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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The Kitchen Makeover (a belated update)

Kitchen Makeover - Before

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while might remember my announcement back in October 2012 that I was in the throes of redecorating our kitchen.

Now, given I don’t like to rush a project (!) and thanks to a host of other distractions, I’ll confess to the fact that things kind of stalled after the walls and ceiling were painted. As I’ve resolved to get creative this year, I thought it was high time I picked up where I left off, donned my painting clothes again and got cracking, which essentially meant sorting out the tiles and freshening up the cupboards.

As I enter week three of this latest phase, you’d think I’d be getting a little fed up: however a combination of lousy weather outside and the delights of Radio 4 means I’m actually quite enjoying myself and am revelling in the excuse not to leave the house. I’ve done the tiles and am now mid-way through painting the cupboards. As you might expect, this is a laborious task given they need cleaning, sanding and priming before the top coats (all three of them!) are applied. The end is, however, in sight, and with the new cupboard knobs due to arrive next week I am getting really excited about seeing the finished room and sharing it with you here. In the mean time, here’s a few ‘before’ photos to give you a sense of what I had to contend with…

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Home collection from Marks & Spencer

M&S SS 2014 Homewares

Leica S

Leica S

Leica S

I found myself in my local Marks & Spencer’s home department last weekend and have to say I was mightily impressed – even a bit surprised – by some of the new accessories that they had on display. The Spring/Summer 2014 Home collection is bang on trend and has some really beautiful pieces that would look as good in a clean, contemporary space as they would in a more relaxed, eclectic setting. With its muted palette, simple materials and tactile appeal, the range has something a bit House Doctor-y about it, which is no bad thing if you ask me.

It was the Portuguese ceramics that caught my eye (I ended up buying this jug in white) but I’d also happily give a home to any of these:

M&S Home Collection S:S 2014

  1. Striped Cushion 
  2. Lace Design Platter
  3. Original BTC Stanley Pendant Light 
  4. Beehive Wall Art 
  5. Conran Copper Wire Trim Tealight Holder 
  6. Round Weave Baskets (Set of 2)
  7. Graphic Kilim Rug

Images: Marks & Spencer 

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Cameron Short at sofa.com


Ode to the Ash - sofa.comSaturday loveseat in Ode to the Ash

Since 2011, sofa.com have been collaborating with some of the best and most exciting British designers to create exclusive fabric ranges for the company: an initiative called Design Lab. Having previously joined forces with St Jude’s and Thornback & Peel, the latest collection has been created by Dorset-based artist and printmaker, Cameron Short.

Drawing inspiration from the English countryside and rural folklore, the range comprises three fabric designs which were originally block-printed by hand on Cameron’s 1904 proofing press, before being digitally printed in Lancashire.

Treasure Tree

Margot loveseat in Treasure Tree

The collection is whimsical and enchanting with each fabric offering far more than first meets the eye: details reveal themselves to you on closer inspection, giving hints to the narrative behind each design.

As Cameron explains, “Ode to the Ash tells the story of this ancient, native tree. The ash stands at a crossroads, surrounded by figures from times passed: a herdsman carrying an ash stick to keep the Evil Eye away from his stock; a country girl who, hoping to meet her true love, keeps an ‘even ash’ leaf in her glove; a woodsman, kneeling reverently beneath the great tree.”

Ode to the Ash - Detail
Ode to the Ash

Treasure Tree - Detail

Treasure Tree

Treasure Tree is similarly intricate: as you look beyond the mass of oak leaves, ivy and branches you’ll spot not only a magpie with a ring in its beak, but also an array of trinkets, – including a Fabergé egg – that have caught its beady eye.

The bold Varx print, so named because of the pronunciation of ‘fox’ native to the far south-west of England, features a defiant fox partially obscured by foxgloves and the floating feathers from his latest meal.

Varx - sofa.com

Iggy armchair in Varx

Varx - Detail

Varx

I really love the rustic, folksy feel to these prints, they have such an honest quality to them and make stunning and very inviting armchairs: perfect spots for snuggling down with a mug of tea and a good book if you ask me.

Images: sofa.com

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