Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Our Tudor Home

Hello, there!

I'm proud to say that our Tudor went on the market today. After working on it for a year, Tom and I are thrilled with how everything turned out.

To recap, we purchased it in early 2016, and spent most of last year renovating. Here's what we did: gutted a bathroom, updated a powder room, finished the third floor, upgraded to a new two-zoned AC system, insulated the roof, replaced the asphalt roof tiles with Vermont slate, installed custom built-in bookcases and plantation shutters, added ceiling beams, painted walls, refinished floors, etc. This was going to be home for a long time, so everything had to meet our standards. There was even a plan to convert the side porch to an enclosed sunroom for my topiaries.

Then our dream cottage, which we stalked for years, became available in December. It's the same size as our Tudor, in the same neighborhood, and built around the same time (late 1920s). The biggest difference is the lot. The cottage is another small home, but on a large lot with fabulous garden potential. And it needs updating so we just couldn't say no to another project 🔨🏡!!

Tom and I are selling the Tudor not because we don't love it, but because we found another home that we love even more. BTW, the cottage will be house number six for us (in the last 20 years)!

Helping us with this sale is good friend and expert realtor Mary  Lynn White. This is the fourth house that we've entrusted to Mary Lynn and her team. Regardless of size and price, they treat each of our homes with the same level of attention, professionalism and passion. Tom and I couldn't imagine buying or selling without Mary Lynn.

There will be open houses on Saturday (18th) as well as Sunday (19th). Please contact Mary Lynn here for info. And please help spread the word. Thanks very much!  UPDATE: THE OPEN HOUSES ARE CANCELED AS WE ARE UNDER CONTRACT. SORRY FOR ANY INCONVENIENCE.  
Our enchanting brick and stone Tudor for sale! Note the dramatic tall chimney, stone lintels and arched front door. We had the slate roof, copper gutters plus downspouts installed. The curved walkway is granite with brick edging.
Please come inside! The entry foyer is small but so sunny thanks to two windows along the staircase. There is also a deep coat closet. Speaking of staircase, I had the beautiful wool runner custom made; it continues to the upstairs hall.
A view of the dining room and kitchen from the foyer. I designed the arched doorway to repeat the arched front door. In the dining room, Tom and I installed, with the help of carpenters, pine ceiling beams after personally distressing and staining them ourselves. We spent many hours figuring out proportions and placements. They ended up being beautifully centered over the windows, fireplace and doorway to the living room; it took much effort to get everything to line up.

Also, I designed the wall of built-in bookcases to house my art books and creamware china. Now the room feels like a library as well as a dining room. It's a pleasure to dine, casually and formally, surrounded by treasured books. 

I love designing built-ins, and have done so in every home we've owned. Tip: when adding built-ins, try to incorporate existing moldings such as crown, casing and baseboard to make them look original to the house. 
Let's move into the living room with its lovely bay windows that bring in abundant light all day. Actually this used to be the dining room. I knew it would make a bright, warm and comfortable sitting room with its southern exposure and views to the garden. It's cozy and private. French doors can be closed for even more privacy. 
Since there isn't a family room, our TV is here inside the Swedish armoire. In the evening, you'll find us on the down-filled George Smith sofa watching favorite shows like The Crown and The Great British Baking Show.
We'll occasionally pry ourselves out of the sofa to come into the kitchen for a cup of tea. Honed soapstone countertops and crisp white Shaker cabinets give the kitchen a timelessness. There is radiant heating under the painted linoleum floor.
Two of the four bedrooms upstairs. All bedrooms on the second floor have new plantation shutters. They also have their original paneled doors with glass doorknobs and brass plates.
Two bedrooms share a charming Jack-and-Jill bathroom updated in a vintage style.
A completely renovated bathroom with marble hexagonal floor. 

For more info, please email Mary Lynn. Don't forget to spread the word. Many thanks! UPDATE: THE OPEN HOUSES ARE CANCELED AS WE ARE UNDER CONTRACT. MANY APOLOGIES.

xo
Loi
Follow along on my INSTAGRAM site.

Monday, January 23, 2017

All About Myrtle Topiaries


Happy New-ish Year! 

2017 is my sixth year of blogging - time flies! Is there anything you'd like me to blog about? Please share your suggestions in the comments section as I'd love to know.

One topic I frequently get questions on is my myrtles. Each time I post a topiary photo here or on INSTAGRAM, everyone wants to know how I care for these fabulous but fussy houseplants with such distinctive forms. Well I'm delighted to shed some light on this personal passion of mine. In the right environment and with a bit of TLC, anyone can keep myrtles happy and healthy for years.

The variety I favor is myrtus communis compacta or dwarf myrtle, an herb with fragrant foliage when crushed. These can be grown outdoors as evergreen shrubs in warm climates. Planted as a hedge, they are a lovely way to delineate parterre beds in formal gardens. The small leaves, which are an attractive glossy dark green, make them suitable for close pruning; a reason they are popular as shaped topiaries.

As topiary houseplants in colder environments, their needs are quite different than those of hardy shrubs living outdoors in warmer climates. Before sharing how I grow these verdant gems, let's look at those currently in my shop: 
Both photos above are from last week. See the three on the French round table? They were repotted just before Thanksgiving, and are doing great. All have fresh growth, a good sign that everyone is happy, as well as plenty of moss plus weeds. For now the weeds can stay because I welcome the extra pop of greenery during these gray wintry days. When they start to overwhelm, time to yank them out to conserve nutrients for the myrtles. The velvety moss stays; its roots are not as deep or invasive. 

For scale, here I am 😊 next to one of my giant triples. Now twice their original size, this handsome pair came from the nursery of the late Allen C. Haskell, a fine horticulturalist and nurseryman with a passion for topiaries.   
A couple more photos of my collection at Tone on Tone. Since we sold our DC home with its conservatory, I've moved most of them to the shop where they are bathed in natural light all day thanks to our floor-to-ceiling picture windows. Plus the heat is kept very low at night so my "topes" do not get dried out.
Now let's talk about how to care for these green beauties:

INDOORS VS OUTDOORS
In DC, dwarf myrtle cannot live outside during winter. It must come in before any threat of a freeze, which is around early October. Once inside, avoid placing near a radiator or heat register. After all danger of a frost is over, it can go back outside for sunshine and fresh air. Keep protected from thunderstorms, heavy rain and strong winds as this top-heavy plant can easily fall over.

SUNLIGHT
Give it as much light as possible, especially indoors. Otherwise it will turn spindly and not have that coveted density. Make sure to rotate occasionally for even growth on all sides.

WATERING
Never let the myrtle dry out completely, but water accordingly. If sitting outside in full sun, especially in a porous clay pot, daily watering might be necessary. Be mindful not to have water sitting in the saucer for too long as this can cause root rot. During winter I generally water (use lukewarm, please) every other day; do so until water seeps out in the saucer, which should be reabsorbed within 3 - 5 hours. Dump out any excess water afterwards. Misting is also beneficial.

REPOTTING
Usually the topiary is already in a pot that is too small, making it somewhat root bound - that's ok for a while. Think of it as a bonsai where you want to focus its energy / growth on top rather than at the roots. However, when it absorbs water too fast and needs constant watering, time to repot. Choose a pot one size larger to keep the proportions balanced. Also, if a pot is overly spacious the plant will waste energy sending out excessive roots. 

CLIPPING
To maintain a neat, tight form, clipping or shearing should be done every two weeks from late winter to the end of summer. Monthly is recommended for the rest of the year. This also encourages denser growth because whenever a shoot / sprig is clipped, two new ones emerge to create more foliage. When not in a rush, I clip at the branch between the leaves, being careful not to cut the actual foliage which can create unsightly brown spots. But since I have so many, I tend to just shear the entire "ball." 

FERTILIZING
From late winter to early fall, I will fertilize with Miracle-Gro once a month. Fertilizing is essential to the success of container gardening where the nutrients are depleted by the plant as well as leached out with watering.   

INSECTS
Bugs are unavoidable. I spray liberally with a mild insecticidal soap on the foliage and soil. If persistent, take to your nursery for diagnosis and proper treatment.

SHEDDING
Shedding of the old leaves as new ones form is to be expected. But excessive dropping may be due to diseases, insects, changes in light and moisture levels, etc. Please consult your nursery's specialist.

And that's all! Just minutes each day dedicated to the care of a few living sculptures that add such warmth, charm and personality. I really love these civilized yet whimsical beauties, and couldn't imagine not having them

In our former home, myrtles lived amongst us in nearly every room. Enjoy these photos - many taken by photographer Helen Norman for Martha Stewart Living and Southern Living magazines.             
Here I am demonstrating how to properly clip using my favorite Japanese pruners. If any seem tipsy, steady their trunks while clipping.
Some also come up with Tom and me to Maine (below photo). Yes, they travel with us!
Additionally, I have other types of topiaries like this pair of rosemary. Unfortunately both were zapped by the frost when left outside during an unusually frigid winter.
Next to the rosemary is a "Duckfoot" miniature ivy which I had for quite a while. I gifted it to a friend last year when Tom and I were in between homes.

Speaking of homes, I have exciting news to share: Tom and I are moving, again! Not far, though...just a few blocks from our Tudor, which we'll be selling soon. Anyone interested in a move-in ready storybook Tudor with fabulous architectural details including slate roof, dramatic chimney, arched front door, interior French doors, ceiling beams, bay windows, period woodwork and hardware, etc? All the double glazed windows were recently added. We replaced the HVAC system, and installed custom shutters, built-in bookcases, lighting, staircase runner, marble floors, and more. It is located in the tree-lined neighborhood of North Woodside, Silver Spring (inside the beltway) where there are many gracious colonials, charming bungalows, and unique Tudors all from the 1920 - 30s. Please spread the word - thank YOU kindly.

Why are we moving? We found another small home (a Cotswold style Tudor) on a large lot with plenty of gardening potential 🌼. More to come!

Cheers,
Loi