Window Lights are wonderful way to greet visitors to your house at Christmas, and here Andy Taylor reviews Konstsmide's contemporary and traditional range of Candlesticks, Welcome Lights and Silhouettes.
Fibre optic trees are still popular at Christmas time, for anyone wanting that retro look in their home. I hope my guide to these colourful artificial Christmas trees gets you in the festive mood.
Since they became popular, artificial trees have undergone much change and innovation but until relatively recently no real game changing moments of brilliance. Someone running from the Christmas tree design department shouting Eureka! hasn't been a regular event.
Feather trees, popular until the 1920s, were overtaken by the relentless onset of plastic. Even though they were less than convincing, the new style sold surprisingly well until competition in the form of tinsel and aluminium came along in the swinging sixties.
These garish trees reflected the effervescent times and were the antithesis of a natural tree. They were about as far removed from a Christmas tree as Alvin Stardust is from Keith Richards. But, however naff, they sold in their millions.
Since then, more lifelike trees have made a comeback. Convincingly natural in both look and feel, some can hardly be differentiated from real Scandinavian pine, spruce and fir. Especially when a dusting of frost and snow has been added together with berries and cones.
However, sometimes a technological advance in any aspect of life can radically alter the status quo. This year's model is so in tune with public taste and utilizes new technology so well that last year's design is instantly consigned to history.
And as far as Christmas trees are concerned, this happened with the advent of fibre optics.
Developed with perhaps more serious applications in mind such as communications and medicine, the fibre optic is a flexible, extremely very fine tube made from glass or plastic through which light can be transmitted.
It didn't take long for its decorative qualities to be appreciated and now vibrant fibre optic Christmas trees glisten, sparkle and shimmer to the delight of everyone who loves the magic of the festive season.
The Multi-coloured Crystal Effect Tree has become established as the most popular. Running through the spectrum it exhibits a rainbow effect that is difficult to capture in words. Its beauty really has to be seen to be believed. Especially welcoming in a porch, this special tree will decorate any lounge or household space with distinctive vividness.
A similar style is available with lanterns providing additional decoration. More restrained is the Crystal Tip Tree, traditionally shaped, it has been brought up to date and will twinkle attractively to everyone's enjoyment.
Other fibre optic Christmas trees are decorated with cones and berries, dazzling silver flowers, flamboyant multi-coloured poinsettias and stars. The subtle and soft changing hues of branches can be complemented by colourful bows or iridescent tinsel tips. Showy snowflakes or cool white, bright red and glittering gold petals are amongst some other alternative embellishments.
The Black Sparkle Tree has a stylish contemporary look while the 4 Colour LED Tree has dozens of brightly coloured LEDs set against a shimmering and constantly changing chromatic background.
With trees ranging in size from 45cm (18ins) to 210cm (6ft 9ins), Premier are the leading exponents of this stunning technology that uses strands that are the width of a human hair.
However one other tree that stands out from the crowd is marketed by Widmanns. Available in four sizes, it has a classy look with naturalistic green foliage combined with real pine cones and very realistic red berries. The branches themselves are interspersed with delicate colour changing fibre optics.
Christmas decorations are all about colour and light. Outside is so dark and drab that we need showy and exciting fibre optic Christmas trees to bring vitality and joy into our lives at a time when these qualities are most in demand.
Nathan James Dodd
Here in Birmingham, the weather has been as changeable as ever, very warm just before Easter followed by a cold spell only last week. During May the threat of further frost will largely pass and, with spring well under way, Robert Hall is in no doubt that this is going to be a busy month in the garden.
The weather forecast is for a sizzling summer and David Coton is already looking forward to preparing delicious barbecued food for his family and friends. Barbecues have become incredibly popular over recent years and here is David's guide on what to look out for when choosing one of these summer essentials.
Sheds of any kind are ubiquitous in the British garden and, due to their popularity, there are plenty to choose from. David Coton explores the basic considerations that need to be taken into account before purchasing one.
Robert Hall, senior partner at GardenSite.co.uk has been elected to sit on the Garden Industry Manufacturers Association (GIMA) Judging Panel for 2017. The news was announced on 31st March 2017 on the GIMA website.