Stephanie Recommends

Stowasis Sheer Descent

stowasis-sheer-descentI’ve somehow never got around to running water to any point in the garden where we could have a proper water feature. In the meantime I make do with several pot ponds, but they are not the same. I do have a fantasy of transforming the lower part of the garden into an Italianate Garden with splashing water and formal planting but with the garage still waiting to be rebuilt and the vegetable garden in need of re-landscaping, it’s still very much a fantasy. In the meantime I might consider something closer to the house that could bring the sound of water to the garden for a more modest sum of money.  In researching, I’ve found some very sleek and simple stainless steel water blades that create a falling sheet of water. I do like this effect, so while the builders are putting up the new garage, I will ask their advice.  In my experience water features are a bit like kitchens – it’s not the bit you admire that takes time to install and costs the money – it’s the hidden stuff that makes it all work – so unless you are good at DIY, it’s best to consult the experts. I found a good range of  Stowasis water blades at swelluk.com  and there’s a phone number 0161 3514700 if you would like to find out more about their products.

We’ve Got it Covered

gazebo before and after shotsMuch as we would love to think that the sun always shines on our gardens in the summer, the reality is that rain is often an uninvited guest when we are doing outdoor entertaining. A covered area is just what’s needed in these circumstances but it’s not always practical to have something permanent. It takes up space, anything halfway decent costs serious money, and if you live in a windy location there’s always the concern that it will take off and disappear over the neighbour’s fence. This is when a pop up gazebo comes into its own – if rain is forecast you can unpack it, unfold it (generally a simple process) and relax in the knowledge that should the heavens open (or the sun blaze down) there is shelter available. www.gardengazebos.co.uk sells three sizes: 3m x 3m, 4.5m x 3m and 6m x 3m priced from £219.99 to £399.99 and there is a current offer of free side curtains.

Buying Compost Direct

1 ton bag of compostAs someone who once asked her husband for a ton bag of manure for her birthday (inexplicably he didn’t oblige) I am a great convert to the usefulness and convenience of having compost delivered in bulk, as opposed to driving to the garden centre and lugging several small bags home in the boot of the car. It is more environmentally friendly – one delivery lorry going to multiple drop-offs instead of numerous individual car trips and no need to dispose of numerous empty plastic compost bags. And it’s not just compost blends that can be delivered in bulk, there are soil conditioners, bark mulches and topsoils too. Compost Direct is a nationwide service that supplies British products that are organic, peat-free and from sustainable sources. Their Veggie Gold, a blend of compost, well-rotted manure and top soil is ideal for anyone planning to install some raised beds for vegetable growing while their Jubilee Compost is a blend of soil improver made from composted organic matter with added grit to help open up heavy clay soils. Anyone got a birthday coming up?

The Life Aquatic

samll garden pond surrounded by hostasWith the welcome arrival of spring, it’s not just the beds and borders that are bursting with life – ponds and water features where nothing much seems to have happened for the past few months – are showing signs of returning plant and animal activity. Before everything grows to the point where interference would be harmful, it is a good time to do some watery housework. If leaves and debris are lurking, lift them out of the water as gently as possible (to avoid the primordial soup effect) and leave them near the pond margins to drain and also allow time for any creatures to make their way back to the pond. Tidy up marginal plants and, if they are overcrowded, now is a good time to divide them and replant the fresh young growth from the edge of the plant. Similarly, if waterlilies are taking over, they can be divided and repotted once they show signs of new growth, but be sure to use an aquatic compost to avoid making the water too nitrogen rich. Check pond pumps to make sure they still work after a winter’s rest, make sure the electrics all appear sound (water and dodgy electrical connections do not mix). If you need to upgrade your equipment, need advice, or are thinking of installing a pond, visit Swell UK  (they’re experts on all matters pond-related.) And don’t forget to clean the filters before starting the pump working.

Vine House Farm

Terracotta-bird-nestFor bird lovers, Valentine’s Day is about more than hearts and flowers – it also marks the start of National Nest Box Week. Providing a suitable home, regular food and fresh clean water for your garden birds is a two-way street.  Do these things and the birds will find your garden an attractive habitat and reward your efforts by keeping pests under control as well as filling the garden with birdsong as spring approaches. It’s amazing just how many different species of bird will turn up once they know (via Twitter?) that there is easily accessible food on offer. It is important to keep on feeding the birds, especially in winter when they use a great deal of energy flying to and fro from the feeder – if the feeder is empty when they get there they will have depleted their reserves and have to fly elsewhere to find food.  Similarly, a bird bath should be kept clean and filled with water  – and  not just for drinking – bathing is essential for birds health. If you are keen to do everything you can to increase and nurture the bird population in your own garden, Vine House Farm website is a good place to start.  They supply everything bird-related from home grown birdfeed, to feeders and nestboxes  and much more besides.screenshot of Vine House Farm website who specialise in birdseed