More great auction finds

In last month’s post I said I would be looking for gilded frames for The Little Grange so today it was back to our local auction to size up the bargains!

I found just what I was looking for in the shape of a set of four mirrors for £31. One was modern and not of interest but the other three were ornately carved and gilded. I’ve since cleaned up and polished the mirrors and have been thinking about how they are going to fit into the overall scheme at The Little Grange.

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Other recent finds have included a rattan/rope-effect stool with bun feet – also from the same auction house – and a terracotta plant pot from our local household waste recycling site. The stool cost £45 and will go in the barn/workshop as a coffee table; the plant pot was £1 and is already planted up with summer bulbs. SCH

Lavender: the two-year project

I know it sounds a little crazy to talk of edging a 100 ft garden path with lavender when I haven’t yet found the right property, but given the amount of work that goes into building a mature garden it seems wise to make an early start! Despite my impatience and general inexperience, I’m hoping that by taking cuttings from an old, gnarled lavender bush and planting them up now I will have the perfect-sized lavender plants within two years.

There are other benefits too: the cost of planting 40+ established plants from a local nursery is prohibitive (I estimate somewhere in the region of £400). With this being one of many ‘essential’ garden projects at The Little Grange it is hard to justify such a spend and the alternative – planting a few smaller plants – just wont have the same impact. By taking cuttings I will have all the plants I need for (virtually) nothing at all.*

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I followed these simple steps:

Step 1: take an old lavender bush with lots of new shoots

Step 2: choose small pots, fill with compost and water lightly. For ease I planted 36 cuttings in two pre-formed trays of 18

Step 3: using secateurs, cut off a semi-ripe shoot of about 5 inches from the lavender bush

Step 4: using a sharp knife, cut just below the lowest leaf bud

Step 5: take off all leaves apart from the top set; thin out the central leaves

Step 6: using a pencil or similar-sized implement, make a hole in the centre of the compost and pop in the cutting

Step 7: using small wooden stakes and a see-through polythene bag; protect the cuttings; keep them out of direct sunlight

Once the cuttings are firmly established – they will sprout new shoots and will have a good root system – it will be time to pot them into bigger/individual containers with poor, stoney soil and leave them in a warm, sheltered spot. SCH

* Remember to factor in potting compost and water!

Piped cushions for an old wooden garden chair

I am planning a relatively straight forward upholstery project… fabric-covered foam cushions for an old wooden garden chair. The chair is Adirondack by design so I will need to take careful measurements to ensure the cushions fit snugly.  The covers will be made from a weighty cream patterned material and will be piped around the top and bottom edges.

To test how well the material performs I have just finished making two regular piped cushions which will probably end up on an inside chair/sofa rather than the completed garden chair, but it was good practice! Now… to those fabric-covered foam cushions… SCH

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Garden inspiration

What a fantastic way to spend a (partially) sunny weekend… looking around other people’s gardens!

In a small village, about two miles away, Mum and I visited 24 gardens over two afternoons as part of an open garden festival. I love looking through magazines for inspiration but nothing compares to seeing gardens up close.

Aside from getting that warm fuzzy feeling, the whole experience provided a fascinating insight into the British psyche… Armed with a map of the village we roamed from house to house on a mission to find new garden design ideas as well as new planting schemes.

No two gardens were alike; some were large and formal; others small and rambling. Planting was generally organic rather than staged and you could tell that people just loved to garden (and their gardens). What I hadn’t bargained for was the extent to which people moved beyond plants and soft/hard landscaping to create their own little havens matched perfectly to their personalities and obsessions! For example, the first Georgian house we visited just off the high street had a miniature train track running around the perimeter and a very excitable owner keeping the train and carriages moving past their stations. Another garden lover had a corner plot complete with hot tub, pond and chicken coup!

Other fun elements included a hill with secret kiddy tunnel, an enormous medieval castle dominating the back garden of a family home, and a teeny weeny garden filled with all manner of decorative objects including the inimitable gnome! All set in a small village no more than two miles square… what a treat.

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However, for me it was the traditional garden elements that I enjoyed the most. Above are some of the ideas I hope to introduce into the garden at The Little Grange: stone boundary walls, big old gnarly trees, formal buxus hedges, wisteria in full bloom, well-planted vegetable patches and a suspended garden bench. SCH

Practical garden design

I have been thinking a lot about garden design recently. True: the RHS Chelsea Flower Show was on TV and was as ever full of great ideas, but it’s the practical side of design that prompts me to write.


The all-important wheelbarrow

I’m the first to admit to loving symmetry and tidy borders, but the day-to-day need for a variety of garden tools, sacks, pans, compost and water has made me realise that I am going to need a garden that ‘works’. Add to this the busy running of a B&B and you soon realise efficiency is going to be key!

We have been extremely fortunate to have had seven days of uninterrupted sunshine which has been instrumental in helping clear many an important seasonal job. I’ve spent hours trimming lawn edges, staking and trimming overgrown hedges, heaving compost into bags, weeding flower beds, potting up summer plants, thinning out vegetables and herbs, scrubbing moss off the old patio, and brushing down garden furniture… the list goes on and there’s always that unexpected job each day. But the point here is I’ve probably spent half the time traipsing backwards and forwards collecting or depositing ‘things’!

So in considering the workability and aesthetics of the garden at The Little Grange, here’s my practical design priority list:

1. Water butts in a variety of locations (fed by guttering from house, greenhouse, etc.)

2. Greenhouse for growing on new plants and for winter pot storage; ideally with a built-in earth bed

3. Tool shed attached to greenhouse as well as a similar storage solution closer to the main house

4. Potting shed attached to the main house

5. Kitchen garden within easy reach of the main house

6. Duplicates of key tools for those jobs that take you to the far end of the garden

I will keep an eye out for bargain buys at my local auction since there seems to be a constant stream of old tools, garden pots, lawn mowers, ladders, etc. You never know, I might even find that all important garden shed! SCH