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August 14th  
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In the warmer weather, nothing beats a lazy afternoon relaxing in the garden with friends and a long, cool drink.

Here are our top five homemade drinks for summer – put them in a thermos flask with some ice to take on picnics or journeys, as well.

Homemade St Clements

A refreshing mixture of orange and lemon juice, this is tangy and refreshing. You’ll need:

  • 2 unwaxed lemons
  • 2 large oranges
  • around 100g sugar
  • 1 litre of water

Zest the oranges and lemons and put the zest in a pan with 100ml of the water and the sugar. Heat gently, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved.

Leave to cool. Meanwhile, juice the lemons and oranges, removing the seeds but keeping the pulp.

Combine the syrup, remaining water and fruit juice and pulp. Serve with ice and a slice of orange on the side of the glass.

This is best enjoyed fresh, but will keep in the fridge for a few days. Store it in a bottle with a lid, and shake the bottle before serving.

Homemade elderflower cordial

Collecting the elderflowers for this cordial is all part of the fun! For a more adult drink, mix a measure of gin with sparkling water and add cordial to taste.

You’ll need:

  • 2kg white sugar
  • 2 unwaxed lemons
  • 20 to 25 fresh elderflower heads, washed and checked for insects!
  • 85g citric acid (available from chemists)

Trim the elderflower stalks right up to the base. Put the sugar in a large pan with 1.5 litres of water, and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Chop the lemons into small pieces, skin and all. Put the flowers, lemon and citric acid in the pan with the sugar, cover it with a clean tea towel and leave to infuse for 24 hours.

If you have a jelly bag, put the flower mixture into that and let it drip through into a clean bowl. If not, line a colander with a muslin or clean tea towel.

Discard anything left in the towel or bag, and bottle the cordial into clean, sterilised jars or bottles.

To use, dilute with water to taste. The cordial will keep in the fridge for several weeks

Iced mint tea

This one really couldn’t be simpler – particularly if you have lots of mint in your garden.

All you need is two good handfuls of mint leaves (with no pesticides), washed and stripped from the stalks.

Put them in a teapot, fill the pot with boiling water and leave to infuse. You can drink it hot, but if you leave it to cool and serve it over ice it tastes like summer in a glass!

Sweeten to taste.

Blackberry syrup

This syrup is delicious topped up with sparkling water as a drink, but also works well poured over ice cream.

You’ll need:
250g blackberries
125g sugar

Put the sugar and 250ml water in a pan and stir gently over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved.

Add the blackberries, and bring the pan to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for around 5 to 7 minutes until the fruit is soft and pulpy.

Pass the mixture through a sieve, and leave to cool. Mix with still or sparkling water and a dash of lemon juice, to taste. The syrup will keep in the fridge for a week or so.

Raspberry peach iced tea

A delicious, fruity twist on an American classic. Frozen or tinned raspberries will work as well if you can’t get fresh.

You’ll need:

2 English breakfast tea bags
150g raspberries
2 ripe peaches, skinned, stoned and cut into quarters
3 tablespoons sugar, or to taste

Brew the tea to the strength you like it, using around 1 litre of water.

Remove the tea bags and let it cool. Put the peaches, raspberries and sugar in a blender and blend until smooth, then pass the mixture through a sieve.

Mix the sieved mixture into the tea, and refrigerate until cold. Best enjoyed immediately.

By Sara Walker
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August 8th  
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Using warm tones of copper, brass and gold to add texture and interest is a trick you can use right through the house. Here’s how:

Kitchen

To help your kitchen look like an expensive, handmade version, paint kitchen cupboards and cabinets and add brass or copper handles and hooks. Mismatched handles look quirky and individual – collect what you need via salvage fairs or online auction sites and mix traditional round brass knobs with pull handles and bars. Don’t be afraid to mix vintage, antique and contemporary for an individual result.

If you suffer from lack of light in your kitchen, add a couple of copper vases on the windowsill or shelves. They’ll help reflect light with a soft, sparkling tone and provide a pretty focal point for potted herbs or cut flowers. Bronze and copper tealight holders work well for the same reason.

If you’d like to take it a step further, a brass kitchen tap looks stunning against a marble worksurface – they are harder to take care of than stainless steel, though!

For a traditional farmhouse kitchen look, arrange vintage copper pans on plain white shelves or hang them from the ceiling. You can pick up vintage pans in antique shops or at fairs, but keep them for display only. Modern versions, with a copper outer and a stainless steel lining, are a better choice if you want to actually use them for cooking with!

Dining room

On a crisp, white tablecloth, bronze rimmed glasses, decorative plates, serving spoons and napkin rings will all make a real impact.

A bronze or copper toned jug in the middle of the table, filled with bright pink flowers, will make a real centre piece.

In the same way, bronze-coloured curtains of artificial silk look really eye-catching in a dining room – have them slightly too long so they pool slight on the floor.

Artificial silk is a more practical choice than the real thing, as it’s cheaper, washable and doesn’t rot in strong sunlight. Keep walls to a plain off-white or soft grey colour for maximum impact.

Bathroom

For an opulent, slightly Eastern feel, look for tiles with warm metal accents.

Don’t overdo it, or you’ll end up with a fussy look – just put a row of tiles behind sinks or baths, then add bottles of rich, golden shower gel and liquid soap to pick up the colours.

Bedroom 

Warm metal tones are fantastic for bedrooms, helping you create a cosy haven.

Try gold-coloured throws and covers on the bed and bronze-coloured cushions and rugs. To add a soft, golden glow to the whole room, choose bronze fabric lampshades.

Living room

Use bold, gold toned wallpaper on one wall to create a feature, and match it with plain paint in warm grey on the other walls.

Frame pictures in mis-matched, metallic frames and add lots of candles in brass candlesticks.

Other colours that tone well with metallic shades are rich plums and browns, so incorporate these as cushions and rugs to create a really opulent feel.

Here’s our pick of the top pieces to help you get the look.

1. Bell-shaped hanging copper lamp, £110 from Out There Interiors.

2. Copper and concrete Howarthia pot, £21 from Oh What’s This

3. Copper and black espresso mugs, £25 from Marquis and Dawe

4. Brass fish mirror, £108 from Mia Fleur

5. Brass crocodile hook, £14 from Monty’s Vintage Shop

6. Gold metal globe on stand, £69 from Artisanti

7. Gold gilt classic ornate mirror, £45 from Ayers and Graces

8. Gold dipped glass vase, £14 from Marquis and Dawe

9. Bronze decorative tea light holder, £1 from Poundland

10. Bronze ribbed jug, £10.50 from The Contemporary Home

By Sara Walker

 

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August 8th  
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8th to 14th August is National Allotments Week, celebrating the British love of gardening.

Although the idea of allotments goes back to Anglo Saxon times, our current system was founded in the 19th century as a ‘perk’ for labourers to allow them to grow their own food. In 1908, a new law, the Small Holdings and Allotments Act was brought in to force local authorities to provide enough allotments to meet demand. After the First World War, the scheme really took off and alloments were made available to all.

In the scheme’s heyday there were 1.5 million allotments in Britain, but this has dwindled to 250,000, with a waiting list of 100,000 people!

If you’re not lucky enough to have your own allotment, then turning over a portion of your garden to veg growing or even planting up a few pots can be hugely satisfying.

Here are our top ten picks to help your green fingers:

1. Gardening gauntlets, Annabel James

These are some serious gloves! Tackle brambles and nettles in complete security with these hard-wearing gardening gauntlets, rafted in the finest leather and gently lined so they are  comfortable to wear. Available in two sizes: ladies (7 1/2) and men’s (10), and made in England. £29.95 from Annabel James.

2. Personalised thermal mug, The Kitchen Gift Co

Save having to keep going back into the house for a cup of tea with this insulated travel mug. Can can be personalised with any name or role up to 14 characters, with “Gardening Mug” as fixed text. £15.95 including personalisation from The Kitchen Gift Co.

3. Oilcloth pruning bag, Sophie Allport

Printed in Gardening fabric, this pruning/weeding back is handy for when it’s not quite worth getting the wheelbarrow out. It would also be handy slung from a branch when you’re deadheading to save you bending down all the time. It folds into a bag  and opens up into a flat circle (diameter: 75cm). £25, available from Sophie Allport.

4. Garden bag, Gisela Graham

This Kitchen Garden canvas gardening bag comes in two sizes and are perfect for carrying round for all your gardening bits and bobs, particularly if you have to drive to your garden. Large size £39, available from The Contemporary Home.

5. Love the Glove seed green gardening gloves, Berry Red

These high quality and high performance gloves feature ultra-soft feel yet hard-wearing fabric that doesn’t stiffen after drying, a stretch mesh between fingers regulates hand temperature and improves dexterity, a padded palm and a snug fit. £15.95, available from Berry Red.

6. Painted wooden cold frame, Mia Fleur

No space for a greenhouse? This attractive and space saving cold frame will help acclimatise those tender seedlings that are just waiting to catch a few rays of sun and to overwinter tender plants that can’t be left outdoors. With a glass lid that can be left open to let the air in on warmer days and then closed when the temperature drops. £139.95, available from Mia Fleur.

7. Grange raised corner planter, the Internet Gardener

Wooden planter provides ample space and a stylish way to grow your herbs and plants and fits neatly into a corner so it helps maximise space. It’s ideal for anyone with back problems, as the raised height makes it easy to maintain. Store pots and small tools underneath if you’re short of space. £114.95 from the Internet Gardener.

8. Dibber, Sophie Conran

This dibber is an invaluable tool for planting seeds, bulbs and seedlings, even in grass or harder soil.  Simply push the point into the soil to make a hole (wiggle around for a bigger hole), drop your subject in and cover with soil. Waxed FSC Beechwood handle, brass ferrule and stainless steel head. £14.95, available from Annabel James.

9. Charlie Dimmock 8cm peat pots, Poundland

These recycled pots are brilliant value, at 30 for £1. Use them to pot up seedlings, then plant the whole thing, pot and all. Available from Poundland.

10. Watering can, Orla Kiely

This retro-styled galvanised steel watering can is embossed with Orla Kiely’s iconic stem print design, and is ideal for both indoor and outdoor use. £40, available from Quince Living.

By Sara Walker

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August 1st  
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The buzzing and fluttering of insects is as much a part of summer days in the gardens as the scent of flowers.

We’ve picked our favourite bee, dragonfly and butterfly garden accessories to help your summer go with a…buzz.

1. Butterfly lanterns, PUJI

These attractive butterfly candle lanterns in white will make a pretty focal point for the garden. Made from metal painted in white they come complete with a hanging handle to enable easy hanging from a branch, hook or beam  to create a soft ambient glow and add atmosphere to the evening. Available in two different sizes, prices start from £17 from PUJI.

2. Glow in the dark butterfly bird bath/feeder, The Glow Company

The large glass bowl of this birdbath is hand painted with a colourful butterfly design that absorbs light during the day for the finer details to glow in the dark at night. Place in borders or on your patio to add a cheerful splash of colour to your garden and a magical glow at night. £44.99, available from The Glow Company.

3. Dragonfly jar, Marquis & Dawe

This ceramic trinket jar, decorated with dragonflies, is ideal for keeping matches in during the summer to light garden candles. Don’t forget to take it in before the winter though! The jar features pink and blue dragonflies and a slight crackle glaze finish, and costs £14 from Marquis & Dawe.

4. Dragonfly candle, B&Q

This dragonfly candle is part of the Meadow collection, and features a dragonfly silhouette and a rope finish. At just £3, it’s a great budget buy. Line them up on your garden table, on the edges of steps or on upturned plant pots to create an evening mood. Available from B&Q. 

5. Dragonfly salad servers, Meadowridge

 These simple dragonfly salad servers are perfect for serving delicious, al fresco salads, heaped with fresh seasonal produce. When not in use, they’re pretty enough to be left on the table as a decoration. £33 from Sweetpea and Willow.

6. Gold dragonfly and butterfly set, Mia Fleur

These gold metal insects are sold as a set of two which includes one butterfly and one dragonfly. Just wind a piece of wire or string around them to hang as part of a display on a wall, or tree. Alternatively, place them on the table to add interest. £25.95 from Mia Fleur.

7. Zinc butterfly and dragonfly tea light holders, Gisela Graham

Add instant atmosphere to your home or garden with the twinkle of candlelight. Scatter these pretty zinc garden tea light holders through trees and bushes in the garden or on a shelf, table top or even around the bath or bed for a lovely bohemian effect. £5.50 each from The Contemporary Home.

8. Dragonfly and rose vintage plaque, Melody Maison

Made from metal, this vintage style plaque features a dragonfly and roses with French script, painted cream with a distressed finish.  It’s25 cm x 33 cm, and would love in a sheltered spot outside – perhaps under a roof or shed overhang. Available from Melody Maison, it’s now 40% off at £5.95 (was £9.95).

9. Bee glass tealight holder, The Contemporary Home

This glass tea light holder would be the perfect addition to any garden or conservatory. With a sweet wooden bee attached at the rim, this holder would be ideal on a summer’s evening, dotted around the garden, on the table or on a nearby tree. £3, available from The Contemporary Home.

10. Capri bee pitcher, One World Trading Company

This beautiful glass jug with embossed bees is perfect for a summery dinner or lunch. Fill with homemade lemonade, Pimms or homemade elderflower cordial for the perfect meal. Was £16.95, now just £6.75 from One World Trading Company.

 

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July 25th  
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Even on a summer evening, it can be nice to have a hot drink. Watching the sun go down while you cradle a cup of coffee is the perfect end to an alfresco meal, wherever you are.

We’ve picked ten of our favourite vacuum flasks, perfect for picnics or eating in the garden – don’t forget they’re also ideal for transporting iced drinks, as well!

Pack homemade lemonade, mint iced tea, fruit punch or elderflower cordial with crushed ice for the perfect refresher for a lunchtime picnic.

1. Slim Thermos flask in blue, Kikkerland

We  love this stylishly thin flask, perfect for slipping into a pocket or bag when you’re walking. The leak-proof design and double walls mean your drink will stay hot or cold for 12 hours. Around £17.50, Kikkerland.

2. Emma vacuum jug for tea, Stelton

If you’re a tea drinker, you’ll know that one of the downsides of tea in a flask is that it can be overstewed and bitter. Made from high gloss stainless steel with a beechwood handle, this jug is as practical as it is good looking. It has an inbuilt smart filter which stops the brewing process once the tea has reached the optimum strength, so your tea will be perfect every time. £79.95, available from Black by Design. 

 3. Geo thermos flask, Normann Copenhagen

With its retro classic design, this 1 litre capacity jug is ideal for BBQs, picnics or to use out on the terrace on a warm summer evening. Available in a range of different colours, it costs £49.90 from Black by Design.

4. Atlas flask, The Oak Room

Enjoy a warm cuppa whilst you’re out and about exploring with this stainless steel flask featuring a vintage world map design.  It has a combined cup and lid and holds 350ml. £12.99, available from The Oak Room.

5. Blue tit flask, Hoi Polloi

Ideal for birdwatchers and gardeners is this stainless steel flask with a plastic cup and an easy to push up stopper. The flaskhas a 350ml capacity, so would be equally useful to take to the beach, picnics and the office. £12.99 from Hoi Polloi.

6. Fish flies flask, Annabel James

Perfect for the fisherman in your life, this ‘Hook Line and Sinker ‘ drinks flask has a distinctive and colourful all over fish flies print on a cream background and a 500 ml capacity. There’s also an enamel mug in same design available separately. £19.95 from Annabel James.

7. Food flask, Wilkinsons

It might not be pretty, but it’s certainly useful. This 450ml stainless steel food flask will hold hot soup for a starter, or even hot chocolate sauce to pour over a pudding. It’s a snip, too, at just £6. For best results, pre-heat before using. Available from Wilkinsons.

8. La Petite Rose flask and cup, dotcomgiftshop

Could anything be more perfect for a summer picnic? Pack up this lovely floral flask with combined cup and lid, and you’ll be sipping your drink in style. It has a 350ml capacity, and is made from stainless steel with a push top stopper. £12.95 from dotcomgiftshop.

9. Eva Solo thermos flask, Amara

This double walled steel flask is simple, sleek and stylist and features a practical carry strap for so you can take it with you, whether you go. Available in a choice of four colours, it costs £40 from Amara.

10. Home Front flask, Wild and Wolf

We’ve all had days like that – but the slogan on this flask is indeed true will cheer you up in the middle of that rainy walk. Stainless steel, 500 ml capacity flask with push button valve and an eye catching vintage design. £18.95 from Cuckooland.

By Sara Walker

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July 19th  
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For a real outdoor living space, you need not only something to sit on, but something to sit under!

We never know what the British summer is going to throw at us, and on any one day we might be equally in need of shade from the sun and somewhere to get out of the drizzle. It’s lovely to have space for a bower, summerhouse or pagoda, but not everyone has an outdoor space that lends itself to a permanent structure.

Garden umbrellas and parasols are easy to move around, adjustable and will keep the worst of the elements off your lunch! We’ve picked out ten of our favourites.

1. Amalfi grey parasol, Harley & Lola

If you don’t like bright colours, this elegant grey parasol will fit into any style of garden. It’s free standing and can be easily moved, adjusted and rotated to provide maximum protection from the sun. It has a mechanical handle for easy opening and closing, handy tilt mechanism and air vent. £299 from Harley & Lola.

2. Portofino parasol, Indian Ocean

Fancy making a statement? Made from top quality materials, the Portofino parasol is the luxury choice and can be customised with your choice of colour and piping. It’s portable enough to re-position easily, and has a simple shape that will add to rather than detract from your dining area. £640 from Indian Ocean.

3. Couture garden parasol, Sywawa Belgium

This garden parasol is finished with a pretty stitching effect, made from a series of laser cut holes in the top layer, showing the a second layer of contrasting fabric underneath. Made in ultra hard wearing Symacryl, which blocks out 97% of UV rays out, you can choose from 24 different colours for the top and lining. Also available in two different sizes, prices start at £310 from Go Modern.

4. Glatz Alu-Push Parasol, Riverside Outdoor Living

Don’t have the space for a huge parasol? The Alu-Push is the ideal sunshade for small spaces and fits almost any irregularly shaped corner. The tilt joint can be angled according to shade needs and adjusted for height whenever necessary.Available in different colours, prices start at £145 from Riverside Outdoor Living.

5. Capri parasol, B&Q

A great choice if you’re on a budget, the Capri parasol comes in a choice of shapes and colours. Measuring around 2.5m for the round version, it will provide shade without taking up too much room. It comes with its own carry bag, but you’ll need to buy a separate base. £49 from B&Q.

6. Riviera 3m free arm parasol, Dobbies

If you have a table without a parasol hole, or you’re looking for flexible garden shade, the extra-large Riviera 3.0m free arm parasol could be what you’re looking for. A simple wind of the handle puts the shade up or down, so you can easily adapt to the changing weather in your garden. It’s available in a range of colours, and costs £159 from Dobbies.

7. Riviera deluze 2.5m crank parasol, Dobbies

For a no-nonsense, good value option, this simple parasol has a crank handle mechanism for raising and lowering. The angle can’t be adjusted, but it’s a good, basic choice for a small to medium dining area. It comes in a range of bright colours to add a cheerful note to your garden on grey days. Note there’s no base included. £79.99 from Dobbies.

8. Geisha garden parasol, Norfolk Leisure

Perfect for long afternoon picnics, this Geisha parasol will add an oriental flavour to your garden. It has fibreglass ribs which are highly durable making them more flexible and less likely to bend or break, while the centre pole is aluminium for lightness and strength. The opened parasol measures 2.7m in diameter. £79 from Cuckooland.

9. Modern simplicity 2m wide parasol with base, Homebase

Made from solid FSC® certified Eucalyptus wood, this Modern Simplicity parasol is an inexpensive way to stay out of the weather. Its water-resistant material makes it easy to clean and maintain, while the wood base adds a touch of style. £29.99 from Homebase.

10. Lotus 2.7m parasol, Achica

Make a feature of a necessity with this eye-catching Lotus parasol. Designed with an oriental touch, it comes in a range of vibrant bright colours. £49 from Achica.

 

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