Celia Rufey answers your garden questions

Decorating expert Celia Rufey answers your garden questions on everything from choosing deckchair fabric to repairing terracotta pots

Where will I find a birdhouse in the shape of a real home?

1/9 Find a birdhouse in the shape of a real home


(Image credit: TBC)

The following websites offer birdhouses and also bird feeders in a variety of house shapes. The most architectural is the Hanging Bird Townhouse, £45, from Berry Red. Also look at Sparrow & Finch, where birdhouses are named after well known hotels. There are small houses for wall fixing, such as The Berkeley, £59, Four Seasons, £99, and The Metropolitan, £35, as well as tall stand-alone models such as Claridges (pictured), with its tiled roof, £395. Try Garden Trading, for the Wooden birdhouse, £17.50. Not on the High Street supplies birdhouses from a number of small companies, including a Country Cottage, £44, and Beach Hut models, from £49 each.

2/9 Suppliers of reclining rattan garden chairs

garden chair house clinic

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Last year, I found a reclining weatherproof rattan chair with leg rest, but the supplier only had one and I would like two. Could you suggest anything else that might be similar?

The Marguerite (pictured) in synthetic rattan is an attractive combination of chair, cushion and leg rest, which costs £895 from Holloways. Tango from the Dedon range at Leisureplan, includes a rattan recliner, priced at £1,614, and footstool, £468, with cushions for both chair and stool as optional extras. At Go Modern, you may like the Swing Garden Lounge chair, from £1,010, including footstool. It comes in a choice of colours and cushion fabrics. The chair which is nearest to the one you found last year is the Rimini rattan reclining armchair, £739 from Oka. It has no footstool but there?s a matching low rattan coffee table, £389.

3/9 Planning permission for a veranda

planning permission for a veranda

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We would like to add a veranda to our house. Who could design one and would it need planning permission?

A veranda will need planning permission if your house is listed, in a conservation area or has been significantly extended since it was built. Check with your local planning office before going ahead. You could engage an architect who, besides designing a veranda sympathetic to the style of the house, could deal with any planning applications and supervise its construction. Or look at firms such as Veranda Living, which has designs based on a steel framework with a glazed roof and Lloyd Christie, which offers bespoke verandas with wood or metal posts and a glazed or metal roof. Both companies can assist with planning issues, too.

4/9 Restoring Victorian porch tiles

victorian porch red ochre and black tiles

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My Victorian porch has a red, ochre and black tiled floor but the tiles are ingrained with dirt. How can I clean and seal them?

Various products from the range by Lithofin, 01962 732126, lithofin.co.uk, will revive your Victorian tiles. Wexa, for example, £13.16 for 1 litre, will deep-clean for an immediate improvement. Further procedures are only advised for an internal porch with a damp-proof course, otherwise moisture could be trapped within the tiles instead of evaporating naturally. If there is a damp course, apply Lithofin?s impregnating sealant called KF Stainstop, £37.76 for 1 litre, to prevent dirt from being ground into the tiles; and if you want a polished effect, finish with KF Tile Polish, £13.08 for 1 litre. Lithofin products can be purchased from a number of online companies, or visit its website for your nearest stockist.

5/9 Repairing cracked terracotta pots

repairing cracked terracotta pots in the garden

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon McBride)

One of my terracotta pots cracked last winter and, when I water the plants in it, the water comes through the crack. Is it possible to repair the pot without disturbing the plants?

I remember a similar query being asked on a china restoration course at The Mowbray School of Porcelain Restoration, so I asked tutor Maureen Aldridge to remind me of what she had said then. It is better, she advises, to remove the plants so that the pot can be cleaned first, but if that's not possible, allow the pot and the earth to dry out before attempting the repair. The products you will need are Milliput Terracotta Putty, £4.25, and Araldite Precision, £4.49 from Bostik. Mix each as directed then take a small knife and, into the Milliput, mix in some Araldite in a ratio of one part Araldite to three parts Milliput. This will give you a more pliable composition with improved adhesion. Use a palette knife to fill the crack, pushing in the mix as far and as firmly as you can. If possible, allow to dry out for three days before watering again.

6/9 Decorative tablecloth clips for the garden

decorative tablecloth clips for the garden

(Image credit: Future PLC/Mark Scott)

Where can I find decorative clips that I can use on our tablecloths to stop them blowing in the breeze when 
we have lunch in the garden? 

For something that will sparkle in the sunlight while weighting down the tablecloth, try the outdoor table clips with glass droplets, £12.50 for 
four from Cox & Cox. Others to check out are Stone Heart tablecloth clips, £11.95 for four, from Velvet Brown and Aged Ceramic tablecloth weights, £6.95 for four, from Garden Boutique. For securing the tablecloth directly to the table top, Lakeland?s transparent clips work on tables up to 5cm thick; £3.99 for four from Lakeland.

7/9 Restoring deck chair fabric

olourful deck chair fabric for the garden

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Can I buy fabric in the correct width and quality to restore our garden deck chairs?

Deckchairstripes offers a wonderful range: 35 colourways of striped cotton deck chair canvas, including vintage stripes reproduced from its archive, all 45cm wide, £10m. The company suggests using the existing canvas to establish how much fabric you will need: 1.5m 
is standard but larger chairs may take more. Tack on the fabric with its antiqued upholstery nails 
(a pack of 25 at £2 is enough for one chair). You will also find three deck chair canvas stripes, 42cm wide, £14.50m, from Ian Mankin, and one striped canvas, 45cm wide, £5.95m, from John Lewis.

8/9 Oiling hardwood garden furniture

oiling hardwood garden furniture

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At two years old, our hardwood garden furniture is greying nicely. We have been told that oiling it will turn the wood brown and make it unattractive. Is 
this true?

Oiling provides a protective finish but the pigment added to it would turn the wood brown. How you should treat your ?nicely? greying hardwood depends on what it is and its quality. If it is teak, it won?t need oiling and should last for decades. Hardwoods of less superior quality deteriorate if left untreated, leaving you with the option of either enjoying its pleasing colour for however long it lasts or treating the wood to prolong its life span but altering the colour. One treatment that could work is Earth Oil by Mylands. Usually this is a blend of tung oil and natural resins but the Silver Grey version is an acrylic resin. The product is intended as a floor finish, but its ingredients make it an effective garden furniture oil. An application of the silvery wash followed by Earth Oil Overlay, both £22.63 for 1 litre, may provide an acceptable finish.

9/9 Fabric covers to protect food in the garden

fabric covers edged with beads

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I used to have a couple of fabric covers edged with beads to protect dishes from flies when we have tea in the garden. Is anything like this still made? 

A set of two beaded food covers, from Cath Kidston, 
which come in two designs: Dotty, 36cm diameter, and English Rose, 20cm diameter, cost £10. Covers are also available every year from Lakeland, in its stores and for the duration of its summer catalogue. They come in three sizes: 15cm diameter, £3.29; 23cm, £4.29 and 33cm, £4.49.

Need help with your home? Got an interior design question?Our decorating expert Celia Rufey offers a bespoke design service to help you with your home.


Tamara was Ideal Home's Digital Editor before joining the Woman & Home team in 2022. She has spent the last 15 years working with the style teams at Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, both now at Future PLC. It’s with these award wining interiors teams that she's honed her skills and passion for shopping, styling and writing. Tamara is always ahead of the curve when it comes to interiors trends – and is great at seeking out designer dupes on the high street.