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Darling Dahlia

Dahlia (c) Ella Johnston

I couldn’t resist sharing this pic with you. These gorgeous dahlias, so prevalent in the month of August, were actually grown in our garden. There are so many blooms coming from it, we’ve had to cut some for the house in order to let the little blossoms thrive.

Forgive me proper gardeners, I’m still quite new to this. In fact this is our first year of growing dahlias so I’m really pleased with this, having learnt that planting flowers for the garden is all about celebrating the little successes. I’m hoping this wonderful abundance of velvety flower heads isn’t a fluke and we have the same again (or even more) next year.

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Pleasant way to spend a Sunday

Despite the rain this afternoon I’ve had a very pleasant Sunday. Amazingly it was spent generally tidying up the house and, particularly, the garden.

Poppy heads (c) Ella Johnston the past month or so we’ve been enjoying the flowers that late summer has brought us as they mingle among the wildness of dried allium blooms and silvering poppy heads. The latter were starting to look scruffy though, rather than romantic, so today I did a bit of dead-heading and cutting down, which gave me a whole new set of things to display in the house. I like showing off dried flowers as a great, cost-effective way of adding notes of interest to a space; they look very effective as floral arrangements and are a nice way of gently preparing yourself for autumn.

Allium head (c) Ella Johnston

So, that done, I’m also treating me and the good Dr to one of his favourite dishes, a roast tomato and pepper broth with potato, butter beans and greens. It’s warming – perfect for a rainy day like today – but the tomatoes and peppers give it a sweet taste of late summer. Find the recipe here.

Roast Tomato and Pepper Broth (c)


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Easy garden furniture refurb with Americana Decor

Simple garden furniture update decoration at with DecoArt Americana Decor

Last Sunday I got to spend time in our little garden while doing some quick garden furniture maintenance. As you can see above, the folding chairs we’ve had for well over a decade have taken the force of some dismal British winters – and summers, for that matter – first on our London balcony and then here in Wivenhoe. Of course we should have moved them indoors when it rained – but when it rained it was rainy, so we didn’t venture outside. In winter we’d forget about them. Surely we’re not the only ones!

I recently got hold of some really rather lovely Chalky Finish paint from Americana Decor. It’s a matte chalk paint that doesn’t need priming or wood to be sanded down before using – perfect to upgrade an old piece of furniture when you’re short on time (or perhaps just a little lazy). To protect the surface the quick-drying paint is finished with a choice of waxes and varnishes. It really was so simple to apply.

Simple garden furniture update decoration at with DecoArt Americana Decor Simple garden furniture update decoration at with DecoArt Americana DecorSimple garden furniture update decoration at with DecoArt Americana DecorSimple garden furniture update decoration at with DecoArt Americana DecorSimple garden furniture update decoration at with DecoArt Americana DecorThe chair was finished in less than a couple of hours– which left me free to enjoy the late-afternoon sunshine.

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Beginner’s guide to the succulents plant trend

They’ve featured everywhere in style magazines recently, but what exactly is a succulent, and how can make them work for you? Here’s my quick guide.Ella Johnston #drawings of #succulent #plants at

What is a succulent?
They are plants adapted for arid conditions where they might need to store water to survive. To do this, succulents have thick, fleshy leaves. They come from all round the world – cacti from desert regions and Alpine plants that are more commonly seen in garden rockeries. It’s something of a catch-all, umbrella term, however, and sometimes cacti with needles are though of separately. My drawing, above, illustrates some of the common species of succulent – there are many, many variations within each species.

#Succulent plants pictured at
Succulents at Ella’s Place.

Are succulents easy to care for?
Yes. This perhaps explains some of their popularity. They’re easy to pick up from the local garden centre or florist (the ones above came from my local florist and B&Q!). Unlike some plants, they’ll cope with a little neglect. Generally, they like moisture but not being overwatered. Let them dry out completely between waterings and never let the the soil get soggy. If you’re planting outdoors, make sure the soil has good drainage. If they’re in a pot, make sure it has drainage holes in the bottom.

So are they really outdoor or indoor plants?
Some succulents are hardy and fit to survive northern European climates all year round. Some are from tropical regions that need to be looked after indoors over winter. Check the plant label to see which type of succulent you’ve got. Hardy plants can also be grown indoors, of course, and it’s really this that inspires the current trend. They’re great for small spaces and will be happy brightening a windowsill in any room of the house, as well as being a natural point of interest on a vintage sideboard or bookshelf.

How do I style them to look their best?
The fleshy leaves and range of shapes and colours of succulents means they’re already impressive-looking plants. Try grouping them together against a clean background to show off their various forms and textures.

#Succulent plants via

Succulents look great in vintage glassware and ceramics – the silver glassware below reflects the foliage to fantastic effect.

#Succulent plants #vintage at via

The mini terrariums, below, would look great hanging in a quiet kitchen space.

#Succulents #terrariums at via

And here’s my own test for any flower, foliage and plant trend: does it work for a wedding? The answer, as seen below in a table setting, is yes. Stunning!

#Succulent #wedding table setting at via