Diarmuid Gavin: 10 do’s and don’ts for designing gardens

diarmuid gavin 10 tips for designing gardens

The TV gardener talks to Hannah Stephenson about his own mistakes over the years, and how others can avoid pitfalls in their plots.

Diarmuid Gavin admits even he’s made some faux pas in his time – especially when he looks back at some of the dramatic changes he made to people’s plots in his early TV make-over shows.

“There were a couple of times when, with the exuberance of getting a chance to create a garden and being given a budget, you put everything in but the kitchen sink,” recalls the Irish Garden designer and TV presenter, 54. “Garden design and gardening is definitely a craft that you learn as you go along.”

So, what are the most common design mistakes people make?

“People are too fussy with line or shape, or it might be with using too many materials. Simplicity is often lost,” says Gavin. “People also tend to use too many plants. Why plant three trees, when one will do? There can be too much colour competing for attention.”

Here, Gavin, who is judging the Young Landscapers Award at this year’s BBC Gardeners’ World Live show, offers some top tips on the dos and don’ts of garden design..

1. Don’t leave plants in your car
“If you leave plants in the boot after a trip to the garden centre, you may find them wilted and light-starved a few days later. This is also true with packets of seeds. A huge percentage of those purchased remain in foil-wrapped comfort and don’t make it into the warming soil. So, prepare the ground before you shop and when you get home from a trip to the garden centre, don’t just reminisce about the tea and apple pie you had in the swish cafe – while your plants sweat in a sauna!”

2. Don’t upset the neighbours
“Check if you need planning permission for projects. I once I created a courtyard garden in Birmingham with an in-built lift. The terrace rose at the flick of a switch to reveal a subterranean room for evening entertainment. A neighbour complained, the council got involved, and the sleek paving was no longer permitted to rise.”

dont go ott on colour

3. Don’t go OTT on colour
“Be careful about the colours you choose when painting walls, fence panels or sheds. Cobalt blue may look good in an exotic garden in Marrakech but on the yard wall of a two-up-two-down with a distinct lack of warming sunshine, it may feel a little forlorn. I’m responsible for many awards of garish candy pink due to an obsession with the work of Mexican architect, Luis Barragan.”

4. Don’t use too many different stones
“If you’re planning on a hard landscaping project, keep in mind that less can be more. There’s so much choice of natural stone and paving products available in DIY stores and patio centres that temptation can lead you to purchase a few different styles of brick or slab. Combining a number of different colours and finishes can be tricky. For greater coherence with a design, stick to one product or theme.”

5. Do find out your soil type
“The most important thing about gardening is understanding your soil and putting plants where they are going to be happy. Most of us don’t do that. Digging and understanding what the soil needs to make it better is vital. There’s no point putting rodgersias or primulas in a dry part of the garden.”

6. Do pair up clashing colours
“I like clashing colours, and when we did that in my mechanical garden (Chelsea, 2016), I tried to go against the norm, so I’d have pastel pinks but then I’d also try a bomb of geums in tangerine, just to explode it. Whatever statement you’re making, make it! I don’t believe in the whole colour wheel thing or any of these rules. We’d all end up with gardens looking exactly the same if we follow them.”

do make use of green

7. Do make use of green
“If you are going for a bling garden in which you want every colour in the sun, you want the Smarties pack, absolutely fantastic, but we undervalue green. I find greenery really cooling and beautiful. Don’t underestimated the effects that you can get from the contrast of shades and the shape of leaves, because that can be beautiful too. Then work some colour in to highlight certain areas.”

do give yourself room on your patio

8. Do give yourself room on your patio
“Lay out a table and six chairs around it before you lay your patio, and understand the amount of circulation you’ll need. We are beginning to live outdoors on patios and decks, whenever the weather’s in our favour.”

9. Do try to hide paths
“You need good pathways, although I was always a devil for not putting in pathways and making people walk across lawns, because pathways always dominated my sight lines. I do have a path issue. In certain areas, where they create very strong lines, I don’t like them, so hide or disguise them if you can.”

10. Do plant next to the house
“Have a little bit of planting right next to the base of the house, taking into account your drainage and that you don’t want water seeping into the brickwork. But planting close to the house will soften the building. You can do it with contemporary architectural plants, using topiary such as buxus in a modernist house. In a suburban house, you can use something quite gentle, like billowing lavender, with climbers shooting up in-between. They soften the landscape and the view looking back to the house from the garden. If you can’t plant next to the house, use pots and containers and install an irrigation system.”

BBC Gardeners’ World Live takes place at the NEC Birmingham from June 14-17. For more information, see bbcgardenersworldlive.com

Petal Power: 3 Ways To Make Your Home Blooming Beautiful This Summer

3 Ways To Make Your Home Blooming Beautiful This Summer

No matter how your garden grows, anyone can enjoy an abundance of flowers indoors with this year’s stunning floral designs. Gabrielle Fagan picks the best of the bunch.

Nature’s best and brightest blooms inspire decor designs year after year, and the new-season ranges are blossoming with a fresh, contemporary take on the trend.

“Florals never lose their appeal, but this year, be brave and experiment with bold colours and eye-catching patterns to bring the outside in,” says Claire Hornby, creative stylist at Barker & Stonehouse. “It’s such an easy way to inject colour and pattern into your home. For a pared-back, summer-inspired space, opt for smaller floral accessories such as patterned chairs or cushions, which will pair well with neutral hues,” she adds.

Whether you’re looking to create an attention-grabbing feature wall in an all-over floral print, or add simple botanical-inspired accessories, you’ll be surprised by how easy it is to incorporate florals into a living space. Here are three ways to embrace petal-power right now…

Pick a posy of pinks for perennially pretty decor

“Spring’s all about embracing brighter colours and bolder prints, so naturally, florals are an absolute shoo-in for the season,” says Rebecca Snowden, interior style advisor at Furniture Choice.

“Florals or tropical prints, especially in bright pinks from rose to fuschia, are excellent statement-makers. They can be used for pops of colour in a smaller room, or will anchor a scheme if used to create a striking feature wall.

“For a major style boost, opt for larger botanical prints in the form of murals or wall art,” she suggests. “Experiment with light-coloured patterns for a relaxed natural look, or create a bold bohemian space with darker hues and busier motifs.”

Let blues blossom in serene scenes

“The trend for floral designs shows no signs of abating,” says Hannah Thistlethwaite, textiles buyer at Heal’s. “Opting for botanical-inspired homeware is an easy way to introduce invigorating touches of nature to enhance the atmosphere in any room.

For an understated theme, use soft floral prints in washed-out blue and white linens, to create a refreshingly laid-back effect,” she adds. “For an effortless update, look for cushions with a two-tone motif and pair with cool grey or blue fabrics to evoke a clean, Scandi-style aesthetic, which pays a subtle nod to the floral trend. Make a statement in a living room with bright pops of rich teal or blue blooms for fabrics or accessories contrasted with vibrant greenery, which will beautifully reflect nature’s palette.”

It would be hard to find a more eye-catching wallpaper than Giardino Segreto (Scene 1 Delft), £195 a roll, by Designers Guild, a company renowned for its stunning designs.

Bring a room to life with botanicals

“Botanical and floral prints continue to be top of the list for freshening up our decor,” says Yvonne Keal, head of product at curtain and blinds specialists, Hillarys. “They connect us to the outdoors, and if something works well in nature, it’ll work in a room. But just as we wouldn’t have a wilting bouquet in our homes, any floral look we introduce should feel fresh and new, and this season doesn’t disappoint.

“Botanical motifs on fabrics are subtle and hand-drawn – straight out of an artist’s sketchbook. Small-scale florals, watercolour washes and fade-out prints are blooming in gently joyful neutral grown-up shades, while soft greens, pale blues and lavender are replacing the rich jewel tones and clashing patterns of 2017, to help us create the more calm haven we crave this year.

Garden Style Can Bloom Indoors and Out

You may not be ready to get out the sun-loungers until that weather’s more settled, but there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the pleasures of the outdoors, by turning your home into a nature-inspired oasis.

Blurring the boundary between inside and out and playing with botanical effects is a passion for Selina Lake, who reveals her secrets in her new book, Garden Style: Inspirational Styling For Your Outside Space.

“I hope I can inspire people to make the most of any outside space, and create everything from an outdoor living space to a garden room or a hideaway, and bring nature into decor indoors,” she says.

Here, Lake shares three looks from the book…

1. Create a cosy hideaway

“More popular than ever, garden rooms are a useful addition to any space,” says Lake. “They can be used as office spaces, crafting rooms, yoga studios, or places to enjoy a million other activities.

“You can adapt an existing building, such as a large shed, garage or greenhouse, or commission a new pod, cabin or summer house. Perhaps you’d like the garden room to reflect the garden and have a verdant, naturalistic ‘potting shed’ vibe, or you could opt for something strikingly modern that contrasts with the garden that surrounds it.

“If it’s a contemporary structure – like a glass conservatory – a great way to bring the outside in is by using green, the colour of nature, for walls and skirting boards. Green glass-bottle vases and faux plants can bring a quirky botanical feel to a sleek modern space.”

Top Tip: “If you have a surplus of blooms from your garden, cut them and arrange in galvanized metal buckets filled with water. Arrange by a doorway or at the bottom of a staircase. It creates a sense of walking through a flower garden.”

2. Bring the outside in

“Bringing flowers and foliage in from your garden to enhance your home decor is a simple detail that makes a big impact, whether you’re in need of a table centrepiece for a special occasion, a welcoming display for a hallway table, or something just to bring a smile to your face,” Lake enthuses.

“Joyful pops of vibrant colour from flowering spring bulbs are really uplifting,” says Lake. “When it comes to arranging flowers, I don’t have any rules as such. I like loose, natural-looking posies and am drawn to colour palettes that I find uplifting and will sit well with my interior.”

Top Tip: “I make black and white copies of vintage botanical prints and use brass bulldog clips to display them on a line. I also love empty seed packets, which can be grouped and used in a decorative way.”

3. Perfect the patio

“I wanted to create a simple Scandinavian look, so opted for a clean, pared-down palette of black, grey and white, teaming it with natural materials such as wood, rattan and wicker,” explains Lake.

“Lush green wisteria foliage and leafy hydrangea, lavender and tobacco plants in zinc containers and dark grey stone pots add scent and interest to my outdoor living room. I gave our tired wooden decking a face-lift with black wood stain, and like to dress the sofa and chairs with comfy cushions and throws, just as I do inside.” Top Tip: “Be ready for when the sun goes down – an outdoor rug will make a space feel cosier – and hang a cluster of string lights overhead and group candle lanterns on a coffee table.”

Garden Style: Inspirational Styling For Your Outside Space by Selina Lake, photography by Rachel Whiting, is published by Ryland Peters & Small, priced £19.99. Available to readers for special price of £14.99, inc P&P: Call Macmillan Direct on 01256 302 699 and quote ref NT5.

Alan Titchmarsh Explains How To Create A Plot For Pollinators

Alan Titchmarsh Explains How To Create A Plot For Pollinators

Alan Titchmarsh is calling on gardeners to make a metre for wildlife this summer, by providing a refuge for struggling butterflies, moths and other pollinators.

Launching Butterfly Conservation’s ‘Plots for Pollinators’ campaign, Titchmarsh, the charity’s vice president, says: “The future of our butterflies, moths and other pollinating insects is under threat, as the places where they live are disappearing. The cold start to spring may affect how some butterflies fare this year, as they could experience a delayed emergence, meaning they’ll have less time to feed and breed – but you can help by creating some ‘plots for pollinators’.

“There are so many different flowers that are great nectar sources, like catmint, cosmos or calendula,” he adds. “See if you can find just one square metre and you could attract lots of butterflies this spring and summer, like my favourite – the red admiral. It doesn’t have to be on the lawn either – you could create a vertical garden on a bit of unused wall or fence and this would make a huge difference for pollinators.”

The project encourages people to set aside one square-metre of their garden or outdoor space to plant a nectar-rich flowerbed, or a colourful container garden. Previously widespread species, such as the small tortoiseshell and garden tiger moth, have seen their numbers plummet in recent years.

Here, Titchmarsh offers some top tips on creating plots for pollinators…

1. Select your space

Measure out one square-metre of outdoor space and fill it with open-flowered, nectar-rich plants. Choose a sunny, sheltered position and group pots together on a patio, grow plants up a fence or wall, or commit an area of a flowerbed.

2. Keep watering

Water your plot regularly – ideally from a water butt, as this is more environmentally friendly. Frequent watering prevents plants from drying out during a spell of hot weather, especially when in containers, and helps flowers to produce more nectar. Remember to water the soil not the plant, as larger leaves can act as an umbrella which prevents water getting to the roots. Remove the rose from your watering can to get nearer the plant base if necessary.

3. Lay a mulch

Put a layer of mulch on the surface of the soil around the plants, to help prevent water evaporation and suppress weed growth.

4. Use peat-free compost

Always choose peat-free compost and cut down on your use of plastic. Use recyclable and recycled containers or be creative and turn tins and tubs into plant pots. Remember to drill drainage holes in the bottom to prevent water logging.

5. Dead-head blooms

Dead-heading after flowering keeps plants looking attractive and encourages more blooms.

6. Get neighbours involved

Inspire your neighbours to plant a plot for pollinators to create a flowery ‘super highway’ for the pollinating insects where you live.

7. Avoid chemicals

Avoid using harmful pesticides, by removing slugs and snails by hand instead. Night is the best time to catch these marauding molluscs in action. Once caught, release them at a safe distance from your plot.

The Plots for Pollinators project will run throughout spring and summer. To take part, visit butterfly-conservation.org/PlantPlots

5 Fabulous Places To See Bluebells In The UK This Spring

A short burst of sunshine, a gentle rise in temperature… it doesn’t take much for Britain’s wildflowers to bloom.

But no display is more eagerly anticipated than the eruption of bluebells. Covering fields and woodlands across the UK, these delicate carpets of colour captivate photographers and nature enthusiasts year after year.

The season is short – lasting from April until May – so you’ll need to plan visits. These are some of the spectacular spots we recommend you try.

1. Brean Down, Somerset

Although normally associated with woodland enclaves, it’s possible to find bluebells by the sea too. Overlooking the Bristol Channel, the north side of this down is covered in flowers from May.

How: The area is free to explore. Visit nationaltrust.org.uk

2. Foxley Wood, Norfolk

Supposedly visible from space, Norfolk’s largest ancient woodland was once packed with light-blocking conifers, meaning very little grew on the forest floor. Due to the work of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, many of those trees have been cut back and carpets of bluebells have returned.

How: The forest is free to explore. Visit norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk

3. Hardcastle Crags, Yorkshire

With a renovated mill as its centrepiece, this wooded valley is characterised by ravines and waterfalls. In spring, bluebells burst from the forest floor, providing an additional attraction. It’s possible to explore independently, but on April 28 free guided walks will run through the Lower Crimsworth Valleys, where the main displays can be found.

How: It’s free to visit, although Gibson Mill has opening times. Visit nationaltrust.org.uk/hardcastle-crags

4. Heartwood Forest, Sandridge

Thanks to the planting of 600,000 saplings, this ancient forest has become a source of pride and joy for the Woodland Trust. Bluebell fields regularly draw visitors, although the Trust warns people to stick to paths; in the past, more than an acre of flowers has been accidentally trampled underfoot.

How: Visit heartwood.woodlandtrust.org.uk

5. Godolphin, Cornwall

In April and May, the 16th century gardens of this historic home put on one of the best bluebell displays – with a footpath allowing easy viewing access. A popular spot, it does attract crowds – but in such a romantic setting it’s easy to forget other people are around. From April 16 – May 20, a Bluebell Festival will be held, giving visitors an opportunity to learn more about the flowers.

How: Adults, £9.50; children, £4.80. Visit nationaltrust.org.uk/godolphin

The Fascinating History Of 7 Iconic Winter Olympic Sports


Some of the world’s top athletes have descended upon PyeongChang in a bid for gold medal glory in sub-zero temperatures, but have you ever wondered how these snowy sports began?

Here, we look back at the origins of some of the most iconic Olympic Winter Games events…

1. Figure skating

olympics-4.jpgBefore the Winter Games were established as their own separate event, the London Summer Games in 1908 actually included figure skating, making it the oldest official Olympic sport and the only event in which women could participate from the very beginning.

At the first Winter Games at Chamonix in 1924, 11-year-old Sonja Henie represented Norway in the figure skating. She came last – but went on to take gold at the next three consecutive Games.

2. Cross-country skiing

As a mode of transport, cross-country skiing dates back as far as 8000 BC in Russia, but it officially became an Olympic sport for men in 1924,when Norwegian master skier Thorleif Haug took home gold for all three distance events (18km, 50km and combined).

It wasn’t until 1952 and the Oslo Games that women were allowed to participate, and even then, only in the 10km event. But nowadays, male and female athletes can both compete in six different cross-country distances.

3. Curling

Introduced during the 1912 Olympics in Sweden, demonstration sports were a typical feature of the Summer and Winter Games alike, designed to allow countries to showcase their national sports on the world stage. Competitors in these events would still receive medals, but they were smaller and not counted in the total count for each nation.

Curling – in which teams compete to get their ‘stones’ as close to the centre of a target as possible, by sliding and guiding them across the ice – was one such demonstration sport in the inaugural Winter Olympiad, but was dropped for the second Games at St Moritz, Switzerland. After decades of being a demonstration sport thereafter, it joined the official Olympic programme in 1998.

4. Biathlon

The Biathlon, which has its roots in Scandinavian hunting practises, combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. It also started out as a demonstration sport, in St Moritz, before being officially added to the men’s Olympic roster at the 1960 Games in Squaw Valley, California. It took another 32 years before women could compete in individual, sprint and relay biathlon events, at the 1992 Games in Albertville, France. More recently, pursuit and mass-start events have been added to the biathlon line-up.

5. Luge

olympics-3.jpgOne of the oldest Olympic sports, Luge, which comes from the French word for sledge, sees athletes lying on their backs on a very small sled, and zipping down an icy track at around 140kmph – without brakes!

This mind-boggling – and terrifying-looking – pursuit started out as a tourist attraction for adrenaline junkies back in the 1870s and eventually became an Olympic sport in 1964 at the Innsbruck Games, with men’s, women’s and mixed events. The programme hasn’t changed since.

6. Freestyle skiing

In contrast, freestyle skiing is one of the youngest Winter Olympic sports. It originates from the 1920s, when skiers in the US started to experiment with acrobatic flips and tricks on the slops, which came to be known as ‘hotdogging’.

In the late Seventies, the International Ski Federation brought in regulations to curb some of the more dangerous elements of the sport, paving the way for the official introduction of the ‘mogul’ event at the Albertville Games. Since that year, several other events have been added, most recently the ‘slopestyle’ and ‘halfpipe’ at Sochi in 2014.

7. Snowboarding

Even more modern than freestyle skiing, snowboarding also has its origins in America, where it began life as a sort of hybrid of skateboarding, surfing and skiing.

Initially greeted with hostility by skiers, who saw the slopes as ‘their’ domain, the sport gained global popularity by the Nineties and made its Olympic debut at the 1998 Nagano Games. Initially, athletes competed individually but at the Turin Games in 2006, a Cross event was added, which sees four or six snowboarders race down a course.


Calling all wildlife fans – here’s your chance to vote for your winner

If you love the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards, then now is your chance to get involved and vote for your favourite for the People’s Choice winner.

Nature fans can choose from 24 images selected from almost 50,000 submissions from 92 countries. The shortlisted images are on display at the Natural History Museum in London until the vote closes, and the winner of the People’s Choice Award will be showcased until the whole exhibition closes on May 28.

And it’s a big deal – Wildlife Photographer of the Year is the longest-running and most prestigious competition of its kind. It’s part of the museum’s mission to inspire curiosity about the natural world through the power of photography, and look for answers to issues facing the planet.

From birds bathing to a too-close-for-comfort leopard, here’s our pick of the images you can vote for.


1. Roller Rider: by Lakshitha Karunarathna, Sri Lanka

Lakshitha was on safari at Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, when he saw a lilac-breasted roller hitching a ride on the back of a zebra. These little birds usually prefer to perch high up in the foliage, but this maverick roller spent an hour or more on the zebra.


2. Leopard Gaze: by Martin Van Lokven, Netherlands

During a three-week stay in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, Martin encountered the same female leopard several times – called Fundi by local guides. Leopards are nocturnal and solitary, usually hunting at night, but one afternoon Fundi left the tree she was resting in and approached Martin’s car, fixing his camera lens with her gaze.


3. Pool Party: by Luke Massey, UK

This photograph was taken during the drought in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park. As waterholes dwindled in numbers and size, flocks of Lilian’s lovebirds, a small African parrot species, congregated together and when the coast was clear, have a drink and bath. Luke watched as they each shuffled forward, taking it in turns, as if on a conveyor belt.


4. Warm Embrace: by Debra Garside, Canada

Polar bears are the largest land carnivores in the world and you wouldn’t want to get too close to one, but this touching image of a polar bear and her cubs shows their softer side. When polar bear mothers and cubs emerge from their dens in the early spring, the cubs stay close for warmth and protection before they’re strong enough to trek across the sea ice with their mothers. Debra braved challenging conditions for six days with temperatures from -35 to -55 degrees Celcius and high winds, to catch this shot.


5. Warning Wings: by Mike Harterink, Netherlands

Mike was diving off Blue Bead Hole in St Eustatius, in the Caribbean, when he spotted this ‘flying’ gurnard. These fish have shorter forward fins with spines which they use to poke around for food, as well as larger wing-like fins. The fins are usually held against its body but when threatened, the gurnard expands them to scare away predators – which Mike used a slow shutter speed to capture.


6. Dark Side of the Plains: by Uri Golman, Denmark

Black and white might be an unusual choice for safari photography, but Uri spent a whole week just taking pictures in monochrome on the plains of the Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, and spent most of it taking pictures of big cats. But it was a group of giraffes that stuck with him in the end. After following them for a while, three broke off and headed into the shadows, creating this amazing shot.


7. Reach for the Sky: by Steven Blandin, USA

If you ever wondered what a bird looks like landing right in front of you, this is it. Steven was photographing a group of Roseate spoonbills, which have distinctive pink feathers. He saw a newcomer flying in from afar and managed to take a few steps back and position himself so the bird could land square in front of his camera. Its wings created a stunning symmetrical U-shape.


8. Settled In: by Ryan Miller, USA

The city of Anchorage, Alaska, sees frequent moose, and this bull is known as Hook to the locals. Moose antlers are deciduous and every year they fall off ready for regrowth. Ryan knew from the previous year that Hook would be ready to shed his antlers in the coming days and he captured the scene in heavy snowfall as the city slept.

Voting closes at midnight on February 5. See all the other photos and vote for your favourite at nhm.ac.uk.

How To Transform Your Home With 2018’s Trendiest Colour – Ultra Violet

ultra-violet-colour-living-room-news.jpgSurely one of the grandest hues on the colour wheel, with its associations with royalty, wizardry and luxury, purple is the hot shade for 2018.

Ever since colour gurus Pantone announced Ultra Violet – their interpretation of the shade made from a combination of blue and red tones – as their new Colour of the Year, there’s been a virtual avalanche of homeware and accessories in plummy shades.

This powerful colour is definitely not for faint-hearted decoristas, or those who think daring is moving from white to a pale shade of grey. Even Leatrice Eiseman, Pantone’s executive director, describes Ultra Violet as a “dramatically provocative and thoughtful purple shade”.

But used cleverly, it can look pretty as well as punchy – you just need to get the dose right!

Here, three decor experts reveal how to enjoy a full-blown purple passion, ‘flirt’ with quirky purple accents, or ‘double date’ by blending blue and purple…

Go full-on passion for purple “Ultra Violet has already sent shock waves through the interior design fraternity,” says Sophie Robinson, interior designer and former judge on BBC’s The Great Interior Design Challenge, whose living room reflects her enthusiasm for purple. “It’s a real Marmite colour, people either love it or hate it, but I’m a purple lover. I adore its intensity and vibrancy. It’s a really uplifting, feel-good colour and I can’t wait to see it popping up in the best dressed interiors.

“My advice,” Sophie adds, “leave behind all thoughts of Cadbury Cream Eggs, Barney the Dinosaur and Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen in all his purple velvet suited glory, and embrace the new power of purple.” “Don’t be tempted to simply paint a feature wall in Ultra Violet and leave it at that,” she urges. “Instead, keep walls neutral and let soft furnishings do the work for you. If you’re using florals, mix them with geometrics for a more interesting look and do something unexpected.


“For me, a pop of neon colour for a cushion and candles lifted my living room scheme. The great thing about Ultra Violet is that it can hold its own with a diverse range of colours. It can act as a dark foil for acid brights, a cool partner for hot hues, and a safe anchor for delicate pastels.”

Flirt with punchy purple accents “This exciting choice for Colour of the Year works brilliantly in many different ways, for all different interior schemes,” enthuses Brian Woulfe, founder and managing director, Designed By Woulfe. “If you’re brave, go hard on block colours and mix this vibrant hue with other visceral and stimulating colours in your home in a Mondrian style. This will give your space a stylish edge because this is a heady cocktail of punkish rebellion and regal opulence.

“Alternatively, intoxicating purple sits wonderfully with the popular grey, earthy tones which have dominated the interiors scene for so long. Alongside greys and ochre, purple tones are softened and can be seamlessly integrated to a pre-existing scheme,” Brian continues. “Another great way to introduce a softer version of Ultra Violet is to opt for cashmere or wool soft furnishings in this punchy tone, or use the shade for silk or satin piping for an on-trend trim for cushions, curtains or armchairs.”

Partner moody blues with purples “Purple’s long been associated with spirituality, mystery and contemplation, and Ultra Violet is no exception,” says Hannah Thistlethwaite, textiles buyer, Heal’s. “Inspired by the night sky, it’s full of possibilities. Pairing Ultra Violet with serene shades of blue could have an ethereal effect. For a luxurious take on the trend, I’d recommend sofas and armchairs in inky navy or midnight black, with amethyst cushions and throws to provide subtle pops of colour from the same palette,” Hannah adds. “Finally, add a pendant light or a table lamp in soft copper to catch the light and add brightness to the overall look. So, while the psychedelic hue is certainly a statement, be bold, and you’ll reap the benefits of a space that is altogether other-worldly.”

So why not start 2018 by searching for colourful property solution here.


Britain’s Top Rankin Photos

Anyone can be a photographer these days, and even if we can’t reach the higher echelons of A-list snappers, we all have the ability to capture a moment in time.

That was the challenge photographic community Photobox set users when they invited submissions for their This is Britain project. Published and produced by Photobox, the coffee table book features images of the colours and characters that make up our society, all taken by members of the public, with a final selection curated by celebrity photographer Rankin.

More than 300 pictures reflecting the passage of the day sit alongside essays by personalities such as Kelly Hoppen MBE, Ben Fogle, Lorraine Kelly OBE and Denise van Outen. We asked Rankin to tell us about some of his favourite images from the book, which could of course be a lovely Christmas gift for someone.

1. Natural arc – I love this photo. The beautiful rainbow seems to perfectly span the length of the bridge. The row of local fishing boats reminds me of the thriving fishing industry of the past.

2. Wallflower – This is a great photo. The giant wall appears intimidating with the small child looking up at it. The beautiful apple tree growing up the wall pops out against the red brick. It’s stunning.

3. Monochrome beauty – This photographer certainly knows what they’re doing. The viaduct fades beautifully into the background while the harsh black and white colourings on the dog are so impactful.

4. End of the day – Wow! We’re so lucky to have an amazing coastline in the UK which provides a natural canvas for photographers to get creative. The warm light from this sunset bounces off the shoreline to create a mind-blowing photo.

5. Time for play – Nothing says playtime better than some puddle jumping and this photo captures it perfectly. I love the rows of beach huts in the background – very British.

Rankin’s top tips for taking pictures:

1. The first and most important thing for photography is light. Whether you’re on the bus or in your kitchen, think about light and where it’s coming from all the time to help sculpt the world around you.

2. You don’t need a big expensive camera – use a smartphone. They’re perfectly good enough to take great photos. The phone is just a tool, so use your imagination, get creative and take risks.

3. There are no rules. Photography isn’t meant to be prescriptive or strict. It’s supposed to be fun, so get out there and enjoy it.

This is Britain is produced and published by Photobox, in aid of BBC Children In Need, and available now. It’s priced at £25, with more than 40% of the sale price donated to the charity.

First Drive: BMW M5

What is it?
So here it is – the all-new BMW M5. Following in the footsteps of some of the best-regarded super-saloons ever made, this latest four-door powerhouse has got a tougher job than ever to remain top of the pile thanks to some hugely capable rivals. Utilising the very latest engine technology, it’s also the first M5 to feature all-wheel-drive, as well as a host of other features designed to make it sharper and more capable than ever before.

What’s new? – There’s a lot going on. The new BMW M5 makes use of a 4.4-litre V8 turbocharged engine as well as that all-important all-wheel-drive system – one of the biggest changes to the M5’s layout, with most M-cars traditionally powering the rear wheels only. That said, this new car can still be locked off to rear-wheel-drive only – so purists need not be too aghast. Not only this, but this sixth-generation car is lighter than ever before too, making use of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic to keep its overall weight down.

What’s under the bonnet? – As mentioned, the new BMW M5 uses a 4.4-litre turbocharged V8 engine to power all four wheels. Here, it produces 592bhp and 750Nm of torque, allowing it to hit 60mph in 3.2 seconds before reaching an electronically limited 155mph top speed. All that fury is sent to the wheels via an eight-speed Steptronic transmission. BMW claims that the M5 will do 26.9mpg on a combined cycle, while emitting 241g/km CO2 – so there’s still some degree of sense despite the performance madness.

What’s it like to drive? – BMW M5s of old had a reputation for being somewhat spiky to drive. This latest one has been designed to offer a little more traction – and it’s well and truly achieved this. Despite packing close to 600bhp, the M5 rarely feels out of control, instead offering a lot of balance and adjustability. The biggest factor in this is that all-wheel-drive system. There’s no doubting the car’s rear-drive-bias; when the system is set to allow a certain amount of slip, the M5 will fall into delightful mini-drifts, sliding you through corners without ever feeling like it’s going to spin around and bite you. Turn all the systems back on, and it transforms into a point-to-point weapon with all of the traction you could want.

Then there’s the engine. Anybody who doubted turbocharged engines in performance cars needs to experience the way the M5’s V8 deploys its power. There’s no lag to speak of, just shove throughout the rev range. Of course, lower down is where you notice the power the most and any press of the throttle is accompanied by a deep, mechanical bellow. The steering also has a decent weight to it, though it feels its most capable in sport mode – the middle of the three. Comfort feels too light, while sport plus is granite-heavy. The middle ground, unsurprisingly, is the best bet.

How does it look? – The M5 exudes all of the classic styling that we’ve come to expect from big, powerful M-cars. It’s certainly not as wild as the current-generation M3, but it still looks special. At the rear, four exhaust pipes to give some hint of the car’s performance, as do the gills at the side of the car, but all in all it’s still instantly recognisable as a BMW saloon – and that’s no bad thing at all. M-cars aren’t meant to be shouty and brash in terms of exterior styling, as they let their performance do the talking – and that’s just the case here.

What’s it like inside? – The interior of the M5 uses the vast majority of components from the standard, but excellent, 5 Series cabin. That means you still get an infotainment system which is simple and easy to operate, as well great build quality and good materials. The M5 builds on this with additional ‘sporting’ touches, such as carbon-fibre finishers for the dashboard. The biggest changes come in the form of driving mode selectors. Two red ‘M’ buttons sit at either side of the steering wheel, and allow you to customise the suspension, steering and engine responsiveness to one of three modes. There’s also the drivelogic selector, now found on the top of the gear stick, which controls how quickly and sharply the car changes gear.

Of course, as it’s based on a standard 5 Series saloon, the M5 remains hugely practical. There’s loads of space for both sat up front, while rear seat legroom is excellent too. The cabin, as a whole, feels special as well as comfortable – and this makes it ideal for those who are planning to undertake longer journeys but still want plenty of ‘star’ factor.

What’s the spec like? – You’d expect any high-powered executive saloon to pack a lot of toys and, thankfully, the M5 delivers in this respect. Standard equipment includes 20-inch alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlights and dynamic LED brake lights on the outside, with BMW’s professional media system, 10.25-inch colour display and front heated seats just a variety of the long list of included technology for the inside. Being a BMW, there’s still a long list of options to choose from. Highlights include ceramic brakes, a sports exhaust system and a full carbon engine cover. That said, the car’s price starts at just shy of £90,000 which means, even by ticking just a few boxes, the M5 could easily nudge into the six-figure bracket – and that’s a lot, even for a car with as much performance as this. That said, it’s in line with its competitors – the Mercedes-AMG E63S matches the BMW in the price department.

Verdict – The M5 certainly came into this world with a lot of competition. However, thanks to better all-round capability than ever before, it’s likely to come out on top when it goes on sale next year. It’s relatively expensive, but given the sheer amount of technology and performance on board, it feels more than worth the money.


Model: BMW M5

Price: £89,640

Engine: 4.4-litre turbocharged V8

Power: 592bhp

Torque: 750Nm

Max speed: 155mph

0-60mph: 3.2 seconds

MPG: 26.9

Emissions: 241g/km

Victoria Pendleton On Going Vegan and Why Horse Riding Keeps Her Happy

Victoria Pendleton is one of Britain’s most successful female Olympians.

The cyclist won a sprint gold at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. and later went on to win gold for the Keirin event at the 2012 London Olympic Games. By the time she retired from cycling in 2012, she’d also won nine gold medals at the World Championships.

After a glittering career, she swapped one saddle for another and is now an amateur jockey and horsewoman.

Victoria, 37, who lives in Oxfordshire with her husband, talks about falling in love and being fearless…

How do you look after your health?

“I thought I’d be a party animal when I retired from cycling, but it just doesn’t suit me. I love eight hours a night sleep and early mornings too much. I’m out by 7am walking or jogging with our Doberman dogs, Stella and Mr Jonty, or I’m riding my bike to the stables.

“As I’m an animal lover – and a person that’s quite conscious of my carbon footprint – I’m now almost completely vegan. I have no dairy and only plant-based food with the occasional egg. “I really appreciate being able to eat what I want, which I couldn’t when I was competing. I could never choose food for its taste. Instead, it was about eating for nutritional content and with a strict routine – which took the pleasure out of it.

“I also had to be a complete carnivore as vegetarian food wouldn’t have given me enough protein and amino acids to maintain muscle mass.”

What’s your biggest achievement?

“Olympic medals aside – horse riding. Last year, in just 12 months, I went from never having ridden to coming fifth in the Foxhunter (cor) Chase, over a course with 22 fences. While the medals for cycling were a long time in the making, being able to devote myself in a short, intense period to something completely new, was incredible. Afterwards, I knew I couldn’t have given any more of myself than I did. That’s such a good feeling.”

What makes you happy?

“I fell in love with riding on my first lesson and being in the equestrian world gives me a joy that I wouldn’t have believed possible. “Working with horses is good for me as I’m a naturally impatient person, but you can’t be with animals, so it’s tempering that strong streak of wanting everything done ‘now’.

“I’m retraining my racehorses with a long-term aim to compete at eventing – which comprises dressage, show jumping and cross country. I love having nothing to prove or chase in this new world. I can just indulge my obsession, which is being with horses. I literally get unhappy if I don’t see them every day.” Who’s the love of your life? “My horse, Vesper [Vesperal Dream]. He’s a black beauty – French-bred, elegant and very slender. He’s very confident, loves looking at himself in the mirror and has such a nice way. All the girls at the stable yard have fallen in love with him as well.”

“Oops, actually I’ve just thought that’s a bit embarrassing as I should have also said my husband, Scott! I’m such a horsey lady now. It’s the same when I talk to other female riders – we all mention our horses first and husbands second.”

Do you have any regrets?

“I regret not giving myself more time off during my cycling career. I’m such a perfectionist and was so desperate to keep achieving that I was too frightened to take a break and appreciate my success. Instead, I always had my head down and was focused on the next goal. I think that’s typical of life these days – people are always seeking more. With hindsight, I’d have been a more balanced individual if I’d allowed myself to step away occasionally.”

How do you feel about cycling now?

“I’m just a fair-weather cyclist now. Most of my cycling is to and from he stables. Occasionally Scott and I go on a ride for fun, but that’s about it. I’ll keep track of the competitive cycling results out of interest and for commentating work.

“My biggest disappointment was ending my career when I was 32 because, although I ended on a high, inside I felt I still had more to achieve. That’ll always be a frustration. Even so, I have no desire to compete again.

“Retiring’s been fantastic as it’s opened up an exciting new world of possibilities for me. I’m an adventurous person who loves change. I’ll give any sport a go – I’ve actually just taken up surfing.”

How do you want to be remembered?

“For being honest. I’ve always tried to be open and honest about who I am, what I do, my challenges and my strengths and weaknesses. I’ve never tried to be anything other than myself. I’d like to be seen as a hard worker who took opportunities, but above all, as someone who’s fearless and prepared to try anything. I’m not scared of failure, because I think life is all about experiences.”

Victoria Pendleton has developed a range of women’s bikes exclusively for Halfords. The Pendleton E-Somerby and Bayley are available now in shops.

Christmas Food Memories

Gino loves a 10-course Italian feast, while John Whaite takes charge of the sprouts. Reminiscing over Christmases past is a crucial part of the festive season, especially when it comes to making a decision over what you’ll be dishing up this year.

So, we caught up with a few of our favourite chefs to discover their ultimate Christmas foodie memories…

1. According to Tim Anderson, you can grow to love mince pies

MasterChef winner Tim is American, so his first British Christmas was quite the experience: “First of all, so many desserts – trifle, the cake, the Christmas pudding. Then my mother-in-law makes Christmas cookies and rocky road. Mince pies; I didn’t like them at first, I thought they were too sweet, but now I can’t get enough of them. And then the roast dinner, which I think is the height of British cooking. Roast potatoes, my father-in-law taught me to make them and they’re amazing. We just do mash in America.”

2. Rick Stein remembers a hot Aussie Christmas

Rick-Stein-web.jpg“The first time I had an Australian Christmas, which was salad and prawns outdoor by the pool – and this was in the early-Eighties; my fond memories are always of having turkey or goose – but having a genuine Australian Christmas, which a lot of Aussies don’t have, they still have roast turkey, was quite special,” says the seafood aficionado.

3. Barbecuing in the snow is fine by Claire Thompson

Claire-Thompson-web.jpgThe ‘5 O’clock Apron’ blogger lived in Africa until she was eight, so grew up having hot Christmases by the pool, as did her Kiwi husband Matt. But some of her favourite Christmases have been since she moved to England and started spending them at her mum’s house in Shropshire, although they still rarely have turkey: “We have a brilliant photo of Matt standing in gum boots in about 3ft of snow with a head-torch on, barbecuing steaks in my mum’s garden.”

4. The trick is to have an all-day breakfast, says Kirstie Allsopp

Kirstie-Allsopp-web.jpgTo avoid rushing about with the turkey, while the kids open their presents first thing, the presenter and Kirstie’s Real Kitchen author has restructured Christmas day: “I like to do the supper at six o’clock, after the Queen’s speech, and basically have an all-day, rolling breakfast while everyone opens their presents. So, pancakes, scrambled eggs and maybe a bit of salmon – easy things. You can keep everyone fed and occupied – maybe have a couple of glasses of prosecco – and then have a big early supper.”

5. For Gino D’Acampo, Italian Christmas lunch is a serious business

Gino-D'Acampo-web.jpg“Here, it’s all about having a starter and then having this huge plate, where the turkey goes on top and the Yorkshire pudding and the potatoes, then it’s pretty much over. In Italy it’s different,” explains Gino D’Acampo, whose new book, Gino’s Italian Coastal Escape, was recently released. “We do between 10 and 15 different courses. We have fish, because we don’t have turkey. One of the dishes we do is sea bass cooked in a salt crust. We do a lot of antipasti, cured hams and cheeses. Then we do one or two plates of pasta. There is a lot for everybody, and you put everything in the middle of the table and spend four or five hours eating all beautiful different kinds of foods.”

7 Of The Most Beautiful Autumn Gardens Walks

Blow away the cobwebs and take inspiration from a wealth of autumn walks where you can appreciate flora and fauna in dazzling shades of burnt orange, warm yellows and deep burgundies. Here are some of the country’s best…

Winkworth Arboretum, Surrey – During the autumn months, the splendour of Winkworth Arboretum comes to life with rich, blazing colour from the Japanese, American and Norwegian maples. The 2.5-mile walk to Oakhurst weaves its way through the woodland to the top of Hydon’s Ball, where you can enjoy spectacular views across the landscape.https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/winkworth-arboretum

Killerton, Devon – Admire the pallet of colours offered in this garden, including the deep orange berries of the Chinese scarlet rowan, the red berries and furry leaves of the Cotoneaster lacteus, and the Zelkova carpinifolia turning a deep, buttery yellow. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/killerton

Felbrigg, Norfolk – The Great Wood on the Felbrigg estate is full of interesting fungi in the autumn. After inspecting these, look up to see the bright copper leaves of the Victory V beeches. It’s worth taking a detour (at point 6 on the route) down Lion’s Mouth in autumn. The route feels like you are walking into the jaws of a lion with the tunnel of colour provided from the trees. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/felbrigg-hall-gardens-and-estate

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, North Yorkshire – The sweeping landscape of Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal is full of autumn colour at this time of year. One of the rangers has designed a deer park walk through the estate which gives you the chance to see the deer rut as well as the beautiful autumn colours. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/fountains-abbey-and-studley-royal-water-garden

Gibside, Tyne and Wear – Buzzing with wildlife, Gibside is home to red kites, roe deer and many other rare animals. During the autumn months, you can see the colours changing on the trees below as you rise out of the Derwent Valley on this circular skyline walk offering plenty of pportunities for panoramic views. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/gibside

Dinas Island, Pembrokeshire – This circular walk on Dinas Island boasts some of the finest views anywhere on the Pembrokeshire coast. In early autumn, the coastal slopes are cloaked with the yellows and browns of fading bracken, while on the headland, the pinks and purples of common heather are just coming in to bloom, alongside the yellow gorse flowers. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/strumble-head-to-cardigan

Dunster, Somerset – A walk to the keep of the castle rewards visitors with a 360-degree view taking in Dunkery Beacon (the highest point on Exmoor) and the Bristol Channel. The south terrace offers views across the former deer park which will be full of colour and the opportunity to spot red deer. The area has a Mediterranean feel due to its microclimate which enables tender plants to thrive, including a row of Chusan palms. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dunster-castle

Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk for more details about the gardens.

By Hannah Stephenson