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A GUEST ROOM/HOME OFFICE COMBO QUESTION: How do you create a home office that also doubles as a guest room?

By JENNY BAKER The Winchester Star

With the increase in teleworking, many homeowners are in need of a home office. Typically, a guest bedroom gets tasked with this purpose. But what if you still need the space for outof-town guests from time-to-time? Likely, you’ll have to consider combining the two separate needs into one room: a guest room/home office hybrid. Since office space is hardly cozy, and a bedroom is hard to do work in, marrying the two extremes and their unique needs is a tough challenge. Ruth Truman of Ruth Truman Interiors in Winchester shares some helpful tips on how to make the two spaces one:

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How much space are you working with? “When designing any room it is most important to know the size of your space,” said Truman. She recommends to first measure the room you are using as the guest/office space, and then hop on the web and use a free online room layout program to help you accurately space plan your room. “These programs are easy to use and you can quickly draw your room and size in each piece of furniture. This is especially critical when you are combining two spaces like a guest and office in one,” she said.

Furniture planning: The bed Next, keeping in mind your space planning and layout, head to the shops for furniture and take your measurements with you. “Furniture in a store always looks smaller than in your house. When creating a space that will be used for two purposes you need to know your needs. How much desk space will you be needing? Will a twin size sleeping area be large enough or do you need a space that allows two people to sleep? In a very small space this can get tricky,” said Truman. She recommends buying a daybed with a trundle underneath, as it is a great way to maximize space in a small room plus it has the ability for two people to room together if needed. “If at some point you decide you don’t need the extra mattress under the trundle then this space can be a great large storage space for the blankets and bedding or even for office books and sup-

plies,” she said.

Furniture planning: The desk “There are a couple creative ways to have a desk space. I love a roll top desk where you can be able to hide the clutter quickly. There are also shelves that have a desk surface built-in,” said Truman. “These provide a nice storage space for books and then additionally a desk surface. If you have a long blank wall you could have a custom built-in made where you could incorporate upper cabinets and bookcases and a desk built in as well. This would allow for you to fully maximize the vertical space.”

Decor, lighting, and more After the necessary furniture is purchased, it’s now time to make the space cozy and inviting. “Add a basket with blankets. It’s nice to have a variety of pillow firmnesses for guests. Remembering that this is not only your office but guest space as well,” said Truman. Other considerations include lighting. Since it’s a functional space but also a sleeping environment, you’ll need multiple sources of light. “Warm white light bulbs are essential for lamps near the sleeping area. Brighter light bulbs can be added to a desk lamp for functional needs. Consider putting a dimmer switch on the overhead lighting to allow a more relaxed mood,” she recommended.








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Beautiful landscaping can add instant curb appeal to a property. But beauty isn’t the only thing that makes idyllic landscaping attractive to homeowners. Some landscaping features, such as shade trees, save homeowners money while adding aesthetic appeal. The U.S. Department of Energy notes that shading is the most cost-effective way to reduce solar heat gain in a home. Shading also cuts air conditioning costs, which tend to be expensive in areas with warm, humid climates. In fact, the DOE notes that well-planned landscapes can reduce unshaded homes’ air conditioning costs by anywhere from 15 to 50 percent. When planting shade trees, one of the first decisions homeowners will need to make is which type of tree, deciduous or evergreen, they want to plant. Deciduous trees are those that seasonally shed their leaves, while evergreens are trees that keep their leaves throughout the year. Deciduous trees can help keep homes cool in the summer by blocking sun, and those same trees can be beneficial in winter after they shed their leaves by letting the sun in and keeping homes warm. But evergreens also can be beneficial in winter by blocking wind, potentially preventing cold air from making its way into a home through cracks in walls or around windows. When planting shade trees, techniques vary depending on which type of tree homeowners ultimately choose to plant.

Planting deciduous trees

Evergreen trees

The DOE says that deciduous trees that are between six and eight feet tall when planted will begin shading the windows of a home within a year of being planted. Depending on the species of the plant and the home, those same deciduous trees may begin shading the roof within five to 10 years of being planted. When planting deciduous trees, homeowners should keep these tips in mind.

Planting evergreens to block wind is known as “windbreaking,” which lowers the wind chill near a home. Wind also can be used to cool a home in summer. But these benefits can only be realized when evergreens are strategically planted.

· Plant trees to the south of the home. When planted to the south of the home, deciduous trees can screen between 70 and 90 percent of the summer sun while still allowing residents to feel summer breezes. · Consider sun angles. Homeowners who want to shade their homes from low afternoon sun angles should plant trees with crowns that are lower to the ground on the west side of their homes. · Cool air before it reaches your home. Shrubs and groundcover plants can be planted to cool air before it reaches a home.

· Location, location, location: The DOE advises planting evergreen trees to the north and northwest of the home to stop wind. In addition, to get the most bang for your windbreaking buck, the distance between the home and windbreak should be two to five times the height of the mature tree. · Plant trees on either side of the house. Planting trees on either side of the house will direct cooling winds toward the home in the summer.

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QUESTION + ANSWER How do you fix a slippery brick walkway? By JEANNE HUBER (c) 2020, Special to The Washington Post

Q: We have a brick walkway that is so slippery that we cannot walk on it. We have tried power washing it, but that only helps minimally. Can you help? A: Your bricks are probably slick from algae, which is often green or black and coats the sur face. Moss, which has more of a branching structure, can also grow on bricks, but it isn’t as slipper y because of its texture. Either way, the trick is to kill the growth and scrub the pores of the brick before thoroughly rinsing the walkway. This won’t prevent more algae or moss from growing — as it will, especially on brick that’s often in shade — but it does help you get rid of all that’s there, buying you more time until you need to scrub again. Hardware stores and home centers sell products designed to kill moss and algae, but you can save money by using inexpensive chlorine bleach or a non-creamy hand dishwashing detergent like Dawn. Using bleach might sound scar y because it can damage plants if it’s splashed on leaves; however, with reasonable care, you can keep your plants looking fine. Put on old clothes that you don’t mind getting spotted with white from the bleach, and slip on rubber boots and long rubber gloves. Goggles are a good idea, too. Make sure small children and pets are out of the area, and connect a hose that has a spray nozzle on the end; you’ll need it to rinse the path at the end, but it’s also good to have ready to go in case bleach spills or splashes where you don’t want it and you need to rinse it off quickly. In a bucket, dilute one gallon of bleach with three gallons of water, or use one quart of bleach to three quar ts of water if you have a small area to clean. Using a long-handled scrub brush, spread the solution evenly across the bricks. You might want to pour some of the solution directly on the bricks and then spread it with the brush. Or, depending on how open the joints are between the bricks, it might work better to dip the brush in the solution and then quickly move the dripping brush to the bricks. Brush-

ing on the solution makes it easier to control where it lands than if you apply it with a garden sprayer, as some people recommend. Wait a while — maybe 20 minutes — but not so long that the solution dries on the bricks. Then give the bricks a good scrub and hose them off, using just the force of the water from the spray nozzle. The rinse water dilutes the bleach, which by this point has largely broken down and turned into salt water because of its reaction with the algae or moss. I have been cleaning a brick walkway this way for 20 years and have never seen plant damage. One of my brothers does the same thing on our mother’s brick walkway, also with no obvious plant damage. Another brother, though, has switched to the dishwashing detergent method, which a maintenance person at a golf course recommended to him. I plan to try it the next time my bricks get slippery. The process is the same, but use one cup of soap to one gallon of water. One obvious benefit: You don’t need to be so careful about protecting your skin and eyes or keeping children and pets away. There are no dangerous fumes to worry about, either, unlike with chlorine bleach, which can cause serious lung damage when inhaled (although using it outdoors minimizes this risk). Some people recommend using salt or vinegar, or a combination of them. Using salt as a de-icer has resulted in damage to nearby plants, which argues against using it to clean a path. Vinegar can etch masonry materials, but if it’s not left on very long and is then diluted with plenty of water, it might not cause any noticeable damage. However, it’s really important not to mix the different treatment options without being sure of what they do in combination. Never use chlorine bleach with any cleaner that contains ammonia; the combination produces dangerous chlorine gas, which irritates eyes, skin and the respirator y tract and, in large doses, can even cause death. Mixing bleach with acids, even vinegar, also releases chlorine gas. It’s fine to combine hand dishwashing soap and bleach or dish soap and vinegar, though.

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SPRING CLEANING In addition to spring cleaning, try your hand at spring decluttering By NICOLE ANZIA (c) 2020, Special to The Washington Post


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As the temperature warms, many people are motivated to embark on annual spring-cleaning rituals. After several months of living with doors and windows closed, both dust and possessions have accumulated in our homes, and now is the perfect time to tr y to reduce both. Along with the typical spring-cleaning tasks, such as getting rugs and draperies cleaned, laundering mattress covers and pillows, and clearing out unwanted items from closets, you might also consider these clutter culprits as prime targets for removal during your cleanup. Everyone should have a handful of vases in different sizes in their home, especially in the spring when flowers can be cut from the garden and brought inside. But you do not need two dozen large and almost identical vases taking up valuable storage space. People often underestimate the number of vases they have tucked away. Start by gathering all of them so you have an accurate inventory, and then decide which to discard. Vases can be recycled or donated. Many flower shops are happy to accept vases so they can reuse them. Also, many community-based organizations that deliver flowers to people in hospitals and nursing homes will accept vase donations. Thrift stores are also good choices for donations. Hangers seem to multiply in people’s closets. Most closets have a random collection of wire hangers from the dry cleaner, plastic hangers from store purchases, inherited wooden hangers and an assortment of brightly colored tubular hangers. Keep a few extra hangers, and return excess wire hangers to your dry cleaner for reuse. All other types of hangers can typically be donated to a thrift store that sells secondhand clothing or to an organization that helps people in need. Call first to make sure they need your donation before you show up with 100 hangers. Although it’s not imperative to use only one or two types of hangers in your closet, it will make your clothes easier to see if everything is hanging at a uniform height.

A lot of us have tools and other hardware supplies in our basements or garages that we have never used. Either someone gave them to us, or we bought them for a project and never touched them again. In some cases, the previous owner just left them. Habitat for Humanity is one example of an organization that will accept working tools in good condition. Towels and linens in good condition that you don’t need anymore can be donated to homeless shelters and transitional-housing organizations or thrift stores. Worn-out or torn linens and sheets can be made into rags or donated to an animal shelter. It’s always a good idea to keep some old linens on hand in case of a plumbing issue or if water accidentally seeps into your basement. You do not need to keep every can of paint you have ever used. Yes, it’s useful to keep some paint in case walls need to be touched up (and it’s a good idea to have a list of your colors and finishes), but keeping more than 10 cans of paint is probably unnecessary. Leftover paint that has been opened, closed tightly and stored in a cool, dry place should be used within two years. If you have older paint, there are many disposal options that depend on the paint type. Water-based, latex paint can be dried out at home and put in regular household trash. Small amounts of paint will dry if you simply leave the lid off, but larger amounts require combining the unused paint with absorbent materials such as cat litter or sand. You can also buy paint hardener at a hardware store. Oil-based paint is considered household hazardous waste (HHW) and should never be thrown in the trash, even if it is dry. Instead, take oil-based paints to your local HHW facility for proper disposal. Almost ever ything in your house that you would like to get rid of can be reused, recycled or donated. It just takes a little bit of research and time to find a recipient and to drop the items of f. Doing some decluttering each month will keep you motivated to do more and will save you a lot of time in the future.



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Exterior renovations can enhance the appearance of a proper ty and make it more enjoyable for homeowners. Certain renovations have the potential to add value to a home, while others may do the opposite. Learning which one have the largest return on investment can help homeowners select features that will have the most positive impact. Curb appeal goes a long way toward attracting potential buyers. According to the National Association of Realtors, first impressions of a property have a strong influence on buyers. Landscaping and external features can do much to influence such impressions.

· Lawn care program: Investing in a lawn care program that consists of fertilizer and weed control application and can be transferred over to a subsequent home owner is an attractive feature. NAR says such a care program can recover $1,000 in value of the $330 average cost, or a 303 percent ROI. · Low-maintenance lifestyle: When choosing materials for projects, those that offer low-maintenance benefits can be preferential. These include low-maintenance patio materials, composite decking, vinyl fencing, and inorganic mulched beds.

· Fire pit: A fire pit can be used for much of the year. In the spring and summer, the firepit is a great place to congregate to roast marshmallows or sip wine and gaze into the fire. In the fall, the fire pit can make for a cozy retreat. A fire pit that has a gas burner is low-maintenance, and the National Association of Landscape Professionals says that most can recoup about $4,000 of their $6,000 average price tag. · Softscaping: Hardscaping refers to structures like outdoor kitchens or decks. Softscaping involves the living elements of the landscape. Hiring a landscape designer to install trees, shrubs, natural edging, and rock elements can do wonders toward improving the look and val-

ue of a home. · Pool or water feature: In certain markets, particularly hot climates, a pool or another water feature is a must-have. However, in other areas where outdoor time is limited, a pool or water feature can actually lower the value of a home. Speaking with a real estate professional can give homeowners an idea of how a pool will fare in a given neighborhood. Outdoor improvements can improve the marketability of a home, as well as enhance its appearance and function.

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Historic Garden Week: Clarke County April 25, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Tour headquarters: The Barns of Rose Hill Complimentary refreshments: Dower House

Four Clarke County homes on local tour By JENNY BAKER The Winchester Star

Local lovers of homes, gardens, and flowers — we have just the activity for you. On April 25, four homes in Clarke County will open their doors and gardens for the Garden Club of Virginia’s centennial Historic Garden Week tour. While three of the homes have been on the tour before, one is brandnew to the tour: Thurman, the home of Barbara and Harry Byrd III. “That property has been in the family for three generations. There was originally a Victorian house there but they tore that down in the 70s. They saved parts of the house, like the paneling, the doors, and they reused them in the new house. It’s very interesting,” said Terry Chandler, President of the Win-


chester-Clarke Garden Club who is co-chairing this year’s tour. The local tour is organized by the Winchester-Clarke Garden Club, the Little Garden Club of Wincheter, and the Warren County Garden Club. Tours will take place throughout the state April 18 – 25. Proceeds from all tours benefit the Garden Club of Virginia, which uses the proceeds to benefit garden projects in the state. Chandler said that our local area has benefited from the tour’s proceeds on projects like Handley High School’s campus and Belle Grove. Chandler said that their club has submitted for a grant to work on the Weir Garden at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley. The proposal will be considered by the Garden Club of Virginia and decided at its annual meeting this spring. Artwork of homes by Julie Reed. Home descriptions provided by the homeowners.

Note: Please pick up a tour map at the Barns of Rose Hill, as GPS is unreliable in Clarke County. No cameras or strollers. Homes are not handicapped accessible. Advanced full tickets: $30 Tour day full ticket: $40 Single admission: $20; children 6 – 12 half price Tour proceeds fund the Garden Club of Virginia Restoration Projects. Gift shop sales at the Dower House benefit local student scholarships to local nature camps.

of Virginia. Orme Wilson and Elsie Wilson Thompson, owners.


Clay Hill

136 Tuleyries Lane, Boyce

859 Clay Hill Road, Millwood

The Tuleyries, on the National Register of Historic Places, was built by Col. Joseph Tuley, Jr., from 1830-1834. The antebellum-style house features a two-story columned portico with double window fanlights and a domed entry hall leading to a sweeping spiral staircase. The grand-scale rooms have handcrafted woodwork, rare elliptical columns and have some magnificent Winchester fireplace mantels. The Tuleyries’ name was a play on Tuley’s own name and the Tuileries, a Parisian palace and garden. It was a working farm; many of its original (mostly brick) outbuildings are still intact, including a forge, stable, dairy, and carriage, seed, smoke and ice houses. The estate has been owned by two extended families, the Tuley-Boyces and Blandy-Wilsons. After Col. Tuley’s death and following the Civil War, the property was sold to his niece, Mrs. Upton Boyce. Upon her death in 1903, The Tu- leyries was sold to Graham Blandy, a New York financier and nephew by marriage to Andrew Carnegie. Blandy restored the es- tate and acquired adjoining acreage. Hav- ing a deep appreciation of agriculture and horticulture, upon his death in 1926 he bequeathed 712 acres of the estate to the University of Virginia, creating what are now the Blandy Experimental Farm and the State Arboretum

Built in 1816, this Federal style stone and stucco home situated on 100 acres has been featured in both Architectural Digest and Garden & Gun magazines. Originally built for a daughter of Nathaniel Burwell, only four families have lived at Clay Hill since its construction. It served as the location for Clay Hill Academy from the 1860s to 1906. The home retains many of its original features and is furnished with an eclectic mix of English and American antiques. The property underwent an extensive renovation in 2008, with the addition of a kitchen wing, formal Italianate boxwood parterre gardens and a custom made 19th century style glass conservatory that houses the owners’ collection of orchids, palms and cycads. Extensive perennial and vegetable gardens wind their way through stone walls built by Hessian soldiers 200 years ago. Attractive grounds include an original ice house, a chicken cloister and house, as well as an orangery. Elizabeth Locke and John Staelin, owners.

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3836 Lord Fairfax Highway, Berryville The residence is named after General Thurman, a Civil War general. A memorial in his honor is situated along the driveway leading to the house. The Byrd family has owned Thurman for three generations. In 1975 the present owners decided to tear down the previous Victorian house and build a stone ranch style home incorporating many of the old doors and paneling from the original structure. A 1981 addition includes an artist’s studio, a family room and a guest bedroom. Wood beams from an old tobacco barn were used for the ceiling; stones for the fireplace were salvaged from an old house in Hedgeville, West Virginia. Of special interest are portraits of Governor Harry F. Byrd, U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd, Jr., and the present owner, Harry Byrd III. Mrs. Barbara Byrd is a noted artist who has contributed numerous covers to The Chronicle of the Horse. An avid horsewoman, she has bred Connemara ponies for more than 30 years.They can be seen grazing in the pastures around the home. Just five minutes away on property owned by the Byrd family is the oldest privately owned enclosed cemetery in the county. Take a right after leaving Thurman, and another right and follow signs to Blakemore Lane. It is the resting place of Lt. George Blakemore who served under General Lafayette at Valley Forge. Later he served as a judge and sheriff for Frederick County. Barbara and Harry Byrd III, owners. Continued on page 15






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GARDEN WEEK The Dower House

211 Warner Washington Lane, Berryville The house was built in 1765 by George Washington’s cousin, Warner Washington. A Greek Revival style wing was added in the 1820s. When it was enlarged again in 1928, the structure became C-shaped. The Cook family added a new kitchen, family room and garage in 1977. The house is furnished with English walnut furnishings, European paintings and Chinese porcelain. The bottom of the original 1765 hand-dug, stone-lined well, located near the residence, is still visible. A large 1830s barn was se- verely damaged by a Civil War cannonball but remains standing and is one of only four pre-Civil War barns remaining in Clarke County. Open for Historic Garden Week in tribute to Beth Cook, wife, mother and member of the Winchester-Clarke Garden Club, who loved the home and its garden. She was the inspiration for the property’s Japanese Garden, designed as a metaphor of rain falling in the mountains, cascading down to the sea, thus repeating the cycle of life. It features more than 50 Japanese Black pines, Umbrella Pines, Serbian Spruces, bamboos, liriope, hostas and peonies. Pastures are home to Mr. Cook’s rare Cleveland Bay horses, a critically endangered British breed. Formerly used as carriage and work horses, they are now bred to be sport horses. Mr. Peter Cook, owner.

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GARDEN EVENTS Garden Fair at Blandy Farm

May 9 – 10 9 a.m. - 4 p.m., $15 per car Plant and garden supply sale with native plants, annuals, perennials, berry bushes, boxwood, small trees, and more. Vendors will be set up with gardening tools, hats, gloves, and expertise. You can also enjoy a free guided tour of the State Arboretum and children will enjoy free nature-themed activities. Rain or shine. For more info, visit blandy.virginia.edu

GardenFest at Belle Grove

June 6 8 a.m. - 3 p.m., free admission and parking Northern Shenandoah Valley Master Gardener Assocation’s annual Garden Fest at Belle Grove features a day of hands-on workshops, a Master Gardener plant sale, gardening and specialty vendors, children’s activities, a rummage sale, sheepdog and K9 demos, garden tool sharpening, raffles, food, and tours of Historic Belle Grove Manor House ($5 12 and older, 11 and younger free) For more info visit www.nsvmga.org or www. facebook.com/NSVMGA



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MIXING METAL FINISHES Yes, you can mix metal finishes in the kitchen — but there are some rules. By ELIZABETH MAYHEW (c) 2020, Special to The Washington Post

When Toby Young bought her one-bedroom apar tment in New York’s Gramercy Park neighborhood, she knew she would have very little money to renovate the kitchen. She planned to simply paint the dark brown cabinets white, replace the ceiling light and update the cabinet hardware to chrome to match the existing faucet. It was this last item on her to-do list that confused her; her small kitchen opened directly onto her living/dining room, in which all the hardware - doorknobs, hinges and lighting - were brass. “I had always been taught that, like the color of my shoes, belt and handbag, the metal hardware in a room should

match.” Lucky for Young, times have changed. Restrictive r ules about matching fashion accessories are no more and, to a degree (a few guidelines do apply), the same can be said about mixing metal hardware finishes in homes. Mixing metal finishes is a conscious design choice for New York designer Thomas O’Brien, founder of Aero Studios, and one he even made for his own residence. When he renovated the kitchen in his Bellport, N.Y., home, he painted his cabinets a glossy white and installed satin brass handles, but he opted to use chrome for all the plumbing fixtures. He says that when mixing metals in a room, there should be logic behind each choice. “For example, I chose the brass handles because I wanted

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a softer and warmer feeling than chrome.” He considers kitchen cabinets to be like furniture, so in his mind, they can be treated differently. Washington, D.C., interior designer Zoe Feldman is also in favor of mixing metal hardware finishes. “I feel it keeps a space from feeling too one-note, and it gives a more collected and layered look,” Feldman says. In general, she avoids using any kind of matching sets in her work, such as a dining or bedroom set, because she says sets are too predictable; she sees matching metal hardware the same way, and says it has a boring, uninspired effect on rooms. But one can’t just go mixing any and all metal hardware finishes together. Both O’Brien and Feldman agree that there are some guidelines one should follow. O’Brien suggests mixing brass and dark bronze, brass and chrome, or brass and nickel, but never mix nickel and chrome. Also, he cautions that there is a limit to how many metal finishes you can mix together in one room. “There

should be a main finish choice and maybe one accent,” he says. More than that, he says, can be too much. And for those who worry about how their stainless-steel appliances fit in with other metals, O’Brien says: “Chrome and stainless steel are really the same and can be used together.” Feldman says she usually sticks to a maximum of three metals in a room. She also pays attention to the placement of each finish. “You want to make sure there is a certain cadence when mixing metal finishes,” she says. By cadence, Feldman means that you should consistently disperse the metal types throughout the room; all pulls and knobs should be one type, and all fixtures (such as sink and bathroom faucets) should be one type. Feldman says lighting is a good place to introduce yet another metal type, as are accessories such as pot racks in kitchens or door hooks in bathrooms. Feldman also advises paying attention to finishes. She likes to mix metals of different colors that share a similar warmth, such as unlacquered

brass, polished nickel and matte black, but she says to never mix the same metal in different finishes, such as polished nickel and satin nickel. Like O’Brien, she says to not mix metals that are closely related but just a bit off, such as nickel and chrome. “They are too similar to be interesting,” she says. “One is the cool version and the other is the warm version.” When possible, Feldman likes to use what she calls “live metals,” which are metals that are unlacquered. “I love the idea of metals aging and getting a patina,” she says. “It gives a space depth and allows the fixtures to age gracefully.” As for Young, she decided to leave the existing chrome fixtures, install antique brass cabinet pulls and hang an antique brass and dark bronze ceiling fixture that unites all the finishes. “The light fixture ties it all together,” Young says. “It’s just like jewelry. When you wear a stainless-steel and gold watch, you can wear silver or gold, or both.”

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A NEW NEUTRAL FOR YOUR WALLS Ready for a new neutral room color? It’s black. By ELIZABETH MAYHEW (c) 2019, Special to The Washington Post

The design world always has an “in” color it embraces as its neutral; it’s the color you see painted inside spec houses and rentals and popularized in catalogues and online. While white is always a neutral fallback, beige was favored in the early 2000s. For the past 10 years, it’s been gray. Now many in the design world say there is a new neutral in town: black. Sarah Fishburne, the director of trend and design at the Home Depot, credits the growing black-paintedroom trend to the modern farmhouse craze of the last few years. The style updates classic “country” details by painting them black so they look more modern. Fishburne plans to paint her dining room black before Thanksgiving. “I have always loved black rooms, especially when you have great molding and trim work. The black really shows it all off,” she says. Fishburne’s dining room has classic board and batten siding three quarters up its walls and a 10-foot-high coffer ceiling,

which she says “will really pop in black.” Another thing she thinks will stand out against her soon-to-be black walls: her art collection. “Like white, black is a blank canvas and it’s super versatile.” Briana Nix, a designer for the online decorating service Decorist, agrees that black is extremely versatile - a characteristic that is essential to any neutral. “Black is a great supporter of all interior styles,” she says. “Whether sleek and modern or rustic farmhouse, black paint and decor offers a sophisticated air to many different looks.” Beyond making spaces look more stylish, black paint has another useful quality, some designers say: It makes rooms feel bigger. Houston-based interior designer Dennis Brackeen says this is contrary to what most people think. He says dark colors make a room’s walls recede. Decorist designer Caitlin McBride explains: “Since the corners of a dark painted room can’t be defined and there isn’t an easy way to tell where they start or end, the walls feel endless.” McBride recently painted her laundr y room to


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make it feel bigger (she says it’s about the size of a walk-in closet) and add contrast to the large white washing machine and dryer that dominate the space. She has plans to paint her nine-foot-high guest bathroom ceiling black, too. “I want to make the ceiling recede up and out, like you’re looking into space.” While many are embracing this move to the dark side, Patrick O’Donnell, Farrow & Ball’s brand ambassador and expert color consultant, warns that black - or any very dark color - is not for everyone, and certainly not for every room. O’Donnell says you should first think about the primary use of the space you’re painting. “You probably wouldn’t want to paint a nursery in black, but in a bedroom, black helps embrace the nighttime darkness and induce a good night’s sleep.” Another consideration is the direction your room faces. “If it’s north or east, this is often a great opportunity to go darker, as the idea of painting an ill-lit space white or light can end up feeling dull.”

When it comes to choosing the right black paint color and finish, there is some debate. Fishburne plans to paint her dining room in Behr’s Satin Black (PPU26-1) in a matte/flat finish. She likes its soft, chalky look and says the flat finish is more forgiving for imperfect walls. Nix, on the other hand, avoids using matte black. She feels it dulls a room. Instead she opts for a high gloss, which “will reflect light and give dimension to your space.” Just beware: High gloss paints show every imperfection, so your walls need to be in perfect condition. Nix’s favorite black paints are both from Farrow & Ball: Pitch Black, which she says is a true black, and Railings, which has a subtle blue tint. Brackeen’s go-to colors are C2 Paint’s Aperture (C2-981) and Benjamin Moore’s Deep Space (212520). McBride likes Sherwin-Williams’s Tricorn Black because, she says, “It’s a true black color with no undertones and looks good in every paint finish.”

For color, O’Donnell recommends using a black with an underlying nuance - whether it’s blue, red or green - so you get notes of different colors as the light changes throughout the day. Whatever color or finish you choose, he says it’s important - especially when going from light to dark - to use a primer and undercoat in the same tone as the wall color so you get a rich and saturated result. If a full-blown black room is too much for you, try adding touches of black. Fishburne suggests using black furniture, textiles, and accessories in your design mix because “they add weight to very light rooms and additional depth to rooms already painted in a darker hue.” McBride likes to paint interior doors black, and she often uses black curtain rods because, she says, “they’re like the eyeliner of window treatments. They draw your eye up the walls to the ceiling, highlighting molding and other room elements that may otherwise be missed.”


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HERBS DO DOUBLE-DUTY Herbs that add not only flavor in the kitchen but beauty in the garden By ADRIAN HIGGINS (c) 2020, The Washington Post

Spring is just around the corner whether the gardener is prepared or not. So if the dormant season is the moment to suck our thumbs and think about novel plants for the new season, it’s time to get a move on. I’m thinking about using more perennial herbs ornamentally, by planting varieties that are particularly pretty. Lots of herbs happen to be pretty by accident - rosemary, thyme and lavender varieties are obvious choices - but I’ve always had a deep appreciation of chives. They turn any garden into a magazine cover in May, when their violet-purple blossoms appear as jovial orbs above wispy clumps of foliage. Chive leaves are elongated tubes, gathered and snipped as a garnish. If you pick apart the flower heads, the individual florets enliven the sight and taste of a salad. Flowering chives represent that time in May when the heat is knocking on the door, but spring, fresh and lush, is fully expressed. The Marchsown salad greens are ready for picking - and sprin-

kling with chive blossoms. The chive watcher will know that the blossoms are magnets for bees. The resulting honey might be a bit oniony, but the bees are efficient pollinators. The blooms of May become the seeds of summer, and in a fertile, free-draining and sunny site, they soon grow into grasslike clumps. Unless you are quick to dig them up, they become mature plants ready to repeat the cycle. At the base of a 20-foot fence, I put in three chive plants from wee pots. With a few years, their seeding had formed a hedge along most of the fence. In the face of such fecundity, I am ruthless. After they flower, instead of removing just the blooms, I cut the entire clumps back to the ground and dig out any invaders. The chives grow back nicely over the summer, having made room for a collection of salvias. Given this embarrassment of riches, the idea of planting more chives seems odd, but I came across some new varieties at a trade show where Mar y Vaananen of Jelitto Perennial Seeds was thrilled to talk about them. Three new varieties are available this year, bred for the uniform size and texture of the

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foliage and for flower color. The names aren’t that imaginative ­— Pink One, Purple One and White One — but at least you know what you’re getting. Started in early spring, they should bloom the first year, she said, though I wouldn’t expect too much of any perennial in its first year. Chives grow happily in pots as long as they are not neglected. Strawberries are the same; they will grow merrily in regular pots and strawberry pots - the tall, bulbous containers with apertures for soil and plants. Proven Winners last year introduced a decorative strawberry named Berried Treasure. I grew it in a pot and expect it to come through the winter. The blooms are semidouble and of a rich magenta red. The fruits are small and surprisingly flavorful, certainly compared with anything you would find in a supermarket. Kevin Hurd, the brand’s director of new products, said two new flower colors - a strong pink and a pure white - will be available in 2021. The variety is more compact than a regular strawberry plant, doesn’t run as much and is particularly suited to container growing, he said. “It’s perfect for children,” he said. His 8-year-old son “can’t keep his hands off them.” Oregano is an essential culinary herb, but most varieties aren’t that handsome, and some are too eager to spread, especially the flavorless wild marjoram. I have to break into Latin to explain the distinctions. Wild marjoram is Origanum vulgare subspecies vulgare. The preferred Greek or Greek Mountain oregano is O. vulgare subspecies hirtum. Perhaps the confusion is best avoided by following the advice of Virginia herb nurseryman Francesco DeBaggio, who writes that, for culinary use, the Italian orega-



no, Origanum x majoricum, “is the best all-purpose oregano.” And, as a clumper, it doesn’t spread. Some oreganos are truly beautiful, even if their flavor falls off, and the prettiest have blooms with stacked bracts in the manner of hops - akin to a Hawaiian lei. Kent Beauty is a small, mounding plant with pendulous stems ending in these strange blooms, which endure for weeks. They will come through a reasonably mild winter, but only if they are planted in amended, well-draining soil. If they’re in (freezeproof) containers, they are best placed in a sheltered corner of the garden until March. This year, I might grow a related plant named Dittany of Crete. I’ve avoided it in the past because the name unsettles me, even if the Greek goddess Artemis is supposed to have worn a crown of it. It, too, has those attractive bracts above bluish-gray mouseear leaves, and it’s marginally hardy for us and probably safer now that we don’t seem to dip that much anymore into the teens. The one I really want to try is the larger but floppy hopflower oregano, O. libanoticum, festooned with pale green bracts tipped with pink flowers. Heleniums are summer flowering daisies that may qualify as herbs in that dried and ground parts were an alternative to the powdered tobacco snuff that people used to snort. It was a strange habit but not a particularly anti-social one, though it caused people to sneeze. Heleniums, thus, are known as sneezeweed. They are valuable garden plants, blooming merrily during the hottest weeks. They have a couple of weaknesses. The clumps get tall and top-heavy with bare ankles, making them challenging to place with

other perennials. And they can get powdery mildew, a disease that, at best, renders them unsightly. Mt. Cuba, the native plant garden and research center in Hockessin, Delaware, recently released a study of the best - and worst - helenium varieties. The gardeners spent three years evaluating such traits as disease resistance, flower performance and stem sturdiness, and identified 10 top performers out of a field of 44 types. The highest-scoring variety was Kanaria, a solid yellow helenium liked for its length of bloom, flower show and other attributes. It grows to five feet and blooms from early August into September. Other top plants included two species: the especially long-flowering and compact Helenium flexuosum, as well as the late-season H. autumnale and its variant Can Can. Zimbelstern and the orange-red Flammenspiel also excelled. More than 20 varieties flunked the trial, an unusually high number for a plant of native origin, but that was put down to purposeful neglect and their genetic link to a Western species ill-suited to the Mid-Atlantic. The top performers “are fabulous, though,” said Sam Hoadley, who conducted the trial. “The ones that did survive I really like and wouldn’t hesitate to put them in my own garden.” The staking problem is minimized if you cut back spring growth to 12 inches in May — the plants regenerate bushier, and blooming is delayed a week or two, which is not a bad thing. You could attend to that between admiring your chives and picking those plump lettuce heads.

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‘TIS THE SEASON TO PRUNE March is a great time to prune many shrubs, but not all By LEE REICH Associated Press

Don’t prune your forsythia, lilac or mock orange yet. Anything you cut off now will result in that much less of a flower show this spring. Except for these and many other spring-flowering shrubs, however, March is a fine time for pruning many trees and shrubs. It’s easy to see what to cut on leafless plants, and cuts heal quickly. So here’s a list of some pruning jobs to take on now.

GET YOUR TOOLS READY Before you star t, sharpen your pruning tools. Plants heal most quickly from the clean cuts that result from sharp tools. Get out a whetstone or file to touch up blades on hand shears

and loppers. With an anvil-type pruning tool, where a sharp blade closes against the flat edge of an opposing blade, sharpen only the sharp blade, on both sides. With a bypass-style tool, which has two sharpened blades sliding past each other like scissors, sharpen both blades, but each only on its outside edge.

FOR BEAUTY Prune summer flowering shrubs such as butterfly bush and summersweet clethra severely, today or sometime before growth begins. These plants bloom only on new shoots, and the more new growth they make, the better the bloom. Stimulate luxuriant new growth by lopping these plants to within a few inches of the ground.

As soon as buds start to swell on hybrid tea roses, remove wood chips, Styrofoam rose cones or any winter protection you’ve provided, and prune. Cut any canes blackened by disease or winter injur y back to healthy tissue. Then shorten remaining healthy stems according to the size of the plant and the number and size of blossoms you desire. As a general guide, cut weak rose stems back to about a half-foot and strong ones to a foot or more. Less severe pruning results in a plant that is larger, with blossoms that are more abundant and earlier, but smaller. Prune shrubby dogwoods (Tartarian, silky, bloodtwig, gray and redosier). Their youngest stems are the ones that are the brightest yellow or red in winter. Cut to the ground some or all of the older stems to make way

for new ones that will provide next winter’s show. Shrubs such as witch hazel, flowering quince and rose-of-Sharon require little regular pruning. Do look them over now, though, and cut away diseased or dead wood, as well as any stems that are obviously out of place, either visually or because they are rubbing other stems. Pr une hydrangea according to what kind it is. Hills-of-snow (smooth hydrangea) flowers on long, new shoots later in summer, so cut all stems down to the ground now. Also prune bigleaf hydrangea and oakleaf hydrangea, but shorten stems only a tad, back to the fat flower buds near their ends. Prune the tree-like PeeGee Hydrangea ver y little, snipping off old flower heads if you find them unattractive and removing and short-

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ening stems here and there.

FOR FLAVOR Shrubs bearing edible fruits, although they blossom in early spring, do need pruning — now. That will increase the quality of fr uits by letting the plant pump more of its energy into perfecting fewer of them. Pruning also allows stems to bathe in more light and air. Since most of these shr ubs blossom in spring and those blossoms go on to become fruits, their stems shouldn’t all be lopped to the ground. Instead, some of the oldest stems should be lopped to the ground to make way for younger ones, and some of the youngest ones should be lopped to the ground so the remaining ones don’t crowd each other as they age. What’s left are some older, some middle-age and some young stems. How old is a stem when it’s time for its removal? That depends on the type of plant. For instance, blueberry stems are most productive on stems up to 6 years old, and gooseberries on stems 2 and 3 years old. So cut away stems older than 6 from

blueberr y bushes, and stems older than 3 from gooseberry bushes. Red raspberries are a little different. They bear on stems in their second season. Prune by lopping to the ground any stems that bore fruit, as evidenced by remains of fruit stalks and peeling bark. That leaves an abundance of stems that first grew last year and will bear this year. Remove enough of them to leave the sturdiest and healthiest ones with about 6 inches of space between them. “Everbearing” raspberries bear fruit on both first- and second-season canes. For a har vest season from midsummer through fall, prune as described above. But for the easiest of all pruning, just mow the whole planting to the ground now. This pruning does sacrifice the midsummer har vest, but you still get a late summer and fall harvest. By the way, those forsythias, lilacs and mock oranges do need annual pruning, but the time to do it is right after their flowery show is complete.


LEE REICH/Associated Press

This undated photo shows clove currant, a fruiting shrub, being pruned in New Paltz, N.Y. Lopping some of the oldest stems to ground level each winter makes room for more fruitful young stems.




TOMATO TIPS Tips to successfully grow tomatoes Metro Creative Services

Slicing into the first tomato of the season is a much anticipated moment for gardeners. Tomatoes are among the most popular fruit or vegetable plants grown in home gardens. Much of that popularity may be credited to the fact that red, ripe tomatoes have a delicious, juicy flavor that serves as the basis for all sorts of recipes. And since tomatoes can just as easily be grown in a full backyard garden or in a container on a patio or balcony, tomatoes appeal to gardeners regardless of their living situations. While tomatoes are relatively easy to grow, they are prone to certain problems and pests. Knowledge of what to expect when planting tomatoes and how to start off on the right footing can help produce a season’s worth of delicious bounty.

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· Wait until after the last average frost date. Tomatoes can be grown from seeds outdoors in warm areas, but tomato gardeners often find success starting seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost date. Gradually introduce seedlings to the elements for a few hours each day, increasing the duration of time outside. Then they can be transplanted outdoors when temperatures are consistently over 60 F.

tra root growth and stronger, more vital plants. · Give the plants support. Tomato cages or stakes can help keep the leaves and fruit from touching the ground, which can cause rot and, eventually, death to the tomato plant.

· Choose a sunny spot. Tomatoes love to soak up sunlight, according to The Home Depot. Place the plants in a sunny spot so they can thrive.

· Lay down a layer of mulch. Tomatoes grow best when the soil is consistently moist. Mulch can help retain moisture from watering and rain. Mulch also will help prevent soil and soilborne diseases from splashing on the leaves and plants when it rains. While you amend the soil, make sure that it drains well and is slightly acidic.

· Space out plants. The experts at Better Homes and Gardens say to leave anywhere from 24 to 48 inches between plants to accommodate for growth and ensure the plants will not get stunted.

· Prune away suckers. Tomatoes produce “suckers,” which are leaves that shoot out from the main stem. Removing these leaves promotes air circulation and keeps the plant’s energy focused on growing fruit.

· Plant deeply. Tomatoes tend to root along their stems. If transplants are long and lean, dig a trench and lay the stem sideways in the dirt, and then bend the top of the plant upward. Snip off the lower branches and cover with soil up to the first set of leaves. This will produce ex-


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MULCH TIPS Mulching mistakes to avoid Metro Creative Services

Landscape features vary significantly from house to house. Some homeowners may prefer water features on their properties, while others focus on flowers that would be the envy of a botanical garden. Regardless of those preferences, lawn and garden enthusiasts who want to make their properties as idyllic as possible may eventually look to mulch to help them accomplish that goal. Mulch helps soil retain moisture, which promotes strong, healthy flowers, plants, trees, and shrubs. And because soil beneath mulch retains more moisture than soil that’s not protected by mulch, homeowners won’t have to spend as much time watering mulched landscapes. That saves time and conserves water, which can be a big benefit in areas prone to drought and/or especially hot summers. Mulch also helps to suppress weed growth, which can ensure all that hard work needed to create an eye-catching garden won’t be compromised by the presence of unsightly, thirsty weeds. Mulching seems like a simple task, and it can be. But that does not mean homeowners cannot make mistakes when mulching. The following are some common mulching mistakes to avoid as lawn and garden season hits full swing.

· Not enough mulch. Mulch is ineffective when spread too thin. The Virginia Cooperative Extension at Virginia Tech and Virginia State University recommends applying mulch no less than two inches in depth. Anything less than that will prove ineffective at preventing weed growth and helping the soil retain moisture, and that means you will need to water more often. · Poorly located mulch. Mulch should not be placed too close to plant stems or tree trunks. When it is, tissue is so wet that it makes for a perfect environment for disease and insect infestation.

· Failing to mulch to the drip line. The drip line of a tree refers to the outermost circumference of the tree’s canopy from which water drips onto the ground. The VCE recommends mulching to the drip line of a plant or tree, which ensures the plant or tree will get the most out of the mulch. Mulching to the drip line also minimizes competition from the grass, leading to stronger plants and trees. · Failing to weed before mulching. Weeds should be removed prior to mulching. If they’re not, the mulch can provide the same growing environment for weeds that you’re trying to create for your plants and trees.


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Home and Garden Guide Spring 2020