A green, green Valentines: 5 DIY presents for plant lovers

5 Valentine's Day DIYs perfect for plant lovers | Wolves in LondonHoly moley, the year suddenly seems to be flying by and we’re into February already. And the start of Feb can mean but one thing: the imminent arrival of Valentine’s Day, that gigantic commercial event to make you part with lots of cash.

I’m not normally a big fan of celebrating Valentine’s (could you have already guessed that?!) but I do love a small, thoughtful, ideally handmade gesture and if there are plants involved, why, all the better!

So I bring you my five favourite plant-related tutorials / ideas for Valentine’s Day.

My hubby is not such a plant lover as I am (read: has no interest in plants whatsoever) but if you have a green-fingered lover in your life, these would go down a treat.

  1. Talking cacti, from Look What I Made

5 Valentine's DIYs for plant lovers
© Look What I Made

Long-term readers might recall my very own cactus saga, but these little cuties are almost enough to win me back round to the spiky beasts.

Because, you know, who wouldn’t want a talking plant? You can see a full tutorial here: DIY plant speech bubbles.

 2. A teacup sweetheart plant, by Joy of Plants

5 Valentine's DIYs for plant lovers
© thejoyofplants

I was first alerted to this adorable heart shaped plant by Gardenista about a year ago and I’ve since seen it popping up all over the place.

Hoya kerrii, to give it its proper Latin name, is festooned with heart-shaped leaves. As it’s easy to propagate, you can take an individual leaf and plant it wherever you want. In this case, on the joyofplants website, in a mug to go with your breakfast in bed.

3. String of hearts plant (model’s own)

5 Valentine's DIYs for plant loversOh, I know, I’m completely obsessed with my string of hearts plant, but… …just look at it!

I don’t think you’d need to do much more than tie a bow around a pot of one of these to make a really glorious present.

You can see a few more pictures of mine on my first Urban Jungle Bloggers article, plants and art.

4. A heart-shaped garden pond

5 DIY Valentine's for plant lovers
© Baron’s Palace Hotel

Lovely readers, if any of you have been burning with unrequited love for me recently and are looking for a way to show me that you care then may I eagerly suggest creating one of these amazing carved stone ponds?!

I suspect only a professional stonecarver could whip one of these up in time for the 14th but, my goodness, wouldn’t this just be amazing out in a garden? I love the idea of it filling up with rainwater after a heavy downpour.

I found this on Pinterest and spent ages trying to trace its original source. I *think* that it is from the Baron’s Palace Hotel in Oudtshoorn, South Africa. A place that was, according to its website, built by a wealthy “ostrich baron” at “the turn of the century” (by which, I assume, it means 19th to 20th and not just 16 years ago. Though I might be wrong…) Anyway, the image seems to come from this Facebook post. And I am now dreaming of taking a trip to the Karoo, a place I barely knew about before, and watching some kind of ostrich-based sport like this. The wonders of the internet, eh?!

5. My life would succ without you, by See Kate Sew

5 Valentine's DIYs for plant lovers
© See Kate Sew

Ah, succulents, what celebration would be complete without them? And I love a pun almost as much as I love a succulent, so this could well be the perfect gift in my eyes…

The tutorial comes with a free printable for the cute labels too, check it out here: See Kate Sew.

Now, tell me, do you have plans for Valentine’s Day this year? Oh, and if you’re in the mood for a non-plant-related DIY, then do check out my top 10 Valentine’s tutorials as well…

 

In the garden: January

What a weird weather January it’s been so far.

I have to admit, I was not one of those welcoming the cold snap a few weeks back with open arms. Nope, my arms were huddled inside three trillion layers of clothes, wearing gloves, sitting under a blanket, clutching a cup of hot chocolate in front of the fire.

I really hate being cold.

Magnolia flower bud

I was concerned that the garden might find it similarly hard to adjust after such an incredibly warm winter so far. Magnolia buds had appeared unseasonably early and started to unfurl a few weeks ago. I was sure they’d get frosted and drop off last week, but — lo and behold — they seem utterly nonplussed by the minus temperatures and instead the first flowers have come out. In January!

(A few years back I was seeing the magnolia tree come into flower in May, so this is five whole months in advance. A most bizarre winter…)

CrocusSnowdrop | Wolves in London

In the back garden, all of the Winter and Spring bulbs have put their heads above ground at once. A host of purple crocuses had appeared to greet me on my return from a weekend away.  (We were house-hunting in Wiltshire, about which I had a huge chat and lots of brilliant advice over on this instagram photo…) Crocuses normally appear significantly after the snowdrops, but both are out right now, as are my first Tete-a-tete daffodils, which are cheering up the window boxes in front of the house.

DaffodilsDaffodil window box

What will happen once March actually arrives, I’m not quite sure.

The alstromerias are seriously confused by the weather as well. They should be in flower in summer and autumn, yet buds have been appearing already. Are these late bloomers from last year or early bloomers from this year? I suspect they don’t know either.

Alstromeria | Wolves in London

Finally, I’m almost embarrassed to put in this photo but, yes, my wallflower (Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’) is, as ever, in flower… When I first bought this I wondered if it was going to live up to its RHS AGM (which stands for general merit award or some such, and not annual general meeting) but a plant that flowers pretty much non-stop the entire year has to be good in anyone’s books.

Wallflower | Wolves in London

Generally, though, there’s not a huge amount to show you this month, as the garden is mostly mud, mud, glorious (and sometimes frozen) mud, after we pulled the greenhouse down, and started to mark out new flower beds.

I’m getting properly excited about planting it all up next month or the month after. I keep vacillating on the colour palette I’m going to choose, veering between whites, pinks, blues and greys (basically, a bit restrained but good for making a smallish garden look bigger) or some amazing lime greens and deep reds, taking inspiration from the colours of the stunning Euphorbia martini in the photo below.

Euphorbia x martini
© Crocus

I suspect safe and boring will win out, especially as we might be looking to try and sell our house fairly soon anyway. Ah well, if we do buy somewhere with a big garden, I can test out exciting colour combos to my heart’s content!

Joining in with the ever lovely Annie of Fable & Folk and How Does Your Garden Grow. Incidentally, my plan for 2016 is to share a garden post with you every month and, hopefully, by the end of the year I’ll have a glorious garden worth photographing in full, rather than just these endless plant close-ups…

Experiment: growing succulents in water

1012 Terra
© 1012 Terra

I found this stunning photo on Pinterest (where else?) a little while ago.

It’s of a sort of terrarium-slash-vase called the 1012 Terra glass vessel (you can buy it here) and is made by a Japanese duo called Daisuke Tsumanuma and Kenichi Yamada. I have been lusting for such wondrousness in my house ever since seeing it.

At around £60 per single vase and factoring in the need to post it from Japan, my dream of having a row on the mantelpiece seems a little unlikely. But that’s not the only problem with this picture.

See all those plants? All those succulents and cacti? With their roots growing right in the water? Hmmm, exactly. Succulents and cacti thrive in desert conditions with hardly any watering at all, so I was a bit surprised to see them sitting there, apparently healthy, in permanent deep water.

After a bit of Googling, I came to the conclusion (as had many others, it seemed) that the photo was simply that, a nice photo to sell the terrariums, rather than a serving suggestion for succulent growing.

But then I found one tiny little internet discussion thread that seemed to suggest you could, in fact, propagate succulents straight into water and they would then grow special “water roots” which would be different to normal roots and they could stay in the water forever. Could such a thing be true?

I plan to take some cuttings from my succulent collection and give it a go. The plan is just to suspend a leaf slightly above a glass of water and see if the roots happily go down and grow there. Nothing more complicated than that!

If it does work, then I shall move the water-grown succulents into my lovely new Monti by Monti vases, a present from my husband for Christmas. They’re gorgeous (see below!) and just waiting for the perfect inhabitant.

Monti by Monti vases
© Monti by Monti

I’ll let you know how I get on…

The bottom of the garden

What will go at the bottom of the garden? Endless hours, days and possibly even weeks have been spent pondering this dilemma in the three years we’ve lived in this house.

Our house renovations / remodeling / decorating / re-decorating where the kids have drawn on the walls are almost finished. (Yes, I know I’ve been promising pictures for the best part of three years and just as soon as I manage to have a single room tidy enough to photograph I will grab my camera and snap away…)

So now we’ve moved onto the garden. After similar pontifications on the fate on the pond, we finally decided to get rid of it, and the biggest two-thirds of the garden are in the process of being dug out and re-planted in time for next spring.

But the bottom third currently still has my old greenhouse in it and I am still, still undecided about what do with it.

Let me tell you the options in the hope it helps me come to a decision.

Option one: replace the greenhouse with another, smaller greenhouse and surround the greenhouse with raised veg beds.

Allitex greenhouse at Hampton Court show | Wolves in London

Aka, the sensible option.

I love my giant greenhouse but it is too big and too dangerous to keep (I found that one of the shelves is made of asbestos the other day and the glass panes have a tendency to drop out of the sides and smash). Plus, I don’t really use all of the space for growing plants, but a lot of it for storage.

So, obvious answer: replace it with a small greenhouse and a small shed (even better: a combination of the two) and then surround the area with raised veg beds and I can keep on with all my vegetable and fruit growing. Which I also really love.

Cons: erm, none really.

(Okay, I know that the greenhouse above, which I photographed at Hampton Court Flower Show a few years back is surrounded by flowers, not veg, but imagine artichokes in place of the blooms and that’s basically what I’m aiming for…)

Option two: install a cool pod-style studio.

Ecospace studio

At the moment, the kids are in one of our three bedrooms, we’re in the other and the final one is a spare room slash study. Which means, in practice, a double bed that hardly ever gets slept in is surrounded by endless bits of paper and books and all the other dross that I need for my garden design course or that won’t fit anywhere else in the house.

I have my eye on one of these awesome studios by ecospace (website: www.ecospacestudios.com), which would look really cool at the end of the garden, and I could use for working on all my assignments and into the future if I start my own garden design business. Perhaps we could even put a small daybed / sofa in there for people to sleep on if they come to stay.

Cons: The expense is by far the biggest one. I am finding the website a bit hard to read properly, but it looks like it would cost around £20k for a studio the right size for our garden. Which, sadly, I don’t have sloshing around a bank account at the moment. Also, the fact that it might be a bit lonely working at the end of my garden. It might not be the most fun for people sleeping over in the winter months to have to use the bathroom in the house and then walk down the path in their PJs and slippers in the freezing cold / drizzling rain to go to bed.

Option three: pigs. Of course!

Micropig
© Petpiggies

So, erm, I just discovered that the minimum amount of space you need for a micropig is 36m2. And, guess what, the space at the bottom of the garden is… …36m2.

A match made in heaven?

Oink oink, I think he’s just snorting, “Buy me Sabrina, buy me!”

Cons: the husband is not convinved this is a “sensible option.” He just might have a point.

Well, written out like that it’s clear what the winner is. Anyone have any last ditch arguments to swing it over to the pigs side?!

Urban Jungle Bloggers: planty wishes for 2016

Ladder of plants | Wolves in LondonHouseplants | Wolves in LondonJade | Wolves in LondonI’m a bit late with the December post for Urban Jungle Bloggers. As the eagle-eyed among you will have spotted, it’s not actually December anymore.

But the theme for the month is planty wishes for 2016 and I love it so much that I can’t miss the chance to join in, even if it’s nearly two weeks belatedly.

My planty wishes for this year are very simple: I just want more plants!

Lots and lots more plants.

Houseplant ladder | Wolves in LondonHouseplants | Wolves in London

To represent my plantopia, I’ve gathered together every single plant I have in my house and put them all into one place. (That place being a rather lovely old wooden ladder…)

Essentially, this is the look I want in every single room of the house by the end of the year. Ha ha, does that sound a little bit crazed?!

I need to work out positions for the plants where they can’t be too destroyed by the children, as well as simply buying quite a few more plants in the next few months, but that’s just the practicalities to figure out before I can achieve the dream!

Watch this space, friends, 2016 is set to be the year of the houseplant chez Wolves in London.

On the blog: plans for 2016

String of pearls plantI didn’t go to the inaugural Blogtacular in 2014 (I was busy pushing a baby out of my lady parts at the time) but I saw one quote from it repeated time and again:

“You will always have more ideas than time… …and that’s alright.”

It resonated with me as much as it clearly resonated with everyone else too. Phew! I thought. It’s not just me…

But 2015 on the blog was the year where I had lots of ideas but so little time that, actually, it didn’t really feel alright.

I started the year bursting with plans: ideas for new blog series, thoughts for fascinating articles, inspiration for stunning photos and oh, y’know, hundreds of amazing genre-busting things I was going to do with my blog. (Okay, that last part is a slight overstatement, but you get the drift.)

But my time felt more pinched than ever before and the huge majority of plans fell by the wayside.

So 2016, I hope, will be the year to resurrect some old ideas and start some new ones too. What can you hope to see on Wolves in London if you drop by in the next 12 months?

Gardening

I started my Gardening A-Z last January, full of excitement and with the intention of writing a fortnightly article explaining something about gardening. I got as far as, erm, the letter D. Not, I hasten to add, for lack of ideas or things to write about, but simply because I was finding it really hard to take a photo I could use for my article on “earthing up”…

I plan to resurrect (and hopefully finish!) the series this year, which I still feel as excited by 12 months later from the original plans.

Also, in a few days time, I am starting the second year of my garden design diploma. Last year was all about plants, this year is all about the “principles and practice” of design itself. I’m thinking of running a series about designing your own garden (in fact, I have had the first few articles written for a few months now) so if you’re hoping to overhaul your garden in 2016, look out for my thoughts on inspiration, designing, planning and planting your space.

Craft

Well, 2015 was not a year of great crafting, it must be said. But my recent reacquaintance with my knitting needles led to a flurry of hats knitted up before Christmas and a jumper for the sproglet is currently in process.

Friends, I must share both photos and chats about such things with you far more often!

But not just knitting; I finally have a permanent desk in our spare room where I can work and sew. The sewing machine is out of the attic and I am determined to get back in the sewing vibe again in 2016.

Wolves in London at home

We’ve been in our little Victorian terrace in SE London for more than three years now and have been almost permanently renovating that whole time. And yes, it’s true, we’re still not finished (I must get round to painting that hallway still) but the majority of the rooms are more or less there. And long-term readers will know that I’ve been meaning to share some room tours for a while now, so that is definitely on the cards for the springtime, once there is actually a bit of light back in the house again.

And the last one is definitely the hardest to achieve…

A bit more Sabrina

I realised a while ago that all of my favourite bloggers regularly include such amazing things as… ….photos of themselves!  I know, who would have thought it? Imagine reading a blog and actually have more than a vague awareness of what the blogger writing it looks like. Some people I have seen, the revolutionaries we might call them, even have photos of themselves in their sidebar! Futuristic or what?!

I mock, of course, because I think I have only three photos of myself on this blog anywhere*, and it’s something I have been meaning to address for a while now. When I’m reading other blogs I like to know who is talking to me, rather than just a faceless collection of words, so it’s only fair to assume others might want the same from me.

Why so few photos here so far (an average of one for every year I’ve been writing the blog, ha ha)?

It’s not just that I never think I look nice in any photo ever, but also because there is nobody around who ever takes a photo of me. I am always the one with the camera.

So this year, I am determined to have a crack with some self-portraits using my tripod and the self-timer on my camera. Cue much awkward posing and discomfort, I am sure.

Sooo, them’s the plans. We’ll see how many I manage to follow through with, but if any of that sounds like your cuppa, then please do visit back again. And of course, finally, a big thanks for checking in here and reading my frequently overly-long thoughts on life, the universe and everything. May 2016 be a wonderful year for you!

*Fact-finders, there is one on my About page (which is taken from my wedding), one with me wearing my homemade maxi skirt, and one of me pootling about in Hong Kong which is now more than four years old.

Over on Pinterest: houseplant heaven

Houseplant heaven | Wolves in London
Helsinki botanical garden © Ukkonooa

Since joining in with Urban Jungle Bloggers these past few months, I’ve been seriously bitten with the houseplant bug.

I’ve got to confess, for a long time I thought houseplants were a bit 70s. A bit naff. A bit macramé pot holders (though they, of course, are now massively back in fashion…) And, most of all, a haven for endless dust.

These days, though, I’ve got a “more is more” philosophy on plants in houses. My collection of ferns in the bathroom has outgrown its spot and been moved to new positions throughout my home. A recently acquired hoard of succulents sits on the mantelpiece. And upstairs, I’ve got some lovely little tillandsia in glass baubles, waiting to be strung from an old branch.

Houseplant heaven | Wolves in London
© Decorating with Plants, Time Life Books 1978 via Supreme interiors
Houseplant heaven | Wolves in London
© Sunset ideas for Hanging Gardens, 1974 via The Secret Garden blog

But not enough! Not enough! I crave ever more interesting and new ways to introduce houseplants (the weirder, the better) to my relatively dark and small Victorian terrace.

I’ve been pinning away some of my favourite images for inspiration to a new board, Houseplant Heaven. Do go over and take a look if a green indoor oasis is your style too, you’ll find the photos in this post, plus many many more…

Frosty mornings and blue skies

Plane on a winters day | Wolves in London

I do love an overnight frost and sun the next day. If only for the amazing ice shapes you can get out in the garden.

Cracked ice | Wolves in London

Frozen leaf | Wolves in LondonFrozen bubbles | Wolves in London

I snapped a few last weekend, delirious with excitement to see the sunshine. (While the poor old hubby was working away on the pond removal job…)

A few apples failed to fall off the trees and are just hanging on and rotting away. They’re irresistible to the parakeets from the park, who swing by, shrieking away, and grab a few bites, before retiring to a neighbour’s birch tree, which is their preferred resting place. We should probably count ourselves lucky they don’t like to perch here.

Rotting apples | Wolves in London rotting apple rotting applesIn the beds, my hardy old wallflower (Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’) is still putting out new flowers, even now in December. The Mexican daisies (Erigeron karvinskianus) are hanging on strong too; they’ve increased hugely over the last year and are dripping over the low stone wall looking as wonderful as I had imagined they would.

Wallflower | Wolves in London Mexican fleabane | Wolves in London

We’re taking the opportunity of the pond removal to get rid of an old, brown, shaggy, overgrown conifer that was planted behind it, and the great streams of ivy that were growing up it. We’ve battled ivy before, and I know now that the only possible answer is glysophate on the stump, but I really hate to use chemicals in the garden. Still, it’s either that or spend the rest of our weekends endlessly cutting it back in the hope it finally gives up.

It’s great for the birds, of course, and I love the look of the amazing seedheads, but it soon gets a stranglehold and kills off all its neighbours.

Ivy berries | Wolves in London

The magnolia in the front garden already has those adorable fluffy buds, and it reminds me that soon enough Spring will be here once again. I’m not really a fan of winter, I realise as I get older. I love the clear, crisp, blue sky days, of course, and the rare moment of snow, but the lack of sunshine really gets me down and I feel increasingly lethargic and sluggish as weeks pass by with only grey skies and rain. I’m sure it’s something to do with age, I don’t remember giving two shits about lack of sunshine in my 20s. I was probably too busy going out drinking in trendy clubs and sleeping in late. Sigh.

Magnolia buds | Wolves in London

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
Aeonium

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…