Showing posts with label Raintree Annie. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Raintree Annie. Show all posts

Saturday, February 6, 2021

The Spider Plant As A Houseplant Reviewed

 

Spider Plant With Spiderlings

I have grown up with spider plants or Chlorophytum in the house for as long as I can remember. My Mum always had at least six spider plants in the house all with a myriad of little baby spider plants hanging from the parent in glorious abundance. 

My Mum was a true master of caring for houseplants so that they grew healthy and abundant. All I knew as a child was that they were pretty and indestructible! 


Spider Plants In Our Home

Now I have six spider plants in our home, one in the bathroom, one in the living room, one in the bedroom, two in the dining room/study and one in the kitchen! I could have many more and probably will over time. In the meantime, I give away the little baby spiderettes potted up as gifts.

All mine are variegated, though you can buy all green ones as well. Four of mine are young plants taken from the parent so they do not have any offspring yet. I think they really brighten up a room!

Two are more mature and have beautiful little spider plants or spiderettes hanging down from the main plant. You may need to wait a while for the plant to mature enough to have offspring and a little patience will reward. Once you have a mature spider plant you will always have more! 

 

Mature Spider Plant With Many Spiderlings!

Where To Site Spider Plants.

As when I was a child these plants remain pretty indestructible! Ideally, they like well-drained soil and light but not too sunny position. They do prefer a slightly cooler environment, so I never place a spider plant in direct sunlight on a sunny windowsill or directly above a radiator.

In winter with the central heating on it can be a little more difficult to keep them cool, but as long as they are not directly on top of the radiator or heat source they seem to cope. They are the easiest and most forgiving plants I have ever looked after. 

If any of the leaves go brown I just gently pull them out and if the tip of the leaves only goes brown I just snip off with a pair of scissors. 


Young Spider Plant 

Watering And Feeding Spider Plants

They do need watering well but also like to dry out between waterings. I have a tendency to overwater but this can lead to soggy roots and make them very sick.

If this happens I have found the best thing to do is to take the plant out of the pot, allow it to dry out a little, then repot in fresh dry soil, then water normally, meaning lightly. All mine recovered this way but you do need to catch it early or the plant will be sick.  

The best thing is not to overwater in the first place and always let the soil dry so it is just slightly moist in between waterings. 

The opposite issue is if they get too dry. If this happens you will see them visibly droop and the leaves will start to go yellow and then brown.

 This is easily remedied by giving them a light watering over several days. It may also be advisable to mist them now and again if you know the atmosphere in your home is dry.

If they get to this stage of drought, it is better in my experience not to give them a big drink all at once as it seems to overwhelm them a bit, rather just a small drink to begin.

Then simply pull or trim off any dried leaves and the spider plant will look good as new.  You will soon see them perk up again! 

So with normal care, they respond to watering only when necessary, allowing any excess to drain off and then leaving it until the top of the soil feels dry before we water again. 

We can feed spider plants but they do not need it very often. Mine get a feed perhaps once or twice a month, only in the growing season of spring and summer when I remember and they are fine with that. Any general houseplant feed will do in either liquid or granular form. I give them a far weaker solution than is recommended on the bottle as too much feeding can result in browning of the leaf tips. There is no need to feed in Autumn and Winter. 

I only repot when the original pot has become obviously overcrowded. You will either be able to see the roots on the surface or bursting out of the bottom of the pot, or it will be so congested it becomes tricky to water them.  Then it's time to just pot on into the next size pot into compost that will drain well. This should only be necessary every two to three years.


 


How To Propagate Spiderettes!

I do love the name Spiderettes! Usually in spring when daylight hours increase they start out as tiny white flowers on the parent plant and then develop into a fascinating mini spider plant attached to the parent with a long stem. They can remain like this as they grow bigger for a long time and do look beautiful. 

However, I have found it best to propagate at least some of them before they get too large or too many of them and drag the parent plant down. The one in the first photograph now has a lot of young and really needs some spiderettes propagating this Spring. 

Propagation is so easy. Simply prepare a pot with well-drained soil and without detaching the spiderette from the parent, lower the spiderette roots into the soil, cover and keep watered. Once you see growth and roots developing well, you can snip the long cord from the parent. You can make so many new spider plants by this method! 

Alternatively, if when still attached to the parent, there are already good strong roots visible on the spiderette, you can snip it from the parent plant and pot on by itself. 

When spider plants are very young they have a more upright habit but as they mature they tend to hang down and so I like to place them on a bookshelf, cupboard or shelf so that they and their spiderettes can show off to their full glory.  

They also look great placed in lovely natural macrame baskets that can be hung in the house. This can make them look even more special. 

I like the white macrame baskets which make them stand out and pick up on the white variegation of the long leaves. This is a lovely selection of macrame baskets to suit many hanging houseplants and spider plants would love them. 

 

 


If you don't like macrame then a hanging pot like these  La Jolie Muse Planters in a speckled white colour is lovely to pick up on the white stripes in the spider plant leaves and will look modern and beautiful.

They are lightweight enough made of recyclable plastic and stone powder to hang with a beautiful spider plant inside. These planters come with drainage holes and a water reservoir to ensure that the plants get what they need. 


 


Spider Plants Are Good For Us! 

Spider plants are well known to be a cleanser of the air inside our homes.  It is a great idea to have one in every room. Our homes have more pollutants and chemicals than are good for us from everyday cleaning products to our technology.

Many of us do not open windows and ventilate homes enough especially when it is cold in winter and central heating can dry out the air. 

I especially like to have a spider plant in the bedroom and also in any room where we use technology. They are perfect for a home office.

Houseplants are fantastic at absorbing carbon dioxide and giving out oxygen and some are very good at cleansing the air. Spider plants have been shown in tests by NASA to be able to clean formaldehyde for the air. Tests were conducted under sealed conditions and those tests showed that one plant per 100 square feet would be required.

However, in the less controlled and much more changeable environment of our homes, this may be a bit different. I think if we have a spider plant per room it can do no harm and only help towards a healthier environment for us.   

Spider Plants are a great house plant gift for anyone starting out in their new home or for a student going to University. They cope admirably with conditions that are not quite optimal for them and can amazingly survive a degree of neglect. 


 Young Spider Plant With A Small Spiderling


They are one of the few plants I do not worry about when I go on a two week holiday and ours were all perfectly fine when we went away for a month once. 

I just watered them well in the weeks beforehand and left them in a shady spot.

If you would like pretty, low maintenance, evergreen and interesting all-year-round houseplant that is healthy for us and looks especially good where it can cascade down from a high surface, or in a hanging basket, then spider plants are well worth considering. 




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Tuesday, January 5, 2021

The Benefits Of Using A Rebounder For Health And Fitness Reviewed

What is Rebounding?

The Benefits Of Using A Rebounder For Health And Fitness Reviewed.


Rebounding is effectively bouncing or jumping up and down on a mini trampoline. This exercise can be done very gently or it can be a serious aerobic workout.

As it is a low impact cardiovascular form of exercise, people from older children to older adults can use a rebounder, as long as their healthcare team approves it. 

I started using my rebounder 2 months ago. I was looking for something where I could exercise safely indoors during our cold winter months and something that would help me to get fitter and lose some weight. 

As I have had an ankle injury and severe back pain with two herniated discs in the past, to the point I could barely walk without pain and numbness, I am always wary of any new exercise. 

Exercises like jogging and running put too much pressure on my joints and back to be healthy for me. I love swimming but cannot always have access to a pool.  

After checking with my doctor that it was OK to use this piece of equipment I started very slowly and with very short sessions.


Stepping slowly and gently on Rebounder


Safety And Rebounding 

It is important that wherever you use your rebounder that you make sure you have enough clearance above your head to use it safely. You do not want to be hitting your head on the ceiling!

It needs to be placed on a strong stable floor that is even. You do not want the rebounder to be on an uneven surface. 

Also, ensure there is enough room around the rebounder to get on and off safely without bumping into or having to step over anything. Please take care that children and pets are not too close to you when using it. 

Also as it is a form of cardio exercise make sure the room is well ventilated and open one or more windows to let fresh air in.

From my personal experience, I would say to get a rebounder with as large an area of use as possible to make it easier for you. Some have very small areas to bounce onto and I think I would personally find that difficult and annoying.  

Then it is just a matter of making sure it is all fixed securely and you are good to go!


Bouncing On Rebounder. 


Who Should Not Use A Rebounder.

Rebounding is a pretty safe form of exercise for most people especially as if you need to, you can take it at a very gentle pace. 

However, If you have not exercised for a long time and are over 50 years of age please do check with your Doctor first.

If you are very overweight or have heart or lung conditions or any illness or previous accident or injuries, especially to your back or legs or have joint issues or circulatory problems or just feel generally unhealthy or very unfit you must check with your doctor before using a rebounder. 


What Are The Benefits Of Using A Rebounder? 

I wanted a rebounder to help me to increase my fitness and to lose weight. So far both are improving slowly. 

I wanted to be able to exercise effectively and easily indoors in the colder, rainy weather without having to go to a gym or pay gym membership prices. It certainly fulfills these criteria. 

I am also looking forward to taking it out onto our Patio in the summer and using it there. 

It certainly works the leg muscles and I have noticed my muscles, especially in my legs, are much firmer.

Rebounding apparently helps to strengthen the bones in terms of strength and density. This is especially important as we get older and at any age is healthy. 

It is said to help improve coordination and balance. My balance was Ok before I started but I do think it has helped me become more stable and hopefully less likely to have balance issues in the future as I age. 

As my husband had a major operation on his right leg several years ago, we have noticed some minor balance issues and they are gradually improving as he uses the rebounder more often.  

I understand it may help pelvic floor strength and help to prevent urinary incontinence. I cannot vouch for that but if it does that is a good thing as well. 

It certainly works the core abdominal muscles which I really need to be strong to offer support to my back. As I am unable, due to my back condition, to do many core exercises like sit-ups this is great to work my core muscles while standing up. 

It also works the large back muscles and I know having been told by my health care team that if I can keep the back muscles strong and flexible that will help my back long term. I am supposed to swim at least twice a week but have been unable to do that at all these last 10 months and so rebounding is useful for me. 

There are lots of videos on the internet that will show you exercises to do from the very gentle to the most advanced strenuous workout. Many exercises incorporate using your arms as well so you do get a great full body workout. 

Like any other piece of exercise equipment, it is of course only as good as how often you use it.


 


What I Found Difficult About The Rebounder. 

It is quite a large piece of equipment and takes up a good amount of space in a room.  At first I would carefully fold all its legs in and store it under the table. However, as I was using it every day for a short period of time it got to be a pain getting it out then putting it away all the time, so I just left it out. Now we are both using it, it's not worth putting it away, so we leave it propped up on its side in a corner and we do not notice it too much. For us seeing the results from the exercise it is worth it.

The one we bought does not have a stabilizing handle. Now we are used to it that does not matter so much, but at first, it would have been helpful to have that security there. If you know you may have some balance issues or would like to feel more secure on a rebounder I would strongly recommend a handle. 

You can buy rebounders that fold away easier and do have handles so both these can be overcome. 

Ours was not too bad to put together as it just meant putting each of the six legs on which once we got the hang of was doable. Some rebounders are more complex to put together so depending on your level of skill and patience do watch out for that. 


 

 

What I Like About The Rebounder

It is a sturdy piece of equipment that so far is still looking and operating as well as it was the first day of use. 

While it is an investment it is not overly expensive for exercise equipment and as most in the family can use it, does work out very cost-effective. 

It is fun to use! This is key for me as I would otherwise get bored and then not use it. 

I miss it when I do not use it! 

I am starting to see results! I especially like to see my tummy core muscles improving!  Bear in mind when I started I was literally using it only for 5 minutes a day for weeks so I could ascertain how it was affecting my back. It is only in the last 3 weeks that I have built up to 15 minutes a day. If you don't have health issues you would build up to 15 minutes or more much more quickly. 

People of any age can use a rebounder as long as approved by a doctor. I would advise that if used by children they are supervised. If used by an older person it may be a good idea to buy one with a stabilising handle and if possible have someone around if assistance is needed.     


 


What To Wear When Rebounding.

You can exercise in specific exercise clothes and that is advisable if you are doing a long serious workout. Usually, I just wear joggers or leggings, bare feet and a loose T-shirt or top.

I have often just hopped onto the rebounder for 5-10 minutes in my leggings and top in between working sessions on the computer. I would advise wearing a stretchy, forgiving material though just so you can move freely. 

I exercise in my bare feet. I think it would be Ok to wear trainers if that was more comfortable for you. However, footwear would need to be very stable and have a good grip. If you are not sure perhaps try to out both ways and see what you feel is best for you. Clearly do not use a rebounder wearing slippers or normal shoes as that is not safe.


Summary Of What To Bear In Mind When Buying A Rebounder

I have shown a few rebounder choices throughout this article. No one rebounder will suit all people. You will need to carefully consider all factors and what is important to you personally. 

What is a key factor for one person or family may not be important to another. It really does depend on what you are wanting from this piece of exercise equipment including your fitness, your skill level and experience of exercise equipment, the room you have and why you want a rebounder. However, there are a few things to bear in mind that I wish someone would have mentioned to me.


You can see the size of the surface area to bounce on in relation to my foot. 



1. Size.

I would suggest buying the largest surface area you can. I personally would not feel comfortable on ones with a very small area though these are often easier to transport and fold away. It depends on what is most important to you and is a choice to weigh up.  

2. Safely handle or not.

 I do not have a safety handle and now I would not feel the need to buy one. However, in the early days, I would have felt happier with one. As I get older I might buy another rebounder with a handle just for safety.  I think there are also some exercises you can do easier with a handle so a detachable handle would perhaps be useful. This is a very personal choice. 

3.Price. 

Rebounders vary quite a bit in price and often depends on durability and what comes in the kit with them. Usually, the wisest advice is to buy the best you can afford. You need to think how you will use the rebounder and the demands you will place upon it. I would always look for safety, reliability and sturdiness in a rebounder. You do not want parts of it breaking within months. However, do not feel you have to buy the most expensive when actually a less expensive model may fulfill all your needs.   

4. Noise level.

 Some rebounders are noisier than others. You will see some are sold on the fact that they are quieter. You may decide to choose on this basis alone if noise levels are important to you. For me, it was not an issue as I play music anyway when rebounding and I use it on the ground floor of our house and do not disturb anyone, but for others, this may be a key issue.  

5. Storage.

If you are going to leave your rebounder out then storage issues are not such a consideration. However, If you feel you will need to put away your rebounder every time you use it check carefully the packing away and storage requirements. Does it fold up easily and quickly, do the legs fold up or do they need to be taken off, can it slide under a bed without much effort or do you need to disassemble it before storing. In my experience the more difficult it is to get out and set up a piece of equipment the less you will use it. 

 
Gentle jumping on Rebounder

Using A Rebounder

With any piece of exercise equipment that is new to us it is best to start off slow and steady and gradually build up so you can monitor the effect it has on your body. You do not have to bounce high in the air even gentle bouncing with your feet hardly leaving the mat will give benefits. 

If you feel unsure do have someone with you when you first start using your rebounder for security. Children should be supervised and older people may wish to have someone with them especially at first. 

It is important to maintain the correct posture keeping a nice line from your ankle to hip to shoulder and your head held straight and tall. Do follow the instructions for the exercises so you are rebounding safely and effectively. 

In terms of how I built up time on my rebounder as I have known back issues, I first checked with my doctor that it was Ok for me to use this form of exercise for my specific condition. 

Once I had the medical go-ahead I literally tried bouncing for 2 minutes very gently then got off. When that was Ok for me 2 days later I tried it again for 2 minutes. All that first week I did a couple of minutes every other day. 

The following week I increased to 5 minutes every other day.  The week after as I had not had any pains I increased to 10 minutes every other day.

I dropped back to 7 minutes when I got a bit of backache and gave myself a few days off, then started gradually increasing again. I have now built up slowly to 15-20 minutes 4 days a week. Sometimes I do the 20 minutes in one session. Other times I split it into two 10 minutes sessions. 

I think as I want to lose weight I may need to increase to 30-minute sessions 5 days a week next.

At first, I needed to concentrate a lot on what I was doing to get the form and balance right but now I put on some great music, which for me is often a Queen track and rebound away !! I find, 20 minutes flies by so quickly! 


Higher stepping on Rebounder


Most of all I just love using my rebounder and enjoy the exercise! 

In the end that really is the key factor to improving fitness and losing weight through exercise. Choose something you feel you will enjoy and just go have fun!

   

 

 




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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

6 Ways To Help Wildlife In The Year Ahead

 

Butterfly On Wild Flowers By Raintree Annie

If one of the things you would like to do in the New Year is to do more to help our precious and often at-risk wildlife here are six easy ideas reviewed.

Even if we do just one of these we will be helping wildlife and nature. Do all six and your garden could be transformed into a wildlife haven in less than a year! 

In our gardens, balconies and patios we can all do one thing for wildlife and make such a huge difference. Some of these ideas are very easy indeed while others require a little more thought and time but all are fun and not difficult for most people to achieve. You may well find children enjoy being involved in many of these activities as well.

 

1. What To Do With The Old Christmas Tree 

I hope you had a lovely time at Christmas and an attractive, decorated Christmas tree.

We will keep ours up in the house for a little while longer but now is the time to think about what to do with it once the time comes to take it down.

I find it quite depressing to see all the Christmas trees outside people's houses ready to be taken away by the refuse collectors, of no more use to the neighbourhood. 

I do not like waste and feel there is a better way to recycle our old Christmas trees long after they have given us so much happiness. 

Making a woodpile with the chopped branches, creating a stumpery, shredding it and using the shreddings for mulch or even just laying it down in an undisturbed area of the garden for habitat and shelter all help our gardens and our wildlife.

What Do You Do With The Old Christmas Tree discusses more uses for our old Christmas trees.  

 

2. Don't Be So Tidy in The Garden! 

This may be an easy one to follow! However, I understand many of us like to have a neat and tidy garden, all edges carefully trimmed, leaves gathered up and all weeds eradicated. There is something very pleasing about a neat and tidy garden. However for nature, for wildlife they need us to be a little messier in our gardens.

Wildlife view our gardens as s source of food, warmth, shelter and breeding sites so they look for leaves, woodpiles, shrubs, water and long grass to name a few. 

There is a way to have a mainly neat and tidy garden and to help wildlife though. Messy does not have to mean ugly.

A small log pile can be made attractive to us and useful for wildlife, leaves left in borders or in a small pile out of the way are an invaluable source of shelter and food and just leaving things a little less manicured can be a boon to nature generally. 

We can easily designate a small area of the garden where we allow it to be a little wilder. In fact, I think a garden that aims to attract wildlife is especially beautiful and full of sound and sights and life. 


Diary Of a Wild Country Garden. Are we Too Tidy In Our Gardens? Raiintree Annie 


If you decide to do this you will reap the benefits in terms of seeing more birds, butterflies and bugs and attracting more insect and bird predators to your garden to help you with the pests and diseases all gardens have to deal with. For more ideas please see Are We Too Tidy In Our Gardens? 


3. Provide Water For The Birds 

Perhaps the most important thing we can do for birds is to provide water. Birds need water to drink and clean their feathers. This is vital for their health and wellbeing.

It is also something that fewer homes provide. Many people think about feeding the birds but less think about the need for water and bathing. Do You Have A Bird Bath In Your Garden? discusses this further with tips to help our beautiful birds. 

As long as the water is clean and fresh and ideally we need to change it every day or every few days, it does not matter too much what the container is. 

However, many of us choose to have a lovely looking birdbath or a cute novelty birdbath to make our gardens look gorgeous while assisting the birds. You can find beautiful examples here Reviewing Basalt Birdbaths 

In addition to beautiful birdbaths, I  also use plastic saucers on the ground on our patio to help the smaller birds like these gorgeous sparrows in my garden. I know other wildlife like hedgehogs and squirrels visit the water as well. 

 

Sparrows Bathing by Raintree Annie

One of the main pleasures to us of having a birdbath is to watch and photograph the gorgeous, beautiful, fascinating birds every day from the comfort of our own home.

I like a variety of birdbaths around the garden and so we have several beautiful birdbaths and these ordinary saucers placed around the garden so that the birds do not have to compete for water and bathing rights! 



4.Leave An Area Of Long Grass 

This is an easy one to fulfill if you have a garden with a lawn. Simply designate one area of the lawn and do not mow it all. 

Rather than taking action to help wildlife, this one is all about inaction! Do nothing and wait and see what happens to that small patch of long grass.

It will be interesting to see if you grow any wildflowers or clover. See how liberating it can be to grow daisies and dandelions and how insects love them! Watch out to see if your long grass attracts bees, butterflies or hoverflies. 

It's easy, free and a very simple way to help wildlife especially insects. It does not need to be a big area, just what you feel you can allow to grow a little wild.  

If you do want to take it a step further and grow some wildflower seeds, you will need to take up some of your grass as grass will generally out-compete the wildflower seeds. 

Simply strip the grass away, rake the soil into fine tilth, sow the seeds according to the seed packet and wait for them to grow. The only work you will need to do then is to cut back the wildflowers in autumn.


5. Grow A Window Box For Wildlife

We do not all have big gardens and lawns and may wonder what can we do to help wildlife when we live in a flat or apartment or a house with a hard landscaped yard.

However, if we have a balcony, room for a hanging basket, a window box or a small patio area for pots we can undoubtedly attract and help wildlife. For more ideas on how to attract wildlife in a smaller space, please see Can You Attract Wildlife If You Only Have A Patio Garden Or Window Box

It is amazing how butterflies, bees, lacewings, hoverflies and ladybugs will find their way to your window box given the right flowers and conditions. 

 Depending on where you live you may need to protect the container in winter. If you are gardening on a balcony, always bear in mind the weight of any containers when filled with soil and plants does not exceed what the structure can take. 

A simple container is all we need. You can fill your window box with flowers both perennial and annual or decide to grow vegetables, it is up to you. 

Some flowers are better for wildlife than others, but really as long as the plants have some flowers the insects and bees will find them. 

Flowers I have found successful in window boxes and hanging baskets and troughs include bright cheerful Marigolds along with Nasturtiums and evergreen Ivy for trailing. Verbena, Fuchsia in a bigger pot and Heather are lovely. 

You do need to give Heather acid or ericaceous soil so it will need to be mixed with other acid-tolerant flowers. I also like to put in a few dwarf yellow daffodil bulbs to cheer up the containers.

If you like you can grow wildflowers in a pot and I have done this for several years. You do just need to make sure that the soil is very poor as wildflowers, in general, need poor soil. I use old compost and lots of grit in my wildflower containers. Bees and all manner of insects adore these wildflower pots! 

I love to grow herbs such as Rosemary and Lavender and Chives do well also in containers. I would give most herbs a try in pots. Good for us to eat and great for wildlife. Bees seem to always love my Chives!



Your container can easily look good for you and be good for wildlife. You will want some evergreens like Rosemary or Heather there and other summer flowering perennial and annual flowers for interest and nectar for as long as possible.

For ideas on making a healthy balcony garden please see Totally Natural Healthy Ways to Increase Your Garden's Growth - A Garden Review


 


6.Give Nature A Home 

One lovely way to attract and help wildlife is to give them a home to live in and raise young. Whether it is a Bird Box, a Bee House, Insect House or a home for hedgehogs it is possible for everyone with any outdoor space, however small to contribute. Here is an idea for a lovely Birdhouse For Eastern Bluebirds 

Over the years many habitats that our birds and insects require to live and breed have been lost. Houses are built without space for birds to nest, grass that is artificial is useless for wildlife and there are fewer places left for bees and bugs to live, hibernate and breed. 

However, if we all do a little we can help to reverse this and give our valuable wildlife a home. 


 


If you love nature and know adults and children who would like to do more for wildlife you may wish to buy nature-related gifts for Birthdays, housewarmings and special events this coming year. For ideas please see Wildlife Gift Ideas Reviewed






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Thursday, December 17, 2020

A Review Of Londons Attractions The Big Eye and River Thames


The London Eye By Raintree Annie

Have you ever visited Londons' Big Eye? I am a country girl at heart but my granddad was born in London, United Kingdom within the sound of the Bow Bells.

So I am a quarter Cockney and have a bond with London, UK's capital city. 

I love to visit London when I can which tends to be only once or twice a year at most. When we do go it is always lovely to take a walk by the Embankment which is my favourite part of London and one of the amazing attractions there is Londons Big Eye and the River Thames Embankment area. 

The last time We visited The London Eye it was a cold crisp winter's day yet there was a huge number of people there to see and experience this wonderful attraction.

 

So what Is The London Eye?

The London Eye is essentially a large Ferris wheel with a difference. It has acquired many names along its relatively short history. These include:

The London Eye

The Merlin Entertainments

London Eye

London's Big Eye

The Eye

London's Eye

The Big Eye

Millennium Wheel


The London Eye - A Temporary Structure?

The London Eye was finished in the year 2000 and was only supposed to be a temporary structure to celebrate the Millennium. 

It was originally called "The Millennium Wheel". It was designed as a Ferris wheel in order to represent the turning of a new Millennium. 

It is massive, standing at 442 feet tall and designed by Architects David Marks and Julia Barfield, of Marks Barfield. It opened to the public in March 2000 and was only given permission to be open for 5 years. However, in 2002 the London Eye was given permission to be a permanent attraction in the capital city. It is a wonderful structure and great fun so I am glad it has stayed. 

 

The London Eye by Raintree Annie

As you can see from the photos I took here The London Eye is essentially a huge wheel with 32 capsules, representing each London Borough, holding up to 25 people each. So up to 800 people can be on the flight at any one time! 

To my relief, you don't sit with your legs hanging down like on a normal Ferris wheel but sit in each enclosed capsule. As the wheel rotates, the capsules also rotate so they always stay horizontal which is clearly a great design for passenger comfort and security! 

For an additional special price you can book a capsule just for your family or party and some people have even got married on the flight!

The London Eye from the road by Raintree Annie

Book Ahead For The London Eye 

As you approach the London Eye we saw crowds like we had not seen before along the whole stretch of the embankment. 

We do not like to spend valuable time visiting London waiting in queues like that so if you feel that way too I would strongly advise booking ahead for a specific time so that you don't have to queue for so long! 

By the way, you don't book a ride on the London eye you book a "flight"! 

It is open every day in normal times except for Christmas day and when it is closed for a week in January for annual essential maintenance.

It is an amazing flight and I would recommend it if you are traveling to London. 

Once you board your flight each rotation takes around half an hour and it does move at a slow speed, so it is not like a thrill ride. Rather it allows us to take in the surroundings and sights of London city in a leisurely manner. In fact you can see as far as Windsor castle which is 25 miles away! We loved it and will book again the next time we can visit London. 

 If you are interested in London and may even be planning a bit there in the future I would recommend this book to learn about the many beautiful and interesting attractions and life in London.

Fodor's London 2020 (Full-color Travel Guide)

 

The Embankment And River Thames, London

The area around The London Eye is one of my favorites and it is well worth spending some time there. If you take a walk down the Embankment towards the London Eye it is a fascinating sight of street artists, doing incredible gymnastics, painting, making music on steel drums. 

There are people dressed as statues that stay as still as can be, being looked upon in awe by some people and others trying to get them to move! If they do move often after a long period of time it can be quite a shock!! 

All manner of people are there and it is very crowded, yet the atmosphere is one of busy friendly activity and simply enjoying what is there. There are also outdoor food stalls, indoor and outdoor restaurants, and a wide variety of wonderful live music. 

I find it a very relaxing yet stimulating place to be. 

 

River Thames & Big Ben from Embankment,by Raintree Annie
 

The River Thames flows by The Eye and is a huge dominating river. In clear sight is the "Gurkin" and other sights of interest. 

You can even take a boat trip along the river, which, especially if you are new to London is a really good way of seeing more of this area of the city in a relaxed manner. 

It is also a lot easier on your feet as London is a huge city to walk around and pounding the pavements and crowds can become quite relentless and tiring! 

Relaxing on the river is a lovely way of taking it all in and is a lovely break from the inevitable bustle of a big busy city. We had a lovely day in the area and could have easily stayed a lot longer.

Boat Trip The River Thames , London UK by Raintree Annie
 

Londons River Thames

Here is the River Thames, embankment from nearby The Eye. You can see the famous Big Ben in the distance! 

Even on a grey day it has an attraction for me. There is a majesty and history to this river and it is such a lovely place to chill out and relax from the hectic pace of London. 

This capital city is a full-on place to be and the area around the Embankment is no exception. Yet if you can find your nice place to sit or stand and just look there is a peace about it too.

London Eye Capsule &Big Ben by Raintree Annie

 

I love this part of London, I think the river is lovely and the buildings are amazing and there is a special atmosphere about this area, which is hectic yet friendly. I always enjoy visiting and have many happy memories I savor on my journey back home to the countryside. 

Have you visited London, taken a flight on the London Eye or do you feel it would appeal to you?




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Saturday, December 12, 2020

Reviewing The Growing And Care Of Bottlebrush Plant

Bottlebrush In The Garden By Raintree Annie

Four years ago we bought our first Bottlebrush. It is a plant I had wanted for years so was very happy to bring one home. The first picture shows it growing in a large pot in our garden.

However, when we first brought it home, at that time, I knew very little about how to care for it. 

Most of my plants were firmly outdoor garden plants but the bottle brush in our climate always seems to me to be halfway between a houseplant and a garden plant. 

Learning About Bottlebrush

So I knew I needed to learn about how to grow and care for it. Ours is the Callistemon citrinus or Crimson Bottlebrush. It is fairly common and easy to find. It is quite hardy, but I find requires winter shelter. It produces its stunning flowers mainly in high in summer with another smaller flush in Autumn and has been forgiving about my pruning to shape it.

There are several more cultivars including Alpine and Weeping varieties which are lovely. There are even Lemon Bottlebrush with lemon coloured flowers. So there are many to choose from for your needs. 

Bottlebrush With Bee by Raintree Annie


The smaller dwarf varieties are especially useful for a small garden, patio or even a balcony. If you do not have a garden as such, a dwarf Bottlebrush would be lovely to bring some colour and style to a small outdoor space or indoor conservatory.

   

The name Bottlebrush comes from the beautiful red flower spikes that grow right at the end of the branches and simply look like a bottle brush! 

We knew it needed to grow in a very mid climate as the plant originates in Australia. We have a temperate climate sometimes it is very warm but most of the time it is mild or cool and in winter can be very cold indeed sometimes freezing conditions with frost and snow. So we decided it would be best to grow it in a large pot so that we could move it into a sheltered area easily. 
Bee On Bottlebrush Poster

Bottlebrush also requires free draining soil preferably on the acidic side and our soil is heavy clay. We did not think it would like the clay soil as it gets very cold and sodden in winter and sometimes becomes frozen and rock like. However, it is thriving in the free-draining ericaceous compost with grit and sand I added to the pot. 

I positioned it in full sun so it could take advantage of as much warmth and sunshine as possible. Ideally, it needs to be placed in a south-facing position or failing that a west facing position.

I have to admit for the first two years I was a little disappointed as there were no flowers. It was bought as a small plant though so I knew that as a gardener we do need a little patience. I also learned a lot the first year about how to care for it and it was very forgiving. With a little care and attention and doing the right things the plant was very happy and I reaped the rewards. 

The first year it flowered I was ecstatic!! The flowers were so beautiful and so prolific!! 

Bottlebrush Spike By Raintree Annie


Pruning And Care Of Bottlebrush

Especially in a pot it is necessary to water Bottlebrush regularly and to feed at least once a year in Spring and after flowering. I give an ericaceous feed and water when I feel the soil is dry.  In the ground you may only need to water if it is very dry for prolonged periods of time. 

I have rarely pruned our bottlebrush, only really to shape it. I prefer to just prune back lightly and cut just behind the faded flower spikes each year. Cutting back into the old wood is not advisable.

I have grown it like a shrub, but if you like you can prune it to make it look more tree-like with a single longer trunk. The variety I have can grow up to 15 feet tall so depending on where you are growing it, you may need to do light pruning to keep it in check annually or every other year. However, it can take 10 to 20 years to grow to its full height so it is not a plant that will get out of control very quickly.

 Of course with the dwarf varieties, the plant outgrowing its available space will not be an issue and pruning is simply to remove dead or damaged branches and clip to shape. If I got another one -which is very likely- I will buy a dwarf variety. 

 


I love the leaves, they are evergreen, aromatic, lance-shaped and the older ones are quite thick and dark green while the young ones are light green often just tinged with red and very soft and really lovely to touch.

The flowers here tend to bloom in high to late summer though this year ours still flowered in late November. In the winter I now keep it in our porch area which is very sheltered. In late autumn I cover it in several layers of thick garden fleece and so far it has been just fine throughout winter. If I had a conservatory or orangery I would certainly keep it in there all year round. 

I have never known ours suffer from any pests or diseases. However, it can be susceptible to red spider mite, scale insects and mealybugs though these tend to be more prevalent when grown in a greenhouse situation.

In terms of usefulness to wildlife, our bees love it in summer and can often be found happily feeding upon it! 

 


Bottlebrush is a beautiful evergreen plant requiring minimal care and attention once you understand its needs. It looks great all year round and especially gorgeous in summer and autumn with its vibrant flower spikes. It is a beautiful plant to grow and lovely to give as a gift for anyone who appreciates plants. 

As long as you have one of a garden, conservatory, greenhouse, orangery, a sheltered sunny spot, suitable soil conditions, or a large pot and a means of keeping it safe and sheltered in colder conditions I would recommend growing it.



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Thursday, December 3, 2020

How To Mouse Proof Your Home Reviewed

Mouse by Raintree Annie
I am undoubtedly a nature lover. I admire wildlife and all creatures with whom we share this world. So it may seem strange and counter-intuitive to those people who know me that I am actively doing a program of mouse prevention.

However, I do feel that preventing mice from entering our homes in the first place is so much better than dealing with the consequences for humans and mice. 
 
My aim is to mouse proof our home without causing harm to any mice.  


Mice!

We are fairly relaxed about the wildlife in our patch to the point we actively encourage them. We have birds nesting in the eaves, grow flowers to attract pollinators, we carefully carry out various bees and spiders, enjoyed tree bees nesting in our extension and even shared the loft in our home with a wasps nest twice which was no problem.

Mice are also in my eyes adorable creatures, inquisitive and social. We know they live in our garden and our neighbours' gardens and most of the time outside we happily coexist.  However, due to my husband's health concerns there is the problem with wild mice potentially carrying diseases that are dangerous to him. I am also not willing to share our food with mice, so I am not wanting to share our indoor home with them. I do not like to kill any living creature so I would much rather prevent them from coming in and setting up home in the first place than having to resort to the less palatable options. 

I will only be covering mouse prevention here, not the merits or otherwise of the various methods to eradicate them.


What Do Mice Want? 

So how to mouse proof a home? The first thing is to understand what mice want from a home. They need food, warmth, water, safety and shelter, just like us. They also would like to be undisturbed and ideally not have anything to do with us. 

They are however superbly adapted to living alongside humans and many people will already have a small family of mice in their homes and be totally unaware of them. 

Mice are opportunistic and curious and where there is one mouse there is invariably two and then given the right conditions quickly a large family! They are very social creatures and breed rapidly under the right circumstances.

 Autumn/Fall is often a key time for mice to seek warmth and shelter in our homes. They mean no harm, but our nice warm, safe homes are a great opportunity for them.

 So if we do not wish to share our homes with mice, we must prevent them from entering our homes and make it inhospitable to them.


Identify Opportunities For Mice

First, walk around the outside of your property and see if you can spot any broken bricks or grates that could be entry points. Are there any holes in the fabric of your building? If so, block them up with a mouse-proof material such as a proprietary Mouse sealant, or a fine mesh. 

 We found mesh ideal for covering air bricks while still allowing for essential airflow and also in other gaps. Sometimes we used mesh together with sealant on larger gaps.

 If you look for a mesh that is designed for mouse proofing and that can be cut with scissors/clippers for domestic use that is usually best.

 Do be careful when handling as in my experience the cut mesh can be sharp. It goes without saying to keep it well away from children.

 


We just cut the mesh to size wearing thick protective gloves and used it over our airbricks with an all-weather sealant. It was a bit fiddly but now looks fine and has done the job.

Next, do the same indoors. Pay close attention to obvious holes or gaps in floorboards, around plumbing pipes and in cupboards and again block these holes.

We found sealant to be easier to use on small gaps over larger areas. Do keep sealant away from children.

As a general rule if you can fit a pencil through a hole, then an average mouse can enter through the gap and it requires sealing. 

 


I Saw A Mouse!

If you see a mouse then you have a clear sign that they can enter your property. It may just be one mouse, but if you do not take action and your home is a good, safe place for them, there may soon be more.

Even if you do not see a mouse it is wise to regularly check for mouse droppings.

 If you have any suspicion that you are sharing your home with mice, doors should be shut at night to prevent mice from roaming around your home in all rooms. That way if you do see any signs of mice it is easier to target.

If you suspect a mouse put down some baby powder to track it. It won't hurt the mouse, but if it walks through the baby powder it will leave tracks, then you can see what is attracting it and where the entry and exit points are and can block them.

If you store excess treasures in the loft, garage or basement then make sure that is kept in strong sturdy containers that are mice resistant.

Ideally, eat at the table or if watching TV or a game use bowls to catch all the crumbs.  Hoover up regularly and thoroughly. Move large furniture now and again just to check there is no unseen activity there!


Mouse Resistant Food Storage

Food storage is key. All food apart from tins should be stored in closed cupboards preferably inside sturdy containers. There is a huge variety that can be bought made from strong thick plastic, pottery with lids and steel.

Here is an example of good food storage for flour, cereals, pasta and rice. These containers look good in a kitchen pantry or on shelves and hold quite a lot of food. It keeps food fresher and is a much better deterrent for mice than keeping the food in its original cardboard or paper containers. 

 


Pet food in particular needs to be stored in good strong mouse-proof containers. Often dog and cat food have a strong scent that is attractive to mice and they love to eat it. We avoid free-feeding pets and only keep pet food out for the time it takes pets to eat it or up to about half an hour. Then it is taken up and all food stored securely.

We also keep birdseed and fat balls in a very secure box to do our best to keep out pests and keep it dry. We do not store these types of boxes outside though but keep in a large cupboard inside. 

This type of food storage box is very useful for pet food and birdseed and also for storing seeds for the garden. 


In terms of everyday habits, it is not advisable to leave any human or pet food out especially at night. Keep all food in the fridge or freezer, or in mouse-proof strong containers. Tins are Ok in a normal cupboard but anything like rice, cereals and especially dog and cat food must be in enclosed containers.


Mouse Repelling Scents 

Some people say mice do not like strong smells though I cannot verify that. So if you would like to do that by all means put some peppermint or other strong fragrance into your cleaning fluids when you mop the floors. At worst it will make your house smell nice and at best it may help to deter some mice. Always check for any interactions with the cleaning fluid first though and obviously keep away from children.


Mouse Prevention Is Always The Best Course Of Action

One takeaway I will say is that preventing mice from entering your property is always preferable to dealing with an issue both for you and the mice. Mice do not have a vendetta against us, they are just trying to survive and prevention is far better than the cure.


Mice have just as much right to life as we do and form an important and integral part of the ecosystem. However, if we do not wish to share our homes and food with them, a few preventative measures can go a long way to protect humans and mice. 



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