Showcasing young musical talent, this year's Winter Concert at Arthur Terry School was an outstanding success and took place against the stunning backdrop of a Christmas Tree donated by GardenSite.
Christmas is the most joyous time of the year and this is always reflected in the sparkle and glitz of decorations around everyone's houses and gardens.
It’s a time for merry making and celebration and the centrepiece has got to be the Christmas Tree.
Walk into any room at this time of the year and it is the tree that is the star, brightly lit and festooned with garlands, baubles, sweets and other decorations.
Traditionally pine spruce or fir, choose the right height and girth to fit your room, it should be a feature not an overwhelming presence. Trees can be different shades of green perhaps bordering on turquoise but all have that wonderful fresh outdoors fragrence that will permeate everywhere.
An artificial Christmas tree, again in numerous shapes and sizes, might be your choice if you want value for money over several years. These trees have improved significantly since their first introduction, they are now extremely realistic and won’t drop their needles!
If the lights you have used over the years have always been traditional coloured bulbs, this might be the time to think about something a little more cutting edge especially when you see the extensive range that is now available.
Even fairy lights have moved with the times, they can now be brighter and animated to twinkle, chase, move and produce other effects that will excite both children and adults.
To mesmerise your guests wrap the tree with LED cluster lights. Each micro light is on an individual strand creating a marvellous tinsel effect. Choose between white, warm white or multi-coloured, these delightful lights are easy to use as the whole set can be simply draped for maximum effect with minimum effort.
Wax candle lights, in red or white, will flicker and glow, realistically evoking the spirit of a Dickensian yuletide in a candlelit Victorian household with gifts scattered under the tree and the smell of the roast bird wafting in from the kitchen.
This is appropriate as it was the Victorians, especially Prince Albert, who imported the Christmas tree tradition from his native Germany. At that time the tree was decorated with edibles such as apples, nuts or dates and later lit with candles and lights.
Today tradition has evolved into a vivid display of tinsel, ornaments, sweets and chocolate, however the colours of Christmas, green, red white, silver and gold are still apparent.
Tinsel glitters and provides the sparkle to complement the lights while garlands imitate holly, mistletoe and ivy, evergreens that are always associated with winter cold, providing colour, especially the red holly berries, against a backdrop of frost and snow.
Delicate glass ornaments and baubles from simple round balls to more intricate designs have given way to ones produced using modern technology. The quality has remained high but they last longer and their metallic glimmer adds colour and light. Also think about small figures of Father Christmas and snowmen perhaps lit by LEDs, reindeer or snow flakes to hang from the branches together with the chocolate coins.
Almost hidden under the tree, the stand although practical may be unsightly and should be covered with something ornate and connected to the Christmas scene as it is usually surrounded by gifts to be opened on the big day.
Finally, the most important long established adornment is of course the angel or star that is placed by a small child, excited by all the Christmas festivities, stretching to the top branch. A beautiful golden fairy, fashioned with fibre optic strands so that she also changes colour, is an exquisite finishing touch to any tree.
Decorations are a matter of personal choice mixed with tradition. You may prefer a simple themed approach retaining the beauty of the tree or go all out to festoon it with a mixture of shapes, colours and lights. Each approach has its own merits, Christmas means different things to different people and that will be reflected in the decorations you choose and how they are used.
Dazzling with colourful interest in the brilliant sunshine, this year's Hampton Court Palace Flower Show will prove to be a tremendous attraction for everyone as it caters for both keen gardeners and families who just what a day out in magnificent surroundings.
After all the dry hot weather that much of the country has experienced over the last few weeks, the lavender in David Coton's garden is at its most colourful and scented, he's cutting the flowerheads to make lavender biscuits or drying them for pot pourri. Here are more jobs you can do in the garden during July.
At this time of the year you'll find a fabulous selection of summer bedding at our Garden Centre in Birmingham. David Coton will be planting the bedding in containers this month to achieve a wonderful display of colour and here are some other jobs to do in the garden in June.
As part of a project designed to sow ideas, grow inspiration and cultivate futures, 300 London schools are growing their own picnic this summer and their reward could be a £500 voucher from GardenSite.