Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone from The Diligent Gardener

Modern Garden Design

When planning a home make over, it is common that the garden is the last to receive any attention or changes, sometimes the garden has been a dumping ground during a home makeover or simply been neglected over a number of years. However a well designed garden can be a real asset to a home, adding value to the property as well as making it a more enjoyable place to be.  The surrounding area of a home is just as important as what’s on the inside, and can give you much more living space for adults, children and pets alike.

Flemings Australian Garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2012 (for more details see our post from last year)
In contemporary garden design, the focus is on simplicity and nature.  This is primarily due to the fact that many modern homes have relatively small areas of land as their gardens.  There has also been a cultural shift toward contemporary design, in which clean lines and hard landscaping materials such as hardwood garden table and chairs, stone, and rendered walls have become very popular.

It needn't be hard work to create, if you are good at DIY and are up for the challenge then most able DIYers can create a stunning garden, alternatively getting in the professionals to help can speed up the process and may even save money in the long run. Eden Landscaping in Northampton employ combine horticultural knowledge with design and landscaping expertise to ensure that your garden looks stunning all year round. 

In any contemporary garden the planting style will be bold yet simple, with repetition of just a few varieties of plants throughout the space.  Today, grasses are very popular as they are visually appealing, simple, and easy to care for.  

Lighting also plays a role in contemporary garden design, as subtle effects can be achieved with low voltage lights strategically placed throughout the garden, usually along the walls, beside paths and to highlight garden features such as statuary.

Contemporary gardens are not without classic, iconic design elements.  Form, shape, and other iconic design elements have stood the test of time and will always be part of any garden’s design.  The individual touches come from how modern gardeners choose to incorporate classic features such as sculpture, containers, and other elements into their gardens.

The Essential Indulgence (Silver Gilt) - another contemporary garden at the Hampton Court flower show that stood out for me.
Magis Puppies on our new deck
Mark and Gaz at Alternative Eden make use of quirky objects in their modern garden
Any garden – classic or contemporary – will have some sort of path or paving incorporated into the design. Choose from natural stone or the cheaper reconstituted products that can be extremely attractive.  Old railway sleepers have also become very popular over the last few years; as a result they have risen in price quite considerably.  Don’t forget shingle – very practical and still quite cheap.  

Live Outdoors Garden (Silver Gilt) - built on a budget of £13,000, if a show quality garden can be built for this amount imagine how you own garden could look.
While concrete features add a modern element to a contemporary garden design they do not suit all gardens. More natural features, such as rounded, smooth river stones are an excellent alternative to the man made, industrial materials featured so prominently in some modern gardens.  Cobbles may be used on paths as well as in accent areas throughout the space.

Traditional gardens often featured wrought iron garden furniture, which can be ornate and heavy.  Although metal is still used in contemporary garden design, it is used a little differently these days.  Some modern gardens incorporate industrial metal grids combined with wooden planks for vines and ivy, for a fresh yet rugged look.  Galvanized sheet metal is also popular in modern garden design for weatherproofing and screening solutions.  Stainless steel and chrome furniture are also contemporary and affordable choices.

Metal work used as part of the pathways in this garden we saw at Hampton Court this year - Contemporary Contemplation (Gold medal) - a stunning garden and one of my favourites! I love it for the restrained planting palette and the use of contemporary hard landscaping. Top marks from me too!
Modern gardens, with their clean lines and industrial elements, may seem uninviting if certain iconic elements are not incorporated into the overall design.  Lighting, furniture, and textures are all essential in making the contemporary garden a welcoming and relaxing atmosphere.  The secret is to keep the theme simple and clean; the garden will do the rest of the work.


Daylily Black Hornet

Stunning Day lilly for the garden next year - Daylily Black Hornet

How to Grow a Pear in a Bottle

Food photographer Ed Gowans shares a passion of his on this great You Tube video growing pears in a bottle. Each year, Gowans adds quality alcohol to his bottles containing his home grown pears, and presents them to friends as Christmas gifts.If you fancy giving it a go, here's how its done!

An Alternative Use for Artificial Grass

Artificial Grass is finding some alternative uses in design. No longer the itchy astro turf that used to be used on five-a-side football pitches the modern artificial grass is soft, realistic and long lasting. With the improvements in quality it can be used in all sorts of places, and gardeners and landscape designers have utilised the modern grass in all sorts of cool and inspiring ways.

Ever resourceful, creative interior designers have quickly caught on to the alternative uses of artificial grass and some of the coolest offices are using it inside. Green is also an excellent colour to help make people feel calm and confident. The use of artificial grass is being used increasingly in offices where people are required to think differently, to be creative or to work in more unusual ways.

The Skype office in California features a circular lawn to kick back and relax or hold more informal meetings. Its even been used for picnics.

Not only suitable on the floor, San Francisco-based architecture firm Design Blitz transformed the building, even adding grass to the walls to create a really cool modern space.

If you are thinking of creating your own perfect space to relax then consider the benefit of artificial NAM grass, either in the garden, home or an office.

Google are well known for their cool offices, with slides connecting floors, arcade machines and all sorts of other ways to kick back in. Its not surprising that they have a grass floored meeting room. The Rock Room in Los Angeles features not just artificial grass but even artificial rocks! How cool is that?

I love the use of  cool wooden furniture and the grass, as well as the large plastic dogs.
How about a grass covered meeting room, just makes me feel chilled.
How about the ultimate canteen? This one at Innocent Drinks
With so many options and choices, the question is what will you use artificial grass for?


Tregrehan Garden Gate

The gate from the walled garden just invites you to explore

Artificial Grass is the Latest Celebrity Trend

While the phrase ‘celebrity trend’ may conjure up images of designer handbags, fast cars and expensive clothing lines, the latest A-list must have is sitting right in their back gardens.

A growing number of celebrities including Jessica Alba, actress Kristen Bell, and US actor Matt Damon are turning to synthetic turf for their landscaping needs.

32-year-old actress Jessica Alba, who has 2 daughters, installed an artificial lawn in a bid for their home to become more eco-friendly.

Celebrity designer Kari Whitman said ‘ I chose synthetic grass for Jessica Alba’s backyard doggie oasis and use it at clients homes as often as possible’

‘The eco-friendly synthetic turf looks so realistic and stands up to pet messes, wear and tear. I also love that it eliminates the need for pesticides and fertilizers, making your year healthier for you and your pets. Plus it saves water and some cities will even give you a rebate on your utility bill. It’s a win-win”

Forgetting Sarah Marshall actress Kristen Bell had synthetic turf laid when she adopted a dog. The artificial alternative was the perfect solution for Kristen who said ‘I added a 500-square-foot deck and added an area with synthetic grass and lots of comfy dog beds. My dogs love to lounge in the sun out there, or hang out when I’m entertaining.  It feels like they have a yard in the middle of the city.’

In addition to gracing the gardens of A-List homes, artificial grass can also be found at various landmarks and pop culture icons throughout the world including locations such as the Playboy Mansion, Disney World, Disneyland and the Pixie Hollow Fairy Garden at Epcot’s International Flower & Garden Festival.

So what are you waiting for? Isn’t it about time you followed the trend?


Time to Plant your Winter Onions

Following on from our post earlier this month about how to grow onions its worth reminding ourselves that there are actually quite a number of different varieties of onions from sets that can planted in your vegetable plot or allotment now. Sets are the simplest way to grow onions yourself much easier than from seed. They have the bonus that they can be harvested earlier on in the year as well. 

Electric is a good red set, Radar a good yellow and Shakespeare is a highly reliable white. 

You can also sow some spring onions now: White Lisbon Winter Hardy is a good one that we like to use. Check your local garden centre as quite a lot of them will have shallots available now for planting. Jermor is already available in my local garden centre. These are good to be planted about now or though until just into the New Year.


Winter Cherries (Solanum capsicastrum)

These 'Winter Cherries' (Solanum capsicastrum) are everywhere in garden centres at the moment. They add a lot of seasonal cheer to the house at this dark time of the year, and providing the plant is kept cool and in a brightly lit area these fruits will stay on for weeks and weeks. Native to Peru and Ecuador, they can survive frosts and cold weather. They generally live up to 10 years, producing fruit usually in their second or third year, and every year after that. They are congeners of tomatoes and the fruit is extremely similar to cherry tomatoes in taste and texture, and are therefore easily confused with them. Despite the common name this plant is a type of Nightshade and in common with much of that genus is very poisonous, so keep it away from young children or inquisitive pets this Christmas!

Perfect Brussels for Christmas

Brussel Sprouts are often ready for harvesting now, but to many people they bring back memories of childhood, being forced to stay at the table until you have eaten (or hidden) the last brussels on your dinner plate. Heres several options to make the perfect Brussel Sprouts

Brussels with Bacon and Chestnuts
First fry your bacon in a hot pan without any oil for about 10 minutes until it is crisp. Then add chestnuts and fry until they are beginning to colour and coated in the bacon fat. Drain off the excess fat, then place the fried bacon  with the chestnuts into a bowl and allow them to cool. Beat some butter with a spatula to soften, then mix in the bacon and chestnuts. Season the mix with black pepper, and store in fridge. This will keep fresh for about 3 days in the fridge or could be frozen.

To serve, place your sprouts in a microwaveable bowl, and pour in approximately 100ml of water, cover with cling film and pierce a few holes in the top. Microwave your sprouts on High (850W) for about 16 to18 minutes, stirring at least twice during cooking, or alternatively cook in a pan of boiling water for 5 mins. Drain  off the water and place into a warm serving dish, then add the butter over to melt.

Brussels with pancetta 
Blanch the Brussels sprouts in a pan of boiling salted water for 3 mins. Drain the water away and place into a bowl of iced water to quickly cool them. Drain off any water again and set aside until nearly ready to serve. Sauté the pancetta in hot goose fat until crisp, add in the sprouts and stir-fry everything for a further 2 to 3 minutes, before placing in a bowl to serve.

Brussels with hazelnuts 
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the sprouts and cook them for about 5 minutes until just done. Drain well and place the sprouts into a warmed serving dish. Meanwhile, melt some butter in a small frying pan and add your hazelnuts. Cook the hazelnuts until they just start to brown, and the butter is turning a lovely deep golden brown. It should smell delightful, a lovely nutty smell. Tip this mixture over your sprouts, and add pepper to your taste.

Hopefully there will be no more hiding the sprouts round the back of the plates or feeding to the dog!

How to Keep Your Christmas Tree Alive

Inspect the Needles
Before you even select your tree make sure that you inspect the needles, they should feel flexible, not dry and brittle.

Cut the bottom of Your Tree

Before you put your tree in its stand, cut off the bottom inch or so of the trunk to provide a fresh surface for water uptake.

Water the Tree

As soon as possible, get the tree in water. The base of the tree should never dry out, so make sure your water bowl doesn't become empty! Generally a typical tree will absorb about a litre water each day for every inch of trunk diameter. That's probably a lot more than you would think!

Block the Sun

Keep your tree away from direct sunlight, heaters and fans because these things will speed up the drying-out process.

Keep It Humid
If you have a humidifier in your house, put it in the tree-room. It will help keep the needles fresher long, as well as reduce the risk of fire.

If all of this seems like too much work, opt for a potted tree instead and as an added bonus you can plant it in the garden afterwards!
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