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5 of the best parasols for your garden

Big brollies are all the rage, says Sam Wylie-Harris.

Here comes the sun! Spending time eating al fresco, reading and relaxing, or simply watching the world go by, is one life’s little pleasures.

But sometimes a sunhat and pair of shades aren’t always the best protection, especially when those rays get a little more fierce – and yet you still want to sit outside.

For a little garden therapy, parasols are proving a hot favourite this summer.

“Parasols might be something of an essential, but can be so much more than a practical addition to outside spaces,” says Brendon Haxby, founder of interiors specialists Naken.

“We’ve seen a real move in how homeowners are using their home’s exteriors. Gardens, regardless of size, are becoming an extension of the home, with more people using their outdoor spaces to socialise, entertain and cook.

“So, it’s no surprise that when it comes to exterior styling, people are getting more picky – even when it comes to their parasols.

“A battered brolly from summers past no longer cuts it,” says Haxby.

He says for summer 2022, we’re going to see a lot more parasols that are inline with interior styles. “Expect a more maximalist approach – parasols that are a little ‘extra’.

“Think, tassels, more considered curves and a range of finishes that will complement existing garden furnishings,” adds Naken.

And just in case you’re sizing up your precious piece of patio, designers are catering for bijou balconies, as well as a manicured lawn.

Dave Dryden, Christow’s home and garden guru says: “As well as standard two metre, 2.4 metre, and 2.7 metre diameter parasols, we also stock a ‘Half Parasol’. Basically, the canopy is half the size of a normal canopy – kind of like a parasol that’s been chopped in half!” he adds. “They’re a popular choice if you have a small patio or balcony area, because they take up half the space.

Here’s how to feel you’ve got it made in the shade…

1. Banana Parasol, 3m, Navy, £79.99, Christow

Super for larger areas, this banana parasol has an offset base with an overhanging canopy, so there’s no pole in the middle to tie you to a table. Ideal for sun loungers or a paddling pool.

2. 2.4m Boho Tile Carousel Parasol, £100, Dunelm

Pretty as a picture, this boho beauty makes you want to unfurl a blanket, scatter some cushions and pop the cork on a bottle of pink prosecco.

3. Norfolk Leisure 2.7m Round Geisha Parasols, £219 each, Hayes Garden World

A kaleidoscope of colour, we’d have one of these gorgeous Geisha parasols in every shade, given half the chance.

4. Garden Must-Haves Carousel Outdoor Parasol – Anthracite & Green, £166.50, Naken

With a crank and tilt option, this pretty parasol can follow your shadow as the sun rises and sets.

5. Olive & Lilac Carousel Stripe Parasol, £375, Rockett St George

With a vintage-inspired design, trendy tassels and its own matching fabric carrier bag with straps, this parasol feels as much at home in the garden, as it does the beach.

6 key tips for planning the perfect Platinum Jubilee party

Celebrate in style with fabulous food, decorations and entertainment. By Katie Wright.

It’s not often we’re gifted an extra long weekend, but that’s what’s happening this year, with a Bank Holiday added on Friday June 3 to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

Plus, the usual late May bank holiday has been pushed back to Thursday June 2, meaning a four-day break at the end of spring for many of us.

If you’re choosing to celebrate 70 years of Her Majesty’s reign with a party, now’s the time to start thinking about the food and drink, decorations and other plans for a right royal knees-up.

Here, experts offer top tips on how to organise and host a brilliant Platinum Jubilee bash…

1. Start the preparations early

“Whether you’re planning a small gathering in your garden or arranging one of the thousands of street parties expected across the UK, the earlier you get organised the better,” says Sarah Allsop, creative manager at Party Delights. “The more you plan, the less stressful things will be, and you can sit back and enjoy the fun with your guests.”

Make sure you’ve got the go-ahead for any al fresco activities, she continues: “You will need permission from your local council if you and your neighbours are planning a street party and you want to close a section of the road to traffic. If you want to hold your party on external private land or green space, then the landowner will need to give their approval.”

Getting these permissions in place is definitely not a last-minute job – check what the deadlines are in your area and make sure to apply promptly.

2. Get the invites out

Next up is the guest list and invites, which is key when it comes to planning other elements of the party.

Allsop says: “Having an idea of numbers will help you to decide on how much space you need, the seating arrangements, your food and drink and what type of entertainment you might like to have. Get your invites out at least a month before and make sure you ask guests to RSVP.”

3. Choose your menu

Once you know how many you’re catering for, you can decide on your food and drink selection.

“Most people will opt for a buffet or afternoon tea-style menu,” Allsop says. “Afternoon tea is quintessentially British and fits perfectly with such a royal occasion.”

Ameer Kotecha, author of The Platinum Jubilee Cookbook (Jon Croft Editions, £30) set up the Platinum Pudding competition (platinumjubilee.gov.uk) to find a dessert to celebrate the occasion, the winner of which will be announced in mid-May.

“Obviously, I would recommend people serve up the platinum pudding as part of their street parties – the idea is it should be like a successor to the Victoria Sponge,” Kotecha says. “Then I would say try and think of things that maybe have a connection to the Queen and to the monarchy. The way you can tell is because they’ve been given royal warrants.”

For example, you could incorporate chocolate from Bendicks or Charbonnel et Walker, McVitie’s digestive biscuits or classic summer tipple Pimm’s.

Kotecha adds: “Try and feature Pimm’s in your dessert somehow or [use] McVitie’s digestives in a cheesecake. It’s quite a fun way of showing off British produce and the great stuff that we have.”

For larger gatherings such as street parties, it can help to share the load, Allsop says: “Allocate each of your neighbours something to bring for a shared table. Traditional items such as sandwiches, cakes and scones are typical but really anything goes.

“You might want to have some hot options on hand too, like pizzas or a large pot of stew. When planning your menu, make sure you ask guests if they have any dietary requirements so you can cater for them appropriately.”

4. Decide on your decor

“A party isn’t a party without decorations – and for an occasion like this, there’s no such thing as too much,” says Allsop. “In terms of colour, a traditional red, white and blue theme with Union Jacks and crowns aplenty will certainly be the popular choice. But if you want something a little more subdued then purple, gold and white can all feel very regal.”

For street parties, bunting is a must. “We have seen an incredible demand for it at Party Delights already and are selling thousands of metres a week,” says Allsop. “You can also create your own decorations by looking for printable options online or make traditional paper chains with red, white and blue card.”

5. Dress for the occasion

A dress code isn’t compulsory, of course, but suggesting an optional theme can be a fun addition to the party – just make sure to tell guests in advance so they have time to plan their outfits.

“Ask guests to dress to impress in their finest clothing, wear a particular colour, or even come as their favourite royal,” Allsop suggests. “For more of a light-touch dress code, jubilee party accessories such as hats, tiaras, wigs and masks are the perfect alternative.”

6. Keep the kids entertained

“If there’s going to be lots of children at your jubilee party, then you will want to make sure there is plenty to keep them occupied them all day,” Allsop says.

“Invest in some garden games or a pinata. These are great fun for all ages, even the adults,” she suggests. “Setting up an arts and crafts table with lots of jubilee themed activities can help keep little hands busy. Or, if the British weather is kind and the sun looks set to shine, set up the paddling pool or some garden water games to keep the kids cool as well as entertained.”

How to spruce up your front garden on a budget to help sell your home

Because first impressions count, say the experts. By Hannah Stephenson.

Looking to sell your house this summer? First impressions count for a lot, so it may be time to spruce up your front garden.

Some 68% of home buyers think ‘kerb appeal’ is important when buying a home, according to a HomeOwners Alliance survey. A well-maintained front garden, pathways and fences were highlighted as important, in addition to a well-painted frontage.

“A few small changes could make your home more attractive to potential buyers. Take a day to clean your windows, mow the lawn and get rid of any weeds,” Mitchell suggests. “Repainting your front door, adding new hardware (a letterbox, number, and knocker) and freshening up any fencing can really make a difference to potential buyers.”

Agent Chris Husson-Martin adds: “If prospective purchasers are greeted by an overgrown patch of brambles and dead or dying plants, they will immediately assume the house is similarly presented.”

Want to maximise your home’s kerb appeal? Morris Hankinson, Director of Hopes Grove Nurseries (hopesgrovenurseries.co.uk), offers the following tips…

1. Get your lawn in order

“If you have an area of lawn, then this is one of the quickest and easiest fixes, as it can transform the appearance of your outdoor space. Keep your grass neatly – and regularly – cut,” says Hankinson.

“If it’s been looking long and unloved after the winter, cutting it may expose some bald patches – don’t buy expensive turf to fill the gaps because a scattering of grass seed ‘scratched in’ with a rake and watered will germinate and cover them quickly now we have some warmer weather.

“Keep the edges of the lawn neatly trimmed and delineated. Sharp edges are another easy quick win, focusing the eye away from less perfect horticultural aspects.”

2. Tidy up your beds

“With a tidy lawn, any messy flowerbeds will now come into clear view. Take out weeds, dead plants, old foliage, and prune back overhanging or overgrown shrubs. Plug any gaps with some new plants. Finally, consider adding a decorative mulch, such as bark or cocoa shells for a proper show garden finish.”

3. Buy seeds, not plants

“If you’re not in a huge rush to sell, now that the soil is warming up, gaps in your flowerbeds could be filled with some hardy annual bedding plants – these can be planted as seeds directly into your beds and borders.

“Only £10 or less spent on a few packets of seed could be enough to keep your garden plugged with colour for most of the summer,” adds Hankinson. “Go for easy and fast types such as cornflowers, love in the mist, calendula and the best of all ground-covering space fillers –nasturtiums.”

4. Source plants economically

“Check for discounted plants in nurseries and garden centres. Enthusiasts often sell their surplus from roadside stalls, church or school fetes, horticultural society sales and boot fairs. The key is not to be too fussy, if it looks good, healthy and is cheap then it will do a turn.”

5. Spruce up woodwork

“Tired-looking fences can give the impression of poor maintenance and discourage a potential buyer (or encourage them to put forward a cheeky offer). Get them all painted if they need it to bring your garden up to a good standard. Go darker with the colour and any planting or features you have will pop out with this effective dark backdrop.”

6. Clean, tidy and dress a paved area

“If you have a paved area, get it scrubbed or power-washed off and remove any leaves, weeds, algae and moss. Tidy up any messy potted plants and anything else that looks out of place. Refresh the pots with new plants if they need it. If you don’t have pots then get some to brighten it up,” Hankinson suggests.

“Go for small groups of smaller pots, set them at different levels for best effect – maybe one on the ground, one on a brick and the third on another upturned pot. They can be very effective and will be a lot cheaper than a few larger ones.”

7. Use recycled accessories

“This really is a good mindset to get into – at its simplest, it could be planting up an old pair of wellies or saucepans with some cheerful flowers or herbs. At the other extreme, perhaps a seating area constructed from upcycled waste pallets. Let your imagination take hold – the only rule here is it should be free, or almost free.”

8. Keep it simple

“Remember that you are selling, not staying. Nothing overly ambitious is required here, just good quality window dressing. Show your property in its very best light, without splashing out on a new water feature or decking.”

9. Do it yourself

Finally, Hankinson’s best piece of money-saving advice: tackle these tasks yourself. “If you employ an individual or company to carry out your garden jobs, labour will certainly be the largest part of the cost – and therefore the biggest saving is you!”

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