Ask Alice: About garden speakers, coffee roasters and disguising an ugly shed

Do you have an interiors dilemma? Consult our resident specialist
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The Independent Online

Q. My wife likes to listen to the radio while working in the garden. As a surprise, I would like to install some garden speakers wired up to the radio in the house, which will produce a better sound than the small transistor she uses at the moment, but I haven't found a suitable system. Any suggestions, please?
Eric Lewis, Wimbledon

The online store (01616 117 174) can supply you with a pair of 25W weatherproof speakers, with 50m of cable, in black or white, for £99.95. The louder 50W version is £144.95. If your wife enjoys listening to music, it may be worth investing in some top-quality weatherproof speakers such as the WM range by Bowers & Wilkins. Starting at £199.95, they will fill your garden with sweet music and look beautiful, too. Your local stockist is Oranges & Lemons (; 020-7924 2040).

For a cheap and cheerful alternative, Primrose London (; 08704 990 270) has a pair of 20W speakers cunningly disguised as rocks (£29.95).

Q. In my quest for the perfect cup of coffee, I'd like to roast the beans myself. I have a Gaggia espresso-maker I'm pleased with, but sadly it seems that Gaggia doesn't do a roaster. Can you recommend a good, middle-of-the-range domestic model?
Margaret Spicer, by e-mail

The world of coffee-making is a minefield and it's easy to spend hundreds of pounds on equipment. The Hearthware i-Roast (£125) will perform the task admirably, but the capacity is rather small at only 150g of beans at a time. The Hottop roaster has twice the capacity, but costs £425. These are available online from Pennine Tea & Coffee (; 01422 347734).

Q. We have moved and have inherited a big, ugly, metal shed in the new garden. I would like to have it removed but my husband insists that we keep it as it serves a useful purpose and we can't afford to replace it for now. What is the fastest-growing climber I could plant to disguise it as much as possible for the summer?
Judy Tuffin, by e-mail

Unfortunately, the fastest-growing climbers tend to be rather undesirable. They would cover the shed in a matter of weeks but would swallow the whole garden, too, given a chance. If you are desperate, you could plant a Russian vine, aka "mile-a-minute", ensuring that you don't allow it to spread out of control. The best way to do this is to plant two or three vines in large pots around the base of the shed, so they'll be easier to contain. They require very little maintenance and look pretty in the height of summer, covered in tiny white flowers.

Alternatively, you could make a feature of the shed by stencilling it with a rampant flowering climber, applied with spray paints from a DIY shop. The Stencil Library ( www.stencil-library; 01661 844 844) has over 3,500 designs.

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