Friday, 25 November 2011

A festive feast of inspiration for garden and home, no less.

The Whichford Pottery Christmas Sale got off to a great start last weekend, not only were there plenty of bargains (and cake) to be had but we had the bonus of two really good speakers upstairs in the main making room to give us inspiration for our gardens and our homes.
Discounts available on all our pots until Sunday 4th December
Garden design for real people
Saturday kicked off with Bunny Guinness on 'Transforming Your Garden'. I always prefer to listen to garden designers who still get their hands dirty on a regular basis and Bunny is one of those, still working in her own substantial garden one day a week. She is full of really practical ideas which can be scaled down to 'normal' gardens, from paint effects (instead of expensive cladding) to nifty ways to hide eyesores and divide spaces.

Some designers seem to focus exclusively on aesthetics but Bunny keeps in mind the way you actually want to use your garden: she is well-known for her great child-friendly ideas (sunken trampolines, treehouses, smart sandpits, drainable paddling pools...) but also thinks more long-term about the way a garden evolves from playground to something a bit more sophisticated. I particularly liked her thoughts about the approach to your house, using containers, plants and paving to guide visitors and encourage vehicles to park out of sight while still allowing you to drive right up to your door and unload your shopping if necessary.

We also learned that Radio Four's Gardener's Question Time potting shed actually exists!

Bunny Guinness signing her latest book after one of her two talks at Whichford Pottery
Everybody needs good neighbours
I returned to work on Sunday morning so that I could watch floral artist Fiona Perry's talk and demonstration which provided a veritable feast of ideas for alternative Christmas decorations and Christmas trees. I know Fiona well because she lives near me, and I am always impressed by her enthusiasm and her ability to generate an endless supply of ideas for interesting and beautiful things to do with plant material.

She started with a classic but delightful oasis-based treelet in a tiny Jekyll pot.

Here's one I prepared earlier. Fiona reveals her first tree idea, while her glamorous assistant, Sally, looks on.

Mulled wine tree in a glazed Buxus Pot
Tasty ideas
My favourite tree was the Mulled Wine Tree, using dried orange slices, cinnamon sticks, clementine pomanders, berries and crab-apples on a small bay cone.

I must remember to find my glue gun as I really want to try some of these ideas.

Fiona also did some deceptively artless things with florists' wire, examples were passed around the audience, provoking much appreciative murmuring.

We have a few useful floristry items for sale at the pottery but if you are local BHGS near Evesham stock a wide range of floral sundries (as well as useful horticultural things - must remember to go there soon and get new boots!) they also sell online. Fiona also suggested Easy Florist Supplies as an online source.

Florists' wire and crab apple
Skeleton leaf plus buttons and beads

Pallet tree star

Don't chuck out old sticks
Fiona's wildest and wackiest idea was the Pallet Christmas Tree. She's a bit like me in that she tends to keep apparently useless items because they might become useful. In this case she had kept the dead trunk of a standard bay tree, even I would have junked that. But no, she also cadged an old pallet from Whichford, chopped it up, drilled holes in the pieces, painted everything white and slotted them onto the dead trunk. Hey presto! A vaguely Scandinavian tree with ecofriendly credentials.

This is the kind of thing you can use outside - Fiona's will probably end up in her front garden. Willow is a useful alternative for outdoor structures which can hold lights or other decorations.

Two speakers giving generously of great ideas in one weekend. The best thing of all is that so many of them are actually achievable!

Christmas tree made from an old wooden pallet. Eat your heart out, Ikea!

I can see clearly now the pane is on.
In other news - the marvelous John and Dave have replaced the broken panes in the roof of my greenhouse, a job I dreaded tackling. They were broken by acorns, yes acorns! Who else has a greenhouse with two oak trees planted three feet away? Is it just me? I'm waiting for the rest of the leaves to fall before I clear out the gutters and clean the glass - you can see how filthy it is.

John and Dave earning my undying gratitude

Meanwhile I have plodded on, planting pots and digging up dahlias. The days are shorter and shorter but dusk at the pottery can be magical, with low light and silhouettes made more atmospheric by the shrieks of pheasants, hooting of owls and chinking of blackbirds echoing across the misty valley.

Dusk in the back-up stock area at Whichford Pottery. Just add owls.


  1. I must come to your pottery it looks fab although I suspect I will be much poorer afterwards so maybe I need to save up first!

  2. Thanks Helen. Yes it is fab! Now is the time to come if you want a bargain, but there's lovely stuff here all year.