Repotting house plants into Al's mixes...

aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)August 15, 2012

I will post the results of my repotting (as/when it happens) to this thread as well as here.


I'm looking for thoughts on my choice of potting mediums (primarily using Al's gritty mix and 5-1-1) for my house plants.

Here is what I have so far:

Currently In Gritty Mix

1 snake plant (sansevieria trifasciata)

1 Echevaria (of some sort)

1 pacheveria glauca

Planned for 5-1-1

4 peace lilies (Spathiphyllum)

1 oyster plant (Tradescantia spathacea - it already has a thread started in this forum)

1 fittonia

Will these be okay in the gritty mix?

2 Anthurium

4 Pothos - 3 Marble Queen and 1 Neon.

1 Philodendron Hybrid (bright green, similar color to the neon pothos).

1 arrowhead vine (pink butterfly Nephthytis)

1 Dark Pittsburgh Ivy

1 Arabian Jasmine

2 pelargonium (one from a cutting off the other plant)

Plants I'm just really not sure about

2 Zygocactus (thanksgiving cactus) - a couple of years old, recently (but pre-this-forum) potted up into a mixture of small aquarium gravel/perlite/AV potting soil. I left the old soil on the roots and just put the other around it. Probably all wrong but the roots looked daunting. Also they seem to be fine with lots of new growth.

1 Zygocactus cutting in all fir bark. I think the pieces are too large.

Things that probably won't change, as it's working out fine so far

1 group of 1-2 inch mother-of-thousands in a small clay pot. Same mixture as the zygocactus - aquarium gravel,perlite,AV potting soil. My husband pulled these up on Saturday from a crack in the sidewalk at someone's house. They're doing fine (of course). -- I wrote much of this information on July 4 and reading this now is funny as these plants have TAKEN OFF. They're about 8 inches tall now, with several babies in the pot. I take them to the trash can every few days and scrape new babies off the leaves. I can't water it in the kitchen sink because it drains out to a field and I don't want any missed babies to fall off, run down the drain and start popping up in my outside world.

8 African Violets - currently in 50/50 AV soil & perlite. I've read mixed reviews on them in the gritty or 5-1-1, so I'm afraid to test it. I have numerous (too many) leaves started, so I'll end up trying a baby or two at some point.

Thank you so much!!!

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The gritty mix has been a favorite for many, and will hold up a lot longer than the 5.1.1 mix. The gritty mix is more durable while the 5.1.1 mix breaks down more rapidly, although slower than a peat based mix, and holds moisture differently.

I have determined what is best for me and my plants after all this time, and I will share.

I found that most of my tropicals planted in the 5.1.1 mix relished in it, while all my succulents are very happy in the gritty one. I will have to transplant more often to avoid compaction over a shorter period than the gritty one, but I don't mind.
I had to determine the balance, and I have finally figured it out in my case.


    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 8:47AM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

Okay - so probably all the plants I'd earmarked for the gritty could go into the 5-1-1, I guess. Fine enough as I have a lot less gritty-suitable bark than I do 5-1-1 suitable bark. AND!! my 2cf bag of coarse perlite came in yesterday evening!

I did put the English Ivy into gritty already, oh well.

I won't have a problem repotting everyone in the spring because once the kids get out of school I'm a stay at home mom.

I have some outdoor plants I will try in the gritty - with maybe a bit more of the Floor Dry because of our hot summers.

Thank you!!!


If anyone has any other ideas for any of the plants on my list, I'd love to hear the reasoning behind it.
(especially the Thanksgiving Cacti)

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 9:05AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

5-1-1 or straight bark for the Thanksgiving Cactus, Schlumbergera truncata.

The bark pieces should be 1/8 to 1/4 inch in the Gritty Mix.

The bark in the 5-1-1 can range from dust to 1/2 inch, but no larger!!! Most of the
pieces should be around 1/4 inch.


    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 4:23PM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

Thanks so much, Josh. I was hoping that you'd chime in.

What size pieces if I use straight bark for the TC? I have one started in straight fir (orchid) bark and it is putting out new growth (wee tiny red leaves) but I'm afraid that the pieces might be too large.

The pot measures 3.75 inches diameter on the inside.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 5:08PM
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the long pieces - are they sapwood? Rina

    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 5:18PM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

Should not be any sapwood in this mix - it's from a bag of "Better Gro" Orchid bark which says it's a mixture of fir barks.

In my 5-1-1 with pine bark, there is a bit of sapwood but there isn't any in my fir bark mixes.

Thanks! :D

    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 5:20PM
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I have lots of very fine bark. It is 'dust' to approx. 1/8" (I tried to sift to see, there is really nothing that would not pass 1/4" mesh).
What would you suggest - best way to mix it? I have succulents & other house plants that I would like to use it for.


    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 5:24PM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

While we're overwhelming Josh with questions - I have one more.

How do I clean the roots on Schlumbergera truncata before I repot them? I have two that need to be repotted and another that belongs to a family member (it actually has it's own thread, linked below).

Here is a link that might be useful: Uncle (in-law)'s Sad Cactus

    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 6:43PM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

Oops, I got distracted and hit submit too soon.

The roots on both mine (and obviously, the uncle's as it's not even in a pot) are very compacted and a solid mass. The idea of cleaning them out is rather overwhelming.

And thank you so much, Josh.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 6:45PM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

Interesting observation (cross posted on the Container Gardening forum). I repotted one of my anthuriums into the 5-1-1. It had been potted in a mixture of MG (potting soil? African Violet soil? I can't remember) and perlite - probably about 50/50. When I pulled it out of it's pot, I realized that much of the perlite had risen to the top 1-1/2" of the medium. There was a definite line with primarily heavier soil at the bottom and the lighter perlite & soil at the top.
Most of the roots of the plant seemed to be coiled around in the top part where the medium was lighter - with a higher concentration of perlite. Once I removed the soil, the roots were about 4" long but there had been practically none growing into the bottom 3/4 (approximately) of the pot. The roots all seemed healthy.

It was interesting. This plant had been potted into that medium about 2-3 months ago (I'd probably had it 2 weeks) when I removed & divided it from the pot I had bought it in.

I'm also really realizing that I seriously need to start keeping records about when I repot my plants because obviously my memory just isn't cutting it.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 9:34PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

You may be assigning to perlite that which is probably more rightly attributed to gravity. I'll explain. Even if there was a consistent volume of perlite mixed evenly into the soil from top of pot to bottom, it wouldn't have much impact on either the drainage (flow through) rate, how much air the soil holds, or the height of the perched water table.

If you mix perlite into pudding, it doesn't increase aeration, drainage, or the ht of the PWT because the pudding simply surrounds the perlite and by doing so, rods of of any significant value UNTIL the perlite becomes a very significant fraction of the soil. Pudding + 15% perlite yields a medium with virtually all the physical characteristics of pudding, but perlite + 15% pudding is a different story.

In your case, when using the heavy medium, the soggy layer at the bottom of the pot would have been there anyway, but that's because gravity dictates that the water moves down in the pot until the capillary attraction of the soil is exactly as strong as the pull of gravity. The perlite, in smaller volumes, can't change that balance, but it does take up some space that would otherwise be occupied by water, so it reduces the o/a water retention of the soil without significantly increasing aeration or the ht of the PWT.

When using soils that don't support significant volumes of perched water, you get a much more even colonization of the soil by roots. Since the entire medium is well-aerated, you don't get the roots running round and round the inside pot wall looking for (growing only where there is ample) air, though roots will start circling if the planting is left to go badly root bound.


    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 10:41AM
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I am hoping that you get an answer to your Thanksgiving cactus root cleaning question. I have always just grown them in peat until they start to decline, and then take cuttings and start over. But I saw a picture of a true Christmas cactus that was many years old growing in a huge pot cascading down about five feet from a tall plant stand that was just breathtaking in bloom. I really wanted to be able to grow plants like that. I don't think that just potting up is going to get you to there. That actually has me, like you, repotting a lot of things in gritty and 5-1-1 mixes. I never really did much with the root systems of my plants until recently. I had noticed that the spider plants that I had repotted seemed to always kind of devour the peat based mix until the pots were pretty much just full of roots. I just repotted a peace lily into 5-1-1 mix that was in the same boat. Actually, the roots were concentrated in the outer two inches of space in the six inch pot, and the interior two inches of the mix had nothing but the bark and the perlite left. (So why not use just those ingredients to make the mix in the first place, right?) When I untangled the thick roots they were about one and a half feet long! But the thick rooted plants aren't so daunting as the thin rooted ones. Anyway, I am curious as to whether I need to just start over again with cuttings in bark, or if I can get a jump on my future giant Christmas cactus by getting the peat off the roots of the one I have presently, which is pretty good size in a six inch pot, but starting to decline.

I think the taking notes thing is a good plan. I do it some, but now I can't remember just how much soil I removed on my Easter cactus that I repotted early summer in 5-1-1, so I can't really advise you about this even though it is something that I tried. I guess you have to get more systematic about note taking than I have been. The EC bloomed, then started dropping segments like crazy, but is slowing down on disintegrating now and is growing some. But I don't know truly just what is causing this dropping, if it is my husband leaving the window open on the fifty degree nights, or my difficulty in getting the watering right with these new soils, or if I just damaged it a lot with my treatment. There is what looks like disintegrated peat in the collection saucer, so I bet I didn't get all the peat out. But then I can't remember if I cleaned out the saucer when I repotted or not.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 10:42AM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

^ Ha, Rina, if you'd taken notes you'd know just how much soil you'd removed. Says I, the champion forgetter. :D


Tapla - I figured it was the perlite floating towards the top when I watered. I thought it was definitely interesting when I pulled the plant out. I wonder how many more I'll find like that. I wonder what my AVs look like, because it does seem that the moment i water them for the first time, more & more perlite appears at the top.


*taking notes, of a sort*

Today & this evening I repotted a rooted pelargonium cutting and two rooted salvia cuttings (? no idea the type) into the 5-1-1.

The ivy (Dark Pittsburgh Hedera Helix) that I put into the gritty mix had several small plants in the one pot. Some of the plants are doing terrifically, and three or four are droopy, droopy. I imagine there was some root damage so I cut them back fairly severely. One actually seems to be a little more perky after a few hours. Not a whole lot more perky - but some. I'll keep updating.

I also put some fairly sad looking pansy cuttings into the 5-1-1. I didn't hold much hope out for them before repotting so if they do survive, I'll be pleased. (It's my can I oversummer a pansy indoors experiment - two other cuttings are dead, I'm fairly confident.)

The anthurium, in the 5-1-1 as of yesterday, seems thrilled. I'm not sure if I put it into the pot at a little different angle or if it is perkier than it was - but it seems more upright.


I mixed a large batch of 5-1-1 up on Sunday but it's outside and I haven't had a chance to microwave it to bring it in for the houseplants. I'm currently working on the smallest plants because I only have a small amount of sterilized 5-1-1 mix inside.

Next I want to do:
**one of my smaller Spathiphyllums but they will require more mix than I have available inside. (plus more mess, as they're in 6" & 8" pots)
**my pink butterfly Nephthytis (arrowhead vine)
**my rhoeo tricolor (oyster plant)

I'll probably get to the nephthytis next as it's the smallest of the three.

I want to do the philodendron hybrid (no idea on any other name) and the pothos but, as I said above, I've read mixed reviews on the pothos in the two mixes and it makes me a little nervous. I did divide one of the plants so I guess I could try one of them.


Josh, if you read this - please, please (pretty please) offer some advice on cleaning off the roots of the Schlumbergera truncatas. I searched the forums for a couple hours (and still have windows open with searches) trying to find out the best way to clean the "sponge" of roots that my two plants (and my uncle-in-law's plant) have formed.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 9:40PM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

Rina, I meant to say that's a beautiful plant! I'm hoping mine will bloom this year. They've never bloomed.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 10:03PM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

*sigh* Edit buttons are so awesome!!

adding to my post two above:
I have so many windows open from searches because I keep running across threads that have information that I want to read. I think I have 11 windows open waiting to read & learn. Unfortunately, they're often about other plants, or care of plants, or whathaveyou - not cleaning the roots of my TC. Craziness! lol

    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 10:08PM
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I did not post any photos...and didn't say anything about removing unknown amount of soil either, you mixed me up with someone else...may I say (please, no offence!!!) that you live up to your handle?...LOL
Start talking to the plants, it may slow you down a bit. Re-reading a message before hitting post button helps too. I can see that you are very busy mom & looks like you are doing 100 things at once.
I hope you understand I am not trying to be mean. It just kind of fits - aharriedmom - and I couldn't resist the remark. All just good fun I hope.

If I overstepped, I accept 100 lashes...and will keep my mouth shut.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 11:44PM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

Ha. Oops! You had posted a question about the dust to Josh, so I guess I just assigned your name to "aseedisapromise" as I continued reading the thread.

*sigh* Harried, yes. I generally reread but still often find things that slip by me. It seems my eyes are perfectly capable of reading what I meant to say, instead of what my fingers typed out. Edit buttons are my friends. :D

There is also the fact that very often, the very SECOND I hit 'submit message,' I think of another thing to say or question to ask.

I think I'll let this post sit here for a few minutes on preview before I submit it. I haven't even finished my first cup of coffee yet so it's probably full of mistakes or phrases that don't even make sense. :)

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 5:44AM
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Thanks for not getting upset about my post...was really a friendly remark.
I often see what I meant to say not what I read too.
BTW, do you "tweet"? (hope this is the proper expression, I really don't know since I don't do it).

I see you'r up early, if only day had 48 hours...


    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 8:24AM
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So, I put a question on the Cactus and Succulent forum about cleaning the roots, and have two replies, which agree that the way to do it is to wash it off with a garden hose.

Here is a link that might be useful: Question on cc

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 9:15AM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

^ aseedisapromise - (sorry about the earlier mix-up) I saw the thread this morning just before I left for work. Excellent idea! Thanks so much, and for sharing the link here.
I wish that I could get to mine today but I had to work this morning, it rained when I got home, I have to iron some clothes for my husband's meeting tonight (actually I'm taking a break from ironing) and three kids have karate this evening. One of these days! Unfortunately my husband's job depends on the weather - he usually can't work when it's raining, and he'd rather work during the coolest parts of the day (or the warmest in winter) - since I work with him, he pretty much gets me during all the "perfect weather" time. When I'm working with him, I have to fit all my outside activities (horses / yard / garden) in during the least desirable times to be outside.

rina - it would take a lot for me to get upset on an internet forum. Because I am generally (ha, if I do say so myself) good-humored and fairly jokingly sarcastic, I read a lot of posts the way that I'd mean it if I wrote it.
I may miss some scoldings this way but it keeps drama to a minimum. lol

No, I've never tweeted and don't have any desire to. It seems sort of pointless to me. I guess I'd feel differently if I had things to say that I thought other people needed to hear. ;)

I tend to get up a few minutes after 5am during the school year. It gives me an hour to drink my coffee before the kids start waking up and fighting over their bathroom. It makes me a better mom!
I'm still trying to adjust from the summer schedule of staying up later and sleeping in until about 6:30, so I've been pretty tired the past two afternoons but I haven't gotten tired enough that I am going to bed much earlier. It'll come, probably sooner rather than later as my body tells me it needs at minimum 7 hours of sleep a night and less than that makes it fussy.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 2:46PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

(Al alerted me that there were questions here) ;-)

First, Rina, bark dust isn't very useful, other than in the 5-1-1 mix proper.
However, you really want the larger particulate, or else your drainage and durability
is going to suffer. I have used excess bark dust as a peat substitute in mixes for
ferns and citrus (just one Citrus, though).

When using straight bark, I get rid of the fine dust. I screen to get the pieces that fall
between 1/8 and 1/2 inch. This is a good size, I find, that allows for plenty of aeration,
but also allows the bark to "touch" enough that it holds moisture well.

In the case of the old potting mix that needs to be removed - soak the rootball for a while,
maybe 15 - 20 minutes and gently loosen with a chop-stick, so that the water begins to work its way
inward. Then, hose out the material with a good hose sprayer - I set mine to 'jet.'


    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 4:25PM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

Josh, thank you so much for answering.

I hope to get to at least one of my plants by the weekend but I'm not sure if it's going to work out. It might - but my classes start on Thursday so tomorrow I may not have time to do more than water a few plants that need it.

We'll see!


I appreciate this forum tremendously - it's been an amazing wealth of knowledge and people willing to share and help.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 9:12PM
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Thank you for taking time to answer; I wanted to hear your opinion. I screen this bark thru insect screen, not too much goes thru (will use this "dust" either for seed starting in spring, or if any leftovers, just toss it on the garden bed).
I think it may be too fine to use for orchids - maybe I'll try one in it.
I have 1cu yard of it, LOL.


    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 9:29PM
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Thanks, Josh for answering on two forums! I will try it, and my TC's and CC's will be happier as a result.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 11:41PM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

I can't wait to try this but I neglected to realize that when the college started on Wednesday, so would my two online courses. For some reason I was thinking I wouldn't have any work until Thursday after my first onsite class.

So.... home from work and off to do schoolwork! Hopefully I'll have enough free time on/by Saturday to get this done. Too bad - this is the first afternoon it hasn't rained in days.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2012 at 2:09PM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

So far the anthurium in 5-1-1 is doing terrifically.

The snake plant in gritty mix stoically doesn't tell me anything at all but seems happy enough - though it's hard to tell with its poker face. (lol)

The dark Pittsburgh ivy in the gritty is getting sadder and sadder. Any ideas? I thought maybe I damaged roots so I've watered it daily but it's not pleased. What would you need from me to help diagnose the problem? Pictures, I assume but what pictures do you want? The mix and the plant only? The mix with a dime/ruler?

The kids are waking up and I'm off to get ready for my first day at school, so I'll check back later (maybe in between classes, maybe not until I get home).


    Bookmark   August 23, 2012 at 6:21AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Any time the topic is houseplants and I hear 'ivy', I think 'mites'. Have you checked? How long since it was repotted? it's condition before repotting? did it start its slide immediately after the repot? did you bare root?


    Bookmark   August 23, 2012 at 7:33AM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

It had been repotted when I bought it, into MG potting mix (soil?) - about 2 months ago. It was perky & healthy looking before repotting. I did bare root it. It did start its decline after repotting. I think I did it in the evening and in the morning I saw that it was drooping around the outer leaves. I cut several leaves off a day or two later to reduce the strain but then last night or this morning the middle leaves, which had still been perky, were drooping.

I worry that maybe I damaged too many roots getting the MG off but I'm not sure how many more leaves I can cut off, as I think I mostly left one per "section".

    Bookmark   August 23, 2012 at 10:46AM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

Yesterday (or possibly Saturday evening), I severely cut back the plant. On any plant that had even a tiny little leaf start (or hint of green), I cut off all large leaves. This morning it seems a bit more perky. The remaining leaves are still drooping but not hanging on the side of the pot, it appears that they are doing a bit more towards holding themselves up.

So maybe it is on the road to recovery.... we'll see! :D


I haven't done anything with the other house plants, got enough school work done yesterday that I got the yard mowed, my most faded zinnia bed pulled up & a bit of amendment done to the bed in preparation for either fall planting or next spring. I haven't yet decided if I'm going to put my winter annuals in containers or in the ground.

Depending on how much we are affected by tropical storm Isaac and how long I'm housebound, I may be able to get in, around my school work, a couple more repots on some of the house plants.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 6:17AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Best luck. If you have any questions .....


    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 7:25AM
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I noticed what you said in your post on Aug.23 @ 6:21:

I thought maybe I damaged roots so I've watered it daily but it's not pleased.

Just wondering if you overwatering plant without or with damaged roots...Hopefully I am wrong.
Hopefully it's recovering for you now. Rina

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 8:06AM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

^ It's in the gritty mix and I make sure that there isn't any water left standing in the pot by tipping (very carefully, as I've dumped some mix out more than once), so I am pretty confident that overwatering isn't an issue.

We'll see. One of my daughters saw it in the kitchen this morning and said it looked better - so if a 12yo could see a difference, I guess it's getting better.

Thanks both of you!

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 11:12AM
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