YAY! Bank Holiday!

It all depends on which camp you sit in – do you approach the last and longest weekend of August with sadness because of September’s back-to-work vibe, or do you embrace it knowing that the kids who’ve been under your feet for the best part of seven weeks will soon return to school?

Whatever you’re feeling, sitting at home is not an option. Bank Holiday Weekends are rare and precious treats and there’s all manner of things to do up and down the country, whether you’re single, married, with kids or retired.

British bank holidays are public holidays and have been recognised since 1871. The name Bank Holiday comes from the time when banks were shut and so no trading could take place. For the millennials amongst you, there wasn’t even internet banking then!

And while there are eight permanent bank and public holidays in England, Wales and Scotland, we should all be envious of Northern Ireland which treats their workers to 10.

So what to do? If uniform shopping isn’t on your radar, and nor should it be, here’s a quick guide to some Bank Holiday fun.

TimeOut, as ever, should be your first port of call for London happenings. Its guide is a whistle-stop tour of the capital, packed with treats for everyone and every budget.

From the Notting Hill Carnival to the Southbank Festival of Love, they’ve got it covered.

Of course, if you’re outside the Big Smoke, then why not show your support at the Bog Snorkelling Championships in Wales or head across to the North West and take your choice between Manchester Pride’s Big Weekend or the Bolton Food and Drink Festival.

So it doesn’t matter whether you’re celebrating or commiserating, make this a Bank Holiday to remember!

Rio 2016 Olympics

It feels like we’ve already been subjected to a summer of sport, yet the biggest event is about to begin – the Olympic Games.

Despite fears over the Zika virus, thousands of athletes will descend on Rio de Janeiro for a festival of fitness between August 5th and 21st.

One event which sadly won’t be on the big stage is arguably the most exciting of all – Christmas tree throwing!

Yes, it’s a sport, and countries all over the world have their own championships to decide who is the most fearless fir flinger of all.

The Germans are the pioneers when it comes to Christmas tree throwing. In 2016, probably the most experienced Christmas tree thrower, Frank Schwender, will have the chance to win the tournament for the unprecedented 4th year in a row. Last year, he took the crown with a total distance of 22.45m.

Each thrower carries his own tree and there are three different throwing categories: ‘Hammerwurf’(hammer-style), ‘Weitwurf’ (javelin-style) and ‘Hochwurf’ (highjump-style).

After all three challenges are taken, each thrower’s distances are added up to find out the the winner. At the end of the tournament, a big bonfire is built out of the Christmas trees.

The Irish follow hot on the heels of the Germans and last year held their fourth annual championship in Ennis with nearly 250 participants.  The UK Christmas tree throwers seem to be the rookies in this battle with only one championship so far, which took place in Keele and was won by ex-marine Owen Davies with a combined score of 15,4m.

But you never know. Come Tokyo in 2020, we could see an altogether different sport grab the public imagination. And if Rio’s plan to plant 24 million trees to offset carbon emissions comes true, it could be the most eco-friendly sport out there!

 

Royal Peacock

When the decoration experts at Pines & Needles were looking for inspiration for this year’s collections, they traveled the length and breadth of the country to find it. They tramped through woodlands, sought solace in the countryside and reveled in nostalgia.

One of the biggest impressions was made by The Bird and Deer Park, an extraordinary wildlife centre in Gloucestershire.

We loved the deer and the donkeys, the reindeers and kookaburras, but by far and away the standout moment was the parade of peacocks in all their feathered finery.

As colourful as Trooping the Colour, as stylish as London Fashion Week, the birds put on a technicolour display for all the visitors who’d come for a look at their famous plumage.

And now is the time to see them in all their glory! The Bird Park has a fantastic array of free peafowl and their iconic calls can be heard from far and wide.

As well as the recognisable Indian Blue, the park also boasts the Black Shouldered and famous White species, which revel in their resplendent glory throughout the summer.

Our own Royal Peacock collection has been based on these most regal of birds, with the shimmering blues and rich tones reflected throughout the dazzling range.

From baubles and picks through to tinsel and wreaths, every home should indulge in our most opulent range to date.

See the peacocks this summer, recreate their magic this winter.

Royal Peacock Dramatic Christmas Decoration Theme

Go Ape in Battersea Park!

There’s more to Battersea Park then meets the eye – just look up!

As well as being the location for one of our most popular Christmas stores, decked out with everything from our world-beating Christmas trees to our unrivalled wreaths and garlands, it’s now also home to one of London’s coolest ‘branches’ of Go Ape.

Climbing to new heights is the Go Ape Tree-Top Adventure – the first thrill-seeking activity of its kind in central London and destined to become a mecca for children and adults alike. After all, the thrill of climbing a tree doesn’t end just because you get a mortgage!

The city hides many gems amidst the urban sprawl, from galleries and museums to show-stopping family adventures, but this is definitely up there on the list of must-see activities.

Exploring the outdoors is known to have so many benefits for health and well-being but this is also the perfect opportunity to give youngsters more confidence when soaking up the great outdoors.

Incorporating some of the park’s taller trees, the city experience includes knee-knocking crossings that are double the height of most Go Ape adventures, and many are twice as long, making them extra wobbly and challenging.

There’s also a Junior Tree Top Adventure for really mini-Tarzans.

Sounds like so much fun and who doesn’t love a bit of adventure. Check it out here: https://goape.co.uk/days-out/battersea

Just don’t go trying to climb our trees when you get them home this Christmas!

National Ice Cream Day

You scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream!

It’s summer, it’s hot (well, warm at least) and school’s out –  reason enough for anyone to head for the freezer aisle to stock up on all kinds of frozen goodies.

Are you a Magnum kinda person? A licker or a biter? Or is the sharp tang of a sorbet more your thing?

Those who indulge in treats of the frozen kind will be celebrating National Ice Cream Day on July 17. In fact there are hundreds and thousands of reasons why you should indulge!

Whether it’s the traditional rainbow options of neapolitan or the more adventurous taste journeys of bacon and egg ice cream (courtesy of Heston Blumenthal), there are said to be over 1,000 flavours of ice cream today and nothing to stop anyone adding to that list by taking a recipe and making their own with a few added twists.

Even for those Whovillians amongst us – that’s Christmas lovers to you and me – there’s all manner of ways to give your ice cream a festive makeover.

http://morellisgelato.com/festive-ice-cream-recipes

http://www.delish.com/holiday-recipes/christmas/g1430/holiday-season-ice-cream-flavors/

http://www.yummly.com/recipes/christmas-ice-cream-flavors

https://www.asdagoodliving.co.uk/food/recipes/ice-cream-snowmen

We’ve done a straw poll in the office and realised there are few problems that can’t be solved with ice cream. Indeed, who has ever seen anyone look unhappy when eating an ice cream? Except maybe the wailing toddler who just lost their blob of vanilla as it toppled off the cone.

But whether a cone, cup or bowl is your vessel of choice, National Ice Cream Day is a significant date on the calendar – it was first declared as such by none other than Ronald Reagan back in 1984.

http://www.nationaldaycalendar.com/national-ice-cream-day-third-sunday-in-july/

He wasn’t the only White House incumbent to enjoy a scoop of the chilled stuff, with Ben Franklin, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson all setting the tone.

Its origins are legendary. The ancient Greeks started eating honey and fruit-covered snow in the 5th century BC. Way back then the father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, encouraged his Ancient Greek patients to eat ice “as it livens the lifejuices and increases the well-being”.

Hear hear!

Ice cream found its way to the UK in the 17th Century thanks to Charles I by way of Italy (of course – the land of Just One Cornetto), who was so impressed with the “frozen snow” he offered his own ice cream maker a lifetime pension to keep the formula secret. Luckily for us it is no longer a treat reserved for the rich, royal or famous.

So enjoy National Ice Cream Day – it’s too good for you not to. Get in on the act nationally by posting some pictures of your favourite ice cream moment to social media tagging @pinesandneedles with the hashtag #NationalIceCreamDay.

Light Up Your Summer

 

We were in Ilkley last week – the Chelsea of the north, so it’s called. The town’s parish councillors voted some time ago to keep lights up throughout the year along its high street. And what a difference it makes. Summer evenings are given a continental flavour while dark and gloomy evenings are transformed with soft pools of light.

We think everyone should go a bit Ilkley this year. What’s the point of lighting up your house for just a couple of weeks a year when they can make such a difference all year round?

Bedrooms scream for soft lighting and there are many ways you can create a romantic look with a string of fairy lights. We stumbled upon this fabulous Pinterest board which has 1,000 ideas on how to make your bedroom stand out.

Country Living, too, put outdoor lights at number three in its feature on how to add a bit of romance into the garden. Drape them from a pergola, wend them round a tree or embed them in some shrubbery, the choice is yours!

But fairy lights don’t just light up your life, they can also add sparkle wherever you go. We love the Shine Night Walk, the brilliant Cancer Research UK fundraiser which takes place in London this September, as thousands of walkers deck themselves out in LEDs to bring a really positive shimmer to this vitally important event.

So don’t leave your fairy lights in the loft til Christmas. Get them out now or pick up the very latest designs from our Pines & Needles today!

Christmas in July!

Ok, so we know that Britain will be glued to the TV watching Wimbledon this summer, or the Euros (if you’re Welsh), or the Olympics, but while July and August bring the best weather of the year there’s a growing army of people who can’t wait for Christmas.

So as they dig out their Santa sweaters and head off to the nearest pine forest in search of a tree, we’ve had a look at the phenomenon that is Christmas in July.

For the wordsmiths amongst you, someone who is infatuated with Christmas is known as a Whovillian. Given we’ve been working on all things Christmas for 20 years, we definitely fit into that category!!

As you would expect, the Christmas in July movement started across the pond and has gathered momentum ever since. The love is spreading, so much so that the Aussies have become huge fans because their winter is in July – they may not have snow but at least it’s a little cooler than the scorching December temperatures.

Closer to home there’s plenty of opportunity to get into the festive spirit. You may not want to go the whole hog (or indeed the whole turkey) but there are some simple things you can do to celebrate the occasion.

We enjoyed these suggestions from blogger Jamie Harrington, who’s come up with a whole host of party ideas to get your yuletide celebrations into full swing. Check out her frozen hot chocolate (an oxymoron if ever we saw one), strawberry Santas and the incredible candy cane nails.

And who can resist this Christmas in July sandman that we saw on BuzzFeed?

Here at Pines & Needles our Christmas started in February, with a superhuman effort needed to ensure our product and service gets better every year.

We’re not quite at the party-hat-and-streamer stage in the office but we’re so excited about our new offerings for 2016 which include mesmerising decorations, sumptuous wreaths and everything you need to make your Christmas go with a bang – whether it’s in July or December!

Hyde Park 10 Day Summer Festival

I think it’s fair to say we have a bit of a thing for the Royal Parks.

These incredible green spaces dotted around London make the city what it is – an awe-inspiring hotch-potch of big-city bustle and unparalleled relaxation.

Wherever you are in the Big Smoke, you’re never far from a Royal Park. Indeed there are eight of them spanning more than 5,000 acres – Bushy Park, Greenwich Park, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Richmond Park, St James’s Park, The Green Park and The Regent’s Park.

There are lots of reasons why the parks have become so important to the fabric of London. Alongside the beautiful horticulture, they’re home to some of the country’s most important statues and memorials. They’re also vital in cooling temperatures, reduce wind speeds and absorbing pollution.

At Pines & Needles our connection with the Royal Parks is strong. In actual fact, many become our storefront in December as our team of elves set up camp across the city to sell our wonderful wares, from lustrous Christmas trees, stands and wreaths to lights, decorations and garlands.

Of course well before the temperatures drop and Jack Frost sprinkles his magic, the Royal Parks play host to all manner of events.

One that looks completely unmissable is the British Summer Time party in Hyde Park between July 1 and July 10. Stars such as Take That and Florence and the Machine will take part in the open-air extravaganza, with comedy acts and other entertainment packed into the schedule.

The parks will have calmed down a little by the time you come and see us this Christmas to pick up your needle-perfect real fir tree, but when you do just take a moment to soak up the wonderful history of the environment you’re in.

And if you’re not sure which of our stores is nearest to you, just use the store finder on our website.

Wimbledon

Is there anything more quintessentially British than the Wimbledon Tennis Championships?

Our eyes will be fixed firmly on SW14 from June 27 to July 10 and naturally we’ll be root-ing for Andy Murray – we’ve got Scottish blood don’t ya know!

Forget the parched surfaces of the French Open or the hardcourts of Flushing Meadow, we love the lush green courts of the Wimbledon as it reminds us of the firs growing on our Scottish plantation.

Of course, while we soak up the action from around the courts, spare a thought for those who will be working at the All England Club this year. After all, they have to serve up something of a bounty to the 39,000 people who attend each day.

Cups of tea come top of the tree, closely followed by Pimm’s and those all important strawberries.

 

Here’s a list to show you just how much goes on behind the scenes:

  • 330,000 cups of tea and coffee
  • 230,000 bottles of water
  • 234,000 meals served
  • 320,000 glasses of Pimm’s
  • 110,000 sandwiches and baguettes
  • 25,000 scones
  • 110,000 pints of draught beer and lager
  • 16,000 portions of fish and chips
  • 44,000 litres of milk
  • 140,000 portions of English strawberries
  • 10,000 litres of dairy cream
  • 10,000 portions of frozen yoghurt
  • 29,000 bottles of champagne
  • 5,000 kilos of bananas (for players)
  • 86,000 ice cream portions
  • 30,000 stone baked pizzas

 

So who are you putting your money on? Few can look past the dominance of Novak Djokovic, who swept Murray aside in the French Open final recently.

Roger Federer is back on form after an injury lay-off and don’t ignore the likes of Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic who will hope to bring their A-game to London.

In the women’s draw there’ll be no Sharapova this year following her two-year doping ban, so few will bet against Serena Williams despite her recent stumbles. But let’s hope Britain’s Johanna Konta, Heather Watson and Laura Robson make a good fist of things.

Pines and Needles heads to Glee

We can’t fail to be happy when attending a show called Glee, the UK’s biggest garden and outdoor living trade event.

Having successfully unveiled our new wholesale offering at the NTA National Plant Show on June 21, we’re continuing the march to ensure everyone knows about our great products and unrivalled service.

Glee is a fabulous three days which showcases the very best on offer in the garden industry. There are some big names on the exhibitor list and we are delighted to be a part of such an inspirational event.

The people at Glee are happy too (as you would expect) and have featured us in the latest edition of their ‘Inspiration’ series.

This year marks an important step for Pines & Needles. We’ve acquired some high-profile corporate customers over the years, from the Natural History Museum to Wembley Stadium, but now we’re rolling out our wholesale service across the entire UK.

Naturally we would love to see you if you’re attending. You can talk to our team, look at our range of products up close and see just why The Independent voted us Britain’s Number One grower of real Christmas trees.

We’re here to take the hassle out of Christmas, offering everything from trees and wreaths to lights and decorations at a price that can’t be beaten.

 

Why should you choose Pines & Needles? Here’s why:

  • Quality Guarantee – we supply the best quality Christmas trees with a range of options from economy up to super premium
  • Price Promise – highly competitive prices beating any like-for-like written quote
  • Exceptional Service – distribution hubs in Scotland and London, plus dedicated account manager to suit any business need
  • Supporting Charities – we have a strong belief in giving back and work with charities including Action for Children
  • Sustainably Grown – we adhere to strict environmental practices throughout the entire process

 

There’s a lovely video which shows exactly why Glee’s on our horizon this year – watch it here.

The big day itself may be six months’ away but whether you want to book now or at the very last minute, we’re here to help every step of the way.