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

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Reviewing Open And Close Curtain Rings For Hanging Curtains On Poles And Tracks.

 



We have a fairly old house and the previous owners installed a curtain track rail in both our bay windows. This was great as they left the hooks that fitted it behind. All has been well until that is in recent years the now very old hooks have started to break and we have fewer and fewer hooks to hang the curtains up with resulting in badly hung and difficult to close curtains.

Modern hooks would not fit around the rather wide curtain rail and with fewer hooks, the curtains were hanging on about half the number they really needed. 

The obvious solution was to replace the entire rail with a modern one that would take modern hook sizes. However, that is expensive and not something we really want to invest in at this point in time. 

We also found curtain rings that would go around the rail but as they were solid circles it would have meant taking down and refitting the entire rail, which is time-consuming and again was not something we wanted to do at this time. 

So we needed a solution that was effective, looked good and was reasonably easy to fit. I knew there must be something out there.




Eventually, I found these solid, well made and robust open and close curtain rings that actually open and close so you can easily fit them around the track or curtain pole. 

They are brilliant as they can be used all the way along a curtain track or pole. You simply clip the ring around the pole or track with the small hole hanging down. 



You attach the small white curtain clips to the curtains first in the usual way, then easily hang the curtains by slipping the white hooks through the curtain ring's smaller hole. 

The result is a sturdy fix and smooth closing curtains. I do find the more we use the better the fit of the curtains, so we space them every few inches, especially for heavy curtains.  

They are also useful if an existing curtain ring has broken and then instead of taking the whole pole down you can simply clip this over the pole and refit the curtain. 

Some open and close curtain rings have a clip attached instead of the smaller hole so you can simply clip the curtains onto it. It all depends on what you need and prefer. 




We went for a lovely antique bronze colour but they do come in different colours to fit most decor. I have seen them in bronze, silver, gold, black and white. 

These open and close curtain rings can also be used on tab top curtains. I do not think they are designed for this purpose but I tried them and they do the job just fine! Simply clip them around the fabric tab and then close them around the pole or track. So this is ideal if you love a design or colour of a tab top curtain but do not want, or are not able to take down the pole to fit them across it. 




We looked for curtain rings open and close that are well made and very sturdy as curtains can be heavy. When they are pulled back and forth to open and close several times a day it can put stress on the rings. Also, hanging curtains can be hard work and not something I want to be doing for repairing broken rings every few months!

We discounted curtain rings made of plastic or that looked weak and flimsy as we would prefer to buy good quality that will last, rather than very cheap ones that need replacing every few months. 

You do need to apply a decent amount of pressure on each ring to open and close it but the fit is good and none of them have opened on their own. 




They slide back and forth on the rail very well and smoothly and look much better than the old curtain track hooks that were originally there.  


Here Is A Selection Of Open And Close Curtain Rings. 



So we find these open and close curtain rings a very inexpensive and easy to use solution to our curtain hanging issues and one I will certainly use in any home. 




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Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Reviewing Ten Ways To Keep Garden Plants Alive During A Drought

 




 We have been going through a period of heatwaves with 35-40 degrees Celsius and now have drought conditions that are unusual for where I live in the UK. 

I love our garden and have found that I need to change the way I garden under these conditions. Many of the plants I love to grow are not drought tolerant and while this may need to change if we have frequent droughts in the years to come, for now I want to try to keep them all alive.

However, it is also very important in a rough situation not to drain necessary water from the system so as to preserve as much as possible both inside and outside our homes. 

So here are a few tips I have picked up from other gardeners and my own experience


1. Water Plants Deeply Once A Week.

Doing this is a much better approach than watering a little every day. We need the water to reach the roots not just wet the top few inches which will just evaporate in the heat anyway. 

Always water either very early morning or late in the day when the sun is fading and there will be less moisture loss. Put your finger into the soil to check how far down the soil is wet. 




2. Use Shade For Plants.

For plants in containers move them into the shade wherever possible. Place plants in pots under the shade of a tree or by a north-facing wall of a house or garden shed or garage. That way they will be shaded for more of the day. Group plants in pots together. Sharing space will help each other stay cooler. Also if you can place smaller pots above bigger pots any water that drips through will help to water plants below, thus saving more water. 





3. Make Shade For Plants

If the containers cannot be moved into the shade try to provide them with shade. I like to use the shade of other plants, especially those who don't mind the sun so much but even an open umbrella over them, a patio umbrella or a cardbox box strategically placed will help. 


4. Use Large Drip Tray Containers.

For plants that do not mind being in standing water and are in pots, put any container that holds water under the pot.

I find that these drip trays that we often use for houseplants are good to hold some water underneath our garden plants in pots, but not so much that the plants then get waterlogged. I tend to use larger sizes to hold more water.



5. Prioritise Plants For Water.

Concentrate on the plants that you know need more water such as roses and also plants that look dry, dropping leaves or droopy. Prioritise plants in pots and perennials over annuals. Plants that are more suited to Mediterranean or hotter environments and those like Bottlebrush, Lavender, Thyme and Rosemary will cope better than roses and new cuttings or young plants. I rarely water any existing shrubs or trees in the ground, the hope is that their deep roots will seek water low down.  




6. Leave The Lawn.

Do not water the lawn- most lawns are robust and will recover once we start getting rain. Also, our lawn is now mainly brown and not growing at all so there is no point trying to mow it. When autumn comes we will feed it and take care of it but for now the best thing is to leave it. 


7. Use Watering Spikes.

Use some of these water spikes devices. They release water slowly into the pot. If you make a hole first deep into the pot. Connect a water bottle to the spike, turn upside down and very gently insert the spike into the hole so that you do not break it or injure any roots. The water will seep to where the roots are rather than wasting water at the top of the pot. I use them for when we go on holiday and I prefer the terracotta ones, although you do need to take more care of them being more fragile, they do a better job in my opinion. Now they are valuable for simply giving a gentle water source. A litre bottle should last about a week to ten days.



8. Stop Feeding Plants.

Do not feed plants as this encourages growth. I am finding that many of my plants are going to seed much more quickly and some are already adopting their autumn colours. I think this may be a way of ensuring their survival. If they are under stress they want to make seed quickly in case they die and by losing their leaves they need less energy.




9. Use Rain Barrels Or Water Butts.

Install a Water Butt or Rain Barrel to prepare for any future drought. The water butt will fill up when we do have rain in winter and then can be used in a summer heatwave or drought when water is in short supply.


 

10. Use "Grey Water" To Water Some Plants. 

Watering plants If there is a ban on using hosepipes or using house water can be difficult. Instead, we can use water from handwashing clothes or washing up water on our plants. Always allow the water to cool down first though.

However, never use this kind of "grey water" on fruit, vegetable or herb plants. Do be careful though as some plants may be sensitive to chemicals in your grey water. This is another reason a water butt will be useful.




People say you can always replace plants but they are expensive and this is not always possible when a plant has a special memory or was gifted to you by a loved one.

It breaks my heart to see them suffering in the heat and drought so if I can do these small things to help them I certainly will. So far I have to say they are doing remarkably well and I do feel while I have had one or two losses that most will come through this and recover once we get some good rain.


It may be in the future that we will have to adapt our gardens even further and grow more drought-resistant plants but we will see. So for now I will do what I can to keep them alive while keeping the drain on the water systems to a minimum.

In addition, while caring for our plants never forget the wildlife and do leave out a shallow bowl with a few pebbles and water in it to help hedgehogs, bees and other insects get through the drought and a birdbath to help the birds care for their feathers, bathe and drink

As a final thought and this may be unpopular among people who love the sunshine and hot weather, I am hoping for lots of gentle steady rain very soon!! 


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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Review Of Wolf Garten Shears For The Garden


Good quality tools are necessary when working in the garden. I prefer to use manual tools whenever possible in our garden. I find it more peaceful to use manual tools, better for wildlife and much quieter for ourselves and our neighbours. I also feel more connected somehow to our garden plants. 

Sometimes power tools are necessary for the garden, but using manual tools rather than electric ones is an even greater consideration now for us that electricity prices are so high. 

We find these Wolf Garten Shears easy to use with no energy costs at all, apart from your own physical power. 

We do like tools that are easy to use and do not require too much effort. I would also rather buy quality tools that suit our needs and aim to buy tools that are longer lasting.  



Wolf Garten Shears

Wolf is one of the brands I trust for gardening tools and are one of the brand of tools I use on a regular basis to keep our garden looking at its best. We also have secateurs of the Wolf brand and you can read my Review Of Wolf Garden By Pass Secateurs here. They have also proved a really great purchase. 

The shears are used in our garden for cutting back shrubs, perennials and herbs such as lavender and geraniums where we need to cut a larger area of foliage. We use them to cut back annual flowers and any straggly growth as well. 

Important aspects of garden shears are that they are sharp and cut cleanly. That it is easy to use with an ergonomic grip, a buffer to reduce jarring and pressure on our hands and wrists and it has a smooth action. In my experience, the Wolf Garten shears excel in all these areas. 




I do think for the price and the quality that Wolf Garten Shears are excellent shears.


Cutting Back And Pruning Plants With Shears

 Perennials require cutting back in late autumn after flowering has finished and when they are dying back. Equally, we can leave them until the following Spring. A Spring cutting back means that we leave the hollow stems and cover for our wildlife.

 


 Lavender is best cut back after flowering but it is important to not cut back into old wood as it may not regrow. We need to cut so you can still see green shoots. This cutting back ensures a more compact shrub that will have the best chance of flowering well the following year and we can also use the cut flower stems as decoration in the home. 

Hebes can be cut back lightly or some can be shaped into topiary-like balls as you prefer. 

Our Laurel hedge gets cut back a few times a year to keep it looking neat and manageable. 

Geraniums need cutting back after flowering. If we do this it tidies it up and also there is an opportunity that it may flower again. It will look bare for a week or two but the new regrowth is fresh green and lovely. 

 


 For any perennial you are cutting back it is important to cut close to the crown of the plant but above any new growth. We need a tool that will cut cleanly and not tear the plant.  

I love the way that these shears cleanly and easily slice through our thick lavender borders and cut our small conifers cleanly. In my experience, they do not pull or injure the plants. We do not want to be tearing or pulling on plants that need cutting back and these shears just make this job so much easier and quicker to complete. 




For a long time, I used my Grandads shears for these cutting jobs. While I love them because they were my Grandad's and are a link to a wonderful man I never knew as he died shortly after I was born, they are not easy shears to use for a long time. 

I will always love and treasure my Grandad's shears, when I hold them I feel a part of history and closeness to my Grandad. In addition, all these decades on they are still in great working order. However, I do believe these Wolf Garten shears offer an added level of comfort and features that I do appreciate these days! 

 


Good Qualities Of Wolf Garten Shears

  • When I use my Wolf Garten Shears I find they are so much easier on my hands and arms and are of good solid quality. I find they are the nearest shears to the robust, quality and feel of my Grandad's shears but with the added level of modern comfort!

  • Nonstick coated blades mean they rust a lot less and are much better when using them to cut plants with sticky sap. I clean them with a damp cloth and sometimes WD40 and a cloth. 

  • In my experience, they cut stems cleanly and sharply which is much better for the plants. 

  • Comfortable handles make the task of cutting back so much easier. They are simple to use and not hard on the hands or arms. 

  • They have a solid quality comfortable feel to the product which is important to me.  

  •  Good bright points of orange-red colour mean they are not easily lost in the garden. This is essential for me as I am always putting down tools in the garden, getting distracted and forgetting where I left them! 




There is a range of Wolf Garten shears, some normal sized for general cutting jobs, others about half the size developed for topiary hedging and smaller work, it all depends on your garden and what you need your shears for. 


Here Is A Selection Of Wolf Garten Shears




I personally would not attempt to cut a very large hedge with these shears but for tasks such as cutting back herbs and perennials, smaller hedges, smaller conifers, some topiary, annual flowers and general everyday pruning these manual Wolf Garten Shears are a great tool to purchase and wonderful quality addition to a useful garden tool collection.  

 

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Tuesday, July 26, 2022

The Asparagus Fern As A Houseplant Reviewed.


 

We have an asparagus fern that was my Mums and it must be over 30 years old now. I love its gorgeous ferny delicate leaves which arch very gracefully. It has a versatile habit where it can be trained up supports or hung down from a high level to cascade. I also like that despite not always being pampered, it survives and thrives. 

It can grow to be a large houseplant but can also be pruned easily to keep it a smaller size if required. Personally, I like to see it grow to its full potential and to be a really lovely graceful delicate looking yet strong plant. 

We do however need some knowledge of its needs and care to keep it happy.


What Is The Asparagus Fern?

Ours is the large ferny arching Asparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri Group’with long thorny stems carrying delicate feathery leaves on long flexible stems. Often known as asparagus fern or lace fern. The other ones are the upright fox tail type fern or the sickle fern.  

Well despite its name it is not an asparagus though it shares the look of asparagus. You certainly cannot eat it as it is mildly toxic to humans and animals when ingested.

Also, it is not part of the fern family despite looking like a fern. It is in fact part of the Lily family and originates in South Africa in the dense tropical forests found there. 


Asparagus fern growing on supports


How To Care For An Asparagus Fern

As with all houseplants, it is important to know the conditions where they grow in the wild. As this plant comes from a warm humid semi-shaded environment we need to try to replicate that as far as we can in our own homes.

So it is best to keep this plant somewhere out of direct sunlight as the sun will burn the leaves. It needs some light through or the leaves will turn yellow. Semi shade is best. 

It must be watered regularly in the spring and summer just to keep it moist. Be careful not to waterlog it as that will rot the plant and may be the one thing this plant will not survive. 

I also find it likes a misting every so often in the warmer weather to simulate the tropical forest environment. I use a specific plant mister to do this with lukewarm water. I also keep ours in a pot inside another larger pot part filled with pebbles and keep the pebbles wet to increase the humidity. 

These houseplants do not like being in a draught or close to a radiator as it is too drying for them. 

If the leaves go yellow at the base this is quite normal and you can just snip them off. However, if leaves that are higher up go pale or yellow it is most likely a lack of water. 

These houseplants can grow large, though due to their habit do not seem to dominate a room. They can however easily be cut back with Secateurs or maybe a strong pair of scissors. I have cut ours back several times and it comes to no harm. 


Delicate soft ferny leaves on Asparagus fern house plant


I only repot when it seems to be getting potbound so perhaps once every three to four years in a good quality houseplant or general purpose compost.

Do wear a thick long sleeved top and sturdy gloves when handling this plant as the thorns are sharp and hard to avoid when repotting. I also tend to loosely tie up the plant with a soft twine when repotting to prevent stray tendrils from touching me.  

The leaves may go brown if touched too much so best to avoid the chances of doing that. 

If you make mistakes though in my experience it does bounce back which is a good thing in a houseplant. We are going through a heatwave with temperatures of around 40 degrees Celsius and no air conditioning and no matter what we cannot keep the house at optimal conditions for this plant and it is developing pale leaves as you can see from the photographs. However, with a little care and attention when the heatwave dissipates it will recover.  


Green healthy leaves and pale dry leaves on Asparagus fern

Asparagus Fern Pests and Diseases

It is generally a pretty healthy resilient plant as long as it has the right conditions and care. 

Spider mite is the only bug that really affects this houseplant and it is usually when it is too dry. You will see like a white spider's web over the plant. It is best to use a spider mite-specific insecticide in this case. 

If you have waterlogged the plant with overwatering then it may rot from the roots and this is hard to come back from. You can only try repotting in a good quality compost and hope the plant will survive. 

Pale coloured leaves usually mean it is too hot or too dry or both. In the recent heatwave when the house was hot, even in usually cool rooms no matter what we did,  ours has developed a few pale leaves and I am attempting to help by watering and misting. 

If the leaves go brown really all we can do is snip them off. The plant will generally survive as long as not all leaves are brown but may take a while to thrive. However, it is a sign you need to step up the watering and misting. 

 

Where To Display Asparagus Fern

This houseplant can grow very large up to about 1 meter or just over 3 feet tall and wide. It is a beautiful and showy plant but needs placing with care

I have found over the years living with this plant that it likes it best when either placed so that it can hang down from the top of a high cupboard or shelf or as we have it now so that it can climb upwards on supports. It has very long whippy stems carrying both sharp thorns and graceful delicate ferny leaves. These can easily be trained onto a support or allowed to hang down. 

Left without these options it tends to flop and sprawl all over the ground which is not so pretty or practical in a house. 


Long flexible stems on Asparagus Fern


It does not like direct sun either, bearing in mind it lives in a forest in the wild we need to offer it semi-shade and as high humidity as possible. 

Another point to bear in mind is that although the leaves are so soft and beautiful it also has extremely sharp thorns that from first-hand experience can really hurt! So it is best for everyone especially children and pets if we keep it so that you cannot easily touch it. 

The other rather strange reason for not touching this plant is that if you handle it too much the leaves can easily go brown.

It is often suggested to place it in a bathroom which would be ideal regarding indirect sunlight and humidity but we do need to be careful of the fact it is mildly toxic and thorns in an environment where we are showering or bathing! So if it is in a bathroom make sure no one can touch it. 

In my parent's house, it lived happily in our dining room on a large support on a stool behind a cabinet. There as a child I could not reach it but we could all admire it and it makes quite a statement.  

 We also have it in the corner of our dining room behind a furniture piece where it gets light but not direct sun, where we can enjoy it safely.

 You can display this plant as a standalone or it looks great in a group of plants with contrasting leaves and colours. 

It is unlikely to flower in most homes so you need to enjoy it for its leaf colour and form primarily. 


Beautiful ferny leaves
 

 Asparagus fern makes for a very beautiful large houseplant that with some knowledge can be kept happy as a long-lived plant in most homes. We love ours and will keep it as long as possible. While probably not a beginner plant, with just a little knowledge it is easy to be successful with this gorgeous houseplant.

 

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Tuesday, July 12, 2022

A Review Of Blackout Curtain Liners




About two months ago we bought a pair of blackout curtain liners. Our bedroom faces full west and especially in summer, we get the sun shining in the room all afternoon and well into the evening. In some ways this is lovely, however, it does mean that this room gets very hot for sleeping. 

I need a cool room to sleep in these days or I simply cannot sleep. It never used to bother me but now it is essential to be cool! Without a good night's sleep, I simply can't function very well the day after. Deep peaceful restful sleep is essential for our good health and I was just not getting enough sleep week after week. 

We do not have air conditioning, it is not a routine thing to have in the UK and would be really expensive to install for the sake of one room.

My original solution was to have a fan going pretty much all night but now with rising energy costs, I am not keen to spend money on an electric fan going all night for months every summer. 

We had a beautiful curtain up but it is not thick and so even when drawn the sun and the heat still got through. Also, the sun has the ability to fade some furniture and fabrics so it is useful to keep the sun off those items of home decor. The added problem was that we were routinely woken up very early with the dawn as the light comes in.

We did not want to change the curtains as we love them and it is expensive to buy new curtains as it is a large window. Equally, we do not want to spend a lot of money on installed fitted blackout blinds or shutters. So I wanted to find a quick and easy solution.


Curtains with blackout liner attached


Blackout Liners For Curtains

I knew about blackout blinds but we did not want blinds up at that window. I then discovered that you can buy blackout curtain liners. These fix into your existing curtains on the inside and provide a layer of material that blocks out the light and the sun. 

We have pencil pleat top curtains and so I looked for blackout liners that would fix to them. I found some, ordered them and hoped they would do the job. 

When they arrived neatly packed I unpacked them and proceeded to fix to our curtains. While there were a few creases I did not feel they needed ironing and since they have been hung a few days the creases dropped out anyway. 

I found the best way is to take the curtains down and lay on the bed. Then lay the liner on top of the curtain 

You simply use the curtain hooks to fix the two curtains together. Once I got the hang of it it took only a few minutes per curtain. 

Then we rehung the curtains. One or two of the fixing hooks did come off during the hanging process but it was an easy fix to simply re-hook them and they have since stayed on with no issues. 

I would say I could have done with a few more joining hooks than I had as they were a bit too spaced apart, so it is perhaps a good idea to buy a few more to give a better closer fit. 


Fixing liner to curtain with hooks on pencil pleat curtains

 

Material For Blackout Curtain Liners

Our curtain liners are truly blackout. When up against the curtain they do not let any sunlight in. They do block and reflect sunlight very well. I have noticed on a hot sunny day if I put my hand behind the curtain and onto the liner that the liners are very warm but the curtain is not. 

Our blackout curtain liners by  Hachette Ltd are made from deluxe polyester and it does feel very smooth and soft to the touch with a slight sheen. They are also quite substantial and heavy for a liner. 

Although there were some creases when first hung up they did drop out quite quickly. I did not feel the need to iron them and in fact would consider that a waste of time and effort. We decided to go for a light grey colour and are happy with it. 


Curtain blackout liner material


Tips For Buying Blackout Curtain Liners

1. Measure your curtains and choose liners that are the same size width-wise as your curtains. However, for the length, you need only buy the drop of a few inches below your window. The reason for this is that you only need the liner to cover the actual window pane so if you have full-length curtains that drop well below the frame you can if you wish only buy the drop for the window itself and save some money. 

2. Choose the best quality blackout liners you can afford. They do vary in quality and the ability to actually blackout the room. Not all are made equal so do check the materials and reviews so that you do get what you need.   

3. Choose liners that are washable. I always think it is a good idea to wash curtains and liners and dry cleaning is more expensive. 

4. Have a few more joining hooks that you think you need as this will give a better fit. 

5. Don't try to fit them while the curtains are up, it is so much harder that way. Lay the curtain on a flat surface and lay the liner on top then once fixed together hang both. 

6. Do be careful to buy the correct liners for the style of your curtains whether they are pencil pleat or another fitting. 


Sunlight through curtains with and without blackout liners


Were Blackout Liners The Solution?  

The outcome is much better than I hoped! You can see the difference easily in the photo above. Part of the curtain liner is drawn back and you can see the light easily coming through while on the other side it is very dark. This photo was taken at midday midsummer with full sunlight flooding in the window. 

When the curtains are drawn the sunlight does not get through at all and it is now so dark in there so we are no longer woken at 4am. Even better the heat in the room is reduced. 

It is the height of summer now so it is not cold in the room, but now is a more comfortable temperature and I no longer have to keep the fan going for hours. 

The curtains still draw well and although heavier, do now look better. 

While no substitute for full-on air conditioning, for when you want to keep your existing curtains and do not want to spend a lot of money on having blackout blinds or shutters installed, blackout liners are in my opinion a great solution for keeping the sun out of a room.   

Another real bonus to these curtains is that while they certainly do block summer sun and heat, I am advised they also keep the heat in the house during winter. This is wonderful news in a time of rising energy bills, anything that will conserve heat in winter is excellent. As I have not yet used the liners during winter I cannot say from my own experience but will report back.  


Showing the blackout liner behind the normal curtain 



Here is a selection of blackout liners to consider



So in my experience blackout curtain liners are a simple and easy relatively inexpensive solution to the problem of too much sun in any room. 


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