own design for the two borders that lie either side of the potting shed. The yellows I’m using are a little more vivid as I’m making use of the Solidago ‘Goldenmosa’ and Lysimachia punctata that are already growing happily there, but having moved the rhubarb plants that were growing alongside, I now have room to introduce some blues (by way of nepetas and geraniums) and to add shots of burnt orange and plum with the likes of crocosmia, alliums, heleniums and the beautiful Digitalis parviflora.

Garden Border PlanClick image to enlarge

Taking the time to plan things for a change has been both fun and interesting and hopefully the time spent looking into eventual sizes, growing requirements etc. will pay off. No doubt some tweaks will be made here and there, however I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the end result will be as good in reality as it currently is in my mind’s eye!

Watch this space…

Image: Crocus (top)

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Kitchen Makeover – After

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The kitchen makeover is now pretty much complete so I thought it was high time I shared some pictures here on the blog. Painting the cupboards was quite an undertaking but the end result is so lovely it almost feels as though we have a new kitchen.

We’ve been lucky in that the cupboards, which were installed well over ten years ago by the previous owners, are in a timeless style and were also extremely well made. They’ve lasted amazingly well and having such good ‘bones’ to work with made updating the room a fairly straightforward – albeit time consuming – task.

So, gone is the 90′s blue and yellow colour scheme (see here for ‘before’ photos taken prior to us buying the house) and in its place is a muted palette of stone, grey and off-white which is warmed up by the terracotta floor tiles.

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The same colours continue through into the dining area which overlooks the garden. It’s such a nice room to spend time in now, be it for homework around the table or a bit of downtime in the armchair with a mug of tea and a magazine.

The dining chairs are a slightly random collection of heirlooms and Habitat but we’re on the look out for some new ones that aren’t hideously expensive, which all the ones I like seem to be.

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The newest addition to the room is this glazed cabinet which is perfect for displaying some of our china and definitely added a bit of interest to what had previously been quite a long run of empty wall.

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Kitchen - After (Details)

But the prize for the most heart-warming addition goes to this ‘trophy’ presented to me by my son earlier this week in recognition of all my hard work. The kids hadn’t said that much about the transformation of the room (probably because it took so long!) but it was very sweet to think it had made such an impression.

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And finally, in case you’re interested, here’s a little sourcebook:

* N.B. I was advised to use a high adhesion primer called Zinsser Bull’s Eye 1-2-3 on the tiles before applying a topcoat of oil-based eggshell. Farrow & Ball no longer manufacture oil-based eggshell (my tin was an old one) but similar products are available from the likes of Little Greene.

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