Switching Electricity Providers Never Made Sense to Me Until Now

I never paid much attention to those people going around trying to sell me another energy provider. I had the same one we had since we bought this house. I saw no reason to change. I was skeptical about the savings they were claiming. I hear them talking about my per kilowatt hour rate, and I had a vague idea of what they were talking about. I knew it was the form the electric company used to charge me. Comparatively it is like the gallons of water on our water bill. On a whim I looked at Reliant Energy and their rates to see how they stacked up with what I was paying. I was quite surprised.

The first thing I did after that was look at the fine print. I was looking for minimum usage, and found out we use that much electricity every single month anyway. I looked at the contract terms and found that we could be penalized if we left them early. Why would I? They were much cheaper for electricity than the company we were already paying. Continue reading Switching Electricity Providers Never Made Sense to Me Until Now

Balcony Gardens: Beautifying Small Spaces

Balcony gardens are the solution for people who want a bit of nature but live in the city, in a condo or apartment. Surely there is space, but there isn’t any area large enough to set-up a garden. The best solution is to have a container garden that could fit in a balcony or any small area for that matter.

Balcony gardens are quite common in cities with condominiums and apartments. There isn’t much space with these types of homes so most residents who want a piece of nature in their abodes opt to have balcony container gardens instead. Putting flowering plants, herbs and small trees are ideal for balcony gardening, and they surely beautify small corners and spaces.

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photo credit: carlohh via sxc.hu

Some Tips For Balcony Gardening

Because balcony gardening does not require large spaces, you need to look for plants that can survive and can adapt small areas. Shrubs, plants and trees of different height are good for narrow or long balconies. You can also create points of interest in your balcony garden by grouping flowering plants by color and shape.

If you are applying container gardening, use repetition for specific plant groups and use flowering plants for accents. Don’t be afraid to use larger plants and make sure they have different heights, sizes, colors and shapes to add texture to your balcony garden.

Different size planters of various shapes and colors will also add texture and depth to your balcony garden design. You should also consider the look of your balcony garden from the inside of your home that can also add beauty for the interiors of your abode. You can either go the DIY way or purchase a vertical planter or garden system that can fit in a tight space.

During cold weather, you can transfer your planters inside your home. Just arrange them near the window and balcony door so they can get some sunshine from the inside.

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photo credit: badalley via photopin.com

Setting up a balcony garden is not so difficult. You only need to think of the best plants and trees to use for your small space, and make sure you don’t overdo it. Keep your balcony still accessible and spacious for the plants and trees to grow. Balcony container gardens require sunshine, water, fertile soil and a little TLC to thrive.

You may also use fertilizers at least once a month. Weeding won’t be much of a problem for your balcony gardens, but do check on your plants from time to time to make sure they are healthy. Watering your balcony garden plants also require more frequency than normal garden plants. Have a water hose available and attached to the nearest faucet to keep you from taking buckets to and from the house.

Balcony gardens are a little piece of nature that you can grow and keep for a long time. Just make sure you tend your plants regularly to keep them healthy and thriving all year long.

 

A Trimmed History Of Topiary

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antonychammond via Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Topiary is enjoying a resurgence in the UK with more and more people choosing to turn their hedges and bushes into something a little more interesting. But the practice of carving bushes into interesting shapes is nothing new. In fact, it’s been around for thousands of years.

Ancient Rome

The first evidence of topiary comes from Ancient Rome, but it’s likely that the practice was learned by the Romans through their associations with Asiatic and Mediterranean cultures, so topiary could be even older. When the Romans decided to take over the world they brought many of their ‘civilising practices’ with them and topiary found its way to the UK.

Medieval Times

During the Dark Ages that followed the fall of the Roman Empire, all signs of ‘civilisation’ seemed to disappear and life became about survival. However, the art of ornamental gardening was kept alive in the walled gardens of monasteries and topiarised hedges were often depicted in illustrated manuscripts.

The Renaissance

As the world became a more stable place and wealth was accrued, the art of ornamental gardening really took root. Classical times inspired the era and topiary was no exception. One architect working in 1459 listed his desire for topiary ‘popes and cardinals, witches, philosophers, donkey’s, oxen, après, urns, vases, giants and warriors’ to adorn the grounds of the villa he was designing.

The Topiary Diaspora

After the 1300s the art of topiary spread across the world and became hugely popular in Europe. In France, box hedges became the order of the day which can be seen in the 17th century gardens at Versailles which feature the famous ‘parterres’ as they came to be known.

In the UK labyrinths and mazes were the order of the day along with ornamental topiary which certainly reflects the English eccentricity. One 17thC poet described his favourite garden in a letter, which featured centaurs, satyrs and a life sized whale, all carved from rosemary bushes.

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A live rosemary topiary

In the Netherlands, the newly moneyed Dutch merchant class found many elaborate ways to show off their wealth, including stuffing their modest gardens with an incredible array of topiary that ranged from traditional spheres and box hedges, to entire families recreated in hedge form in the front garden!

The Golden Age of Topiary

William of Orange who took the British throne in 1688, loved topiary just as much as he enjoyed torturing peasants! It was around this time that the legendary gardens of Levens were created which featured a host of French style topiary. Meanwhile, the Dutch merchants introduced their style to the British Isles, these merged with the already thriving British tradition and the golden age of topiary was born.

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Today

Topiary today is more popular than ever and a wonderful way to add interest to a garden. It’s possible to purchase plants that have already been shaped or even have a go yourself. Topiary can be a really fun hobby and whilst the art has tended to lean towards more conservative designs there are some incredible examples of this stunning skill in action in grand gardens around the country. So why not pay a visit and find inspiration for your own topiary masterpiece?

10 Great Backyard Plants For The Desert

If you are looking for the ultimate way to spruce up your yard, installing some climate-friendly plants can be a great addition to your landscape arsenal. The weather in the desert is dry most of the year, although we do get quite a bit of rainfall during the summer months due to Monsoon season. That being said, you will want to make sure to select the right types of plants that will be suitable all year-round. That way, you won’t have to spend more time and money than you need to. When it comes to making a big impact with a small backyard renovation, any professional desert landscape design company will tell you that plants are the way to go. Desert-friendly plants are a low-maintenance option that can really make a space stand out and inviting.

If you are unsure of where to begin or are simply curious about the available options, listed below you will find some of the most popular plant choices for landscaping among homeowners and businesses alike. The best thing about these plants is that they are ideal for the desert climate and landscape design. They don’t need to be watered nearly as often as others and they flourish in the sunlight. Beautiful and decorative, these plants will be certain to turn heads and make your yard the talk of the town!

Fairy Dusters

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Fairy Dusters are the perfect solution for anyone who wants a colorful perennial that can survive even the driest of conditions of desert landscaping. Fairy Dusters are relatively inexpensive, easy to prune, and can be found at many garden and nursery centers.

Oleander

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The Oleander is widely regarded as one of the most popular plants in the desert, due to the beautiful white, pink and red colored flowers it blooms. In addition, this plant can survive quite a bit of abuse when it comes to the weather. Even if your yard has less than perfect soil, you will have no problem growing an Oleander. Since they can grow upwards of 20 feet in height, routine trimming and maintenance is required.

Lantana’s

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Lantanas are vining shrubs and can be used both as a ground cover or hanging potted plant. They are great for homeowners who want to create a full, lush landscape, since they are fast growing and get pretty big in size. They also bloom flowers all year-round, which is a huge perk. They are very low-maintenance, only requiring deep watering on occasion and protection from frost damage in inclement weather, although we don’t tend to have many freezing nights in the desert.

Pampas Grass

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Pampas grass is considered ornamental due to the large flower stalks that bloom up its center. It is well suited for the desert climate and definitely looks the part, lending pops of color to any landscape. These grasses will spread outward if left untrimmed, so be sure to maintain them on occasion.

Bougainvillea

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Simply gorgeous, Bougainvillea is an elegant selection for any home or business owner looking to make an impressive statement with their landscaping. Bougainvillea’s bright purple flowers are stunningly beautiful and the plant itself is low maintenance. The versatility factor of this plant is what makes them a hot commodity, as they can be shaped into vines or bushes, or be used as ground cover foliage. Make sure to keep this plant away from any nearby pools, however, as it tends to drop red bracts.

Purple Sage

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The Purple Sage is a shrub that does not dissatisfy. These plants bloom flowers multiple times each year and perform at their best in full sunlight. To avoid losing that gorgeous foliage, make sure to prune the purple sage when the flowers have not yet bloomed to enjoy the beautiful colored flowers as often as possible in your landscaping.

Desert Lilies

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Desert Lilies, as their name indicates, grow flawlessly in dry, arid climates, which makes them a must have for any desert homeowner interested in adding something special to their landscaping. Their white flowers will complement any backyard retreat.

Cacti

Dessert landscape with appropriate dessert plants.
Dessert landscape with appropriate dessert plants.

If you live in the desert, you can’t go wrong with adding some cacti to your landscape design to create the ideal desert backyard retreat. They come in all different shapes and sizes, and most are rugged and extremely low maintenance, which is perfect for low water, high sun climates. Some cacti can grow pretty tall though, so make sure you take height into account when designing your backyard landscaping.

Butterfly Weed

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The Butterfly Weed is a highly drought-tolerant plant that can be grown in a number of spaces, including rock gardens and flowerbeds common in desert backyards. The Butterfly Weed’s bright orange flowers are beautiful and colorful, and, overall, it is a very low-maintenance plant.

Sweet Alyssum

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The low-lying Sweet Alyssum is another plant ideal for people who want to create a colorful flowerbed in their desert landscaping. This plant can grow in virtually any type of soil and grows best when exposed to full sunlight, both of which are important elements for landscaping in the desert.

Today’s guest post is by Brian of Blooming Desert Landscape Design, a part time blogger and respected influencer in the pool and landscaping industry.

5 Hot Garden Design Ideas For The 2015 Landscaping Season

Private Garden at Sunset
Private Garden at Sunset

After many weeks of dull grey weather, the summer has finally arrived in Britain. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and everyone’s gardens are glowing in green – but what about your garden?

If your garden looks more like a building site or a wild jungle, then it’s not the end of the world as the 2013 landscaping season has landed and now is the perfect time to be out getting your fingers green sorting out your garden.

Here’s your mini guide to 2015’s 5 hot garden design ideas:

Create a mini allotment

Us Brits love to grow our own fruit and veg in allotments in our local area. But what about creating your own mini allotment in your garden? Allotments are a fantastic idea for British gardens, especially during the summer as the long days and hot temperatures provide perfect conditions for growing food (plenty of sunlight and heat). And their not only functional; their also a great design idea as well as the growing fruit and veg really brings your garden to life.

You can create your own miniature allotment in the corner of your garden quickly and easily. All you’ll need is a spade, some soil, some wood and plenty of elbow grease.  And with weather like this, what better things have you got to do than to fix up your garden so that you can enjoy it for the rest of the summer?

Create a Mediterranean dining area

Another hot design idea for gardens this year is creating your own Mediterranean-style dining area. Mediterranean-style gardens are bright, clean and contemporary with strong architectural features and mix of plants. By creating your own Mediterranean-style dining area in your garden you can eat alfresco every night pretending that you’re in the south of France or northern Italy.

So if you can’t afford to go on holiday this summer why not bring the continent to you with a Mediterranean-style dining area?

Install an outdoor fireplace

Outdoor fireplaces are the epitome of contemporary garden design in 2013. And with the weather like ours, you just don’t know how long the good weather’s going to last so an outdoor fireplace will keep you warm outside all summer long, whatever the weather.

In order to cater for individual differences in tastes and preferences, outdoor fireplaces are available in both log and gas form. Gas fireplaces are good for small gardens in the city as they don’t produce any smoke and log fireplaces are perfect for the more rural gardens.

Purchase a Pergola

Pergolas are another hot garden design idea for 2013. Pergolas and arches are great for providing some much-needed shade in sunny gardens- they’re also great for presenting a cool and comfortable seat to sit and read.

Pergolas also bring together different areas of the garden so they’re perfect for uniting gardens that can appear to be mix matched. Don’t forget to purchase some plants and trees to decorate the pergola with- climbing flowers are ideal here.

Create an outdoor lounge area  

Another hot design trend for gardens in 2013 is to create a lounge area outside. It seems that we just love to lay out in the sun in the summer and be as comfortable as we would be laying on the sofa in front of the TV.

An outdoor lounge area can be simply achieved by purchasing a day bed, a pair of comfortable sun recliners or a hammock. These contemporary outdoor furniture items come in many different styles, colours and designs so there is one to suit everyone regardless of their personal preferences and tastes.

5 Reasons To Host A Party In Your Garden Shed

If going out in town isn’t your thing, or if it is and you’re just getting a bit tired of the taxis and the hustle and bustle of it all, maybe it’s time to try something different.

Hosting a party in your garden may make most people shudder, as the thought of all those feet treading on your newly cutgrass or the potential  mess in the morning spring to mind. But it needn’t be that way. This guide is going to give you five good reasons for hosting your own shed party and how it can be kept in order!

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You Can Design Your Own Club

It doesn’t have to be a shed. It can be a gazebo or a cabin if you have one! But think of the fun you can have decorating any of those the way you want to.

There are some great deals online for gorgeous fairy lights to give it that enchanting look. Whether you want to keep it simple with some normal bulbs strung around your plants, or whether you want to give it a bit of a theme and go for flowers or even beach houses, it’s up to you!

You could also invest in some new cutlery and plates if you’re going to go for a theme. Some tikki glasses for a Hawaiian theme or some wine glasses for a more sophisticated garden party.

Your Favourite Songs All Night.

There’s nothing worse than going into a club and hearing song after song that you don’t like or don’t know. If you have your own party, you can make your own playlist for you and your friends to enjoy.

You could make an old school playlist to bring up memories from when you were younger or just make a playlist of all of your current favourites.

If you’re having a themed party, you could look up some songs to fit that theme. Again if it’s Hawaiian, you could find some luau music to bring that tropical feel to your garden.

Your Favourite Drinks On Tap

Buying drinks from a supermarket in bulk is so much cheaper than buying one drink at a time in a club. So get in all your favourite spirits and wines and enjoy drink after drink without constantly counting your change to make sure you have enough for a taxi.

There are also tips online on how to build your own home bar simply and easily. This will make sure that there aren’t bottles all over your garden in the morning!

Games and competitions

If the party is in your garden, you can play drinking games freely to get the spirit up. A quick look online will bring up thousands of drinking games but here are some popular ones for you to play.

I Have Never: one person states something they have never done, e.g. ‘I have never gone skinny dipping.’ Each person that has done this activity will then take a sip of his or her drink. This is an excellent chance to bring up any embarrassing secrets that somebody may be hiding!

Ring of Fire: the rules for this game are very simple and can be found online. All you need is a deck of cards and a jug for the centre of the table.

Your Type Of People

The great thing about house parties is that everybody there is somebody you like. Having a party surrounded by loved friends and family is a lot better than being pushed and shoved all night by total strangers.

Beds Only A Step Away

When the party is over, you don’t need to worry about stopping a taxi, as your bed is just a step away!

If you have any other good reasons for hosting a garden party in your shed, please share them in the comments section below.

Innovating in Unchartered Waters

Diffusaire Ltd. was founded in 2009 at the Kinrot Venture water-tech incubator, Israel’s only facility totally dedicated to fostering watIMG_0937er startup companies.

The company is focused on commercialising its OTECH aeration technology, which offers substantial saving in electricity for wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) operators as well as for aqua-farmers.

We have a beta site in operation at a WWTP outside Tel Aviv. This single aeration unit is installed on top of existing fine bubble diffusers- replacing them completely.

Watch Company Video

Watch a video clip of Yuval Susskind (CEO) showcasing our demo-unit that sheds some light on our innovation (1 min).