7 Drought-Tolerant Perennials for Your Home Garden

“Ever noticed that during the hottest part of the Summer, some plants look better than others?  Well, here are some that really don’t need a lot of care or watering.”
Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team
During the summer, when your lawn and garden is in danger of drying up in the sun, plant these resilient flowers to liven up your yard.

Garden plants need water to survive, but some plants need less than others. Plants that require less water are often referred to as drought-tolerant or drought-resistant varieties and are good choices for gardeners. Keep in mind that just because something is labeled as drought tolerant doesn’t mean that it can get by without any water at all; all plants need adequate moisture to grow. Additionally, not all plants will thrive in all areas, so be sure to choose plants that are suited for your particular growing zone and soil type. Here’s a list of some drought resistant choices that you might want to consider for your area.

Related: Help Your Lawn Through Drought and Dry Weather

Hosta perennial

Hosta is a perennial that can grow in sun or shade. Known for their easy care, hostas have showy leaves and come in a variety of sizes with white or lavender flowers. When choosing a spot, remember that hosta plants prefer well-drained soil.

Rosemary perennial

• Rosemary is a drought resistant perennial and herb with spiky leaves that adds interesting texture as well as a nice fragrance to the garden. Fresh rosemary leaves are especially good in potato, pork, chicken, and soup recipes. Other drought-tolerant herbs that grow perennially in some parts of the country are thyme, sage, and oregano.

Day lily perennial

• After they’ve bloomed in the spring, daylilies are another perennial that appear to be high maintenance but actually require minimal water and care. Daylilies come in many of colors and go dormant in the winter.

Lantana perennial

• After Lantana plants are established, they don’t require much water when compared to many other blooming plants. Lantana can grow in gardens or in containers, and are classified as annuals or perennials, depending on the region. The flower clusters of Lantana are often shades of yellow, light purple, and pink, and may change as the plant matures.

Oakleaf hydrangea

• Oakleaf and Panicle are two hydrangea varieties that are considered to be relatively hardy, drought tolerant plants. Both produce large blossoms that add beauty outdoors or when cut and brought inside.

Salvia perennial

Salvia is a drought tolerant annual that produces long-lasting blooms in shades of red, blue, violet, pink, and white. Salvia is actually related to the herb sage. These plants work well in garden beds, borders, or in containers.

Black eyed susan perennial

• Black-eyed Susan is a classic, popular flower that doesn’t require a great deal of water. It’s ray-like petals contrast with a dark center for an intriguing color combination.

Easy Way to Take Care of Your Perennials

Even if you choose drought resistant plants and shrubs, they will still require some maintenance and it’s important to care for them properly. It’s usually best to water plants and shrubs consistently for the first few weeks after planting to make sure they have enough moisture to get established and to make sure they don’t dry out during the fragile post-planting period. After that, it’s generally best to water perennial plants deeply as needed, instead of frequent shallow watering, during their first summer season to help the plants develop a deep root system, which aid plants in tolerating extended dry periods. It’s also helpful to mulch around the bases of plants and shrubs each year to help lock in moisture. Check with your local garden center to see which drought tolerant varieties grow best in your zone, and how to care for them.

Originally published on American Home Shield

Lounge Spaces That Keep the Party Going Outside

“There is just something about relaxing outdoors that makes it even better.  And with these ideas, it’s really not that hard or expensive.”
Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team
August is a time to savor the last precious drops of summer with alfresco meals and laid-back afternoons before the start of fall. These 10 homeowners know how to enjoy lounging outdoors and have created their own resort-like spaces for spending lazy weekends, making it hard to ever leave their backyards, patios, porches, decks and courtyards. Get inspired by these fun and fresh design ideas to create an outstanding outdoor room of your own.
Originally published on HOUZZ by Janet Paik

Is it Time to Upgrade Your AC?

“Everyone knows it’s expensive to replace the air conditioner, but we all know it needs to be done sometime. So how do you know when it’s the right time?  This article can help you determine just that.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

Knowing when to replace your hard-working air conditioner can be tricky. While it’s a major purchase that most people don’t make lightly, nobody wants to wake up to a broken air conditioner on a hot summer day.

There are a lot of factors that go into deciding whether or not it’s time to upgrade your AC. Here are few questions to ask yourself before you start shopping.

4 Questions You Should Ask When Wondering When to Upgrade Your AC Unit  

1. How old is your AC unit?

The age of your unit is the most important factor in deciding whether or not to replace it. A majority of HVAC technicians recommend replacing your AC if it’s 15 years or older. All AC units have a SEER or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. Today, the minimum SEER is 13, but if your AC was manufactured before 2006, chances are it’s only rated at a 10. Just by upgrading to the current minimum, you’ll gain at least three points on the SEER scale. Each SEER number you go up increases energy efficiency by 5 to 9 percent, so a 15 to 27 percent boost immediately puts money in your pocket in the form of energy savings.

2. How often should you perform HVAC maintenance and repairs?

The problem starts when your AC needs repair more than once a year. The more work your unit undergoes, the shorter its overall lifespan will be and the more likely it is that it will need repair again. Look over your receipts and calculate how much you’ve spent on AC repairs. If the total amount you’ve spent on repairs exceeds the cost of a new unit, it’s definitely time for a new one.

3. Is Your Energy Bill On the Rise?

As it gets older, your heating and air conditioning system may be getting less efficient. If your energy bills increase as the summer progresses, your AC unit may be working harder to cool the same space that it used to — and using more energy than necessary to do the job. When this happens, you’ll see a rise in energy consumption and cost. Upgrading to a new conditioner can reduce energy costs by an average of 20 to 40 percent. The savings you’ll see on your energy bill will help offset the cost of a new AC unit.

4. Is your AC cooling your entire home consistently?

If your air conditioner is having a hard time keeping up with your home’s demand for cool air, that’s a sure sign of trouble. Test this by setting your thermostat to your preferred temperature and walking into different rooms of your home throughout the day. If your AC is still working properly, there shouldn’t be a noticeable change in temperature from room to room. An efficient A/C unit will effectively cool your entire home without as much effort.

Originally published by American Home Shield

Inherited an Antique? Here’s How to Work It Into Your Home

“Sometimes it’s tough to know exactly what to do with an antique, when most of your furniture is more modern.  Here are some ideas on how to work them into the rest of your decor.”
Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team
It’s wonderful to be given heirloom textiles, cherished ceramics or an old artwork. Antiques have a history and quality worth showcasing, but it can sometimes be hard to make them work with modern decor. Here are some effective ways to incorporate inherited pieces into your home and show them off to their full potential.
Originally Published on HOUZZ by Becky Clarke

A Moving Checklist

 

A Moving Checklist!

A Moving Checklist!

“Here is a great article that we found on ‘Real Simple’ that could help alleviate some of the stress that comes with moving.  Following this Step by Step guideline can help you make sure everything has been thought of and taken care of.”  

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

 

Two Months Before

  • Sort and purge – Go through every room of your house and decide what you’d like to keep and what you can get rid of. Think about whether any items will require special packing or extra insurance coverage.
  • Research – Start investigating moving company options. Do not rely on a quote over the phone; request an on-site estimate. Get an estimate in writing from each company, and make sure it has a USDOT (U.S. Department of Transportation) number on it if you are moving to a different state. If you’re moving within a state, some states require a USDOT number, check here to see if your state does. You can also check with your state’s public utilities commission, moving association, or Better Business Bureau.
  • Create a moving binder – Use this binder to keep track of everything—all your estimates, your receipts, and an inventory of all the items you’re moving.
  • Organize school records – Go to your children’s school and arrange for their records to be transferred to their new school district.

Six Weeks Before

  • Order supplies – Order boxes and other supplies such as tape, Bubble Wrap, and permanent markers. Don’t forget to order specialty containers, such as dish barrels or wardrobe boxes.
  • Use it or lose it – Start using up things that you don’t want to move, like frozen or perishable foods and cleaning supplies.
  • Take measurements – Check room dimensions at your new home, if possible, and make sure larger pieces of furniture will fit through the door.

One Month Before

  • Choose your mover and confirm the arrangements – Select a company and get written confirmation of your moving date, costs, and other details
  • Begin packing – Start packing the things that you use most infrequently, such as the waffle iron and croquet set. While packing, note items of special value that might require additional insurance from your moving company. Make sure to declare, in writing, any items valued over $100 per pound, such as a computer.
  • Label – Clearly label and number each box with its contents and the room it’s destined for. This will help you to keep an inventory of your belongings. Pack and label “essentials” boxes of items you’ll need right away.
  • Separate valuables – Add items such as jewelry and important files to a safe box that you’ll personally transport to your new home. Make sure to put the mover’s estimate in this box. You’ll need it for reference on moving day.
  • Do a change of address – Go to your local post office and fill out a change-of-address form, or do it online at usps.gov. But in case there are stragglers, it’s always wise to ask a close neighbor to look out for mail after you’ve moved. Check in with him or her two weeks after the move, and again two weeks after that.
  • Notify important parties – Alert the following of your move: banks, brokerage firms, your employer’s human resources department, magazine and newspapers you subscribe to, and credit card, insurance, and utility companies.
  • Forward medical records – Arrange for medical records to be sent to any new health-care providers or obtain copies of them yourself. Ask for referrals.

Two Weeks Before

  • Arrange to be off from work on moving day – Notify your office that you plan to supervise the move and therefore need the day off.
  • Tune up – Take your car to a garage, and ask the mechanic to consider what services might be needed if you’re moving to a new climate.
  • Clean out your safe-deposit box – If you’ll be changing banks, remove the contents of your safe-deposit box and put them in the safe box that you’ll take with you on moving day.
  • Contact the moving company – Reconfirm the arrangements.

One Week Before

  • Refill prescriptions – Stock up on prescriptions you’ll need during the next couple of weeks.
  • Pack your suitcases – Aim to finish your general packing a few days before your moving date. Then pack suitcases for everyone in the family with enough clothes to wear for a few days.

A Few Days Before

  • Defrost the freezer – If your refrigerator is moving with you, make sure to empty, clean, and defrost it at least 24 hours before moving day.
  • Double-check the details – Reconfirm the moving company’s arrival time and other specifics and make sure you have prepared exact, written directions to your new home for the staff. Include contact information, such as your cell phone number.
  • Plan for the payment – If you haven’t already arranged to pay your mover with a credit card, get a money order, cashier’s check, or cash for payment and tip. If the staff has done a good job, 10 to 15 percent of the total fee is a good tip. If your move was especially difficult, you might tip each mover up to $100. Don’t forget that refreshments are always appreciated.

Moving Day

  • Verify – Make sure that the moving truck that shows up is from the company you hired: The USDOT number painted on its side should match the number on the estimate you were given. Additionally, you can check if the moving truck has the company’s branding, or vehicle number that was listed in your confirmation. Scams are not unheard-of.
  • Take inventory – Before the movers leave, sign the bill of lading/inventory list and keep a copy.

Help! I Spilled Paint on My Clothes — Now What?

“If you’ve ever done some painting, you probably got paint on your clothes.  I know we have and some of it is still there.  These tips would have probably come in handy.”
Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team
I speak as someone who has an entire drawer dedicated to “painting clothes”: Don’t even think about opening that can of paint until after you’ve changed into clothes you don’t mind getting spoiled by spatters. That being said, mishaps happen, such as when you unknowingly brush up against a freshly painted wall and come away with a smudge, or when you set out to do simple touch-ups around the house and get drips on your favorite jeans. In that case, here’s how to get paint out of clothes.
Originally published on HOUZZ by Jennifer Ott

9 Tips for Living a (Semi-)Normal Life While Your Home Is Being Shown

“Great tips for when you are trying to sell your home.  This article will be shared on a regular basis with our clients now!”
Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – Dc Metro Realty Team
Selling your house? Those frequent showings can be a real hassle. You know it’s worth it to do your best to accommodate them, but that doesn’t make it any easier! Here are tips to make keeping your house ready to show to prospective buyers more doable, plus a handy checklist of what to remember before you clear out each time — from someone who’s been through the process (and lived to tell the tale).
Originally published on HOUZZ by Laura Gaskill

10 Ways to Save Money on Your Energy Bill This Summer

“When the heat reaches it’s peak, it’s always good to have a few ideas of how to conserve energy, while still staying cool.”
Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team
It’s Summertime, and the living is easy. Until your see your energy bill. Save money on your electric and utility bills using these energy conservation methods.

Summer is supposed to be a relaxing, low-key time, but it’s hard to unwind when you’re worried about your home’s high energy costs. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help minimize the energy your household uses during warm weather months. If you’d rather spend your budget on fun-in-the-sun activities than on utility bills, make note of these amazing energy conservation tips.

1. Use ceiling fans to help cool your room

Raise your thermostat a few degrees and use ceiling fans to cool rooms as much as possible. Ceiling fans use less electricity than air conditioners and are comfortable ways to keep air moving in your home. If you received a tax refund this year, you might want to consider using it to purchase ceiling fans for your living spaces and bedrooms to help minimize the energy that you need to keep your home a comfortable temperature during hotter months. Ceiling fans come in a wide variety of sizes, colors, and styles to match virtually any décor. Be sure to look for ceiling fans with the ENERGY STAR certification.

2. Use off peak energy on your appliances

Use off peak energy as much as possible for tasks like running the dishwasher and washing and drying clothes. Check with your local utility company to see if they offer discounted rates for off peak hours and when those rates apply.

Christmas Treevia Real Simple

3. Plan no cook dinners for hot days

Plan to have no-cook dinners several times a week. In addition to saving the energy that your stove or oven will use, you’ll also avoid heating up the kitchen and making your air conditioner work harder. There are many easy, nutritional dinners that don’t require cooking. All of which are great choices:

• Green salads
• pasta salads
• sandwiches
• fruit plates

Even some chicken and meat dishes are good served cold. Who wants to eat a big, heavy meal when it’s hot outside anyway?

4. Use a thermostat-controlled attic fan

If you have an attic, consider installing a thermostat-controlled attic fan to help keep your entire house cooler. With sunlight beating down on the roof and heat rising from below, the temperature in attics can rise very quickly in the summer. An attic fan can help cool the space as well as the rooms below.

5. Maintain your air conditioning unit

For peak efficiency, it’s important to keep your exterior air conditioning unitwell maintained. Remove any leaves, twigs, or debris from around the unit, and clean the coils regularly. Change your air conditioning system filters per manufacturer’s instructions to keep energy use to a minimum.

Save Energy on Electric Bill

6. Clean your freezer coils

If you have a freezer, remember that it has to work harder during warm weather months to maintain the correct temperature for frozen foods. Keep the coils clean to help it run efficiently, and check the gaskets to make sure the seal is maintained and the unit isn’t leaking cold air. Also, check to see if there is sufficient clearance room around the freezer for air to properly circulate.

7. Take energy conservation measurements before leaving the house

Before you leave on vacation, take some steps to conserve energy use while you are gone.

• Raise your thermostat, and unplug any appliances or electronics that won’t be in use while you’re away.
• Even small appliances and electronics like microwaves and television sets may continue to draw energy if they remain plugged in although they are turned off.
• Remember to set your water heater to “low” or to turn down the temperature while you are away as well.
• Put lamps and lights on timers instead of leaving them on the entire time.
• Close curtains and blinds to keep the warm sunlight out.

8. Use your bathrooms ventilating fan

When you take a shower or a bath in the summer, turn on the bathroom ventilating fan to remove heat and humidity and to help save on cooling costs.

Save Energy Clothes Line

9. Line dry your clothing

Take advantage of the warm weather to line dry clothes and linens instead of using energy to run the clothes dryer. In addition to saving electricity, you’ll save dryer wear and tear on the fabrics.

10. Learn alternative eco-friendly methods to reduce energy costs

Look into alternative ways to cool your home, such as geothermal cooling and evaporative cooling systems. Use your tax refund for window shadinghome improvements, such as installing patio covers, awnings, and solar window screens and films. Strategically placed landscaping can also help provide shade and minimize cooling costs.

You can also keep cool this summer with some old-fashioned methods that don’t require a lot of electricity or energy. Mix up a pitcher of ice-cold lemonade, or make some homemade ice cream using the hand-cranked method instead of an electric machine. Hang a hammock in the shade, and enjoy a good book. Invite the neighbors over for a cook-out instead of heating up your oven and stove. For dessert, enjoy the best summer treat of all that doesn’t even require any energy to prepare – slice open a ripe, red watermelon.

7 Ways to Rethink the Shrub

“If you have any type of yard to maintain, shrubs are a great option.  But why not get a little creative for a change and do something interesting.”
Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

Shrubs are ubiquitous throughout our landscapes, many times making up a significant bulk of greenery in the garden. Often used as low-maintenance and long-term plantings around a home’s foundation or as a low walkway edge, these woody plants can do so much more.

Whether you utilize their unusual characteristics, prune them into tight forms or design with them for wildlife, you can get creative with shrubs for a more interesting and unusual garden. Here are ideas for rethinking the basic shrub.

10 Small-Scale Agaves Just Right for Containers

“Small containers and only a little watering, what’s not to love about this idea?”
Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team
There are more than 200 species of agave, ranging in size from 6 inches to more than 12 feet wide. Due to their modest size and compact root systems, smaller agave species make an excellent choice for growing in containers. They require only infrequent watering and do well in summer, even in the heat. Their spiky shapes add dramatic interest to many garden spaces, big or small, along with patios, poolsides and entryways and as outdoor table centerpieces.

Here are 10 agave species that are perfect for smaller areas, with varying cold tolerances, exposure requirements and sizes to ensure there is one right for you.