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Since moving into this house, I've become very houseproud, and one of the things I've begun to enjoy is having fresh flowers around the house - something made much easier by having a Tesco just round the corner where I can nip in and the end of the night and buy a reduced bunch for a quid or so that, fed correctly, will last for ages. The only thing is, the only vase I currently have is a clear glass one, and I do find the sight of the stems a little unsightly. I get round that using Oob Hydro Crystals, something I first encountered when a friend filled vases with these as table centrepieces at her wedding. Oobs are tiny little hard balls that absorb water, and grow to up to 150 times their size. They come in a variety of colours - pinks, lilacs, and greens, although the packs I have purchased never have them all mixed up as shown in the vase above, they've always come in packs of one solid colour, though mixing them up myself is simple to do. It does take a while for the balls to soak up the water and increase in size - according to the pack you can soak them for up to 10 hours to grow them to their biggest size, which will apparently hold water for up to two months, saving you the need to top up the water. Now, I've never soaked mine for quite that long. I think the most I've soaked them for is probably around 8 hours whilst I'm out of the house, and they do grow substantially in that amount of time, becoming brighter and more transparent in colour, as well as taking on a delightful squidginess. They look lovely in a clear vase, especially with the sunlight shining through, and I have been able to use the same batch of oobs for several bunches of flowers, just giving them a quick rinse each time I change the vase. I think the longest I've had a batch last is around six weeks - not the two months mentioned on the packet, but then I didn't soak for the maximum time. Not only are they pretty, but they're a lot of fun to play with - something about the texture just begs to be squeezed, and I have to confess that these have many times been picked out of the vase and used to play finger football on the coffee table. They are non toxic, which is reassuring for those of us with pets and children. I really like these, they are a great way of livening up a vase, with or without flowers. They do stay lovely and moist for a long time, and they really are very pretty. Perhaps the one downside is that, if you have a flower that needs 'feeding' to keep it fresh, you have to make a point of soaking the balls in the feed solution. This can be easily done by keeping some pre-soaked balls, just enough to keep the flowers wet overnight, then making up the feed solution with water and soaking more balls in that, then adding them in to top up the vase later. It's not difficult, just requires a little bit of organisation, which isn't my strong suit. These cost around £2, and are available online and in florists. I've also seen these in my local poundshop, so if you have one it is worth a peek, as I think they are great value.
I discovered Hydro Crystals by accident. I ordered a few things from www.find me a gift.com and they gave me a free gift which was a packet of Hydro Crystals from a company called Oob, they are little crystals that when put in water absorb the liquid and hold onto it. The crystals are made from a substance called Polyacrylamide. This is a biodegradable and non toxic. It will do no harm to your flowers or plants in fact it helps to nourish them and prolong the life of the flowers. The crystals are available in several different colours and clear too. I was lucky enough to receive as my freebie some pink ones. I have since bought the clear ones as well. They are currently on www.find me a gift.com for £1.49 for a 8g pack. To turn the little crystals into coloured gel you need to add water. I would recommend quite a large bowl for this as they do tend to expand more than you would imagine. The packet states that each crystal will expand 150 times in size. I simply put the crystals in the bowl and added the water. Now if you are expecting this transformation to happen before your eyes you will be disappointed, it takes 10 hours of soaking before they change into little jelly like balls. Once this is done you simply need to drain the excess water from them and they are ready. The lovely thing about these little crystal-come- jelly- balls is that they so versatile. We have a local cheap shop in our town, used to be woollies, and they sell lovely clear glass vases and bowls in different shapes and sizes and at really good prices. I love these vases and have bought several in the time I've had my own home. Some of the shapes, although nice, do make it difficult to arrange flowers in them. A square vase for instance needs to be absolutely packed with flowers to stop them flopping everywhere. When I use this vase with hydro gel the flowers stand better and I can get away with just a few stems and another benefit is you don't get nasty coloured water after a couple of days, one of the problems with clear glass vases. The jelly crystals look lovely on their own too. If you fill a clear glass container with either clear ones or coloured ones and stand on the window sill the light will shine through it creating a very pretty ornament. As these crystals hold the water for up to 2 months they are excellent for plants too, especially when you are going on holiday. I've given my mum some of these and they stop the plants in her conservatory drying out when its hot. If you want a specific colour for a special occasion such as a centre piece or wedding you can always add food colouring to clear crystals to create the shade you want. I bought my friend a glass vase and some of these for her birthday, they make a great gift. When the crystals start to dry out you can just add a little bit more water and re hydrate them. I would recommend giving these a try, they are very reasonably priced and are so useful and also as they are non toxic they wont hurt any animals you may have.
INTRODUCTION As many of you know I am a Hair stylist and I have my own salon, I always pride myself on the personal touch so I am always looking for new ideas to improve the salon and make all of the customers, feel totally at ease. From day one I have always bought fresh flower bouquets to place on the reception desk, as I feel this is very welcoming to the clients. I recently bought some very long and tall glass vases to display the fresh flowers in the window. After filling the vases with water and I had finished placing the flowers, I was not at all happy with the way they looked as the flowers seemed to droop and stand at an angle making the new window display look more like a car crash and not the stylish sleek image I was looking for. After speaking to my husband I remembered these little jelly crystals that we once brought in America, so I scowered the internet to find them as these would complete the job perfectly. THE HYDRO CRYSTALS The Hydro crystals are produced by a company called Oob, they are designed to keep your fresh flowers and plants hydrated and fully watered for up to eight weeks. These are basically a soil replacement for all of your indoor flowers and plants. I find that the little crystals can be used for many different purposes, I have used them as a display purpose and placed them in clear vases so the translucent beads reflect the light and as they are compacted into the vases they keep the flowers in place perfectly, without me having to rearrange them every week. These can also be used to keep house plants alive while you go away, as the small crystal grains absorb up to 200% of any water added to them making the small grains so much bigger as they expand with water. The crystals slowly release the water they are holding keeping the flowers and plants hydrated at all times, eventually the crystals will return to the original grain state as all of the water is absorbed from them. You can keep topping the crystals up by adding more water every few weeks, so these little crystals can work well for all of your house plants too. I have recently been scattering them around my potted plants, because all the bad weather we have been having has swamped the pots and caused the soil become very wet and soggy. After scattering a few pinches of these crystals into each of my pots I have not had a problem as these seem to be absorbing all of the excess rain water that the plants do in need. These Hydro crystals come in the form of round balls that feel and look like jelly, they can be purchased in many different colours. However I always buy the clear packets because I like to have a few different colours within each vase, I just add food colouring to the crystals while I am making them, this gives me the colours I want and the end result ensures the colours look bright to faded within the vase. In case you are wondering these Jelly hydro crystals are completely safe, as they are in no way toxic. They are actually made with biodegradable polyacrylamides, which have more commonly been used when making contact lenses. It is not recommended that you let your children use these however if you have nosey pet, who might have a nibble they will be completely safe with these. IDEAS FOR THE WATER CRYSTALS After researching the hydro crystals if found that these can be used for many things, not just for what I use them for. They have become very popular with florists when they are catering for special occasions such as weddings, diner parties and birthdays. Fresh Flower & Silk Floral Arrangements: look stunning when you use these hydro crystals. Just add pre made hydro crystals to the arrangement instead of water. This will give you a unique arrangement that looks very stylish and vibrant in colour. The jelly crystals will last weeks and also prolong the life of your freshly cut flowers, when the flowers eventually die off just rinse the hydro crystals in water and allow them to dry before replacing them in a new arrangement. Floating Candle Arrangements: For this add the hydro crystals to a suitable bowl or dishes, then you place the floating candle onto the jelly crystals. When the candle is lit it illuminates the jelly crystals making it reflect all kinds of different shade, making this a very good talking point for any visitors you may have. This works very well when burning candles as the wax never gets absorbed in to the crystals, it just sits on top of the wet balls and you just pick up the hard wax and throw it away, as it won't stick to of burn the crystals. Growing Plant Cuttings: You can give plant cuttings that extra head start with these hydro crystals, as they release water slowly the new baby cutting will never be over watered. If you feed you plants you can add a small amount of food in to the crystals when you make them and this to will be released slowly as the crystals start to dry out. MAKING THE WATER CRYSTALS Each packet of these crystals contains thousands of tiny grain like partials, which all expand by 200% when they come in contact with any water. To make a full packet of these crystals you need to mix the whole packet of crystals with 1 pint of water. I find that one packet gives you enough crystals to fill two large vases. I personally used an old washing up bowl to make the crystals as they expand so much you don't realise how much you will end up with. After empting the crystal grains and adding my pint of water I have to leave the mixture for 8-12 hours so the crystals absorb as much water as possible. When you go back to the bowl it will look like frogspawn and it will appear as if you have made them incorrectly, this is normal because you need to drain out the excess water and allow the hydrated crystals to dry. After the crystals have been drained they will start to look like actual jelly balls, at this stage they are ready to be placed into your arrangement. Remember if you want to add plant food or extra colour to the crystals, this will need to be added to the crystal grains just before the water is added. This was they will be absorbed correctly and release the food will be constant for as long as your crystals last. You don't need to add any more water to your crystals, when you are dealing with the flowers and plants as they will absorb the water they need from the jelly balls, whenever they need it. So I personally find these very handy as I am no good at keeping plants as I forget to feed and water them, so these little crystals have been a godsend. If you notice the balls drying out you just add a small amount of water into the arrangement and they will absorb it making them moist again. If they are drying out quickly assess your arrangements surroundings as direct sunlight and heat can cause these to dry out much quicker than normal. PRICE / AVAILABILITY As I mentioned I bought my first lot from American a good few years ago, so I did find these hard to find as I could not remember what they were called. After browsing the internet I found these ones on Amazon. You can buy these hydro crystals from many online retailers, but I found the best place to buy from was Amazon.co.uk where I managed to get these for £1.95 a packet. These come in many different colours, ranging from Black, Brown, Green, Blue, Yellow, Pink and lastly clear. I always buy the clear crystals and colour them with food colouring before adding the water, this way I get a colour that varies and is not just one solid colour. By all means you can get the coloured ones, but I recommend you buy a few different shades and layer them when it comes to you placing them in your arrangement vase. MY OPINION These crystals do take a while to make as they need to be soaked in water for hours prior to placing them in the vases, however they don't need to be touched for nearly two months. I just remove the old flowers every few days and replace them with fresh ones. The worst part for me is waiting for the grains to absorb the water, this is a very long winded process and you can't actually watch them increase in size as it takes so long. However when you check them a few hours later don't be surprised if you bowl is overflowing with frogspawn as these little grains grow massive. I am so glad my husband remembered these hydro crystals as they have made my window display look very impressive, I have even had customers ask which florist did them as they looks so nice and I am very please to say that it was all down to me and this little crystal grains. They can be used for so much, I feel that the fact they have saved my bedding plants it a major advantage so I recommend these hydro crystals to anyone who has green fingers.