Alex, Current Issues, Herbs, How To, News, Plants

Office Plants
Dramatic Introduction

There once was a time, many moons ago, when humankind led a much simpler existence. The struggles of modern life, in comparison, seem menial to that of the Neolithic man. Survival would be an outside bet as a response if you were to ask the average British 21 year old to list their top 10 priorities at present. Yet, I can’t help thinking that this would have been a more liberated state of existence. An existence more in tune with nature with a more focused sense of priorities; no need to despair at the lack of interactions on your latest social media post, no anxiety caused by the ability of an “every 7 minute” bus service to be late by more than half an hour, no burning desire to photograph every meal ever laid before you to show people you hardly know so that they can hardly care.

So, I decided to investigate the primordial aspects of the human psyche, searching deeper and exploring the development of the mind over the millennia. Here, I studied a plethora of cognitive schemas and emotional structures crafted over millions of years of evolution and ignoring trends developed over decades of increasing mind pollution. I chose to explore one of the most primal aspects of the human consciousness: Our relationship with nature. I was interested in how it affects us consciously and subconsciously, and how we can implement this knowledge in the modern world.

After many, many minutes of research I came to the conclusion that our relationship with nature was indeed an intense and deep -rooted one. A relationship forged during the dawn of our species’ time on earth when nature ruled this planet and we were simply its newest guests. It treated us well. Like any good host it provided us with anything and everything we could ever need and asked for little in return, except respect. Unfortunately it seems this relationship has wilted over time. It turns out we might not have been the best guests. A greedy race we became, taking without gratitude and losing touch with the force that provided both the fuel and the catalyst for our meteoric expansion.

As I continued, I grew saddened by this decline in what was once such a beautiful, synergetic relationship. It seemed that in losing this link, we had become resigned to losing a part of ourselves as if it was an inevitable part of evolution towards a society that existed online, in clouds on servers as our reality became more virtual and less… natural. But then, just as I was about to close all my Chrome tabs in despair and give up on the human race, out of the corner of my eye a shining beacoOffice Plant Psychologyn of hope punctuated the cold, grey background. In this moment, my despair evaporated and I realised there was a chance yet. A single symbol reminded me that this link was not eternally forsaken, that deep down this relationship still had life. I am, of course, talking about the humble office plant.

 

The Research

Now the dramatic intro is complete I can get onto the science. Plants in the office may seem to many at best a nice touch, but research is emerging to support the hypothesis that they may actually be having a more profound impact than we have recognised in workplaces around the globe. The benefits provided by a shade more greenery in the office are being picked up upon by researchers as they seem align with two of the most fundamental aims of occupational psychology: Reducing stress and increasing productivity.

Occupational Psychology

As a science, occupational psychology grew rapidly over the 20th century with an increase in the gradient of that development towards the end of the century and carrying on into the start of the 21st. Companies realised the potential benefits to come from this research and ploughed millions into projects to gain those extra few percent increases in productivity. The field has evolved massively since its conception with an increasing understanding of stress and its relationship with productivity with the modern day focus shifted towards reducing stress and increasing employee well-being.

Field Studies

So, the growing body of research to suggest that plants in the workplace both reduce stress and increase productivity is music to the ears of occupational psychologists across the world. One of the most convincing studies to date was produced by the team of researchers from the UK, Australia and The Netherlands who carried out a field study comprised of three experiments in two large commercial offices in the UK and The Netherlands. They found that enriching a “lean office environment” with greenery led to an increase in productivity by 15%. Lead researcher Marlon Nieuwenhuis noted that the results of this first long term study carried out in “real life conditions” “closely align with previously conducted laboratory studies”. He continues to discuss how “at odds” these findings were to the current political and economic zeitgeist as well as with modern “lean” management techniques and office design.

There are a number of previous laboratory studies into the area as Mr Nieuwenhuis mentioned and the majority note the stress relieving, therapeutic affect that plants can have on a workforce. A similar study carried out in Washington found a 12% decrease in stress levels of computer programmers, notoriously stressed individuals, when just a few plants were added to their office. Despite this, a causal link between the two, as with so many cases in psychology, is difficult to ascertain for certain.

 

My Theory

There are many theories but one I tend to lean towards is a combination of the improved aesthetics of the workplace, leadiWorkplace plantsng to temporary,
interspersed, mood elevation, with the effect created by plants on the physical environment. The second half of that may be overlooked by some but research from Washington found that transpiration by plants leads to an increase in air humidity to a level matching most closely that  shown to be found most comfortable to the average person. In addition, this process improves air quality and can reduce the ambient temperature as much as three degrees generally leading to more comfortable working conditions. If the wellbeing of your employees wasn’t enough to persuade you to invest in a few plants, think of the money you can save on your utility bills!

 

Final Thoughts…

Finally, there is data to show that an attractive workplace can help attract and retain the best employees in today’s competitive workplace market. It follows that if you have office full of competent employees, your stress levels and productivity are likely to be lower and higher respectively. With that I end my case. I hope, at very least, I have convinced you to get up an hour or so earlier, take a slight diversion to the nearest garden centre on the way to work tomorrow morning and fill a wheelbarrow full of shrubs and perhaps small fruiting trees and make your office a better place.

AlexAlex works in the Primrose marketing team, mainly on online marketing.

As a psychology graduate it is ironic that he understands plants better than people but a benefit for the purpose of writing this blog.

An enthusiastic gardener, all he needs now is a garden and he’ll be on the path to greatness. Alex’s special talents include superior planter knowledge and the ability to put a gardening twist on any current affairs story.

See all of Alex’s posts.

Allotment, Charlie, Composting, Current Issues, Gardening Year, Grow Your Own, How To, Recipe

Nothing says autumn like the sight of earthy, delicious apples falling from the trees. But have you ever thought about turning those same apples into something a little more refreshing? Yes, I’m talking about cider making, and how it can be easily done even in your own back garden. Follow these steps and you’ll soon be enjoying a rewarding glass of cider of your own creation.

Step 1 – Collect the Apples

apples on the grass

While the ideal is to have an apple tree or two in one’s own garden, don’t despair if you don’t – market bought apples will do, or even wild apples from the roadside or country lanes. If you do have your own apple tree, a good tactic is to place a sheet under the tree and then shake the tree onto the sheet, this will ensure only the ripe apples fall from the tree. You’ll need approximately 2kg of apples for every 1 litre of cider you want to produce. It is worth spending some time here thinking about what kind of cider you’d like to produce, as the kind of apples you pick for the cider will, naturally, have the biggest impact on this. Sweet or sharp depends on the apples!

Step 2 – Preparation for Pressing

It never hurts to give the apples a good wash before you do anything else. The apples may have pesticides or bacteria on them which could harm the brewing process. Then, it’s crushing time. You can use a fruit crusher available here from Primrose, although if you are aiming for a lower quantity of cider a normal kitchen fruit juicer may also do the job – you could even try simply smashing them up in a bucket with a piece of timber if you’re so inclined – watch out for splinters though! At the end of this stage, you should end up with a mushy substance known as pulp.

Step 3 – Pressing the Pulp

Apple Press

Once your pulp is prepared, the next step towards making your cider is to press it. This can be done using Primrose’s range of fruit presses. Simply put the apple pulp into the provided mesh and place in the fruit press – then squeeze! Not forgetting to place a container below the press to collect the apple juice and always remember to perform this step outside – things can get a little messy! One good tip is to let the pulp “breathe” for a while after pressing, let the juice pour out then come back and press some more – this way you’ll ensure you get all the juice out of your apples that you can, and you let the press do the work.

Step 4 – Sterilisation

This is where things can get a little complicated. Firstly, you might want to sterilize your juice, particularly if many over the apples are over-ripe or have many brown and rotten bits in them. This will help kill off any harmful bacteria that might spoil your juice. You can do this by adding sodium metabisulphite (also known as E223) in the form of a Campden Tablet. You CAN skip this step, especially if you want to produce an all natural product, however this is not really advisable. All natural cider is very difficult to get right. If you want to try it though, good luck! If your goal was simply to make delicious homemade apple juice – then congratulations! You’ve made it. If you’d like turn it into cider, however, then read on.

Step 5 – Fermentation

Cider Fermentation

Once you’ve got your sterilised juice, the next stage is the fermentation itself. If you’re going for an all natural brew, you can simply leave the juice in a plastic or glass sterilised container and wait, hopefully, with enough time the natural yeasts already present will start to ferment the apple juice. However, the safer bet is to add some yeast yourself, remembering, however to wait 24 hours after sterilising to do this, otherwise the sterilising agent may kill off your yeast before it has a chance to turn those sugars into alcohol. Any wine or beer grade yeast should do the job. Bread yeast does not yield such good quality cider.

Fermentation should take between 5 and 21 days and be in a sterilised container at a temperature of about 20 – 27 degrees celsius. If you’re going the techie road you could use a hydrometer to measure when the fermentation is finished, otherwise you’ll have to go by taste. It might also be a good idea to conduct most of the fermentation in a demijohn or similar container with an airlock or fermentation trap. This will prevent oxidisation of your cider, which leads to vinegar being produced. You’ll only want to use an airlocked container, however, after a few day of leaving your brew exposed to the air, as at the start the yeast will need some air to do its job.

Step 6 – Bottling

Once the cider is fermented, you’ll want to get the cider ready for drinking. Ensure that the sediment left at the bottom after fermentation doesn’t get into the bottle. You can achieve this by either pouring carefully from whatever container you used for fermentation, or by using a sieve. If you’re a purist like me you’ll be wanting flat, not sparkling cider, in that case remember to give the cider a good stir to release any extra gas before storing it.

And that’s it, enjoy your cider!

cider glass

CharlieCharlie works in the Primrose marketing team, mainly on online marketing.

When not writing for the Primrose Blog, Charlie likes nothing more than a good book and a cool cider.

Alex, Composting, Garden Tools, Gardening Year, Heated Clothing, How To, New Products, News

Again, summer draws to a close before it seems to have started with the nights getting longer and the mornings carrying that distinct chill indicative of the changing of seasons. Slowly, the leaves begin a spectral shift rightwards and we find ourselves staring ahead into an inevitable downwards spiral of temperatures and an overall deterioration of atmospheric conditions with great trepidation, tinged with a hint of sorrow. Or at least we would be, if it wasn’t for the shining light of Primrose’s Autumn Gardening Essentials List penetrating through that inter-seasonal gloom bringing with it hope; hope of better days, promises of better gardens.

All drama aside, it’s time for a change of tactics and like any great tactician we must utilise all resources available to us fully to optimise our time in the field. Autumn brings with it its own challenges with plenty of preparation to be carried out in time for winter but equally an opportunity to create a garden that looks great throughout the colder months and ultimately all year round. So here is the Primrose list of essentials to help you to make the most of these autumn months:

Garden Track

Garden_Track

I’ll start with this because it’s something you should consider before cracking on with work in the garden this autumn. Garden track can protect your lawn from all the activity taking place as you work in the garden, guarding against boots, barrows and just about anything else from churning up the ground as the weather gets wetter. This is the first step in lawn care preventing the ground from compacting and turning to mud.

Leaf Blower

The build-up of leaves can be often be underestimated and considered merely a nuisance. Of courseburiedbanner_4 they are a
nuisance often leading to slippery paths and general untidiness but they can also cause more lasting damage, especially to your lawn. A covering of leaves can starve the grass of light whilst encouraging disease so it’s best to stay on top of this. Besides, they make great compost, so why let them go to waste? Depending on the size of your garden a rake may suffice but for larger gardens a leaf blower can be a shrewd investment making light work of an otherwise monotonous task.

Compost Bin

Compost_Bin

This brings me nicely to my next item as leaves provide an essential ingredient for compost providing good balance to supplement your other green waste. At this time of year there should be plenty of green waste building up too as you chop back and tidy your garden for winter making it an ideal time to fill that compost heap. A good quality composter will help retain heat over the winter speeding up the decomposition process and require only a bit of aeration from time to time. Compost bins are also a great way to help divert your kitchen waste from landfill and so are a must have for the environmentally conscious gardener.

Mulching

Mulching

Basically a protective covering for your garden, mulching is key during the winter protecting from frost to which less hardy plants are especially susceptible to during the first few cold months. This is perfect for giving borders a cleaner finish and also provides the added benefit of improving the soil and can be home-made from a well-mixed garden compost combined with a bit of green waste. 2-4 inches should do the trick and to give those less hardy plants a bit of extra protection you can cover with straw or bark which provides a great looking finish.

 

Hand Warmer

handwarmer

Give yourself that bit of extra comfort whilst out in the garden this autumn with a hand warmer. Good for morale and dexterity it fits nicely in your pockets so you can keep those digits warm as the weather gets cold. The Warmawear™ hand warmer boasts platinum-catalyst flameless technology which ensures easy lighting and long-lasting, comfortable temperatures of between 42-50°C. It’s easy to use, simply add the fuel, light, replace the protective lid and place in the soft bag for up to 12 hours of warmth at your fingertips.

These items should get you started but stay tuned to the Primrose Blog as over the next couple of months we’ll have plenty more tips and how-to guides to ensure you make the most out of autumn this year!

AlexAlex works in the Primrose marketing team, mainly on online marketing.

As a psychology graduate it is ironic that he understands plants better than people but a benefit for the purpose of writing this blog.

An enthusiastic gardener, all he needs now is a garden and he’ll be on the path to greatness. Alex’s special talents include superior planter knowledge and the ability to put a gardening twist on any current affairs story.

See all of Alex’s posts.

Animals, George, News, Press Releases, Surveys

Strangest Things Buried In Gardens

Have you ever buried something in your back garden? Ever stashed away anything secret as a child, laid a loved one to rest, or wanted to cover up something best forgotten..? 51% of people have, according to a survey we conducted.

We’re a nation of animal lovers, so it doesn’t come as too much of a surprise that out of everything that was buried something, 77% were pets:

  • 26% cats
  • 18% dogs
  • 9% birds
  • 8% rabbits
  • 7% fish
  • 5% guinea pigs
  • 27% undisclosed
  • And even a deer that was found by the roadside.

Perhaps cats are easier to lay into the ground than dogs. Or most people take the traditional drainage route to dispose of deceased fish. Clearly, it seems an unusual decision to bury roadkill in the garden.

The next most popular items are time capsules, but only making up 4% of the total buried. Many people had made them for their grandchildren, or made them when they themselves were younger. But how many of us have ever excavated our buried memories?

It can be a fascinating insight into the minds of our neighbours to uncover what people have stowed away in their soil. Here are a few of the stranger things people admitted to burying:

  • A piano frame
  • A ‘husband’s dinner’
  • ‘New potatoes in a sealed tin to dig up again for Christmas dinner’
  • A daughter’s letter to her older self
  • A copper coin ‘to make a plant turn blue’
  • A pig’s head
  • A mangle
  • A broken bath
  • An old hard drive
  • A miniature spitting image statue of Margaret Thatcher
  • A love letter
  • A banana to ward off verrucas
  • The diaries of someone’s mother who had died of dementia
  • And a wish (that apparently came true).

Thank you to everyone who took part in our survey, and we hope you find the results as fascinating as we do!

George at PrimroseGeorge works in the Primrose marketing team. As a lover of all things filmic, he also gets involved with our TV ads and web videos.

George’s idea of the perfect time in the garden is a long afternoon sitting in the shade with a good book. A cool breeze, peace and quiet… But of course, he’s usually disturbed by his energetic wire fox terrier, Poppy!

He writes about his misadventures in repotting plants and new discoveries about cat repellers.

See all of George’s posts.