The Garden: After

As the Autumn is in full swing, I thought I’d share the picture of my finished garden, probably as good as it’s going to get before everything starts to die off for the winter. As you can see if you look back at my last post, the plants have filled out dramatically.

I absolutely love it. If we left this house I would miss the garden more than anything I think.

Before we start, some obligatory before and after shots – the ‘before’s’ with the garage are from the beginning of May and the photos in this post were taken in mid September, so its has really changed massively in less than 5 short months.

I am SO glad we got rid of the garage. Of course we have the luxury of a cellar to store ‘stuff’ in but in all honesty it’s a few garden tools and a lawnmower. nothing a shed couldn’t have handled and it has been so worth it for the extra space in a small garden.

The only thing that is different other than the planting in these pictures from the last post is that we finally finished off the decking with a glass and steel balcony to protect the edges. I think lots of people think we are mad having such a big open stepped area down but it was an integral part for me of keeping the deck a part of the garden, rather than two areas, and due to the cellars there would always be a drop from stepping out of the house, down to the garden. short of a ramp, nothing would have been ‘safe’ for Bea.

I have a ton of pictures to share so I’m going to split this post into two. There will be more tomorrow with the detail of the design and planting. Once again, the design and landscaping was all by Iain at Outer Space Lanscapes and I wouldn’t hesitate to work with him again – he was brilliant to work with, hardworking and did an amazing job. In fact we will be asking him to re-landscape the front garden in the future. I will just share the vegetable area of the garden today.

Some of you may remember we had an allotment before we moved and gave it up knowing the house would take up our time, that we planned a family and that we hoped to grow some veg in the new garden. I asked for some custom designed raised vegetable beds to be incorporated in to the design and space for a greenhouse, and I’m so glad we did. I love pottering in my working corner of the garden but it looks just as good as the rest of it!

I wanted a wooden greenhouse but they are so expensive and eventually we found this tiny one online. It was less than half the price of most as it is untreated, meaning we had to protect it with a stain and protect product but I wanted to Paint it anyway so it was not great loss. It’s also got plastic windows which I wasn’t that thrilled about, but painted up, I love it. It still has some of the green plastic film on the windows in these pictures and the inside needs painting still too, but it has been fab for growing in and we had our first tomatoes in there this year.

For the veg beds we concentrated on stuff we would use, that crops heavily and in a short space. 2 courgette plants kept us fed for the whole summer, we grew salad leaves, runner beans, peas and broad beans. And I had a corner of sweet peas solely for cutting.

Come back tomorrow for some more photos of the planting and detail 🙂 Maybe I’ll periscope it when we get a sunny day!


The Garden: During and After

If you’d like to see how the garden looked before, then head on back to my first post here. We started ripping out the garage at the beginning of May and had it ‘sort of’ finished by mid-June. I hasten to say from the outset, we did not do this work ourselves! We had the amazingly good luck of stumbling across a brilliant garden designer and builder who was just a pleasure to work with – Iain from Outer Space Landscapes and his very capable sidekick, Shaun. I knew straight away from our first meeting when he asked me if I knew of Piet Oudolf, (you might remember me mentioning him as inspiration for the garden a while back,) that I was sure we were going to be able to work well together. These are all quite candid phone photos that I took as we went along. The finished ones are a bit glossier. 😉

This was the initial design on paper:

The first thing we had to do was knock the garage down. We actually listed it on eBay on the advice of our builder and unbelievably sold it (for less than £100 but it paid for one of the 3 skips we needed to complete the work so not bad,) when it would have cost us hundred more to have it dismantled. In the end it became clear that the people who bought it weren’t able to remove it fully and we got our usual builder to finish the job but it just goes to show, its amazing what will sell on eBay!

Of course it got a lot worse before it got better. The weather was against us (although the wet summer was later on a godsend for the new grass and plants.) One of the first things that were built were the raised vegetable beds at the side of the house, before the old grass was even taken up and the whole plot levelled.


When the border edging, grass and patio went in, it all started to take shape and I could see where the design was going. It all seemed very vast to finish with plants! I did a huge order at a local garden centre, (I chose all the plants myself and designed the planting scheme,) and you can see them delivered here on the steps to the deck.

As you can see, part of the design was these three large box balls in the lawn to give a sculptural element and I thought they would also be fun for kids to hide behind and jump over! 😉

The final part of the design was the modern pergola. Our patio is in full sun pretty much from sun up to about 5pm in the height of summer and as we planned to enjoy lazy lunches there we were going to need some shade. Eventually wisteria and other climbers will provide dappled shade over the whole structure.

I’m going to post some more pictures in the next week or two that show how the garden has changed again since these were taken at completion. The way it has filled out and matured already is amazing, but for now, this is what the process looked like. Please do ask any questions and if you’re looking for a garden makeover in and around Manchester I would recommend Iain at Outer Space Landscapes in a heartbeat – incredibly hardworking, knows his stuff and beautiful results.

I hope you like it readers! I can’t wait to show the more recent pictures – the difference is amazing!


Triple temptation: Garden Furniture

As the completion of our kitchen comes to an end, the outside space is also getting underway. As our kitchen is above full height cellars, the ground floor level is about 1m above the garden. So we can step directly out instead of going up and down stairs, we are building a deck that the bifold doors open onto and I’m keeping all my fingers and toes crossed that it is finished this week.

IKEA Harmano Garden suite, £179 // John Lewis Madrid outdoor furniture £1475 (for what is pictured) // Palermo right-hand corner sofa, Next £699

Having spent so much money on everything else, garden furniture just isn’t in the budget right now, but I’m loathe to have an empty deck, or be unable to enjoy the rest of the summer months (hello maternity leave!) after working so hard on this space. I had been browsing at outdoor seating options for this area but they are all so expensive – we are looking for a sofa style seating solution, as our main outdoor dining area is planned for further down the garden. I was on the point of saying blow it (with another maxed out credit card flashing before my eyes,) as I fell in love with the NEXT Palermo range, then Pete spotted this IKEA set when we were there buying a spare bed. We couldn’t believe the price and snapped it up – The cushions are a bit thin, but I’ll simply buy some different foam pads and perhaps recover them. For the price, we couldn’t say no and it doesn’t matter if it’s not a long term option.


Spotted: Festoons of Happiness

I’ve been obsessed with the strings of lights seen on American blogs, at outdoor weddings and even parties, since they first exploded onto the UK scene. I first saw them in outdoor weddings not long after my own wedding 4 years ago and instantly wished I had had THAT kind of wedding. For a while I forgot them, then more recently I decided that if I couldn’t have that wedding, I could have that life. You know the kind, where people have elegantly thrown together casual outdoor dinner parties in their beautiful gardens, with their stylishly dressed close friends… 😉

Credits R-L, Top to bottom: 1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6 // 7

Some of you may have shared my frustration that these so called ‘festoon lights’ seemed to be an exclusively American item. I searched high and low and although we have plenty of ‘fairy lights’ and ‘string lights’ I just couldn’t find a good match for festoon lights anywhere. They had to be bulb lights, large, widely spaced, on thick cable and they had to be oh so pretty. So imagine how excited I was when I spotted that Cox and Cox had introduced a set. Before splashing out the £50 required though I thought I would turn to the Florence Finds readership and see if you guys had any tips and you really came up trumps, sharing finds from IKEA to Lights4fun and B&Q.

1. Cox and Cox £50 // 2. Ikea (solar powered, £12 // 3. B&Q (not featured online, look for their Blooma Ascella string lights, £20, and glass globe lights, £30) // 4. Lights4fun (allow you to connect several sets) // 5. Toast (not available online, check instore)

I figured there must be more of you like me who had been desperately looking for a little string light magic to festoon around your garden this summer and as these were such bargain finds, I had to share them here.

I’m in the middle of a little garden revamp that I’ll be sharing very soon, but rest assured, it’ll be featuring my very own festoon of happiness. 🙂


Real Renovations: Garden Rescue!

Good afternoon readers! This afternoon we have to long awaited return of Jess, continuing her Real Renovations series… if you missed the first 4 instalments, you can catch up here. Jess has been absent whilst studying for her final postgraduate exams and because she hasn’t tooted her own trumpet enough here, I want to say a huge Congratulations to her for passing and finally having an exam free future! Thats not the only thing congratulations are in order for here as you’ll read… so I’ll hand you over to see what really is a real (and budget) makeover that I think you’ll all identify with.

So, it’s been quite a few months since my last post on Florence Finds, and Dan and I have been pretty busy, although I have to confess that not all of it has included DIY and house renovation. In November Dan and I got engaged while we were on holiday, and since then, instead of planning a wedding, I’ve been working and studying for postgraduate exams. So work on the house hasn’t been as extensive as I would have liked, although we have taken the opportunity to do some of the easier room makeovers which I’ll share over the next few months.

However, there is a ‘room’ that has changed dramatically in the last year, and that is the garden. Before we moved to the house, we lived in a flat with no outside space, and I really longed for a garden. Even as a child I have always enjoyed gardening, and it was always me, rather than my brother or sister, who wanted to help my parents in the garden or the allotment. I learnt then the satisfaction from seeing something grow that you have looked after, and I remember being especially, if not a bit inappropriately, proud when I grew cacti from seeds when I was about 7 years old!

But as is so often the case, the reality has been a little bit different from our expectations! We knew when we bought the house that the garden had been neglected and was quite overgrown, but hadn’t appreciated just how much work would be involved in sorting it out. There were two ancient ivy plants at the back of the garden that had been left to run wild, as well as a honeysuckle that had become so overgrown that it was taking up about a third of the garden and had ripped a fence panel down. To add to that was a strange raised gravel area and a thorny pyracantha bush with its inch long spikes that was out of control.

So last summer, I took a week off work and enlisted the help of my mum to tackle the jungle that was our back garden. I don’t know how many bags we filled, or how many trips to the local rubbish tip we made, but it was a lot! We snipped, chipped, pruned, sawed and dug out just about everything that week. The pyrancantha didn’t give up without a fight either, as its parting shot was a thorn through my foot reminding me that real gardeners don’t wear flip flops whilst digging! Dan spent most evenings for the rest of the summer digging out sand and gravel from the raised area in order to level it with the rest of the lawn. The ivy was about the only survivor that week, but its time came too and Dan has been tackling it in stages over the last few months.

By the time October came we were looking out over a very bare garden, and just about the only pretty thing in it was a David Austin rose called ‘Darcy Bussell’ that friend had bought us as a housewarming gift, and I had planted in a big pot. So with winter approaching, we decided to go with a quick fix and sow grass seed across the bare soil. We hoped it would avoid the garden becoming a mud pit over the winter. I think the neighbours all thought we were mad at this point because the garden looked more like an agricultural field than a suburban garden. And when we returned from our holiday in mid november and saw a greenish tinge over the soil, we had to look closely to see if it was moss growing on the boggy soil, or actually tiny grass shoots. Thankfully it was the latter and we were just as surprised as the neighbours that our thrifty B&Q value lawn seed had actually grown!

We didn’t really touch the garden over winter, instead watching anxiously as those little green shoots grew taller and thicker. As spring arrived we started to make some changes and I was eventually able to start planting. Dan was keen to have a vegetable patch so we took up the grass along one side of the garden and prepared the ground ready for some vegetables. In march I bought lots of vegetable seeds, and raised some in seed trays in the kitchen, and put others straight out in to the soil. Our mini allotment has now got peas, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, beetroots, courgettes and squash. It would also have lots of cabbages and broccoli if it wasn’t for the nicely fattened up wood pigeon that has been having dinner parties with all his wood pigeon friends in my vegetable patch!

It is expensive starting garden from scratch, so to save money I’ve bought smaller plants for the borders from supermarkets as well as garden centres, and friends and neighbours have given us cuttings too. I’ve grown some flowers from seeds and its been really satisfying seeing them now are in full bloom! We also haven’t changed much of the hard landscaping, instead working with what we already had. It means that we have to be a bit more patient and there is no instant garden makeover, but it has been worth the hours we have spent on it. And over the last few months it has been a great break from revision/revision avoidance tactic to go into the garden and titivate!

I’m a self confessed novice when it comes to gardening, and just because you can grow a cactus aged 7 does not mean you will make all the right choices when it comes to planting your own garden aged 30! But I love the anticipation of seeing what thrives and grows and what doesn’t. Despite never normally eating radishes, I loved eating one that had been grown in my own garden, and I’m patiently awaiting the taste of one of my home grown tomatoes too. I have made plenty of mistakes in the garden this year (like leaving my cabbages uncovered for the wood pigeon!), and I’m pretty sure I’ll make many more. But all in all, I got exactly what I wanted from my garden this year, which is a space where I can sit when the sun shines (or even when it doesn’t), and a relaxing outside space where we can entertain family and friends. A home grown tomato that actually tastes good will just be a bonus!


Pots of Winter Colour

This morning I thought I’d share a little project I decided to get around to 5 years in to living in our house, although it’s more specifically a garden project.

Every year, there’s so much effort put into dressing up the summer garden with pots of colour and things can get quite drab and lifeless come the winter months, so I decided to make a winter pot. It wouldn’t make much sense (I don’t think) to do this on the scale you might do with summer colour, as you won’t be in the garden to enjoy the end results, and for that reason this pot was made for my front door step. Now it brightens every morning up for me as I leave the house and smartens up the entrance for visitors.

I headed to my local B&Q for the plants for this project and actually picked a couple up in the bargain department looking slightly below par. Once any dead leaves are picked off and they’ve had a good soak, they’re right as rain.

I chose 2 cyclamens (the flowers above, one pink and one white) one ornamental winter cabbage and some ivy. Look for a mix of plants with toning colours – my theme here was the fabulous shades of pinks, purple and silvery foliage. Also look for a variety of heights of plant to give interest. One of my Cyclamens was taller than the other and the trailing ivy helps with this, but you could also choose a mini-conifer or evergreen bush for height, depending on how big your pot is.

You’ll also need a pot ( – I recycled one which held some pretty sad looking geraniums after this years terrible summer) and some compost to fill it with if your pot is new.

After that it’s really easy….

Fill the pot with compost, or if it’s being reused, remove enough soil so that when the plants are placed into the pot, their soil is level with about an inch below the rim of your pot.

Remove the plants from their pots and arrange them, switching them around and trying different positions until you like the effect. It always looks better when they’re quite tightly packed in together.

Now add the rest of your compost. Make sure you really stuff it down the sides of the pot with your fingers, around the edges and in-between the plants so there are no air pockets which the roots of the plants won’t like.

Then give it a thorough soaking with your watering can and enjoy.

Cyclamens don’t like damp, so water thoroughly if it hasn’t rained in a week or so but don’t over-water – you need good drainage from the bottom of the pot so they don’t get waterlogged. They will keep flowering all the way through the winter if you remove the dead flowers every few days. I also purchased the hanging basket shown above from B&Q to add to the effect 🙂

So will you be making any additions to your garden this year or brightening up the front step?


Autumn Colour for the Garden

Well good afternoon! It’s been a completely glorious morning here in Manchester and it’s making me turn my thoughts to the garden and getting it in order for the winter. All those tidying jobs aren’t anywhere near as interesting as some of the fiery and eyecatching plants available for the garden right now however.

After my last gardening post, lots of you were quite excited about picking up tips so I decided today would be a good day to share my favourite plants for autumn colour – which will add some interest to your garden as the flowers fade, right through to Christmas. My kind of gardening is low maintenance for maximum enjoyment, but turf or gravel throughout is kind of boring and autumn is my favourite time of year, so I naturally gravitate towards plants that lend themselves to it. Happily, these are all plants that I have experience of in my own garden, and are beautifully low maintenance, just put them in and enjoy. So let’s get started!

Acers for Autumn
One of the most brilliant shows for autumn colour is put on by the Acer family. These are otherwise known as Japanese Maple and they actually often look pretty special in the spring too with their new leaves unfurling in super bright shades. They come as shrubs, low growing specimens and small to medium trees, so there’s one for every garden and they often have striking bark too. Buy them now to see exactly the level of brilliance you’re getting!

*Acer Palmatum all from Crocus.

Berry Beautiful
Thinking autumn? Think berries! Well, I do anyway! But it doesn’t have to be holly. I’ve been meaning to buy one of these purple berried ‘beauty berry’ bushes for ages now – they don’t look real do they? Pyracanthas grow along the floor or up against the wall and are also good for security with their thorny spines, whilst the snow berry bush is super festive when the frost arrives.

*Beauty Berry (Callicarpa,) Pyracantha or fire thorn, and snowberry bush (via Flickr.)

Autumn Colour
A lot of autumn colour comes from leaves, like this burgundy-leafed Smoke Bush, but it doesn’t have to. I look forward to the leaves falling off this stunning Dogwood with vivid red branches and the Garrya’s dangling silver catkins are quite beautiful too, which start to grow in summer and rehang in great proportions over the winter.

*Garrya, Dogwood (Cornus) and Cotinus (Smokebush).

Winter Flowers
And if you just can’t live without some flowers, there are a few flowering plants that come into their own in the winter too. These are all shrubs – plants which you might call ‘bushes’, with sturdy stems, as most flowers wouldn’t withstand the harsh temperatures of winter, but their cheery flowers really brighten up the day with the weak winter sun filtering through. Viburnums are also scented.

*Mahonia (spikes of yellow flowers on prickly leaves), Vibernum (tiny pink flower clusters,) and
Witch Hazel (Bottom.)

All of the plants above can be purchased from Crocus – one of my favourite online flower stores which also has lots of planting and size information alongside general garden advice and tips. however, several of these can also be purchased in a bog standard DIY store like B&Q – often quite cheaply, just look for healthy plants.

So, will you be adding some autumn colour to your garden?


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