About Me

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After starting life as a fully trained Design Draughtsman then running my own business for nearly 20 years, I have fulfilled my desire to return to my first love of designing. Coupled with my second love of gardens, I retrained at the renowned Oxford College Of Garden Design, taking a Post Graduate Diploma in Residential Landscape and Garden Design. Since graduation I have started my own business Paul Francis Design Limited designing Gardens and Landscapes for private and commercial clients.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Autumn Colours

One of the delights of Autumn is the wonderful colours of the leaves on the trees, ranging from deep red, orange, yellow, brown and gold, creating a fantastic display in woods, parks and gardens country wide.

The range of colours is enhanced by hot weather through the summer and early autumn. The colours, created by pigments of anthocyanins and carotenoids are produced in great quantities in hot sunny weather but are disguised by the green chlorophyll until the autumn, when the chlorophyll starts to breakdown exposing the underlying pigments.

The more anthocyanins produced the redder the colour, anthocyanins and carotenoids give orange colours whilst carotenoids on their own make yellow colours.

Some of the best examples of autumn colour are found on the Liquidambar styraciflua (American Sycamore) tree whose leaves change from a pale green summer shade, to a glorious mix of lemon-yellows, crimsons and saturated purples.

Japanese maples also take some beating for reliable colour displays, with the likes of Acer palmatum that has leaves that turn a fabulous red-orange colour, striking on a sunny autumn day.

Monday, 4 October 2010



Where has the year gone? The summer is over and Autumn is well and truly here. October can be a depressing month with the darker mornings and the evenings pulling in, but it is the month for collecting Sloe's and making a wonderful Christmas tipple, Sloe Gin. Something to look forward to on a cold winter's evening when 'Cabined up' in front of the fire.

Sloes are the little black fruit berries of the Blackthorn Tree, Prunus spinosa, and found in abundance in hedgerows at this time of year.

Pick the sloes when ripe. The old recipies say straight after the first frosts which used to be mid to late October, but with the milder winters we tend to have now, you have to use your own judgement.

As long as the berries are soft and jucy when squeezed, they're Okay.

  • Take about 1lb (450 Grams) of sloes to a 750 ml bottle of Gin. (Don't use expensive Gin.)

  • Prick the sloes all over, then place into a clean jar with the gin and 4 oz (125 grams) of sugar.

  • Stir well and leave in a dark place for 3 months. Shake the jar every other day or so to help disolve the sugar.

  • When ready, strain through muslin until the gin runs clear. Do not squeeze it or the gin will go cloudy.

  • Pour into clean bottles and leave them to mature. The sloe gin can be drunk imediately but improves as it matures.

The longer it is left the better it becomes, so I am told. I've not manged to keep mine long enough!!!!!

A great alternative is to use Brandy not gin for sloe Brandy or Damsons instead of sloes for Damson Gin or Damson Brandy.

Roll on those winter nights.