Colour Pop: 11 Ways to be Inspired by Brights and Bolds

If you don't want to play it safe, aren't afraid to tread boldly, and have taken a shine to making a spring statement, then you're bang up to date with the current trend for blending deep, decadent shades with bolds and brights.

Designers love to keep us on our toes – and, as Donna Taylor, PPG colour expert and principal technical colour, says: “This year is all about embracing colour and inspiring people to use it in unique ways, whether that’s through pairing bolds with sophisticated neutrals, or being clever with palettes and design features to make the most of different spaces.”

To give you a head start on using colour with confidence, the colour stylists at Johnstone’s paint have launched three new palettes to inspire consumers to introduce bright and daring schemes – but for maximum impact, they cite the ‘feature wall’ as the biggest trend for 2019, with statement colours getting ever more popular.

Elsewhere, just as we’re finally heading towards the brighter seasons, shops are welcoming in joyful shades too.

For inspiration, check out these 11 bold buys…

2019 bright and bold

1. Johnstone’s 304028 2.5L Matt Emulsion Paint – Passion Pink, £14.99, Amazon

“The main intention of a feature wall in a room is to create a focal point and add interest to the space. To achieve this, the colour needs to be striking enough to draw the eye to it. Using bold colours will help to create impact or drama, using vibrant colours can give a sense of freshness to the space,” says Taylor.

“Bold feature walls should not be used in small spaces, as this will shrink the area further. It’s advised that pastel colours would work better on all walls and bold colours introduced as artwork, accessories and soft furnishings instead.”

2019 bright and bold

2. Coloured Shot Glasses – Set of Six, £22, Oliver Bonas

To keep it fresh and bring something new to the table – or drinks trolley – these colourful shot glasses can be used to serve cocktails alongside sweet desserts for a sense of fun.

2019 bright and bold

3. Motorised Capital Roller Blind Collection: Blinds, from £109, and Dream Motor, from £153 (operated by a DreamHub, £189), for information and stockists, visit apollo-blinds.co.uk.

With so much colour being showcased, you’ll want to keep the light flooding in. Along with being semi translucent, Apollo Blinds’ Camden range has an exceptionally wide colour palette (66 options), so there’s no excuse when it comes to hunting down your sock-it-to-me must-have shade.

2019 bright and bold

4. A by Amara Grid Crochet Cushion – Pink, £40, Amara

Who would have thought crochet could be cool again? The arts and craft movement is in full swing, and this bubble-gum pink cushion should inspire some creativity.

2019 bright and bold

5. Clarissa Hulse Angeliki Fabric – Sunset, £103 per metre, Cushions from £40, clarissahulse.com

Brooding blues and moody mauves work to spectacular effect when they collide with swathes of lustrous cotton/silk curtains with botanical designs, to mirror more exotic climes. To be even more inventive, mix brights with brights and don’t be afraid to clash colours.

2019 bright and bold

6. Broste Copenhagen Alrik Vase/Tealight Holder – Blue/Smoke Pine, £15, Amara

Having set the tone with your pot of paint, vibrant decos and flea-market finds, tealights in colourful candle-holders are an essential buy to show off those brush strokes and make inky walls look even more dramatic.

2019 bright and bold

7. Lava Lamps, £77 each, grahamandgreen.co.uk

A Sixties icon, and great investment piece, lava lamps are trending once more (did they ever really go out of fashion?). For maximum effect, more is more, especially when you can play swirls of bright bubbles in perpetual motion against existing stony neutrals. These from Graham & Green are available in four ‘groovy’ colours.

2019 bright and bold

8. Miami Collection Navy Blue Classic Velvet Sofa, from £1,695, Neon Box Sign, from £95 (other decos from a selection), grahamandgreen.co.uk

Inspired by ‘stylish Palm Beach hideouts’, this three-seater sofa with left chaise and middle element makes a great building block if you want to fast-track to a funky resort lifestyle, coupled with some kitsch accessories. Come summer, go for a glam, boho chic vibe, with pom-pom cushions, textured light fittings and vintage seashell accessories.

2019 bright and bold

9. Sara Miller London Portmeirion Chelsea Collection Cake Plates – Set of 4, £42.50, portmeirion.co.uk

Pretty as a picture, we think these decorative birds in flight would look brilliant hanging on a statement wall. Check out Pinterest for inspiration as to how to group them together.

2019 bright and bold

10. Brighton Sofa – Plush Velvet Peony, from £875 (available from late-Feb), Darlings of Chelsea

For a sense of drama, a plush velvet sofa will bring richness to any room, especially when it’s styled against that all-important dark wall. And if you can’t bear to part with a restful palette, simple dark accessories in natural materials will complement that pop of colour.

2019 bright and bold

11. Make Your Own Neon Light, £15, Oliver Bonas

If you don’t want to hang a lot of pictures on the wall, but fancy putting your name (or a message) in lights, what’s not to love about playing around with three metres of flexi wire to make your own neon sign…

7 simple steps for creating a stylish – and productive work space at home

A work station that suits your taste and needs will surely help bolster motivation and focus. Time to show who's boss, says Gabrielle Fagan.

Working from home can be the ultimate dream ticket – no more commuting or having to dress formally, or worry about office politics – and even better, you get to escape all that dreary corporate decor.

“Cutting down on wasteful travelling time, enabling you to spend more time with the family, is just some of the many benefits to home-working, and it can be particularly beneficial from a health and wellbeing perspective,” enthuses Susan White, marketing director at blinds and curtains specialists, Hillarys.

If you’re set to join the millions who work from home, look on it as the perfect chance to tailor a space to suit your taste and needs.

We’ve done the homework for you and devised seven simple but stylish steps, so you can make light work of creating the perfect home office…

stylish working at home decor

1. Make it personal

At home, you’re the boss, and you can truly indulge your taste and have the freedom to express your personality in the decoration of your ‘office’.

In an open-plan space, zone an area with a stunning wall mural, or cork tile an expanse of wall so you can pin up inspiring photos or to-do lists.

Alternatively, paint a wall with black chalkboard paint, to transform it into a wipeable surface for scribbling ideas, plans, or simply expressing yourself. (Rust-Oleum Black Magnetic Matt Chalkboard Paint, £14 for 750ml, B&Q, is ideal for the job.)

TIP: If you fancy it, don’t be afraid to incorporate pattern and colour into your office scheme. Research has found that both can actually help keep you creative and stimulated at work. For a perfect balance, keep energetic colours in your periphery, while sticking to a more subdued look for the desk.

2. Pretty up with pink

If you’re after a softer scheme, reduce the risk of workplace stress by choosing a calming colour for a work area. Pink is reputedly a positive colour, inspiring warm, comforting feelings and imparting a sense that everything will be all right – and who doesn’t like the sound of that?

stylish working at home decor

3: Kill the clutter

Keeping a tidy office is crucial to staying on top of things. Organising and filing loose papers means you’ll spend less time searching for them – coping with clutter is a big time-waster.

Filing cabinets, desks with compartments, and accessible floating shelves for file boxes are a good investment. Don’t let a notice board be all to-do lists and bills though, or you won’t ever want to look at it.

TIP: Keep everyday essentials close to hand, so there’ll be less temptation to get up and wander. If you know you’ll need frequent caffeine top-ups, you could even keep a little coffee-maker or kettle near the desk, and a mini-fridge stocked with cold drinks.

4. Carve out a creative corner

“Not everyone has an entire room, or even an entire wall, to dedicate to an office. But that doesn’t mean you can’t carve out a space somewhere in your home, be it a landing, bedroom or corner of a living room, to let your creative juices flow,” says White.

“Whatever you use your home office for – computer work, home and life admin, or crafts and projects – an effective work area demands plenty of light. Equally, you don’t want glare on your screen, so choose your window dressings wisely.

“Shutters and Venetian blinds have adjustable louvres and slats, so you can control the amount of light and are also great for privacy and security,” adds White. “If you’re easily distracted, opt for a sheer roller blind. It’ll still let in plenty of light, but you can pull it down to block out distractions from the outside world when you need to focus.”

TIP: Set clear ground rules for your work space, such as asking family to knock before coming into your office, or respecting quiet time between certain hours. Make this easy, and visual, for young children by using a traffic light system (a green circle on the door means ‘come in’; yellow means ‘ask first’, and red means ‘do not disturb’).

stylish working at home decor

5. Dress the desk

One of the best things about working from home is not being in a stuffy, boring office. So why re-create that at home?

Instead, include pleasing decorative elements, such as a vase full of flowers and colourful storage pots, so you can enjoy the comforts of home all through the working hours.

TIP: Setting priorities is important in an office, and even more so when working from home, as doing so will help you stay on track and not get overwhelmed. Without a boss hovering or work-mates to bounce ideas off, it’s up to you to put your to-do list in order. Use technology to help, with mobile reminders and alerts.

6. Show who’s boss

A shade of dark green, paired with black furniture and office accessories, gives decor a strong visual impact and, crucially, creates a business-like look for an office. This is especially important if clients are going to visit and you want to convey a professional image.

TIP: Never skimp on expense when buying an office chair. After all, you may spend hours sitting on it, and it’s vital that it’s comfortable and fully adjustable so you avoid muscle strain and back pain.

stylish working at home decor

7. Black is back

Sleek, black furniture spells executive style, never dates, and you’ll win compliments for your chic taste.

TIP: A properly lit space is crucial to maintaining your mood, productivity and health. Bad lighting can strain eyes, especially if you’re staring at a bright screen in the dark. Layer light, so you can have clear overhead light if necessary, a decorative table lamp with a warm glow when you’re thinking rather than focusing, and always have an adjustable desk lamp so that paperwork is properly illuminated.

6 Decor Trends to Brighten Rooms and Banish Winter Blues

Is your home looking a little lacklustre and drab as January drags on? Gabrielle Fagan reveals six easy ways to hit refresh.

January can be a bleak month on all levels – but if your rooms are look as though they’re suffering a bit of a winter hangover, take heart, as there are plenty of bright, new decor trends on the horizon.

You don’t need to rush out and arrange a major revamp – some little touches can be enough to lift a space and provide that all-important refresh.

Here are six decor trends that will make a big impression on rooms this year, and could help banish the blues and take your home from drab to fab in no time…

design to banish winter blues

1. Tell a texture story

If you want to give a scheme some ‘wow’ factor, look no further than texture. Layering a mixture of soft fabrics – from fluffy sheepskin cushions and chunky wool throws to cowhide rugs – will not only draw the eye, which is essential in a muted scheme decorated in neutrals that could otherwise look bland, but also add cosiness.

Adding texture is all about layering, so have a few key pieces, like a statement rug, a velvet chair, or a leather sofa, and then add smaller accessories and soft furnishings until the room feels complete.

Don’t forget that your scheme need never be ‘set in stone’. Moving or replacing a few texture-rich accessories is an easy way to re-energise and refresh the whole balance of a scheme.

Plunder Next’s spring/summer collection for texture treats. Our favourites include their Knitted Jute Drum Seat, £70 (available Feb), and Mono Berber Rug, £50-£180. The range has lots of touchy-feely cushions too, including an Ethnic Tufted Stripe Cushion, £18; Textured Pom Pom Cushion, £14, and Diamond Geo Cushion, £16.

design to banish winter blues

2. Make it mellow yellow

Yellow has crossed over from the fashion catwalks – the colour was big news at the 2019 spring/summer shows – and is predicted to make its mark on our homes.

The colour’s associated with energy and optimism – we could all do with a dose of that this year – and you can easily play with all its hues, from bright daffodil yellow, through to the palest lemon.

This is also a shade that works well in bold contrast, or blended with similar shades and tones – don’t be afraid to experiment.

Another bonus: Pops of yellow will act like beams of sunshine in any room, no matter what the weather’s like outside.

design to banish winter blues

3. Follow the fringe

Fringing – think the swishy, flamboyant Charleston dresses of the 1920s – is making a comeback in decor and home styling.

You can interpret it elegantly and traditionally, with upholstery fringing on armchairs and sofas, or go for an ethnic, arty vibe with a colourful tribal wall hanging. However you use it, fringing is fabulous.

design to banish winter blues

4. Touch wood

Natural materials, particularly wood, are essential for today’s stylish homes. It’s all about celebrating the beauty of natural materials and craftsmanship – think heirlooms and sustainability – and the unique grain of timber.

Don’t limit yourself to one piece. The chic take on the trend is to choose furniture made in different tones of wood, from pale ash to ebony, and let is share a space. Leave it raw and unstained to reveal the gorgeous imperfections of the knots and grain.

design to banish winter blues

5. Let red rule

Let the warmest shades on the colour spectrum – rust, red and rose – warm your rooms (it’s cheaper than turning up the central heating!).

Our newfound boldness with colour means we’re less timid and more prepared to splash on those bright shades these days – but even used sparingly, these shades will make an impact without being too dominating, especially if you lean towards the brown-based terracotta hues.

Experiment with bed linen and accessories to test your enthusiasm, or paint a headboard or feature wall if you want to make a statement. Seeing red can be positive!

design to banish winter blues

6. Pay a floral tribute

Nature’s finding its way into more and more interiors, and flowers, potted plants and succulents – both real and faux – are an easy way to bring natural appeal to rooms.

Displaying bouquets in clear glass vases can have a transformative effect on a space. As a transparent vase displays all of its contents, the possibilities for decorative ideas extend beyond flowers, and you could use them for fruit or collections of beachcomber finds too.

Change the atmosphere with blooms – a fresh cut bunch from a garden will enhance a country/rustic effect, while an elaborate display of exotic blooms makes a luxe touch.

The Do’s and Dont’s of being a vegan gardener.

Committed vegan and gardening expert Matthew Appleby shares some of his top tips. If you care about what you eat, you probably care about how food is grown too. So if you're a gardener who likes to grow their own, and - like many others right now - have decided to go vegan, then it's useful to know how to approach this at every stage of the process.

So says committed vegan and gardening expert Matthew Appleby, whose new book, Super Organic Gardener: Everything You Need to Know About A Vegan Garden, explains all – from the types of produce you might go for, to the techniques you’ll need to use to ensure your garden remains truly vegan.

“Vegans believe animal farming is wasteful of land and resources, cruel to animals and the resulting milk, dairy and eggs are bad for their health. While they seek to remove the foods from their diet, other aspects of making a lifestyle truly vegan may have been overlooked,” says Appleby. “Cutting out animal inputs in your garden, as well as growing the best products for a vegan diet, and how to be a truly animal-friendly gardener, are the subjects of my new book.”

how to be a vegan gardener

He says he hopes to bridge the gap between vegan food and vegan lifestyle.

“Many gardeners who care about animals and who care about the origins of what they eat, may not be aware of the impact eating animals or animal products has on the environment, or their health (let alone the animals themselves), and they may not know their gardening and growing their own is part of the problem,” he adds.

Here, Appleby offers some of the key dos and don’ts of being a vegan gardener…

how to be a vegan gardener

DON’T… Use animal manures

As well as avoiding animal manures, vegans don’t use blood, fish and bone products. “You can make your own fertiliser to replace blood, fish and bone products – the by-products of the slaughterhouse, which can also attract vermin to your plot,” says Appleby. “I make comfrey ‘tea’ by stewing the herb in a bucket of water, which I strain off to give plants a tonic. Comfrey contains high levels of potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus, which are the essential nutrients for plant growth. Seaweed is good too.”

DO… Make your own compost

“Making compost to replace animal manures is a cornerstone of vegan gardening. Animal manures can contain harmful bacteria such as e-coli, and they are the by-products of the animal farming system, which vegans do not want to support,” Appleby adds. “Compost made from green and brown organic material and (vegetable) food waste make up your growing media. Commercial mixes from companies such as Fertile Fibre (fertilefibre.com) are now available too.”

To make vegan compost, use grass cuttings, leaves, garden clippings and vegan food bin waste.

how to be a vegan gardener

DO… Make your own fertiliser from comfrey

“Comfrey is good at sucking up nutrients from the soil and contains calcium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin A, C and other trace materials. Grow comfrey by, with permission, digging up a bit of someone’s crop. When divided, it grows again easily and produces leaf rapidly. You can buy root cuttings to plant from May-September.”

Make a comfrey liquid feed by filling a container with leaves and topping up with water. Leave to steep for a week and pour the liquid onto crops. Then add the used comfrey to the compost pile, where its nutrients will both enrich the whole heap and encourage decomposition.

DO… Use alternative plant tonics

These include rock dust, ash and rotted woodchip.

DO… Grow green manure

Grow a green manure by sowing nitrogen-rich seeds, such as red or white clover, over winter on bare soil. This fixes nitrogen from the air and brings up minerals from the ground, as well as stopping bare soil eroding. Plant as a cover crop, and as an under-sown crop. Rake it in two weeks before planting potatoes.

In the spring, sow trefoils, crimson or sweet clover, mustard, buckwheat or phacelia. Vetch, lucerne, mustard, buckwheat, phacelia and red and white clover are also good for autumn planting.

how to be a vegan gardener

DO… Grow your own protein and iron-rich veg

Include artichokes or broccoli in your planting scheme, to make sure your vegan diet is not lacking in any essential minerals and vitamins.

DO… Deter animals that might eat your crops

Grow banks of plants that predators live in, including buddleia, nettle, dandelion, horsetail, grey willow and brambles. Also include log piles as insect habitats.

DO… Be prepared to sacrifice some of your crops

Sacrificial crops, which will keep pests at bay, include nasturtiums and nettles (aphids), chervil (slugs), French marigold (slugs and thrips), and radish (flea beetle). Netting, scents and scarers are all alternatives to killing ‘pests’.

DON’T… Kill wildlife and insects, including slugs

Make room in your garden for all living creatures, who will help provide the balance of nature in their own way.

how to be a vegan gardener

Super Organic Gardener: Everything You Need to Know About A Vegan Garden by Matthew Appleby is published by Pen & Sword on January 31, priced £16.99.

Six fabulous flat-pack furniture brands that aren’t Ikea.

IKEA might rule the roost when it comes to home shopping - but it's not the only brand acing stylish, easy-assemble kit. By Luke Rix-Standing.

Now, we’re not knocking IKEA. Let’s face it, there’s good reason the brand is such a phenomenal success – it’s extremely difficult to compete with IKEA.

The Google of the DIY dish rack, the Microsoft of the flat-packed wardrobe, the Swedish company has now been the world’s largest furniture retailer for over a decade, and has a hold of its market like a pro wrestler waiting for the count.

But it’s not the only flat-pack retailer in life’s megastore – particularly if you’re seeking something a little more distinct, without the inflated prices of upmarket outlets.

Curious? These six brands all have something notable to offer in the flat-pack stakes, most of it delivered direct to your door. Expect Scandinavia to still feature heavily, however – you can get away from IKEA, but there’s almost no escaping the mass-produced quality of Scandi style…

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

1. Hem (hem.com)

It shouldn’t be surprising that Sweden claims the world’s most popular furniture brand, because the country is full of companies supplying the demand for modern, self-assembled furniture.

Stockholm-based Hem perfectly straddles the divide between IKEA’s giant assembly line and high-end high street. Its range is not as large as IKEA’s (of course), and it’s a bit costlier (full-size dining tables start at around £980), but the quality and styling is top-notch.

Products mostly come from the classic Scandi school of of minimalist, Bauhaus-inspired design, while many items claim to have assembly times of under a minute (not including the time needed to take things out of the box, of course!). Their catalogue contains a nice array of lamps, stools and ottomans, but the headline acts are in their sofa collection.

Look out for their range of mix n’ match sofa units – the Palo and Kumo series (starting at around £1070) boast modular seating units which can be attached and reattached at will to fit whatever space or style is so desired. A four-man sofa can turn into a one-man lounge chair at the swish of a detachable strut.

Hem list their prices in Euros, but ship from inventories across Europe and the US.

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

2. String (string.se)

Even among Swedish flat-pack furniture companies, String stands out. Its products have been legally classified as ‘applied art’. None of them come with particularly prescriptive instruction manuals, and its flagship item turns 70 years old this year. On top of that, String only stocks shelves.

String shelves are sold in modular units, attached to the wall by simple, screw-in brackets, which can be assembled in any pattern, depth or colour to suit buyers’ space, need or taste. Different units can be added and taken away as you please, or customised with hooks, racks, drawers, cabinet units, and even a foldout table.

String shelving is also stocked by a number of different brands in stores across the UK. Prices vary but the standard String unit tends to start at around £42.

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

3. Normann Copenhagen (normann-copenhagen.com/en)

Yep, we are still in Scandinavia (last one, we promise), but this little Danish gem ships all round the world and lists products on its website in pounds sterling. Design guru Hans Hornemann set out his stall to combine the flat-packed with the high end, aiming squarely at style-conscious city-dwellers with limited space.

In his own words: “I wanted to change the flat-pack concept and give it another meaning. A reasonably priced piece of furniture that you can fall in love with and bring home straight away.”

Check out the Ace Collection of chairs, stools and sofas, sensuously curved pieces contoured with high-comfort foam that looks anything but self-assembled. It’s aimed at the luxury market, but fine design and gorgeous upholstery means a piece can easily be a long-term investment.

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

4. Habitat (habitat.co.uk)

This UK interiors giant has an historic right to be on this list. IKEA may have sent flat-packed furniture into the stratosphere, but it was Habitat that gave the emerging market life.

Known as “knock-down” furniture, Habitat were flogging self-assembly, read-the-manual products back in the mid-1960s, and kick-started the flat-pack revolution that dominated the industry in the early-Seventies.

They’re still at it today, with a range of flat-packed items that stretches across their extensive catalogue. At £150, the very reasonably priced Cato desk is easy to assemble and wrought in a familiar minimalist style.

The shelving collection is well worth a gander too – the Hopkins Bookcase (£495-£695) forms a hypnotic sea of squares and rectangles, and at 198cm high is almost certainly taller than you are.

A shout out, too, to their Spencer sofa range, available in delightfully attractive array of colours. Simply affix the legs, and recline to your hearts content.

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

5. Ilke Homes (ilkehomes.co.uk)

OK – so it’s not furniture, but Ilke Homes deserves a place on our list. Perhaps the final stage of the flat-pack evolution, this Yorkshire-based maker of ‘modular’ homes is about as off the wall as can be.

Instead of offering websites and warehouses for easy-assembly storage and seating, the company digitally designs entire homes room by room – including walls, floors and windows – before surgically constructing them on a factory floor. The rooms are then driven to their allotted location by a fleet of lorries, and constructed on site in as little as a day.

Though you don’t have to do the assembly yourself (thank heavens), this is macro flat-packing at its logical conclusion. A two to three bedroom unit costs from around £69,000-79,000 (although, of course, there will be other costs to consider, and you need the land to put your flat-pack house on).

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

6. ScS (scs.co.uk)

Don’t be fooled by the name – the Sofa Carpet Specialists have more strings to their bow than just soft furnishings. They also stock a range of flat-pack furniture, often competitively priced too.

For flat-pack enthusiasts, tables are the order of the day here. With an extending table and four cream-coloured chairs, the Cruz 1.25m Extending Dining Table & Four Button Back Chairs (currently reduced to £739 from £849) is their flagship item.

But our favourite is the Julius Nest of Tables (currently reduced to £59 from £109) – a three-piece set with two smaller tables that can be stored snugly beneath the largest. The Russian doll of side tables, it’s perfect for those low on space.

alternative to Ikea flat pack businesses

How To Make Your Own Christmas Wreath Using Succulents

Follow this step-by-step guide to creating a door wreath using on point succulent plants, which will last into the New Year.

DIY Christmas wreath succulents

If you want to go chic on the Christmas wreath front this year, consider succulents – they’ll last through the festive season and may even transfer to your garden later on.

Living wreaths give a great natural look indoors and out, but you’ll need different plants for different places – so indoors, you can experiment with echeveria and haworthia, while for an outdoor wreath, you can use succulent alpine plants such as sedum or sempervivum.

DIY Christmas wreath succulents

Here, Claire Bishop, plants buyer at Dobbies Garden Centres (dobbies.com) offers this step-by-step guide to creating your own natural succulent door wreath for Christmas…

What you need to get started: 12 succulent alpine plants, like sedum or sempervivum (house leeks), selecting small plants in 5cm or 9cm pot sizes; moss, an oasis ring, florists wire, wire cutters and pins.

DIY Christmas wreath succulents

1. Cover your oasis ring

Soak your moss in water and use it to cover the oasis ring completely

DIY Christmas wreath succulents

2. Position your plants

Place the plants one by one into the oasis ring, securing with pins as you go

DIY Christmas wreath succulents

3. Secure the wreath

To make your wreath extra secure, wrap florists wire around it to reduce any movement.

DIY Christmas wreath succulents

4. Complete the look

Add some finishing touches to fill any gaps – pine cones or red berries are great for adding a festive touch.

DIY Christmas wreath succulents

Living wreaths are perfect for indoors or out, but the type of plants used will depend on where you are ultimately going to display it.

“For an indoor wreath, succulents are the perfect choice as they love a drier climate and are very low maintenance,” says Bishop.

“They have become one of the most popular indoor houseplants due to their stand-out style, with Instagram feeds and Pinterest boards awash with cool cacti displays and trendy terrariums. This take on the wreath gives the succulent a new lease of life for the festive season.

DIY Christmas wreath succulents

“When it comes to choosing the right ones, in general, the greenest succulents will fare the best indoors. Succulents thrive in as much light as possible, so displaying your wreath in view of a window is ideal.”

If you are making a wreath for your door to greet guests, choose small plants in 5cm or 9cm pot sizes and try alternating the types of plants for maximum visual impact.

She continues: “If you’ve opted for an indoor wreath using succulents, make sure it looks its best by watering it once a week. You can do this by soaking your oasis ring in water and using a misting spray if required.

“For outdoor alpines, depending on position, mist if and when required to keep plants looking fresh.”

6 Alternative Christmas Trees For Small Spaces

alternative Christmas trees

Hannah Stephenson shares some dinky options for space-starved homes - or anyone who can't face the faff of a full-size tree.

Bit short of space? Can’t fit a big Christmas tree into your home, but still want something natural-looking to replace it?

Well, good news. There are wall hangings, houseplants and smaller potted trees that’ll do the job nicely and bring some festive sparkle into your home, even if you live in the smallest space with just a little walk-round room.

So, what are the options?

alternative Christmas trees

1. Nordic Rope Ladder Hanging Christmas Tree, £20, notonthehighstreet.com

A minimalist yet rustic alternative to the classic Christmas tree, this hanging tree is only 80cm tall and can be tucked up neatly against a wall. Add baubles of your choice and drape it with fairy lights to bring it to life. A great choice for those with very tight space to work with, anyone who can’t ‘cope’ with pine needles – or to decorate other areas of the home.

The wooden slats are rounded natural twigs from the bayur tree, making all of these unique.

alternative Christmas trees

2. Mini Letterbox Christmas Tree, from £32, BloomAndWild.com

A survey commissioned by Bloom & Wild found that people are downsizing their trees in a bid to cut down on costs and needle dropping – with 79% of those quizzed saying they’re opting for a smaller tree this year, while 65% of millennials will be buying a cheaper option, without sacrificing the ‘Instagram-worthy’ tradition of buying one completely.

Their mini letterbox trees, which are real and rooted, arrive with decorations, lights and a pop-up pot in a letterbox-fitting box, and can be planted in the garden after Christmas.

alternative Christmas trees

3. Mini Christmas Tree Trio, £25, Marks and Spencer

If you only have space to spare on your windowsill, this trio of frosted mini trees, in winter embossed tin containers, would make a classy edition. You’ll ideally need to place them in a cool position with some natural light and, while they’re fine kept indoors for a few weeks, after that you’ll need to move them outdoors if you want them to survive, and plant them either in a patio container or the garden. Once you’ve done that, they should continue to thrive (you’ll want to make sure the compost never totally dries out but don’t let the tree get waterlogged either, and adding some plant food to their water between late spring and early autumn is advised).

alternative Christmas trees

4. Houseplants (Luxury Basket £30), Wyevale Garden Centres

Who says it has to be a Christmas tree? There are other ways to bring some festive greenery into the home, including houseplants. If you have the space, consider gathering some houseplants together, with some white specimens, such as orchids and lilies, to create a ‘frosted’ look. You could also go for a red and green arrangement to give a room a traditional festive feel, and go as big or small as you like.

alternative Christmas trees

5. Plant Terrarium, £66.99, crocus.co.uk

Terrariums have become the must-have addition to living areas, and if you haven’t the space for a tree then you could consider planting a feast of festive plants in one of these glass enclosures instead, which should keep going beyond New Year.

Once you’ve had enough of them, you can easily change the style by swapping in new plants next year. This one’s produced from sheet glass and brass, with an antique bronze finish.

alternative Christmas trees

6. Pot-grown Tree, from £20, Wyevale Garden Centres

Eco-friendly gardeners may prefer a smaller version of the traditional Christmas tree. They can look superb – and this one is pot-grown, so can be planted in the garden afterwards.

Are you a DIY Dodger? Join the Ever Growing Club?

From leaky taps to holey walls, a new survey suggests we'd rather put up with problems than attempt to fix them ourselves. Abi Jackson finds out more.

avoiding diy top tips

Have we lost our DIY mojo? OK, so some of us never had any desire or inclination to get handy with the hammers and paintbrushes to begin with, and wouldn’t have a scooby when it comes to spanners and spirit levels – but there was a time when every household had an overflowing toolbox, maybe a workbench in the shed or garage, and the will and know-how to tackle at least those ‘safe and simple’ DIY tasks.

This may no longer be the case, though, as many of us are now certified DIY-dodgers, according to a new survey by glass specialist Pilkington (pilkington.com/en-gb/uk).

avoiding diy top tips

Broken toilets, damaged walls and leaky taps top the list of tasks we just can’t seem to get around to tackling, the poll of 2,000 UK homeowners found, with 21% of respondents admitting they were ‘happy’ to live with holes in their walls, rather than attempting to fix them. Meanwhile, 17% said they put up with dripping taps, and 14% confessed to living with a malfunctioning toilet! Broken door handles, it seems, are a DIY job 12.5% are happy to dodge.

I’ll get round to it one day…

Of course, if you don’t have any DIY experience, it’s understandable that the idea of tackling such tasks might be overwhelming – but why are we losing the motivation to do-it-ourselves?

avoiding diy top tips

According to the Pilkington poll, laziness, poor skills and lack of time are among the most common excuses, with 41% saying they’ll get the jobs done eventually (we all know this can go on for years!). A further 26% admit they haven’t fixed an issue because they’ve simply got used to living with it, while 21% confess they don’t know how to tackle the task. Almost half (40%) said they’d rather call in the professionals to get the job done.

“We used to be a nation of proud DIY-ers, but it seems the pace of modern life has left us with little time to get around to fixing those all-important jobs,” says Pilkington’s brand and communications manager, Julia Berkin. “Rather than spending time on home projects, homeowners are instead looking to the experts to help with renovations, and relying on innovative products that make their lives easier.”

avoiding diy top tips

Should we ditch the DIY dread?

To be fair, sometimes time really is short and there’s no rule that says we have to add ‘DIY expert’ to our ever-expanding lists of demands. Plus, if a job really would be better handled by a professional, well, that’s what they’re there for, right?

But that said, if we’re totally honest, procrastination and laziness are often the main culprits in why we aren’t getting things done ourselves, and many DIY tasks might actually be a lot simpler than you think (not to mention a lot cheaper to tackle yourself).

avoiding diy top tips

5 simple steps for repairing a hole in a plastered wall

Want to buck the trend and get on board with DIY? To help, we asked the pros at Homebase (homebase.co.uk) to talk us through one of the nation’s apparently most-dodged DIY job: Filling in holey walls…

  1. Preparing the damaged area

Use a bolster chisel and club hammer to remove all loose material around the area to be patched, and undercut the edges. Once this is complete, wire brush the brickwork to remove all traces of loose material.

  1. Mixing the new plaster

Mix the plaster according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Use a gauging trowel to sprinkle the plaster powder into the water, while stirring with a clean stick. When the plaster is thick and creamy without lumps, turn it onto a dampened board. Helpful hint: To prevent lumps from forming, always add the plaster to the water and not the water to the plaster.

  1. Filling the patch with plaster

Once the new plaster is ready to use, thoroughly dampen the area of the wall that needs to be patched. Use a plastering trowel to slide a good amount of the mixture onto the plasterer’s hawk. Standing close to the patch, tilt the hawk towards you and, with a continuous movement, lift half the plaster onto the trowel.

Hold the trowel horizontally but slightly angled towards the wall. Press the plaster into the patch and move the trowel up the wall, gradually flattening it. Avoid flattening the trowel against the wall as this is causes suction and pulls the plaster off the wall. Repeat this process until the patch is slightly overfilled, but don’t overwork the plaster, as this weakens it and makes it fall off.

  1. Smoothing off

Once the surface is covered, smooth the plaster to an even thickness, holding the trowel at a slight angle so only one edge touches the plaster at any one time.

After about 45 minutes, the plaster will start to set. Once this has happened, go over it again lightly with a dampened trowel to smooth the surface. After a further 20-30 minutes, splash the surface with cold, clean water then trowel to a fine, smooth surface. Be sure to keep the trowel damp and not to overwork the surface.

  1. Filling deep holes

If the patch in question is deep, you might need to put on two layers of plaster. To do this, apply the first layer of plaster to half the depth of the patch. When it has partially set, scratch up the surface and leave it to set fully without drying out. Apply a second coat, and repeat the process as above.

 

 

avoiding diy top tips

Want a Stylish Christmas Tree this year? These 3 Decorating Trends are Gorgeous and Easy!

Christmas decorating trends 2019

Choose between frosty, copper or emerald, says Gabrielle Fagan. A Christmas tree is the star of the celebrations, but choosing a style can be as tricky as untangling the tinsel.

But this year, banish seasonal stress by taking inspiration from these three decor themes – frosty, copper or emerald. Then add the bells and baubles, sit back and wait for the compliments.

“A Christmas tree is such a seasonal statement and nowadays isn’t just for friends and family as its style is often shared on social media, so we all want it look as beautiful and stylish as possible,” says Lee Jackson, Christmas stylist and designer for Dobbies garden centres.

Christmas decorating trends 2019

“The main influence on tree trends over the last few years can be summed up in one word – ‘craft’. The huge resurgence in activities such as needlepoint, felting, paper crafts, hand-stitching and crochet are reflected in the styles as well as the materials – from wool and wood to felt – used for tree decorations, giving them a lovely personal hand-crafted feel.

“The other influence is the Japanese craze, Kawaii, which means unashamedly cute, and that’s played a part in the popularity of cutesy woodland animals dancing across tree branches.

“Squirrels, deer, hedgehogs, stags and even mythical creatures like unicorns are all having their moment this year in the seasonal limelight.”

Christmas decorating trends 2019

Let it snow…….

“Our Snowy Forest tree trend uses lots of silver tones and snow-tipped animals to bring a midwinter landscape to life,” says Jackson of the Dobbies offering.

“A traditional colour-combo of red and white is classic, but this interpretation is fresh but simple and conjures a stylishly serene, icy winter wonderland.”

Its Enchanted Garden theme, inspired by foliage and flowers, is a little more rustic. It features a selection of wooden and fabric decorations, featuring animals and birds, starting from £2.99 each.

Christmas decorating trends 2019

STYLE TIP Create your own ‘snow storm’ with Artificial Snow, 100g bag, £2, from Hobbycraft. Simply spread glue where you want the snow to stick – on baubles and present wrapping – and sprinkle on. Follow the white and red colour theme when gift-wrapping parcels displayed under the tree and go all out with beautiful red and white ribbon and gorgeous gift tags.

Christmas decorating trends 2019

Conjure a copper glow

“Our amber story – inspired by the golden tones of autumnal forests – is my absolute favourite,” said Fionnuala Johnston, senior designer, John Lewis.

“This colour theme has natural layers of beautiful tones from amber through to rich chestnut. This beautiful rustic environment full of wildlife has a cosy and warm feel, making me want to snuggle up with fur throws and mulled wine after a long walk.”

STYLE TIP Amber tones are in tune with the fashion for metallics, especially burnished copper, which adds lustre to any scheme. Shine a light with a Copper Tea Light House, £7.99, Lights4Fun and a Wired Copper Light Garland, £25, Cox & Cox. Add to the party atmosphere with a Party Fan Set (3), in copper and gold effects, £2.99, in store, Homesense.

Christmas decorating trends 2019

Go green…

“This pays a nod to the sensory haven of a tropical rain forest and the Emerald collection incorporates clear glass, feathers and tropical leaves to create a lush, luxe Christmas setting,” says Dan Cooper, Christmas buyer, John Lewis.

“Inspired by nature, these decorations feature toucans, dragonflies, snails and parrots, with succulents and moss as well, to create an enchanting festive wonderland.

“A favourite is the Banana Leaf hanger, a glass decoration shaped as an on-trend monstera leaf in a vivid green hue.”

Christmas decorating trends 2019

STYLE TIP Work stems of faux foliage into a tree to make it look fuller. Dress a mantel with a green garland: Real Christmas Garland, White & Silver, £65, John Lewis. Ramp up the luxe by treating a sofa to velvet cushions in shades of green: Plain Velvet Cushion, in Dark Spruce or Ivy, £25, John Lewis.

Christmas decorating trends 2019

Fed Up With Smog? 5 Pollution-Resistant Plants to Help you Breathe

As the government pledges the funding of millions of trees in cities to ease pollution, an expert offers a guide to 5 smog-resistant plants.

pollution resistant plants

The government is proposing to fund the planting of millions of trees to boost housing prices in cities, to improve green spaces and help preserve the environment, gardeners can also do their bit by planting pollution-resistant plants.

David Mitchell, buying manager for horticulture at Wyevale Garden Centres, says: “Plants do have a hard time with pollution. Since the leaves need to ‘breathe’, anything that limits that exchange, such as airborne gasses or if the pores are blocked by dust and grime, will limit their potential.

“Fruit trees in particular can struggle and yields can be as low as half of what they would be in cleaner air.”

Here are five of his favourite pollution-tolerant plants and how to care for them…

pollution resistant plants

1. Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’

This ornamental pear is an exceptionally good tree for small urban gardens, with its upright, narrow shape and branches that are smothered with white blossom early in spring (April to May).

The leaves turn a vibrant red and purple in the autumn before falling and some years, the tree will produce small inedible brown fruits. It does best in moist but well drained soil (clay, sand or loam) and in full sun.

pollution resistant plants

2. Buddleia

Known as the butterfly bush, Buddleia produces clusters of deep scented flowers from midsummer into autumn. Rich in nectar, this fast-growing, hardy deciduous shrub attracts butterflies, bees and other insects, and thrives in any well-drained soil (chalk, loam or sand).

pollution resistant plants

3. Camellia

Producing rich, colourful flowers with ruffled petals and golden stamens in late winter into spring (February to April), which are offset by glossy evergreen leaves, the camellia proves that beautiful plants can also be tolerant to pollution.

Plant in light shade, in shelter, and in moist but well-drained, humus-rich, lime-free soil (loam) or in a container, in ericaceous (lime-free) compost.

pollution resistant plants

4. Buxus sempervirens

This classic British native evergreen is ideal for low hedging, boundaries or divisions in formal gardens in both modern and traditional settings.

It responds well to being trimmed and thrives in the shade, and most well-drained soils (chalk, loam or sand). It’s excellent for growing in containers, as topiary and for training as feature plants.

pollution resistant plants

5. Berberis

This easy-to-grow barberry has spiny shoots and simple leaves. Soft yellow or orange flowers appear in spring (April to May) and are followed by small berries in the autumn. This deciduous or evergreen shrub will succeed in a wide range of conditions. Plant in full sun or partial shade in well-drained humus-rich soil (chalk, loam or sand), although it will be tolerant of most soils as long as they are reasonably well-drained.

3 Ways to Turn Your Home Technicolour

Colour-phobic and clinging to neutrals like a comfort blanket? Gabrielle Fagan discovers how to fight fear and brave bold decoration at home.

bright colours technicolour your home

Colour’s officially cool – according to the decor experts – but it takes guts to plunge into the palette and experiment in rooms.

Banish the fear and do it anyway, declares Emily Henson, interiors stylist and author of the aptly named, Be Bold: Interiors For The Brave Of Heart, which is a celebration of homes with “joyful patterns, gutsy colour choices and exhilarating paint treatments”.

Their owners, she says, enjoy homes which contain daring explosions of colour, pattern, humour and originality, where “boldness is a way of life”.

Some make a statement “with vivid paint on every surface and neon signs on the walls”, while others have “leopard print and folksy embroidered cushions clashing on a pink sofa, or window frames painted yellow in an otherwise white wall”. Whatever, she notes, bold really is beautiful.

bright colours technicolour your home

It’s certainly a world away from the bland, and Henson gleefully sums up the philosophy as ‘decorate like nobody’s watching’.

Still nervous? “Think of the colours you like and want in your life, and test the waters by spray painting something small,” she says. For the more confident, she urges: “Dive in at the deep end, just go for it! What’s the worst thing that can happen? You won’t like it and you’ll have to repaint. That’s not the end of the world.”

Be inspired by three homes where owners truly dance to their own decor tune…

bright colours technicolour your home

Cook up a colour storm

Set designer Amy Exton indulges her love of colour and kitsch with a no-holds-barred scheme for her kitchen, and has created a home that packs a stylish punch.

“Amy hand-painted this eye-popping mural herself, painstakingly taping off each area and alternating between stripes, leopard and solid painted sections,” Henson says.

“She continues the mouthwatering colour scheme with apple green on the walls and brightly-coloured metal stools. It’s a total transformation from it’s previous look of magnolia paint and wall-to-wall brown carpet.”

EMILY’S DECOR TIP: Choose one shade and paint everything – walls, ceilings, doors, woodwork, radiators – for an intoxicating, enveloping effect. If that’s too much, choose a main colour for the walls and ceiling and one or two accents for doors, shelves or features. If you feel bold, paint part-way up the walls and leave the top half white, or use two different colours for a wall – in either complementary or contrasting shades.

bright colours technicolour your home

Mix a cocktail of shades

Anything goes in the apartment of Spanish designer Patricia Bustos, who ignores outdated rules and injects a fresh quirkiness into all her schemes.

She’s created an entertainment ‘zone’ with a bamboo tiki bar, Eighties Terje Ekstrom chairs upholstered in mustard wool, and for the perfect finishing touch, designed her own ‘Oh La La’ neon sign.

“For Patricia, being bold means combining different eras, ignoring outdated rules about pattern and colour matching, and injecting humour and quirkiness into everything she designs. Her home is a joyful expression of what’s in her head, and it’s fabulous,” says Henson. “It’s all fabulously OTT. What makes it work? A limited colour palette and the guts to own the look.”

EMILY’S DECOR TIP: Stylists often create ‘fake walls’ – large pieces of plywood covered in wallpaper – for photographic shoots. These can be used as a flexible, movable expanse of pattern, which can be leaned against a wall for a playful focal point, or used as a great way to test out your enthusiasm for a particular pattern or colour, before committing to it.

bright colours technicolour your home

Wake up a wall…

A vibrant blue shade on a wall brilliantly brings shop owner Zoe Anderson’s dining area to life, with simple, modern furniture – including a gleaming Tom Dixon copper pendant light – to provide balance.

“Kitchens are often painted in neutral colours as a safe option, but Zoe went all-out bold with an electric blue paint,” explains Henson. “The walls are a vibrant backdrop for the family’s art collection, including children’s drawings and keepsakes collected on travels.”

EMILY’S DECOR TIP: Make a statement with a sofa or a chair in a daring or unusual shade, to show-off your ‘adventurous’ colour spirit, says Henson. Bold doesn’t always have to mean bright, she points out, as paler shades can be just as effective. Think pink, sage green, or aquamarine – anything but the obvious.

bright colours technicolour your home

Be Bold: Interiors For The Brave Of Heart by Emily Henson, photography by Catherine Gratwicke, is published by Ryland Peters & Small, priced £19.99. Available to readers for the special price of £14 (inc p&p) by going to rylandpeters.com and using code: BOLDPA at the checkout. Offer valid until December 31, 2018.

Top of the Taps: Expert Tips on Choosing the Right Taps for your Family and Lifestyle

Abi Jackson asks some industry professionals to runs through the options when it comes to faucets.

They may seem small-fry in the grand scheme of kitchen design – but taps feature heavily in our day-to-day lives, and there’s a surprising amount of options to choose from.

“Kitchen taps play an important role in every home. Not only are they often a focal point but they are used for different purposes throughout the day, so when choosing taps you need to think about practicality and design,” says Simon Cornelius, head of marketing at Methven.

Fancy updating your faucets? We tapped up the experts for their top tips on current trends…

Features and functionality

Designers are constantly coming up with ways to make products more efficient and user-friendly, with taps no exception. It used to be that your biggest decision was whether to switch from having separate hot and cold taps to a single mixer tap – but the specs available have come a long way since then.

“The inclusion of swivel sprouts and pull-out hoses in our brand-new range enables you to easily wash pots without taking up too much kitchen workspace,” says Cornelius.

Larah Kuziw, brand manager at Carron Phoenix, adds: “There’s a huge choice of taps now, that come with features such as pull-out sprays, directional nozzles, filtration and more, so there are models to suit all of your kitchen and budget needs, from basic mixers to a multi-functional four or even five-in-one tap.”

Boiling and filtering

Taking things a step further in the tap tech stakes, if you’re looking to invest in some of the latest hi-tech kitchen options, you might want to consider a boiling water tap.

“Where once they may have been considered a luxury, we’re now seeing [boiling water taps] regularly feature as one of the must-have appliances,” says Becca Platts, design expert at Benchmarx Kitchens.

“As many of the latest tap models can be fitted in place or to replace a standard hot/cold monobloc kitchen mixer, this does make sense. So much so, that we’ve now added a number of Abode models to our key range, so people have the option to trade up to filtered boiling, or even filtered boiling and cold water as required.”

Designs will often give the option to choose temperature settings, and Platts notes that multi-step operating features are designed to help ensure the taps are safe to use (so you can’t just accidentally flip on a flow of boiling water).

“Hot water taps give you so much more than an instant cuppa,” says Jeanette Ward, communications manager at Franke. “Their ability to deliver hot, cold and instant boiling water means they have a myriad of uses, such as blanching, sterilising baby bottles or knives, boiling pasta or rice more quickly, or cleaning your pans after a Sunday roast.

“When you have a hot water tap, you don’t need a kettle anymore, so you can achieve a more streamlined look in your kitchen and free up some worktop space.”

Still buying bottled water because you don’t like drinking straight from the tap? Having a filtering tap installed could help towards those single-use plastic reducing goals. “Filtered water taps make a great choice if you’re looking for access to premium quality water. These taps remove the majority of chlorine from tap water, along with other impurities including particulates, rust, heavy metals and pesticides,” says Luke Shipway, product manager at Caple. “As a result, there’s vast improvement on taste and odour, and the scale inhibitor helps reduce the build up of scale in your kettle, which is a great benefit.”

Don’t overlook design

Advanced specs aside, if your kitchen is the heart of your home, then you’ll want to fill it with details you love – so think about how the tap fits within the wider theme of the space.

“It’s also a current trend to invest in a tap which will add a touch of personality to your kitchen,” says Cornelius. “Taps with striking designs will enhance your kitchen and will make them focal points, rather than just kitchen necessities.

“Don’t forget to look beyond the design and pay consideration to the colour of your tap. While chrome is still a popular choice, we are also seeing an increase in taps with colours incorporated, such as our Methven Gaston with black accent. This design will add a sleek contemporary touch to your kitchen and give you a base from which to create your interior scheme.”

This applies whatever type of tap you go for, including boiling water taps. “The use of different materials, colours and finishes is still a strong theme in kitchens, which is why one of the big trends in hot water tap design is the introduction of coloured finishes, like black, copper, gold, bronze and gunmetal, in addition to premium solid stainless steel,” says Ward. “These alternative finishes really help to draw attention to the tap as a statement piece, rather than just a practical piece of kitchen equipment.”

To discuss changes to your home that can impact its potential value, please feel free to call and speak to your local office. https://www.mccarthyholden.co.uk/branches/

5 Last-minute garden jobs to do before winter arrives.

Almost time to batten the hatches before winter arrives - but you still have time to do last-minute garden jobs to beat the winter chill.

5 garden jobs before winter

You may have been enjoying the balmy autumn, but as the sweaters and woolly socks come out, it’s almost time to put the garden to bed.

So, what last-minute jobs should you be doing?

5 jobs for garden

1. Shelter vulnerable plants

My pots of geraniums (pelargoniums) are still going strong but they won’t be for much longer, so if you want to keep them for next year, find them some shelter now.

Cut them back to 10cm (4in) and put pots in a light, frost-free place such as a greenhouse or a sheltered porch next to the house. If the spot isn’t completely frost-free, wrap the pots in bubble wrap to give them extra protection.

If you’ve a conservatory or a cool spare room, even better. Don’t put plants near central heating or they will wilt and die when you bring them out next year.

Do the same with fuchsias, cutting them back before you put them under cover for winter, and hardly water them at all until growth starts again in spring.

5 garden jobs before winter

2. Divide perennials

The ground should still be soft enough to dig up overcrowded clumps of perennials and split them, replanting the divided clumps to give them more space.

This will lead to better performance in subsequent years and you’ve also increased your stock. Repeat planting is really effective at creating continuity and flow in borders, and dividing perennials is an ideal way of doing this.

Good subjects for division include crocosmia, rudbeckia, helenium, cranesbill geranium and catmint. You can also lift and divide hostas, although you’ll need a sharp knife to slice through the thick, congested roots.

last jobs before winter

3. Trim hedges

Try to do this when the weather’s still fine – you don’t want to be getting the hedge trimmer out when it’s pouring. If you tidy evergreen hedges now, they will look neat until next year as they won’t put on much new growth during the cooler months.

Also, trimming now may save you a bigger job in spring, when you also risk disturbing birds’ nests. Deciduous shrubs can be pruned into winter.

4. Get rid of the last of the weeds

Try to dig out any pernicious perennial weeds you see lurking, such as bindweed, couch grass and ground elder. You’ll need to dig them out completely, root and all, as if you leave any fragments of root in the soil they will come back in spring.

Hopefully, if you dig up the perennial weeds now, your job won’t be as arduous in spring. If you have areas which have been totally invaded, consider covering the ground with sheets of black plastic, secured with bricks at each corner, which will stop the light and hopefully kill the weed in a few months.

end-of-summer, garden-tips, dead-heading

5. Take cuttings

Want to increase your stock? It’s a perfect time to take hardwood cuttings of shrubs including weigelas, roses, dogwood, philadelphus and willow. They can often be grown on outdoors in a prepared trench.

Select vigorous, healthy shoots grown in the current year and remove the soft tip growth. Cut into sections 15-30cm (6in-12in) long, cutting cleanly above a bud at the top, with a sloping cut to shed water and as a reminder which end is the top.

Cut straight across at the base, below a bud or pair of buds. Dip the base into hormone rooting powder, make a slit trench in a well cultivated but vacant area of the garden, push the cuttings in vertically, 30cm (12in) apart and firm the soil back around them, closing the trench.

Water them in. This time next year they may have rooted enough to be moved. This job can be done at any time between mid-autumn and late winter.

Thinking about adding a granny flat? Here are 9 points to keep in mind

It might be a great solution but building an annex is a big decision. Lisa Salmon (who had one built for her mum) discusses the granny flat boom.

adding a granny flat pros cons

Thanks to rising property prices and expensive care home fees, a growing number of families are opting to live with, or right next to older relatives, by building granny flats on their homes.

The latest figures from the Valuation Office Agency show there are now nearly 39,000 granny annexes in England and Wales alone – an increase of 16% in recent years.

The government has tried to encourage families to live together by discounting council tax and scrapping stamp duty increases on annexes, and ministers have stressed the benefits of inter-generational families, which help save the NHS and social care system a lot of money.

But if you’ve got an elderly relative, is constructing a granny flat on your home the right option for you and them?

building granny flat points to consider

It was certainly the right choice for our family. Around three years ago, my widowed mother Sheila, now 81, and my husband and I decided we should build a granny flat for her on the side of our house. So she sold her house about 40 miles from us, and we applied for planning permission to build a two-storey annex.

It was a huge decision for us and my mum, who was leaving the house she’d lived in for more than 50 years, as well as her friends and neighbours, to live in a new city where she only knew us.

But the alternative was that, as she got older and became less mobile, she could be lonely – and there’d be no one to help her if she fell, for example, or became ill. Her moving to live, not with us, but next to us, was clearly the best option – particularly as she’d always been vehemently opposed to moving into a residential home should the need arise.

My mum’s now lived in the annex for around two years, and while the process wasn’t always easy (the build was stressful, to say the least!) and my mum understandably still misses her old life and home, we have no regrets. My mum lives completely independently in her self-contained one-bedroom flat on the side of our house, still regularly drives over to her old golf clubs 40 miles away, and is (gradually) forging a new life here.

family living granny flat

There’s no doubt, building a granny flat has worked for us. But what about other families?

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK (ageuk.org.uk), thinks granny flats are a “great solution” for elderly living – although clearly they’re not something that can be rushed into.

“This type of accommodation is one of a range of housing options open to older people who want to maintain their independence for longer in a smaller, easier-to-manage home, with around-the-clock family support when needed. It’s a great solution, but needs agreement and understanding on living arrangements and expectations,” says Abrahams.

“Bold and innovative new independent living arrangements should be encouraged and made easier to implement and afford. When so many older people are finding it increasingly difficult to get the support they want when they need it, alternative living arrangements for older people such as this play an important role in reducing the overwhelming demand on not only health and social care services but on housing too, and will ensure good health and wellbeing for longer.”

building a granny flat

Thinking of building a granny flat? Here’s nine points that might help…

1. Bridge before care

While it may not be possible for an elderly person to avoid going into a care home eventually, a granny annex can offer a useful bridge between independence and the provision of care.

2. No council tax

The National Federation of Builders (NFB) says an annex occupied by an elderly or disabled family member has a 100% council tax discount.

3. Shared bills

Depending on how it’s built and your preferences, bills may be shared between the family home and the granny flat, potentially saving money (assuming granny or grand-dad doesn’t have the heating on all the time).

4. Do it sooner not later

Moving can be very stressful for anyone, but especially for an older person. A decision to build a granny flat needs to be made sooner rather than later – ie. before an elderly relative is in desperate need of an accommodation change, and while they’re still reasonably mobile if possible. Look on it as an investment for the future.

5. Choose builders carefully

A new build can also be very stressful, so choose your builders carefully. The NFB’s Find a Builder (builders.org.uk/find-a-builder) helps people contact reputable builders who’ve been strictly vetted and have undergone a range of reference checks.

6. Plan for future needs

Think carefully not just about the elderly person’s needs now, but what they may be in the future. If your granny annex is two storeys, do the bedroom and toilet need to be downstairs in case mobility becomes an issue in later years?

7. Communication is key

Honest and detailed discussions are crucial, both with the builder before construction about the budget, timescale and exactly what you and the elderly relative want, and with your relative about how bills will be paid (if they’re shared), who’s responsible for the garden if it’s shared, whether you eat together, whether you knock before entering each other’s homes, etc.

8. Get legal advice

It’s important to discuss, and get legal advice if necessary, what happens if either the younger family or the older relative wants to sell up and move to a different property but the others don’t want to sell.

9. Be prepared for relationship breakdowns

It may also be worth seeing a solicitor to discuss what happens if there’s a relationship breakdown, as one of the family homeowners may demand their share of the property in divorce proceedings. What happens to the granny flat occupant then?

adding granny flat

If you are considering building or adding a granny flat and want to know how this could change the value of your home, please do call your local office for a free no obligation market appraisal where you can discuss the options that you are considering. https://www.mccarthyholden.co.uk/branches/

Ghoulish Halloween Gardens!

Getting in the Halloween spirit? Hannah Stephenson reveals some of the 'foul and creepy' specimens that could be lurking in your hedges and borders...

halloween garden design plants

Mischievous trick-or-treaters dressed as ghosts and ghouls may be on the prowl on your doorstep this Halloween – but step into your garden and you might find some spooky spikes, noxious nasties and creepy creepers lurking in your borders.

Some plants can sting, burn, cut or emit an acrid, foul-smelling odour. Others have sinister-sounding names or connections with witches or the devil, while there are some which are said to help ward off evil.

Get yourself into the mood for Halloween with this guide to horticultural horrors…

1. Eye-poppers

When you see the spooky white berries with a single black spot emerging from red stems, you can understand why this sinister-looking plant is nicknamed the Doll’s Eye (Actaea pachypoda). All parts of this herbaceous perennial are poisonous and when ingested can cause hallucinations.

halloween garden plants design

2. Strangling suspects

Also known as strangleweed, devil’s guts, witches shoelaces and devil’s ringlet, but better known as dodder (Cuscuta), this pernicious relative of bindweed twines itself round a host plant and inserts itself into the host’s vascular system – sucking out everything it needs to live and killing its plant victim in the process.

halloween garden plants design

3. Prickly subjects

Among the most prickly of plants is the hawthorn. As a thorny hedge, it will stab its thorns into your fingers, even when you’re wearing the toughest gloves, and mature plants will even pierce the soles of gardening shoes – although on the plus side, a hawthorn hedge can also deter even the most persistent burglar.

Other prickly candidates include creeping juniper, common holly, firethorn (pyracantha), juniper and purple berberis.

halloween garden plants design

4. Toxic terrors

Aconitum, also known as monkshood or wolfsbane, is among the most toxic of plants, with ingestion of even a small amount causing severe stomach upsets. But it also slows the heart rate, which can prove fatal.

You don’t just have to eat it to suffer the symptoms. The poison can be absorbed through the skin, via open wounds, and there have even been reports of people feeling unwell after smelling the flowers.

halloween garden plants design

5. Foul smelling specimens

Then there are the plants which literally smell like rotten corpses. The stinking iris, Iris foetidissima, for example, absolutely reeks. If you can stand the smell, or remain downwind from it, this bulb puts on a spectacular display in autumn and winter, when its gigantic seed pods burst open to reveal brilliant orange and sometimes red seeds.

halloween garden plants design

6. Acrid arums

The titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum), also known as the ‘corpse flower’ as it smells like decomposed bodies when in flower, is nevertheless beautiful, growing up to 3m tall, its gigantic crimson flower spanning 3m, and is a great magnet for pollinating insects.

This acrid arum prefers the rainforests of Sumatra as its natural habitat, although you can admire it in the exotic sections of botanical gardens such as the Eden Project in Cornwall and at Kew, where it’s currently flowering.

Others in the bad smells league include Eucomis bicolor, the pineapple lily, and the dead horse arum (Helicodiceros muscivorus), named for obvious reasons.

7. Ghostly apparitions

The ghost plant (Monotropa uniflora), an eerie white specimen found in shady woods is a rare sight.

It has no chlorophyll, the chemical that allows plants to absorb energy from the sun and typically gives plants their green colour. In fact, the ghost plant is a parasite which sucks on fungi connected to a host plant, which is usually a nearby tree. The fungi acts as the middleman for the nutrients provided by the tree.

halloween garden plants design

8. Bizarre bulbs

While many bulbs bring heady fragrance, including the sweetly-scented hyacinth, others have pretty horrible odours, including the imposing crown imperial (Fritillaria imperialis). But don’t let the smell put you off too much, because its impressive orange flowers make more of a statement than its whiffy pong.

halloween garden plants design

9. Poisonous potions

No Halloween would be complete without its share of witches, whose potions have been linked with some of our most common plants. Hemlock, for instance, is highly poisonous and closely linked with witchcraft. It doesn’t look significantly different from the hedge parsley or cow parsley which grows along roads, ditches, trails, or the edges of fields.

Its white flowerheads resemble those of parsnips, carrots or angelica, while the bright green leaves are deeply-cut, even feathery and delicate. Yet all plant parts are poisonous, with the seeds containing the highest concentration of poison, causing toxic reactions.

Deadly nightshade (Belladonna), another common plant often found in hedgerows, was one of the main ingredients in witches’ brews during the Middle Ages, while blackthorn is often referred to as a witch’s tree. As late as the 1940s, anyone seen to carry a blackthorn walking stick was suspected of being a witch.

halloween garden plants design

10. Warding off evil

Plants including rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), hazelnut (Corylus avellane) and elderberry (Sambucus nigra) were once thought to be ‘magical’ trees and shrubs, which could ward off witches and evil spirits.

Ancient Celts believed rowan berries gave good health, and that if you planted them near grave sites, they would help the dead sleep.

People would use branches as dowsing rods and make crosses of rowan twigs to protect themselves on Halloween, while in old Europe, householders would put elderberry branches above their doorways to protect their homes from malevolent spirits. Strands of hazelnuts, worn or kept in the home ,were said to bring good luck.

halloween garden plants design