Release the frogs!

Frog | Wolves in LondonThese past few weekends we’ve been digging out the pond from the bottom of our garden to convert it to flower bed.

I’d been agonising about what to do with the pond (as is my wont) for a good few years. On the one hand, the pond isn’t very safe for the kids, is under three apple trees so spends a large portion of the year full of rotting apples, and leaves a huge swathe of bed behind it completely unreachable and, therefore, covered in bindweed and more rotting apples.

One the other hand, it’s the home of huge numbers of frogs, which we all love.

Finally, the first argument won over, and so — with plans to put a new, smaller pond in place somewhere that’s not under loads of trees — we’ve decided to dig this one out.

Job one: removing the water and re-housing the resident frogs. Which was wildly, vastly more fun than I could have possibly imagined.

We thought we had a few frogs in there. If pushed to pick a number I probably would have settled on five. But, slowly removing all the water in bucketloads, we discovered about 30, including a couple of soon-to-be Mums, their bellies fat with eggs.

The boys and I watched on, impressed, as my husband caught them all in his hands and put them into a bucket of pond water. And then we set off, the four of us, down to the lake in the local park to set them all free for a new home.

The littlest was especially impressed with the frogs, pointing at them and yelling “Rog! Rog! Touch! Touch!” so we soon developed the routine that the hubby would get a frog from the bucket, hand it to the littlest, who then set it free beyond the fence of the pond.

(Where they mostly sat around looking perplexed for an alarmingly long time and I worried that the heron was going to swoop down and eat them at any second.)

By the third trip, we had gathered a bit of a crowd to watch the frog-releasing exploits, and even the sproglet and I gathered up enough bravery to also hold and release a frog of our own. We made a few new friends, had some good frog banter, and my husband was even called “a modern David Attenborough” — which I think made his day week year as Attenborough is his number one hero.

All in all, the perfect way to spend a Sunday.

NB In all the excitement, I completely failed to take any photos of the frog-handling / frog-releasing so instead you’ve got an old photo from a few years back of the frogs in the pond as it used to be (you know, in case you’ve forgotten what a frog looks like while you’re reading this…)

Urban Jungle Bloggers: plant shelfie

Wolves in London plant shelfie

I’d written you a ridiculously whiney blog post to go with these pictures a week or so ago.

It was mostly complaining about the lack of light and how much I had to do at the moment.

“Oh I’m sooooooo busy right now.” “Oh the light is sooooo bad right now.” “Oh I’m soooooo stressed out right now.” Moan, moan, whinge, whinge etc etc.

Anyway, it made for terribly dull reading and besides, any reasons for moaning are all in the past now, for my garden design assignments were completed and handed in on Friday and the sun, the sun, the wonderful sun, has been back out in the sky these past few days (even if only for a few hours).

So I’ve hit delete on that and here I am instead with nothing much to say but just some photos for this month’s Urban Jungle Bloggers.

The topic this month is plant shelfie; a topic I read with glee when the email came round last month.

Wolves in London plant shelfie

My “shelf” (ahem, yes I know it is really my mantelpiece) is currently heaving with succulents. I bought all the plants a few weekends ago at the RHS Frost Fair, a fun-filled day of reindeer-feeding, Christmas wreath making and plant purchasing.

I’m not actually going to keep them all there, in one place, like a crazy succulent lady, but with the rather gloomy weather we’re having, it’s one of the few places in the house that still gets a decent amount of sunlight.

Aeonium | Wolves in London

Succulent | Wolves in London

Succulent | Wolves in London

So, for the next few months, I’ll be crazy succulent lady, gathering all my fat little treasures into a sun-drenched spot. In fact, since I took the photos, I’ve added a few more plants to the collection.

So that’s my shelfie. Do go and check out some others over at Urban Jungle Bloggers; I’m lusting for a seriously increased houseplant collection after reading some of these posts…

Wolf & Ink Christmas card giveaway

Mixed box.jpg

I mentioned on Friday that I’ve been working with my sister recently for her wonderful Letterpress stationery company, Wolf & Ink.

I somehow completely forgot to mention that we’re running a giveaway, starting this week, to win a box of Christmas cards. And wouldn’t it be nice if one of my lovely readers here was one of the winners?!

Five people will win a box of hand printed Christmas cards, all designed and printed by Julia on Gertrude, her vintage Letterpress machine.

Wolf & Ink Reindeer In The Snow 02.JPG

You can enter on any of the Wolf & Ink social media accounts (or all three, if you want to make three entries), by following the account, sharing the comp with someone else and letting us know which cards you’d like to win!

The deadline is midnight on Friday November 27th (aka Black Friday); we’ll select five winners at random the following Monday and ship your cards out poste haste so you’re ready to send them out in December…

If you fancy joining in (and, really, why wouldn’t you, ha ha?) then just head directly to the competition posts here:

This post on Instagram

This tweet on Twitter

And this post on Facebook.

Wolf & Ink_Christmas Dinner Cards_01.JPG

And if you just fancy buying some cards, then head over to the online shop where you can see all these designs and more:

Happy festive preparations, friends! Hope this week has been a good one for you and you’ve all sorts of lovely things planned for the weekend…

Awesome finds at Renegade Craft Fair

Vases by Justine Free

The trouble with attending craft fairs, I find, is you go with every intention to buy hundreds of presents for other people but as soon as you get there you want all the things for yourself.

Just me? Ah.

I don’t go to nearly as many as I used to, due to a combo of having to drag little sproglets with me these days and a far higher density of that sort of event in Hackney where I used to live, compared to here in East Dulwich.

So Saturday’s trip to the Renegade Craft Fair in the Old Truman Brewery was a special effort but oh-so worth it.

I thought I’d share a few of my favourite finds with you in case you’re on the hunt for presents for yourself early Christmas presents too.

(By the way, excuse the slightly crappy pictures — I took most of them on my phone with no decent light.)

Justine Free ceramics

Firstly, my hands down favourite in the room, were these amazing ceramics by Justine Free. I persuaded the hubby to buy me these three single stem vases for Christmas. After photographing them to show you, I’ve had to wrap them back in the bubble wrap and put them away again til December. Still, something very much to look forward to then!

They’re unbelievably tactile, just begging to be picked up. I’m not sure if I will be able to put flowers in them for that reason, or just have them empty on an accessible shelf somewhere in a nice cluster.

Website:; instagram: @justinefree

Animal alphabet

Animal counting by Katie Viggers

B for bears by Katie ViggersWe got these two illustrated animal alphabet / counting books by Katie Viggers. The intention is to give them as a present to someone else’s children… …but I suspect they might just stay with our kids, they’re so blooming lovely.

If you like them, they’re also available as prints and cards. Gorgeous.

Website:; instagram: eightbear

Here be monsters

And I couldn’t resist this “Here be monsters” tea towel by Woah there Pickle. At £9.50, I have to confess I don’t think I could ever skank it up by doing the dishes, so instead I plan to frame it for the kids bedroom.

Website:; instagram: @woah_there_pickle

Grain and Knot chopping board

Grain and Knot chopping board

I’ve spent the best part of the last few years yearning to head off to the hills and whittle spoons, so I couldn’t pass up on the stall of Sophie Sellu, Grain & Knot, which was stuffed full with spoons and other wooden delights. I bought my sister this beautiful beech chopping board for her birthday.

Just getting the website details now, I’ve seen she also runs workshops in London. I shall be off to learn a new skill pronto!

Website: Grain & Knot; instagram: @grainandknot

London print

I also bought my sister’s birthday card, this stunningly intricate print by The City Works. We’d run out of money by the time we reached his stall, so I could only afford a couple of cards, but I’ve since bought the brilliant colouring-in poster for the sproglet online.

Website:; instagram: @thecityworks

Monti by Monti stall at Renegade Craft Fair

Monti by Monti also blew me away – geometric shaped plant stands in simple glass and black frames, that you can hang directly onto the wall. I picked up a few air plants at the RHS Frost Fair the weekend before and I now have the distinct feeling that they absolutely must live inside one of these very, very soon.

Instagram: @montibymonti

Verdantica collage

For a while, a year or so ago, I decided that I wanted to photograph every tutorial for this blog with a tiny person in each photo. Assisting, if you will. (I never saw through on it, because I tend to only actually execute about one in every 500 ideas I have…)

So, I fell head over heels in love with Verdantica’s stall; a selection of little people in scenes inside salt and pepper shakers, compact mirrors or jars. My photos above aren’t very good, but this was seriously one of the very best things I’ve seen in ages, do go to the website to see some much better photos and get an idea of just how awesome they were.

Website:; instagram: @verdantica

Business cards from Renegade Craft Fair

Then there were other stalls that I loved but didn’t photograph and had run out of money to buy anything from, so just had to satisfy myself by taking their business cards. Here are a few more places to visit, if you’re inclined:

Geo-fleur have a range of amazing succulents, cacti and air plants, along with some lovely concrete pots and macramé plant hangers. (I have to confess, I’m not buying into the macramé trend because I am just (just!) old enough to remember it from the first time round…) The plants and pots, though, I love. There are also some Japanese hanging moss ball planters, called kokedama – a trend I am 100% into. I meant to pick something up from the stall (I had actually been insta-stalking them for a while before the fair) but the wallet was dry by the time I got there. I think I’ll have to go and visit their shop in Walthamstow sometime soon instead…

Website:; instagram: @geo_fleur

Cactus Club had a brilliant cactus print that I would have bought had I not been busy arguing its merits with the husband over a whale print that he preferred. In the end, we just had to wander off…

Website:; instagram: @cactusclubpaper

Sarah K. Benning does “contemporary embroidery” for which read the BEST ever embroidered samplers of plants. (See the top right card in the photo above.) I would have insisted on buying one of these, but I had a feeling my husband was remembering the name for another time and I might be surprised with one in future…

Instagram: @sarahkbenning

Hazel Adams business card

I really loved the insect illustrations by Hazel Adams. The hubby’s birthday is in a few weeks and he is a serious insectophile, so I think I might have to buy him one.


Finally, Pygmy Cloud had some utterly irresistible bear and mountain cushions, as well as lots of beautiful wooden cloud shapes. I think the sproglets will probably be finding one of the bears in their stocking each. Father Christmas has excellent taste, doesn’t he?

Online shop:; instagram: @pygmycloud

So, yes, ha! If you’ve got similar tastes to me then I apologise (somewhat) for this deluge of amazingness tugging at your wallet strings. Roll on December, so I can start spending without guilt!

Leaf love

Leaf | Wolves in LondonLeaf | Wolves in LondonGod, but this endless rain is grim, isn’t it? I’ve been rained in for the past three days; I really need to invest in some proper waterproof clothing and shoes this year. (A lament that I make every November and then fail to act on in any way. This year, surely, will be the year I purchase some proper leather boots that don’t let the rain in, so I don’t need to get my wellies out every time it drizzles and then end up with blisters from walking too far in them…)

Apart from moaning about the wet weather, I’ve been spending lots of time recently snapping photos for my sister’s Instagram feed. Regulars will probably remember that my youngest sister has a really beautiful Letterpress stationery company, called Wolf & Ink, where she designs and hand prints loads of beautiful things.

I’m giving her a hand on promoting all of her Christmas cards this year (so, firstly, go and visit! Wolf & Ink Christmas cards) and I’ve got a fabulous box of her work that I delve into and grab something to photograph most days.

Yesterday, after dropping the sprogs off at nursery, I took walk to all the good Autumn foliage trees of the neighbourhood and helped myself to a few leaves to put together a rather nice collage (if I do say so myself, ha ha).

Leaf | Wolves in LondonBut I think my macro lens and plants is turning into a bit of an addiction for me, because I couldn’t resist grabbing my camera and taking a few close up shots as well. Just because.

So, you lucky things, here they are! Glorious Autumnal leaves in wonderful colours.

Leaf | Wolves in Londonyellow leafIn other news, I really do have every intention of writing about something that’s not just gardens / gardening / visiting gardens / garden design / photographing gardens sometime soon. Those who started following me when I was purely a crafts blog are probably heartily sick of all this gardening chat (or have stopped following, of course, in which case I suppose I needn’t worry…)

The combo of a big deadline for my garden design course in a few weeks, along with these bits and pieces I’m doing for my sister has rather put paid to my Thursday blogging time that I was enjoying earlier in the Autumn. But I’ll be back in force before Christmas, I promise, with a range of different articles, just as soon as I have time to write up and photograph all of the trillions of ideas percolating in my brain.

‘Til then, I’m afraid you’re probably going to have to put up with a few more photos of wet trees…

Kew’s tremendous trees

Kew palmhouse in AutumnKew in the AutumnThe hubby excelled himself with my birthday presents this year. Back in September, on the day itself, I got a gorgeous grey wool winter coat from the littles. (Who are still too little to choose their own pressies, I should note…) It makes me feel as if I’ve stepped into a moody French black and white film when I wear it, as if I should be wandering along the banks of the Seine and meeting with lovers. (Though it’s mostly worn to the playground…)

The crowning glory, however, was my present from the hubby itself: a two day photography course at Kew, getting tips and hints on how to photograph trees. Uh-huh, he knows me well.

I took the course in the tail end of last week, in rather crappy, grey, drizzly weather – nothing like the glorious weekend we’ve just had. (Though that did mean I could wear the new coat.) But even damp and mizzling grey British rain can’t spoil the beauty of Kew, nor my enthusiasm for endless course taking, nor my love of chatting with other people about how nice trees are. Oh, and snapping the odd pic in between.

Ginkgo leavesGinkgo trunkOur course tutor, Edward Parker, seemed to live my dream life. He is a one time environmental campaigner, turned photographer, learning as he went on his travels around the world.

He’s now photographed or written more than 30 books (including Ancient Trees and Photographing Trees which are both now on my Christmas list). He works with awesome organisations like the Eden Project, WWF, and the National Trust. And – if that weren’t enough – also runs a “rural centre for creative and sustainable living” in Dorset called Springhead. I know, I know, I totally wanted to hijack his life too.

He also had fascinating facts about loads of the trees we visited in Kew. The ginkgo, above, for example is the oldest ginkgo in the country. He told us that the evergreen oak opposite it was uprooted in the storms of 1987. As the Kew gardeners went round trying to see to the many tree casualties, they righted the oak, only as temporary measure before they had time to fell it properly, but were astonished to see that it started growing in far ruder health than before. (The earth around its roots had become compacted over many years of people stomping above. Coming right out of the ground had brought oxygen to the roots that the tree needed to grow well…)

Red Autumn leafTree trunkFallen leavesAnd, of course, rain or no, the stunning Autumn colours round Kew led to plenty of time photographing hundreds of leaves. In fact, this selection are my favourites from, erm, around 500 photos I took in the space of two days.

Pine tree at Kew Pine branches

So, in all, a most excellent few days photographing trees. Incidentally, if you share my tree love, I heard recently that if you use the tag #treesfortrees on instagram, then the Heart of England Forest will plant a tree for every tag they see. Which is pretty cool.

Relevant info:

  • Kew runs hundreds of amazing-sounding courses, there is more info on their website: Kew short courses (I can’t see another photographing trees one at the moment, but there are various other photography courses over the next few months).
  • You can see some of Edward Parker’s photography on his website: Edward Parker or check out Springhead if you’re in the market for an eco retreat. It sounded really heavenly as he described it.
  • Finally, take a look at Trees for trees for more info on the tree planting.

Inspiration from Beth Chatto’s garden: 9 tips for drought-tolerant planting

Our latest (and final) assignment for my garden design course this year is my favourite so far.

We have to design a gravel garden, inspired by Beth Chatto’s, using plants that are capable of surviving without being watered.

Beth Chatto's gravel gardenI am massively into the whole idea of “right plant, right place” – in other words using plants in situations where they will thrive, so you need to do a minimum amount of care to keep them happy.

Yes, I admit, this is partly because I am quite lazy, but it’s also because I wholeheartedly buy into the sustainable / environmental implications of the idea as well: don’t waste precious water on plants, instead making sure they can live on whatever rainwater they receive; don’t pump your soil full of chemicals to fertilise them, but choose plants that like the conditions you’ve got; and don’t spend ages pruning plants into small shapes, but just let them grow to their natural form. (Though, that’s not to say that I’m not partial to a bit of topiary…)

All these ideas, in fact, are almost a given these days in garden design, but back when Beth Chatto started advocating them in the 1960s they were a radical departure from the manicured, high-labour-intensive, high-irrigation form of gardening that was popular.

A few weeks ago, we took a college trip to see the gardens and had a tour from one of the gardeners there. Now, we’re busy working on our own designs and selecting plants.

Along with sharing some of my photos, I thought it might be interesting to pass on a few tips to bear in mind if you’re planning a drought tolerant garden…

1. No watering…

Beth Chatto's gravel gardenThe ultimate aim of a drought tolerant garden is that you never need to water it. In the gravel garden at Beth Chatto they never, ever water the plants there. Even in the hottest driest summers. Once the plants are established, they survive entirely on rainwater, and never get topped up by a hosepipe.

It’s a liberating thought, both in terms of labour reduction (I find watering things a spectacularly tedious task in the summer, I have to admit) but also because — even when there isn’t a hosepipe ban in place — we should take care of our water usage and be aware that it is a finite resource.

2. …except at the beginning

The only exception to the no-watering rule is for newly established plants. When first plonked into the soil, all plants need to be watered for a while as their roots grow and they settle into their new home.

At Beth Chatto’s garden, we were told that all new plants were watered for the first six weeks while they established themselves in their new position. Of course, if rain is forecast, don’t worry about watering, but if you’ve just planted something and there are weeks of long dry weather, then you will need to irrigate while they get settled.

3. Know your conditions

Beth Chatto bog gardenThe Beth Chatto gardens are located near Colchester in Essex, one of the driest parts of the UK*. The gravel garden is the sunniest, driest part, on the site of what used to be a car park. Plants, obviously, need to enjoy sunshine and drought.

Just around the corner, though, the bog garden is planted in a hollow at the side of a river, where it always damp and the plants need to survive with frequently water-logged roots.

My point? Even within the same garden, you can have all sorts of different conditions. Check the soil type before you plant. Drought tolerant planting does well in dry, slightly arid soils (many of the plants used tend to come from the Mediterranean or other warm locations) so choose the place in your garden that meets these conditions best.

4. Choose the plants carefully

Tips for drought tolerant plantingIf you’ve got good conditions for drought-tolerant plants, the next thing you need is… …drought-tolerant plants. Ha ha, it sounds obvious, but it’s worth pointing out.

Depending on their origin, different plants thrive on a huge variety of different conditions. If you’re planning on having a no water garden, you’ll need plants that are capable of surviving drought. I think I’ll do a whole separate post on some suitable plants, once I’ve finished choosing my favourites for my design, but you can always find good options by searching on websites like the RHS plant finder. Select the full sun and drought tolerant options. On the Beth Chatto website, there is a huge list of suitable plants sold at their nursery that are used within the gardens as well and you (by which I mean, I) could spend many a happy hour browsing through the selections: drought loving plants.

5.Harmony and contrast

Contrasting foliage texture at Beth Chatto's gravel gardenAs a general rule of thumb, great garden design is all about harmony and contrast. You want to use plants that look good together, so you want some of their characteristics to be shared: colour (for example, similar flower colour or a flower the same colour as another plant’s leaf), shape, leaf size, or form, for example.

But it’s really important to use contrast in order to notice all of the amazing characteristics of a plant. So, if you had a plant with big, fat leaves (known as a “coarse texture”in garden design terms) like a bergenia (seen at the front right of the picture above) you could place it next to something with thin, delicate, feathery leaves (a “fine texture”) such as a tall grass like Stipa gigantea, as seen in the photo above.

As we were shown round the gardens, the gardener pointed us to a part that he jokingly referred to as “Beth Chatto by numbers”. It was a line up of a hosta (big, broad, flat leaves), next to a fern (delicate, small, frondy leaves), surrounded by a drift of arching grasses (fine, delicate leaves, with a contrasting arching form). Though each plant had a contrast of form (plant shape) and texture (leaf shape), they all shared the same colour of green, which provided harmony.

To be honest, I think if you knew nothing else at all about garden design, you could still make really stunning, eye-catching displays, just thinking about harmony and contrast.

6. Vary the height.

Eucalyptus treeAnd a final design point: don’t forget to plant upwards! Don’t just use small plants, but ensure you have planting at eye level. Trees are great for bringing height to gardens, as are really big shrubs or climbing plants. Yes, it’s great to go out into the garden and look at the ground and really appreciate all the plants down there, but when you first step out (or look out of your window) it’s really important to have things at eye level, so the space doesn’t look boring.

My favourite of the tall plants at Beth Chatto was this spectacular Eucalyptus dalrympleana. Disclaimer: do not plant a huge eucalyptus if you have a small garden. They are beautiful, but grow very, very tall and may well take your whole house out with their roots…

7. Think about the whole of a plant’s lifespan.

Phlomis seedheadIt’s oh-so-easy to look at pictures of lovely colourful flowers in catalogues, be seduced with their beauty and buy a plant that ends up doing nothing for 48 weeks of the year. Beth Chatto, actually, hardly ever uses flowers, preferring plants with dramatic leaves, shapes, seedheads and so on…

Think about how a plant will look at all points of the year. If it flowers, will the seedheads look good afterwards for the winter months? How will the new shoots look as they push through the soil in spring? Is the bark particularly appealing in winter months on a deciduous shrub?

The more interest a plant can give at different stages of its lifecycle, the more deserving it is of a space in your garden.

8. Leave space for plants to grow.

Planting space: Beth Chatto's gravel gardenBeth Chatto’s style is very much a natural one. Plants aren’t clipped and pruned to resemble odd shapes, but left to take their natural form. And, unlike the traditional herbaceous borders, stuffed full, cottage-style, with hundreds of plants, the gravel garden has plenty of space between plants, allowing them to get bigger, and grow to their natural shapes.

The benefit of this? You need fewer plants (which costs less money), you don’t have to spend lots of your time pruning, plants won’t compete with each other so much for valuable water and you don’t need to be removing plants that have outgrown their spaces. Plus, personally, I think it looks really lovely and evocative.

9. Prepare the beds well

gravel gardenYes, you’re going to need tough plants that can make it on their own without being pandered to. But that doesn’t mean you don’t give them any help at all.

Though they don’t water or fertilise the gravel garden, they do make sure to prepare the beds really well before planting. They dig through the area and add lots and lots of well rotted organic matter (manure or compost or something similar) so that nutrients are retained in the soil.

This is good practice for any type of gardening, to be honest, but especially important if the plants are “going it alone”.

So, phew, the end of a monstrously long post. Congratulations if you made it this far! Hope there was something useful in here. I’ll share some more of my final design and the plants I’ve chosen once I’ve got a bit further along with it all…

* They get around 60cm of rainfall a year, compared to 76cm where I am in London, or 90cm in Bristol where I spent a wonderful, if soggy, four student years and to where I would return in a heartbeat except for the incessant rain…).

Kids craft: no glue conker spiders

DIY no-glue conker spiders | Wolves in LondonI have to confess, I find crafting with the children a singularly stressful experience.

When the sprogs were still babies, I eagerly looked forward to a time when we could make stuff together. Misty-eyed, I imagined rainy afternoons spent bent over the kitchen table, glue stick in one hand, paint brush in the other, as we painstakingly created a magical castle made of nothing but loo rolls, or perhaps a Thunderbirds mountainside and launchpad from papier mache.

(Yes, I think it is possible that these imaginings were based largely on my own consumption of Blue Peter at a young age in the early 1980s…)

In actuality, now the kids are old enough to make things with me, any time spent attempting to craft anything tends to end with someone having a screaming tantrum and throwing a pair of scissors across the room. And it’s not always me.

The sproglet, in particular, just doesn’t like being helped with anything. If he’s making something, he has to be able to do it all on his own. Frustrations arising from necessary parental assistance tend to be high and volatile. Which generally means that gluing anything is out of the question.

And so I give you, the glue-free conker spider, arguably the least stressful thing I’ve ever made with the sprogs and perfect both for Autumnal conker use and a pre-Halloween craft.

It’s incredibly straightforward, but I’ve put together a bit of a how-to below in case you’d like a bit more info…

What you’ll need:

conker spider supplies

For each spider you need a conker, a pair of adhesive googly eyes, two pipe cleaners.

What to do:

  1. Pull the backs off the googly eyes and stick into place.

conker eyes

2. Cut the pipe cleaners in half, to create four small pieces

pipe cleaners

3. Starting with two pipe cleaners, fold them over each other to make a cross

fold pipe cleanerspipe cleaners 2

Pipe cleaner fold

4. And then add in the last two cleaners so you’ve got a star. (If this is a bit fiddly for your child and they’re not keen to wait while you do it, you can also just pull them into a little bundle at the middle…)

Pipe cleaner foldPipe cleaner fold5. Fold over the very edges of the legs so that the spider will stand up

DIY conker spider

6. Using a small bit of sellotape, stick the legs onto the underside of the conker.

Finished conker spider

7. Repeat as many times as you like, until you have a small army of conker spiders taking over your house…

DIY spider conkersPretty straightforward, no? Do let me know if you have a go at this by leaving a comment below. And if you’ve got any tips for minimising child-crafting stress I’d love to hear them…

Poems for boys

Something I particularly love about having boys is their unswerving fascination with natural history, aka bugs, snails, slugs, caterpillars, moths, butterflies, flies, bees, wasps and whatever other hapless creature might crawl, slither or fly in their direction.

Hours are spent out in the garden, closely examining what can be found by dislodging large stones or pouring water abundantly on the flower beds so that the creatures are fooled into thinking it’s raining.

Fascinations and fears seem to be somewhat arbitrary, the eldest convinced that he will be stung by a butterfly at any time (but keen to poke a bee whenever he sees one), the youngest particularly fond of following spiders around for hours, but showing marginal interest at the sighting of a ladybird.

The obsession continues for any bug-related activity too (actually, any animal-related activity is pretty popular): colouring-in books, stickers, stories and so on.

I was particularly delighted, therefore, to find a small poetry pamphlet in my local bookshop* all about minibeasts, titled, rather delightfully, Five Creepy Crawly Poems (contains slugs).

Five Creepy Crawly Poems

The sproglet loves to have them read aloud before bedtime and the first poem in the book, especially, is so pleasing to me I couldn’t resist sharing it with you here, in case anyone else has boys (or girls) who would appreciate listening to such things.

Buried Treasure

I went into the garden.
I dug down in the ground
To look for buried treasure
And this is what I found:

Crawly things
Creepy things
Things with shiny tails
Snails snails snails
Creepy things
Crawly things
Little beady bugs
Slugs slugs slugs.

Richard Edwards


Isn’t it fabulous?

Anyway, I hope I’m not breaking hundreds of copyright laws by writing it up here. If I am, let me know and I’ll take it down again…

The pamphlet is published by Candlestick Press and they have a great selection of other subjects too (the idea is, you send a pamphlet of poetry instead of a card, which I really kind of love…) You can buy them online here: if you’re not lucky enough to have an awesome independent bookshop stocking them in your area.

And if you know any other great poems for boys, please let me know in the comments. We’re having a bit of a poetry moment round here.

*  I’ve mentioned my local bookshop before, I know, but it’s worth a second recommendation in case you’re ever in the neighbourhood. It’s Rye Books (, in East Dulwich, down on Upland Road. It’s an independent, and is packed full with the most appealing books you’ve ever seen. Oh and you can get tea and cake as well, or leave your kids outside having a ride on a space rocket.

Three ways to plant a terrarium

You know the string of hearts plant that I bought last week for my sister’s birthday and then fell in love with so much I became reticent to give it away?

Well, I needn’t have worried, for she is a sister of excellent taste and – at our joint birthday celebration last weekend – she gave me this.

Copper terrarium planting ideas | Wolves in LondonA copper framed terrarium.

Isn’t it a beauty?

I’ve been lusting after a terrarium for some time now, and we both admired some excellent examples earlier this year at Grow London. Wonderful sister that she is, she remembered and bought me my very own.

But with such beauty comes great responsibility. I wanted to make sure I planted it up in a way that worked with its lovely exterior. And though I’ve been studying horticulture in one form or other for three years now, I am still fairly new to keeping houseplants. (Or at least, to keeping them alive…)

So as soon as I got home I jumped on Pinterest and started looking for the perfect planting choices to go inside this little gem.

Here are my three favourite options for terrarium plants:

  1. Succulents

Succulent terrarium
From Wit and Whistle
Succulent terrarium
From Floral Verde

Needless to say, succulents were the very first thing that sprang to mind. Most of the Pin-worthy terrariums that I’ve been lusting after have delicate little plantings of succulents on top.

This won’t work in a sealed terrarium (mine is an open version) as the succulents don’t like humidity and can start to rot, but with a bit of heat and a bit of air flow, they should stay pretty happy.

I absolutely love succulents at the moment (who doesn’t, right?), but after considering it for a while, I decided that my terrarium was too big for my favourite rosette-type  and it would be a bit of a waste of all the vertical space at the top, which could better be filled with a taller plant.

Still, I’ve been feasting on pictures of these fat-leaved delights.

  1. Tillandsia

Tillandisa terrarium
From Centro Garden
Air plant terrarium in a lightbulb
From The hipster home

AKA air plants. This is another great terrarium option, for the obvious reason that they don’t need soil to survive. And soil in a nice glass container can end up looking a bit… …mucky.

In the wild, air plants grow in jungles or deserts, the roots attached not to the soil below, but to the trunks of other trees or rocks. (This can allow them to grow high up in the tree’s canopy and get to sunlight that wouldn’t reach the jungle floor below.)

In terrariums, you can place them onto whatever looks attractive: a few pebbles, a piece of wood, sand: anything that won’t retain too much moisture and cause the plant to rot. Then you just need to spritz it with water every now and again to keep it moist.

Having read up a bit on tillandsia, I am definitely tempted to buy a few, but not, I think, for my terrarium. I think those copper edges might not work so well with the fine, feathery leaves that characterise lots of air plants. And so, on to…

  1. Pitcher plants.

Pitcher plant terrarium
From Apartment Therapy
Pitcher plant terrarium
From Lila B Design

When I came across the photos above I knew that I’d found my dream plant.

I’ve had a passion for pitchers since an old flatmate strung one from our kitchen window when I was in my early 20s, but, I have to say, I have never succeeded in growing one myself.

I bought a lovely hanging pitcher plant from Columbia Road flower market years ago, but killed it off in record time (probably because I didn’t bother to water it with rain water…) Then, when we were living in Hong Kong for six months, I strung our balcony with a variety of different pitchers, but killed them all off before we moved out (probably because I didn’t bother to water them at all, thinking they would get water as they were outside. Of course, as we were in a towerblock balcony, there was no way they were getting wet in the rain…)

Still, I’ve learnt loads more about plants in the intervening years, so, fingers crossed, I should be able to keep them alive this time round.

After a bit of internet research I’ve found the brilliant sounding Triffid Nurseries in Sussex ( who specialise in carnivorous plants. I shall be making a trip in the near future and then will get on with planting up the terrarium. Promise to let you show you pictures once it’s done…

(Oh, and, just so you know, I couldn’t resist that string of hearts either. I went back to the shop I bought my sister’s one and got another for me. It’s sitting on my bookshelves and looking rather wonderful right now.)