Exploring the Great British Countryside… on our doorstep!

Winter is one of my favourite times to explore the local countryside with my scruffy terrier – nothing compares to the crunch of frozen leaves underfoot, fresh cool air on my cheeks, and wrapping up in my brand-new woollies from Christmas. I’m always on the look-out for new routes to explore, and one of the many bonuses of living in Warwickshire is that you’re never too far away from some beautiful countryside to discover.

The Hatton Estate (near Warwick) has recently opened their land and created a trio of new walking routes for the public to enjoy. Traversing a mix of private land (with permissive access), towpaths and public footpaths across fields, country lanes and canals whilst soaking in stunning views over neighbouring Warwick. These rambles pass by local landmarks such as the historic Hatton locks and churches; and budding ornithologists can seek out pheasants, waterfowl, and the occasional barn owl who have made their home in the ancient woodland.  

There are three equally idyllic routes across Hatton to choose from. There’s the Watery Stroll (3.5 miles), Wilderness Way (4.25 miles) or Hatton & Grove Park (5 miles). The more adventurous rambler can even combine the Wilderness Way & Hatton & Grove Park for a more challenging 9-mile route.

Very conveniently, the routes can all begin and end at the award-winning and dog-friendly gastropub, The Hatton Arms (postcode CV35 7JJ), where a roaring log fire, and warm welcome awaits. The ideal location to refuel and refresh with a hearty, locally sourced British menu, and a lovely way to round off a perfect Winter afternoon.

You can find out more about the Hatton Estate Walks and download a free map & leaflet from the Hatton Arms website, www.hattonarms.com

Garden Jobs & Ideas for December

 By Lottie Newitt, Blogger & TV Presenter and Owner of the Alfresco Style

Our star plant of the month is Abies nordmanniana, AKA the Nordmann Fir Christmas Tree!

We absolutely love the idea of being able to grow your own Christmas Tree, especially for those with a young family as you can watch your very own Christmas Tree grow with your family through the years.

The Nordmann Fir makes for a great hardy garden plant all year-round which if left in a nice pot can be moved inside for the festive period or left outside and decorated with pretty fairy lights to brighten up the December Garden.

All they need is to be kept damp in the summer, usually best out of direct sun light so they don’t scorch or dry out and a good feed with an all-round plant food in the autumn and late spring.

Here are a few other plants to help cheer up your December garden;

  • Ilex aquifolium- Good old English Holy with its traditionally-loved festive red or yellow ornamental berries! Be sure to plant a female and a male plant to ensure continual berries year on year. Not only lovely for the winter garden but a great cutting plant to decorate the inside of the home too (mind out for the spikey foliage though!). A hardy shrub which is usually evergreen that will grow in most garden aspects.
  • Gaultheria procumbens is a wonderful low growing shrub ideal for clumped ground cover or perfect for a container garden. Vibrant red ornamental red berries flash from under the green-bronzy foliage from autumn and into the winter.
  • Sarcococca varieties are a great way to add sweet fragrance to your winter garden. Lovely glossy deep green leaves with spindly white/cream blooms that are subtle in size but big in scent! This hardy shrub can be grown in the border or a container, OK in most conditions but we’ve found they always perform better in part shade.

Wildlife tip of the Month:

Keep the birds & other wildlife going through the winter by planting shrubs with ornamental berries and top them up with higher-fat feed such as peanuts or suet-based blocks. This gives them that extra energy boost for winter whilst also giving them a little more ‘fat’ to keep that extra bit warmer during the colder months ahead.

Christmas Tree Care

Help your cut tree last longer with these few tips:

  • When you get your cut tree home, if you are able to do so safely trim about 1-2cm off the base of the tree to help open up it’s ‘pores’ which will make watering more efficient through the festive period
  • Dunk in a bucket of water as soon as you have trimmed the base or have got your tree home- don’t let it sit out of water for too long, this shortens their life-span. We recommend keeping it stood outside in a bucket of water over night before bringing your tree in to the home to give it a good soak.
  • Put your tree somewhere a little cooler if possible and away from a hot radiator, one for safety but also to prevent your tree drying out too quickly which makes them drop sooner.
  • Water your tree once or twice a week (depending on how warm your home is) to keep the moisture level stable. Be sure to put your tree in a water-tight vessel so that you are able to water your tree throughout the festive period.

We have some lovely cut Christmas Trees available to buy in our Garden Boutique, some are up to 6ft in height, come and visit us for more advice and choose your perfect Christmas Tree.

If you need any further advice on ideas for winter gardening or seasonal plant care please feel free to come in and ask Lottie or one of the Garden Boutique Team, we’d be happy to help & we have everything you need to make your autumn garden a success.

The Alfresco Style

Garden Jobs & Ideas for November

By Lottie Newitt, Blogger & TV Presenter and Owner of the Alfresco Style

Our star plant of the month is Viburnum tinus!

A fantastic Garden Performer that is very low maintenance. Pretty deep pink buds that open into clusters of tiny white flowers that start to develop and bloom at the end of October/early November which will then continually flower all the way through the winter and into early spring. Some flower heads will produce ornamental glossy blue/black berries that provide further garden interest as well as a winter food for birds and small mammals.

This wonderful evergreen shrub is a good plant to add to a border or have planted on its own in a patio container. Viburnum tinus also makes for a great hedging plant

Here are a few other plants to help cheer up your November garden;

  • Heuchera- a lovely perennial foliage plant that thrives in shade and part sunny conditions. There are so many different colours of Heuchera to choose from that you could create a foliage tapestry in your garden. From burnt purples, to marmalade shades and silvery greens.
  • Calluna Heathers are super vibrant autumn-mid winter flowering plants that can add a little height & textural depth to your garden pots, borders & especially hanging baskets.
  • Nandina varieties are really starting to look ‘hot’ from November onwards with their fiery red-orange evergreen foliage burning up and becoming more vibrant as the colder month’s drawer in. They revert back to a fresh green foliage in spring.

Wildlife tip of the Month:

Look out for Hedgehogs at this time of year especially around Bonfire night- always check that there are no hedgehogs hiding in built-up bonfires before you light them!

Create a little corner especially for them to make a home safely in your garden through the winter, invest in a little hedgehog shelter and plant a few evergreen grasses and small shrubs around it to provide camouflage and cover. Put out Hedgehog niblets early evening for them to munch on when they potter about in the night- we have these available to buy in our Garden Boutique made especially for them.

It’s not too late to plant your spring bulbs!

You can carry on planting all varieties of spring flowering bulbs right through into December (on days where there is no frost) in time for them to settle into the ground or pots for a wonderful spring display. If you are in a windy spot go for short-stemmed varieties such as Narcissus Jet Fire or Tulip Red Riding Hood to prevent steam breakages.

If you need any further advice on ideas for late autumn or seasonal plant care please feel free to come in and ask Lottie or one of the Garden Boutique Team, we’d be happy to help & we have everything you need to make your autumn garden a success.

The Alfresco Style

Add a Splash of Colour to your Garden this October

By Lottie Newitt, Blogger, Presenter & Owner of The Alfresco Style at Hatton Shopping Village.

Autumn has arrived, and our star of the month is Crocosmia! This gorgeous early autumn flowering perennial bulb plant adds an instant splash of vibrant colour to your garden, that can last well into Autumn. What’s more, it’s beautiful trumpet-like blooms in oranges, yellows & reds make beautiful cuttings for the home. We have a delightful range of Crocosmia available in our Garden Boutique throughout October until stocks last.

For fans of low-maintenance gardening, colourful mini evergreen shrubs like Euonymus will provide a pop of colour throughout autumn and winter and can be found in stunning silvery foliage or bright yellow & green tones. Add interest with Mini Cyclamen – a truly lovely bedding plant with a gentle aroma, ideal for pots, baskets or even a kitchen windowsill. Pansies & Bedding Violas remain a gardener’s favourite to brighten up your Autumn pots, borders & hanging baskets. Some simple dead-heading will be them happy until Spring!

Why not try growing your own windowsill veggies? Now is the time to sow salad leaves, radishes, spring onions & rocket into seed trays and place on a sunny, warm windowsill. Remember to keep them damp and ‘thin-out’ any seedlings that are too close together to allow for growing room. Many salad leaf varieties are ‘cut & come again’ which means you may get a second flush of yummy leaves before winter.

What to plant NOW…. Autumn is the best time to plant shrubs, trees, roses and perennials around the garden. This allows the root systems time to settle & anchor themselves before winter hits. By the time Spring comes around, they’ll be raring to go! Remember to add a good root booster, I recommend bone meal or a mycorrhizal fungi-based fertiliser.

I love helping others create their dream garden. If you would like some free advice or inspiration, I’d be happy to help! Pop into The Alfresco Style (Hatton Shopping Village, CV35 8XA) and ask for Lottie or a member of the Garden Boutique team. We have everything you need to make your autumn garden a success!

Garden Jobs & Ideas May

May is the most exciting time of the gardening year for us, so many things you can do in the garden as the frosts slowly move further out of sight and more plant varieties are able to get growing for the summer season too.

Get ready to fill your borders, containers & hanging baskets with beautiful summer bedding, keep an eye on the weather to ensure that all frosts have finished, then you can start planting out to your hearts content.

Bedding plants are a great way to get easy and cost-effective quick summer colour into your garden and you can grow them in any size space- even if you only have a windowsill you can still enjoy a beautiful summer bedding display.

Here’s our guide on the best bedding plants to use in different garden aspects:

Bedding Plants for Shade:

Most Bedding plants require good sun light to flower really well however these two varieties will tolerate light or dappled shade.

Begonia, the trailing types tend to be the better type to go for in a slightly shaded spot. Lovely bright coloured blooms that can help brighten up a dull corner.

Impatiens, also known as Busy Lizzies don’t mind living in part shade too. Busy Lizzies are quite versatile bedding plants they are good for borders, containers, troughs, wall planters or hanging baskets- so whatever size your shaded area might be these are perfect!

Bedding Plants for a cascading hanging basket:

Trailing Fuchsia are fantastic for long lasting summer colour- they even flower right into the autumn/winter until they are hit with the first frost! The trailing types have a lovely cascading nature with elegant blooms that dangle & move in a gentle breeze. Bees love Fuchsia flowers too.

Surfinia are also wonderful trailing plants that are not only filled with beautiful blooms through the summer, they also add a sweet & subtle fragrance to your garden too. Tumbling double flower blooms in tones of purples, mauves, whites & pinks to choose from.

Bedding Plants for a sunny spot:

Geranium plants love sunny and dryer conditions, in fact their flowers thrive in these conditions. Big statement blooms in red, pink, orange & white make for a long lasting & low maintenance summer display.

Vegetable Seeds to Sow Now

You can sow broccoli varieties now and continue to sow carrots, beetroot and radish too.

Sow cucumber seeds in the greenhouse or undercover along with pumpkins and melons.

Our star plant of the month is Saxifraga

Lovely low growing perennial plant that comes in shades of pink, reds & white tones too. An ideal plant for rockery gardens or to fill a gap at the front of the border, once in flower this plant is loaded with blooms from mid-late spring. The foliage is very tight but feels & looks sponge-like making it a nice tactile plant for the garden. Saxifraga will also thrive in a patio pot or would look lovely in a window planter too.

Weekend Project Idea

Make a wildlife patch in your grass! If you’re looking to encourage more wildlife into your garden and also want to save a little time on mowing, then why not set aside a small area of your lawn that you can let grow freely with no cutting. Sprinkle a few wildflower or meadow friendly seeds into the area too which will not only make it look pretty in the summer but it will also help encourage lots of different insects, pollinators & wildlife into your garden.

Get your bedding plants from our Garden Boutique from the middle of May. We also have new season alpines, herbs & spring flowering plants now in stock in The Alfresco Style Garden Boutique. Come and visit our friendly team for gardening advice and enjoy or inspirational seasonal displays to help you create your own slice of garden heaven.

You can shop The Alfresco Style’s Flower Seeds Range online or in store

Garden Jobs & Ideas for April

 By Lottie Newitt, Blogger & TV Presenter and Owner of the Alfresco Style

It’s Spring and it’s time to start breathing new life back into our gardens. A cost effective way to refresh and fill up your garden ready for the summer months is to sow seeds now that you can nurture & watch grow into beautiful floral displays or yummy home grown produce.

Vegetable Seeds to Sow Now

You can sow carrots, beetroot and radish in rows directly into prepared ground, be sure to label your varieties so you don’t forget what you have sown where! You can also sow the brightly coloured stem swiss chard straight into the ground in April.

Sow lettuce, chilli peppers, pumpkins, courgettes, peas and leeks undercover on a windowsill or in a greenhouse.

Flower Seeds to Sow Now

Sow Sweet Peas, Nigella & Poppies directly into prepared ground or patio pots.

Sunflowers, Nasturtiums, Cosmos & Zinnias can be sown indoors or under cover in April.

Our star plant of the month is Viburnum tinus

This is a fantastic plant that is tough and looks beautiful when in flower. Pink buds start to form in winter with tiny flowers bunched in clusters coming into bloom late winter and throughout the spring. Deep evergreen leaves stay throughout the whole year and following flowering this Viburnum will produce ornamental blue/black berries.

Ideal plant for containers, the middle of a border or can be used as a hedge it is the perfect plant to encourage early pollinators into your garden too.

Weekend Project Idea

Create a herb garden! You can plant up a border, a patio pot or even a hanging basket with a lovely selection of herbs to add enticing aromas into your garden for spring. Hang a basket up near your kitchen window or back door somewhere you can easily pick your herbs to use in your cooking and where you can enjoy their fragrance the most.

Start preparing your garden for Spring by adding mulch and general-purpose feed to your borders & pots to give your plants a good boost for spring growth. Be aware of weeds starting to come up, once they get going they can easily take over, weeding little and often is a good way to keep on top of the weeds at this time of the year.

New season seeds, herbs & spring flowering plants are all now in stock in The Alfresco Style Garden Boutique. Come and visit our friendly team for gardening advice and enjoy or inspirational seasonal displays to help you create your own slice of garden heaven.

You can shop The Alfresco Style’s Kitchen Garden Range online or in store

Garden Jobs & Ideas for October

Grow some Autumn Veg!

Fancy picking your own fresh veggies straight from your windowsill?

Sow salad leaves, radish, spring onion and rocket now in to seed trays and place in a sunny, warm windowsill where they can thrive during the next few weeks of autumn. Keep your sowings nice and damp and ‘thin out’ any seedlings that are too close to each other to give them a little more growing room.

Many salad leaf varieties are ‘cut & come again’ types which means you may get another flush of yummy leaves before the winter too.

Our star plant of the month is Skimmia!

During the autumn, Skimmia Rubella can brighten up your garden with their deep red clusters of buds that hold well all the way through into mid-late winter when they then open up into clusters of tiny white semi-fragrant flowers. Skimmia are an evergreen shrub, ideal for foliage coverage throughout the year and are a hardy shrub that can last for years if placed in the right spot. Perfect for a patio container or in the middle of a larger border, ideally in semi shaded positions for best results and plant in ericaceous compost to ensure the best plant health possible.

Skimmia Fragrant Cloud is another wonderful variety to look out for if you like to add strong scents to your garden. The clusters of buds tend to be greener than Skimmia Rubella, however the scent is a much sweeter & stronger fragrance.

Here are a few other plants to look out for this month too. Brighten up your October garden with the plants listed below:

  • Mini Cyclamen- a lovely autumn bedding plant with a beautiful fragrance ideal for pots, baskets of the front of a border. The blooms look like candle flames in colours ranging from white, pink, purple to red.
  • Pansy & Bedding Viola- A garden staple for the autumn & winter months, the good old pansy plant now comes in an array of colours to brighten up not only your autumn pots, borders & hanging baskets but will also keep going well into the following spring. Low maintenance and pretty, ideal for this time of the year.
  • Viburnum tinus- a low maintenance evergreen shrub with pretty pink buds that open up into clusters of white flowers through autumn & late winter. Viburnum makes a good garden shrub in a border or container; Viburnum can also make a lovely garden hedge too.

Autumn is the best time to plant!

Planting shrubs, trees, roses and perennial plants now really helps give your garden a head start for the following spring. The root systems have time to settle & anchor themselves into the ground before winter hits, so when as soon as spring begins the plants can focus on growing rather than settling. Add a good root booster when planting in the autumn, bone meal or a mycorrhizal fungi-based fertiliser which can really get the roots going ready for the winter.

Garden Jobs and Ideas for September

Create a beautiful & vibrant display with bulbs! Planting now and through the Autumn, Spring flowering bulbs are a wonderful way to get early colour & interest into your garden. Plant bulbs from September to enjoy them in the following Spring. There are so many different varieties to choose from you can have a complete colour-bomb of Spring flowers or create set colour themes, you could also make mass plantings of one or two varieties for impact. If you only have a small garden or windowsill you can also plant bulbs in pots.

Narcissus (Daffodils) add height to bulb displays, Tulips also provide height but due to their form they can add an elegant tone to the mix too. Crocus are perfect to plant under shrubs, trees or to plant at the front of your spring bulb display. Allium bulbs can also be planted from September which will provide a late Spring flower display. Alliums are a good choice for pollinators in the garden and they add strong structural interest with their large globe-flower heads in purples & whites.

Our star plant of the month is Heuchera!

Heuchera are the perfect way to add a touch of autumn colour to your borders or plant pots, they can be found in many different tones of purples, oranges, greens, reds etc… a real tapestry of colours to choose from. Heuchera are a low maintenance perennial plant that provide foliage colour for a good 9 months of the year especially in Autumn and early Spring.

Plant Heuchera in partial shade where possible, they don’t mind sun or full shade either however they tend to look their best in semi-shaded areas.

Here are a few other plants to look out for this month too. Brighten up your September garden with the plants listed below:

  • Rudbeckia- adding an Autumnal sunshine glow with it’s deep yellow & sometimes rusty red tinged blooms. The late pollinators love Rudbeckia with its lovely open flowers that are almost daisy-like in appearance.
  • Phlox paniculata- fill your September garden with a soft sweet fragrance with a perennial Phlox. Find them in purples, pinks, light blue & white they can be planted in containers or added to the middle of a border.
  • Ornamental grasses- adding an array of tall, whispy-grasses to your garden can add a relaxing element with the gentle movement they provide. Some grasses, particularly the taller varieties such as Panicum or Miscanthus can keep providing you with interest all the way through into the winter months too, keep their seed/flower heads intact even when they look dry or ‘dead’ so that the frost can sit prettily on them in deep winter. This adds another dimension of interest to any garden.

Prepare for Leaf Fall

It’s that time of year when the leaves start changing into glorious fiery colours and begin to drop. If you have room create a leaf mould heap, leaf mould is full of wonderful nutrients and once broken down completely can be used as a natural mulch for your garden in the spring. Invest in a good lawn rake with a wide surface area, this will help clear leaves up with ease & make the whole process a lot quicker when tidying the leaf drop from the garden.

Liven up your bedding plant displays by changing plants to more Autumn-Winter friendly varieties. Pansy Viola are a brilliant garden performer, an old classic that never fails to please. Pansies can be found in all sorts of colours that look wonderful mixed together or picked out and planted for their individual colour tones.

You can mix Pansy Viola with Calluna heathers which provide a textural & intense spot of colour for the garden from September onwards. The upright flower stems are filled with mini blooms that can act as a good centre piece for pots or hanging baskets.

Senecio can add a lovely silvery foliage into the mix or go for bedding Solanum which provide a hit of more warming colours with their ornamental berries in tones of orange.

Weeds can still be a burden in September with the odd warmer day and rainier weather. This is a great time to add bark to your borders which not only helps supress weeds, it also acts as a great top mulch which can help lock-in moisture and goodness into the soil ready for the winter months ahead.

Prepare your Roses, shrubs & trees for the autumn & winter months and give them a little root booster by digging in some bone meal around their base. Bone meal is a good root strengthening product which can help bolster up root systems & get plants really anchoring well into the ground healthily. Doing this now will help set-up your plants ready for the spring growth-spurt next year.

Garden Jobs & Ideas for August

Written by Lottie Newitt

Create a fantastic flower display & keep your summer hanging baskets & containers looking fresh & full of blooms during the drier days of August, by keeping them well fed with a high potassium plant food. The potassium really helps to boost the plant root systems, as well as promoting improved flowering, giving you a much better display.

Our star plant of the month is Agapanthus, a beautiful mid-late summer flowering perennial plant that comes in different tones of blues & whites. Agapanthus are often seen in southern coastal locations as they thrive in warm & sunny conditions. There are more varieties now available which are hardier & more suitable for the more northern climate, for example Agapanthus Twister, an award-winning variety that looks like a firework once open, exhibiting blue tones that merge into bright white at the tips of each flower.

There are many other lovely plants to look out for this month too! Dress your outdoor space with colour by adding the plants listed below to your garden this month:

  • Salvia- all varieties of Salvia plants are brilliant long-lasting summer flowering varieties – the bees love the blooms of them all!
  • Hollyhock- a wonderful tall biennial summer flowering plant which can add great height to any garden through the summer months. The flower blooms can be super bright, almost tropical colours, or they can be pretty pastels which look lovely in traditional cottage style gardens.
  • Heliopsis- add a little fire to your outdoor space with these fantastic blooms. The flowers can be found in an array of yellows, oranges & reds that can add plenty of warmth to your garden
Garden Bug Hotel

Make a bug hotel! This is something fun to do with the children during the summer holidays. Use old air bricks to build up a small block, leave a few gaps in between some of the middle bricks where you can add straw & sticks for bugs to hide in. You could also add a small saucer of sugared water where bees can get a pit-stop before they carry on with their busy day!

If you have a pond in your garden, make sure you regularly keep the water topped up. Adding fresh water often prevents any level of your pond from drying out & helps to keep your pond thriving with water wildlife. By doing this you can also keep your pond a little clearer due to the movement caused by the fresh influx of water.

Weeds, weeds, weeds! They are everywhere at this time of the year! With warmer weather and lighter days, and the odd dash of rain, weeds really do come into their element. To help keep weeds supressed and to save time, lay bark chip on top of your border to cover any exposed soil. This will not only help to keep the weeds at bay, it can also look decorative too, it also helps to retain moisture in the soil.

Now’s a great time to freshen up the paint around the garden, if you have painted fence panels, wooden arches, sheds etc., it’s a good time to start freshening up the woodwork in your garden to prepare it for the wetter autumn & winter months.

For more tips, ideas and tricks come and visit us at The Alfresco Style