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June 20th  
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Botanical illustrations, once only found in natural history books and on the walls of plant collectors, are enjoying a renaissance. We take a look at what they are, where to find them and how to use them in your home.

What are botanical illustrations?

Botanical illustrations depict plant species, including colour, shape of leaves and flowers. They’re usually watercolour or pen and ink drawings, and show the plant in exact detail.

Although modern artists still create botanical illustrations,  nothing beats vintage and original examples for sheer eye appeal. When plants were the major form of medicine available, keeping a record that would translate across different languages and regions was vital.

The earliest surviving examples of botanical illustrations is the  Juliana Anicia Codex (ca. 512 A.D.), now in Vienna. It’s the oldest and most valuable work in the history of botany and pharmacology, and was a vital way of recognising plants for medicinal purposes.

Vintage botanical illustration from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica (image in public domain)

Gradually, binomial nomenclature (names composed of two parts, identifying the genus and species) began to be used for plants and was formalised by Swedish natural scientist Carl Linnaeus in the mid eighteenth century.

To some extent, this removed the need for detailed illustrations as there was now a uniform point of reference for botanists.

At the same time, though, advances in the printing processes coupled with a rise in interest of amateur gardeners and natural historians created a market for illustrations for books and magazines.

Where to find botanical illustrations

You can buy original 18th century prints, normally originally taken from books, for around £35 to £100 from auction houses or antique shops.

These are beautifully, on thick, textured paper. The only thing we’d recommend doing with these is having them carefully framed and hanging them on the wall!

Online auction sites are a treasure trove of modern reproductions of antique prints which cost only a few pounds. These are ideal for projects – for example, make a decoupage waste paper bin, notice board or plant pot covered in vintage plant illustrations.

How to use botanical illustrations in your home

As it’s so detailed, using a lot of botanical illustration in one place can look fussy.

Try teaming the perfect print with plain walls or use flowered fabric to make a pop of colour in a neutral room.

Here are a few of our favourite botanical home picks:

Botanical garden cushion, The French Bedroom Company

Botanical garden cushion, £49 from The French Bedroom Company

Bring a sunny Sussex garden into your home with this floral design from an original artwork hand painted by Stil Haven Design Studio in Sussex.

Printed in the UK , the design depicts an array of beautifully painted garden flowers, with bright colours for a fresh feel.

Complete with duck-feather-filled cushion pad, it costs £49 from The French Bedroom Company.

Highland juniper pattern tea towel, Juniper and Jane

Juniper tea towel, £12.50 from Juniper and Jane

This pretty tea towel, featuring a modern design, was inspired by the Cairngorm Mountains where juniper trees are in abundance.

£12.50, available from Juniper and Jane a small family run business based in the Scottish Highlands.

Set of six botanical orchid prints in mirrored frames, The Farthing

Botanical prints, £325 from The Farthing

This set of six antique style, mirrored frames comes with six different replaceable botanical orchid prints, and is perfect for a hallway or conservatory.

It’s a limited edition and made only in small numbers, each frame measures 14″ x 17″ and holds a print size of 11″ x 14″. £325 for the set from The Farthing.

By Sara Walker

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June 11th  
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This year, National Picnic Week runs from 11th to 19th June. Picnicking is one of the UK’s most enjoyable summer traditions, and is a great way of taking advantage of any open spaces in your local area over the warmer months of the year. For suggestions about locations, food and activities, take a look at the official website.

We’ve put together our own guide to what to take with you.

1. Picnic rug and bag set, The Garden House

Perfect for smart picnics or outdoor events, relax in style with this matching tote and rug set. The rug folds neatly into the back when not in use, and you can choose from two waterproof backings. Available in a range of colours. £99.95 from The Garden House.

2. Set of tropical birds melamine plates, LimeLace

Add a tropical touch to your picnic with this set of brightly-coloured plates. As they’re melamine, they’re lightweight, tough and won’t chip. £20.50 for a set of four (set contains one of each design) from LimeLace.

3. Rice stacking sandwich boxes, Berry Red

Pretty pastel shades make these useful boxes the ideal choice for summer picnics.  This comes as a set of eight lidded boxes ranging in size, so you’ll always have the right size.  The largest measures approx. 17x11cm. £11.50 from Berry Red.

4. Set of six bright melamine forks, Rigby & Mac

Make sure you can find all the forks when you come to back up with these brightly coloured melamine forks, ideal for children. The set includes one of each colour: pink, green, purple, pale blue, dark blue and fuchsia. £5.95 for the set from Rigby & Mac.

5. Wooden cutlery set, MERI MERI

More eco friendly and prettier than plastic is the set of disposable cutlery crafted in light birch wood and finished with mint green handles. The pack contains 24 cutlery pieces, 8 each of knives, forks and spoons. Available in other colours as well. £9 from Sisters Guild.

6. Set of barbecue tools, Annabel James

Make a splash on the beach with this set of barbecue tools presented in a chic khaki canvas carrying case with handles. The set includes a two-pronged fork, a spatula, basting brush and tongs to enjoy the perfect party with friends and family. £28.95, available from Annabel James.

7. Set of four Biarritz Collection napkins, Ville et Campagne

There’s nothing like real cotton napkins to add a touch of style to an outdoor meal, and these Biarritz napkins with their fresh, blue stripes will add a summery touch, even if the weather’s less than perfect. £24 from Ville et Campagne. Matching placemats also available.

8. Set of six assorted melamine beakers, Rice DK

We love the contemporary colours of these new melamine beaker sets by Rice DK.  Virtually unbreakable, these can be put in a picnic basket or even a rucksack, and are a definite step up from paper cups!  Sold as a boxed set of six in different colours, each beaker measures around 9x9cm. £20.50, available from Berry Red.

9. Old MacDonald’s Farm melamine children’s set, Becky + Lolo

keep the youngest members of your family happy on a picnic with this cute three piece set. Made from durable melamine, it includes a plate, cereal bowl and cup, each  decorated with a busy farm life scene. Don’t forget to take the box along as well – when you open it, it recites the full poem to engage children during the meal. Available in a range of designs. £15.98 from Becky + Lolo.

10. Set of three melamine trays, Lotta Jansdotter

This set of three small melamine trays is perfect for keeping food off the ground and providing a stable rest for glasses and mugs.  Dishwasher safe and durable, these are well worth packing into your basket. Was £32 now £20 for a set of three from Andshine.

 

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June 10th  
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Here at Cosy Home, while I’d love to while away the summer days baking perfect cup cakes and arranging jars of wild flowers on the windowsill, the reality is that I spend a lot of time at my desk.

That’s why I was pleased when lighting specialists First Choice Lighting got in touch to ask me to try out the Ranger task light by Dar Lighting. Perfect for desk lighting, it would also work well as a table lamp or bedside light.

The Ranger 4046 task light by Dar Lighting, £64 from First Choice Lighting

 The technical bits

With a satin chrome finish, the Ranger 4046 task light takes a 40w E14 bulb (LED compatible) and comes with a two year guarantee. The switch type is in-line rocker, meaning it’s attached to the cable not the base, and the lamp comes complete with a metal shade. RRP is £76.80, price from First Choice Lighting is £64.

I loved the vintage style of this lamp, which was a bit 1950s anglepoise with an industrial touch as well.

My office is very traditional looking (books lining three of the walls, wooden cupboards, wooden desk) but it fitted in nicely, more so than the candlestick-style table lamp I’m currently using.

The service from First Choice Lighting was fast and efficient, with the lamp arriving just two days after it was requested. It was very well packaged in two cardboard boxes and lots (lots!) of bubble wrap.

It arrived full assembled and ready to go. (Or rather, it would have been ready to go had I had any of the right bulbs in the house! A quick trip to the hardware shop later, and it really was ready to go.)

The Ranger 4046 task light looked good in a traditional setting. Additional adjustment is via the handle by the lamp head.

The good bits

I really liked the look of the lamp; it was comparatively heavy and felt solid and good quality.

It’s adjustable in two ways, there’s one screw allowing adjustment of the height and another allowing the head of the lamp to be moved at a different angle to the base.

On the top adjustment, there’s an additional level to help you make fine adjustments to the ratchet system, which you can then lock securely in place. Both adjustments were easy to use and allowed a fair range of movement.

Control is via an in-line rocker switch built into the cable

The not so good bits

As I was using it as a desk lamp, I’d have preferred the switch to be on the base rather than the cable. The cable had a tendency to hide itself behind the desk and needed pulling up to reach the switch. This wasn’t a big problem, though, and at least it meant the switch was out of sight.

Ideally, I’d have liked the facility to be able to move the head of the lamp from side to side as well as up and down. My desk is quite narrow, though, and I didn’t have space to move the lamp itself around to adjust the lighting – people with ‘normal sized’ desks wouldn’t find this a problem.

My only other comment is a very small one – the handle to move the head of the lamp had a helpful sticker with ‘means of adjustment’ on it. When I removed the label, it left the handle very sticky – nothing a quick wipe with soap and warm water didn’t solve, though.

The verdict

Overall, I thought this was a really nice, good quality lamp and good value for money. It would look good in almost any décor, and wouldn’t date.

By Sara Walker

 

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May 26th  
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Summer is….toying with us! We recently got a definite sample of what’s to come, but then it disappeared again.

Now’s the time to sort out your outdoor living space ready to make the most of the warmer weather when it comes back.

Tidy up patio areas, removing any moss that might make surfaces slippery. Empty and re-fill any of last year’s pots that are looking a bit sorry for themselves, and invest in some new garden seating – all you need now is the sunshine!

Here’s our pick of the best garden chairs and benches to add a finishing touch.

1. Anja metal chair, B&Q

Anja egg chair from B&Q, £285

This Anya steel frame egg chair is ideal for lazy summer days in the garden. It comes complete with a cushion, and the mesh is handwoven in high quality UV resistant resin which can be left outside all year round. £285 from B&Q.

2. Traditional striped deck chair, Dobbies

Traditional deck chair, £44.5 from Dobbies

If you do like to be beside the seaside (or pretend you are), you’ll love this traditional stripy deckchair. Available in two colours, red or navy, it’s a classic design made for those who enjoy the summer sun. £44.95 from Dobbies.

3. Orquidea hammock chair, Viva Lagoon

Purple garden hammock, £79.90 from Viva Lagoon.

Lounge in style with this swish hammock, produced in Colombia from pure, high-quality cotton. Reinforced edges make the material extremely tear-proof while the large number of cords ensures optimal weight distribution, comfort and durability. In eye catching shades of purple, it costs £79.90 from Viva Lagoon.

4. Heart garden chair, Mia Fleur

Distressed shabby chic garden chair, £95 from MiaFleur

This simple and stylish garden chair has a heart shaped back. With its distressed rustic finish this garden chair would look lovely in a corner of the garden, ready for you to take a rest from gardening with a cup of tea. Made from steel with a distressed rust and cream finish, it costs £95 from MiaFleur.

5. Roble Bengal chair, Alexander Rose

Bengal outdoor chair, £189

Made from roble, a very strong hardwood with light yellow colouring, this classic chair will mellow down to a silver grey appearance if left untreated. It’s perfect as an alfresco dining chair, but also for positioning in a sunny corner, together with a little table for evening drinks. £189 from Riverside Garden Centre.

6. Retro garden chair, Rigby & Mac

Retro bright garden chair, £45 from Rigby & Mac

Add a splash of colour to a dark corner of your garden with these simple, budget friendly chairs. Available in lime green, turquoise, red and white, they’ll keep the garden bright until the flowers start to bloom! Available from Rigby & Mac, £45.

7. Distressed garden chair, Out There Interiors

Distressed metal garden chair, £105 from Out There Interiors.

If you like the shabby chic look, these chairs are perfect. Featuring an attractive intertwined backrest and round seat comprised of coiled metal, the slightly bent legs add to the quirky-chic style. Finished in blue and deliberately rusted to look naturally aged, it’s available in blue, hot pink, turquoise and dark grey. £105 from Out There Interiors.

8. Salcombe bench, B&Q

Salcombe wooden bench, £157 from B&Q

This hardwood bench, made from acacia, is perfect for entertaining friends and family this summer. It won’t need repainting, and is easy to clean and maintain just by wiping it with a damp cloth. Tailored cushions are available separately. £157 from B&Q.

9. Pair of rattan chairs, Living It Up

Pair of synthetic rattan dining chairs, £199

For a really weatherproof option for you and a friend, these two chairs are made from high quality synthetic rattan. Use them as part of a table set, or just put them under a tree in the shade. £199 for the pair from Living It Up.

10. Regal Bench, The Orchard

Decorative metal Gothic bench, £457 from The Orchard

Create a focal point for any garden or patio area with this Regal bench. Made in England from steel and covered in durable antique black polyester paint, this decorative bench will stand the test of time. £457, available from The Orchard.

 

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May 17th  
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If you’re thinking of updating your home, the bathroom’s a great place to start.

Adding a smart new bathroom can be a great investment too. Research by HSBC suggests it may add around £3,500 to the price of your property, a return on investment of around 48%.

If you’re not ready to update the whole room, then why not how just focus on adding a new bath? Here are 10 gorgeous baths to inspire you!

1. Acrylic boat bath, BC Designs

Boat bath, £1260 from BC Designs

This classic boat bath (sometimes called a ‘bateau bath’) will add a touch to style to any bathroom. It has an acrylic inner and outer and is available in white as standard but can also be painted to order. It is available in three sizes to fit different room sizes- prices start at £1260 for the 1580mm size from BC Designs.

2. Summit freestanding bath, Frontline Bathrooms

Summit freestanding bath, £1,495 from Frontline Bathrooms

This beautiful freestanding bath has clean, simple lines meaning it can be paired with a contemporary or traditional interior. There’s also a matching bathroom suite to complete the look. £1,495 from Frontline Bathrooms.

3. Darling New range, Duravit

Darling New bath, from £1,909 from Duravit

The Darling New range can be as high tech or traditional as you like. It’s available as a classic freestanding unit, or boxed in with wood panelling. You can have an extended rim forming an additional seat, atmospheric LED lighting under the rim or even whirlpool options to turn your bathroom into a home spa. Prices start at £1,909 from Duravit. 

4. Cooke & Lewis Antonio freestanding bath, B&Q

Cooke & Lewis Antonio bath, £792 from B&Q

The Antonio oval freestanding bath from Cooke & Lewis is perfect for creating a focal point in your bathroom. This style gives you greater flexibility with where it’s placed, and is ideal for larger bathrooms. It’s designed so you can choose where to place your bath taps and holds 210 litres of water. Compatible with duchess plug and chain waste. £792 from B&Q.

5. Ascot bath tub with metallic finish, Soakology

Ascot bath tub, £1,299 from Soakology

For a truly luxurious soak, lean back and relax in the Ascot freestanding double ended roll top bath. Inspired by iconic 19th century bain de bateau, it has gently sloping sides and a beaten platinum foil finish. Was £2,255, now £1,299 from Soakology.

6. Admiral roll top bath, Victorian Plumbing

Admiral ‘back to wall’ bath, £349.94 from Victorian Plumbing

For style at a budget price, this ‘back to wall’ roll top bath comes with traditional chrome feet. It’s the perfect centrepiece for a traditional bathroom and as it’s made with double skinned acrylic it’s practical as well as attractive. £349.94 from Victorian Plumbing.

7. Cooke & Lewis Duchess oval freestanding bath, B&Q

Cooke & Lewis Duchess bath, £892 from B&Q

If you like a clean, uncluttered look in your bathroom then the Duchess oval freestanding bath is for you. It’s designed so you can choose where to place your bath taps and holds 230 litres of water. £892 from B&Q

8. Casini bath, BC Designs

Casini bath, £3996 from BC Designs

For something really unusual, how about this Casini one-piece cast bath that suits both traditional and contemporary spaces? The original design, by Barrie Cutchie, has a large bathing area and slim rim for an elegant finish. The unique Cian material is warm to touch and retains heat for longer. £3996 from BC Designs.

9. Pano freestanding slipper bath, Frontline Bathrooms

Pano slipper bath, £1,495 from Frontline Bathrooms

Slipper baths are shaped to have one end higher than the other, making them comfortable for relaxing in. This Pano bath with its sleek silhouette would be perfect as the centrepiece of any style of bathroom. £1,495 from Frontline Bathrooms.

10. Vitale roll top twin end bath, Homebase

Vitale roll top bath, £919 from Homebase

For a Victorian feel combined with the practicality of modern technology, we like this Vitale roll top twin end bath. It’s made using high grade 5mm acrylic and has a period feel.There’s plenty of space to lean back and relax, and it comes complete with ornate feet. £919 from Homebase.

 

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April 27th  
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Fancy growing your own vegetables this year?

There’s nothing quite like it – you can be absolutely sure there’ll be no nasty chemicals added, and you’ve got all the benefits of eating very fresh, very seasonal foods which are packed with nutrients.

The only downside is that you might find yourself with 50 lettuces or 25 courgettes at once on your hands, so make friends with the neighbours!

Here’s the Cosy Home guide to getting started with preparing your vegetable garden.

Raised beds for vegetables

Raised beds look attractive and make tending easier, as you don’t have to bend down as far to work them.

If you’re planning to get serious with your veg, raised beds are a great investment. They’re easier to reach and weed, improve drainage and can be used to hold a different soil type, if the native soil in the garden isn’t suitable.

For one or two small raised beds, you can use a ready made kit. Retailers such as Harrod Horticultural, Wickes or Homebase sell a good range of raised bed kits made from different materials that are easy to put together. Or you could buy the raw materials yourself and build one from scratch.

Whatever method you choose, make sure you leave a good pathway between beds and that there’s plenty of room to work them from all sides.

Raised beds keep plants warmer, but they also have a tendency to dry out in hot weather so ideally make sure you have a source of water nearby, or get ready to fill and carry a lot of buckets!

Raised beds are ideal for growing your own, but aren’t a necessity – you can grow a lot of vegetables very successfully in ordinary flower beds, or troughs or pots, depending on how much space you have.

Planting ideas

When you’re ready to start growing, dig in a good layer of manure into the beds.

Planting a row of herbs at one end of the bed looks attractive, adds colour, fills in any unused space and encourages pollinating insects.

Potatoes

Potatoes are an easy and satisfying crop for a beginner. Ask your supplier to recommend a hardy variety.

Potatoes are easy for beginners, and you’ll have plenty of delicious new potatoes for salads and steaming.

Buy special seed potatoes from a garden centre, and let them chit before planting. (To chit potatoes, spread them out in a cool, dark place until they sprout. When the sprouts are a good few centimetres long, you can plant them.)

Plant second early potatoes in early spring (April), then change to maincrop potatoes.

Peas and beans

Turn trellises of peas and beans into an architectural feature in the bed.

If you’re planning to grow peas or beans, build the trellises now for support.

These plants will grow up almost anything, but if you’re planning from scratch you might like to consider making your own rustic supports with twigs or thing branches, pushed into the ground in a circle then bound together at the top with string, so the finished support is bell-shaped.

In mild weather you can plant the peas and beans now, but get ready to cover them with fleece in case of late ground frosts.

Tomatoes

Baby tomatoes will show little rounded leaves called ‘seed leaves’. Wait for adult leaves to come through before potting them up.

If you’re growing tomatoes from seed, plant them now indoors. Keep the soil moist but not wet, as tomatoes like a lot of water.

As the seed starts to sprout, it will grow with little round ‘seed leaves’, then gradually develop jagged-looking true leaves. At this stage, you can transplant the seedlings into individual pots or growbags.

Other vegetables

If you’re growing less hardy vegetables such as courgettes, pumpkins, cucumbers or celery from seed, you can start off trays either in a greenhouse or indoors.

Hardier crops such as parsnips, beetroot, carrots, Swiss chard, summer cauiflower, turnips, spring onions, cabbages and radishes can be sown directly into the ground now. Garlic and maincrop onions can also be planted now.

Where to buy vegetable seeds and plants

Good places to buy vegetable seeds online include Sutton Seeds, Thompson & Morgan or Wilko. Look out for offers on seeds, if you’re planning on buying multiple packets.

Most garden centres sell ready-started trays of vegetable seedlings, if you want an easier job. Some nurseries and garden centres sell plants that are certified organically-grown.

eBay is also a good place to look for both seeds and plants, as there are growers who sell popular seeds and vegetable plug plants when they’re in season. You might even strike it lucky and find a local grower who you can buy and collect from.

(Images courtesy of Pixabay)

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