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Archives for April 13, 2014

Ice Imports targets men with swords, dragon statues, ‘Magic’ card competitions

One piece of advice, offered by a woman wise in the way of flea markets, always stuck with Eric Meyer: “Always stay until the end.” And, sure enough, one day a few years back while tending a booth at the Jewett City Flea Market, he doubled his day’s sales by being one of the last to close up shop.

Meyer has since parlayed his flea market experience into one of the Crystal Mall’s most well-established independent stores, Ice Imports, which since 2006 has offered a collection of male-oriented gifts – swords and pocket knives, dragon statues and mineral specimens – not to mention an area in the back for “Magic: The Gathering” competitions.

He opened another Ice Imports store in 2011 with similar merchandise at the Promenade Shops at Evergreen Walk in South Windsor and has been contemplating a possible foray into franchising the concept.

“It just took off,” Meyer said. “I just kept chasing the money.”

Meyer, who grew up in Montville and Norwich but lives in Colchester, had been selling at fairs and flea markets since 2001. It wasn’t paying the bills so he also worked a side job doing landscaping.

With family encouragement, he had been pursuing a cart at the mall when a 700-square-foot store became available at almost the same price. He and his wife, Danielle, worked 12 hours a day to launch the store. They joke that Sunday’s eight-hour schedule constitutes a day off.

“I don’t know what got into my head about money, but I always had to pursue it,” Meyer said.

The pursuit sometimes has led him astray, he said, such as a four-year nightmare of helping out relatives with Meyer Deli at the mall’s food court, a venture he calls an expensive learning experience. He has since decided to stick with the market he knows: cool stuff for the 16-to-35-year-old crowd.

“‘Mom wouldn’t let me have this stuff when I was young’ – that’s what drives the business,” he said.

Another side of the business is “Magic: The Gathering,” which in some ways is a complete departure from the gift shop. In the back of the store, a group – comprised largely of young men – work their Magic cards in a competition, which players say offers mental stimulation and a sense of community.

“We’re all just one Magic-playing family,” Zack Lemmon of East Lyme said as he play with friends Tanner Hall of Norwich and Cain Rianhard of East Lyme. “I just like having all my friends in one place.”

Magic, which dates back to the 1990s and at last count was played by about 12 million people worldwide, is described as easy to learn but with strategic complexities.

“It’s like poker meets chess,” said Hall, who used to play in world poker tournaments.

Meyer added the card game to the mix at his now 1,400-square-foot store – he has been at three different mall locations through the years – after partnering with a former employee in a Magic store and then bailing out when relationships soured, he said. After a two-year noncompete agreement, he decided to add the game to his mix, and the result has seen increased sales from players seeking new Magic cards.

“Nerd is the new cool,” Meyer said.

Just to prove it, he travels the world, mixing fun with a search for interesting new imports. Morocco, Rome and Istanbul are a few of the cities he has visited to check out hot new items and develop ideas for the store.

“From my mom, I inherited an ability to see what’s hot and what’s cool,” Meyer said. “I have the blessed ability to see a little ahead of the curve.”

Key, too, are some excellent employees, who are eligible for monthly bonuses when the individual stores hit sales targets, he said.

“Without the support of these people, I would never have been able to find my way through some of the darker times,” he said.

The recession years were particularly tough, he added, a time when he had to learn a lot about debt and inventory management.

“I love business,” Meyer said. “I like the hustle.”

The Crystal Mall store works well because it is conducive to impulse purchases from people just walking by, he said. His other store near Hartford is in an outdoor mall where impulse buys are less likely and “Magic: The Gathering” is a larger part of the equation.

Meyer also has developed a strong online presence, shipping items as far away as Japan, Spain and Italy. He recently returned from a trip to Montreal where he was part of a big Magic tournament, spending two days selling, buying and trading cards.

But as he recalls his retail beginnings, he always harkens back to those days at the Jewett City Flea Market when he kept experimenting with different product lines until he got it right.

“Flea markets are incubators for businesses,” he said. “You can grow out of them.”

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Fine Design Living, One of the GTAs Leading Boutique Design and Build Firms …

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April 11, 2014 —

Fine Design Living, One of the GTAs Leading Boutique Design and Build Firms, Reminds Consumers That Spring is Not Just for Outdoor Renovations

Toronto, Canada (PRWEB) April 11, 2014

Fine Design Living (, one of the Greater Toronto Areas leading boutique design and build firms, specializing in high-quality exterior and interior custom renovations for residential and commercial clients, is advising consumers to keep in mind the benefits of indoor spring renovation projects.

The warm spring weather brings with it the allure of planning artistic landscaping design ideas. However, its important to acknowledge the benefits of having designers and general contractors work on the inside of ones home as well.

As soon as spring hits, its easy for homeowners to get caught up with backyard landscaping and front yard landscaping ideas, says Braden White, owner of Fine Design Living. However, upgrading the interior of the home can add personal and monetary value.


The kitchen and bathroom still add the most monetary value to homes, and a recent poll shows that Canadians appear to be following this trend by allocating most of their funds toward these areas. But White notes that personal spaces should not be ignored; while taking the time to design a bedroom or living room may not be as lucrative, it goes a long way to adding comfort to any home, particularly those homes with young children. (Source: CIBC Poll: Renovation Nation? Canadians say they’ll spend almost 30 per cent more on home renos in 2014, Yahoo! Finance, March 27, 2014;

According to White, one of the ways homeowners can add value and comfort to their house is by conducting an artistic interior design project on the basement. While a finished basement can yield a return of up to 75%, homeowners can also add an immediate personal touch by having it double as a game room for the kids, an extra living area, or a home office. (Source: Ducas, I., Return on renovation costs: How much will you get back?” Style at Home web site;

Homeowners often misjudge just how beneficial it can be to have a finished basement, White observes. That space can be utilized in so many different ways and have multiple functions. And when or if it comes time to sell, the return on the investment can be substantial.

Beautifying a home with a new deck, swimming pool, or some other intricate landscaping design is certainly a great idea, especially for the spring and summer season, when more time will be spent outdoors, in backyards and sitting on the patio, soaking up the suns rays, White concludes. Thats why homeowners should hire a landscaping company like Fine Design Living. We will put the same amount of attention to detail to the inside of a home as we will to the outside.

Fine Design Living is a boutique design and build firm that specializes in high-quality exterior and interior custom renovations for both residential and commercial clients. From unique landscape designs and landscape construction to custom interior renovations, Fine Design Living is committed to providing the highest-quality workmanship and is backed by a personalized approach to service excellence. Based out of Markham, Fine Design Living serves customers in Toronto and the GTA, including Richmond Hill, Thornhill, Vaughan, Newmarket, Unionville, Aurora, and Stouffville. More information about Fine Design Living is available by visiting the firm’s web site at or by calling 416-817-6128.

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Southview Design Offers Easy Landscaping Ideas to Increase Curb Appeal

Southview Design Offers Easy Landscaping Ideas to Increase Curb Appeal

PRWEB.COM Newswire

Minneapolis, MN (PRWEB) March 31, 2014

With spring-like weather on its way, Southview Design has several easy landscaping ideas for homeowners who want to increase their home’s curb appeal.

“Whether you’re planning on selling a home or staying put, putting time and money into the front landscaping is a great investment,” said Karen Filloon, a landscape designer with Southview Design. “First impressions are everything, especially if you’re thinking about selling. It can determine whether your home is a drive-by or a must-see.”

According to the Minneapolis Area Association of REALTORS® (MAAR), the Twin Cities is in a seller’s market, because the demand for homes far outstrips the supply of homes currently for sale. In fact, MAAR reports that the inventory of homes for sale is at an 11-year low. Although the average sale price of a home in the Twin Cities area is up 12.6 percent over last year, homes that are in “move-in” condition tend to sell faster and for more than those that need a lot of work, according to real estate professionals.

Filloon said that early spring is the best time to take a good look at your front yard from across the street to see the big picture. Do the exterior and/or front door need to be painted? Are the driveway, front walk and steps in good repair? Are the front walkway and doorway well lit and inviting?

After you take care of the hardscape basics, it’s time to address your home’s front landscaping. Filloon has three key tips for using landscaping to increase the curb appeal of your home:

1. Replace overgrown or badly pruned shrubs and small ornamental trees.

2. Top-dress the plant beds with a fresh inch of hardwood mulch.

3. Add ‘pops’ of seasonal color in the front beds or container gardens near the front door.

“Of course, taking care of your lawn is a must,” Filloon said. “Avoid the temptation to irrigate in the spring just to get the grass growing. Allow it to green up naturally. Mow frequently but avoid scalping, and don’t start to irrigate until the dry conditions of early summer cause turf wilt.”

Filloon also said that if the lawn is beyond repair, the fastest way to fix it is to start over again with fresh sod. However, she said that fresh sod or a freshly seeded lawn may take several weeks of special care before it’s well established, so it’s important to get that started well before putting the home on the market.

For photos and front yard landscaping ideas, visit and the section on how to enhance the curb appeal of your home.

One of the largest and fastest growing landscaping companies in MN, Southview Design is expert in residential and commercial landscape planning, construction and design. Founded in 1978, Southview has completed over 5,000 landscaping projects. Listed among the top 25 fastest growing landscape firms in the U.S., Southview’s landscape designs have garnered awards from the Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association and the Minnesota Chapter of NARI. For more information, visit

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Facing a spreading new blight in boxwoods

Deer and plants: As any suburbanite knows, it’s a marriage made in horticultural hell.

But Chuck Feld thought he was in the clear. Although 30 deer regularly cruised through Birmingham Gardens, his four-acre wholesale nursery in West Chester, thousands of boxwoods he was cultivating remained blessedly untouched.

Feld’s “box,” as it’s known, may have defeated the deer, but it was helpless against a new scourge: boxwood blight, which first showed up in Europe in the mid-1990s and in Connecticut and North Carolina in late 2011.

Since then, it has spread to 10 other states, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, and three Canadian provinces. Exactly how it got here remains a mystery.

Boxwood blight is just the latest disease or pest to lay waste to some of our most popular plants in recent years, among them impatiens, roses, and ash, oak, and maple trees.

The bad actors can piggyback on plants shipped to the United States, where permits and inspections are required. But Joe Bischoff, a plant pathologist with AmericanHort, a horticulture industry association, says there’s a greater threat: “It’s likely that most of these pathogens come in . . . through the illegal and/or uninformed pathway through travelers’ baggage.”

Either way, boxwoods are difficult; they can show no signs of the problem within.

The blight cannot be entirely prevented or cured, and it ruined Feld’s 2013. His boxwoods – 2,100, up to three feet tall, planted in the ground, and 2,300 small ones in pots – were either infected or would soon become so, and, as required by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, had to be destroyed.

Over 20 days last fall, he incinerated the bigger plants with a propane torch and used a backhoe to bury the small ones in a 10-foot hole.

A $30,000 investment, gone.

Ironically, Feld, a veteran propagator and horticulture instructor at Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades in Media, teaches a course in plant pests and disease. He was all too familiar with boxwood blight symptoms: stems with black streaks, leaves with brown spots, defoliation within a week.

“But I never expected it to strike so close to home,” he says.

Though not native to North America, boxwoods have been a beloved stalwart in American landscapes for more than 200 years, especially in formal gardens and historic sites, such as Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate in Virginia; Colonial Williamsburg; the White House; and Arlington National Cemetery.

They are the third best-selling shrub in the U.S., a $103 million-a-year business. No wonder Bischoff calls the blight “a significant threat to the industry.”

Lately, more consumers have come to appreciate boxwoods’ deer resistance and drought tolerance, but its reputation was built on the fact that it’s evergreen, adaptable to sun or shade, easily sheared into fashionable geometric shapes.

“And that lush green look is difficult to beat,” says Dean Norton, horticulture director at Mount Vernon, which has had boxwoods since 1798 and today features more than 4,000.

Unfortunately, English and American boxwoods, the two most popular varieties, are also the most susceptible to Cylindroclaidium buxicola, the blight-causing fungus. Its sticky spores move from plant to plant in splashing water, on pruners, clothing, people, dogs and wildlife, and on defoliated leaves that blow around the landscape.

An English boxwood typically has more than a thousand leaves, each one capable of producing a couple of thousand fungal spores if infected.

The spores flourish more in shade than sun; tall boxwoods with good air circulation seem to do better than short, dense ones; and researchers have found fewer infections in hot, dry conditions than in warm, humid ones.

“When you introduce a new fungus, and you have two really, really, wet years [2012 and 2013], that got the fungus spread around the East Coast,” says Kelly Ivors, a plant pathologist who studied boxwood blight extensively at North Carolina State University.

Complicating matters is the fact that some infected shrubs don’t develop symptoms for a while. And that selectively removing sick plants doesn’t eliminate the threat in a garden.

“It would just be a matter of time and distance for [the blight] to spread,” says Ivors, who calls efforts to prevent or manage the disease “a work in progress.”

Robert Saunders, sales manager for Saunders Brothers, his family’s 99-year-old, wholesale nursery in Piney River, Va., says growers initially panicked over boxwood blight. Now, they’re looking to propagate and promote newer varieties with some degree of tolerance.

“It’s inevitable that we’re going to see blight, but if we can focus on new varieties and educate people, we’ll be able to face it better,” says Saunders, who supplies boxwoods to Mount Vernon, the White House, Smithsonian Institution, and other landmarks.

Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, too.

Boxwood has been a signature plant there since its days as a private estate. When it became a public garden in the early 20th century, a Sunken Boxwood Garden was installed where the Main Fountain Garden is today.

Today, more than 2,000 boxwood hedges, topiaries, and individual specimens, some more than a century old, dot Longwood’s lawns, gardens, and allées. And Grant Jones, who oversees pest management, is employing a host of “best practices” for their care.

Tools are sterilized, irrigation systems closely regulated. Old boxwoods are monitored; new ones are quarantined for 90 days and sprayed with fungicide.

“So far, so good,” Jones said. “We haven’t seen any blight.”

Feld worries about consumers and landscapers who don’t know about the blight or follow “best practices.” They might prune infected, asymptomatic boxwoods and fail to sterilize their tools. They might leave infected leaf litter on the ground, toss it on the compost pile, or put it on the curb to be collected for municipal compost or mulch.

Some advice:

If you have boxwood, be vigilant. If you want boxwood, choose a relatively blight-tolerant variety, like Green Beauty. And buy from a reputable nursery.

“Not one of those places by the side of the road,” says Feld, who now cultivates plum yews instead of boxwoods. Deer don’t like them either.



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These 11 Incredible Backyard Gardens Are What Dreams Are Made Of (PHOTOS)

Not only does springtime signal the start of chirping birds and blossoming buds, but it marks the time that we can finally escape to the outdoors without getting slapped with a polar vortex. And, as these 11 gorgeous gardens from our friends at prove, a backyard can be just the retreat you need from the daily grind. While we’d be content with a deck chair and a patch of green grass, these stunning spaces boast incredible landscaping, views and even a few water features. To see even more photos, click on the project name under each picture.

Which one would you like to call your warm weather retreat?












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New Mount Vernon exhibit introduces George Washington the landscaper

As a young surveyor and before serving as our country’s first president, George Washington developed the ability to measure up a landscape and to take advantage of its natural features. He also had an eye for spatial awareness. Washington learned by observation, by reading, and by the study of new styles of landscape design.

Later, he put those skills to use creating a landscape plant for his now-historic home, Mount Vernon in Fairfax, along the banks of the Potomac River, according to Mount Vernon curators.

The public can see Washington’s vision and purpose for the estate’s grounds in a new exhibit “Gardens Groves: George Washington’s Landscape and Mount Vernon.” The exhibit includes five 18th-century views of Mount Vernon – oil paintings of the river and land fronts of the mansion. Two special drawings that detail the layout of the grounds will be on view through Sunday, Aug. 17, while the entire exhibit can be seen until January 2016.

“These artwork records record details of the landscape we would not otherwise know, information that continues to inform our ongoing research and restoration efforts,” says exhibit curator Adam Erby.

Built in stages 1758-1778, Washington’s estate and its gardens are owned and operated by the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, which was founded as a preservation group in 1853.

When George Washington returned to Mount Vernon after the American Revolution, 1775-1783, he found the estate needed extensive repairs and improvements. The buildings and grounds surrounding the mansion lacked a cohesive design because they had happened over time out of necessity rather than beauty, according to curators. Instead, he wanted a plan for “pleasure grounds” that enhanced the site’s natural beauty, which featured the crest of a hill overlooking the Potomac River.

The landscape

Three of the four primary gardens — the upper or pleasure garden; the fruit garden and nursery; and the botanical garden — have all been restored to their 18th-century appearance, using recent research and archaeological evidence as guidelines.

“The lower or kitchen garden remains as it was implemented in 1937, based on research at the time and its design is reflective of the Colonial Revival landscape movement,” says Dean Norton, director of horticulture

Washington included a modern greenhouse in the upper garden, according to curators.

Completed in 1789, the building housed his semi-tropical and tropical plants during winter months. In the spring, container plants were put out in the garden. Tall triple-hung windows allowed beneficial southern light, and could be opened to allow good air flow. A heating system with a stove room on the north side of the greenhouse attached to a series of flues that ran under the stone floor, heating the floor of the greenhouse.

Original gardens

The lower or kitchen garden was the first space created in 1760. It was a garden of necessity, benefiting survival and good health. For 254 years, vegetables, fruits and berries have been cultivated within those garden walls.

The upper garden began in 1763 as a fruit and nut garden but became a pleasure place when Washington began his new landscape plan. Pleasure gardens — plots of flowers were grown for beauty and not for use — were not that common in the 18th century. Even in Washington’s pleasure garden, flowers were only grown in borders that surrounded larger beds of edibles.

The botanical garden was Washington’s own experimental space. He fondly called this small space his little garden and kept detailed records as to what he planted and where, according to curators. The space was intended to try out different types of plants that might be “Virginia-proof,” or could survive the harsh conditions of both winter and the summer.

The area known as the fruit garden and nursery began as a failed attempt at a vineyard, according to curators. Today, fruit trees are planted in the arrangement that Washington recorded in his diaries. The nursery area was where plants that required more space were planted: grasses, vegetables and ornamentals.

Diary notes

At age 16, in his “Journal of my Journey over the Mountains” he wrote “… about 4 miles higher up the river we went through the most beautiful Groves of Sugar trees spent the best part of the Day admiring the Trees and the richness of the land.”

Washington loved nature and upon return from the Revolutionary War he decided to mimic nature by creating a naturalistic garden. He spent 18 months on the design. Once it was completed, he returned to his passion — farming — and let the gardeners he hired take care of day-to-day maintenance.

Through his letters and diary entries, Washington left a great deal of information about his plans for Mount Vernon Estate. And there are a few drawings, for example, the arrangement of greenhouse spaces and the ha-ha wall (a landscape barrier that keeps grazing animals from entering turf spaces) on the east lawn.

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Gardening Tips: Magic wand solutions for fairy rings in lawns

Posted: Friday, April 11, 2014 11:29 am

Gardening Tips: Magic wand solutions for fairy rings in lawns

By Matthew Stevens

The Daily Herald, Roanoke Rapids, NC


In early to mid April each year, Bermuda grass that has laid dormant for months begins to emerge from its winter sleep. Often this can be an ideal time to notice potential problems with Bermuda lawns. One such problem that often becomes quite apparent at this time is known as fairy rings.

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Helpful tips for gardening this spring

After a long winter, people with green thumbs are ready to put the gloves on and get to work on their gardens.
However, there are some things that you should wait a little longer to do, and some things you can get started on right away.

Co-owner of Grobe Nursery and Garden, Perry Grobe, tells 570 News some basic helpful tips for digging into your gardens this spring.

“They can certainly plant pansies right now, and as soon as the ground is diggable, they can plant almost any plant they can think of in terms of shrubs, and trees, or bushes, and so on.”

Not only is it a good idea to clean up the yard, but it is important to clean up and throw away any dead branches left from the storm that hit most in the area this past Christmas.

“The other thing that people are doing right now is planting. The season is late and the longer they put it off, the harder it may be to get things done in a timely manner. They should be considering what they’re going to do and make arrangements to get things ready for the garden. For example, they may want to get their fertilizers for the beds and fertilizers for the lawn and look at the shrubs that they’re looking to have, and so on.”

For helpful tips and useful advice on gardening, visit Grobe Nursery and Garden Centre online at

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Gardening Guru Tips – Juneau County Star

Don’t let a lack of time or space get in the way of gardening a way to a healthy lifestyle. Plant a container of nutritious vegetables and herbs. Include a few planters on the front porch, back patio or right outside the kitchen door.

All that’s needed is potting mix, fertilizer, plants and a container with drainage holes. A 15- to 24-inch-diameter pot or 24- to 36-inch-long window box is a good starting size. Bigger containers hold more plants and hold moisture longer, so can be watered less frequently.

Fill the container with well-drained potting mix. Read the label on the container mix bag. Add a slow-release organic nitrogen fertilizer at planting, like Milorganite – visit –for better results with less effort. It provides small amounts of nutrients throughout most of the season, and eliminates the need to mix and water in fertilizer throughout the growing season. Sprinkle a bit more on the soil surface midseason or when changing out plantings.

Mix colorful flowers with nutritious vegetables for attractive, healthy results. Bright Lights Swiss Chard, pansies – their flowers are edible, colorful leaf lettuce, spinach, radishes and trailing ivy make a great cool-season combination. Fresh-from-the-container garden vegetables make the best-tasting salads, and the greens provide Vitamins A and C as well as calcium. Use pansy flowers to dress up a salad or frozen in ice cubes for an added gourmet touch to beverages.

For summer, use tomato, pepper, eggplant or peas, beans and cucumbers trained on a trellis. All are packed full of nutrients and make a great vertical accent. Surround the towering vegetables with purple basil, tri-color sage, carrots, beets and a colorful trailing annual like verbena, lantana or bidens.

Check containers daily and water thoroughly as needed. Self-watering pots need less frequent watering, allowing busy gardeners and travelers the opportunity to grow plants in pots with minimal care.

Don’t forget to squeeze in a few onions or garlic. The fragrant foliage can be decorative and these vegetables help lower blood sugar and cholesterol, while aiding in digestion.

Be creative and add a few small-scale, attractive vegetables high in nutritional value to a variety of containers this season.

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Cactus Gardening Tips


Cactus can survive in a wide range of hydration, light and heat environment. But, if you are able to provide the optimum conditions, it will be the better choice for your cacti. While considering cactus gardening in pots, you have to keep an extra eye on the variety of cactus that you are selecting, the type of pot, soil and the light availability. Since potted plants are easy to handle, you are free to move it to any comfortable place as per demand. Here, we may discuss some easy and effective cactus gardening tips that may help you.

Cactus Gardening Tips

Selection of cactus: Selecting the most suitable variety of is one of the most important cactus gardening tips. This is more important if you are thinking of cactus gardening in pots. Try to make the perfect choice that matches with the ambiance of your indoor.

Shallow pot: Select a pot or bowl for growing indoor cactus depending on the expected size of the plant. It is better to opt for a shallow variety of pots, around 10 inches deep. This will help give the needed support for the plant.

Potting soil: One of the important cactus gardening tips is to use formulated soil. There are commercially available formulated soils that are specially designed for growing cactus in pots. Soil, gravel or sand with nitrogen and phosphorus is the most common among them.

Sun exposure: While considering cactus gardening in pot, you have to opt for a place where there is direct sunlight. Place the cactus in a sunny location and if not, make sure that the potted cactus will get 4 to 6 hours of sunlight each day.

Watering: One of the main advantages of growing cactus is that you don’t have to water it every other day. Cactus needs watering about once in a month. Take care not to overdo it. Make sure that the water is draining through the holes properly.

Fertilising: Apply fertilisers once or twice a year. Consider the size of your cactus while using fertilisers. Prefer houseplant food with nitrogen and phosphorus. Take extra care while fertilising your potted cactus as overdoing it may damage your plant.

Add creativity: Planting cactus offer you an opportunity to use your creativity as well to make it more attractive. You can plant cactus in a wide container and can give the ambiance of a desert in it. Plant more varieties of cactus in the container and place a camel sculpture. All set!

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