a new trend to hit downtown Albany
By Rebecca Eppelmann
Finding a home and planting down roots is a right of passage everyone experiences. But these days “home” isn’t always the traditional house in the suburbs. Slowly, and for many people, that is changing. If you believe the famous Hollywood mantra, “If you build it, they will come”, then your thinking is in line with many developers in the Capital Region who are tapping into a new trend—urban living.
At a time when local and national headlines are infused with rumors over the possibility of a recession and a downturn in the housing market, the Canadian-based Norstar Group is busy selling luxury skyline condos at 733 Broadway in downtown Albany. Since opening their Albany sales office almost three months ago, the company has sold over 40 of the 125 luxury condos, grossing more than $11 million in sales. Prices range between $179,000 to over $500,000.
The Capital Grand Sky Suites are attracting a variety of people. The sales office, which more closely resembles an upscale art gallery, is lined with floor plans for each individual model of Sky Suite, a term coined by Mitch Markowitz, director of sales and marketing for Norstar. You can tour the fully decorated “Hudson” model, which displays many of the standard features of the suites including: stainless steel appliances, hardwood floors and ceramic tiles.
What’s impressive about the unit’s strong pre-sales is that completion is still two years away. The current building will be torn down in December and a new nine-story building will be erected. Move in dates are slated for December 2010.
Capital Grand, within walking distance to the Palace Theatre, is the first of its kind in Albany, making it attractive to first-time home buyers, as well as seasoned real estate veterans. While a house in the suburbs is appealing to many who want the white picket fence version of the American dream, it does come with home and property maintenance.
Urban living bypasses all of that. Those interested in the condos are drawn to the ease of care, the amenities and the location. Residents do not have to worry about mowing, raking or shoveling. What they get, among many other features, include indoor parking, a roof-top terrace and a fitness center. There are 16 models to choose from, with footage ranging from 574 sq. ft to 2,062 sq. ft.
One big draw for buyers is the tax incentive—for the first seven years residents will not pay over $300 in property taxes.
Why did Norstar choose downtown Albany to build? According to Markowitz, “It’s time downtown Albany grew up and it only takes one person to get the ball rolling.” His version of “growing up” is a double entendre: Albany will vertically grow, but will also grow in terms of the increased style and class of living. Though Norstar is not the only company to offer luxury living to urban residents, they are among an elite group able to actually deliver. Earlier this year NADC, a Brooklyn-based company which owns the Mooradians Furniture building in Troy, scrapped plans to turn the waterfront property into condos citing, among other reasons, that their project “faced steep competition” from The Capital Grand.
Markowitz is not the only one excited to be the first to offer condos in an area known more for restaurants and entertainment than its housing. Andrea Jimenez and Chris Kullman, who purchased the “Westchester” model, are excited to be among the first buyers.
Kullman, a union plumber, and Jimenez, a mortgage consultant, wanted to try city living while still young. Both are excited about the move to a more urban setting for the nightlife, easy access to both 787 and the Corning Preserve. This will be the couple’s first residence together. Jimenez currently owns a house in Albany, which she plans to rent.
“We wanted to try living in the city before getting too far into our lives,” said Jimenez, who felt confident buying a new home in this housing market since, she said, Albany had not been hit as hard as the national average.
Though it’s a first in downtown Albany it certainly isn’t the first in the area. Over in Lansingburgh, you’ll find the Power Park Lofts. Jeff Pfeil, president of the company, chose Troy for its beauty, the fact that it’s a walkable city and for its abundance of historical architecture.
The lofts are spacious with open floor plans and housed in a former old factory building. “The Capital Region had a need for loft style living,” Pfeil said.
Feedback from residents has been “nothing but positive,” which is also true, he said, of their Old Conservatory apartment project, also in Troy.
Similar results have come from Harmony Mills Lofts, located in Cohoes on the banks of the Mohawk River. The site of the world famous Harmony Mills, which produced garments for a large portion of the US population in the late 1800s, the rental apartments offer loft-style living similar to that found in New York City.
Property Manager Cindy Hall describes the view as “very majestic and soothing on both the river and city sides.”
Much like Capital Grand and Powers Park Lofts, Harmony Mills offers many amenities to ease the lives of its’ residents.
It’s important to note that keeping the integrity of each of the building’s respective cities is a top priority of each of the companies. When buildings are renovated or in some cases, reconstructed, the architecture and history of the city does not falter with the new additions.
When it comes to urban living, young couples are hardly the only ones interested in buying. This lifestyle change is perfect for those who don’t want to deal with maintenance and for empty nesters in suburbia who are ready for a new chapter, as well as professionals of all ages. The Capital Grand is only the beginning of the new residential trend for Albany. There are plans for a new 11-story luxury apartment, as well as a six-story boutique hotel under the development of another company.
For more information on The Capital Grand visit www.thecapitalgrand.com.
A resident of Menands, Rebecca Eppelmann holds a degree in Public Communication from The College of Saint Rose and freelances in her spare time.
Monograms find a new home on walls
Symbols representing families are as old as carvings in caves. The Japanese have kamons —simple symbols indicating familial associations typically used on clothing or weapons. The indigenous cultures of the Pacific Northwest have totem poles — the word “totem” is derived from a word meaning “his kinship group.” The Scots famously have tartans — plaid fabrics claimed by extended families or “clans.” Europeans have coats of arms; and Americans proudly display their monogram.
Admirers of monograms have always appreciated the air of elegance that a simple letter (or two or three) can lend to stationery, luggage, sheets and towels. Increasingly, though, monograms are becoming art.
Mary McPhail, owner of Wonderful Graffiti, a company that specializes in monograms as wall art, speculates that the growing popularity of family monograms as art stems from several trends. “Remember that today’s homeowners have grown up surrounded by corporate logos. They understand that logos are designed to immediately elicit recognition and superiority, trust, admiration and loyalty,” McPhail says. If a company’s symbol can convey all that meaning, surely the symbol of a family can convey meaning too.
“I just think there’s a stronger sense of family these days. Maybe it’s from 9/11; maybe it’s in response to an increasingly crowded world,” says McPhail. “Whatever it is, people seem to want to demonstrate their family pride in beautiful ways, while making their home unmistakably theirs.”
What’s a monogram?
A monogram, strictly defined, is a motif made by overlapping or entwining two or more letters to form one symbol. It can also be a letter or letters combined with other graphic elements, like leaves or flowers, to form one symbol.
A sequence of uncombined initials, such as “tCm”, is properly referred to as a cipher, although ciphers are frequently referred to as monograms. A full name isn’t, strictly speaking, a monogram either, but they’re commonly used and referred to as monograms.
Where do monograms go?
A large family monogram, hung over a fireplace mantel, reinforces an already powerful focal point. A large monogram over a master-suite bed is not just a strong focal point, it’s also wildly romantic. Etiquette expert Emily Post says that, in a couple’s monogram, the woman’s first initial appears on the left, the groom’s first initial on the right, and the shared last name initial in the middle.
A monogram over an entry table is an arresting way to welcome visitors. Try nestling your monogram into an array of framed family photos, perhaps on a hallway wall or in the family room. Small monograms are fun in unexpected places, like over the hand towels in a guest bathroom or next to the key rack by the back door.
How do you turn your monogram into wall art? McPhail says that today there are a variety of choices. “We have all kinds of fun with names and initials. Want your last name in Morse code? We’ll send it to you ready to hang on artist’s canvas. Want your last initial made up of brushed aluminum dots that stick to the wall? What about a traditional circle monogram that looks like it’s been printed on the wall? We take monograms places they’ve never been before.”
For more information on monograms or to make your monogram into a personalized piece of art, visit www.WonderfulGraffiti.com.
Courtesy of ARA Content
Backyard garden becomes a destination
As today’s homeowners re-evaluate their spending, chances are they may be reconsidering any luxurious vacation plans. This year the backyard is a destination, as homeowners just might prefer to create their own personal paradise and put the extravagant getaway on hold.
Expect the following outdoor living and lifestyle trends to flourish in 2008.
Wise with water
“Drip irrigation, rain gardens, rain barrels and drought-resistant plants will grow in popularity this year,” says Amy Gath, outdoor living and gardening expert at The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company. “Accessories like rain barrels will no longer be the utilitarian 50-gallon drum, but will be a cool, functional fashion piece in the yard.”
As homeowners re-evaluate water use, lawn-care habits may change. One way to help the lawn become more water-efficient is to mow high and often, never removing more than one-third of the grass blade. This helps grass absorb water and encourages deeper root growth, allowing the grass to save more water. Feeding regularly is also important to maintaining a healthy lawn that can absorb and use water more efficiently. Look for lawns to be kept fuller, instead of cropped short.
Several regions of the country are recovering from drought, so reviving the garden will be important this season. Start by clearing out dead annuals and cutting back damaged perennials to reveal green and healthy stems. Bed plants benefit from a layer of mulch to retain moisture, and if possible, revive potted plants in a tray of water until the soil’s surface is wet.
Most homeowners don’t have hours to spend pampering plants. Some may want the beauty of a garden, but not the time commitment. Easy-to-grow-and-care-for plants that require less spraying and less pruning are rising in popularity.
Plants such as rose of Sharon and butterfly bush are simple to maintain and great additions to any garden. Another tip is to use time-saving products like Miracle-Gro Watering Can Singles, water-soluble plant food pre-measured in a packet ready to be poured into a watering can.
No matter how convenient it is to buy veggies at the supermarket, there’s a satisfaction that comes from enjoying homegrown produce. Vegetable and herb gardening are growing trends this year. But gardeners won’t be planting huge crops, and instead will do vegetable gardening in containers.
“Container gardening is hotter than ever,” says Gath. “The smaller surface area in the container makes things easier to control.” Not only are containers convenient, but a cluster of pretty little pots growing leafy herbs like basil or parsley makes an excellent decorative addition to any deck.
There’s no place like home
This year homeowners will reflect their indoor style in outdoor decor. A hot trend right now is earthy, natural-toned plants punctuated by bright splashes of color. Flowers with invigorating hues like bright blue, sunny yellow, Rococo red and deep blue with violet undertones are striking against muted browns and greens. Many of these color palettes are inspired by fashion and interior decorating trends.
Now more than ever the backyard is the most popular place to retreat. People are designing and enjoying outdoor entertaining spaces as a true extension of their homes. Lawn and garden products and décor will become increasingly important to maintaining these valued spaces. For example, a fire pit is upgraded to an outdoor fireplace and the grill is swapped out for a mini-kitchen.
Loving the locals
Local farmers’ markets and flower stands are becoming increasingly popular as more gardeners discover the varieties of vegetable seedlings and native plant species local stands often offer. Most markets are open only during the summer, so take advantage of them for warm-weather planting.
For more helpful tips on garden and outdoor-inspired living, visit www.scotts.com.
Courtesy of ARA Content
Gazebos bring indoor comfort outside
For busy folks who don’t have the time or the know-how to transform their outdoor space into a cozy garden room, outdoor structures like gazebos are a dream-come-true. Homeowners are turning to gazebos to transform their backyards into stylish outdoor living spaces, complete with indoor comforts.
Chet Beiler, owner of Amish Country Gazebos (www.amishgazebos.com), the nation’s leading retailer of custom-crafted gazebos, agrees. “People today want a covered retreat that adds distinction to their outdoor living areas,” says Beiler. “They are looking for a focal point for their landscape, a way to upgrade their current deck, a special spot next to the pool to get away from the hot summer sun.”
Gazebos have been a backyard staple for centuries. From ancient times, Egyptian and Roman gardens were a focal point of entertainment and leisurely activities. Today, these architecturally and aesthetically pleasing outdoor escapes are an extension of your living space — providing enjoyment and cool breezes on sultry summer days, a serene retreat, a relaxing nook to cuddle with a favorite book, and a charming yet functional room for entertaining.
Beiler says the first thing to consider before installing a gazebo is space and scale. “The larger your outdoor area, the bigger the gazebo you should install,” he says. “Decide if you want your gazebo to be a focal point in a corner of the yard, a poolside bungalow, or a great room with kitchen and dining areas. That will help you determine the best shape and size to suit your needs.”
These current gazebo trends help you achieve the look and function to fit your needs:
When it comes to landscape design, a gazebo is the finishing touch as an accent or backdrop in any landscape. Select a spot that draws the eye to the gazebo and creates a focal point of interest.
When selecting a gazebo, try to keep a unifying theme such as the same color or style that is consistent with your home’s architectural design. Continue this theme by matching the roofing tiles with your home’s or consider using materials or a “motif” that connects the gazebo to the house: wrought iron ornamentation, a shell or pineapple motif, the use of slate, or native stone.
Escape from the hot summer sun is just one of the many reasons people install gazebos. Poolside, they provide ample shade, a place for relaxing with the family, or to entertain friends. Add some curtains that can be pulled for privacy and you have an instant ‘changing room.’ Add a splash of color with gorgeous floral and plant arrangements, and your pool is transformed, rivaling the best resorts, in your mini “tropical paradise.”
Deck or patio enhancements
Adding a gazebo to an existing deck or patio is a great way to expand your living space without breaking your budget. Today’s new outdoor rooms are being used in traditional ways for living space or for dining and cooking, complete with kitchens, ceiling fans and mood lighting.
Today’s gazebos are great for multi-tasking spaces; serving as offices or recreation rooms by day – and intimate dining rooms at night. Trendy homeowners are wiring their gazebos for computers or flat screen televisions, or adding mega grills for entertaining.
The great room
The biggest trend in outdoor living is living large outdoors — literally. Outdoor rooms are clearly reflecting our indoor trends, with gazebos leading the way as the new “great room.” Homeowners are installing very large gazebos, such as 40-foot rectangular options, which offer enough living space for a kitchen with a grill and refrigerator, a table for eight, and a few oversized chairs. It’s the ultimate outdoor room with all the indoor comfort and style today’s homeowners demand.
To create your perfect gazebo, visit www.amishgazebos.com where you’ll find design ideas to build a virtual prototype. Select from an array of beautiful and functional designs and extra features. You can either build it yourself or have Amish Country Gazebos’ experienced craftsmen install it for you.
These gazebos are hand crafted by Amish carpenters and are available in either wood or maintenance-free vinyl. Starting at $1,695 they are a priceless investment with a life-time guarantee.
Order online or call (800) 700.1777 for a free 40-page idea book filled with photos of dozens of home gazebos in real backyards, design tips and a complete collection of gazebo styles and accents.
Courtesy of ARA Content
Backyard landscaping changes ‘blah’ to ‘aha’ with hot tubs
With the housing market in a slump, more homeowners are putting efforts into smart updates of their current property. For many, this means creating the ultimate relaxation destination right in their backyard. Hot tubs and strategic landscaping improvements are leading the trend as homeowners are changing their simple backyards into peaceful havens their family and friends can enjoy.
If you have been thinking about updating your property, don’t be overwhelmed by the many options available. Customizing your backyard with a hot tub and appropriate landscaping is much easier than you think.
“The first step in creating your dream backyard is to scout out the best location to place your hot tub. Ponder the view, privacy and ease of access. Keeping your spa just steps from a backdoor to your home is a great convenience on cold evenings,” advises Erica Moir of Jacuzzi Hot Tubs. “But before you settle on a location, take a chair and place it in the spots you are considering. Pre-planning and a touch of creativity are critical to the success of any backyard design project.”
Recently, the two largest manufacturers of acrylic hot tubs sponsored backyard design contests for designers and hot tub installers around the world. You can learn from the experts. Here are some hot tips for landscaping around your hot tub, drawn from the award-winning entries received by Jacuzzi Hot Tubs and Sundance Spas:
1. Mix landscaping elements for visual appeal.
Use various types of architectural and landscape materials in interesting ways. Natural stone, brick, block, synthetic or wood decking, waterfalls, fencing, grass and flowering foliage all come together to create a varied and visually stimulating area.
2. Plants and decor provide privacy.
Gazebos, pergolas, screens, shrubs and strategically-placed walls afford modesty and essential privacy for the backyard and hot tub serenity zone. If you are planting trees or shrubs, consider the plant’s eventual maximum size and place accordingly. Surrounding the space with dense plant life creates a cocoon of intimacy. Many people choose evergreen plants because their thick covering lasts through all seasons, including the cold winter months.
3. Customize for an integrated look.
Every backyard is unique and each hot tub installation can be customized to integrate seamlessly into your landscape elements. One popular trend is to recess a portion of the hot tub below ground level. Another customized look is to tuck a hot tub into the side of a slope. The possibilities are endless. Consult a professional hot tub retailer for advice on the particular attributes of your backyard.
4. Water features create a tranquil environment.
Select a hot tub with a built-in waterfall or water feature. These features bring the feeling of peace and serenity to your hot tub experience. Look for models that will run the water feature even when the main hot tub pumps are not on so that you can enjoy the sounds of nature any time.
5. Lighting effects set the mood.
Today’s hot tubs have amazing, energy-efficient, multi-color LED lighting effects both under water and around the exterior. But don’t stop there. Consider the pathway from the house to the hot tub and ensure that you provide adequate lighting for those late night soaks. Lighting is an attractive feature that keeps the area safe and sets the mood and tone of the hot tub experience.
Ready to get started changing your backyard into a spa-like retreat? “After you have your plan, it’s very important to take a tape measure, then mark out the space using masking tape or chalk,” adds Anthony Pasquarelli of Sundance Spas. “That’s the only way you’ll be able to see how much room you have for all the elements you want to include.”
For more great landscaping ideas and to see more award-winning backyards, visit www.JacuzziHotTubs.com and www.SundanceSpas.com.
Nothing to sneeze at
Tips for allergy-free living
By Ciara McCann
As winter turns to spring and snowflakes turn into the yellow haze of pollen, many Americans are stricken with allergies.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 50 million Americans suffer from all kinds of allergies (that’s one in five people), and it is the fifth leading chronic disease in the U.S. among all ages.
An allergy is an overreaction of the body to a normally harmless substance. These harmless substances are also known as allergens, which come in the form of tiny particles that can be easily transferred via air, physical contact and other means. When the allergens land on the lining of the eyes and nose and/or are inhaled into the lungs, allergic symptoms result. Typical symptoms are sneezing, runny nose, itchy swelling eyes, congestion or hives.
Although their goal is an innocent one—to fertilize parts of other plants each spring, summer and fall—pollen particles sometimes never reach their targets and instead end up in our lungs causing intense allergic reactions. Barricading yourself indoors for months on end isn’t realistic, so here are some tips that can help reduce your suffering.
• Take your medicine. If you have been tested for allergies and your doctor has given you a prescription, start it early. This will ensure it is working and effective by the time the first pollen storm hits.
• Shut your windows. Keeping windows closed will prevent pollen sneaking in on windy days. If you love the fresh air, try using a window filter. This goes for car windows as well. “We recommend using air conditioners in the home to filter the air,” said Registered Nurse Julie Ragozzino from Albany ENT & Allergy Services.
• Check the forecast and shower it off. You can check the pollen count on your local weather station or online to see if it is high. Avoid going out between 5am and 10am if you can, as this is when pollen is usually emitted. “Showering at the end of the day to remove pollen particles is also a good idea,” said Ragozzino.
• Take a vacation. Allergies really bad and nothing is working? Consider taking a vacation when it is the height of pollen season. Travel to pollen-free areas like the beach or sea.
Spring and summer are peak times to develop a seasonal grass allergy. Caused by weed-like grasses that are allowed to flower, sap from cut grass can become airborne, which, when inhaled induces symptoms.
• See a doctor. Antihistamines are usually prescribed to curb grass allergy development and treat existing symptoms.
• Avoid exposure. Limit the time you spend outside when conditions are bad. You can even try wearing a mask to prevent inhaling any grass pollens. Also, have someone else mow the lawn and weed the garden. If you like working outside in your yard, wear clothes and a hat that can be taken off before entering your home so you don’t spread the allergens through the house.
Just because you have outdoor allergies doesn’t mean you have to become a hermit. Take preventative measures and avoid exposing yourself to the elements when you don’t have to.
In the home
It is important to know where allergens are in the home and how to reduce their effects in order to make it a more comfortable environment for you and your family.
There are thousands of types of molds in the environment and they can be found wherever there is moisture, oxygen and a source of the few other chemicals they need. When inhaled, these microscopic fungal spores or fragments of fungi may cause allergic reactions.
Popular spots for mold to grow in the home include damp basements or closets, bathrooms, refrigerators, house plants, air conditioners, garbage pails, mattresses, humidifiers and places where fresh food is stored.
• Stop any leaks. Remember that mold loves damp conditions so the area under your leaky kitchen sink could turn into a mold paradise. In the same vein, check houseplant soil to make sure it is not always very moist, as this will attract spores also.
• Pay special attention to your basement. This is where you are likely to have the biggest problem with mold. “In this area especially, you see a lot of snow and rain which can flood basements,” said Ragozzino. Be watchful and try to keep it as dry as possible and consider using an air purifier that emits negative ions and ozone. This will remove the spores from the air and reduce the allergic reactions you may suffer.
• Clean, clean, clean! Cleaning surfaces like the shower floor and walls, the bottom of your fridge and underneath it, and around the sink and toilet with bleach will help protect your house as well.
We all love our faithful, furry friends, but let’s be honest, they can wreak havoc on our allergies. If getting rid of your pet is simply not an option, there are ways to reduce the sneezing and itching they can cause.
• Set boundaries. First, the bedroom should be off-limits. This should be an allergy-free zone so ban your pet from sleeping on your bed or even letting them in the room altogether! If they do happen to sneak in or you can’t help but cuddle them to sleep, wash all bedding, including blankets, comforters, mattress pads, etc., in 140 degree hot water at least twice monthly. Keeping pillows and pillowcases clean is especially important because this is what comes in contact with your nose, eyes and mouth. Consider putting them on a shelf when you wake up in the morning, or making sure they are completely covered by your sheets and comforter.
• Wash and groom your pet regularly. This will reduce unwanted allergens. For cats that won’t go in the tub, try Allerpet, a well-known brand of liquid available from your local veterinarian. It can be applied to your cats’ coat and will reduce allergens let loose in the air. Adds Ragozzino: “Remember to take a shower yourself after grooming pets.” If you can’t shower right away, at least wash your hands.
• Don’t stop cleaning yet! As with mold, you want to make sure to thoroughly clean your house if you have pets too. Vacuuming carpet, flooring, walls, chairs and furniture with a high-grade HEPA vacuum once or twice a week will suck up all that pesky dander (not to mention house guests will be impressed with how spotless your home is!).
If all this doesn’t work and you still find yourself sniffling every time Rover walks by, it might be time to consider getting a fish tank.
Experts claim that up to 2,000 dust mites can live in one ounce of mattress dust. If this doesn’t keep you up all night with the heebie-jeebies, your allergies just might.
• Wash and spray. Dust mites feed on dead skin that sheds from our bodies. Just like with pet dander, allergens from dust mites can be prevented by frequent laundering of bedding in very hot water. You can also purchase allergen spray at your local home store or supermarket that can be sprayed on mattresses.
• Ditch the carpet. “You should really avoid carpeting, especially in the bedroom,” said Ragozzino. Going with hardwood floors, or even tile, will help you avoid all the dust mites that live in your carpet and greatly reduce your symptoms.
• Safeguard toys. Dust mites can also lurk on your child’s favorite stuffed animals. Be sure to wash them just as you do with your bedding. Or, place it in a plastic zipper bag and put it in the freezer overnight. The cold will kill the dust mites and your child will be safe to play another day.
No home can ever be completely allergy-free (unless life in a bubble sounds appealing), but don’t think you are helpless when it comes to reducing harmful allergens. By making sure your house is clean, washing bedding frequently and being watchful for leaks and noticeable dampness, you’ll be able to relax, stop itching and breathe a little easier in your new sanctuary.
Spring garden fixes safely fend off furry friends
With the arrival of spring also come the families of groundhogs, rabbits, squirrels, deer and other troublesome animals, each ready to pounce and plunder your garden, digging burrows where they’re not wanted, and otherwise coming into conflict with their human neighbors.
But these creatures don’t have to be the enemy of our gardens, and trapping them won’t solve their relationship problems with humans. As we all are well aware, the arrival of spring brings the wildlife out of hibernation, and most likely right into our backyards and gardens. As spring is sprung, we suddenly are faced with long gardening to-do lists and a wide variety of pesky critters.
As a rule of thumb, it is far better to prevent wildlife damage than to wait until it occurs and try to combat it. This spring, Messina Wildlife Management can help you protect your beautiful backyards and your gardens with a full line of OMRI certified (100 percent) organic animal repellents. The products are all easily applied in a ready to use spray-on bottle. They dry clear, are all pleasant smelling, and work for 30 days before reapplication is needed, no matter the weather. The full product line can even be used on edibles, and none of the products cause harm or physical irritation to the animals they repel. The products work by smell and taste, repelling pesky critters from your backyard, and they’re all pleasant smelling and safe to humans.
1. Groundhogs: During the spring, summer and early fall, the Marota monax, also known as the Woodchuck, Whistlepig, or Groundhog, is a voracious, wild herbivore. It’s the groundhog’s goal to eat as much as possible which puts him on a collision course with your garden.
Groundhogs are tunnel boring pests that can cause damage to your garden in two ways. First, they eat vegetables in the garden, attacking both the root crops and above ground crops. A second problem with tunneling rodents is the mass disruption of root systems, this weakens and can even kill the plants.
2. Rabbits: These furry creatures seem to multiply at the advent of every spring. They come out to feed overnight and in the predawn/dawn hours. Rabbits are accountable for severe damage to woody plants in your home landscape. The damage can be identified by the characteristic appearance of gnawing on older woody growth and the clean-cut, angled clipping of young stems. Distinctive round droppings in the immediate area are a good sign of their presence.
Luckily, 90 percent of the rabbit’s diet is grass. Those of us that have rabbit damage would swear that 90 percent of the damage they cause is to our gardens and expensive flowers! The browsing of a rabbit will usually be no higher than 2.5 feet above ground.
3. Deer: For non-gardener’s, there’s a captivating fascination with spotting a deer in a field, or perhaps in your yard. For gardener’s, it can be quite the opposite. You love the sight of deer, anywhere but in your garden. Yet, they seem impossible to keep away. Deer are responsible for a considerable amount of damage to plant and vegetable gardens. To determine if your flowers and vegetables are disappearing due to deer damage look closely at the half eaten plants. If you see a jagged, rough edge you can be sure the damage was done by deer as they have no incisor teeth and tear at the food source, leaving tell-tale signs of their presence.
4: Squirrels and chipmunks: These cute, furry, funny creatures can be quite destructive when it comes to your gardens and landscapes. Both ground squirrels and chipmunks are burrowing animals. Their burrow entrances are always open, unlike those of pocket gophers who plug theirs with soil.
Ground squirrels and chipmunks can be seen foraging for food during the day. In nature, they feed on green leafy material during the summer and switch to seeds and grains during the fall and winter. One of the biggest complaints about squirrels and chipmunks is their attraction to wild bird feeders. They not only devour the feed, they scare the birds away.
For most animals scent and taste are the primary senses that attract them to food sources. If you disrupt the animal’s sense of smell and taste you have won the battle against the constant parade of critters in your landscapes.
Visit www.messinawildlifemanagement.com for more information on safe, effective pest repellents.
Courtesy of ARA Content
Throwing a garden party
By Rebecca S. Eppelmann
Spring is here, so it’s finally time to put those cabin fever parties behind us and welcome the season that brings us renewed life in the form of, among other things, flowers. As gardener and author Ruth Stout once said, “I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden.” For those who have never held a garden party and for those who have, but are always looking for new ideas, here are some tips to help your garden party blossom!
• First thing’s first: Have a garden! This one seems obvious, however not all of us have acres of land strewn with beautiful blooming flowers. Don’t fret—not all garden parties are set in Victorian backdrops. Patios and decks will do just fine. You can bring in potted plants or flower boxes surrounding the perimeter of your space to add the same ambiance with the added benefit of sticking to a color theme. If you do have an expansive lawn and flower gardens, try to keep your guests to a predetermined area. Having a lot of space doesn’t mean unnecessarily spacing people out—remember, it’s a social event!
• Invitations. Rule number one: Keep your guests in mind. A lot will depend greatly on how the event is presented to them, and you want to make your guests as comfortable as possible. You can make it elegant, whimsical or keep it casual. Whichever style you choose, it should come across on the invitation. Check out your Hallmark store or favorite discount store such as Target for invitations. Or, go online and send an e-vite (www.evite.com). If you’re creative, you can always custom design your own invitations using Photoshop or Quark.
• Themes. If your party is going to have a theme, state it on the invitation. If you’re going with a Hawaiian theme, you could buy leis, drink umbrellas and grass skirts and serve pina colada’s in coconuts. Stores this season are even selling giant, fake palm trees with white lights. Consider a hat theme and invite guests to wear their most lavish hat. If you just bought your house and have yet to start gardening, ask each guest to bring their favorite potted flower or a pack of seeds.
Think carefully of the theme and try to tie it to everything from the invitation to the menu. But remember: A theme is certainly not necessary to have a good time.
• Décor. Your garden may be the setting, but it doesn’t have to steal the spotlight. An evening party affords you the luxury of choosing lighting, while a daytime party won’t need much in the way of additional lights or lamps. Sure, you could string white Christmas lights around the deck or on bushes, or you can take it up a notch and head to your local garden center or discount store for string lights in shapes such as flowers, butterflies, dragonflies and giant bulb shapes, as well as various sized paper lanterns. Be sure to remember to place citronella candles around to keep the bugs at bay. Also, don’t forget to put out a basket full of bug sprays and sunscreen.
• Menu. Choosing food will depend on what time of day your party is and on how much time you want to spend preparing, not to mention your budget. Wine, cheese, and fruit, veggies and dips are all great options if you’re sticking to a light food fare. Not to mention they’re easy to prepare. Finger foods are very popular: such as cucumber sandwiches, stuffed mushrooms and bruschetta. If you really don’t have time to do the work, pick up a platter of fresh fruits, vegetables, or deli meats and cheeses. For a somewhat heavier cuisine, grilling is a great way to welcome the warm weather. Chicken or steak with vegetables or potatoes can be a light or heavy meal depending on the portion size. Placing the meat on a fresh salad is a great spring choice, just be sure to have a variety of dressings available to your guests. To add flavor with little effort, marinate the meat for a few hours before cooking it. For refreshments, soda, juice, water or wine and wine spritzers are simple options. With a little effort, punches can be made with ease with fresh or frozen juices, sherbet and ginger ale. Set everything out in a galvanized beverage tub so people can help themselves.
Spring is a great time to get friends together and enjoy the great outdoors! These tips will help add a touch of elegance to your garden party, but keep in mind that gatherings such as these can be as fancy or relaxed as you’d like.
Old-world doors popular trend
Drive around the streets of your neighborhood and chances are you’ll notice a trend: garage doors are more than just the typical, plain white metal door. Instead, overhead doors are making quite an impression from the curb; not only sprucing up the home, but in many cases, giving it a whole new look as well.
What seems to be increasingly popular today is the carriage-style door. You’ll find these doors—a throwback to the pre-automobile era—on various style homes in
the area, from Colonials to ranches to Cape Cods, as well as on new construction.
“The majority of homes in this area have a front load garage,” said Corine Osborne, residential sales associate for Overhead Door Company of Albany, Inc. in Clifton Park. “Changing your door is a real easy way to change the look of the front of your house without doing carpentry.”
Starting at $1,100-1,400 per door, it’s an affordable way to add a little old-world charm to your home.
Spring decorating pick-me-ups
• Spruce up your couch with a light-colored slip cover. Add accent pillows in bright colors to give it a totally new look.
• Adding a throw to your couch will also add a nice touch. Try one with an interesting texture or pattern.
• In the bathroom: change your shower curtain and add matching accessories or rugs.
• In the dining room: add a splash of color with new place mats and dishes.
• Use ribbons, beads, or cords to trim lamp shades and give them a new look.
• In family spaces where privacy isn’t an issue, strip your windows of their blinds, shades and curtains. This will make the room look bigger and add a lot of extra natural light.
• Adding mirrors to the wall will also make your room look larger, just make sure they are reflecting a nice view or element of the room.
• Add plants and greenery to any room to give it a breath of fresh air. Try silk plants and trees that look like the real thing if you don’t have a green thumb.
• Switch out the area or accent rugs in a room for a different pattern or color.
• Cleaning up and eliminating clutter from a room will instantly give it a facelift and make the room look bigger.
• Rearrange furniture to switch up traffic flow or create separate spaces in your room.
• Add a touch of class and change the feel of a room by hanging black and white photos on the wall.
• Paint your kitchen cabinets a new color, or even a fresh coat of the same one they already are to add an updated feel.
• Candles are also an inexpensive and attractive way to quickly change the feel of any room. They instantly add warmth, even when they are not lit.
• To give your bedroom a lighter feel for spring and summer, change your comforter and pillows from darker shades to very light tones.
• Fresh flowers not only make a room smell wonderful, but are a great way to bring the feel of spring inside.
• Swap your old light switch with a dimmer switch and bulbs. With the ability to control just how bright your room is, you can give it whatever feel you’d like.
Make your home an energy saver
Home Performance with ENERGY STAR®reduces energy use and cost by up to 40 percent
For residents who want to improve the comfort, energy efficiency and overall performance of their homes, Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® offers comprehensive and quality solutions with significant financial incentives.
Sponsored by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), Home Performance with ENERGY STAR helps households (one- to four-family homes) reduce energy costs by up to 40 percent.
“Our specially-trained contractors are accredited by the Building Performance Institute and take a ‘whole-house’ approach to home energy improvements,” said NYSERDA President and CEO Paul D. Tonko. “Using tried and tested building science principles, they examine how the house operates as a system, testing the energy efficiency, as well as the health and safety of each home before and after any improvements are made.”
The first step is to schedule a comprehensive home assessment with a participating Home Performance with ENERGY STAR contractor, who will assess insulation and air infiltration levels, ventilation, heating and cooling equipment, air flow, appliances and lighting. Using the latest diagnostic tools, the contractor will identify what improvements can be made, the cost of making those improvements and what kinds of financial incentives, such as low-interest financing, are available.
“Contractors who participate in this program are able to provide financial incentives that other contractors cannot and they test the home when they’re finished to verify the results of the improvements,” said Tonko.
Is your home experiencing the following problems? If so, Home Performance with ENERGY STAR is the program for you.
• Ice damming—Icicles or ice build-up can damage roofs and eaves due to lack of insulation, air sealing, and/or ventilation problems in the attic. This means you are losing heat through your attic, causing snow and ice to melt on your roof.
• Drafty or cold rooms—Cold rooms or drafts can be a result of several things, including leaky doors, windows, lack of insulation, or leaky ductwork.
• High heating bills—Despite rising oil and natural gas prices, your furnace or boiler may be inefficient, especially if it is ten years old or older. High heating bills may also be a result of heat leaking out of your home due to lack of insulation, or air sealing problems.
For more information about Home Performance with ENERGY STAR and a list of participating contractors visit www.getenergysmart.org or call toll-free 1.877.NY.SMART (1.877.697.6278).
A love affair with the color “purple”
By Amy E. Tucker
Like many young girls, my favorite color was purple. My lilac-painted room was fashionably adorned with a complementary lavender bedspread, canopy and curtains and a few dozen proverbial stuffed animals. But, my real obsession with lilacs stemmed from the rows of lilac bushes that began outside my bedroom window and spanned the width and length of our one-acre backyard.
Each May, opening my windows filled my bedroom with the sweet-smelling fragrance of the lavender, plum-colored, lilac and French blue petals that danced in the spring breeze. Their short-lived lifespan failed to daunt me as I gathered armful-sized bouquets each morning to place strategically around our house.
Even today, for two weeks each spring, I’ve been known to drive around in search of yards with a widespread lilac representation. Then pulling my car to the side of the road, I’d bury my face in the fragrant bushes, inhaling the magical scent that reminds me of my childhood.
A multitude of variety
Flowering lilac bushes originated in the Balkans and Eastern Europe with a large variety of Asian lilacs as well. Known to florists by its genus name Syringa (pronounced sir-IN-ga), lilacs were introduced into America from England in 1750.
The name “lilac” can be traced to the Sanskrit word for “purple”. The genus derives from “syringe”, the Greek word for pipe, because its’ stems were once used to make musical pipes.
There are approximately 25 genus of lilac and they’ve blossomed into more than 1,000 varieties!
The primrose lilac features a rare and highly sought-after springtime bloom in a delicate shade of soft yellow. Sensation lilacs have dramatic, bicolor blooms of purple, elegantly trimmed in white and complemented by heart-shaped foliage. Their sweet scent makes a beautiful border shrub or a colorful hedge.
Variety names are as unique as their colors and the distinctive shapes of their blooms and leaves. Some of the more unusual names include: Pocahontas, President Lincoln, Yankee Doodle and Tinkerbelle.
Although lilacs display flowers that are among the most delicate of the ornamentals, the plants are among the most hardy, versatile shrubs grown and offer many opportunities to a garden design.
The most common lilac colors are lilac, lavender, white, pink, blue and purple. In addition, shades of mauve, violet and yellow have become very popular.
Both single and double-petal varieties exist, and bushes have been known to grow as tall as 30 feet. There are also dwarf sizes which only grow about three feet in height.
Flowering time is highly dependent on the species, cultivars and spring weather conditions. Most lilacs flower from mid-May to the first of June. However, early, warm conditions will stimulate earlier flowering. The purple-flowered varieties, which have the stronger scent, are only available for a short, six-week season. There are also early, mid-season and late-blooming cultivars. Choosing varieties from the various bloom times can afford you a colorful, sweet-smelling garden from spring to mid-summer.
Cultivation and care
Lilacs require a minimum amount of care and seldom need supplemental watering unless faced with a drought situation. They do, however need lots of sun. A minimum of six hours of direct sunlight is necessary to ensure abundant blooms.
Lilacs can grow throughout most of the United States and Canada, but perform best in cold temperature climates during their winter dormancy period. They grow best in U.S. hardiness zones 4-7, with warm-climate varieties available for zones 8 and 9. In the Capital Region, Albany, Schenectady and Rensselaer Counties fall within zone 5 and Saratoga County is classified as zone 4.
Lilac bushes grow quickly and can easily become 12-15 feet in width and height. Plant them at least 10 feet apart to allow room for them to expand. For yards with less space, try a mid-sized variety like Miss Kim or the Chinese Rothamagentis. Dwarf Lilac plants grow more slowly and work well in flower beds or as foundation shrubs.
Pruning is best done right after flowering, to preserve as many of next year’s flowers as possible. Lilacs attract a number of insects and diseases, with powdery mildew being the most common disease. The mildew appears on foliage in late summer, and leaves a whitish, felt-like, dusty appearance. This disease does little harm and control measures are not generally recommended.
Whatever varieties you choose for your property, lilacs provide a fragrant, colorful welcome to spring and a natural border or privacy barrier year round.
Festivals and viewing opportunities:
The following is a list of festivals and parks in the Northeast with some amazing viewing—and smelling—opportunities!
Saturdays in May
The Lilac Festival at the Wentworth Coolidge Mansion in Portsmouth, NH, features some of the oldest lilacs imported to North America. Visitors are invited to learn about lilac techniques and to purchase cuttings from descendants of the original lilacs here. The Saturday afternoon event is held on the campus of the royal governor’s mansion and includes house tours, art gallery display, lectures and the chance to walk the grounds along Little Harbor. For more information, visit: www.nhstateparks.com/coolidge.html or www.nhliving.com.
The Rochester Lilac Festival in Highland Park, NY attracts a half-million viewers from all over the world in the course of the 10-day festival. Started by Horticulturalist John Dunbar in 1892, the park now boasts more than 500 different varieties on 1200 bushes covering 22 acres. Festival activities are family-oriented and include everything from art to music. For more information visit www.lilacfestival.com.
The Annual Lilac Time Festival in Lisbon, NH, sponsored by the Lisbon Area Chamber of Commerce, has been held annually on Memorial Day weekend, since 1982. The three-day event boasts loads of family fun and several long-standing traditions. For more information, visit: www.nhliving.com/events/lilacfestival/index.shtml.
The Lilac Lane Pet Memorial Park on Route 10 in Delhi, NY was created in 2000 by Emily Marlin in conjunction with the Delaware County Historical Association, The Heart of the Catskills Humane Society and SUNY Delhi to commemorate the lives of donor’s pets. A $100 contribution purchases a lilac bush and bronze marker dedicated in your pet’s name which includes lifetime pruning and landscaping. More than 100 memorials have been placed to date and the park is open year-round for visitors. A free annual Memorial Day Weekend event features a guest speaker and ceremony. For more information, contact The Delaware County Historical Association at (607) 746.3849 or email@example.com.
May through September
The Lasdon Park and Arboretum in Somers, NY is a free 243-acre property consisting of woodlands, open grass meadows, formal gardens and tree, shrub and flower specimens from all over the world. Highlights include a 30-acre arboretum featuring a formal azalea garden, a magnolia and lilac collection, a rare Native American chestnut tree grove and a dwarf conifer collection of pines, spruces, firs and cypress. The park is owned and operated by Westchester County Parks and Recreation Department. For more information, visit: www.westchestergov.com/parks.
Amy Tucker is a freelance writer who resides in Clifton Park.
Planning your organic garden
By Charlie Nardozzi
Organic produce has become extremely popular as people look for fresh, chemical-free vegetables and fruits to eat. While it’s more widely available, probably the best way to insure that you and your family are eating organic food is to grow it yourself.
Growing your own organic garden isn’t rocket science. Follow these 10 basic steps to getting started this spring with a small, simple, yet productive organic garden. It will not only produce healthful vegetables to eat, it also will give you hours of relaxation as you work the soil and plants.
1) Find the right spot. Like real estate, a successful organic garden is all about the right location. Find a spot in your yard with full sun (at least 6 hours), well-drained soil, and one that’s within easy reach of the house.
2) Beef up the soil. Add organic matter such as grass clippings, leaves, compost, manure, hay and straw each fall. In spring, apply a 1/2- to 1-inch-thick layer of finished compost on beds before planting.
3) Raise it up. Create raised beds (8 to 10 inches high, 3 feet wide) by mounding the soil and flattening the top. Soil in raised beds warms up and dries out faster in spring and is easer to work. You can reform the beds each spring or make the beds permanent by framing them with rot-resistant wood, plastic or stone.
4) Grow what you like. Although it may seem obvious, grow crops you and your family love to eat. While bush beans, lettuces and tomatoes are some of the easiest vegetables to grow, if your family doesn’t enjoy them, why grow them?
5) Select the right varieties. Grow varieties of vegetables and fruits adapted to your area. Check with local garden centers and fellow gardeners to find the best varieties to grow.
6) Start with transplants. For the beginning gardener, purchase as many vegetables as possible as transplants from the garden center. Seeds are necessary for root crops, such as carrots and radishes, but transplants of most other vegetables are more likely to be a success.
7) Design properly. Design your garden with a mix of flowers, vegetables, fruits and herbs. A mixed planting is less likely to get completely destroyed by insect, animal or disease attacks.
8) Plant correctly. Follow package directions and plant at the proper spacing and depth. Thin seeded crops to the proper distance. Crowded plants become easily stressed and don’t produce well.
9) Mulch. Maintain constant soil moisture and keep weeds at bay by mulching. Mulch cool-season crops such as strawberries, broccoli and lettuce with a 2- to 3-inch-thick layer of hay, straw or grass clippings. Mulch warm-season crops such as tomatoes, melons and cucumbers with plastic mulch to heat the soil.
10) Check for insects. Inspect plants every few days for any insect activity. Handpick destructive insects and drop them in a can of soapy water.
Charlie Nardozzi, a nationally recognized garden writer, book author, speaker and radio and television personality, has appeared on HGTV, PBS and Discovery Channel television networks. He is the senior horticulturist and spokesperson for the National Gardening Association (www.garden.org) and Chief Gardening Officer for the Hilton Garden Inn.
Courtesy of Family Features
Sotheby’s International Realty
High-end realty in a down-turned market
By Amy E. Tucker
Saratoga Sotheby’s International Realty may be the new kid on the block, but they’re quickly putting their stamp on Capital Region real estate. The Saratoga franchise office of Sotheby’s launched in August 2007, modeling itself after an affiliation of luxury, franchised, residential, real estate firms that were all a part of an international network.
“That was the type of model that we wanted to follow for luxury homes in upstate New York,” said Sotheby Saratoga Broker and Owner Shane Newell. “We looked at other markets, but they didn’t qualify for the standard based on the number of luxury homes within the market. We really felt that Saratoga embodied the type of character that would qualify, and it did.”
A licensed NYS Real Estate Broker and career entrepreneur, Newell opened The Grist Mill Restaurant in Warrensburg (1986), Bruno’s of Saratoga (1987) and four additional restaurant concepts in the Saratoga area. In 2004, he became an independent real estate investor and consultant specializing in commercial real estate development and investment.
He partnered with Co-Broker/Owners John A. Burke, Jr., William (Bill) Parker and Harold W. Reiser III to launch Sotheby’s Saratoga last year. The company currently employs 11 agents who sell an average of six homes annually. By mid-March, the Saratoga franchise had closed 10 transactions in 2008 with another four pending, and had 57 current active listings. Another five agents are employed in their Lake Placid satellite office scheduled to open in May, a mere nine months after opening their Saratoga location.
“We employ agents with a certain level of experience and a ‘circle of influence’ [network] that’s around the listing price-point that we want to see,” said Newell. “We look for people that are used to dealing with distinctive properties and homes, and servicing clients in search of that unique fit.”
Beyond the agents, it’s truly their network of affiliates—with more than 90 offices in the downstate market—that sets Sotheby’s apart from other realty companies. They also represent the listing side of the transactions as well.
Most of the buyers that they attract to this area are from downstate. With offices in the Southern New Jersey, Southern New York, Northern Pennsylvania and Connecticut markets all funneling their clients and referrals into one office in Saratoga, it gives them an advantage to be able to sell these exclusive homes.
By comparison, Re/Max has three offices in Saratoga alone competing against each other for clients and listings.
“We really feel there’s a big advantage to our marketing platform,” Newell explained, “not only because it’s international, but because it has a nice, reversed-funnel effect directly to our market area.”
Rooms with a view
At Sotheby’s, a “room with a view” is merely a starting point.
“Two key words characterize a Sotheby property: distinctive and unique,” said Newell. “We don’t list properties based on their price point. Beyond remarkable grandeur or significant monetary value, a distinctive property may offer any number of exceptional, personalized features.”
These could include anything from historical significance, architectural beauty and panoramic views to the interior elegance found in a full-service condominium property. Interior square footage and acreage are secondary concerns to finding a home that supports a buyer’s dream lifestyle including everything from skiing, golf, equestrian, metro dining and boating to just simple, country living.
“Sotheby properties must deliver a choice lifestyle in a superior living space,” said Newell. ”That’s why we chose the name ‘Saratoga’ to brand our franchise; it’s a nationally recognized name associated with history, horses, spring water and American heritage.”
They have properties listed throughout New York State—from Saratoga to the Adirondacks to the Finger Lakes region of Western New York.
Among Sotheby’s listings is the Twin Spruce Farm, a luxury equestrian estate in Marbletown, located an hour south of Albany near Kingston. The Dutch colonial, stone house (circa 1775) was restored by renowned architect Alan Wanzenberg and features five fireplaces, a painting studio, guest house, a green house, open gazebos by the pool and a 21-stall equestrian center with an Olympic-sized heated arena. The crowning touch is the original Frank Lloyd Wright window at the top of the main staircase.
Another listing west of Albany is the Amsterdam Castle, a 36,000 square foot private residence listed on the