Garden Design

  1. Kids' Garden Game Bundle Giveaway!

    Kids' Garden Game Bundle Giveaway!

    Win a Kids’ Garden Games Holiday Bundle, perfect for keeping the kids busy and away from their screens this summer holiday. Get them out in the sunshine with these garden games including outdoor versions of chess/draughts and noughts & crosses plus garden favourites croquet and quoits. Perfect for hours of outdoor fun and family time.

    All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning this great prize is LIKE our Great Little Garden Facebook Page then LIKE and SHARE this post. Easy!
    Deadline for the entry is midnight on Thursday 10th August 2017. The winner will be announced the following day.

    Don’t forget to explore our website too! As well as lots of garden fun. you’ll find beautiful plants selected by experts, high quality garden furniture and everything else you could need to make your outdoor space your favourite place to be.

    Terms and Conditions:

    • This competition is for UK residents only.
    • You must be over 21 years old to enter this competition.
    • Deadline for prize draw entry: midnight of Thursday 10th August 2017
    • There is no voucher or cash alternative.

    In order to be entered for the prize you must follow the steps below:

    • Visit our Great Little Garden Facebook page and press the ‘Like’ button, find any of the competition posts to ‘Like’ and then share the post on your own Facebook wall.
    • Users can only enter this competition once.
    • There is no cost to enter this competition and it is not endorsed by Facebook.
    • One winner will be chosen from a random draw of entries received in accordance with these Terms and Conditions.  The draw will be performed by a random computer process.
    • A winner will be announced on Friday 11th August 2017 via personal message and a post on Facebook.
    • The winner has 48 hours to reply. If the winner does not respond within 48 hours, the prize will be transferred to another winner.
    Read more »
  2. School's Out for Summer

    School's Out for Summer

    School is indeed out for summer and the holidays stretch for weeks ahead for families.

    There are the obvious candidates for filling in time and keeping the children's attention - expensive days out to theme parks and sitting in traffic queues on the M5 trying to get to the South West coast being two of many - but the answer could well be closer to home, in your own back garden.

    child wateringI feel that I’ve done my bit for gardening legacy by helping my own two boys check for pests in the veg patch, edge the lawn and clear that pesky grass growth between the bricks on the path. Oh, what fun we had. Didn’t we? I’ve lectured them on the virtues of correct watering and not simply spraying it around having all that jollity. I think they got my drift. ‘Today boys we will go through the benefits of cleaning out pots immediately after use so that they are ready when you next need them’. Top stuff. They seemed enthralled. ‘Clear away the leaves from underneath roses to prevent the spread of infection by spores of blackspot. I could see them close their eyes and contemplate. Zzzzzzzzz.

    OK, what a load of old rubbish! No children want to know that stuff.


    tyre swing

    They want water slides, their own playhouses, a small wheelbarrow to move dirt about the garden and a swing or two. It’s simple. A tyre swing fixed to a strong tree and some good weather. Actually, you don’t even need the good weather. Rain softens the lawn for the inevitable fall. It’s getting back to basics.

    Games don’t have to be complicated. Hide and seek may be a tad brief in a patio courtyard garden (Count to ten. Open your eyes. ‘Oh there you are. Your turn.’ Count to ten. Open your eyes. ‘There you are’- and repeat) but a simple garden darts game is a winner. No spikes, no loud shirts and boozy crowds just a hoop target and foam tipped darts. All you need to decide is where the oche is and whether a bag o’ nuts is better than Weavers Donkey (I didn’t have a clue either until I looked it up!). Simple, fun and easy to set up and pack away when that lawn softening thunderstorm looms.  

    quad image

    But actual gardening can be part of the fun. Weeding is boring, lectures are so yesterday and getting debris out of the gaps between block paving tedious beyond words. Your own little set of gardening tools is exciting. A small spade, fork and trowel enables children to create their own garden space. It may turn into a muddy morass but hey, if it keeps the kids quiet!

    axeHowever, a word of warning. A few years ago I was cutting some wood into usable pieces watched with admiration, by my then six year old. ‘Can I have a go?’ he asked. ‘Sure thing,’ I said, all lumberjack style in our suburban garden, ‘but be careful.’ He wasn’t, he nicked his knee with the axe (the words axe and six year old don’t really add up to a safe situation - I now realise). At school the next day he excitedly explained the plaster on his knee to his teacher. That was an interesting parent/teacher evening.

    So, stay in the garden this summer, have fun, stay safe and the holidays will be one to remember. 

    Read more »
  3. Superstitious?

    Superstitious?

    Superstitious? I’m not. Not in the least. So, when a recently fledged blackbird flew into the lounge and started bashing itself against the window, trying to get out, I wasn't fazed.

    After all, those Old Wives’ tales of birds in the house bringing bad news (actually, terrible news) came about when people in the olden days – the 1980s, according to my 12 year old son - made stuff up to try and explain natural occurrences.

    blackbird windowMy incident happened during the recent hot weather when the patio doors were open to get some air moving in the house. I popped my head into the lounge to see what a slight noise was all about and there it was - a vulture sized blackbird viciously attacking its own reflection. Unfortunately, the bird was on the inside.

    I did what anyone would do in that situation, jumped backwards and slammed the door shut. I took a few breaths and peeked inside. It looked back at me. It pooped some purple gooey stuff on the windowsill then started to jump up and down in it. Door shut. More breaths. Another peak. More poop. From the bird. A turdus merula, no less.

    Now, I like plants, I like gardening and I like wild birds. They are great in the garden and are currently doing a fine job of clearing up the local snail population judging from the empty snail shells around the paths in the veg garden. I love listening to them. I feed them. I’m good to them. I shoo away a local black cat on the hunt for them. So why poop on my sofa?

    Anyway, I plucked up some courage and, armed with a tea towel, I entered the room. It, the bird, stopped and fixed me with a beady eye. It then did that creepy fluttering thing half way up the window, and then down into the ever-increasing sea of purple gloop.

    blackbird trioMy first attempt at gently calming the bird, covering it and carrying it out was unsuccessful. Tea towel turning purple. Second attempt, the bird escaped before I could get at it. Third attempt was successful and, with ever so gentle and caring hands, I eased the bird outside to join its family members who had, really, descended onto the patio to see where Purple Pooping Pete had gone (naming him has helped me get over the trauma). 

    Pete sat under the garden table and looked at me. I looked at him. Do birds wink? I think they do. And off he went chirping away to do whatever blackbirds do. It’s a wild guess about wild birds but I reckon they eat berries, and lots of them.

    Other wildlife related incidences to prove plants are a better bet:

    • As a student (in mediaeval times according to our 12 year old son) I woke to find slug trails on my pillow. I still don’t snore.
    • Whilst living in Sri Lanka, I found a snake in the wardrobe. Apparently, it wasn’t too dangerous (define ‘too’). Google ‘dangerous snakes of Sri Lanka.’
    Read more »
  4. A Scentsational Garden

    A Scentsational Garden

    A Scentsational Garden

    Plants that pack a perfume punch and other gardening whiffs. 

    Early summer is a scentsational time in the garden. My roses are out in full bloom and they are perfumed to perfection. And this year they do seem bigger and bolder than usual. Perhaps the weather has been kind. Or maybe the plants are getting established with roots deep into the soil and are repaying me for all that pruning and what-not. But the smell of roses in the still air isn’t the only whiff of delight at the moment. I’ve got my sweet peas doing their stuff too.
     
    Sown last autumn the plants are now around five feet tall and packed with bloom. You can also sow in spring for a later flowering period - just sow the things! They are easy if you can keep the slugs away from the tasty shoots and, once they are happy (mine are in containers of Melcourt compost with added John Innes for a bit of oomph and seemingly loving it), they will bloom and bloom. Just nip off the seed pods before they develop to encourage even more floral efforts. Roses, sweet peas and... compost.
     
    I’ll be honest, I love the sweet smell of a compost bin in full flow. Particularly first thing in the morning with a top-class brew in my hand. Ideally it will be on the nippy side of cool (that’s the air temperature and not the tea). That way you may even get a glimpse of steam emanating from the bin when you lift the lid to plunge in your garden fork to mix it all around a bit. When you get the whiff, you know that balance of all things green and brown are in perfect harmony. Shredded cardboard mingling with grass cuttings with chopped up flowers with shredded woody stems with fungi and bacteria chomping their way through the whole. Marvellous. Then I have my gloves. 

    garden smells

    If you’ve been reading the diary you’ll know that I managed to get a splinter the size of a matchstick stuck deep into the previously small gap between my thumb nail and thumb. It taught me two things. The first is that the NHS is fantastic and, second, I should wear gloves when gardening. So now I do. All the time. But after a 12 hour stint in the garden there is a certain odour to my hands. But it’s strangely gratifying. It’s a stink of hard work and graft. It actually smells like vinegar. Strange - perhaps you have the same or I might need to see a specialist. Whatever, I like it. But even with roses, sweet peas, compost and my vinegar hands, there is still one smell I adore in the garden. The soil. 

     
    Not just the soil but dry soil after a heavy shower of rain. If you could bottle that perfume it would sell by the million. OK, thousands. Maybe hundreds or even tens. Perhaps five bottles. To be honest, I’ve never known anyone else say they like the earthiness of soil whiffage so it would only be one bottle. To me. To add to the Sarsons I sprinkle of my hands when shoving my schnoz into a bloom of roses and sweet peas after a stirring time at the compost heap.
     
    You have to understand I don’t get out a lot. Not a surprise really when I stink like this.

    Read more »
  5. A Proud Parent

    A Proud Parent

    Parenting and gardening are similar.

    Your young charges can flourish and sometimes they flop. But we care and love them the same whatever happens.  Occasionally, often out of the blue, they make you proud. Really. They do. 

    I was doing my dad type duties and helping with our youngest's homework. Year 7 shouldn't be too taxing but I'll tell you what, those guys in school are working hard. I like the 'make a model of the Amazon' type stuff – real coffee beans glued into place got extra credits - and Tudor history is quite interesting.  My joke of finding ' x ' in his maths homework – 'there it is' and pointing at it – is wearing as thin as my hair.

    So when it came to biology, and in particular plant biology, I relaxed, settled down and waited to dispense my years of knowledge in his direction. I have to admit to having studied the science of plants for a bit so I should know the basics. 

    plant fertilisation


    'Dad? Can you help with my homework?' 

    'Why of course,' I replied, smugness washing over me like a warm wave in the Indian Ocean. 'Hit me with it.'

    'We had a test and I have to re-do the questions I didn't do well on.'

    'Sounds good,' snuggling myself into the sofa cushions, years of horticultural experience welling up inside. 

    'I need to know what happens when fertilisation occurs in a flower.' 

    After 10 minutes of what can only be described as a mighty fine explanation of pollen tubes, ovules and plant hormones, he seemed satisfied. 

    'Thanks. That's it.'

    'It?'

    'Homework done.’ 

    'Oh. OK. Have you got the test paper for me to read through?' ever the keen parent to support home study wherever possible unless it involves finding 'the value of y when e = 4, L = the length of the longest side of the triangle and Jim has two ice creams worth £1.20 but Dotty has a sausage roll and only a fiver so who owns the blue car?' type of maths question. The paper - completed and marked- was handed over as he went to translate 'the cat sat on the mat' into Spanish (El gato se sentó en la alfombra. I think you'll find that 'Dos cervezas por favor' is in order for that answer).

    I read through it. Then one question leapt out and a tear came to my eye. 

    'What else, other than water and sunlight, does a plant need to grow?'

    I read his answer. An answer that his teacher apparently had to check up on. My young gardening assistant had put mychorrizal fungi. Beautiful. I go on and on about the stuff and at least I now know he is listening. He might be the only one but one is more than none. He even explained it simply: 'You get bigger roots and you put it on like dust'. Superb. Can't argue with that. A* pupil.

    However, I had to pick him up on his spelling. 'Mikeorizer' is not how you spell it, young man. But hey, top marks. That made me proud. Really proud. It's got to be better than finding x. Whatever x is and wherever it lives.

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  6. Giveaway Time!

    Giveaway Time!

    It is giveaway time again on Great Little Garden. Enter our incredible Facebook GIVEAWAY and be in with the chance of winning a brilliant summer prize!

    We are hosting the giveaway over on our Great Little Garden Facebook Page 

    At Great Little Garden, we love to celebrate gardening and to help you make the most of your garden, balcony or patio. What better way to celebrate than by having a BBQ with friends and family? Why not add homemade Pizzas into the mix?

    That’s why we’re giving you the opportunity to win one of our fantastic La Hacienda Firebox’s worth £79.99. Transform your BBQ into your very own incredibly versatile outdoor pizza oven! Once heated (in as little as 10 minutes) the Firebox cooks delicious rustica style pizza in just 3-4 minutes, tasting just as good as those served at an authentic Italian pizzeria.  Not only can you cook restaurant quality pizza at home, you can also bake fish, meat, vegetables, bread and much more.

    All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning this great prize is VISIT our Facebook PageLIKE our Facebook page, LIKE one of our competition posts and then SHARE the post on your own wall for your friends to see. Easy!

    Deadline for the entry is the Sunday 2nd of July 2017 and the winner will be announced the following day.

    Terms and Conditions:

    • This competition is for UK residents only.
    • You must be over 21 years old to enter this competition.
    • Deadline for prize draw entry: midnight of Sunday 2nd July 2017
    • There is no voucher or cash alternative.

    In order to be entered for the prize you must follow the steps below:

    • Visit our Great Little Garden Facebook page and press the ‘Like’ button, find any of the competition posts to ‘Like’ and then share the post on your own Facebook wall.
    • Users can only enter this competition once.
    • There is no cost to enter this competition and it is not endorsed by Facebook.
    • One winner will be chosen from a random draw of entries received in accordance with these Terms and Conditions.  The draw will be performed by a random computer process.
    • A winner will be announced on Monday 3rd July 2017 via personal message and a post on Facebook.
    • The winner has 48 hours to reply. If the winner does not respond within 48 hours, the prize will be transferred to another winner.
    Read more »
  7. Chelsea Flower Show 2017

    Chelsea Flower Show 2017

    A Day Out at the Chelsea Flower Show 2017

    What a privilege it is to go to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show on press day: no crowds, the chance to get up close to the gardens and plants, plus a bit of celebrity spotting. And the sun shone. Well, someone’s got to do it.

     It is well documented that the actual number of gardens is lower this year than in the past, but the eye for detail and amount of care taken in the design and production of the gardens that are there is immense. There's always something for everyone at Chelsea but for me designer Chris Beardshaw’s ‘Morgan Stanley Garden' is superb. Breathtaking plants, immaculate design and the whole lot is donated to a charity once the razzmatazz is over. And plenty of lupins – always nice.

    Chelsea Flower Show 2017 Chris Beardshaw


    F Cadwallader The Poetry Lover's Garden Chelsea 2017


    One of the artisan gardens was a treasure of design and planting. 'The Poetry Lover's Garden' designed by Fiona Cadwallader was everything I love about a garden. Somewhere to sit (obviously!), superb plants, clever combinations all under the dappled sun. Simply gorgeous. And it was all done without a major sponsor – something that I imagine is getting more difficult year after year.


    BuSalvia Crystal Blue Chelsea Flower Show 2017 2t while all thSalvia Crystal Blue Chelsea Flower Show 2017e attention seems to surround the show gardens, I love a bit of a rummage in the Great Pavilion. Under the massive structure are the world’s best nursery folk. All specialists in what they grow and all willing to share their top growing secrets. It's a great place to learn and to fall in love with new plants. The Chelsea Plant of the Year competition is held in there and this year a dwarf mulberry won. However, for me the runner up - Salvia Crystal Blue - was the best. A stunning shade of light, sky-blue blue flowers perfect in pots or mixed borders. Email me and I'll see if I can get a few sorted. 

    Then of course there are the celebrities. You may have heard Chris Evans doing his radio programme from the show. I saw it! I was as close to Mary Berry as Paul Hollywood ever got. I deliberately didn't stare as Joanna Lumley strolled by with Nigel Havers and an actress I was supposed to know – sorry, there was a stunning delphinium in full bloom that caught my eye. Ainsley Harriot looked smiley as was Carol Kirkwood, weather presenter (you know, the one who did Strictly). There were more, lots more, but the plants far outshone anyone there. Sadly, I was booted out before the Queen and her pals arrived. Maybe I can stay longer next year.


    Phil's Chelsea Flower Show 2017 Fact File

    · Chris Beardshaw’s garden 'only' got a silver-gilt medal – what do those judges know?!
    · The beautiful artisan poetry garden received a silver – ditto!!
    · The mulberry is sold out but I'm doing my best to get my hands on that salvia.
    · Never wear new shoes to an event where you have to walk for miles.
    · London Plane trees make me cough. A lot.
    · One lukewarm coffee and a piece of dry flapjack costs £6.
    · Is it really that interesting to photographers to record Jennifer Saunders buying a packet of carrot seed? Apparently so. The word 'scrum' sprang to mind.
    · Lupins are in.
    · Purple coloured blooms are everywhere.
    · Chelsea is and always will be a special place for all things gardening.

    Read more »
  8. Collector's Items

    Collector's Items

    Things sneak up on you whilst you're not looking.

    I'm thinking about the inability to put your socks on without sitting down, the decline in efficiency of the car brakes, obviously greying hair and expanding waistlines. But plants do it as well.

    I was having my morning stroll around the McCann estate when I noticed a previously unremarkable repetition. Daffodils. Don’t for one minute think I have a massive garden with rolling hills and fields. Far from it. But my patch is now home to a few different daffs. It all started a few years ago with a traditional daff – yellow trumpet, no frills, no spills just a straightforward daff. But one variety is lonely. And those white ones looked nice. Up to two. But they all seemed to flower around the same time. 'Maybe a few of the really early ones would be nice' – and in they went.

    One thing led to another, and another and then another; soon, without realising it, I was custodian to twelve different types.

    It didn't stop there. The worse thing any gardener can do is to visit another garden. I know I'm always going on about open gardens for charity, Yellow Book gardens and even shows, but they only tempt you into more plants. After a particularly beautiful day at a large stately home type garden I was inspired (infused?) to gather up more daffy varieties. Twelve turned into fifteen that soon, with the addition of some irresistible blooms that to me resemble Cadbury's Creme Eggs, totalled twenty. It didn't stop. It hasn't stopped. I know in my heart that it will never stop. Twenty-six is this morning’s count. All in flower, with two more still to open. Only a few of each, no massive drifts, but they all count.

    But I'm not loyal to one flower. Oh no, the same is happening with dahlias. That all started with a dark-leafed variety called 'Bishop of Llandaff'. Not a plant you can ignore and definitely one you should have. That grew strongly as the collection diversified into a few of those gorgeous pompom types with blooms the size of golf balls. Reds, pinks and white. And loads of them. Of course, I had to try some of the whoppers, the really big 'uns with claims of blooms reaching 25cm diameter. I did. I now have four different types ('Sir Alf Ramsey' is one of the best).

    I've just realised I also have seven different varieties of gladioli on the go; four different carrot seed varieties ready to sow and the snowdrops, now fading away to rest and recuperate for next year, total seven different types. At the moment. None of those numbers will be static.

    So, let me know if I am alone in my collecting habits or if you have a predilection for peonies, an itch for an iris or a tilt towards thyme.

    Notes to editors and fellow gardeners: Other chocolate other than creme eggs is available but as yet I am to find any plant that resembles a Kit-Kat, family bag of Revels (no one likes the coffee ones surely?) or Crunchie. I will keep trying though.

    Read more »
  9. What's Your Favourite...?

    What's Your Favourite...?

    What's your favourite...?

    I was out en famille at RHS Garden Harlow Carr, Harrogate along with some friends the other weekend. It's always a beautiful garden, was packed out with visitors and looked great in the warm spring sunshine. Then the inevitable question from one of our party cropped up: ‘So, where's your favourite garden?' My heart always sinks when I hear it. How can you ever choose?

    Labelling a garden as your favourite isn't as straightforward as say choosing a biscuit. Actually, thinking about it, that can be complicated too. Sometimes I'm in a right old Jammie Dodger mood; other times, only a slice of juicy Garibaldi will do. Maybe it's like coffee or tea. Hold on - latte, cappuccino, mocafrappoespressochino, strong, fortnight (too weak), green or herbal?

    But my friend wouldn't let go. 'You have to have a favourite.' Well, actually… no, I don't. It really depends on what you want from a garden. And most importantly, what's right in that particular moment. I might want a superlative veg garden to gain inspiration from if I'm in GYO mode, or a romantic rose filled affair if that's what's needed to tickle my fancy. I may want to study a family of plants so a clinical encyclopaedic garden would be my favourite there and then. It all depends.

    He got the message regarding overall gardens, yet still persisted with his 'What's your favourite?' line of enquiry. 'What about plants? You must have a favourite plant?' Well, again it isn't clear cut. He wasn't happy.

    'I like roses.'

    'So do I,' came my honest reply. I love them. But not at the expense of everything else. They are part of a mix.

    'I like daffodils.'

    'Yep. Me too.' I have quite a few different varieties in the garden. But they also look terrific near my tulips, currently making strong strides to be the stars of the garden.

    He sulked a bit. We strolled admiring the gorgeous alpine house ('What's your favourite garden structure?’) and the lawns ('So, is it fine fescue or dwarf perennial rye-grass then?'), commented on the thick mulch on all borders ('Surely you are a spent mushroom compost man? Or shredded bark perhaps'), eventually reaching our predictable destination, Bettys tea rooms.

    By this time, it was mid-afternoon and the perfect time for an ice cream. We queued and by the time we reached the front I had made up my mind.

    The children ordered theirs, I went for chocolate and then Mr Question Time dithered. Raspberry, vanilla, chocolate or brown bread (I know – a tad unusual) were all on offer.

    'Err...now, what do I feel like?' he said hesitantly. He looked at me. I didn't need to say anything.

     

    For the record my favourites are (in order of appearance above): 

    Biscuit: custard creams usually win outright

    Drink: hot Vimto scores top marks in the beverage stakes

    Plant: Amelanchier takes some beating for year-round interest

    Garden structure: my own greenhouse (self-indulgent, I know, but I love it in there!)

    Lawn: ryegrass mix for hardwearing cricket sessions now we have light evenings

    Mulch: home-made compost is still better than any other mulch

    Ice cream: chocolate ice cream, preferably with chocolate chips, is a sure-fire winner

    Garden: I told you, it depends! 


    Read more »
  10. Launch Competition

    Launch Competition

    Celebrate the launch of our fantastic new garden website with us! Enter our incredible Facebook GIVEAWAY!

    We are hosting the giveaway over on our Great Little Garden Facebook Page 

    At Great Little Garden, we love to celebrate gardening and to help you make the most of your garden, balcony or patio. What better way to celebrate than by having a BBQ with friends and family?

    That’s why we’re giving you the opportunity to win one of our fantastic Barbecook Major Charcoal BBQs worth £149.99. The prize includes a Barbecook Major Charcoal BBQ with quick start and quick stop systems, a height adjustable grill, windshield, warming rack and an easy to remove ash catcher. Plus, in striking chili red- one of this season’s most fashionable colours - this new barbecue will make you the most stylish BBQ chef around.

    All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning this great prize is VISIT our Facebook PageLIKE our Facebook page, LIKE one of our competition posts and then SHARE the post on your own wall for your friends to see. Easy!

    Deadline for the entry is the 21st of May 2017 and the winner will be announced the following day.


    Terms and Conditions:

    • This competition is for UK residents only.
    • You must be over 21 years old to enter this competition.
    • Deadline for prize draw entry: midnight of Sunday 21st May 2017
    • There is no voucher or cash alternative.

    In order to be entered for the prize you must follow the steps below:

    • Visit our Great Little Garden Facebook page and press the ‘Like’ button, find any of the competition posts to ‘Like’ and then share the post on your own Facebook wall.
    • Users can only enter this competition once.
    • There is no cost to enter this competition and it is not endorsed by Facebook.
    • One winner will be chosen from a random draw of entries received in accordance with these Terms and Conditions.  The draw will be performed by a random computer process.
    • A winner will be announced on Monday 22nd May 2017 via personal message and a post on Facebook.
    • The winner has 48 hours to reply. If the winner does not respond within 48 hours, the prize will be transferred to another winner.
    Read more »
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