Lucy’s Greenhouse – Part 2

Hello and welcome to my second ‘Lucy’s Greenhouse’ blog. In my last blog, I said I was going to give some seed suggestions for people just starting out with their own growing, so here goes…!

If you want to add a little colour to your garden and have a go at growing your own plants, without spending a fortune, read on for my top 5 seed suggestions…

These seeds are easy to grow, whilst still giving you a diverse range of plants. They include long lasting summer colour annuals, beautiful fragrant flowers and everlasting perennials. Just using these simple seed choices will bring vibrant colour, energy and new and exciting wildlife to your garden.

People often ask me if I have any tips for designing a garden, or plating area.

I think it’s pretty easy really and my advice is always to simply just pick the colours you like! Afterall, you are the one who will be looking at them the most.

I often think gardening is a lot like fashion- although there are always the latest styles and trends, we still have to adapt them to our own individual taste. Why not think of your garden like you would your home – decorate it so you enjoy it and try to make it reflect your own personality.

Never be afraid of selecting different colour combinations. Granted, some colours work better with others, but remember there are no written rules or plant police! Don’t let any set ideas hold you back.

For my own garden, I personally prefer to use calming tones of purples, pinks and whites.  However, some of the plant seeds I am talking about today offer countless colour options, so feel free to be creative!

Let’s start with one of my favourites – Cosmos.

Using these wonderful annuals will provide you with some lovely colour throughout the summer months.

Derived from the sunflower family, their flower heads are simply stunning. They also have characterful feathery green foliage, making them an ideal plant for filling boarders, or to use as fresh cut flowers. 

Cosmos seed pods are also a little bigger than most, so you’ll find them easy to pick up with your finger tips and plant out.

In my experience, once your seeds have germinated and been pricked out and transplanted separately, I then recommend nipping the tops off (when they are around 10cm tall).

This will encourage a more robust plant with copious amounts of flowers.

It’s only in gardening do we not wish for long slim legs!

Finally, once they are established and flowering, make sure you deadhead regularly. This will increase and prolong the flowers.

Next up are Stocks

Stocks are wonderfully captivating, with their compact spire like flowers, you will be bewitched by their fragrance.

These delightful annuals are an excellent addition to any garden. Why not plant them in pots outside your back door, so you can breathe in their glorious smell, every time you walk by – yummy!

Once the seedlings have germinated, they need space to establish a strong root system. I’ve found that Stocks have relatively robust second leaves, making them easier to prick out and plant on. Why not see for yourself!?

Whilst we’re on fragrance, why not try the most popular annual of them all – Sweet Peas.

Sweet Peas are especially prized for their colour and beautiful scent. They can provide a lovely focal point, by growing them informally up canes or a posh Obelisk.

Once again, this seed is easy to grow and will reward your efforts, by supplying you with copious amounts of gorgeous cut flowers!

Likewise, once the flowering season is coming to a close, leave the plant to seed and once they are ready you can easily harvest their seeds for next year’s crops. Win Win!

Moving up in the world – Lobelia

Want to add some vertical colour? Maybe you have a bare wall, or sparse balcony? If so, why not try adding some wall mounted pots, hanging baskets or balcony planters…

I recommend keeping it simple and delicate with some cascading Lobelia. This trailing plant bears masses of beautiful tiny flowers, from summer through to mid-Fall.

Do I dare say that some hanging baskets can have too much going on? (Too many cooks and all). Sometimes less is more, so try keeping it simple and mass just one plant variety. In my experience, this method will not disappoint, trust me!

Last, but by no means least, it’s Verbena bonariensis.

These are currently bang on trend in the gardening world! They command attention with their strong stature, structure and elegant purple flowers.

This reliable plant is irresistible to bees and a great addition to any boarder.  It looks great either softly swaying amongst some grasses or offering a striking contrast against some hard topiary lines. There are many ways you can benefit from this wonderful perennial, year after year!

I hope my top five simple seed choices will be useful for you and it helps and inspires you to create your perfect garden. These choices can also be great if you are looking to add colourful pots to your patio, create some hanging baskets, or just brighten a dark spot at the back of your plant boarder.

Finally, if you are really looking to impress, you could incorporate the latest fashion and home furnishing colour trends into your garden design. To do this, try selecting some seeds which match this years Pantone colour of the year – Living Coral. To achieve this colour in your garden, try using:

Good luck and if you try using any of these ideas, I’d be really interested to hear what you think, so please let me know and send me some lovely photos!

That’s all for now folks. In my next blog, I will share my top tips for planting and caring for seed babies…

Happy gardening!

Love Lucy xxx

Lucy’s Greenhouse – Part 1

Ever since I can remember, I have always wanted my very own ‘Monty Don’ greenhouse. If you don’t know what I mean, I am referring to those wonderful Victorian style greenhouses, with beautiful brick bases and decorative cresting’s on top. For me, they are total perfection!

My parents always said, ‘good things come to those who wait’ and in this case, you could probably say they were right…

With life in the 30’s looming, I have come to terms with the fact I am ready and willing to fully ‘adult’!  So, what better way to ease myself into this, than buying a house with the hubby that people on Escape to the Country often politely describe as a ‘project’!

In our case, this truly meant a complete renovation of the whole house and everything that comes with it. We bought the house in July 2016 and I can now confirm that living in a renovation project for over 2 years, really is a wonderful test of strength for any marriage!!

Seriously though, Lewis (My Hubby) has done nearly all the work himself and I am in awe at how well he has done and how hard he has worked (don’t tell him that though!). I admit I have just about had enough of living in a building site now, however the thought of getting everything finished and seeing the end project and being able to decorate, is so exciting and is enough to keep us going, just!!

However, A REALLY exciting opportunity about buying this house, was the fact we now had a perfectly sized garden, just waiting for the dream greenhouse!

So, after saving hard and with a little help from Birthday and Christmas donations, my greenhouse finally arrived in December 2016. I could barely contain my excitement!

I knew I wanted to grow plants in my greenhouse all year round, so it was important for me to pick a position in my garden which would maximize light, during the gloomy winter months.

I also needed to position it somewhere sheltered, yet still aesthetically pleasing. The designer in me needed it to not only be practical, but also look the part!

Luckily, we’d put up all new fences already and there was a sunny, sheltered corner, with a readymade windbreak, ideal! Now I had identified the perfect location, the magic could happen…!

My greenhouse was going to be my very own sanctuary, away from day to day stresses and life pressures, so I needed to make sure it had all the creature comforts I required. An electricity supply meant I could plant at night (plus drown out my terrible singing with the radio!).  Investing in a heater and timer meant I could keep my little plant babies cosy and warm, especially during the colder times. Likewise, having access to a water supply was essential.

Luckily, my sister-in-law was looking to rehome a chest of draws and as I love a freebie, I was only too willing to give it a home! After a little mini makeover, we added a tap, sink and rigged it up to our water supply.  Now I didn’t even need to venture in to the house – Instead I could poor myself a fresh glass of water! (No rest for the wicked)

At last, my greenhouse was ready…. But was I?  

This might sound a little crazy, but I was nervous… I mean, having hundreds of little leafy lives relying on me to nurture them, it’s a big commitment!

Also, I had the added pressure of people assuming that as a garden designer, I had grown seeds before. However, the reality is that I’ve only ever sourced them and I’d never actually nurtured my own plants from seed. 

Therefore, I decided to keep it simple, using just a few different varieties of seeds. I started with;

  • Sweet-peas
  • Cosmos
  • Cornflower
  • Larkspurs
  • Buzzy Lizzie’s
  • A Few Succlents

Don’t get me wrong, I made a few mistakes along the way, but I didn’t let that stop me!  The saying “sometimes you win & sometimes you learn” comes to mind here, especially with Buzzy Lizzies.  However, I was hooked and the next year I increased my varieties and before I knew it, every space in my greenhouse was utilised- new shelves and all! I even up-cycled some old office shelving units, which made for a perfect potting on an area behind the greenhouse! 

Now I’m a couple of years down the line with my greenhouse and the sowing season is underway, I recently had the idea to start this ‘Lucy’s Greenhouse’ blog. I hope this allows me to tell you about some of my experiences with my greenhouse (good and bad!) and share my growing discoveries. I would also be really interested to hear about your greenhouses and perhaps we can all share and help each other?! ‘Two heads’ and all that…

If you have read my January Blues  blog, you will know that due to a significant hockey injury last year, I now have much more ‘me time’ on my hands and I fully intend to make the most of this in my garden.

There really is nothing better than enjoying the warm sunshine glow on your skin, or listening to the pitta patter of rain drops on the glass. Plus, ‘growing your own’ is just so much more rewarding and satisfying. The smell of your home grown stocks, or the taste of your own runner beans- Yummy!

There is also no better place to enjoy a well-earned cuppa and restore some balance back in your life.

Coming up next –my seed suggestions for people just starting out, with advice on how to create a nice, colourful mix of easy varieties…

Ava picking her favourites

Love Lucy xxx

January Blues

For anyone who knows me I have two massive passions in life – Gardening (obviously) and Hockey. A combination of both keeps me balanced and grounded.

Unfortunately, back in September last year I was playing a national league hockey game, where I sustained a horrific injury. A couple of broken bones and 3 hours of shoulder surgery later – I was on a long road to recovery.

With several weeks of rest and a well-deserved pity party under my belt, I expected to just get better quickly. I began forcing stretches which meant my stitches opened up. I was frustrated as I wasn’t able to drive and became dependable on others. With so much discomfort, pain and anger I struggled sleeping.

With the cold winter months, short days and grey skies I quickly spiralled into a bad space.   I was tired, I wanted to stay at home and couldn’t be bothered to do anything. I mean I didn’t even want to potter in the garden! It was a very obvious sign I wasn’t quite myself. I guess, if I am honest – I lost my way a little.

I’ve never known life without playing hockey or gardening…. both activities were to physically demanding to contemplate, plus I had zero motivation.

After many medical appointments and lots of tears shed – The penny dropped during one of my ‘rehabilitation’ appointments at Replay Sports Clinic. Lorna (who has now become a friend for life) explained the recovery process in ‘Lucy’s Language’ she said

Just like a plant the human body requires nurturing, love and optimal conditioning to grow healthy and strong. The optimal conditions need to remain consistent over long periods for continued growth, sometimes growth will not be evident, flowers might not grow but it doesn’t mean the plant has died – only that in that moment it requires a little more time and a little more care. Patience and commitment to the process will keep things moving and at some point, you will see progression again. Every plant, in every environment has its own time scale… it can’t be pushed, it can’t be rushed… you just need to keep caring for it and the outcome will take care of itself

This really hit home…. It was the first time someone stopped using fancy medical terms and long words.  I just needed to stop putting pressure on myself and try and fill my life with positivity.

I needed to spend time with likeminded people, eat well and do the things I love. I knew I couldn’t play hockey, but I could look to my garden again for help!

Gardening isn’t always about the physical activities, like digging up weeds or cutting the grass….it is about being mindful of its journey throughout the seasons.

Pre-injury I fell into the trap – Life got busy and what time I had in my own garden was valuable…. I always focused on a specific task or project I had to do. I took for granted that I needed my garden for time to relax and reflect, for my own wellbeing.

I needed to start ‘Taking notice’ on how a garden doesn’t just thrive in the summer, it also survives though the winter. Ironically the exact journey I am on myself. I guess what I am trying to say is – don’t take your garden or the things in it for granted.

Although you can’t do much in January there are other things you can do and take notice of;

  • Walking out on the crispy grass carpet and breath in the fresh air.
  • Befriend your birds. Watch them visit your garden and listen out for their song.
  • Take note of how beautiful the frost is, glistening on the bare branches or evergreen leaves.
  • Remove the ice from birdbaths /ponds and feed the wildlife.
  • Organise pots in preparation for this year’s seedlings.
  • Plan and plant what seeds you want to grow this year!

I know I am certainly going to be taking more notice in the garden and focus less on the Jobs. I am now going to dust off my wellies, wrap up warm and head to my greenhouse!

Remember – we are all allowed to feel the way we feel.

It’s OK not to be OK all of the time.…with social media today, people are great at posting and filtering their ‘best bits’ (I have been a culprit of it) that doesn’t mean everything is perfect in their life. Everyone struggles sometimes… so let’s help each other by being kind, mindful and never judging.

If like me, you find yourself struggling a little now and then, why not head outside for some fresh air (even if it is just for a 5 minuets). Take notice of all the things in your garden….You never know – You may see things, you’ve never noticed before.

It’s helped me – so I hope it helps you.

Love Lucy xxx

Royal Norfolk Show Success 2018

I am thrilled to tell you all about my wonderful experience at this year’s Royal Norfolk Show and my multi-award-winning show garden at this year’s Royal Norfolk Show.

Whilst I was confident about my concept, as it was my first ever show garden, I was really anxious about how it would all go!

First of all, I need to say that none of my ideas could have been brought to life without the support of Darren Barnes, from Kingdom Landscapes. Darren’s work is always amazing and I am lucky to have him as my trusted landscaper and right-hand man!
With Darren’s help and a lot of hard work, I was able to produce a show garden I was really proud of.  The event enabled me to give a taste of my garden design skills and it was really lovely to show people what I can do. Whilst I was happy with my show garden and felt I did myself justice, I never expected to achieve the recognition I did. I ended up being awarded three honours, I still can’t believe it!!
The awards I received were:

So, where did it all start…?

The Brief & Design
The theme for the show gardens this year’s Royal Norfolk Show was ‘coastal and wellbeing’.
I was eager to produce a garden which represented our wonderful coast, as well as creating a perfectly tranquil space, that people could relate to and imagine in their own garden.
So, like every garden design project I undertake, the first stage was to produce client design brief  This brief is a visual aid that enables me to formulate and test my ideas, making sure everything compliments each other as it should.

Taking inspiration from the iconic East Anglian coastline, I wanted to interpret Cromer pier and Southwold lighthouse. I mean, who hasn’t had fish & chips or a sneaky ice-cream (or two) from one of our wonderful coastal towns?!

From there, my design entitled ‘Relaxing Coastal Shores’ developed.
I was keen to showcase a contemporary garden design that incorporated a multipurpose space for entertaining and relaxing. I really wanted the design to help people unwind and create a sense of wellbeing.
The design provided balance and structure, with hard landscaping materials that portrayed the shady shores and promenaded pier walks.
The planting was then used to embody the waves, working in harmony with coastal colours to represent the sea.

Materials
When selecting the materials for any project, it is important they work effortlessly with their surroundings and the client’s preferences.  As a designer, it is vital that I use products and materials of the highest quality and durability.
This show garden was no exception and I was very fortunate to work with some fantastic suppliers:

To represent the sand, I selected Natural sandstone ‘Fossil Mint’
This product echoed the swirling sand beautifully and was kindly supplier by Longwater gravel, who are a lovely local business

For Cromer pier, I used Trex composite decking ‘Island Mist’, supplier by Beams and Braces. Trex durability is superb with a 25 year warranty and looks great in any outdoor space.

The ‘duck egg’ cobbles which filled the lighthouse and lined the water rivulets, were supplied by Stone Warehouse and were selected for their mixture of pastel colouring. The subtle shades of bluish grey, white, and yellowy buff mix together perfectly.

Garden Features & Focal points
Southwold lighthouse is simple, elegant and looks truly striking in the skyline. I was fortunate to work with VOSS-EF on this. They created a stunning, modern and affordable stainless-steel lighthouse frame and I instantly fell in love with it!! This centre piece worked exactly as I imagined, it could be seen from afar and was a massive crowd pleaser.

With the show garden being a 360-degree plot, the rules stated we should not have anything obstructing the view. With that in mind, the Whitby Arbour seat, from Forrest Garden was ideal! With its backless appearance and commanding height, it demanded attention and created a cosy place to sit and take it all in.

Plants
Last but not least, the plants – my favourite part! They just bought the whole garden to life. Each plant was carefully selected for its different characteristic; colour, flower, texture and scent. Every single plant looked beautiful.

Whether it was the Festuca Glauca ‘Intense Blue’ Grasses looking striking with their spikey silvery blue leaves, or my bee loving happy Lavenders, Lavandula Angustifolia ‘Felice’, they all danced gracefully in the beautify breeze and Just looked magical….. even if I do say so myself!!!

I honestly cannot thank Nottcutts enough for their kind and generous support. Their plant quality was faultless and it showed! Happy plants, happy garden, VERY happy designer!

So, I guess I am just left to say a massive thank you for everyone who helped, supported and visited my Royal Norfolk Show Garden.
I hope you enjoyed seeing it, as much as we did creating it!

Until next year – Happy Gardening!

Love from a very proud Lucy xx

‘Hedge’ your bets…

Gone are the times you go out and buy Leyland cypress trees (Cuprocyparis leylandii ) for your garden hedging. 
Although they are a very fast-growing evergreen tree which can offer privacy quickly, I personally feel that they are a little dated and symbolise the old way of gardening.

Also, dare I say it? They’re a bully of the garden playground!
These ‘thug’ like plants can run amok if not kept under control – their vigorous lateral rooting system soaks up all the moisture from the soil which results in other surrounding plants suffering.
So with the summer months approaching and for those gardeners who are considering a new hedge or replacing an existing boundary line, here are my top 5 safe hedge bets:

No 5: Purple Beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea’)
Purple Beech also known as Copper Beech is a Deciduous plant with attractive glossy foliage in shades of deep purple and the darkest green. It will usually retains its leaves, which dry into a golden coppery state throughout the winter months and offers year round screening.

No 4: Red Robin (Photinia x fraseri)
Striking evergreen hedge. With fiery red glossy new growth it offers a marvellous display in spring and summer before the leaves mature and turn dark green.

No 3: Golden Privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium ‘Aureum’)
This beautifully bright evergreen hedge has vibrant green foliage, edged and splashed with yellow. It produces creamy-white, summer flowers and glossy black autumn berries. This privet is also very popular with formal hedging, providing year-round colour and screening.

No 2: Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus ‘Rotundifolia’)
This attractive dense evergreen shrub has large, glossy, bright green leaves, which makes an ideal hedge. They will grow vigorously and offer privacy quickly.
Cherry Laurel is by far the most popular fast growing Laurel hedges, but you could also consider other Laurel varieties; – Portuguese Laurel, Spotted Laurel, Compact Laurel, Laurel Etna, Laurel Caucasica and Bay Laurel

No 1: Yew (Taxus baccata)
My number 1 has to be the English Yew. Yew is one of the few native, evergreen hedging species and it looks luscious and green all year round. It offers dramatically dark-green dense foliage that is easily trimmed and shaped. It offers clean lines and works wonderfully as a privacy screen hedge or to reduce noise. It really is a show stopper!
Just remember though – Its toxic if eaten!

So move aside Leyland….There some new ‘Hedges’ in the running!

Sweet Peas: To pinch or not to pinch?

What is better than picking beautiful sweet peas from your garden to enjoy that delicious fragrance of theirs? Happy, healthy sweet peas will produce huge amounts of flowers during their lifetime. So I guess the question for the green fingered folk out there is;

“How do I get the healthiest sweet peas?”

When searching for ‘Top Tips’ you will be bombarded with conflicting information!? Who’d have thought that propagating sweet peas is like the gardening’s version of Shakespeare with many forums discussing whether ‘to pinch or not to pinch’ the tops out of young seedlings…
I guessed there was only one way to find out, so nearly a year ago I tested both theories to confirm once and for all.

12th March 2017: I set the seeds free and planted them in a potting compost mix and placed on a heat mat (window cill would also be fine)

5th April 2017: Half of the mini seedlings underwent the pinching procedure – where I nipped out the top of the new shoot and the other half were left to rest.

17th April 2017: Photographic evidence captured….it was a miracle!!

As you will see from the photo, the “nipped” seedling, although a few centimetres shorter, is much healthier and stronger plant compared to its taller, leggier sibling.

So folks, get your fingertips at the ready and ‘nip / pinch’ your sweet pea seedlings!

It’s official, it pays to be cruel to be kind. You will have much healthier, robust plants if you pinch them.

As least that’s been nipped in the bud now…..