Japanese Maples – Beautiful trees for small gardens

Japanese Maples

If you’re looking for a tree suitable for a small garden, a Japanese maple is the perfect choice! They are small deciduous trees that are happy in the border or large container. They are one of my favourite trees as the foliage is really pretty and in autumn they turn the most beautiful colours.

The best time to plant them is in the autumn in a sheltered sunny or part sunny spot as they don’t like cold winds or frosts.  You can protect them with horticultural fleece during the winter. The sun can scorch their delicate leaves, so a dappled shaded area is perfect for them.

They prefer slightly acidic, nutritious, sandy, well-drained soil, but will generally grow well in most soils; however, they don’t like water-logged soil, overly dry or very alkaline conditions.

If you’re growing in a container, keep the compost moist and feed with a slow release fertiliser in spring and summer.

Care & maintenance

If your tree needs cutting back, do it when it is dormant – ideally between November to January. When a maple is cut it will bleed sap which could weaken and ultimately kill the tree, so it’s best to keep pruning to a minimum.

If you need to reduce height and/or width, simply cut back to a side branch and also prune crossing shoots which will keep the framework looking good.

Here are some of my favourite Acers that look fabulous:

Acer palmatum Sango-Kaku

Acer palmatum sango-kaku

This can be a shrub or small tree as it can grow upto 6-8m tall and spread 2.5-4m.  It likes a sheltered sunny or part-sunny spot in the garden and is deciduous but suitable for all soil types. I love the gorgeous red stems with contrasting green leaves, which as you can see turn a lovely yellowy-red colour in autumn.

Acer palmatum dissectum Inabe Shidare

Acer palmatum dissectum Inabe Shidare

This tree is so pretty – the spreading shape and the finely cut leaves are stunning. This variety grows to around 2.5m tall and also likes a sheltered position in a sunny or part sunny garden. It’s happy in all soil types too.

Acer palmatum ‘Tsuma gaki’

Acer palmatum tsuma_gaki

How beautiful is this leaf? It looks so delicate with its reddy/pink-blushed edges surrounding a yellow leaf. The leaf turns lime green as it matures, which in turn becomes a stunning red colour in autumn. It grows to around 2.5m x 2.5m so it’s ideal for adding a bit of height in a container garden.

Acer palmatum ‘Shigitatsu sawa’

Acer palmatum shigitatsu_sawa

This tree grows to around 4.6m tall and 3.7m wide so its better suited to a larger garden. It has fabulous cream leaves with dark green veins and certainly creates the wow factor in any garden. As the leaves mature, they become green and then turn red in autumn.

Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira’

acer_palmatum_shishigashira

This is a bushy upright Acer which is happy in all moist but well drained soils in part shade or sunny areas of the garden.  It grows to around 4m tall and 2.5m wide.

If you would like to visit a nursery specialising in Japanese maples, I can recommend Howle Hill Nursery or their new plant centre at Huntley (both not far from Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire). Photographs were taken there in the spring and autumn. Further details and opening times www.howlehillnursery.co.uk.

These trees are a perfect addition to any of the Border in a Box designs and I used Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Omatum Fontana’ in my Platinum award winning show garden border at BBC Gardeners’ World Live 2018. You can recreate this design with the Wellbeing version of Border in a Box.

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BBC Gardeners World Live Beautiful Border, Jar of Life

Border in a Box Wellbeing sensory planting plan

 

Border in a Box Wellbeing

 

 

Theo Paphitis, #SBS, The Autumn Fair and a rebrand

Theo Paphitis, Nikki Hollier, Nancy Poller, #SBS Autumn Fair

 

I’ve just got back from exhibiting at the Autumn Fair at the NEC in Birmingham. I was incredibly lucky to win a free stand at the event thanks to Theo Paphitis and his brilliant #SBS Team.

What’s #SBS?

Theo created the Small Business Sunday (#SBS) concept in October 2010 on Twitter, inviting small businesses to pitch about their venture.  He then chooses 6 businesses each week and sends a tweet out to his 500k followers about each company which helps raise their profile.  It’s a great boost and twitter goes crazy afterwards – it’s so much fun!

Theo has an annual event for all the #SBS Winners, which is absolutely brilliant – you can read more about my first visit to this event in my blog here https://borderinabox.com/theo-paphitis-shopkeeper-sbs-annual-event-2018/

All the Winners can join the #SBS Facebook group and a couple of months ago we were all invited to apply to win one of 12 exhibition places at the Autumn Fair.  The group went crazy with excitement at the prospect of winning a free space.  There are 2300 winners, so there was a lot of competition and my application had to stand out from the crowd.

I have no idea how they chose the shortlist let alone the final 12 as there are some amazing people and businesses in the group.  However, I was over the moon when I received the call to say I had won.  I was also sworn to secrecy until it was announced, which felt like it took forever.  It was so tricky keeping it from fellow winner Chrissie from the Cuddle Bed Company – we met at the #SBS event in February queuing to meet Theo.  We hit it off and remained in touch ever since and have become good friends.

Thankfully we were both Winners and were able to support each other through the process of getting ready to exhibit.  It was a big deal for both of us and after the initial excitement we both felt the gravitas of the opportunity.

Photo of Chrissie Lowery & Nikki Hollier

Chrissie Lowery, Cuddle Bed Company, Nikki Hollier Border in a Box

What’s the Autumn Fair?

The Autumn Fair is the number one wholesale gift and home trade event and enables retail buyers to connect with new suppliers, especially just before Christmas.

This opportunity was perfectly timed for me as I had started a rebranding and packaging project back in June immediately after creating my Platinum award winning show garden border at BBC Gardeners’ World Live. It has been an intense 6 months to say the least.

The Rebrand

The work that has gone on behind the scenes to get to this point has been busy, creative, stressful and fun.  If I didn’t enjoy what I do, there is no way I could achieve so much.

The rebrand took place due to feedback over the past year and the general consensus was to make the product look more ‘gardeningy’ with a ‘modern rustic’ vibe. I had a long conversation with Nancy from Aligned Design, who I had worked with from the start – we had started our businesses around the same time and met through a networking group called ‘Women 2 Web’ and I love her work.

It made sense to work together on this project – she knew my product and me and we work together really well.

First decision was the font and colours.  I ran a poll on social media for feedback on the product colours – muted or brights. The brights won hands down – so glad I did this as I preferred the muted colours, but after printing the samples, the brights looked amazing.

We then worked our way through every detail of the products.  The box sleeve was a priority, as this was the first thing people see. There is a story behind every decision, and the box sleeve was down to a chance meeting with a guy called Rob Draper, who was presenting at the WINN Make It Happen showcase event. His story is inspirational and I was blown away by it – so if you get chance to meet him, make sure you do as he is so talented www.robdraper.co.uk.  He kindly gave me ideas for the packaging, ripping the current sleeve into shape, scribbling all over it.  I gave all this information to Nancy and we tweaked it and ta-dah a new sleeve!

Here’s the photo of the old version in a tin, and the new version in a kraft box.

Border in a Box shady Border in a Box shady

Now this was sorted, it was time to work on the contents.  Again after taking feedback from people over the past year, all the comments were put in the melting pot and everything was looked at – from new photos & plant choices to seed packets to stickers – EVERYTHING was tweaked! Border in a Box was created to help people who know nothing about gardening but want a gorgeous garden, so everything in the Box got asked the same question “does this make sense to a non gardener”.

As soon as I knew I would be exhibiting at the Autumn Fair – there was a deadline to meet. That deadline wasn’t the start of the show, but several weeks before, as once the product was created by Nancy; it then had to go into production, and then photographed for my website, social media and brochures. Once photographed, I had to update everything. It’s only at this point that you realise how much work is involved and this is on top of the day job of running a business – there were a couple of gardens to design for new clients and writing my monthly article for the local paper.

It’s been intense, but it all came together in time for the Autumn Show.

The Autumn Fair event

Autumn Fair 2018 Border in a Box

The set-up day was overwhelming and I was thankful for my fellow #SBS businesses around me – I was feeling so far out of my comfort zone.  A few things had gone pear shaped, but it was too late to resolve some of them and I just had to ‘deal with it’ – my stand didn’t look how I wanted it to, but as soon as the doors opened on the Sunday, it didn’t matter as the feedback from visitors was positive. The majority of people thought my baby was beautiful.  More importantly, orders came in and relationships started with some fabulous people.

Tuesday arrived – D Day, or should I say ‘Theo Day’ – Theo was the key note speaker and also coming round to meet all 12 Winners. All the things I wanted to talk to him about all disappeared as soon as we met. Arrghhh what a lost opportunity, however, he was so charming and interested in how the event was for me.  We then had our photos taken at which point I then realised how many people were surrounding us.  It was a surreal moment.

Nikki Hollier, Border in a Box, Theo Paphitis, #SBS, Autumn Fair, Nancy Poller

Photo: Nancy Poller, Theo Paphitis, Nikki Hollier

What’s next?

Initially it’s to follow up every single person who I had a conversation with and who gave me their contact details. We will have had time to think about how we can work together.

I’m looking forward to getting back on track with my business, talking to my clients and building relationships with my lovely new retailers. I’m looking forward to announcing them on social media -watch this space!

Exciting times ahead and plenty of hard work too. Fabulous!

If you get the opportunity to join #SBS, do it, as it has created a wonderful network and opportunities for me and my business I never expected.

Here’s a photo of everyone – can’t wait to see you all at the next #SBS event in February!

Theo Paphitis #SBS Autumn Fair

Meet the other Winners:

  1. The Butterfly and Toadstool is a botanical jewellery brand created by Scottish designer Dee Leslie. thebutterflyandtoadstool.co.uk
  2. Cally King London is a new perfume brand, for teens and anyone working out what perfume they like. callyking.com
  3. Letterbox Lab is the kids’ science kit reinvented to be more fun, more colourful, more convenient and more educational. letterboxlab.com
  4. MK Kids Interiors is the only London based children’s Child Wellness Interior Designer that creates personalised, colourful and fun bedrooms and playrooms for children. mkkidsinteriors.com
  5. The Edible Museum creates artefacts, from marine life and fossils to anatomy and historical artefacts out of quality chocolate. ediblemuseum.com
  6. Bad Dog Designs Nixie Clocks are makers of unique and bespoke clocks using original 1950’s Nixie tube technology. bad-dog-designs.co.uk
  7. The Cuddle Bed Company design and create sleep solutions for the whole family. cuddlebed.co.uk
  8. The Dimpled Heart creates an eclectic range of handcrafted homeware inspired by our Scottish roots. dimpledheart.co.uk
  9. Z-O-E produces high quality patterned muslin products, baby grows and toddler t-shirt for you and your little one. z-o-e.co.uk
  10. Perch Upholstery, run by Tara Cork specialises in creating on-trend felted pieces. From original stools, to baskets and rugs. perchupholstery.com
  11. The Room Alive creates timeless wallpaper, soft furnishings and stationery designed and made in the UK. theroomalive.com

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BBC Gardeners World Live Beautiful Border, Jar of Life

Garden Designer vs. Landscape Gardener: The difference and why you probably need both

 

You’ve got a garden that is looking less than interesting and after being inspired by the home and garden makeover shows on TV, you’re thinking how hard can it be? But you soon realise you need some professional guidance, so who do you call, a garden designer or a landscaper? The truth is you probably need both and I’ll explain why.

What is a Garden Designer?

A garden designer is someone who is trained in, and has experience with, designing and planning a garden project. This could be the modification of an existing garden or creating a completely new one. Garden designers specialise in combining colours and forms to create something beautiful out of your preferences and ideas to enhance your home. They know their stuff when it comes to plant placement and choice and are always up to date with the latest trends in colors and garden elements such as paths and patios. If you are looking to make-over an existing garden or create a new one and want a garden that absolutely wows and stands the test of time, then you need to work with a garden designer first. They will discuss your garden needs and come up with a design called the Master Layout Plan, which a landscaper can provide a quote for and then build the garden.

What is a Landscape Gardener?

Landscape gardeners are the ones who get down and dirty and deal with the actual gardening. They are the ones who do the installation of your garden design. They take care of the purchasing of materials and many companies even provide maintenance and ongoing support to ensure it continues to look beautiful. Landscape gardeners usually offer maintenance services for existing gardens to keep them looking great and many companies also employ arborists for tree maintenance. While landscapers can advise on garden choices and often have suggestions of their own it is advisable to work with a designer.

Why Both?

To get a truly amazing garden that will add value to your property and joy for years to come, you really do need both. Think of a garden designer as an architect and the landscape gardener as a construction company. You wouldn’t want to just pay a construction company to build your house without a blueprint. You want the best person for the job at hand and the creation of a garden with the right plants for you that will continue to be amazing as it matures requires both an expert in design and the artistic side of it as well as experts in the practical aspects of gardening.

Pink floral border

 

If you would like a bespoke planting plan for your garden, I can create this for you regardless of where you live, here’s how I can help – https://borderinabox.com/bespoke/

Further blogs available:

  1. How much does it cost to design a garden – https://borderinabox.com/budget-cost-design-garden-uk/
  2. Creating a low maintenance garden – https://borderinabox.com/creating-low-maintenance-garden/
  3. How a nice garden adds value to your home – https://borderinabox.com/improve-your-home-add-value/

 


 

Create a wildlife garden for butterflies, bees and birds

 

No matter what size of garden you have whether it’s just a balcony, a pot by the front door or an estate, we need to take care of our wildlife because without them, our plants won’t get pollinated which ultimately means our food source will diminish.

Butterflies –

these are among our prettiest garden visitors, but they’re dwindling in numbers: according to a Butterfly Conservation report published in 2015, The State of Britain’s Butterflies, three-quarters of UK butterflies have shown a 10-year decrease in their population levels.

A top plant to grow for butterflies is Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’ which is a bushy evergreen perennial with vibrant purple flowers, that blooms all summer long if you dead-head it. It grows to around 75cm tall and likes a sunny spot with well-drained soil. And can be grown in a container too. Other plants they love are Buddleja, Valerian and Scabious.

 

Bees –

Although there are plenty of ready-made bug and bee hotels available to buy, you can make your own easily out of hollow sticks. Make sure the holes vary in diameter between 2mm and 10mm, to attract the widest range of species. There are plenty of videos online showing you how to make more elaborate ones, such as this one by the Birmingham City Council at Gardeners World Live at the NEC June 2017, or just simply tie your sticks together with garden twine and hang in a protected corner of your garden. You could also grow roses, wisteria and beech which the Leafcutter bees use to seal their cells.

Birds –

feeding birds used to be a winter activity, but they need our help in the summer months too, to ensure they have enough energy to survive leaner times ahead, such as dry weather when earthworms burrow deeper and wet weather makes foraging difficult. Don’t use fat balls during the summer as they can go rancid very quickly. Don’t use nuts and seeds that are intended for human consumption as they usually contain salt. Birds love sunflower seeds, so why don’t you grow your own? They’re so simple and create a stunning display. Birds also like fruit, so don’t bin old apples, put them on the ground for ground-feeding birds, or suspend from a tree for others. Always make sure there is a hedge or shrub near the feeding station so the birds can fly into it for safety.

One last tip – remember to put out a saucer of water, especially in hot or dry weather for the wildlife to drink and bathe in. You can add pebbles to make it easier for the bees, and leave it on the ground for the hedghogs to drink too.

 

 

Container gardening using thrillers, fillers & spillers

Whether you have a small balcony or a sprawling country estate, containers can be a really useful way to add year-round colour and interest to your garden.

You can grow plants in just about any kind of container, as long as it’s large enough to hold compost to suit the plants’ needs, and it has drainage holes in the bottom. If you live on a windy site, consider the stability of the plant and the pot, particularly if you’re growing something tall.

Containers are great in that you can move them around the garden to fill empty gaps and create seasonal displays. Concrete or stone pots are more difficult to move but are sturdier. Plastic pots are less stable, but easier to move. One way around this is to place a plastic pot inside a stone pot to make it easy to interchange plants through the seasons.

When I’m creating a garden, I take into consideration the plants, the pots and their location, along with colour schemes and style. There’s a lot to think about! Here’s an example of how one plant – a pittosporum – can look different depending on the container and the background. The traditional terracotta pot stands out much more against the blue background than the brick wall, while the white pot contrasts well with both backgrounds and has a more modern vibe.

For drama and impact, choose colours opposite one another on the colour wheel such as red and green, yellow and purple, or blue and orange. For harmony and tranquillity, choose similar colours that tone well together, such as purples and blues. Here’s an example of a harmonious pot, with a burgundy phormium combined with pink scabiosa and forget-me-nots.

So, what do we mean by thrillers, fillers and spillers? The thriller is the star of the container – the attention-grabbing, dominant eye-catcher. The fillers do exactly that, and fill the pot around the thriller, while the spillers are the trailing plants over the side of the pot.

Now the weather is warming up and frosts are less frequent, you can fill your containers with summer bedding plants. Try a pelargonium (thriller), combined with petunias (fillers) and trailing lobelia (spillers). If you need plants that are pollution tolerant, try dwarf buddleia, or evergreen skimmia, yew or berberis. For hotspots, you can use more exotic plants such as cannas or ginger lilies.

One last thing to bear in mind is watering. Container plants need watering more than those in the ground, so add water-retaining crystals to the compost and mulch the surface to minimise evaporation. Smaller pots will need watering more often than larger ones.

 

summer bedding plants in a pot

patio pots in a large garden

white flower pot with plants blue background

 

 


 

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