Five Houseplants that will see you through winter
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Five Houseplants that will see you through winter

  1. Poinsettia

The poinsettia is an absolute Christmas classic (yes we did just mention the festive season).

Its vibrant hue will brighten up any room in the house, especially when placed strategically on windowsills to offset those harsh winter whites. Easier to maintain than is often made out, poinsettias just need to be shielded from the cold on your way home from the shop, and kept warm but not too hot when inside.

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  1. The Christmas Cactus

When the November sleet gets you down, and the reality of winter is setting in, welcome the tropical Christmas cactus into your home. The Christmas cactus, or Schlumberga as it is also known, remains green for most of the year, but when Christmas comes around this plant gets in the seasonal spirit by sprouting purple, red, orange and white blooms. To ensure the Christmas cactus lives up to its name, make sure you provide the plant with twelve hours of darkness a night in the month leading up to the big day.

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  1. Kalanchoe

Kalanchoes grow in small bell-shapes in a variety of colours. Walking through the door to a warm bouquet of reds and pinks will instantly brighten your mood on a cold day. A bonus is that Kalanchoes are low maintenance houseplants, taking autumnal mornings in their stride.

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  1. Jerusalem Cherry

This bushy, evergreen shrub is the perfect addition to your houseplant collection. The Jerusalem cherry blooms small, long-lasting berries in the winter, ushering life and vitality into your home. These cheery, squat houseplants need to be kept in a humid setting and benefit from being watered twice a week. A word of warning: these poisonous fruits should be for decorative purposes only as ingesting them could lead to serious illness – not what you need during the party season!

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  1. Holly

It may not be the season to be jolly quite yet, but it is almost essential to welcome Holly into your home during the autumn/winter season. The plant’s waxy, pointed leaves and red berries bring seasonal joy wherever they rest, and can certainly be an eye-catching botanical centrepiece for your home. Hollies require thoroughly drained, acidic soil and proper exposure to sunlight to thrive indoors.

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Attaining a stylish garden

zen Gardens are an important part of any home; they’re a place to be at one with nature, to enjoy peace and tranquility in between neighbours mowing their  lawns, and relax whilst soaking up the sun (the little amount that we get). In true Brit-style, we’ll take any smidgeon of sunlight emerging from behind  the clouds as an excuse to crack open the beers and get the BBQ going, but this is almost impossible to predict. It’s therefore important that your garden  is ready for any impromptu summer barbecues, parties or outdoor get-together’s you may decide to host, and we think that one simple yet effective way  of doing this is to replicate the style of your home from the inside, out.

Imagine yourself in your living room minus all of its furnishings; you probably wouldn’t want to spend much time in there would you? Well the same  applies to your garden. Decorating your garden with plants is only the first step in creating a harmonious and stylish area, but furniture is an  increasingly vital element. There are a range of different furniture designs available to suit your desired garden style and theme. For example, Japanese Zen gardens have become very popular in recent years and are a modern favourite in garden design. Some others include Mediterranean, Tuscan, and Traditional English country for example. Allocating a theme to your garden will enable you to stay within a colour palette, chose materials complimentary of one another and above all, avoid mismatched items.

Choosing your Style

When looking for garden furniture, you made find than you’re overwhelmed by the vast number of different types and styles that are available.ratan furniture

For a more traditional and classic look, there are many different types of wooden furniture that are of high quality and well-made to look simple but effective. Rattan is also a great choice of furniture that is extremely charming. Rattan is made from superior quality resin and comes in two different types: Flat weave is a more cost-friendly and gives a more modern look whereas round weave is more traditional and perhaps a little more attractive and luxurious. Metal too has the potential to be attractive and luxurious and is conveniently simple to maintain. For a more modern appearance, darker coloured furniture such as black is more appropriate, or even sheer white – however white furniture, particularly fabric coated ones can be difficult to clean, but is nevertheless just as beautiful.

 

Picking up the Pieces

Garden furniture doesn’t have to be dull, however many flock towards the standard green or white plastic chair and table sets or the regular old wooden pieces. Not  that there is anything wrong with this, but your garden should be a place you actively want to return to due to its beauty and charm. Furthermore, many shy away  from the more interesting types of garden furniture as it is often found to be pricey or overindulgent. However, realistically you do not have to spend that much  money and stylish garden furniture can be picked up at a decent enough price.

You first need to establish what type of furniture you are looking for. Are you looking for an outside dining set, chairs, a coffee table, a bench, sofas or something  else? Are you buying according to a theme? You also need to think about who will be using the furniture and when.

Chairs and sofas are great for if you host an occasion or get together and even to also create an outside relaxation area. You may be more interested in purchasing  an outside dining table, allowing you and your family to enjoy the evening, or perhaps a coffee table for reading your book with a cup of tea or coffee. There are  many different arrangements to choose from, it’s simply about finding the right one to suit you.

 

About the author

Laura Morrissey

 

Laura Morrissey is a digital content editor and home improvement enthusiast at George F Knowles Furniture. She is a native of Liverpool with an interest in high quality craftsmanship & traditional luxury furnishings and passionately writing about them.

 

Image Credits: PixabayStatic FlickrOutdoorWickerFurniture.com

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How to Make the Most of Limited Outdoor Space

Having a small patio or balcony restricts your options for lounging, gardening, or any other activity that you might enjoy. What about those who only have a window ledge to work with? We’ve got solutions for everyone.

The first thsmall-balcony-decor-ideaing you want to do is decide on what you want to use the space for. Do you want a place to relax and read? Are you planning on growing  vegetables? Figure out what your primary goal for the space is and work around that.

When working with small spaces we have to start thinking vertically. We tend to look at floor space to determine what we can fit in a room. A tight  balcony or patio  won’t allow much. Instead, think creatively about how you can use the vertical space by stacking items or hanging them.

Next you want to consider versatility. If you’re using the space for your garden, you likely won’t be moving the plants around very often. However, if you  want to  add a couple of chairs, or even a small table — you can make your space more versatile by using furniture that folds or collapses easily.

It’s all about creativity. There are no rules to designing your outdoor space. Figure out what works for you. With that in mind, here are some ideas to get  you  headed in the right direction.

 The Cramped Patio

The best-case scenario here is that you at least have some patio space to take full advantage of. Even if it’s limited, you still have a ton of options to play with.

Patios allow you to create an outdoor dining area, lounge, garden, pet area, and much more. A table like this is great for dining on a small patio, because it seats four but doesn’t take up too much space. Coffee tables work well on patios because they are convenient for lounging with a cocktail and functional for casual dining.

The Petite Balcony

Balconies are restrictive to how you can use the space, but we can work around that. Most people use their balcony as a sitting area and/or a garden. This is where you really have to start thinking vertically.

A small table like this is perfect for balconies. The wall panel has shelf space for plants and allows you to hang lights or decorations. The table itself is big enough for two people to eat and the chairs fold up to be placed aside if the space is extremely narrow.

The Window Ledge

The best solution for a window ledge is a window box. You may not be able to step outside, but you can still have a little garden to tend to. In addition to their functionality, window boxes add a charming touch to your view and a pleasant aroma, depending on what you’re growing. Herbs such as chives,tarragon, parsley, rosemary, mint, sage, basil, thyme and oregano all grow well in window boxes.5848583730_dfe53757cb_o

 

Image credits to: Flickr.comElement of Style

 

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Six top tips for a barbecue at your new home

Everyone knows that one of the main features of a great British summer is a barbecue. So why not use that new home and garden of yours to host one for your friends and family? The British summer isn’t the most reliable when it comes to its weather, but in the hope that we do have at least a few nice weeks this year, why not give it a go using these top tips:

 Theme9539470342_308fa83bd3_b

A themed barbecue is a great way to build enthusiasm among you and your guests, whether you simply theme the food you plan on serving or opt for something  more creative. Whichever you choose, have fun with it! Create an idea that both you and your guests will enjoy being a part of. Make sure it’s not something overly  difficult or complicated, just something to add to the occasion.

 Games

Games are a great asset to a barbecue once the food and drink is underway. This will add to the fun aspect of your barbeque and give you the chance to try out your  creative skills as a host. You could even incorporate your theme! Why not divulge some family jokes or something that will trigger a memory among your friends? The  games can be anything as simple as a game of cards, to an amusing game of Twister!

 Try some new food

There are a number of conventional foods associated with a British barbecue; from the classic beef burger, to the good old hot dog. Why not show off your cooking and creativity by adding to these classics using recipes that people may not have tried before? Go back to your original theme and try to alter the food accordingly, whether adding some salsa and guacamole to your Mexican themed barbie, or making a big paella to channel your inner Spaniard.

Create some drinks

Exciting drinks to go with your food, whether alcohol or juice based, themed or none-themed, will enhance your barbecue even further. Try your hand at creating some cocktails or make a good old fruit punch or vintage lemonade for those less inclined to alcohol.

Invite the neighbours

You’re in a new house, which most likely means you’re in a new neighbourhood, so why not invite some of the neighbours? A laid back event like a barbeque is a great opportunity to meet and get to know some of the people on your new street, so try to invite them along to join you.

Make the most of your garden

You’ve got a nice new garden, so make the most of it! If you have garden furniture, make sure it’s accessible to your guests and spread out as to use as much space as possible. Even if your garden isn’t very big, you can still make the most of what you’ve got; put some rugs out for people to sit on or utilize your dining room furniture if possible.

 

Image credit: Takuma Kimura via compfight.com

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#SpringCleanSOS – The shortlist
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#SpringCleanSOS – The shortlist

Despite the weather being far too cold for this time of year, our sponsors, Keepmoat, marked the arrival of spring with our #SpringCleanSOS competition. Hosted on its social media channels, they invited their online community to share the spring cleaning challenges they dare not tackle – from messy rooms, cluttered cupboards and grubby gardens – all to be in with the chance of winning a top of the range Dyson.

After much deliberation, the Keepmoat judging panel has picked its shortlist of finalists and now it’s over to you to choose your overall winner. Check out the entries below and visit the Keepmoat Facebook page to cast your vote.

‘My oven needs some serious TLC’

We agree that this oven is definitely a spring clean challenge and a half! Nobody enjoys the dreaded task of scrubbing the oven for hours on end.

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‘I keep having to pick up floor omelettes, it’s exhausting!’

We love this artistic photo of an adorable little boy looking innocent after dropping eggs on the kitchen floor. I’m sure most parents out there will be able to sympathise with cleaning up after the children all day!

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‘Our new flat…’

We feel their pain! Facing the task of redecorating, repairing and cleaning a new home can be daunting (something Keepmoat knows all about) – it just takes some hard work and elbow grease, we promise!

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‘Daughter’s bedroom – I have not been brave enough to tackle this!’

We definitely don’t envy this peeved parent! Having to live with this mess cannot be fun. And we’re sure that trying to encourage their daughter to clean it herself is even more of a challenge! Good luck mum!

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‘Try keeping on top of this kitty’s fur, it’s everywhere’

At Keepmoat we’ve fallen in love with this furry feline, although we certainly don’t love the thought of having to constantly clean up all of its moulting, matted fur!

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Voting closes this Friday at 5pm so don’t forget to vote for your favourite on our Facebook page!

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Bohemian garden design for your outdoor nook

Bohemian garden design for your outdoor nook

Ever since the 60’s, the bohemian lifestyle has been intriguing thanks to books like On The Road. However, with it carries many downsides – lack of financial stability for example –  and it’s this that deters the majority of us from ever truly living it. However, as a substitute, there’s no reason why you can’t implement some of the aesthetic ideas that are characteristic for bohemian style in your own home. While you might not want this type of bohemian garden design to run throughout your entire property, your backyard or outdoor nook is the perfect place to turn into your own bohemian hideaway. Here are some practical tips on how to do this most efficiently.

Anyone can do this

Bohemian style is achieved by mixing all available styles, picking what you like and using it together. Even though that might sound easy, the trick is to make it look accidental and entirely effortless; a sort of creative chaos, but still welcoming and functional. Any item used needs to be carefully chosen and suitably placed to maintain the authentic atmosphere, and to avoid looking too contrived.

Furniture

Vivid colours and natural materials are the way to go when it comes to furniture. Since we’re working with a small outdoor space, you won’t have to use many items, just a comfortable armchair with colourful upholstery, a small ornamented table, a fold-able bed in “hippie” design and some shelves made of wooden crates, for example. Of course, rustic appearance is preferred, meaning second hand or reclaimed is the best route to go.

Rug

A rug is an absolute must given that sitting and resting on the floor is typical behaviour for any true Bohemian. However, that doesn’t mean you have to be uncomfortable or cold each time you do that. Opt for an Oriental ornamented or native North or South American Indian style rug. They are uniquely patterned, vividly-colored and certainly comfortable to sit and lay on.

Lights

Candles are most certainly a bohemian feature and different sized ones – either stood alone or put into a candelabra with rich ornamentation – are a sure win. However, they are more suitable for special occasions, not for everyday use.

If you are a practical person, you can include a floor lamp. It will make your outdoor nook feel even more like a living room and more comfortable, and make reading outside a lot easier. You can find a lot of inspiration for floor lamps in online light shops in Sydney. Choose a lamp that is simple in its design and you can always use it as a part of some other décor. Since Bohemian style is vivid and allows for a lot of mixed styles, you can paint the lamp shade to your liking. In addition, lanterns would be a suitable accessory, too. Their soft lights receive universal liking.

Some other inspiring ideas

Cushions and pillows in as many bright colours as possible should also find their spot in your Bohemian nook, not to mention old suitcases, record players and even old wind-up clocks. Let your imagination fly when you pick up particular items, make a statement and leave a personal, above-all colourful touch.

This is a guest post from Derek Lotts, an Australian writer who covers home improvement and gardening (he considers these as self-improvement topics). He believes in the power of sharing ideas and communicating via the internet to achieve betterment. Image credit: John Mould via Compfight

 

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How to grow-your-own indoor herb garden
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How to grow-your-own indoor herb garden

Growing your own herbs is great fun. It can save you money, improve your cooking, and add an attractive farmhouse aesthetic  to your kitchen. And best of all you don’t even need a garden to do it in.

Although you can grow your herbs straight from the seed, it’s a lot easier to skip this stage and use a starter plant. Make sure you use a potting mix too, which will contain all the essential nutrients the herbs need. Both these things can be purchased from a local garden centre relatively inexpensively.

The best place to keep you herb garden is on a south-facing window sill, as herbs need a lot of sunlight to grow, as well as a bit of shelter. Think about the type of pots you use too, as this can make your herb garden stand out and add a little character to your house.

There’s a huge variety of different herbs you can grow at home. As a starting point, think about what food you regularly cook, and which herbs could compliment this. Here’s a few pointers;

  • Chives are typically used for garnish, salads, vegetable stocks, soups, creamy sauces and potato dishes
  • Mint goes well with lamb and light soups.
  • Oregano is very versatile, and one of the low maintenance herbs that requires little watering. It goes nicely with lamb, vegetables and pizza.
  • Rosemary pairs well with roasted chicken, fish, lamb, pork and potatoes
  • Thyme requires little watering, and compliments most meats, like chicken and game, and is great in stews
  • Parsley is a popular garnish and goes nicely with meats, salads, soups, and can also be used in most savoury dishes

Once you’ve decided which herbs to grow, the next challenge is keeping them all alive! Make sure you provide them with at least 8 hours of sunlight each day to help them develop, and also make sure you use a container with drainage holes, otherwise it will become waterlogged.

Fertilizer is also a good idea; if your plant looks unhealthy or out of colour then use a little bit of diluted fish fertilizer, the smell goes away quickly!  This can be brought from a local garden centre.

Finally, be patient. It takes a few weeks for the herbs to develop properly. Now you just need to learn how to cook!

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Giving your summer garden the wow factor
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Giving your summer garden the wow factor

We all know that, with the summer on the way, we need to get out into the garden and begin to trim, prune and prepare those outdoor spaces after months of neglect over the winter. It might seem like a thankless job, however when the warm weather arrives and the barbecue season kicks off, you’ll be glad to have a spot in which you can relax and entertain. If you’re wanting to go that extra mile this year and truly make your garden a haven for entertaining guests, here are some of our favourite creative additions.

Keeping warm

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We all know that, even on the warmest of summer days, once the sun sets the inevitable chill will hit. If you want to keep your outdoor party going long into the night, why not make a statement, rather than opt for the standard garden parasol? A fire pit can become the centre piece of your garden, whilst also being functional and aesthetically pleasing.

Creative furniture

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Speaking of garden centrepieces, we’d like to think that over the coming month, the outdoor table will see plenty of use (although given the UK’s weather, who knows?) What better way to impress guests than to get inventive with your outdoor furniture?

Garden structures

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Feel like your garden is just a bit drab? Nothing to get excited about and no area in particular is perfect for relaxing? Just one small addition of a garden structure, such as a pergola can make a huge impact and add a real point of interest to your space.

Outdoor cooking

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We all love cooking up a storm on the barbecue, and nothing quite makes us feel like summer has arrived like the smell of grilled burgers and sausages wafting through the air. Rather than having to endure the embarrassment of bringing out a tiny disposable barbecue, invest in an area to cook that will really add to your garden, and stand the test of time.

Then relax…

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What’s the real purpose of your garden when the warm weather hits? It’s a place to lounge in, relax and just soak up the limited warm weather we have. Create a zone in which you can truly unwind, and finally enjoy your summer.

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Garden preparations for spring
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Garden preparations for spring

Summer is almost upon us (or at least it feels that way after the few weeks of nice weather we’ve just enjoyed) and although we can’t always guarantee undisturbed weekends of sunshine, it’s worth ensuring your garden is ready for those summer hot spells. Barbecues and a drinks make for the perfect weekend entertainment, especially when hosting guests. If you plan on playing the perfect garden part host over the coming weekends and for the rest of the summer, here are our top tips on making sure you’re all set.

Blast it clean

Over the winter, dirt, mould and grime become embedded into your pavements, patios and areas of decking. When the summer arrives however, you want your ourdoor areas to look spotless. Whilst giving the floor a good scrub might seem laborious, you can save a lot of time and effort with a pressure washer. Karcher offer a range of great options when it comes to pressure washing, so make sure you take a look and invest in something that can be used year after year. Blast away at the dirt and leave your surfaces looking as good as new, and ready to show off to your party guests.

Upgrade the grill

Summer and spending time in the garden just wouldn’t be the same without a good old barbecue of burgers, sausages chicken and whatever other meat you want to take on. If you’re planning a summer of outdoor dinner parties and hosting, you don’t want the embarrassment of bringing out the disposables to cook. A barbecue is an investment, and if chosen wisely, can be utilised for years. Whether you’re a fan of the genuine built structure charcoal article, or something portable and gas powered, make sure you have the tools to get the job done when cooking for a large number.

Set the right tone with furniture

Garden furniture differs greatly to indoor furniture, that goes without saying. More hard wearing and expected to survive the summer elements for months on end, durability is just as important as aesthetics with outdoor furniture. When it comes to patio tables, make an informed choice to ensure it fits in with the other aesthetics of your garden. Some gardens look more at home with a wooden table and chairs, whilst others enjoy the modern feel of something made from metal and glass.

Light it up

When the sun sets and the evening hits, it shouldn’t signify a definitive end to your time outdoors. As darkness drops, it might seem logical to shift the party indoors, however if you get your outdoor lighting right, you can light up your hosting area and keep the party going outside for as long as the warmth lingers. Along with the primary purpose of allowing you to see gathering areas and people, more decorative lighting, such as Candles and lights can draw the gaze to unexpected places and create a magical atmosphere in your garden. If you have an area of the garden you’re particularly proud of, such as a flowered bed or DIY pergola, lighting is a great way to drive attention to the spot. Another innovative use of decorative lighting is through using tiki torches around the perimeter of your garden, they’re exotic and whilst they don’t provide a huge amount of light, they do add a real ambiance to the area.

 

What are your favourite summer garden additions? If you have any particular favourites you wheel out when entertaining outdoors, we’d love to hear them. Drop a comment below with your tips and advice!

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A beginners guide to a clever garden design
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A beginners guide to a clever garden design

Summer is around the corner, however after a winter of abandonment, you might find that your garden looks more like a farmyard than a relaxing spot for you to enjoy the company of guests.  If you need to get your garden into shape this spring, here are some of our landscaping cheats.

How To Make A Garden Seem Bigger

If your garden is on the small side, then you may feel limited in what you can do; however with a few little tricks you can make your garden seem bigger than it actually is. Trimming and hedging those bushy borders or intrusive trees can really help to free up some much needed space, whilst retaining height and texture with foliage and trees can help you to keep your privacy from neighbours. Contrasting warm-coloured flowers in the middle of your garden with cool colours on the border can help to give your garden a real feeling of depth, while clever garden lighting and reflective ornaments can also play their part.

How To Create a Mediterranean Style Garden

Mediterranean gardens are often designed to evoke a real holiday-feel, where a warmer climate and sun-kissed colours are utilised. If you’re looking to incorporate a feel of Europe in your garden, features such as large seating areas and terracotta potted plants take precedent over grassy lawns, which are often hard to maintain in the heat of the Mediterranean sun. Paving stones and pebbles should be sprinkled around large plants pots, while ceramic tiles should be used to add a Moorish colour style. Walls should be whitewashed or painted in an earthy, sandy tone before vine-covered terraces are erected for a shaded dining spot. If space permits there should be different dining areas for a variety of outdoor living, with al fresco dining terraces complimented with simple benches and shaded spots.

How To Create a Cottage-Style Garden

Traditional cottage gardens are full of flowering plants and lush foliage which are planted in a purposefully informal style. Aiming to create a romantic and natural woodland feel, you can have free reign to plant all of your favourite flowers. There are no strict planting patterns or colours or scents to use, as texture, depth and variety are the king of the cottage style. Beautiful flowering archways and stepping stone pathways can lead to hidden garden areas, where a vintage hammock or tree swing are perfect for watching the birds fly overhead. Rustic water buckets and troughs are also great for an added character-feel and can often be found for a good price in an old junk yard or online.

How To Create a Chic and Sleek Garden Retreat

In contrast to a wild cottage garden, a sleek and chic retreat needs clean lines, formal plant designs and minimalist trees. Here, fussy borders are a thing of the past, as are fruit trees, unruly lawns and overgrown hedges. Lawns should be kept to a minimum and must be neat and weed-free at all times, while large flowerbeds should be replaced with sleek rockeries and simple water features. Patios and decking are often used to create a contemporary design, along with cool colours and sculpted trees.

How To Attract Wildlife

You don’t need to have masses of flowers and plants to attract birds and other wildlife into your garden. Even just a few carefully potted plants and hanging baskets can attract birds, insects and beetles into your garden with ease. Plants which offer nectar, pollen, seeds or sap should be prioritised first as these are important food sources for our feathered, furry and flying friends. Digging a pond or installing a bird bath or water feature can also help to create a welcoming habitat for the friends of the natural world.

 

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