Save time at Christmas – let your fingers hit the keyboard!
I really don’t have the time to wander round shops searching for suitable gifts at Christmas, and judging from the retailers, I’m just one of hundreds of thousands who think the web is a wonderful place to wander round instead.
So where to start?
We tend to keep all the Christmas catalogues that arrive in the post and use the ones we like best to choose our gifts. Here are the mail order catalogues we chose this year:
Lakeland, Wiggly Wigglers, Thompson & Morgan
What a range of goodies! You may need an evening or two to go through their website, but it’s well worth the time.
Christmas is a time for indulgence and our favourite edible gifts this year were Finlandia fruit jellies and the Glacé fruit tray – the thought of both make your mouth water! Makes a great change from after dinner mints.
Five minute origami will suit a five year old who loves making things. A nearly impossible jigsaw puzzle will infuriate a brother! A Christmas themed set of skittles will get the teams lined up, to win of course! And we can all dip into the tins of biscuits while we compete for supremacy! There is always a slice of delicious Country Fare Glacé fruit cake on hand.
Only one of the many items we ordered was out of stock and we were able choose another equally scrumptious alternative.
One big feature is the Lakeland no quibble return policy which works! And they make shopping so easy, you can phone and order, visit one of their many outlets, click and collect, send orders in the post, or order direct on line.
Why Thompson & Morgan?
Nothing marks the start of the gardening season like the first seed sowing of the year. You could give the gardener in your life all they’ll need for the earliest start in 2015. For the fastest seedlings in small batches you’ll want to treat them to the T&M Premium Seed Kit with its seven tray heated propagator. Both the flower and vegetable selections have something for pots, baskets and open soil. The kit includes plant labels and pencil. We use our seed propagator all the time now, wouldn’t be without it – it gives peace of mind – it is so reliable.
Alternatively you could always order some plug plants to be delivered in time for the best planting period. We have ordered gifts from T&M for several years now and love their indoor plants. This year we particularly like the Christmas Cactus, only £12.99.
What about a standard Bay Tree to give a classy look to your front door? Every outdoor plant we have ordered from T&M has done well, some are now more than 7 years old – for instance the lemon tree in a pot, now safely in the cool greenhouse.
Order before midday on 19th December for guaranteed delivery in time for Christmas.
Why Wiggly Wigglers?
Here we have a real success story, a farmer and his wife provide a real joy of a catalogue to browse through. Everything a bird feed enthusiast might want, bird nesting boxes, garden composers, composting worms – the worms do the work by the way! We have ordered a terracotta bird nesting box and some roosting pockets for some young children to put up in their garden.
This year we have ordered Goat Sock Gifts. To be on the safe side rather than buy the wrong size sock, why not, in view of the possible very cold weather ahead, buy some bed socks. Honestly they are really so good we each have two pairs to make sure we always have cosy feet every night. Can’t praise them enough. They come in one size which seems to suit everyone we know.
Great British Florist is part of the Wiggly Wigglers organisation and they offer the most beautiful bouquets and wreaths. To receive a monthly bouquet of seasonal British flowers you can subscribe to the monthly flower delivery. This would be an absolutely fantastic gift for someone who just loves fresh flowers that haven’t been flown halfway round the world. We really urge you to look at the website and get more information about their flower club, flower workshops, wedding packages including natural flower petal confetti. Do have a look on the Christmas page on their website – we’ve just ordered a Christmas posy for the Christmas Day table and a wreath for the front door – look for the one with brussel sprouts as part of the design! Last date for guaranteed delivery for Christmas is 22 December – don’t miss out, you won’t regret it!
Gifts for ourselves – two witch hazel bushes, one yellow and one red. I remember a huge hedge of witch hazel plants with a most wonderful perfume in Edinburgh Botanical Gardens and have always wanted one since. We heard they were on the Lubera were selling them – Lubera has a most wonderful plant list.
Grown in Switzerland, all their plants are hardy, useful in Cumbria as we can’t cope with tender plants without a lot of care. Recently we now have a damson tree, two pointilla bushes – they provide a most unusual tasty fruit, six raspberry plants both gold and red, and strawberry plants. For more information go to their website – we will soon be writing more about their plants in a separate feature – We Love Lubera!
We always look for unusual decorations for this time of year and found a lovely tealight decoration on the Notcutts website. The Circle of Friends costs just £8.99 and looks wonderful on a windowsill.
Finally, something for us at Christmas when we’ve had enough food, games and alcohol, a jigsaw to push our brains in active mode! A jigsaw puzzle that will take a lot of time giving lots of fun: a copy of the Heye Jigsaw – 2,000 pieces, Napoleon’s Winter, designed by Jean-Jacques Loup. Here’s a link to browse through.
We already have copies of Loup’s Noah’s Ark – we loved it so much we did it twice, and the Spaghetti puzzle, both of which we had a great deal of fun and frustration but what a sense of achievement when we completed it with a touch of regret that we didn’t have it to work any more! We might just contemplate the 4,000 piece Crazy World Cup for next year, but then there is the House of Horror, and the Orchestra designs! Decisions, decisions! By the way we found a source of the Heye puzzles in East Yorkshire, http://www.jigsawpuzzlesdirect.co.uk 01287659036.
We are really looking forward to retreating into puzzle mode and forgetting the wintry weather outside. Can’t wait for Christmas Day now!
Right, that’s everything done … now for a swig of that damson gin we put away a month or more ago. It must be ready by now!
We wish you all a very Merry and Happy Christmas.
Val Reynolds and her team
Many years ago, in my youth, public displays of Christmas in London would amount to festive scenes in department store windows and a visit inside to Santa’s grotto. Selfridges and Harrods spring to mind, though I’m sure there must have been others as well. The main shopping streets in London, Oxford Street and Regent Street, would be adorned with Christmas lights, and that would be about it.
These days it’s very different. Every main street in the neighbourhoods, as far out as the suburbs, boasts Christmas lights (the splendour of which depends on the affluence of the area). Somerset House, some years ago now, hit on the idea of an outdoor skating rink surrounded by flickering torches and the beautifully illuminated old buildings surrounding the courtyard (which not many years previously had been a car-park for inland revenue officers). Now it seems almost every venerable institution with the space has gone along with this idea and skaters are spoilt for choice of where to go for their double axels and salchows. Also, for the last few years, Hyde Park has had its own Winter Wonderland, with a Magical Ice Kingdom, Christmas Market and Big Wheel.
And this year Kew Gardens is also getting in on the act with Santa’s Grotto, some Christmas Market stalls, a Helter Skelter and a lovely old-fashioned carousel. But its main attraction is unique: an evening 1.4 mile illuminated walkway has been created amongst the trees with imaginative light and sound installations.
Particular trees have been picked out with glorious colour that enhance their bark and leaves. A Mediterranean Garden is alive with birdsong and hung with colourful glass lanterns. Tall bamboos grace the Asian garden where the wintery atmosphere reflects the shapes, noise and growth of bamboo. And after a secret cluster of beech trees where you can create your own sound and light show, a strong scent of incense leads you to the Fire Garden. This is ablaze with flames from 300 torches creating a huge circle of fire in the shape of a Mandala, a spiritual symbol in Hinduism representing the universe.
Along the way, to keep younger (and young-at-heart visitors) amused, are wonderful ‘plant whisperers’, surrounded by the paraphernalia that allows them and those they invite to participate to communicate with the greenery that surrounds. The lakes shimmer with light and reflections, the coots adding to it all by gracing the evening waters in what they perhaps believe is a strange daylight. The grand finale is the famous Palm House with changing light colours and haunting soundscape.
It’s a magical, almost mystical experience, only slightly marred by the sound of too many low-flying jets on their way to nearby Heathrow; we were however assured that that particular flight-path is not used every day!
Notwithstanding the planes, in this age of hustle and bustle, Kew is a haven in the capital to commune with nature, on display in all her glory.
The Christmas at Kew evening trail ticket costs £12.50 for adults and £8 for children, with family tickets for 2 adults and 2 children aged 5 – 16 at £38. Under 5’s go free. It opens at 4.45 on the following dates:
- 28 November – 1 December
- 5 December – 8 December
- 12 December – 15 December
- 19 December – 23 December
- 26 December – 4 January 2014
Full details on the Kew website
Jeannette Nelson, Arts Critic A bit of a culture vulture, Jeannette enjoys art exhibitions, cinema and classical music, but her main interest is the theatre. For several years she ran theatre discussion groups for which her MA in Modern Drama together with teaching skills stood her in good stead. She prefers to concentrate on the many off West End and fringe productions as well as that real treasure of the London theatre scene, the National.
Images provided by RBG Kew