May 2009: Around the House

May 2009: Around the House

The space in between

Looking to rev up that patio? Inside meets out in Stephen Crafti’s Courtyards for Modern Living, a tribute highlighting the potential of courtyards to connect yard and home in creative, personal ways. It’s all about functionality, baby: Crafti shows us how it’s done with pages of inspirational outdoor living set off in big, modern swaths of white. 

Edgy vessels

Diana Johnson and Kelly Pfeffer, interior designers with Fifth Wall Design Group, sought out stylish vases and containers from local stores. They turned up these three choices, inspiration for whatever you might need to contain.


1950s European wine bottles from Quince
In two shades of green, these vintage bottles are great for ornamental branches or decorative beaded flowers. Diana and Kelly like the vessels’ “rustic hints of their original purpose” and the fact that each is one-of-a-kind.








19th-century Tibetan wooden container from Caspari
This oversized piece can easily be a focal point. “Pair it with flowers, greenery, or your family’s collection of seashells,” Diana and Kelly suggest.





Bird bath from Ivy Nursery
Your houseplants may be headed outside for the summer, but Diana and Kelly see this cutie as “an opportunity to bring a bit of the outdoors back inside.” They’ve got a few great ideas for using it, too: Fill with moss, use it as a candy dish, or display floating candles or flowers.





Rosy scenario

Get started with roses at the Monticello Center for Historic Plants, May 23.

I’ve fallen in and out of love with roses, from a novice entranced with their scent and shape to a cynical professional who missed a spray for black spot once too often. I’ve tended hundreds of roses on a baking rooftop garden—climbers, teas and modern hybrids—and yet gone years without considering them for the small residential gardens I come in contact with as a consultant and designer.

The circle continues with the new era of the deer fence at our place in the country (regardless of thorns, roses are a favored delicacy of the voracious ruminants). We’ve taken the plunge with a couple of climbers to scramble up inside the corners—‘Sombreuille,’ a perfumy peach-colored climbing tea that showed its resilience during my rooftop days, and ‘Penny Lane,’ a new cultivar with a pretty picture that we’re taking a chance on. Heirloom Roses and Brushwood Nursery sent very nice leafed-out potted plants which we planted right away in early April.

Perhaps because the extremely popular hybrid teas developed along with the post-WW II love affair with chemicals, the rose’s modern reputation has become that of the diva demanding to be sprayed with constant attention and pesticides. Yet the genus Rosa is varied and ancient, adorning Chinese gardens and Roman orgies which knew not of our modern poisons. Although many rose growers remain stout nozzle-heads (see the hilarious and informative Otherwise Normal People, by Aurelia Scott), you can have pretty roses without dangerous sprays.


• Smell the roses.
• Don’t spray poisons.
• Keep the debris.

Assiduous attention to healthy soil rich with organics and nutrients is the first step. Roses are heavy feeders and their attendants soon learn the intricacies of various manures and compost. Timely blasts of water to dislodge mites, avoidance of fungus-promoting evening watering and using organics like soap and oil sprays to smother soft bodied insects are other healthy cultural practices. Stephen Scanniello’s A Year of Roses is an indispensable handbook.

Eschew hybrid teas unless you can give them six to eight hours of sun and you yearn to labor protecting them from their varied enemies. Many people’s perfect image of the Queen of Flowers, hybrid teas like the classic ‘Peace’ are prized for elegant form and the size of their blossoms. But their leaves are susceptible to ugly funguses and insects, from black spot and powdery mildew to sawfly and the ultimate enemy of the family Rosaceae, the Japanese beetle.

“Landscape roses” are bred for manageable size (usually around 3-4 feet all around) and pest resistance (though the Japanese beetle remains a relentless marauder). Bonica® and ‘The Fairy’ are old favorite pinks and the more recent Knock Out® series offers a carnival of white, red, yellow and pale to hot pink blossoms, some with actual faint rosy fragrance.

Many old rose varieties are not as finicky as the hybrid teas. Monticello’s Center for Historic Plants (984-9816) has a free open house Saturday, May 23, showcasing a unique collection of roses, pinks and iris. Rose experts are on hand with lively workshops and lots of contacts for beginners.

With the popular emphasis on seeing our natural surroundings as a living ecology, I’m constantly surprised by how many people still regard yard and garden debris as waste. I see properties that are blown clean each year and new mulch applied like new carpet. If you want to celebrate Earth Day in a meaningful way, resolve to fluff up that old mulch, shred and compost leaves, recycle grass clippings and kitchen waste. Get some rotting going on in your garden, some smells, some dirt, a little mess. Life’s not just a bed of roses.—Cathy Clary

Scrub-a-dub mud

As spring turns to summer, it’s a good time to freshen up your entryway.

So your mudroom looks more like a mudhole now that wet weather is (we hope) subsiding. Organizing your entryway can keep outdoorsy muck contained, the rest of your house more spic and span, and is honestly more straightforward than you think. Here’s a few clutter-reducing tips:

1. First, get yourself an old rug or some sheets to get rid of the gunk. Spreading it out and piling on all the clutter—dirty boots, bikes, the whole shebang—will you give you a chance to scrub the room as well as each dirty item to get a fresh start.

2. It’s all about storage. Before moving everything back in, think about putting in more hooks, shelves, or cabinets, or replacing old ones, to start getting everything in order.

3. Go ahead and personalize. A mudroom is there for your convenience, so put in a place to hang your keys, pick up your mints and extra hair ties. Mats to catch grime and a mirror to wink at on your way out the door are a few other nice touches.—Lucy Zhou



To the heart


This treat is delicious, but simple and light—so don’t get all choked up.

2 1/2 cups canned, quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. hot sauce (Crystal, Tabasco, etc.)
1 Tbs. minced garlic
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and chop just until there are no whole pieces of artichoke left and the ingredients are evenly mixed. If you don’t have a food processor, chop artichokes by hand and combine with the other ingredients in a mixing bowl. Yield: About 2 cups.

There is no vegetable that inspires greater trepidation than the artichoke, and no more satisfying flavor than that of a choke that has been properly prepared. Globe artichokes are a member of the thistle family, and have been cultivated and devoured in southern Mediterranean countries for thousands of years.

If one splits an artichoke stem to stern, one would notice the prickly outside leaves (or bracts) fading into a lighter green flesh (the edible heart) which surrounds a small hollow filled with the fuzzy choke. The choke and outer bracts can be removed with a spoon and kitchen shears (respectively) leaving the cup-shaped, hollow heart that begs to be filled with fresh goat cheese or a compound lemon and caper butter. The upper portion of the stem is also edible once cooked, although it may need trimming or peeling.

There are a few tricks to taming the spiny beast. Firstly, acidulated water (water with lemon juice or vinegar in it) will slow the discoloration caused by an artichoke’s exposure to air. If you are trimming before you cook the choke, drop it into acidulated water; if you trim after you cook, liberally apply lemon juice before you cut, and rub lemon directly onto the incisions. Mask any errors with butter. Do not use cast iron or aluminum pans or utensils when playing with artichokes, as they contribute to oxidation and off-flavors; use enameled cast iron, ceramics, and a stainless steel knife.—Lisa Reeder

Take it to go

’Tis the season for City Market shopping, not to mention outings to berry patches, wineries, on-farm shops, and music and family events. Take the time now to equip yourself with a traveling food system—it will serve to keep your lunch safe and happy, and can pull double duty as a vessel for berry picking or farm stand shopping.

Greenwood sells these top-shelf to-go bags.

Greenwood Gourmet Grocery ((540) 456-6431) offers a wide variety of “shows on the road,” ranging from picnic baskets to wine kits to insulated neoprene bags of all shapes and sizes. One staff favorite is a large duffel made by Built that doubles as a roomy, compartmentalized collapsible cooler—masquerading as a briefcase. Another trick? If you have an insulated market bag. pop it in the freezer on Friday evening—it will be chilled and ready for your weekend adventures.—L.R.

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