Outdoor Furniture Edition

No matter how large or small your outdoor space is, it is inevitable that you will be looking for somewhere to sit comfortably this summer. Benches are an ideal way to create a focal point within your garden, adding a particularly dramatic look when placed under a tree or in front of your beautiful flower bed. There are a number of different styles available, with romantic metalwork and classic wooden structures all possible options. The ensuing months are about enjoying the outdoors and making the most of nature, so what better way to enjoy the sun than by grabbing a good book and reclining on your perfectly positioned bench!

Garden furniture is not commonly associated with being the most comfortable seating in the world, due to the need for durability, however there are many ways to style your garden bench in order to improve this. Outdoor cushions and blankets will help add to the aesthetics but also make for a more pleasant and relaxing experience altogether!

The development of waterproof textile designs has led to a great increase in the number of different styles and shapes available on the market. It is normal to stick to safer choices when accessorising pieces of furniture, with solid and neutral colours proving to be popular picks! However I want to assure you that being creative and quirky is not at all a bad thing. In fact, it is a celebrated trend to try and incorporate a variety of different patterns and colours to create an eye-catching and alternative look. It is also a great way to bring a bit of your personality to the fore. Another helpful tip, if you are unsure of what route to take, is to use a mixture of neutral and solid coloured cushions alongside a few patterned scatter pillows of your choice. This is a more traditional approach and will also make any chair/bench/swing look like it is straight out of an interior design magazine.

Most garden pieces are built to last but with the British weather often proving unpredictable it may also be a wise move to invest in a tarpaulin cover, or something similar, to help protect your furniture during the harsher months of the year. This will get rid of the need to store your outdoor chairs, benches, tables etc. indoors during autumn and winter.

Types of Injuries to Trees in the Winter

  • Temperature fluctuations – once temperatures begin a steady decline in winter, trees start to acclimate. However, if there is a sudden hard freeze, plants can be greatly stressed if they are not fully acclimated. Woody plants in particular can be damaged in times of rapid temperature drops followed by periods of mild weather. The main reason is that during mild weather, trees de-acclimate and become especially vulnerable in case of temperature drops.
  • Low temperatures – while it is true that trees are perhaps the sturdiest species of the plant kingdom, they are far from indestructible. Every tree has a temperature tolerance level, which is sometimes exceeded. Trees that are already stressed by temperature fluctuations or those that are already marginally hardy for the area they are planted in are particularly vulnerable. If you are using marginally hardy plants, you may have to plant them in protected areas, or else they may not survive the season.
  • Cracks from frost – frost cracks, also referred to as radial shakes, take the form of deep and shallow longitudinal cracks in the area of the trunk. During the day cycle, the south and southwest side of trees experience the most stress in winter, and therefore are more likely to suffer damage. Sudden drops in temperatures cause the outer tree layer to contract more rapidly than the inner layer, as the latter comes in delayed contact with freezing temperatures. This is what causes frost cracks, which are likely to appear every year. Tree surveys reveal that London plane oak is particularly vulnerable to frost cracks.
  • Sunscald – de-acclimation of trunk tissue is the main reason of sunscald. It takes the form of elongated cankers on trees with thin bark. It occurs as one side of the tree gets exposed to direct sun, resulting in darkened and red-brown bark, which eventually cracks and falls away.
  • Spring freeze – freezing temperatures occurring as spring growth starts can be quite devastating to de-acclimated trees. Most vulnerable parts of the plant include new shoots, woody stems and blossoms. The symptoms resemble blight disease, but they appear suddenly, unlike most diseases, which take some time to develop.
  • Root damage – root tissue doesn’t acclimate properly in very cold temperatures. Soil temperatures below 15°F can severely damage roots, causing them to die. Shallow rooted plants are particularly vulnerable, especially if leaf litter and snow don’t insulate the soil properly.

Caring for Cacti

Cacti are sun lovers and therefore if you plan to have them indoors, provide the brightest spot you can find as they will need at least 4 to 6 hours good light daily. If they are kept in a darker place they will still survive, but might stretch in search for light. Outside, they will like a sunny spot, but will also need some shade in the afternoon during the hottest days of summer. Even sun lovers like cacti can get burned by hot summer afternoon sun.

Plant your cacti in a well draining potting mix. Many nurseries sell bagged potting mix specially made for cacti and succulents. You can also make your own by adding sand and fine gravel to premium potting mix or follow the below recipe:

1 part organic compost
1 part horticultural sand
1 part coir
1 part vermiculite/perlite
1 part pine bark

In the growing season cacti will need good watering every couple of days, but the trick is to let the soil dry out between each watering. Your potting mix should be light, airy and well draining so the water can pass through, capture some moisture to get the roots wet but the water needs to drain away. If the roots of your cacti plants will sit in water they, and the whole plant will rot. The potting mix is the key. In winter cacti only need little water. Once every couple of weeks will be more than enough.

In the growing season your plants will benefit from fertilising. Good seaweed fertiliser diluted in water should do the trick. Add the fertiliser every second- third watering. You can also use slow release fertiliser- aim for low nitrogen and high phosphorus. In winter, there is no need to apply fertiliser.

Cacti can be used in pot arrangements, terrariums and also in the garden. They have fantastic landscaping potential and you can create an unusual raised garden bed with cactuses and other succulents. Gravel and rocks are often used to mimic desert environment.

Many cacti have sharp thorns and can cause serious injury, especially if a broken thorn is left in the skin. When handling cacti, wear thick gloves or use tweezers. Don’t be fooled by the ones with softer or hair like thorns as they can penetrate the skin as well, can cause irritation and are extremely hard to see. To get them out, apply sticky tape on the wound and pull.