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Out, damn pest! Three common indoor plant pests and how to send them packing

Just as outdoor gardens are subject to all kinds of unwelcome pesky visitors, so too are indoor plants, and while they might not be as big and furry as the average herb-annihilating urban possum, they can be just as destructive. There is nothing more frustrating than the sight of clusters of mealy bugs and spider mites on your lovingly tended orchids or ficus. But once you have spotted them, it’s best to act fast and act decisively to get rid of them.

There are all kinds of products on the market that will eliminate such nasties but there are also some easy and less chemical DIY approaches to pest elimination that will be just as effective. Here are three of our most detested plant pests and some sure fire ways to make sure they get out and stay out.

Aphids

Ugh. I can stand these little buggers. They are very small, pear-shaped soft-bodied bugs that collect in large groups on the underside of leaves or new growth and can be amazingly resilient. They can be white, black, brown, grey, furry, yellow or pink but their tiny size can make them hard to spot until they are well and truly ensconced. They feed on plant juice from the stem, flower, fruit, root or buds of a plant and can cause deformation, yellowing and stunted growth. See what I mean? Nasty!

Like many other pests, they produce a waste called honeydew which can attract other insects and cause mould on the plant. Honeydew can actually be a helpful sign that all is not well with your plant. If there is a sticky layer on the floor or pot around your plant, chances are it’s honeydew and you need bring in the big guns. So to speak.

  • Try spraying cold water on the leaves to dislodge them or for a larger infestation dust the plants with flour which gives the aphids constipation. Ha! Take that!
  • You can also wipe or spray the leaves with some water mixed with dishwashing detergent or, for more of a kick, add a pinch of cayenne pepper.
  • The organic chemicals in Neem oil can be a very effective pest repellent but, as with any insecticide, be aware that it may also discourage the presence of beneficial insects in your garden.
  • A combination of essential oil including peppermint, clove, rosemary and thyme is another effective way to kill aphids and their larvae

Spider mites

Spider mites are spider-like in the sense that they create a fine, silk web that can cover an entire plant. Spider mites also cause small yellow and brown spots on the leaves and can eventually cause a plant to deteriorate and die. Again, the little buggers are teeny weeny making it very hard to spot them until they’ve started doing some damage. If you think you might have them, hold a piece of white paper under the leaf of a plant and shake it lightly – the spider mites will drop off like ground pepper onto the paper.

  • Again, a good way to start is with water which is a simple and often effective way of dislodging them from the plant. Always be sure to get the undersides of the leaves also.
  • Introducing natural predators of spider mites is a great way to tackle an infestation. These very helpful insects can include ladybugs, predatory thrips, lacewing and – my personal favourite for this purpose – the spider mite destroyer!
  • Neem oil is, as usual, good to have on hand but stay away from pesticides because spider mites are resistant and you’ll only end up killing your sweet ladybugs.

Mealy bugs

Mealy bugs look like fluffy little tufts of cotton wool but are much more unpleasant. They have long sucking mouth parts to extract the sap from plants – ew, gross – and, like their pesty buddies, enjoy hanging out on the underside of leaves where it’s hard to see them. As well as sucking the sap from plants and exuding honeydew which leads to sooty mould, they also produce a damaging toxic saliva.

Need any more reasons to get rid of them? Here’s how to do it:

  • A homemade chilli or garlic soap or a commercial insecticide will definitely do the trick but first of all try removing them from the plant by scraping them off or with water.
  • You can wrap a bit of aluminium foil around the bottom of the plant which will bounce light off the underside of the leaves – they will really dislike that!
  • They thrive in humid, nitrogen rich environments so watch that you don’t over water or over fertilise.
  • Ladybugs and lacewings to the rescue again! These guys do not get along with mealy bugs and will happily drive out an infestation. Ants, on the other hand, protect mealy bugs and love the honeydew so by keeping ants under control you can make life harder for the mealy bugs.

Many of these organic solutions to plant pests will work for all kinds of nasties that want a piece of your lovely indoor garden. If you’re still struggling, give us a call. We can recommend some other strategies or commercial insecticides that won’t douse your house in awful chemicals.

It’s worth being vigilant with your indoor plants – love them, and they will love you back. And remember to check new plants thoroughly for pests before introducing them to your existing collection. A week or two in peaceful quarantine to get them settled and bug-free can be a good idea!

Images from top: Lounge room via www.insideout.com.au, aphids via Natural Living Ideas, ladybug eating aphids via Garden of Eaden, spider mites via Planet Natural, green lacewing via Planet Natural, mealybugs via the Bug Geek

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From indoors to outdoors and back again

Relishing the beauty of our outdoor domestic spaces is what we do at Terrace and never more so than over summer when more and more people look for opportunities to move their lives into sunshine and greenery and breeze.

With the long warm months windows are left open to catch the breeze, balcony doors are swung wide, sliding doors are slid almost permanently back, and even front doors are permitted to stand at open invitation.

In every way, our interior and outdoor spaces become more and more interconnected as we move easily between them, cold drinks in hand, to seat friends under stars and amidst ferns, to read the paper in dappled sunlight, to play catch with the kids, to smell the air for a summer storm.

Given all this time we spend outside, it has always made sense to me that an outdoor living space should be given the same level of care, of design integrity, of comfort and style that we apply so willingly to our indoor living spaces.

Indeed, while outdoor furnishings and upholstery may have come a long way in the last couple of decades, I still remember with real fondness the bright checks and bold florals with which our patio set were bedecked. The wide criss-crossed panels of the garden chairs, the waxed canvas of the tablecloth might be considered dated or quaintly retro these days, but I loved their vividness and the playful stylishness they brought to even the most low key bbq lunch.

 

It is a truly contemporary and elegant kind of vividness and playfulness that Academy Award –winner Catherine Martin brings to her stunning new range of outdoor fabrics and we are thrilled to be kicking off the summer season in such beautiful style. Martin’s designs are from her collaboration with Mokum and were developed while working on pieces for Miami’s Faena Hotel and they have notes of the sun soaked glamour we associate with that city along with the distinctively Australian edge that is part of Martin’s design signature.

Coral branches, sun motifs and flamingos are all part of an exuberant ode to tropical charm and I love that the range of colour palettes extends from saturated indigo, pink, turquoise, orange, and red all the way through to soft, restrained dove greys, bone, cream and white.

These luscious designs will make even the sparest of outdoor spaces beautiful and comfortable to spend time in. They stand on their own as works of fabric design but also work to complement and sit happily amongst the most abundant greenery or the most restrained of poolside elegance.

Soft enough to use inside as well, they are, of course, designed to withstand the harshest of summer days so that their colours remain true through blazing sun and stormy nights.

Just as lush but in a slightly more understated way are Kelly Wearstler’s Terra Firma Textile designs inspired by the diverse landscapes of California. In tonal hues that are designed to intermix and match harmoniously, Wearstler’s fabrics have a distinctively organic elegance – earthy, textured and beautifully detailed.

Like Martin’s, they are designed for indoor and outdoor use so that you can play with a recurring motif or set of colours to create connection and flow between your indoor and outdoor spaces. I can’t get enough of the Balboa design with its speckly graphic calling to mind beachside dunes and bush – real California dreaming!

 

We’ve also got our hands on the gorgeous Stonefields collection from Paul Bangay which has all the symmetrical and delicately balanced style that his gardens are renowned for.

Ranging from earthy terracottas to ocean blues, Bangay’s designs have a sense of European luxury that makes me think of elegant Tuscan gardens or chic Parisian terraces. They are pretty much the perfect blend of classic and contemporary which is what makes them such a great choice for so many different kinds of homes.

You can have a wander through the Catherine Martin ranges here and we can show you samples from Kerry Wearstler’s and Paul Bangay’s collections in store.

If you’re keen to transform or even just to tweak your favourite outdoor space but don’t know where or how to start, then give us a call.

There is nothing we would rather discuss!

Images from top: Terrace Outdoor Living, Pinterest, Etsy, James Dunlop Textiles, Kerry Wearstler, Elliott Clarke

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Small but perfectly formed: your guide to a beautiful balcony

 

 

 

A big garden with endless lawns or a wrap around veranda packed with picturesque furniture may be the enviable luxuries of a gardener’s daydreams. But, having been an apartment-dweller for most of my life, I’ve become a convert to the charms of small gardens, of creating a tiny urban oasis that offers sanctuary and delight and comfort. And there is something particularly special about a balcony garden. A balcony inhabits a unique space – they can be very much part of the street they are elevated above but at the same time are more like an extension of a room than a designated outdoor space. I like how intimate they can be while still allowing one to be part of the life of the street - leaning over the railing to chat to a neighbour, tossing a set of keys down to a friend, watching revelers make their way into the evening. While an enclosed or screened balcony can be a beautiful hideaway (or sometimes just plain necessary depending on the location and the quality of the neighbours!), my favourite balcony gardens have been the ones that allow me to enjoy my neighbourhood and that contribute to the beauty of the streetscape by adding colour and life to a building.

The practicalities of creating a sustainable balcony garden can present some challenges and will depend primarily on the size, aspect and conditions of the balcony. After a browse through Pinterest it is tempting just to go crazy and start loading up your space with all manner of blossoms and vines and hanging plants and tables and lounges.

  

But steady on! There are a few important things to consider before you start going all Home Beautiful. They are much the same questions as you would apply to any garden with a few that are very that are specific to the balcony space:

  • How much light does it get and at what points during the day? Will any plants be mostly in the shade?
  • Is it windy? If you’re planning on hanging pots then this is a good one to consider!
  • Is it sturdy? Get its load baring capacity checked before you start piling on giant concrete pots. (Check out our new range of lightweight pots!)
  • What’s the drainage like? Do you want year-round greenery and season blossoms or are you happy for it to go bare over winter?
  • And, very importantly, what do you want to use it for? Is it a place to grow a few herbs or is it somewhere for you to spend time relaxing and entertaining?

 


 

With these considerations in mind, here are our tips for creating a beautiful balcony garden:

  • Make it an extension of the room – it can really open up the home and create a lovely flow of space. I love to use a gorgeous outdoor mat or rug that complements the interior space. Go here for one of our current store favourites.
  • A stylishly simple row of planters or pots with uniform planting can look particularly striking on a large balcony but for a smaller space I prefer to introduce a range of heights and sizes to the plants to give a more textured, garden-y feel.
  • Utilise space creatively – this might mean creating a vertical garden on one wall or using hanging plants if floor space is very limited.
  • If you plan on taking your morning coffee with the papers or an evening glass of wine with friends on your balcony then durable, stylish and comfortable seating is a must! Ditch the milk crates and go for pieces that will not just withstand the elements but help to create a really beautiful and inviting sanctuary.

     

Need some more inspiration or guidance? Take a stroll through some of our recent projects and feel free to get in touch.

 Images 1 to 3 Terrace Outdoor Living, image 4 via Design Rulz, image 5 via House of Home, image via  6 Architecture Designs , image 7 via Woo Home image 8 via Harrisons Landscaping & the rest Terrace Outdoor Living.

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How To ..... Kokedama !

A kokedama is, like Japanese bonsai or Chinese penjing, a form of garden art. The word translates to “moss ball” and is as much about the artistry of display as it is about a living plant. To make a kokedama, a plant and its root system is transplanted from a pot into a ball of soil which is then surrounded by a layer of moss and then wrapped with twine or string. Sometimes kokedama are fixed to a surface, like a piece of wood, but more often you will see them suspended from string. These hanging moss balls have taken off as a hugely popular form of garden creativity much in the same way as the resurgence of macramé we discussed a couple of weeks ago. They can be such a charming and playful way to nurture and display a plant – like big mossy pom poms – and they can also be elegantly sculptural and beautiful. Hanging kokedama are the perfect way to overcome the challenge presented by spaces where the available surface area for keeping potted plants is limited. With kokedama, the sky is almost literally the limit!

What you will need to make your own:

  • Potting mix
  • Peat soil (which helps retain moisture)
  • A small amount of slow release fertiliser
  • Sphagnum moss
  • Your selected plant
  • Twine or string
  • An extra ball of twine or string (you might like to use a pretty colour for this)
  • 2 large round bowls
  • Scissors

 

             1. Place the sphagnum moss into one of the bowls and wet it down with water                   so it’s nice a damp but not too mushy

               2. Take your other round bowl (the size of which will help determine how                        large your moss ball is) and crisscross a few lengths of twine across the bowl                with plenty of length overhanging the edge – you will be using this to secure                   the moss towards the end of the process

             3. Line the bowl with a layer of the damp sphagnum moss


            4. Place the plant, with its root system in tact into the moss lined bowl and pack           around its roots with your mix of peat, potting mix and fertiliser – be sure to pack          it densely and firmly as this is what will form a sturdy moss ball


                5. Cover the exposed soil mixture with a layer of sphagnum moss and, using                      the lengths of twine, tie it firmly down

                      6. Using your second ball of twine, tie the end to the existing knotted twine,                    gently remove the ball from the bowl, then wrap the twine around it,                              crisscrossing back and forth all the way around until you are satisfied that                      the moss is firmly secured and the whole thing looks gorgeous

                  7. Suspend the moss ball from the ceiling or from a shelf or beam, making                          sure that the plant is upright  
                      

                         8. Voila! Your very own kokedama.

    I used a scindapsus plant for this one which is ideal for kodedama because it is a hardy little beast as well as being lovely. It can cope with inconsistent watering and will continue to flourish in the shade. You can use all kinds of plants for your kokedama but just be aware that some will require very specific and consistent care. Try tropical plants like orchids, anthuriums, angel hair vines and begonias. Depending upon their moisture requirements, you can pop the whole ball into water when it starts getting dried out then hang it somewhere it can drip for a while (i.e. not over your Persian rug). I hang mine out over the terrace from time to time and it’s a pleasure to watch these organic sculptures swinging gently in the breeze.

     

     

    Phot credits Top image via http://www.rv-orchidworks.com/ all other images are Terraces own.

    Macramé - a fresh look

     

    Macramé is a trend that would seem to perfectly embody the adage that “everything old is new again”. The craft phenomenon that saturated 1970s decor and fashion certainly made an impact on my childhood as we didn't have a garden and our apartment was festooned with macrame. We even learnt how to do it in school!

    Macramé has made a comeback in recent years with a fresh aesthetic that has all the appeal of the retro style but a clean and chic style that lends itself beautifully to contemporary interiors and outdoor spaces. We have been embracing and pioneering the macramé resurgence here at Terrace and love being part of this ever-evolving and beautiful craft. 

    Macramé - what is it?

    Macramé is the craft of knotting string, yarn, cord or rope into intricate patterns. Think of it as a cousin to knitting and crochet but without the hooks or needles.

    While for many of us, macramé calls to mind brown 1970s interiors decorated with knotted jute owl wall hangings, it actually has its roots in 13th century Arab weaving and the Moorish conquests saw it spread throughout Europe. It is also associated with sailors who, in their long hours on the ocean, knotted hammocks and belts then sold them at port, thus introducing the style to different part of Asia and into America. We love that exotic history – the idea of fringed cloaks on desert camels and lonely sailors under hot skies. It gives it back its romance, balances out the kitsch reputation it’s, perhaps unfairly, gained over recent decades.

     

                             


    Macramé had its first real resurgence as what we would call a “trend” in Victorian England where very fine knotted lace was used to decorate curtains, doilies, sheets and other furnishings. The trend eventually faded and it wasn’t until the 1960s and 70s that macramé made a real comeback. This is the era that most of us will be familiar with, an era in which macramé was both a mainstream household decorative form and also associated with the hippie movement’s fashion, jewellery, and accessories.






    The recent resurgence of the art of macramé has a new level of restraint. Even large scale decorative pieces have a delicacy of style. And rather than entire rooms full of macramé objects, moderation has become the name of the game with decorators opting for one striking piece in a space or a small collection of lighter pieces. Just as it was in previous decades, macramé popularity as a decorative trend in the home was mirrored by its increasing popularity in fashion. Indeed, macramé has now secured its place as a desirable component of the most stylish homes and gardens, and as a technique used in contemporary haute couture fashion.

    Gone are the days of heavy rope hangings and jute bags. Macramé’s new lightness and cool elegance is a pleasure to behold and embrace. At Terrace we have totally embraced Macrame and seen it evolve and morph in to many exciting products such as wall hangings and furniture. Check out some of our Terrace pieces below.

     

    Shop some Macrame looks at Terrace here !

    Image credits from top: Macramé tent by Emily Katz, macramé style guides from the 1960s & 70s; macramé wall hanging by Sally England, cushion from Losari, Valentino Spring 2016 Haute Couture, weaver pendant lights from Satelight, interior via Domisilium, all Terrace photos by Paul Hopper
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