Spring Into the Garden with Amara

Spring Into The Garden With Amara - French For Pineapple Blog

When the weather is warm we love to spend as much time in the garden as we can in the evenings and on the weekends, and anyone that knows me, knows that I love a cocktail, so a cocktail in the garden makes me very happy indeed.

I'm a firm believer that you should most definitely not save 'best for best'. So yes, you will find me using my best glasses in the garden! Why not use the things that make you happy, every day? Besides, a beautiful glass makes everything taste better. I've been needing to replace our mis-matched and chipped champagne glasses for a while now, and these Aurelia Champagne Saucers are so lovely. I prefer a saucer over a flute, because they feel that little bit more glamorous and special, and these ones have such a classic look.

Spring Into The Garden With Amara - French For Pineapple Blog

To complement and contrast with my champagne saucers (which can definitely be used for cocktails too, and not just fizz), I chose this super handy charcoal Wings tray, because you can never have too many trays. Trays are not only great for carrying your cocktail accoutrements on, but they can act as a stable surface for your drink on the grass too.

Spring Into The Garden With Amara - French For Pineapple Blog

And speaking of accoutrements, I adore the mix of little vessels that I have put them in, which have so many uses. The pretty gold lined, matt white Dauville bowl is perfect for mint leaves, cocktail umbrellas (who doesn't love a cocktail umbrella!), or for housing sugar swizzle sticks as I've done here. It also makes for the perfect beside dish to put your jewellery in at the end of the day.

Spring Into The Garden With Amara - French For Pineapple Blog

I've long loved lettuce/cabbage ware, yet never owned any. This little Bordallo bowl could well mark the beginning of a new collection. The off-white and green options (green not shown but you can find them here) sit really nicely together, so mix it up!

Spring Into The Garden With Amara - French For Pineapple Blog

Spring Into The Garden With Amara - French For Pineapple Blog

Last, but certainly not least is this Skull cup, which may just be my favourite piece. You might have guessed I have a thing for skulls, and this cup is super cute, super cool, and again, it has endless uses. I was powerless to resist! Obviously you can use it as a cup (duh!), but it's also the perfect size for toothpicks or to use as a sugar bowl with a little vintage spoon. But I couldn't resist piling it high with Maraschino Cherries. I think I need a few more of these.

Spring Into The Garden With Amara - French For Pineapple Blog

When I was looking through the Amara website to choose products for this post, I must admit I was pleasantly surprised at how comprehensive it is. Not so big that you get completely overwhelmed with too many choices, but a really impressive and beautifully curated selection of products - I fell in love with so many things! If you don't know them yet, do check them out because I'm pretty sure you'll find lots to love.

Spring Into The Garden With Amara - French For Pineapple Blog

Here are the products I've used for this post...

Spring Into The Garden With Amara - French For Pineapple Blog

Clockwise from top left:

Aurelia Champagne Saucers
Wings Charcoal Rectangular Tray
Dauville Bowl
Bordallo Bowl
Skull Cup

The only thing that would make me happier than cocktails in the garden, would be sitting in this hammock chair whilst drinking said cocktails in the garden. I mean, just look at this...HEAVEN!
Spring Into The Garden With Amara - French For Pineapple Blog

Disclaimer: This post is in collaboration with Amara. I only work with companies that fit with the aesthetic of French For Pineapple and that I think you will like as much as I do.

Garden Plans & New Grass!

Feet on artificial lawn - French For Pineapple Blog

If there's one thing I'm sure of, it's that I'm not a gardener. I like the idea of it, but in reality, it's not something I ever make time for, and when I rarely do, I don't particularly enjoy it. Sure, I LOVE my indoor plants, but that's about as far as it goes. Spiders, bugs, snails and slugs are pretty much all I can think of when I do make myself do a bit of weeding, and as I'm really not a fan of those creatures, my gardening efforts are always half-hearted. I may not be into gardening, but I do want our garden to look pretty, although you wouldn't know that, as over the years, it's become increasingly more neglected and overgrown. I suppose it's been a mixture of a lack of interest and time, but the worse it got, the more I ignored it. I'm pretty good at that.

Our garden is quite big (well by London standards at least), around 50 foot (15 metres) long, by around 15 foot (4.5 metres) wide, but I have come to hate the layout. There's a lot of space, but it's broken up into five sections, making it seem smaller than it is, and it's basically the exact opposite of how I'd like it to be.

The five sections are...

1. A gravelled area directly outside the kitchen doors, that continues around to the side of the kitchen.

2. A large curved garden bed - the main section is about 3.5m x 2.5m, and on the right is a narrow path that leads to the next section, on the left it thins out and stretches along the side of the entire garden, joining up to section 5.

3. A large concrete paved oval section (about 3.5m x 5m).

4. A circular(ish) brick paved section measuring approximately 3m in diameter where the trampoline is.

5. A raised area right at the back, that and can't really be used for anything as it is as it's uneven and slightly precarious.

So, big, but not very user friendly for a family with kids who aren't into gardening. In my dreams, I would basically bulldoze the lot and start again. I think to achieve what I'd like to do would cost upwards of £20,000 here in London, and it's very much NOT on the cards.
Overgrown garden - French For Pineapple Blog
It's a jungle out there! Until two weeks ago, this was our view from the kitchen doors
I decided this summer that there was no point in waiting until a magical 'spare' twenty grand appeared, and that something needed to be done to make the garden work for us better now, not in five or ten years, so I began plotting and scheming to come up with a plan that would make the most difference, but not be out of this world expensive, largely working with what we already have and most importantly, keeping it as low maintenance as possible.

It's not my ideal, but it will drastically transform it, meaning we'll all use it much more. There are three main issues to be addressed...

1. The overgrown plants and trees had become a fox haven, so my husband has started the unenviable task of drastically cutting everything right back. Completely clearing some of the garden beds, and giving us a view right to the back of the garden, which we haven't had for years. There's still a lot to be done, but it's already made a drastic difference and the garden feels twice the size it did. We need to plant some low maintenance and low growing plants (I'm thinking a variety of grasses), quite urgently as the local cats think we've made them a nice toilet. Yeah, nice. I find all the garden bed space quite overwhelming, so I'm trying to think of it in sections to be tackled one at a time.

Drab garden before makeover - French For Pineapple Blog

Overgrown garden - French For Pineapple Blog

2. The gravel outside the back door and down the side of the house acts as a physical (and mental) barrier to the rest of the garden and it has to go. Ideally we'd pave this area, but as we will one day extend into the side return, it seemed like spending money on something that would be trashed in a few years time, so that idea is on hold. I did lots of research into aggregates to replace the gravel, and came up with Paddlestones, which are similar to slate chippings, but larger, and they're tumbled, so they're not unpleasant to walk on with bare feet. Once we've cleared all the garden refuse from the cutting back, we'll clear the remainder of the gravel and get a pallet of Paddlestones delivered and spend an afternoon spreading them over that area. Make sure you order samples if you're considering these, as they vary quite drastically from one supplier to another - some are much flatter and smoother than others.
Drab garden before makeover - French For Pineapple Blog

3. There was nowhere soft for the kids to roll around, or anywhere I liked to sit, so we decided to put artificial grass down in the large central oval paved area in the middle of the garden. That actually happened last week, and all I can say is WOW, what a HUGE MASSIVE AMAZING difference this alone has made. The shot of bright green in the middle of the garden has brought the entire garden to life, and has really spurred me on, to make the rest of it look a whole lot prettier.
Artificial lawn shock absorbing underlay - French For Pineapple Blog
I used a company called Hi-techturf and they were fab (no, this is not a sponsored post!). Ours was a very simple job, and two men completed it in under two hours. Because the turf was being laid directly onto the existing paving, there was no ground preparation involved, they just needed to cover the central drain with gauze that would still allow drainage, level the centre out slightly with some crushed rock, and then fit a 'safe play shock pad'. The area is contained by a small brick wall as you can see in the images, so the pad was just cut to fit.
Artificial lawn being installed - French For Pineapple Blog
The turf is then laid on top of the shock pad, tucked under and secured around the edges with adhesive, then the entire thing is backfilled with kiln-dried sand and worked into the pile with a broom.

This is how much Baxter loved it when he got home from Nursery...
Boy lying on artificial lawn - French For Pineapple Blog

We had a few days of lovely weather just after it was laid, so there was much rolling about, roly-polys, and cartwheel practice done (no, the kids, not me, though I was tempted).
Artificial lawn - French For Pineapple Blog

Artificial Lawn - French For Pineapple Blog

There's still a LOT to be done out there, but it feels great to have made a start. We need to clear all the old plant pots, do a tonne of weeding and planting, and more cutting back, and I might get rid of that hideous plastic slide when Baxter isn't looking - I can't bring myself to put it on the beautiful grass! The trampoline does get used a load, so needs to stay. I wish we could sink it into the ground, but that's probably not going to happen, but we do need to replace it's net and padding which has seen better days. Some solar lights would be a nice touch so we can admire our handy work at night once we're done. We're definitely on our way to a lovely, family friendly garden, that will cost us under £2000.

Garden from above with fake turf - French For Pineapple Blog

So as you can probably tell, I'm now a huge artificial grass fan! We don't have the time (or inclination) to maintain a real lawn, and the weather in this part of the world doesn't make it easy either, so this really is the perfect solution for us. Oh, and let's not talk about the accidental over-pruning of the Weeping Mulberry tree okay?

If anyone has any suggestions of super low maintenance and low growing plants for that massive garden bed, please let me know.

I'll do an update when there's been some more garden progress, but meantime, there's some exciting stuff happening inside that I'll tell you about soon!