I know of a dear old lady up the road who has sadly lost her hubby this summer. She’s trying hard to be cheerful and not get mournful but it is seriously difficult. There were so many things they used to do together, the list seems to be endless and travelling was high on it. They always looked out botanical type gardens in every city they visited. There’s something calming about wandering along immaculately cared for borders, display beds and greenhouses when you’ve been travelling. In a very hot climate these gardens are a mini oasis with lakes, ponds and other water features. Another real benefit of visiting a garden anywhere in the world is being able to see plants growing in their own natural habitat or as near as. Some plants in the desert struggle to exist but when transported to a city based botanical collection the staff ae trained to nurture and protect them so they keep up their survival.
When I was recent travels I had the chance to look round the nearly completed villa of an English couple near Paphos. They bought the plot fifteen years ago and have gradually got the palace of their dreams. Or not as it turns out. In reality it has taken on nightmare qualitities, not only for the owners, but for the poor neighbours too! the trouble with having anything built abroad is the time scales often result in the owners not being available to project manage and rather too much trust is placed on the locally supplied contractors. This villa being a prime example. The couple are from Yorkshire and by ‘eck, they like you to know it . . . they wanted a little bit of dear old England to be reflected in this new build, incuding oak staircases, oak beds, furniture, work tops, wardrobes etc. etc. Sadly, the local builders are not used to working with this hard wood and a fine mess has been made. Best laid plans of mice and . . . . .
I was visiting a fairly new acquaintance – during the first easings of the national lockdown. Whilst socially distancing I was very keen to see their garden, which I’d heard a lot about from other folk who’d experienced this well lit and landscaped joy. To be able to visit an ordinary family home with a spectacular garden is one of my life’s joys and it doesn’t often happen, so this was a treat to be enjoyed for the duration of the afternoon. Apart from lots of attractive garden furniture set out to catch the sun in different locations, there was some most attractive solid oak seating set in a crescent, raised to allow sight of a stellar feature – . . . a magnificent 1930s style brick boundaried fish pond. Quite deep in places and with the most incredible selection of fish I’ve seen in a garden or on tv! It was mesmerising, just watching them swirling around – huge koi carp. I had no idea they were so placid and relaxing to watch – a real tonic!
It can be difficult to get the right amount of lighting at home, both in the house and more especially, in the garden. At least indoors you can employ a table or side lamp, perhaps an angle poise on a springy arm – bringing flexible lighting temporarily just where it’s needed. This isn’t quite as easy in the kitchen with spot lights on a rail down the centre of the work space which leaves the kitchen in shadow if we don’t use the cooker hood light and both under cabinet fluourescents. These at least illuminate the job in hand on the work surface. The garden is another matter entirely and really needs a combination of lighting engineer and gardening expert to show which areas would benefit from uplighting and/or downlighting. Apart from knowing how to show individual specimens off to the maxium, the engineer knows everything there is to know about safety with external lighting schemes. The installation work needs careful planning throughout.
One of the beauties about a late dry springtime after a prolonged wet and very windy winter is the chance to really look around the garden and take stock of what is already there and what has yet to be bought or moved around from elsewhere. If it’s possible, standing at the end of the garden, up against the boundary and looking back towards the property – if you have a large plot, schemes have to be looked at in areas – perhaps a full scheme could be designed but only installed in stages but with the safety of any wiring to be installed in one go, so the length of the garden is already wired and sub systems added along as funds permit. This sort of action has to be handled by professionals who know about garden design and will advice which trees and shrubs would best be highlighted – it will be worth this long term planning to get the safest and most effective scheme.
I needed to stay over at a relative’s home for a couple of nights whilst caring for them in a post operative role. I usually enjoy staying there, out in the country with not a sound to be heard etc. However this time was a bit fraught. I was helping with all the household tasks, including laundry and the putting away of clean stuff. It was a bit of a nightmare – Aunt only has very tiny free standing wardrobes and nothing would fit in any of them. I tried reshuffling stuff around and despite much effort, there was still little room. We decided the best thing would be to dispense with the free standings and engage the services of a proper fitted wardrobe specialist. It was absolutely incredible just how much space could be gained from the new design. To aid Aunt with reaching up, there was a pull down rack for hanging shirts and blouses . . . The wardrobes had sliding door that seemed to just disappear in at the touch of the door. Lighting inside each section made it easy to find what she would look for. Illuminated mirror finishes inside each door made dressing checks much easier
We may have turned the corner as far as the shortest day and winter conditions are concerned but there’s still a jolly long way to go before we can comfortably think about sitting outside in the garden – garden furniture needing to be cleaned and teak polished if its wood . . . . . Or if you have oak frniture, then a good brush down followed by scrubbing with a stiff brush around all the legs and surfaces. If there’s some oak furniture polish then all the better to really care for our favourite garden benches and furniture. In the summer we don’t need to think about the lighting of any areas – the sun does that so effectively. Getting a good lighting system in the garden is a fantastic idea – how wonderful it is to get the best trees and shrubs lit up at night so we can enjoy the view from the house or the patio. I have seen some diabolical wiring dangling around flower beds with unprotected sockets near water . . . . My heart is in my mouth with some schemes i local gardens near me. Garden lighting is not a job for the faint hearted and not at all for the non professional. It can be lethal. Engage a truly experienced and professional company – the small extra fees will be so worthwhile.
Over the recent festive period I was lucky enough to stay with some friends who live right in the middle of nowhere. They absolutely love it and it seems that any neighbours in the vicinity are just as thrilled at the prospect of not having anyone too nearby. Just as it was two or three hundred years ago, the nearest store is some miles away. The garden of mine host’s house is so picture perfect it’s hard to believe it is a real home and not just a live setting of a Christmas card. I was sitting on one of the cushion covered oak benches just enjoying the hundreds of dear little garden birds when it occured to me that my hosts had arranged their garden seating in such a way that the visitor is aware of their surroundings at every point. The birds arrive in noisy and fractious batches, there’s a feeding frenzy for a few moments and then they whoosh off to the nearby woodland. But whereever you sit in the garden, you are assured a comfortable seat with a view to somewhere very pretty. The seating is oak and it is protected every couple of years with painted on preservative and wonderfully plump cushions are provided to make the whole experience of sitting out just sublime. Especially when accompanied by something hot and steaming from the nearby kitchen!
When we consider how much it costs to run a famiy sized house these days, it’s not surprising that thought is now being given in earnest to running our homes more efficiently and economomically. This will invariably involve the whole family taking a good long look at how they live and agreeing to make changes in just about every area. For exmaple, we need to change habits with our use of utilities – better use of gas & lectricity will reduce our carbon footprint. Turning down the thermostat on boith the hot water boiler and storage system and the central heating by just 2 degrees from say 20 to 18 deg C would help immensely. If it’s a slightly chillier evening, then get a nice wooly jmper on; wear thicker socks or tights; wear comfortable house slippers instead of open or toe post sandals. I wear a coloured scarf aroud my neck which feels really nice and comforting. I also don’t run an electric blanket – for energy saving and also because it’s much cheaper to usse a kettle and fill hot water bottles. So just a couple of very quick tips for starting energy efficiency in earnest.
Whenever I’ve watched so many imported home and leisure programmes over the years – not all from the european continent, but latterly from the north american one. They of course adopted a style of housing that used the local resources available to them when the earliest settlers made their uncertain way to the New England of their dreams. Trees were the major resource and so they built their homes in various sizes and shapes but generally with the same wooden boarded style we associate with old colonial. The patios are shown with lovely heritage rocking chairs and trestles. In our country we have brick built, mellow stone, granite, concrete and everything in between – but most of the frameworks are made of wood. This wonderous material is sustainable in that we plant millions of baby trees every year to replace those taken out. A nice teak patio set really adds a touch of class to the modern garden these days.