Thursday, 22 October 2009

Money really does grow on trees

Money really does grow on trees with the Garden Boutique affiliate scheme, launched today with webgains

These labels are made from recycled coffee cups!

This tealight chandelier looks beautiful decorated with clematis

Apply online at the Webgains site

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Eco friendly garden furniture

When choosing eco-friendly garden furniture, is it enough for it to be FSC certified? Should we be sticking to local materials or choosing garden furniture made from salvaged or recycled materials?

Is it more sustainable to choose garden furniture made from local materials, or garden furniture made from salvaged wood?

These elegant loungers are made from salvaged teak
The sustainable furniture option does not have to mean compromising on design

The teak will age elegantly over many years to a soft silver grey.
No need to oil, wax or varnish.

Sustainable garden furniture choices can be a minefield as there is no one right answer. Here are some simple tips to keep in mind when making your decisions...

1/Buy garden furniture made from locally produced wood

There is no excuse for buying teak furniture (even if it is sustainably forested) when so much environmental damage is done shipping it halfway around the world. Choose English Oak from local managed woodland, or if you must have teak, choose furniture made from salvaged or recycled wood

2/Buy recycled garden furniture, or garden furniture that is made from reclaimed materials

Furniture made from recycled or reclaimed materials is clearly the most sustainable option. Garden Boutique have a great choice of stylish recycled metal garden furniture and wooden furniture made from reclaimed wood. These materials are already in circulation and so have a limited impact on the environment.

3/Avoid oil based paints and stains.

Choose wood that is suitable for outdoor use without treatment such as oak, sweet chestnut, larch, western red cedar or douglas fir. If you must colour your wood, choose water-based products so that any wooden furniture can be recycled or composted at the end of its useful life.

This garden furniture is made from 100% recycled aluminium.

Making this garden furniture reuses waste aluminium and consumes only 5% of the energy needed to produce aluminium from ore.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

box-bunnies for a spring windowbox

In celebration of spring, my sister has planted up this amusing windowbox tableaux of topiary bunnies in a field of yellow 'tete-a-tete' daffodils.

The box bunnies are still filling out their topiary frame, but are growing at such a rate that they will be mature by Easter, when the plan is the replace the faded daffodils with dwarf tulips and then parmex carrots (the short fat ones that are great for growing in windowboxes)

Image courtesy of
who have conducted a trial of the best carrots to grow in pots.

If you are wary of box blight, teucrium x lucidrys is a great alternative for potagers and parterres. We are planting a whole estate in Nottinghamshire with teucrium instead of box, as it clips well, stays small and dense - and is very hardy.

At the moment, the groups of bunnies are happily in pairs whilst a lone topiary squirrel is ostracized on the end of the scheme. I am threatening to replant it with Berberis, as I think a red squirrel might gain a higher place in her affections...

I will post more pictures throughout the year as it develops.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Lawns: turf will flourish with thyme

I have been experimenting using my favourite groundcover as a lawn. Cotula squalida, a creeping evergreen from New Zealand is one of the best performers I have come across. It makes a great alternative lawn because it reaches only 2.5cm high and is happy in a semi-shady spot.

Ajuga reptans, Vinca minor, Pachysandra terminalis or Hedera helix are other good choices to carpet a shady area but I would avoid the larger leaved Ajuga 'Caitlins Giant' in this situation

There is no need to avoid some of the classic alternative lawns - camomile 'Trenague' is wonderful on the right soil, and interweaving thymes is a design classic for a reason.

This lovely thyme lawn is part of Kaydale Lodge Garden in Australia but the principal works just as well in the UK

In the sunnier parts of my garden the fast-spreading Acaena microphylla is romping away. Acaena 'Copper Carpet' is a great choice and has made a lovely evergreen carpet in my mothers front garden (very clay soil, which only gets sun for half the day) Despite the lovely ornamental burrs which give this plant its charm, it is soft underfoot, and slightly springy. The slightly glaucus colouring of the finely cut leaves, makes this an elegant choice that tones in well with red brick, slate and grey stone.

But you don't have to take such a radical step. This weekend's Times discusses a number of simple, significant changes that you can make to the way you manage your lawn to will make it easier and cheaper to look after

If you are growing an usual lawn in your garden, I would love to hear about it and see some piccies!

Monday, 26 January 2009

Recycled green waste converted to ericeous compost

An ericaceous compost made from recycled green waste is finally commercially available for gardeners.
The compost from Vital Earth is said to be the first of its kind on the market.

It includes humite, a mineral which helps to lower and stabilise pH at around 6 - in addition to the companies popular organic, slow release fertiliser.

The main ingredient of the composts is the composted green material (composted botanical residues, from licensed municipal council green waste collections).

How green waste is converted into high quality organic compost using a digester

After selecting and mixing the raw material to the appropriate carbon, nitrogen and moisture ratios, Vital Earth loads the mix into 40 cubic metre stainless steel digesters for a seven-day composting cycle.

Air flow in the digesters – the critical element in successful composting - is directed by co-ordinated inlet and exhaust fans which are regulated by an automated control system designed specifically for the composting process.

The system receives regular temperature readings from internal probes and adjusts the speed of the fans in line with changes to the temperature of the compost. The process requires the material to reach a temperature of 65°C twice for at least two consecutive days, thereby ensuring full sanitisation of the compost.

All data from the digesters is logged on computer and downloaded each night, so providing total traceability throughout the process. By way of a natural method of filtration widely used in the composting industry, the exhaust air from the digesters is extracted through a wood-chip biofilter where any odours are filtered out.

Following initial composting, the material in the digesters is emptied into large maturation buildings where the compost matures in batched and fan-aerated rows for a further seven weeks.

The process, once again, is monitored and controlled by remote probes linked directly to the computer. Maturation inside rather than in the fresh air eliminates contamination from air-blown weed seeds, other contaminants and animals. It also allows Vital Earth to control moisture levels during the wettest winters and driest summers, so ensuring throughout the year a consistent product for our final blending and bagging process, yielding consistently high quality compost.

Definitely worth a try if you are struggling to produce enough compost in your own garden!

Vintage stone lighting - close but no cigar

These fibreglass and resin garden lights are painted to look like stone. The idea is to solve that garden design quandary: how to find garden lighting that is attractive in the day?

By day these lights from Joanna Wallis really are convincing in their imitation of a vintage stone globe, whilst at night the light glows through the resin and fibreglass, turning the globe into a sort of lamp.

It sounds too good to be true. Finally, a solution to my pet dilemma... and you could even hide a solar panel in their rather than a bulb, so no power or wiring would be necessary.

The Fibreglass and resin shell is pretty convincing in the daylight

But whilst the painted fibreglass/resin shell makes a suprisingly accurate immiation of vintage stone sculptural accents, it just looks wrong for a stone pillar to light up at night -

and dare I say it.... rather tacky.

But at night, it just looks silly and terribly cheap...

It really is an interesting idea to try and create a cameleon form of lighting that is camouflagued in daylight - or even one that draws attention to itself as a different sculptural focal point in the daytime. I'm looking forward to the day when a canny product designer takes the essence of this idea just a little bit further - replacing the bulb with solar cells and creating a form which works day and night with equal elegance and conviction.

So, three cheers for Joanna Wallis for her contribution thus far, but it looks like there is still a long way to go.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Claim your free pocket garden from Garden Boutique

Luxury garden accessories store Garden Boutique are giving away a FREE POCKET GARDEN with every order over £30...
Supplied in a sealed leak-proof bag the Pocket Garden contains specially formulated compost and seeds that once cut open, just require water to germinate allowing them to grow a beautiful houseplant.

And the best news is that all the compost used is permitted by the Soil Association and is PEAT FREE!

There are some lovely eco-friendly garden products on the site including oak dibbers, bumble bee nesters, sundials made from recycled coffee cups and rain chains... but of course, I am biased