SPOTTED – the first winter violas – chocolate cake with edible flowers…

We had a day off yesterday for the Bank Holiday, when, of course, it rained, but at the weekend we had our village fair in the dappled sunshine which was excellent. It is lovely to meet up with neighbours and friends and have a good old chat on the village green with a slice of something decadent from the cake stand. I did, however, miss out on grabbing a slice of the cake I made – a chocolate cake with edible flowers – with the first of the new winter flowering violas and pansies.

chocolate cake with edible flowers

We love using edible flowers in our recipes – in salads in summer, and in ice cubes, but the best way is to top a dark and lush chocolate cake with edible flowers.

Plus, the dark chocolate ganache of the cake sets the colours of the flowers off beautifully. We chose violas and pansies, which have a beautiful range of colours, shapes and sizes and look very sweet on the cake. The purple also goes very well with the chocolate (and the scattering of purple edible glitter too).

We used both violas and pansies on the cake, including the smooth variety and the new ‘ruffled’ pansies, which gave a bit more interest. And if you pick the flowers, they will produce more, so do not hold back for edible decorations for your cakes.

Fancy something else for your own chocolate cake with edible flowers? Why not try (the very last) rose petals, both wild rose / japanese rose or your own from your garden, or perhaps a bright and brash fuchsia ballerina flower – or the fruit pods?

And don’t forget lavender, which is simply stunning on (and in) any cake…

(photo by claire potter)

SPOTTED – structures in Arundel Castle Gardens…

Last week we had a very rare day off to visit Arundel Castle for the medieval tournament (which was fantastic) but as well as watching the most magnificent jousting and sword fighting, we also had a very lovely tour of the gardens. We have already spoken about the inspired allium and lavender planting combination that we spotted in the cutting garden, but today we are looking at a few of the structure in the Arundel Castle Gardens

First up is this wonderful green oak arch / walkway that features in the Collector Earl’s Garden, which is beautifully simple, yet also a very accomplished piece of timber structuring.

arundel castle gardens 1

Framing views, the archway and dome provide both focal points and a touch of shade in the otherwise exposed Italianate styled garden. This is a key top tip for spaces of any size – if the eye sees everything at once then a space can feel uninteresting or even a great deal smaller than it actually is. By framing views and breaking up the expanse you create increased interest in any space, whilst also having the opportunity to direct a focus in any direction you choose, such as towards a sculpture or even the view beyond.

arundel castle gardens 4

The timber structures in the space continued with a quite incredible wooden folly, decorated with antlers.

arundel castle gardens 6

And also the fantastic Oberon’s Palace, which featured fountains and sculptures and was surrounded with large terracotta pots filled with cool coloured Agapanthus.

arundel castle gardens 5

But the structures continued into the cutting and edible gardens too, with the imposing green oak arched walkway being reflected in an apple archway, which not only provided a productive architectural element to the second part of the gardens but visually tied these very different spaces together.

arundel castle gardens 2

Covered with (we think) Ashmead’s Kernel, the apple archway also allowed framed views of the historical buildings of Arundel…

arundel castle gardens 3

The Arundel Castle Gardens are all accessible within the entry level ticket and, in our opinion, are one of the huge highlights. There is a stunning amount of variety, and at this time of the year, they are also abundant with flowers and fruits. Plus, the Head Gardener and team are out and about – and were very pleased to impart their knowledge of the space and the gardens to the visitors. We were even given a small bunch of sweet peas.

A wonderful gem of an attraction in Sussex – the Arundel Castle Gardens are beautiful, slightly bonkers and varied. Which in our book is quite a winning combination.

(photos by claire potter)

 

SPOTTED – the Hookie Planter…

We do love a bit of internal planting here on the Ecospot, especially when it is hanging planting. Plants really can make the space come alive, plus it can help to soften an otherwise hard interior design scheme, especially if you are going down the industrial styled route, as we often are. Add in the air cleansing qualities of plants and you are onto a winner. So when we saw these new Hookie planters, we were, er, hooked. hookie

Founded by Finnish industrial designer Niko Laukkarinen, the Hookie was borm out of the idea of supporting multiple plants from one single fixing point. It is also rather sculptural, which is an element that we particularly like.

And you can also support the project itself, as it is currently looking for funding here.

Play Hookie With These Hanging Planters in main home furnishings  Category

(images via Hookie funded by me page)

SPOTTED – alliums and lavender…

Lavender is one of those plants which we use a great deal in our landscape design schemes as it ticks multiple boxes. It is beautifully scented, has great all year round structure, is great for bees, is edible and is generally very hardy. What’s not to like really. Plus, you can get it in all sizes and in an increasing amount of shades of whites, blues and purples – even pinks, which are not so much our bag, but hey. Lavender is great.

Another thing that lavender is great for is for growing things through – we have underplanted lavender with dark Queen of the Night tulips before, which worked particularly well as they were not only given support whilst they grew, the colour contrast was amazing and the dying leaves of the tulips (which always look rather untidy) were concealed by the growing lavender. Win win.

alliums and lavender

So we are always looking for other examples of how lavender can be underplanted. Whilst at Arundel Castle this week for the Medieval Tournament we spotted this lovely example in the cutting garden, where dwarf lavender had been underplanted with alliums.

Both the alliums and lavender had gone past their best, but we thought it was a fantastic example of a planting pair. The alliums, which are notoriously top heavy were supported like footballs on top of the lavender and allowed them to remain as interesting structural seed heads in the bed.

Even when the lavender is cut back at the end of the season, the alliums can remain through the autumn to provide continued variation in the flower bed.

A really, really lovely example of pairing planting – we think this could also be used with rosemary, which has a similar growth habit to lavender and is also evergreen. Just keep the rosemary short and neat so the alliums can punch through the green.

(photo by claire potter)

join us on our Chelsea Fringe edible city foraging walk this saturday…

Hello everyone. Apologies for the few posts that have disappeared over the past few days, we have been experiencing a bit of a tech melt down… but, we are still here (actually, we are in Berlin at present with Fixperts, but more of that next week) and we will also be getting ready for our Chelsea Fringe event this coming Saturday!

Chelsea Fringe 2014 Flyer merged

Last year, we ran a very popular guided foraging walk in Brighton, so we have decided to keep to the theme and are running another three – this time in the centre of Brighton, starting in the landscape behind Brighthelm on North Road. This will be a bit of an intro to what you can find in the city which can be easily foraged.

We will be starting at 11, with each walk taking about an hour, including a free foraged cordial drink at the end and a free copy of our very special and very new map of Brighton which you can customise yourself with the icon stickers…

Spaces on the walk are FREE but VERY limited, so please get in touch to reserve a space on one of the following time slots:

11.00 am walk / 1.00 walk / 3.00 walk – email us on hello@clairepotterdesign.com to reserve a space, or use the booking form on the right of this page…

In between times, we will be at our little stand in Brighthelm selling copies of our Edible City pack (map and stickers), plus copies of our limited edition A-Z of British Apples prints, so please do pop by and say hello! If there are any spaces left on the day you will be welcome to join one of the walks but we cannot guarantee that there will be any left!

Oh – if you have previously got in touch about reserving a space on the walks, please get in touch again – we have lost a lot of emails in our recent tech fail…

We look forward to seeing you!

Monday musings – this years Chelsea Fringe event announced…

Well, well, well. Where exactly has this year gone? We honestly cannot believe that it is a year since we did our Edible City foraging walk for the Chelsea Fringe festival last year. So – what are we planning on doing this year Another Edible City foraging walk, but this year, we are planning a few little extras, which we will be revealing over the next week or so…

Chelsea Fringe 2014 Flyer merged

Yep. A foraging walk, a free map and even a foraged drink at the end…

Extra details coming very soon…

wednesday walls – a hexagon based wall trellis…

oooh goodness. We have a bit of a thing for the hexagon here at the Ecospot. The love of hex is something that we have written about a few times, with hexagonal wall tiles, floor tiles, seating and all sorts featuring at various times both here and on our studio wish list. But now, we have found a rather fabulous use of the hexagon – in this wonderful hexagonal wall trellis.

combination trellis by arik levy

Created by designer Arik Levy, the ‘combination wall trellis’ is available in a variety of sizes which can be combined to create a scientific looking, modern support structure that can grow across the wall.

What we particularly love about this product (apart from the hexagons, of course) is the fact that the trellis will look as beautiful and effective without anything on at all, as it would with a smattering of foliage. Indeed, it is such a striking product that you could argue that it should not be covered in it’s entirety, or at least be covered with a deciduous climber so that the frame is exposed, and enjoyed in winter when generally the garden is a little quieter.

A lovely contemporary twist to the trellis – an often overlooked piece of kit.

(image via gardenbeet)

weekend colour inspiration – purples, greens and seeds…

As it is now officially the start of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, we are looking to the garden today for a bit of our weekend colour inspiration with a smattering of purples and greens.

purple seeds

Now, this little selection is part of the basis for the new planting we are having at the front of the new studio (yes, it is coming soon) – a nice bunch of deepest purples, greys, greens and whites, with the odd dark burgundy red thrown in for good measure.

And even though we are fans of drifted planting, edible planting and planting that is good for the local wildlife, we do not really go in for the all colours blazing style of planting. We like to be a little bit organised, choosing tones that will work well together within a limited palette.

This is one of our favourites. Partnered with the bright green stems of dogwood and the pale silvers of lavender, these purple shades will sit nicely together.

So when you take a trip to the garden centre for your seeds, take a little time to really look at how the shades will sit against one another. Because creating a beautiful garden or landscape is rather like painting a balanced picture…

(photo by claire potter)

Wednesday walls – green walls from plastic bottles…

Today on Wednesday walls we are looking at a little bit of guerrilla gardening, with this fantastic pop up wall garden, which was installed at a home by Brazilian design studio Rosenbaum to help the underprivileged family gain direct access to food and medicinal herbs.

Brazilian design studio Rosenbaum created this hanging garden of recycled plastic bottles to help an underprivileged family with limited space in Sao Paulo live more sustainably. The old bottles were strung together and planted with flowers, spices and medicinal herbs.

We love this idea – we have written before about gutter gardening, which takes a similar form as this, but what we particularly love is the very low tech nature of this design and installation. Using locally sourced, waste 2ltr drinks bottles, the new installation is very simply constructed using suspended steel cables attached to the wall, which means that if any get broken, it is easy – and cheap to replace them.

As far as green walling goes, this is about as low tech as it gets, but the vital part is that the installation is completely suitable for the location, which is key to a great design intervention. Site, and client specific.

A wonderful, simple project that will create a real difference to the family, promote recycling and provide fresh food. And the best thing? It can be easily replicated…

(image via Innocent Facebook)

Mr Popple’s raw chocolate – good for you and with packaging to die for…

We all know that eating too much chocolate is rather bad for us. It is the essential 4pm sugar hit that we all crave, yet know that really we should eat an apple instead. But, like lots of things in this big old world, not all chocolate is made equal. Some chocolate is, (dare we say it) actually rather good for you. Raw cacao chocolate has stacks of health benefits, including natural stimulants (without the sugar crash) and loads of trace minerals and other loveliness. Mr Popple’s chocolate is not only made from beautiful raw cacao, it has the most wonderful packaging.

popples chocolate 1

This is where the term eating with your eyes really comes into its own – we spotted this beautiful chocolate first by its packaging in hiSbe Food in Brighton (our latest retail design project) and just fell in love with it.

Simple, hairy manilla style brown recycled card, the packaging of Mr Popple’s differentiates each of the delicious flavours with a single, one colour print in the centre of each bar, complete with honest mis-prints and strong logo styles.

popples chocolate 2

We do have a bit of a ‘thing’ for this type of honest and simple packaging and branding as it helps to communicate the honest nature of the brand itself with incredible clarity. A brand using raw ingredients would not really fit a packaging design that is high gloss and multicoloured. It would not work. But get it right, and it really is a powerful tool indeed.

So much so in fact, that we are going to have a bar a week as our treat, not only for the deliciousness of the chocolate itself, but to collect the packaging and drool over that as well. We are, indeed, design geeks.

(photos by claire potter)