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July 21st 2014
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THE GREAT BRITISH BEE COUNT

Do your part for nature and rehome our British bees with this fantastic new campaign…

This summer we are calling on your support to help us embark on The Great British Bee Count! An essential part of the food chain, the decline of the bee population has become an increasingly worrying factor. Whether you’re looking to spend more time in the garden or a keen nature lover, by taking a closer look at the bees buzzing around our gardens and parks, it really could help save this important species from dying out.

 

Sharing with us her top tips on how to encourage bee’s back into your garden, Melanie Kramers from environment charity Friends of the Earth explains all…

 

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As you’ve probably heard our British bees are in trouble and in desperate need of rehoming. In recent years, the numbers of bees in the UK have been declining at an alarming rate, with over twenty species of bees already extinct. With a  high percentage of our countryside meadows disappearing over the last 60 years, the loss of their vital habitats have left the bees homeless and feeling hungry. An essential part of the food chain, everyday we eat fruit and vegetables that have been pollinated by these buzzing creatures. As they move from flower to flower collecting nectar, they are an important factor in the pollinating process in helping distribute pollen far and wide.

 

Do you like strawberry jam on your buttered toast or a delicious Sunday treat of apple crumble? These are all pollinated by bees, along with 75% of food crops worldwide!

 

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Eventually our parks, gardens and countryside will become a barren place without bees to keep them blooming – so how can you help? The good news is that there are lots of ways you can be part of the generation that saves our bees.

 

- Got a smartphone? Download our free app The Great British Bee Count and log any bees you spot between now and the end of August. You don’t need to be any expert to take part, the easy-to-use app will help you tell the difference between bee species such as leafcutter bees and buff-tailed bumblebees. All the data then be logged to help scientists build a nationwide picture of bee health, where they are thriving and where they are in danger. Don’t worry if you don’t have the app, you can fill in all your bee-hunting business on our website here.

 

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- Green fingered?  Try growing bee-friendly plants from lavender to honeysuckle in your window-box or garden to encourage new buzzing visitors – just make sure to avoid using pesticides which can harm bees’ health. To find out which plants are most loved, create your own bee cafe with this handy list of what to grow here.

 

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Wooden Bee House / Aviary Garden Tool Set (both available in store)

 

-  Create a cosy nest with our wooden bee house, providing a valuable shelter or a nesting site for solitary wild bees that, unlike honey bees, don’t live in hives. The Mason species enjoy nesting in warm and sheltered environment, with plenty of room to rest in the thick wooden holes; make sure to position their new abode in a south facing spot with the bee house pointing downwards to avoid the rain.

 

-  If you’ve already done this – think bigger! Hundreds of people have already planted ‘Bee Worlds’ in their communities – larger wildflower areas that help provide hungry bees with food and shelter. Across the UK, we’ve lost 97% of our wildflower meadows in the past 60 years, so restoring this vital bee habitat can really help.

 

Hope you enjoy saving bees while having fun this summer – let us know how you get on!

July 9th 2014
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Hampton Court Palace Flower Show: 2014

Rounding up our favourite gardens from this year at Hampton Court…

It’s fair to say we love a flower event at the Laura Ashley HQ. After recently reviewing the Chelsea Flower Show, we were eagerly awaiting The Hampton Court Palace event. With the sun coming out to play, we couldn’t of picked a better day to visit the grounds. Our anticipation high, we made our way keen to see if this year could top the last…

 

The flower show is split into three zones: Inspire, Grow, and Escape. First up, we visited our favourite of the three, Escape, to see the fabulous Show Gardens, Summer Gardens and Your Garden, Your Budget.

 

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Halo: Mediterranean-style garden based on the idea of a traditional Greek island with a budget of £13,0000

 

First up, we visited the ‘Your Garden, Your Budget’ section which celebrates high quality design on a budget. Landscapers were asked to submit a design with a budget of £7,000, £10,000, £13,000 and £15,000. We were overwhelmed with the quality of the gardens! Our favourite of the four was Bacchus which is inspired by the Roman God of Wine. We love the water features, rose coloured steps, and pockets of red flowers and plants.

 

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Bacchus: A garden inspired by the Roman God of wine with a budget of £10,000

 

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Garden of Solitude: A garden designed for relaxation and contemplation, with a budget of £15,000 

 

After a quick wander round the site, we stumbled across this gorgeous Ocean Spray garden in Escape. A celebration of the picturesque wetland home of cranberries, and has been designed to bring the fascinating story of these vibrant berries to life. Crafted entirely from crimson cranberries, a majestic floating red rose will add a splash of colour to the iconic Palace Long Water. We just had to take a couple of snaps to show you all!

 

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Ocean Spray: A Taste for New England

 

Next up, we made our way to the summer gardens, probably our favourite part of the site.

 

The winning garden, A Space to Connect and Grow was definitely our pick of the bunch. The garden is built from recycled industrial materials and is designed to improve the local urban environment whilst also being a pleasant place to spend time. Key features include the pavilion with a living roof at the back of the garden and an underplanted metal stage for performances.

 

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A Space to Connect and Grow  

 

Other favourite of ours was Al Fresco, a modern outdoor entertaining space that takes you away from the stresses of everyday life. That’s what we call fine dining! Wouldn’t it be made complete with some Laura Ashley furniture?

 

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Al Fresco

 

We then stumbled across the beautiful NSPCC garden. This garden focuses on the NSPCC’s work throughout its time and the legacy it’s created. We loved the touches of children’s toys that were dotted around the garden, highlighting the charities message.

 

 

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NSPCC Garden

 

Last but by no means not least, another favourite from the Summer Gardens was ‘Forgotten Folly’. With dry stone walls, waterfalls, and overgrown flowers, we felt like we had stumbled across our very own secret garden.

 

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Summer Gardens: Forgotten Folly

 

We then made our way on to Conceptual Gardens in the Inspire zone. The conceptual gardens are deisnged to engage, provoke, and stimulate debate and are always a talking point within the team. Themed around the seven deadly sins this year, the gardeners were challenged to create a garden that signifies a specific sin.

 

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Conceptual Gardens: Anger

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Conceptual Gardens: Lust

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Conceptual Gardens: Gluttony

 

Our pick of the bunch had to be the Gluttony garden. We loved the modern and fun design of the piece, and were left thinking about it long after we left. The design highlights the huge amount of food that is being consumed and wasted every day in the UK and other western countries through the use of oversized sculptures. What was your favourite from the seven deadly sins conceptual gardens?

 

A trip to the Hampton Court Flower Show of course wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Festival of Roses and Floristry Marquee in the Escape zone. As one of our favourite flowers, we were eargerly awaiting to see the blooms in display by some of the best florists. We definitely recommend visiting this section, you can have your photo taken with a floral mermaid, or be amazed by the floral circus elephant…

 

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Peter Beales Roses 

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The Elephant Spectacular - McKinlay Gibson Floristry

 

Our favourite in the marquee was the glorious display by Jane Packer Flowers. Creating a whole circus show, we were in awe at the floral displays of a gypsy caravan, a mystic mermaid, a strong man, and freakish blooms. You can even take a picture of yourself with the display!

 

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Jane Packer Flowers

 

Any flower show wouldn’t be complete without a stand from David Austin, and as ever his roses were absolutely breathtaking…

 

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David Austin Roses

 

Next up, we stopped off at the huge 50 years RHS Britain in Bloom garden which is the UK’s biggest gardening campaign. Up to 30,000 passionate volunteers work all year round on the green spaces to protect, transform, and  care for the environment. The garden represents their achievements over the past 50 years, and they have certainly achieved a lot! Many communities from around the UK were involved with the creation of the garden…

 

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50 Golden Years: A Celebration of Britain in Bloom

 

We then made our way over the bridge to the ‘Grow’ section, greeted by a huge sculpture over the stunning Lake.

 

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Grow

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Escape: Orla Kiely 
In Grow, our final stop was at the Floral Marquee. This is where keen gardeners will have access to a range of garden nursery displays and plant stalls. There’s also plenty of  RHS advisors on-hand to offer expert tips to take back to their own gardens! There was over 95 stalls in the marquee and it’s fair to say we stayed a while. Just look at all those beautiful blooms…

 

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Due to the size of the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, there were plenty of attractions we didn’t even have time to visit. You can see planting close up, get some real expert advice, experience some fine dining, see live music, and even enjoy some retail therapy. We could easily spend the whole day there!

 

Don’t miss the celebrity tent for some household favourites including Charlie Dimmock and Gloria Hunniford, there’s even an appearance from one of our favourite bloggers, Rona Wheeldon!
For those lucky lot attending on Wednesday and Thursday, explore the growing taste marquee with inspiring and entertaining cookery theatre. Expert advice will be on hand from the Queen of baking Mary Berry on Wednesday 9th!

 

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Hampton Court Palace

 

A great day our for all the family, The Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is a fantastic day out regardless of your gardening ability. With plenty of things to see and do, you are spoilt for choice! The perfect event for a summers day, experience it all now up until the 13th July.

 

Will you be attending the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show this year? What garden takes your fancy?

 

July 7th 2014
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ON OUR RADAR: JULY

What’s on the agenda for the month of July? Whip out your diary and get planning….

Hip, hip hooray for the month of July! The sun has finally got his hat on and we are certainly making the most of the wonderful weather. July for us spells the beginnings of our summer adventure, from lazy day picnics to happy camping, and that’s not forgetting the start of the summer holidays! Without further ado, to kick off your fun-filled month ahead let us take a peek at what’s on our radar…

 

Royal Childhood Exhibition

Buckingham Palace,

London 26th July – 28th September 2014

 

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(c) The Royal Collect - Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret on a rocking horse, August 1932

 

As part of the Summer opening of the state rooms at Buckingham Palace, the nostalgic Royal Childhood exhibition gives us an exclusive insight into life as a young royal growing up in the palace. Spanning over 250 years, the exhibition brings together the private archives of unseen family film footage, treasured photos and memorial objects, including the adorable outfits belonging to the young prince and princesses and their traditional toys from the different eras. A fabulous day-trip for all the family, take a peek at our visit when we popped along last year.

 

For more details on the Royal Childhood exhibition, click here

 

Whitstable Oyster Festival  Saturday 26th July – 1st August Whitstable

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(c) Whitstable Oyster Festival

 

Championed by Laura Ashley staffer Faye in one of her holiday highlights, how timely that the Whitstable Oyster Festival should take place this month? A modern revival of the ancient holy festival that dates back to the Norman times, where local fishermen would profess their thanksgiving for a successful harvest and safety at sea. A week-long unique celebration, jam-packed with foodie stalls (not forgetting the annual oyster eating competition!), mud tugs and plenty of other family fun to be had!

 

For more details on the Whitstable Oyster Festival, click here.

 

The Globe’s Anthony and Cleopatra 

Daily performances until 24th August 2014

The Globe Theatre, London 

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(c) The Globe

 

With a chance to experience Shakespeare in his rightful setting, a delicious dinner on the Southbank followed by a performance at The Globe is a wonderful way to spend warm summers evening. The eagerly anticipated play of the year is the Shakespeare classic Antony and Cleopatra, starring Eve Best and Clive Wood as the tragic lovers blown away by love and war. Whether you feel daring enough to embrace the groundling seating, don’t miss the opportunity to see one of Shakespeare’s melodramas in a down-to-earth production.

 

For more details on The Globe’s production Anthony and Cleopatra, click here

 

Whipping up a star bake with Laura Ashley 

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As we count down the days until the new series of Great British Bake Off (watch the hilarious teaser trailer here), the budding bakers here at Laura Ashley H.Q have taken to the kitchen to bake up a storm using our brand new range of cooking accessories. The beautiful duck-egg cookshop collection features all the signature tools to help you master that all important star bake, including the pretty duck egg Stoneware Egg Tray, Mixing Jug and retro Stainless Steel Scales. If you fancy whipping up a sweet treat, don’t miss Hummingbird Bakery’s signature Earl Grey cupcakes on the blog.

 

To browse the new Laura Ashley range of cooking accessories, click here

 

The Roman Baths by Torchlight

July – August (Daily)

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For a truly magical experience, come explore the magnificent Roman Baths in twilight. As the sun begins to fade, take a tour along the 2000 year old pathways as you discover the story of the Great Baths by torchlight. With a three course dinner at the neighbouring Roman Baths Kitchen thrown in too, this is a exciting opportunity to view the city in a new light…

 

For more information on the Roman Baths by Torchlight, click here.

 

What’s on your agenda for July? We would love to know in the comments below.

July 2nd 2014
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SUMMER HOLIDAY SNAPSHOTS FROM LAURA ASHLEY HQ

Taking us on a journey around the UK, we visit the hidden hideaways most loved by our H.Q staff…

There’s an age-old saying that travel makes you richer in ways you couldn’t imagine, and quite frankly we couldn’t agree more. Staying a little closer to home this year, we’re passionate about exploring the wonders that little old Blighty has to offer.  Whether you are taking a day-trip to a wonderful seaside town or taking in the sights of bustling city life, there’s nothing quite like discovering your own holiday hideaway to revisit over the years.

 

Sharing with us their favourite spots to visit, we asked the many faces at Laura Ashley H.Q their most treasured UK hot spots…

 

Emily, Buyers Assistant in Wovens

 

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(c) Bath Tourism Plus / Colin Hawkins

 

A place that has stolen my heart is the city of Bath, I just love the connections to Jane Austen. Rich with history, my top places to visit are the iconic Lansdown Crescent, the Jane Austin Centre and of course, the Roman Baths. Taking a trip back in time, I always make sure to squeeze in a visit to the Jane Austin inspired Regency Tea Rooms, who wouldn’t enjoy a spread of tasty finger sandwiches and delicious scones.

 

Claire, Junior Buyer for Home

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Over the years, I’ve discovered not one, but two places that I have come to visit time and time again.

 

Escaping to the great outdoors, camping in tiny picturesque village in Alfriston, Sussex is not far from where I live in Brighton. Surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in the UK, the beach is only a ten minute drive away. The campsite is very back-to-nature, you collect firewood from the woods and cook on an open fire. Neatly tucked away right under the Downs, it’s ever so peaceful, with the only sounds being the dawn chorus of birdsong. The pretty village is a few moments walk away and has some cracking wood-panelled pubs and a traditional village post office with old fashioned sweet jars still on the antique shelves.

 

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My next holiday spot is in West Cornwall. With old friends living down near Helston, I try and visit at least once a year, and have holidayed there many times before. It is such a remote and ancient part of the country and still feels quite separate from the rest of England despite the increase in tourism in recent years. The coastline is incredibly varied from long sweeping sandy bays to little rugged coves and peaceful river inlets with scores of little fishing villages to explore. There is a thriving art community and a real focus on preserving the unique landscape and history. Plus the cream teas are fabulous!

 

Olivia, Licensing 

 

Otterton Mill in Devon is a lovely place to visit and popular with both the locals as well as tourists. I visited last summer with some friends who live nearby, enjoying the beautiful countryside with the sprawling fields, there are even salmon in the river – I didn’t see any though! The kids love to paddle and swim in the river, and thankfully the grassy fields lend themselves to a barefoot walk back to the car! The Otterton Mill is not to be missed with delicious lunch and tea menu.

 

Faye, Graphic Designer 

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The charming seaside town of Whitstable is where we lost ourselves for the day last summer. Whitstable’s main claim to fame are its oysters, which remain an intrinsic part of this sea town’s character and are celebrated every July at the Oyster Festival. Make a beeline for the quaint craft and gift shops along the way and don’t forget to wander around the castle – they also serve up an amazing array of cakes! Great day out.

 

Martin, Head of Creative & PR

 

Although I am very much a Londoner these days I was born in Devon and lived in Totnes so I love to return there whenever I get the chance. Totnes is a beautiful old market town in South Devon and has existed for at least a 1,000 years, it’s the perfect place to go for a wander around small independent shops, explore the local castle or feed the ducks on the very pretty river Dart. A visit to Totnes is never complete without a trip to one of the many teashops for a delicious clotted cream tea – however, as any of the locals will tell you, in Devon you must put the cream onto the scone first and then put the jam on top of the cream. … never the other way around!

 

Emma, PR Assistant 

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Every time I head home for the weekend I escape the city for an afternoon and take the Metro from Newcastle to the picturesque seaside town of Tynemouth. An area steeped in local history; Tynemouth boasts a Cliffside Priory and Castle dating all the way back to the 7th Century which provides incredible views of the striking lighthouse and pier stretching out to sea. Take a barefoot stroll on King Edwards Bay or Tynemouth Longsands which was voted one of the best UK beaches by TripAdvisor earlier this year. If you pay Tynemouth a visit make sure you stop off at Marshall’s for the best fish and chips (be prepared for a queue!), before browsing affordable vintage clothing and antique bric-a-brac at Tynemouth’s infamous station market.

 

Whether a stolen weekend away or a trip full of family mischief, we cannot wait to add these top recommendations to our growing list of places to visit.

 

We would love to know your favourite spots, leave us a comment below or tweet us at @LauraAshleyUK

 

Browse the Laura Ashley Holiday shop here and prep your new season wardrobe for summer.

 

June 25th 2014
Hever in Bloom

HEVER CASTLE: HEVER IN BLOOM 2014

Join us as we explore the beautiful gardens of Hever Castle in their annual Hever In Bloom celebrations…

Set within the rolling fields of Kent, lies the majestic setting of Hever Castle, draws you in to its historic wealth and enchanting gardens. Once the childhood home of Anne Boleyn (who suffered at the ill-fated hands of Henry VIII), the well preserved castle and sprawling grounds are a must-visit for families and gardeners alike.

 

With the spectacular Italian and Rose gardens on offer, not forgetting the stunning Tudor Gardens, we made a beeline for their annual exhibition Hever in Bloom to celebrate all things floral Hever Castle has to offer…

 

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Dating back to the thirteenth century, the romantic castle of Hever was once the childhood home of Anne Boleyn and the Astor family. With an enchanting double moat, the castle is a treasure chest of historic pieces including 16th century portraits, paintings, furniture and tapestries.

 

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Stepping inside the castle, the captivating history instantly transports you to a by-gone era. Taking in the stunning wooden beams and intricately decorated furnishings akin to the Tudor period, each room has a magnificent floral display as part of the Hever in Bloom celebrations. A rare opportunity to delight to see the abundance of English flowers have been freshly hand-picked from the surrounding gardens.

 

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Making our way into the main hall, we watched in awe as the castle florist pieced together one of the beautiful arrangements, learning about which English blooms would have been used to decorate the castle and what particular flowers originated from the Hever gardens.

 

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Wandering through the beautiful Tudor Gardens, passed the infamous Yew Maze, we made our way to the award-winning Italian gardens.

 

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Perhaps one of the most stunning gardens that we’ve encountered, walking through the Italian gardens, it’s easy to forget that you’re strolling through the Kent countryside, but rather a Mediterranean retreat. Taking time to admire the Greek and Romany statues, it’s not long before you find yourself within the breathtakingly beautiful Rose Garden…

 

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Housing over 4,000 rose blooms, walking amongst the delicate roses in a range of colourful hues, the fragrant scent lingers in the air. On hand to dish out expert advice, we took the opportunity to talk to a gardener about their exceptional hard work and the time they devote to keeping the garden in such immaculate condition.

 

With a team of ten gardeners working throughout the year, each day they remove the decaying rose buds to ensure that a new flush of roses will appear towards the end of July. For handy green-fingered tips later, make sure to join the gardeners for daily tours of where they touch on the fascinating history of the award-winning gardens.

 

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Did you know that Hever Castle even has its very own rose? A vibrant shade of pink, the floribunda rose is aptly named Hever Castle Rose!

 

 

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Overlooking Lake Loggia, isn’t that view spectacular? We could quite happily spend all summer admiring the tranquil scenery, an English garden at its very best.

 

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A must-visit for the summer season, whether you’re a keen gardener or looking for a family day-out, Hever Castle is an unmissable insight into the Tudor period and quintessential English gardens. Bring along a picnic, put on your walking shoes and explore the sprawling grounds this historic estate has to offer. We’re already planning our next returning day-trip…

 

Will you be visiting Hever Castle this summer? We thoroughly recommend you hop-foot it to their Hever in Bloom celebrations, running from the 23rd – 29th June, it’s a true treat for any floral fan.

 

For more information on Hever Castle’s Hever in Bloom and the many other exciting events they have planned this year, click here.

June 23rd 2014
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GAME, SET, MATCH: WIMBLEDON FEVER + GIVEAWAY

Wimbledon’s back! Take a peek at our pick of the best things to see and do (+win a wimbledon hamper!)…

Hurrah, Wimbledon is back! This officially marks the start of summer for us; picnics in the park, sun-filled evenings and strawberries and cream all whilst watching the tennis? Yes please. We can’t wait to see Murray back in action! To celebrate this glorious sporting season, we’ve rounded up the best things to see and do for Wimbledon, and there’s even a little giveaway in it for you too….

 

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Granary Square as part of Strawberries and Screen

 

Over 4,000 people flocked to Granary Square last year to see Andy Murray win the Wimbledon’s men’s final. The 16 square metre LED screen is one of the biggest in central London and was set-up as part of Strawberries and Screen. The event is streaming live Wimbledon coverage from the BBC and is making a return on Monday 23rd June. This year the event is bigger than ever, so be sure to get there quick to grab a deck chair! There’s plenty of food and drink on offer, however picnics are also welcome.

 

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Bluebird Chelsea

 

Located in the heart of Chelsea, Bluebird is the bar to watch the tennis. Decked out spectacularly for the event, it features a tennis lawn, giant tennis balls, and plenty of food and drink, and that’s not forgetting the large screen streaming the match. As a special treat, the head chef will be whipping up a 3-course menu for the men’s finals on the 6th July. If that doesn’t take your fancy, there’s also a delicious all day cafe including a BBQ. Bookings are available.

 

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One New Change as part of Great British Summer 14

 

Coming to four different and unique London locations for the 6th year running is Great British Summer 14. The popup travel screens streaming the games are mounted on converted retro caravans, how sweet! Our favourite of the four venues is the sixth floor of One New Change, it features breath-taking views of St Paul’s Cathedral, (but of course you’ll be too involved in the tennis to notice!) Get there fast to grab a complimentary deck chair, and bring along your own nibbles to enjoy the game.



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The Dorchester Wimbledon Afternoon Tea

 

To get into the spirit of Wimbledon, The Dorchester is putting on a special tennis-themed spread that looks oh-so delicious! This includes a strawberry champagne tarte, a mango and lime delice and a milk chocolate mousse change-over, how yummy! There are also strawberries and cream, finger sandwiches and homemade scones to tantalise your taste buds. The afternoon tea kicks off on the June 23rd and runs up until July 6th. Prices are £55* per person. Book quickly to avoid disappointment!

 

WIN A WIMBLEDON HAMPER

 

Wimbledon Creative Shot (screen res)

 

We’re serving up a treat for you to celebrate Wimbledon. You can win a picnic hamper full of goodies from our range including paper plates and cups, napkins, glass serving bowls, a picnic basket, a cake stand, and a picnic throw, perfect for hosting your own Wimbledon event. Fancy getting your mitts on it? Head over to our Twitter, make sure your following us and RT:

 

 

Winners will be announced on Monday the 30th June, follow @LauraAshleyUK to find out if you’re a winner! 

Terms and conditions apply: Prizes are not transferable and non negotiable. There is no cash alternative. Winners of prizes will be notified as soon as possible after the end date. The prize draw is open to all legal residents of the UK (mainland only). All entrants must be over the age of 18 at the date of entry. The eligibility of any entrant is at the sole discretion of Laura Ashley Limited. Employees, families or agents of Laura Ashley Limited and/or any of its associated companies are not eligible to enter the prize draw. Contents shown are not included. One entry per household. An eligible entrant must be an individual and must enter via the Laura Ashley Twitter page @LauraAshleyUK.

 

What have you got planned for Wimbledon? We’d love to know…

June 3rd 2014
Whats on our Radar June

ON OUR RADAR: JUNE

Making the most of the better weather, this month you’ll find us stepping into the garden…

Finally the month of June has arrived! Taking full advantage of the warmer weather and lighter evenings, it’s time to venture outside into the garden and get in touch with your green-natured side. Whether you’re a keen gardener or looking to jazz up your outdoor space, this month is jam-packed full of horticulture havens for you to explore – it’s time to take a peek at what’s on our radar for June…

 

Hever in Bloom

23rd – 29th June

Hever Castle, Kent 

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Set in the rolling countryside of Kent, come take a peek at the award-winning gardens and picturesque surroundings of Hever Castle as they celebrate Hever in Bloom. At the height of their summer beauty, take a wander through the scented rose garden home to over 4,000 blooming buds. Learn the fascinating history of the castle grounds as the devoted gardeners take you on a free tour, stopping by the castle once home to Anne Boylen, to view the stunning array of summer blooms prepared by the castle florist. On hand to answer any green-fingered questions, the gardeners and florists will be hosting daily demonstrations on how to tend to your own garden and how to create the stunning displays.

 

For more details on the Hever In Bloom click here

 

A Festival of Garden Literature 

21st – 22nd June

Petworth House, West Sussex 

 

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Taking place in the idyllic gardens of Petworth House, the Festival of Garden Literature gathers some of the most influential garden designers, writers and distinguished biographers for a weekend of horticultural discussion. A garden lovers dream, the festival explores the impact of gardening and it’s influence in history, art and poetry through inspiring line-up of speakers; including award-winning garden designer Tom Stuart-Smith and literary prize winner and historian Robin Lanefox.

 

For more details on A Festival of Garden Literature click here

 

Grow London 

20th – 22nd June

Hampstead Heath, London 

 

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Bursting into bloom for the first time, Grow London is a fresh and innovative approach to gardening. Taking up residence on Hampstead Heath, the three day event showcases the some of the countries leading plant nurseries offering a rare glimpse of some of the rarest and unique plants available. With a jam-packed schedule of talks, demonstrations and workshops, all designed to inspire and help make the most of your outside space!

 

For more details on Grow London click here

 

Blenheim Palace Flower Show

20th – 22nd June

Oxford 

 

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Missed the chance to visit Chelsea Flower Show? Never fear, escape the capital for a day-trip to Oxford and visit the equally stunning Blenheim Palace Flower Show. Boasting over 150 floral and garden exhibits, gaze your sights over their artistic and imaginative displays. Bursting with inspiring ideas, make your way into the Grand Floral Pavilion for a peek at some of the UK’s finest nurseries and take a moment to chat to one of the many celebrity experts, such as Gardening World’s Monty Don, who are eager to share their extensive gardening knowledge.

 

For more details on Blenheim Palace Flower Show click here

 

Ready, Set… Grow!

 

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Feeling inspired by all the above? It’s time to get stuck in and transform your garden for summer with our new Outdoor Living range. Whether you fancy trying your hand at growing herbs on your window sill or even digging your own veggie patch, our Aviary Garden Tool Kit is a must-have for budding gardeners!

 

Browse our new Outdoor Living range here

 

You”ll certainly be finding us in the garden this summer, will you be planning any garden projects this summer? We would love to know in the comments below…

 

May 22nd 2014
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EXPLORE THE ARCHIVE

Holly gives us an insight into working in our much loved archive…

The Archive is one of the biggest talking points at the Laura Ashley HQ, we love its rich heritage so much so that we thought you might like to read about what makes it so special. We invited archivist Holly to give us an insight into working in the archive and to provide us with brief history about Laura Ashley…

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Last year I graduated from Central Saint Martins where I studied fashion history and theory. There, my understanding of dress and culture was nurtured, both academically and practically. I remember being introduced to all these archives. I found them so mysterious, rooms full of history; almost like libraries of life. In the past, I have archived for other high-end retailers, as well as other private collections.

 

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For me, Laura Ashley has been forever associated with its enchanting prints and vision of elegant country life. The company’s history, however, goes beyond frills and florals and is a meaningful tale of British design. For over sixty years, its sense of practical romanticism, which was cultivated by the Ashleys from the beginning, has prevailed and endured. So when I was invited to act as the company’s archivist, the chance to be a guardian of that heritage was an interesting one.

 

There are rarely two days the same in the archive. One might be spent researching for new season designs, the next arranging loans for an upcoming exhibition and then another buried in the collections, cataloguing and photographing materials for the database. The archive is such a precious resource that it takes time to carefully record and preserve each individual piece.

 

The full archive, which is presently comprised of many thousands of products, is divided between London and Wales, where it is overseen by Ann. She has been with the company for many years and as such has a rare and specialised understanding of its history. Her insights are invaluable, both to the archive and those who use it.

 

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Laura Ashley’s heritage lies at the heart of the company and is its essence, even today. As a result, I can find myself collaborating simultaneously with many different departments, be they related to design, press or retail. One may be in search of prints using butterflies or bees, whilst another will be looking to find out about our Paris stores in the seventies. There’s always some buried treasure to unearth. Customers past and present will get in touch too, with questions or anecdotes they wish to share. This is always so enlightening and can lead to some wonderful discoveries. Occasionally, we are also lucky to receive donations. Most recently these have included a printed smock in cornflower blue that our benefactor wore to be married in 1974.

 

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Personally, the really charming pieces aren’t necessarily the most perfect examples of company heritage. I treasure the chipped Victorian imitation teacups and the way some of the older dresses are frayed at the hem from wear. Their flaws are a reminder of the objects’ journeys and that Laura Ashley has always created designs for real life. Sometimes, it is as important to preserve their stories as much as it is the objects themselves.

 

Along with our extensive product collection, we have cabinets upon cabinets overflowing with inspirational pieces. Often it’s here that designers begin their search for new fashion and interior stories. There’s so much to capture their imaginations from antique fabric sample books to soft furnishings and vintage fashions. My most beloved piece might be an eighteenth century silk gown, which was brought from Christie’s auction house when Laura was still alive. She was a great believer in looking to history to inspire her work. I like to think, were she around today, she’d be proud of the archive and the way it has grown over the years.

 

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Some of my other favourite curiosities include photographs of a baby-faced Kate Moss modelling our wedding dresses, antique patchwork quilts, notes handwritten by Laura herself and wallpaper designed by David Bowie for the charity War Child.

 

If you have any old vintage Laura Ashley items that you would like to kindly donate to the archive where they will be looked after and treasured please contact our archive on 020 7880 5379.

 

We hoped you enjoyed reading about the Laura Ashley archive! Do you have any questions for Holly? Let us know in the comments below or read a little bit more about our heritage here.

May 20th 2014
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CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW : 2014

RHS Chelsea Flower Show returns for 2014 with gardening and floral inspiration galore…

One of the most eagerly anticipated events of the horticultural calendar, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show once again returns with its inspiring array of floral masterpieces. Celebrating the exceptional talent of gardeners from all over the world, this year welcomes a number of new faces that bring together younger generation of keen gardeners. With the chance to have a sneak peak and explore the show before it opens to the public, we excitedly made our way along the Chelsea Embankment ready to gaze over the creative, awe-inspiring displays..

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With the power to inspire, delight and amaze, the gardens at RHS Chelsea Garden Show are quite simply the talking point of the show. As the gardeners have the freedom to choose their own theme, they often present a thought-provoking feeling or experience demonstrated in the diverse designs. Falling into three categories including: Show, Fresh and Artisan, lets take a look at our personal highlights of the show…

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A true inspiration for any keen gardener, the Show gardens demonstrate the latest ideas in garden design, with complimentary planting and the use of modern landscaping materials. Intended to inspire and delight, gardeners flock from all over the world to showcase their intricately detailed spaces.

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Taking home the prize for Best Show Garden, the award winning Laurent – Perrier Garden rejoins the Chelsea Flower Show for its 16th year running under the artistic direction of designer Luciano Giubbilei. The garden is formed of a series of defined layers, combining his love of texture, form and light.

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‘Hope on the Horizon’ in support of Help for Heroes by Matt Keightley.

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‘From the Moors to the Sea’ garden marks the 50th anniversary of RHS Britain in Bloom and Alan Titchmarsh’s fifty years in horticulture.

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How beautiful is the Telegraph Garden inspired by Italian design?

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Hailed as the cutting-edge face of the RHS Chelsea Show, the Fresh gardens welcome the latest contemporary designs and materials. Expanding our design horizons, these innovative and sometimes unusual displays are works of art in their own right.

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Offering a journey of discovery, memory and imagination, ‘The Mind’s Eye’ garden is a sensory canvas designed by the Royal Institution of Blind People. Through touch, sound, taste and aroma; the garden encourages you to engage with your senses. We could certainly smell the cocoa scented plants!

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Engaging your artistic nature, the slightly smaller Artisan Gardens are crafted with incredible workmanship and present the traditional skills needed to create these beautiful gardens. Inspired by the Spanish Garden at The Roof Gardens in Kensington, which was originally designed by Ralph Hancock in the 1930s. The garden even features the pillars, iron gate and balconies used by Hancock in his show garden at the 1939 Chelsea Flower Show!

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Last but by no means least, our final stop for the day was the centre-piece of the show. A horticultural haven, The Great Pavilion is home to a wide range of stunning floral displays from all over the UK and around the world. A fascinating display of blooms in all colours and styles, each exhibit was truly breathtaking!

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Joining the floral tea party at David Austin Roses.

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How stunning is Zoe Rowlinson’s fabulous floral dress entry for the RHS Young Chelsea Florist of the Year?

 

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The Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden by the Royal Thai Embassy.

 

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Entering the enchanting world of Peter Rabbit with Hooksgreen Herbs & the World of Beatrix Potter.

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Transporting us to the Caribbean paradise of Barbados with an array of tropical plants.

 

‘X Marks the Spot’ by Groundwork UK highlights how even the smallest and unpromising piece of land can be transformed quickly and easily to create a local treasure that benefits all the community.

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Now that’s what we call a window display! Designed by Peter Beales Roses.

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Strolling amongst the gardens, look who we bumped into Benedict Cumberbatch and his mother discussing their passion for gardening and…

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Mary Berry (in her on-trend floral blazer!) and her daughter admiring the Show gardens.

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Following on with the floral fashion, we were delighted when we spotted a guest in none other than our Bloom Print Crinkle Dress – doesn’t she look fabulous?

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Not to be missed! For those of you who are keen to brush up on your gardening skills or you have a burning question to ask, drop by the RHS Stand where their garden experts are on-hand dishing out top-tips on how to care for your garden.

 

Will you be popping on down to RHS Chelsea Flower Show this week? We would love to compare notes in the comments below…

If you sadly missed out on tickets to the show, fear not as Hampton Court Flower Show is just around the corner July. For tickets and details, click here.

 

May 12th 2014
James Hero

FURNITURE PAINTING MASTERCLASS: THE GOODLIFE CENTRE

Graphic designer James brushes up on his furniture paining techniques at The Goodlife Centre…

It was earlier in the year that we discovered that James our Graphic Designer had a secret passion for woodwork, from up-cycling old furniture to even building his own shed! With his sights set on improving his skills and trying his hand at new projects, we sent him on his way to take part in a Furniture Painting course at the The Goodlife Centre

 

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Based in Waterloo, The Goodlife Centre is a busy DIY hub offering a wide range of courses, from wood-work to sewing – there’s something for everyone. Booked into a beginners Furniture Painting Techniques workshop,  I was eager to improve my painting skills and learn the basics of prepping.

 

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Rolling up my sleeves and donning my painters apron, the first task on the agenda was a cup of tea and biscuits, then we were off!

 

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The most important step in painting your furniture is the preparation. Talking us through the many wood stripping techniques and processes, we learnt about the basics of sandpapers, primers and undercoats, to the ensure all of our hard work wouldn’t peel or flake off! Taking an old worn down chair, we each took turns practicing our newly learnt skills.

 

Next up, we discussed the different tools, terms and materials used in the processes. Combining all three, we produced our very own unique wooden boards and picture frames. Lets take a closer look..

 

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Experimenting with three key methods, we tried our hand at creating a different number of painting techniques including a crackle glaze effect, stenciling and decoupage.

 

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Suited to the shabby chic trend, we layered an acrylic substance to create this strange crackle effect. An excellent way to up-cycle furniture, especially with our Dove Grey paint as a basis, the crackle effect can transform an old piece of furniture into a stand-out statement piece. Then we stenciled wording with different fonts and finally used decoupaged images to create a scrapbook feel.

 

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Moving on to the next project, we took our freshly painted photo frames and set about transforming them to give them a vintage-inspired look and feel. Once dry, we used iron wool and sandpaper to rough up the frame edges, we then brushed on a final coating of wax polish to give the appearance of age.

 

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Before…

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After!

 

Another popular painting technique is scumbling, by painting a thin layer of acrylic on a pre-painted base, we slowly rolled over wood graining tools to reveal this wood grain effect. Pretty impressive if you want to create that country home look.

 

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Taking home my sampler panels, I feel completely inspired to put my new painting techniques into practice.. how about a shabby chic shed? Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the course and the methods that we experimented with. A relaxing environment, the tea and biscuits added to this friendly and informative course that has fed my imagination – I’m tempted to pop along to their Repair Cafe drop-in sessions if I need advice with my next project.

 

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For more details on what courses The Goodlife Centre has to offer, click here.

Browse the Laura Ashley paint range here