When is Asparagus in Season?

Asparagus season ranges from the end of April to the middle of June and supermarkets across the UK are stocking their shelves in abundance!

It’s not an easy veg to grow and is very labour-intensive, they come from the young shoot of a cultivated lily plant and are considered to be one of the finer delicacies of the vegetable world.

Health Benefits of Asparagus

  • Good source of Vitamin K. Asparagus is high in vitamin K, which is the blood clotting vitamin.
  • Contains Anti-inflammatory and Antioxidant properties.
  • Nourishes the digestive tract.
  • Good source of fibre
  • Helps fight cancer.

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Spring Has Finally Arrived!

With what has been an extremely cold year thus far spring has finally decided to spring itself upon us. The snow that was covering the ground has finally melted, the evenings are beginning to get longer and the weather is starting to warm up ever so slightly.
We all know that you can’t keep a good gardener out of the garden for too long before our green fingers start to become itchy fingers. So it’s finally time to get out there and give the garden a good old spring clean.

Where do you start?
Well the shed or the fence can always do with sanding down and a lick of paint to help extend its life and keep it looking nice and fresh.  There are so many new colours of wood stains and different paints all which can be picked up relatively cheap from your local hardware store and really do help preserve the wood.

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What interior design trends are predicted for 2018?

Do you like keeping your home up to date with the latest trends? We have a few tips to make sure your home is always in front of the Joneses!

The kitchen is considered the most popular room in your house, after all the best parties always end in here!  This year there are two distinct trends to keep and eye on; one builds upon last years “metallic” themes and the other adds a twist to 2016’s “grey and sleek” theme. If you are redesigning your kitchen this year then I would recommend taking a look at the “delicate pastel” trends that are starting to emerge on pinterest to get a feeling of how to use the new colours.  A good way of saving money but keeping your home bang on trend is to introduce accessories in the new colours, after all not everybody can afford a new kitchen every year!

Another general tip to keep in mind is that gold is in and other metallics are out. Last years silver should be changed to this years gold! And if you have any copper tones then they are starting to make their way towards the garden to embrace coppers natural and raw roots, so make sure you get ready to move them!

This year, your living room should be exactly that a “living” room! Warm colours are known to bring a cosy feel to your home so add a little heartbeat to your house and introduce golds, reds and browns. Add some large cushions in warmer colours, they’re great for entertaining and won’t break the bank.

The humble bathroom is high on the list this year! In fact searches for “bathroom spa” on pinterest have increased by 269%. Could this year be the time to create a well-designed bathroom that mimics a spa? If you want to give it a go try blending large marble features such as marble tile walls and marble basins, to create a stunning bathroom which oozes relief and relaxation.

For inspiration on your interior design make sure you keep up to date with our hints and tips featured on our Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest pages, simply search “Pretty Maison” to find us.

Why do we give gifts?

Christmas, Birthdays & Anniversaries are all times of celebration and cheer. We are at our most generous during the festive period than any other time of year. But, why do we part with our cash so easily for others during this period.

One of the main reasons we have the tradition of giving and receiving presents is to remind us of the presents given to Jesus by the Three Wise Men: Frankincense, Gold & Myrrh.

Giving presents is a little different today to say the least!  It’s a fine balancing act of spending the right amount of money versus the perfect gift for the recipient? Research is critical to finding the correct gift at the price you can afford, a problem the Wise Men did not encounter!

Today, we give gifts for different reasons. For some, it is a way to celebrate the Christian holy day & for others, it is a special time to let family & friends know that you care & are thinking of them. Often a way to show your appreciation of their support you have received throughout the year.

St. Nicholas was probably the most famous gift giver in history, leaving wonderful presents in shoes that were left outside for children! This is the reason children today hang up stockings on Christmas Eve.

Christmas as we now know it originated from the Victorian era, with families gathering for a feast, to play games & give gifts. To give a gift was an expression of kindness & warmth especially during harder times.

Nowadays in more affluent times, Christmas is all about the gift. With Christmas adverts being shown on every channel & Santa Claus appearing in department stores the focus on buying the perfect gift has never been more important. Macy’s of New York revolutionised Christmas shopping when they stayed open until midnight on Christmas Eve in 1867 encouraging shoppers to pop in for their last minute gifts.

Luckily today we have the blessing of the internet to help with Christmas shopping so you don’t need to brace the cold, you can shop to your hearts content whilst drinking your cocoa in front of the blazing fire. In fact a little bird has told me that www.prettymaison.co.uk has some great little gifts for your friends and family, definitely worth a click 😉

Happy Shopping & Merry Christmas!

How to choose the perfect gift this Father’s Day

fathers day

Father’s Day is a precious time to show your Dad how much you care and how grateful you are for the love and support that he has shown to you throughout the years.

Many people take time to send cards and gifts, visit if possible and spend the day with the special man in their life. Why not take your Dad out to lunch, go for a stroll in the park, a walk on the beach or simply just spend some time together.

I am sure everybody thinks they have the worlds best Dad so what better way to tell him than with a fabulous and thoughtful gift. If you have time you could try your hand at baking him a cake? You could present this in a vintage cake tin to give it the homemade edge.

If your Dad is a budding Monty Don at heart then our seed storage tins make a perfect gift, why not double up with a matching string dispenser!

The most important thing is to think about your Dad and what he would like. It’s not really that difficult, just cast your mind back and you will re-discover a whole new shopping list!

We all have precious memories of our childhood days. Mine include wrestling with Dad (I always won of course!), being buried in the sand every summer holiday, running around the local park with Dad pretending to be Rocky Balboa in training, burnt sausages at every family BBQ and shaving foam fights at Christmas!

Whatever your memories are make sure you enjoy the day with your Dad, take some time to show him you care, enjoy yourselves and create more wonderful and happy memories together.

Most of all have a happy Father’s Day x

Is Spring on the way?

Apparently according to ancient folklore the weather on Candlemas day (February 2nd) predicts whether the winter will continue or Spring is just around the corner.

If the 2nd of February is wet, cold and windy, don’t panic you’re in for a treat and Spring will follow shortly whereas if it’s mild and dry expect another month of cold and harsh conditions because winter is set to continue.

It may feel too early to be thinking about Spring but it is the perfect time for working in the greenhouse. Chrysanthemums, Geraniums and Sweet Peas are ideal to grow from seed and by early March they will start to germinate just in time for the improving light levels.

Cucumber, Tomatoes and Basil are the basis of any great Italian salad, they are simple to grow from seed and February is the best time to get them started in the greenhouse.

If you’ve missed your garden and are eager to get digging then you can sow early varieties of carrots such as Amsterdam Forcing, Broad Beans and Parsnips but you will need to keep them under cloches or in a cold frame, Shallots can also be planted out from the middle of the month and before you know it March will be here and then the work really starts!

So for this month get out in your greenhouse, sow a few seeds and enjoy the relaxed pace of gardening whilst you can!

Tips for Autumn Gardening

autumn gardening

Autumn has arrived! The evenings are cooler, the mornings are crisper and there’s a freshness in the air, but now is not the time to take it easy and rest on your laurels.  Autumn is one of the busiest times in the garden, it’s a time for clearing and preparing for the big freeze. Follow my top tips to get your garden ready for hibernation.

  • Tidying the greenhouse is one of those jobs that is put off until tomorrow, unfortunately tomorrow has arrived! Remove plants, sweep out any debris and disinfect.  (This will keep pests and diseases from growing throughout the winter months). I usually use hot water and Jeyes Fluid for cleaning and disinfecting and whilst you have the solution to hand clean out any pots or seed trays that you will be re-using in the Spring. Make sure you ventilate your greenhouse for a couple of days to ensure everything is thoroughly dry.
  • Once you have mastered the inside of your greenhouse it’s time to move on to the outside! Remove any shading you have used over the hotter months, clean out debris and leaves from the gutters and clean the glass thoroughly to make the most of the sunshine throughout the cooler seasons.
  • Tidy your borders! It’s time to say goodbye to the annuals and add them to the compost heap. Perennials will need to be cut back to around 5cm above ground level and the borders can then be covered with a thick layer of compost or bark chips.
  • If you have a pond or water feature make sure you are prepared for falling leaves. Decomposing leaves can turn water foul and block filters, make sure you cover with a fine mesh to avoid this.
  • Fallen leaves are perfect for making leafmould. This will add structure and organic matter to your soil and is the perfect solution for garden waste. Simply fill plastic bin bags with leaves, punch holes through the sides and sprinkle with water. Fasten the bags with string and leave for a couple of years to breakdown into a crumbly texture that can be added to your borders.
  • Now you have cleared up the leaves it’s time to have a look at the lawn. Most lawns will need moss removing, aerating and feeding. If you have any patches it’s a great time to lay new turf or sow seeds.
  • Before you take it easy and get ready to put your feet up make sure your tools are given the final once over. Sharpen secateurs and shears, wash spades and forks and treat any wooden handles with linseed oil for protection. This will ensure your tools will be ready for action in the Spring, which will be here before you know it!

What to do in the garden in March?

planting potatoesYes it’s March already! As many of you will know this month is named after Mars. the Roman God of War but did you know why? Well March was considered to be the first month of spring when the Roman armies could carry on their military campaigns across Europe, without having to contend with harsh winters and therefore named it after war!

Hopefully March in our time is a little more peaceful and it’s only the gardening we have to war with! March can be an unforgiving month, but it’s best to knuckle down before the growing season begins, after all you reap what you sow (pun intended!).

If you’re struggling to decide what to plant this year, how about the humble potato? What could be more satisfying than the fresh flavour of newly dug potatoes lifted straight from your own vegetable plot? And it’s easier than you think!

Make sure you buy pre-chitted potatoes (if you haven’t already chitted them!), this simply means that they have been left out in a warm and light area to encourage sprouting. The potatoes will be ready to plant out when the shoots are around 1.5-2.5cm in length.

It’s best to plant your chitted potatoes when the soil has started to warm up, usually from mid-March onwards. Simply dig a trench 7.5-13cm deep and add a light sprinkling of fertiliser.

You should be able to harvest around four crops of potatoes using the following planting method.

Crop type time Planting distance Distance between rows Approximate harvest time
First early potatoes From mid March 30cm (12″) apart 60cm (24″) apart 10 weeks from planting
Second early potatoes From mid March 37cm (15″) apart 75cm (30″) apart 13 weeks from planting
Early maincrop potatoes From late March 45cm (18″) apart 75cm (30″) apart 15 weeks from planting
Maincrop potatoes From late March 45cm (18″) apart 75cm (30″) apart 20 weeks from planting

Make sure you handle your chitted tubers (baby potatoes) with care, gently setting them into the trench with the shoots pointing upwards, being careful not to break the shoots. Cover the potatoes lightly with soil.

After a little while shoots will appear, you will need cover each plant with a ridge of soil so that the shoots are just buried. You will need to do this at regular intervals and by the end of the season each plant will have a small mound around it about 15cm high.

You home-grown potatoes should be ready for lifting (and eating) from June onwards depending on the varieties you have chosen. Your first crop ‘Earlies’ can be lifted as soon as they’re ready which is when the plants begin to flower. Your second and maincrop varieties can be kept in the ground much longer, until September, even though the plant itself may well be looking past its best.

A great place to store your delicious potatoes is in our ‘Grown in the UK Bucket’, it not only looks fabulous on your worktop but keeps the soil in one place too!

What should you buy for Mothers’ Day?

mothers day

Mothers’ Day is such a special day, to show Mum how much she’s valued and appreciated, but have you ever wondered where Mother’s Day came from?

Mothers Day (or Mothering Sunday as it sometimes known in the UK) is celebrated all over the world, but at different times of the year and like many traditions began with a religious purpose. Held on the fourth Sunday in Lent, the day was originally a day to honour and give thanks to the Virgin Mary and with the spread of Christianity in the 16th century, celebrations increased and put Mothering Sunday firmly on the map. However by 1935 the popularity of this special day had started to decrease and was celebrated less and less until WWII.

American & Canadian troops felt a desperate need to give thanks to their Mother’s whilst away at war and the British and other European troops soon followed suit, since then Mothers’ Day has become one of the most celebrated holidays making it one of the biggest days for flowers and cards.

But what if you fancy giving something a little different, or your dear ole Mum suffers from hay fever! It is often the most thoughtful gifts that are treasured like adding a photograph of a happy memory to a sentimental frame or why not gift our gorgeous duck family, with Mum fondly admiring her two small ducklings, it is very appropriate for this time of year and will be treasured for years to come.

Or if you fancy being a little creative then traditionally Simnel Cake was given on Mothering Sunday. Simnel cakes are made of two rich fruit cakes that are sandwiched together with almond paste and decorated with eleven marzipan balls on the top representing the eleven disciples (excluding Judas). It tastes absolutely delicious and I’m sure Mum will share 🙂

Tune in next week for my favourite Simnel cake recipe and get baking! If you haven’t got time for Mothers’ Day don’t worry Simnel cake is great for Easter too:-)

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Who was St Valentine?

valentines dayEvery year we show our nearest and dearest how much they mean to us but why do we do this? Don’t get me wrong it’s great to receive a dozen red roses on the 14th of February (and a box of chocolates!) but have you ever wondered where it all started?

Apparently the saint himself is a bit of a mystery. Early stories suggest Valentine wasn’t the god of love or a gigolo but merely a Roman priest in the third century. The ruling emperor of that era decided that men without wives and children made the best soldiers, so he outlawed marriage for young men, this upset Valentine greatly and he continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. Unfortunately his actions were discovered and Emperor Claudius II ordered Valentine to be sentenced to death.

Whilst imprisoned he fell in love with a young girl, rumour has it that this was a jailers daughter who visited him whilst he was incarcerated and just before his death he wrote her a farewell letter signed ‘From your Valentine’ and so the first ‘valentine’ greeting was sent.

The UK now sends over 1 billion valentines cards every year, with women purchasing approximately 85% of all cards. With retail sales of around £978m the commercial side of Valentines day has rapidly increased over the last three centuries making it the second most commercially celebrated day after Christmas.

But how do you go the extra mile and show your other half the meaning of true love? With the personal touch of course!

Why not print off your favourite photo and place it in a simple frame, or simply say it in words with one of our romantic wall plaques.

All in all, if you’re not sure what to give your significant other this year, just make sure you reach out and give them a great big hug on the 14th February and show them you care, although if you want your day to run smoothly I seriously suggest you take a peek at our gifts for Valentines!

Happy Valentines x