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Ensure Your Orchid Keeps Flowering Again and Again

George Williams, SmartPlant

   By George Williams, SmartPlant

Orchids can add a spray of colour and elegance to any home – and with a little TLC they can last for years delivering showy blooms again, and again.

The most popular house plant orchids are the phalaenopsis hybrids and the dendrobim hybrids – which are both epiphyte orchids. And the key to remember with both of these is to keep them in conditions that are as close to their natural environment as possible.

The key to growing orchids is s to keep them in conditions that are as close to their natural environment as possible

When you buy or receive an Orchid as a gift, there is no need to re-pot it. Place it in a light position, like an east-facing windowsill, and sit back and enjoy it.

Once the flowers have fallen, don’t give up hope… a little bit of patience and care will see it flowering again in no time. Using a pair of sterile snippers, simply cut-off the dead flower spike that remains.

Orchids thrive when planted in specialist pots

Orchids thrive when planted in specialist pots. These are widely available, clear plastic pots with wide drainage slits, allowing water to run freely through the roots and drain away – so the plant isn’t sitting in water.

The potting mixture for an orchid is usually composed of a variety of chunky ingredients, such as pine bark, charcoal and on occasion, Styrofoam.

Orchids need to be re-potted every couple of years

Orchids need to be re-potted every couple of years:

1. Take the orchid out of its original plastic pot and try to remove as much of the surrounding moss as possible.

2. Healthy roots appear white and firm, often with a small green growing point. If you find any rotten or blackened roots, cut them away.

3. Place your orchid into its new clear plastic pot and fill around it with potting mixture. Allow the plant to be potted firmly, but not completely anchored. Over time, new roots will grow within the potting mixture and attach to the pot itself.

4. Place it on an east-facing window-ledge, so it can enjoy a few hours of the mild morning sun. To mimic the humidity of an orchid’s natural environment and to catch water run-off, place the plant onto a gravel-filled tray that’s fairly deep and wide.

Orchids are pretty resilient plants, they need less watering in the winter, this should be monthly

Orchids are pretty resilient plants, so caring for them is not too complicated. Keep them well watered in summer (weekly) and less in winter (monthly) and never leave them standing in water – good drainage is important. Allow the water to flow through the pot and fill your gravel tray.

Mist its leaves and roots on a regular basis, and while it is flowering give it a little feed every week using one of the weaker powders or liquid fertilisers.

Mist your orchid's leaves and roots on a regular basis

If your Orchid’s leaves start to wrinkle and yellow, play around with the conditions until your plant responds positively. Try placing it on a different window-sill, move it away from draughts, ensure it has plenty of light, and check the gravel tray has some water in it to provide humidity.

Orchids aren’t too demanding, but they do require a little bit of TLC to survive all year round. So, follow these steps and your Orchid will live happily alongside you – delivery stunning flowers throughout the year.

About the Author

George Williams is the CEO of SmartPlant - an app that helps plant lovers care for their plants in the easiest way possible.

SmartPlant provides a unique care calendar for each of your plants, and a chat service with a team of more than 100 plant experts around the world, allowing you to keep your plants happy, healthy and beautiful.

Websites and Social media

Garden Tips from
National Garden
Gift Vouchers

November is a great month for planting trees and shrubs

     Time for Tree Planting

November is all about compost and getting everything ready for winter. Clearing leaves and cutting back dead growth is top of the agenda – which is great news because leaves and garden debris are perfect ingredients for homemade compost.

It’s also a great month for planting trees and shrubs and good planting needs good mulch. With more autumn leaves around than a standard compost bin can deal with you have the perfect material to hand.

Leaves don’t need the heat of a compost to rot down; you can compost them by filling up bags with leaves to make really good garden mulch. The best way is to fill biodegradable sacks, then place them somewhere in the garden where they will be rained on…and wait. Come Spring next year you will have a bag full of nutritious leaf mould compost.

If you’re planning to plant trees in the garden then do it now before the ground gets too hard or frozen whilst you can still position them in wet and dry land. They can tolerate acidic, chalky, sandy and clay soils and come in all shapes and sizes. From flowering cherries and crab apples to evergreen yews and weeping willows trees offer different leaf size, shape and colour.

Many have attractive flowers, fruits and seeds and there are those that flower magnificently in spring and those whose leaves offer brilliant autumn colour just before leaf fall. Trees can add structure to the landscape and garden and some make excellent hedges and screens whilst others are ideal as statement specimens.

By planting trees you can reduce or improve your carbon footprint and generally enhance the environment.

Trees act as nesting sites, song perches and display sites for birds and numerous species of insects are totally dependent on trees. They also provide areas of shelter and shade that means you can plant native wildflowers that would typically be found in woodlands.

As the first winter frosts arrive, there are still a few jobs to be done before bedding the garden down for winter

· Clear up fallen leaves - especially from lawns, ponds and beds

· Raise containers onto pot feet to prevent waterlogging

· Plant tulip bulbs for a spring display next year

· Prune roses to prevent wind-rock

· Plant out winter bedding

· Insulate outdoor containers and delicate plants from frost - bubblewrap works well of use horticultural fleece available from most garden centres

· Put out bird food to encourage winter birds into the garden

    How to Buy National
   Garden Gift Vouchers

National Garden Gift Vouchers

National Garden Gift Vouchers can be bought and redeemed at over 2,000 outlets in the UK, with more than 90,000 garden plants and products on offer.

Visit to see the outlets that sell and accept them.

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Growing Herbs Throughout
the Winter

Growing herbs throughout the winter

Winter stews and soups taste so much better with fresh herbs – so having them to hand in the garden or on the patio throughout the winter is a delight.

You can easily grow a selection of evergreen perennial herbs outside in containers during the winter months – so long as they get a bit of sun.

Some herbs such as tarragon and mint die back in winter but the more hardy ones like rosemary, sage, thyme and lavender will look after themselves if placed where they cannot be frozen, saturated by rain or allowed to become too dry.

You can grow herbs in pots together but don’t put herbs that like plenty of water such as chives, mint and coriander with those that like well-drained soil such as rosemary, sage, thyme and bay.

It’s also a good idea to choose herbs of a similar size for the same pot. A large rosemary will overshadow a small thyme plant.

Both rosemary and bay can grow to a good height and become a feature planting in the garden.

Here are some tips from the Royal Horticultural Society on growing winter herbs ...

· Remember that plants grow very little in winter so make sure you start with good-sized plants and use sufficient numbers of plants for the size of container to make an impact from the start

· Position your container where it will get as much light as possible during the winter months to ensure plant foliage remains green and healthy

· Water containers carefully in winter, making sure you check the compost regularly as it can soon dry out in mild spells. Smaller plants are more susceptible to over or under watering

· It is not necessary to feed container plants during the winter

· Raise containers off the ground on pot feet or bricks to aid drainage and help prevent the freezing conditions that cause pots to crack

· Choose frost-proof terracotta or containers made of plastic, fibreglass or wood. Bubble wrap containers in severe weather to reduce damage to plant roots

When it comes to picking your herbs, just remember that the plants won’t be doing much in the way of new growth over the winter months, so you should be careful how much you use.

Don’t take so much that the plant can’t keep itself alive!

Homes & Gardens

Sixtyplusurfers Competition

Win a Fantastic Bird Feeding Bundle

Win a Fantastic Bird Feeding Bundle from CJ Wildlife

          From CJ Wildlife

Sixtyplusurfers has teamed up with CJ Wildlife to offer one lucky reader the chance to win a
fantastic Bird Feeding Bundle to help your garden birds get through the cold winter months ahead.

The prize includes a stunning Bird Table, Bird Feeders, Bird Food and a Patio Bird Feeding System. This one of a kind prize will set you up for attracting a wide range of species to your garden.

Preparing for the winter

Guardian Bird Feeder from CJ Wildlife

For the next few months the big challenge facing our garden birds is a combination of falling temperatures and long nights that will increase their demand for food, and very short days in which to forage for dwindling supplies of natural food. Add in bad weather and the increased competition from birds that have moved in from much further north or east and it’s easy to understand how winter survival is so difficult.

Although we can’t alter the weather or the day length, we can help by providing foods that are high in energy and offering a reliable source of clean water for drinking and bathing. It’s also important to minimise disturbance of feeding areas during the all-important first and last hours of the day, when the birds are busily preparing for the night to come, or recovering from the night just gone. If possible keep pets indoors at this time and think about putting out extra feeders during cold snaps to reduce queues.

Bird Table from CJ Wildlife

Foods rich in calories, such as sunflower hearts, energy rich seed mixes, peanuts (from a safe source) and peanut cakes, are vital for a range of garden wildlife, most noticeably birds, but in late autumn and early spring hedgehogs will be very hungry and readily take to good quality bird food or a specially produced hedgehog food.

Mixes that contain lots of cereals such as wheat or barley have their uses, but are primarily of benefit to House Sparrows, pigeons and doves. The more acrobatic garden birds such as tits and finches all need to feed on energy rich foods.


The easiest way to feed birds and hedgehogs is simply to scatter food on the ground, ideally moving the feeding area regularly to keep the food clean, but bird tables or good quality bird feeders are much more convenient, easier to keep clean and will give you better views of the birds.

A garden with a well-stocked feeding area and mature shrubs to shelter in can easily attract more than 20 species of birds, but even a new garden that is just a lawn bordered by fence panels can attract birds such as Goldfinches and Greenfinches, two of our most attractive species.

Blue Tit

Some of the birds that visit during the winter will be residents that are present throughout the year, but alongside them may be individuals from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Birds such as Bramblings and Siskins may have been in the forests of Scandinavia or Northern Russia just a few weeks ago, as may some of the more familiar Blackbirds and Starlings that visit, foraging side by side with birds that possibly breed within a very short distance of your garden.

By providing good quality foods that contain the energy rich ingredients garden birds require we can encourage some of our most colourful and engaging wildlife to share our gardens with us, and they, and we, positively benefit from the experience.

For more information about CJ Wildlife’s wide range of products visit

  For Your Chance to Win

Tell us how many different species of birds can a well stocked feeding area attract?

 a) More than 5 species
 b) More than 10 species
 c) More than 15 species
 d) More than 20 species

  To Enter the Competition

      Please fill in the form below with
    the answer to the above question,
    together with your name, address,
         email address and telephone
        number. Then press submit
            when you have finished

  Competition Terms & Conditions

The prize is a Bird Feeding Bundle including a Bird Table, Bird Feeders, Bird Food and a Patio Bird Feeding System from CJ Wildlife.

2. By entering this competition, you agree to receive further information from CJ Wildlife

3. The competition is open to our UK visitors only.

4. We do not accept automated entries.

5. The competition closes on 30th November 2017.

To find out more about CJ Wildlife and their wide range of products visit

Beat the Burglars  

Beat the burglers, home security tips from Evolution Windows

      Home Security Tips from
          Evolution Windows

As the nights draw in and temperatures drop and we start to prepare for the onset of winter, we need to be mindful that burglars often strike under the cover of darkness. Timber Alternative window and door manufacturers Evolution Windows, have some useful tips to making your home safe and secure this winter.

Research shows that in the UK, burglars strike every 40 seconds. Families with children are likely victims and 56% of burglaries happen at night. You are six times more likely to be burgled without both window locks and double locks or deadlocks on outside doors. 73% of burglars use doors to enter a property and in 3% of cases the door is unlocked!

Here is the Evolution Windows guide to making your home more secure:

1. Remember to lock all doors and windows

2. Fit a burglar alarm and ensure it is visible to potential thieves

3. Keep valuables and all house and car keys out of sight

4. Fit outside security lighting

5. Join your local Neighbourhood Watch scheme

6. When recycling fold up any packaging that offers a clue to what your home contains

7. Take care what personal information you share on social media (such as telling everyone when you are going on holiday)

8. Make your home look occupied while you are out or away on holiday by using lights on timers and asking a trusted neighbour or family member to pop in and check everything is OK

Evolution Windows use high security shoot bolt locking on all their windows, Storm, Storm 2 and Flush, to keep you and your home safe. Our high security window locks engage on three sides of the opening casement to give maximum protection against intrusion.

The other side of the opening sash is made secure by fitting security SAC bolts. Evolution also offers a range of locking handles for extra security on your windows and all their window and door locking mechanisms are guaranteed for 10 years.

For further information about Evolution Windows visit 

 Get Set for Christmas
      with Sue Ryder

Scandi Style Christmas Wooden House Advent Calendar from Sue Ryder

Get your home ready for Christmas in traditional style with the fabulous range of decorations and furniture from Sue Ryder.

Countdown to Christmas with this delightful Scandi Style Christmas Wooden House Advent Calendar painted in traditional red and white. This lovely wooden calendar also features pretty little decorated drawers that pull out and can be filled with individual gifts.

In the run up to Christmas, children will love waking up and finding little treasures and gifts in each little numbered box. Price is £14.99.

For details click on Scandi Advent Calendar

White Wooden Light Up Christmas LED Advent Calendar

Add some charm to your house for the festive season with this beautiful hand painted Nordic style
White Wooden Light Up Christmas LED Advent Calendar. Featuring 24 enchanting drawers with gold painted numbers, this delightful house shaped calendar can be filled with little treats to help you count down to Christmas in a magical way.

With soft warm LED lights, this beautiful wooden advent calendar can be switched on and placed on any decorated fireplace or windowsill, and make Christmas really come to life. Price is £19.99.

For details click on White Advent Calendar

Wooden Christmas Day Box from Sue Ryder

Celebrate Christmas in style with this delightful Wooden Christmas Day Box. This natural wooden box is a great way to build excitement early and can be filled with pyjamas, hot chocolate, books or anything you like as the ideas are endless.

Decorated with the words 'Open Me at Christmas', this magical box can be used year after year. Solid and sturdy in construction with two cut out handles. Price is £14.99.

For details click on Christmas Day Box

Silver Hurricane Lantern from Sue Ryder

This beautiful large glass Silver Hurricane Lantern with a stylish polished steel finish will create a soft and inviting warm glow in your home or garden. At 48cm tall this candle holder is the perfect statement piece for a centrepiece at any party.

This lantern is ideal for occasional use outside, but please note that prolonged outdoor use may result in rusting. So it's advised that you bring it inside after use. Price is £29.99.

For details click on Silver Hurricane Lantern

Oyster Occasional Chair from Sue Ryder

This statement 1950's inspired Oyster Occasional Chair finished in a luxurious textured teal velvet fabric is perfect for adding a touch of retro into your home and making it really special.

With an elegant fluted back and spayed legs, this chair offers style and sophistication and gives that much-needed comfort. This beautiful chair will look perfect in any bedroom, guest room or living room. Price is £99.99.

For details click on Teal Velvet Chair

About Sue Ryder

Sue Ryder provides incredible hospice and neurological care for people facing a frightening, life-changing diagnosis. It’s not just expert medical care. They also offer emotional support and take care of the practical things too.

When you buy a gift from Sue Ryder, you are helping to support their ongoing
hospice and neurological care programme.

For more information about gifts from Sue Ryder visit


Time Saving Cleaning
   Tips from Vorwerk

Time saving cleaning tips from Vorwerk

As we get older, cleaning the home can become difficult and more time consuming. A recent survey has revealed that general cleaning of the house has become too much of a task for a quarter of people over the age of 70 and a third of people say even the smallest household tasks are harder than they used to be, with more than half needing help with general cleaning around the home.

Cleaning the stairs, scrubbing baking trays, and cleaning hard-to-reach areas such as behind the sofa, are tasks which require more strenuous work and can be particularly tiring and difficult.

Home appliance manufacturer Vorwerk shares some top tips on how to make cleaning easier and save time.

Commenting on the tips, cleaning expert Thomas Henningsson from Vorwerk says, “Thankfully, cleaning has come a long way in the last few years. Just a few decades ago, the weekly clean included scrubbing the floors and handwashing clothes, but now there are so many easier and faster ways to clean your home without the strain.

“It’s important to make cleaning as easy and straightforward as possible by looking out for products which have been designed to save time and ease tasks, and where possible, ask a family member or a friend to help.”

1. Tidy as you go

Instead of letting everything build up, put things back where you got them from and do a bit of cleaning as you go on. This way, it won’t feel like you have a big cleaning task to do. If there is clutter in your home, make sure you tidy it up before you start vacuuming to avoid you from tripping over it.

2. Look out for time saving cleaning products

Look out for products which have been designed to save you time, such as Vorwerk’s VK200 Vacuum Cleaner. The VK200’s SP530 DuoClean head allows you to vacuum and mop floors at the same time, halving your cleaning time!

The VK200 vacuum cleaner also lies flat to the floor so you can clean under the sofa and its VD15 Variable Nozzle attachment can reach difficult spots thanks to the pull out extension and flexible joint attachment which has a 90 degree rotation.

3. Use an oven liner to avoid scrubbing baking trays

Whether it’s from an overflowing pie, or burnt food which has stuck, investing in an oven liner means you won’t have to scrub the bottom of your oven when food has spilled over.

4. Let a robot do the hard work

Sit back, relax and allow a robot vacuum cleaner such as Vorwerk’s VR200 Vacuum Cleaner to do the vacuuming for you

Sit back, relax and allow a robot vacuum cleaner such as Vorwerk’s VR200 Vacuum Cleaner to do the vacuuming for you. Once you’ve got it set up, the robot vacuum cleaner will do that hard work for you, even when you’re not at home. The robot can be set on a timer to clean your home and it even puts itself back on charge when it’s finished.

For more information about Vorwerk products click on

     Plant a Poppy
     with Seedball

Plant a Poppy with Seedball

A bright red flowering wildflower that can be grown in pots, in flowers beds or on open land the Common Poppy is hugely popular and often used as a symbol of remembrance. It’s one of the first wildflowers to colonise disturbed ground or fallow cornfields.

Great for pollinators, especially bumble bees, poppy seeds are best sown in the Autumn as they need a cold period to start growing and then flower in the following Spring from May to July. They grow to a height of 50-60cm tall.

Plant a Poppy with Seedball

Simply throw Seedballs onto soil or compost in a garden bed or planter, on local wasteland or scatter them along the roadside - water well (or wait for rain) and watch them grow.

Made from clay, peat-free compost, seeds and chilli powder, seed balls have their own mini ecosystem, protecting seeds from birds, ants and slugs and giving them the nutrition they need to get a head start and germinate easily.

Each Seedball tin has 20 seed balls with 100 Native Red Common Poppy (Papaver rhoeas) seeds per ball, RRP is £5.99.

For more information visit the website at  


 Remember Hedgehogs
     on Bonfire Night

Remember Hedgehogs on Bonfire Night

With bonfire night and fireworks lighting up the skies, the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) is urging people to build bonfires on the day they are to be lit to save hedgehogs and other wildlife from suffering. This will not only save wildlife from burning to death but will stop the bonfire from getting soaked should it rain the night before!

Fay Vass, Chief Executive of BHPS says, “If material is stored on open ground in advance of having a bonfire, it’s crucial to dismantle it and move it to another spot just before lighting. Ensure it’s moved to clear ground – never on top of a pile of leaves as there could be a hedgehog underneath, and not too close to pampas grass which can ignite very easily and is another favourite spot for hedgehogs to hide under.”

If, whilst building, a bonfire is left unattended, for however short a time, it’s imperative to check for young children, hedgehogs and other animals, including family pets, before lighting. As hedgehogs tend to hide in the centre and bottom two feet of the bonfire, check by gently lifting the bonfire section by section with a pole or broom. Never use a spade or fork as these can stab them. Using a torch will help to see and listen for a hissing sound, as this is the noise they make when disturbed.

Fay continues, “If hedgehogs are found, take as much of the nest as you can and place them in a high-sided cardboard or plastic box with plenty of newspaper/old towelling. Ensure there are air holes in the lid and that the lid is secured firmly to the box, as hedgehogs are great climbers. Wear garden gloves so as not to get human smells on them and to keep them calm as hedgehogs are easily stressed – also, it protects your hands from their spikes. Put the box in a safe quiet place such as a shed or garage well away from the festivities, offer specialist hedgehog food, meaty cat or dog food and water. Once the bonfire is totally dampened down, release the hedgehog under a hedge, bush or behind a stack of logs.”

Going to an official organised fireworks display is a far safer option for both humans and animals!

For more information on helping hedgehogs please see