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Apryl Swindle

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Design InspirationGardening

Once there were no flowering plants: no roses, poppies, daisies or geraniums – just lush, green and unfamiliar jungle. Well, you’ve seen it in the movies. Now you can create your own patch of ancient jungle, thanks to a range of plants that would have provided lunch for dinosaurs in their time.

Creating your own lush Jurassic Park is fairly straightforward. The idea combines the rich greens of ferns, cycads, tree ferns and pines with a splash of water and informal close planting. And what the combination may lack in colour is more than made up for in lush greenery, architectural structure and an attractive, if unfamiliar, air of mystery.

Green Dreams

Perhaps the most important component of any Jurassic Park is ferns – their strong architectural forms and primeval air are just the thing to provide dense planting. For the edges of borders, try the arching fronds of the Lady Fern and the smaller delicately coloured Japanese Painted Fern. To provide height, think about tree ferns such as Dicksonia Antarctica – they will provide shade for the smaller ferns beneath, as well as the wonderful contrast between their leaves and the browns of their trunks.

Go Exotic

Another way to emphasise the unfamiliar is to add a variety of exotic plants such as the Japanese cycad – a cross between a tree fern and a palm tree – or a variety of true palms. Some of the best examples include the Canary Island Date Palm and the Chusan palm. These can also provide height to your borders and could be planted carefully to provide focal points or clusters of architectural structure.

Wet and Wild

No dinosaur would be happy without the trickle of a jungle stream or two. You can create your own simple rills bubbling through foliage using small ponds at different heights, linked by shallow channels filled with small and large pebbles. One or two pumps can be used to circulate the water from the lowest pond to the highest. You could even have a bit of fun using concealed motion sensors attached to fountains that are placed to squirt visitors as they explore. But if you have a bit more space, how about an oasis in the jungle with water running beneath a seat or even pouring through a glass-topped table!

Design InspirationGardening

Modern meadows are a key look this year – gorgeous grasses informally planted together, mixed in with tubs of tulips or dotted with single white foxgloves, and always providing unbeatable colours, movement and texture. There’s no doubt that at the moment, grass is officially gorgeous.

The main idea of modern meadowland is to combine natural planting style with a contemporary, formal layout, creating a traditional meadowland re-interpreted for the modern world. Getting the look can take some thought, and patience, but it’s worth the effort. The secret is to make the maximum use of the colour, texture and height of grasses to give a feast for the eye.

The use of grasses in particular is especially useful since these plants provide gorgeous subtle shades of colour for most of the year, and this is capped by elegant seed heads later in the summer. Once established they take little care, and of course insects and birds love them.

Stalks and Seed Heads

However you plan to plant, one of the most important ideas is to use the variety of heights that different grasses give you to add depth to your planting. For example, use shorter varieties at the front of borders where you can see them. Don’t plant singly but in large clumps – or in straight lines to mark paths or divisions in the garden. Taller varieties can go almost anywhere – even near the front if they aren’t planted densely – giving movement and adding strong architectural features.

For smaller clumps with beautiful delicate flower heads, try Briza media or Briza Maxima. For stronger architectural spikes with fabulous golden seed heads, try Stipa gigantea Gold Fontaene.

Subtle Shades

Grasses aren’t just green. How about browns (Carex milk chocolate), rich greys and blues (Elijah Blue Fescue) or the exotic Blood Grass ‘Imperata cylindrica Rubra’ with mid-green leaves that turn blood-red from the tips downwards and have fluffy silvery-white flower spikes in summer. In particular, this spectacular grass provides a wonderful contrast to other golden, blue or even black foliaged grasses.

Perfect Textures

Grasses make it easy to create almost any kind of texture in your garden. For instance, choose from the delicate softness of Pheasant Grass (Stipa tenuifolia), the explosive, spiky mounds created by Miscanthus Yakushima Dwarf, or the upright steely stems of Juncus Carmans.

GardeningHome Decor

If you are lucky enough to have outdoor space then summer is the perfect opportunity to invite some friends around for a barbecue, afternoon tea party or evening cocktails. If you are feeling really ambitious, make a day of it and combine all three! Try these cheap and cheerful outdoor decorating ideas that will instantly set the scene for your garden party.

Quick tips

  • Make your guests a gift to take away like a pot plant from one of your own garden cuttings.
  • Keep the bugs at bay with citronella incense sticks or scented candles.
  • Stop the table cloth blowing away by attaching clip-on table weights.
  • Recycled bottles make great single stem vases and you won’t mind too much if they get broken.

Casual buffet-style dining

For an informal buffet or barbecue, make your own bunting using pages out of magazines, newspapers or patterned wrapping paper – the more mismatched and eclectic the better. Simply measure out symmetrical diamonds of paper, cut them out and fold them in half to create double-sided triangles. Loop these over a very long ribbon or piece of coloured string and glue together the two triangles.

A traditional picnic blanket is ideal for relaxed dining, but a large tablecloth will also do the trick. Tie up bundles of individual cutlery sets for each guest with raffia or coloured ribbons. Use acrylic glasses and crockery to prevent breakages.

For a child-friendly family gathering why not go for a Mad Hatter’s tea party theme with lots of mismatched china cups, plenty of chintzy teapots and multicoloured iced cupcakes? Thread a pack of cheap playing cards together with string and attach them to branches for the full Alice-in-Wonderland experience.

Elegant al fresco entertaining

For more grown-up and sophisticated garden entertaining, stylish table dressing will give your party the edge. Whether it is a posh afternoon tea or a balmy summer’s evening supper, a stunning centrepiece comprising fresh cut flowers and candles will create a sense of occasion. You could wind long flower stems and vines into a wide glass vase or globe-shaped goldfish bowl or, alternatively, use floating candles and flower heads in a basin of water. Scattering petals, skeleton leaves or paper cut-out butterflies over the table will work well with the natural outdoor surroundings.

If you would rather a more exotic look, combine dark wood furnishings with bright coloured table linen in magenta, violet and turquoise. Adorn the table with tropical pot plants as a centrepiece. A table runner in either paper or fabric will create cohesion. For place settings that double as napkin rings, use alphabet beads threaded onto a piece of coloured wire to spell out the guests’ names.

Garden lighting

Atmospheric lighting will give your cocktail party or evening barbecue the wow factor. Use garden flares, lanterns or fairylights to create a lit pathway for your guests so they do not stumble in the dark. Tealights in jars or candleholders are a practical way to mark out a garden staircase as well as creating a stunning tiered light display. Decorate your trees with mini lanterns attached with wire loops.

Mini sparklers and edible flowers are a beautiful way to garnish a cocktail. Pansies are ideal because they come in many colour combinations. It’s best to grow your own so you can be sure they haven’t been sprayed with any chemicals or buy them from a specialist food shop not a florist. Chop citrus fruits into wedges and freeze them for a fruity alternative to icecubes. Create an outdoor fridge to store all the beers and bottles of white wine by sealing an outdoor metal bin with bathroom sealant and filling it up with ice and water.

Home DecorSunroom

No matter what it’s called, a sunroom, or a conservatory; these rooms are very popular and will increase property value. To get the most out of a sunroom it’s important that the room works hand in hand with the home’s interior decorating scheme and the natural landscape outside.

Sunrooms can serve a variety of functions in the home but were originally designed to house plants. The most successful interior decorating plans for sunrooms keep this idea in mind, finding creative ways to bring Mother Nature inside and create a bridge between the inside and the outside.

To enhance the appearance and function even more the sunroom décor should drag decorating elements from the rest of the home into its scheme and meld that with touches of nature that extend the eye and make the outdoor area seem like it’s part of the living space as well. The following sunroom decorating tips will help create a successful atmosphere and increase property value.

Sunroom Traffic Flow

The first consideration should be the traffic flow of the sunroom and how it relates to adjoining rooms. Sometimes the instinct is to put a couch up as a divider between the sunroom and the rest of the house, avoid this temptation if possible and create a design scheme that opens up the traffic flow from sunroom to the rest of the home.

Sunroom Furniture

Fitting both into the flow and function, the furniture should connect and tie the sunroom to the rest of the home in some way, whether it is colour, form or style. The furniture should also be really appropriate for the activities you expect to occur most frequently in the conservatory. But a big concern that many overlook is the sunroom furniture’s resiliency. Solariums, by nature, have a lot of direct sunlight and the furniture and its fabric should be designed to withstand natural light.

Sunroom Function

Be honest about what the room will be used for. If it’s simply for visual impact and having a cup of coffee then have a comfy chair and a side table and lots of visual elements or plants that speak to the view outside. If it’s a child’s playroom then provide ample storage, functional flooring and few plants on table or ground level.

Lighting in the Sunroom

As mentioned above, sunlight is a major concern in a home solarium. It can kill plants, fade furniture, make it difficult to read computer screens, and provide too much warmth if not handled appropriately. Most sunrooms have well thought out blinds that can be adjusted throughout the day with ease so the benefits of the sun can be fully exploited.

These tips should help create a sunroom that has aesthetic appeal and a cohesive feel with the rest of the house. They will also make the solarium more functional and a room that can be enjoyed by everyone.