Fabulous outdoor planters (and more) from Cox & Cox

Now that the evenings are getting lighter (yay!) and Spring bulbs are bringing colour to parks and gardens, I'm starting to be tempted out into the garden again. I've shared the plans I have for our allotment and my seed order is being finalised, but what about my garden?

I've mentioned before that our garden is a mature one, with lots of shrubs and so it's predominantly green. The challenge I have is to introduce colour to keep MOH from wanting to rip the whole garden out and start again. But because the trees and shrubs are large traditional bedding plants aren't always that successful, and let's be honest sometimes they have that municipal feel, don't they?

I've found though that pots are a great way to introduce colour, as not only can you control the soil (and not dig into a tree root) grouped together they can bring height and interest into the garden. 

And the pots don't have to be boring either. Just look at these, which are just a selection of the new range from Cox and Cox:
BIRCH EFFECT PLANTERS, PHOTO CREDIT COX & COX

BIRCH EFFECT PLANTERS, PHOTO CREDIT COX & COX

RUSTY NESTING PLANTERS, PHOTO CREDIT COX & COX

RUSTY NESTING PLANTERS, PHOTO CREDIT COX & COX

The three above aren't quite what they seem either. They're not stone as you might think, but fibreglass so they'll be easy to move around the garden, even when they're planted. The finish of these emulates silver birch, and I like the texture and age that gives. 

GALVANISED FLUTED TROUGH, PHOTO CREDIT COX & COX

GALVANISED FLUTED TROUGH, PHOTO CREDIT COX & COX

Or there's the rusty planters, aren't they a gorgeous colour? For me they also prove that a simple design is a winner too. 

Troughs to edge a path

I have a small path alongside my greenhouse and I've been on the lookout for some low-level planters to help soften the edges of greenhouse. But I don't want something so big that it blocks the light to my seeds and plants busily trying to grow in there. 

My plan is to grow herbs here so when I brush past I'll catch their scent. Again I'm drawn to the simple design of this zinc trough. They'd look equally good with cheery spring bulbs in too, and as window boxes.

 

AGED ZINC MILK CHURN, PHOTO CREDIT COX & COX

AGED ZINC MILK CHURN, PHOTO CREDIT COX & COX

Definitely not boring

Remember that I said your planters didn't need to be boring?

Well, how about a milk churn - I think it'd look great with some cheery daffodils sprouting from the top.

It'd certainly bring a smile to my face.  Although it's too late to plant Spring bulbs now - usually I plant mine in the autumn using the lasagne approach - it's not too late to add some Spring colour to your garden.  

You can pick up ready grown bulbs relatively cheaply in the supermarkets and garden centres. My bargain hyacinth last week cost just £1.49.

Or you could think a little further ahead and plan some fabulous summer displays. 

 

AGED METAL BIRD CAGES, PHOTO CREDIT COX & COX

AGED METAL BIRD CAGES, PHOTO CREDIT COX & COX

And just because... 

I couldn't resist sharing these metal bird cages, while they're not planters as such they're definitely on my wish list. I know though I'll have a job to convince MOH we need them.  

Sigh.  

His argument, after the what are we going to do with those, would be where would we put them? And he'd have a point. I'd love to say in the conservatory, and to have that kind of conservatory. You know the airy sort that you see in stately homes?

Our conservatory has a little way to go - we're currently using ours as a bike store and general dumping area, so it's a campaign I'll leave until I'm on stronger ground. 

But who knows, maybe one day...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Bit Of Everything


This is is a collaborative post with Cox and Cox, but all opinions are my own 

To drive, or not to drive?

That is the question - or at least it's a paraphrased question I've been pondering about getting to France.  Let me start at the beginning or else you'll think I've gone completely mad. 

At the start of the year MOH and I agreed this summer we'd like to cycle along the Loire Valley. It sounds idyllic: sunny days, multiple chateaus, cycling that's not too challenging and of course French food and maybe the odd glass of red, or two. The area is well set up for hosting cyclists and we already have plenty of information on how we can book a route we can tailor to suit exactly what we want to do. 

That part seems easy enough. Sure it'll need some planning and thought, but like I said, easy enough once we start. 

maps car key or cycling helmet

The part that's giving me cause for more pondering is how we actually get ourselves - and our bikes - to France, as ideally with France being so close we'd like to cycle our own bikes. And rather than having our luggage transported by taxi, this year we plan to carry our luggage in the shiny, new panniers we bought in the January sales. That's likely, of course to bring a packing conundrum but that will be much nearer the date of our departure!

To get us to France there are basically a couple of options:

  1. Strap the bikes to the back of the car and head over - or under - the Channel in the usual way.
  2. Leave the car at home and travel with our bikes by train all the way to Tours or Angers (whichever we choose as our start point)

Each has benefits, and drawbacks though... 

By bike

Benefits

  • We'll be taking our bikes on a train, which will be pretty exciting.
  • By taking the train to Lille and changing there we should avoid the need to cycle across Paris to change trains...
  • We can relax during the train journey, in a way I wouldn't be able to while driving.
  • We can travel to Tours and back from Angers, or the other way round.
  • It'll be quite an adventure, really!

Drawbacks

  • Cycling across Paris between stations doesn't really appeal in much the same way as cycling across London wouldn't either.
  • We will have to carry everything we need, and there will be less capacity to bring wine home with us.
  • The journey time to reach Tours/Angers is likely to be lengthy.
  • We will most likely need to book onto a specific train and stick with that booking, no getting on an earlier one because we've arrived at the terminal early.

By car

Benefits

  • We're travelling by car!
  • We'll have extra capacity for luggage, especially on the way back.
  • I've driven in France before, so have all the necessities, such as spare bulbs, breathalysers, high-vis jacket and such like to stay legal.
  • The total journey time will, I expect be less than by train, though I'm happy to be proven wrong on this.
  • Did I mention we'll be travelling by car!

Drawbacks

  • We'll have to plan a circular route to end up back where we've parked the car. 
  • We'll need to find somewhere to park the car for the duration of our cycle tour.
  • I'll have to drive the whole way to Tours/Angers, as MOH doesn't drive so will need to include some breaks into our schedule.
  • We'll need to be au-fait with the French legislation about carrying the bikes on the back of the car, not a big one but better to be in the know.

 

So there's my conundrum.

The Accident Advice Helpline have put together this handy Travellers Guide to Driving Etiquette for Driving in France which I think I'll be consulting further, along with the advice for travelling with bikes by train before we make our final decision.  

But what would you do?  And is there anything you've thought of that I've missed, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

 

A Bit Of Everything


This is a collaborative post with Accident Advice Helpline but all words are my own.

Dinner & Lunch: A reduced cooked chicken

The other weekend we were in our local supermarket looking for inspiring sandwich fillings for our lunches the following week, when we spotted a cooked chicken reduced to £4. Realising it was way cheaper than the sliced chicken "designed" for sandwiches and even cheaper than the chicken thighs we'd usually buy, it went straight into my basket. Don't get me started on why that is...

Our plan was to use it for lunches, but to use it more quickly than we would a non-reduced chicken or one we'd cooked ourselves. Making soup and freezing that seemed a good option, and would bring a welcome change to sandwiches again...

The next day I set about making some stock from the carcass to form the base of my chicken and vegetable soup. I used this recipe - Chicken Garden soup -  by Jamie Oliver as my guide, but through circumstances such as a lack of celery and parsley adapted it by including coriander stems and other aromatics instead.  Along with the stock ingredients I added a couple of whole unpeeled garlic gloves, an inch or so of ginger, half a red chilli (unchopped) and a couple of star anise. 

The rest of the recipe was pretty much the same, except I excluded the spinach as I wanted to freeze the soup and I thought it might go a bit slimy. And it turned out well. I was surprised when this £4 chicken made four portions of chicken and vegetable soup, and two 500ml of chicken stock which I've also frozen for use another day.

There was clearly too much chicken to use in the soup, so I used the chicken breasts which I'd removed in a single piece in fajitas, along with red onions and red and yellow peppers. There was still enough meat for sandwiches and I mixed up some quick Coronation Chicken for these - see my recipe below. Then we finished the last of it off in a chicken and broccoli frittata. 

For £4 that chicken provided a lot of meals, and I was reminded how easy it can be to "cook once, eat twice" at times - even if we didn't actually cook this chicken in the first place!  

Clearly though it was the day for bargain chickens, as in my local butchers he was selling three small chickens for £9.50, so I've a feeling I'll be sharing some more Dinner & Lunch ideas here in the forthcoming weeks.

My Quick Coronation Chicken

2 tbsp light Mayonnaise
2 tbsp Greek yogurt
1 tbsp Korma curry powder (or to taste)
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
Ground black pepper (to taste)
1 tbsp Mango chutney
Sultanas (to taste)
Flaked almonds (to taste)
Shredded cooked chicken

Method

Mix the Mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, curry powder, cinnamon, black pepper and mango chutney together and check it's to your taste before adding the sultanas, flaked almonds and cooked chicken. Ensure the chicken is covered in the sauce and serve in your roll, sandwich or wrap.

Makes enough for four sandwich wraps

Enjoy! 

 

What's your favourite thing to do with leftover chicken?

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A Bit Of Everything