With Christmas rapidly approaching, our New Oscott Garden Centre has just taken delivery of that most seasonal of plants – the Poinsettia. These are David Hall's tips on to how to keep these beautiful plants at their colourful best.
Need help choosing Christmas lights? Robert Hall guides you through the different types that are available to illuminate your festive season this year.
Thomas Edison first had the bright idea of how to light up the world in the 1880s. Instead of those fiddly candles that had a tendency to set both trees and buildings on fire, he thought ‘why not string together some of my new fangled light bulbs?’.
So his business partner hand wired 80 bulbs and rigged up the first set of patriotic red, white and blue Christmas lights. Understandably slow to catch on, they were expensive and most households didn’t have mains electricity, the first Christmas Lights Set didn’t appear in the shops until 1904.
And it wasn’t until the 1930s that the familiar filament light bulb really started to light up the festive season. Having served their purpose for so many years, the incandescent bulb has now been eclipsed by the more intense, adaptable and energy efficient LED (or Light Emitting Diode). So if you are decorating your tree, lounge or house, which kind of Christmas light is best?
These energy greedy globes of coloured light that have been a very visible part of Christmas for so long have had their day. However large, traditionally shaped, bulbs can still from part of your display as they are now lit by LEDs. Outwardly the lights are the same as those your dad hung around the tree or in the garden, on the inside you have an LED.
LEDs are the future of Christmas lighting. Although their light is more intense than a filament bulb, it emits less heat, so important if they are used as a household decoration. They consume much smaller amounts of power (up to 90% less) and last longer, so saving you money on energy and replacement bulbs, not forgetting the benefit this has on the environment.
Their colours are so much more vivid and remain intense to bring brightness to any situation. Whites are available from cool to warm depending on the atmosphere you want to create (if you want to get technical this ‘heat’ is measured in Kelvins, cool is 3600K – 4900K while warm has a lower colour temperature of 2700K – 3000K).
Not only energy efficient and long lasting, LEDs are fun! Once a family display had lights that flashed on and off from time to time, for anything else a visit to Blackpool or Piccadilly Circus was necessary. Now LEDs allow everyone to use up to the minute technology to create stunning effects.
With extendable lights you can really push the limits. It is a flexible and versatile system for inside and out (the connexions are waterproof) and individual sets can be extended up to a maximum of 350m or 250 watts from each start wire. This equates to a capability of over 4,000 individual LEDs.
Mix and match the available lights for stunning effects blanketing your house with lights, icicles in brilliant electric blue or strings, icy white crystals, the illusion of snow falling, netting and curtains of intense colours. Various connector units allow the set to be split into a number of strands suitable for decorating trees and creating complex dazzling arrangements.
For safer operation a low voltage version of the extendable LED light system is also available. Quality is not compromised, this system is still the ultimate in simple, safe and flexible lighting but only uses 24V. Up to 1040 LEDs can be accommodated, again just by simply adding extensions and splitters to the starter set to create familiar remarkable effects such as icicles, snow fall, curtains and nets.
Solar powered lighting has increased in popularity in recent times due to environmental concerns and rising electricity prices. It is now an alternative to mains electricity in certain areas where more restrained lighting may be required, perhaps spotlights around a pond where you probably don’t want intense light. Solar may also be the only viable option where it is difficult or impossible to connect to mains power.
A fully charged battery may last for about 20hrs and the panels do not need full sun, so don’t worry if we have a typical English summer, normal daylight is sufficient for the battery to re-charge. The pay off is that there is no wiring or operating costs, simply install and enjoy, and of course no operating costs unless the government decides to tax sunlight.
An optical fibre is a flexible, transparent fibre made of glass or plastic. It is a very thin pipe of light transmitting light from one end to the other and can be used to great effect for Christmas decorations.
Christmas trees and ornaments shimmer with subtle and soft changing colours producing a magical effect. A beautiful golden fairy, fashioned with fibre optic strands so that she also changes colour and other decorations such as polar bears and village scenes will complete your glistening Christmas.
You can find a large range of outdoor and indoor Christmas Lights on the Gardensite website.
After all the dry hot weather that much of the country has experienced over the last few weeks, the lavender in David Coton's garden is at its most colourful and scented, he's cutting the flowerheads to make lavender biscuits or drying them for pot pourri. Here are more jobs you can do in the garden during July.
As a yearly visitor to the Hampton Court Flower Show, I'll be enjoying much of the show's inspiration and fabulous florals this year, but I'm equally excited to see the fantastic gardening range provided by Forest Garden Products.
Robert Hall takes an in-depth look at the new Titan Range from Barlow Tyrie in his latest guide to choosing and buying garden furniture…
Robert Hall reviews which metal shed would best suit you and your garden's needs in this detailed guide about the benefits, types, brands and most commonly asked questions customers ask when buying a metal shed.