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Pacific Northwest Gardener: What To Do In May

Take advantage of May’s warmth to prune spring blooms and plant vegetables and annuals for a summer bounty.

May is the first month when the Pacific Northwest really starts to shake off the dreary doldrums of winter. All that sunshine means it’s a good idea to check irrigation systems in time for summer watering. We also get to look forward to the bounty of blooms and vegetables we’d like to enjoy, since now’s the time to plant heat-loving flowers and crops. But don’t forget to clean up after spring’s plants so they can preserve nutrients and be ready for a repeat performance next year. Read on to learn how to do these tasks, plus more, to have a beautiful May garden.
traditional patio by Aiken House & Gardens Choose flowering clematis vines at the nursery. Clematis vines have some of the biggest, most dramatic blooms of any plant in the Northwest, and now is the time to buy them at the nursery for the best selection. They’re newly out of dormancy and just starting to bloom, so you can see the color from the flower itself, not the tag. Favorites include Clematis “Niobe” with deep red blooms, and Clematis “Jackmanii” for a rich purple.landscape File:Rheum rhabarbarum.2006-04-27.uellue.jpg Harvest rhubarb. Now’s the time to harvest cherry-red rhubarb stems to make delicious pies, desserts and crumbles. Rhubarb is at its most tender right now, and since the plant often goes dormant in summer’s heat, this is the perfect time to pick. However, don’t cut the stems, since that can cause rot to enter the crown of the plant. Instead, grasp each stalk at the base and pull with a gentle twisting motion.traditional landscape by Genevieve SchmidtRemove spent flowers from spring bloomers. May is also the time of year to begin deadheading rhododendrons, which bloom in spring. Once the petals have gone brown, grasp each flower cluster at the base and bend sideways to snap off the dead bloom. This preserves the plants’ energy, since they won’t waste nutrients making seeds, and also helps prevent diseases, which can linger in old flower petals.
traditional landscape by AHBL
Mind the bulbs. Spring bulbs such as tulips and daffodils put on quite a show, but once they’re done it’s important to remove their spent flowers to help preserve energy for next year’s bloom. Simply cut each finished flower stalk at the base. Don’t be tempted to cut down the foliage, however. The plant will naturally die back over the coming months and will slowly reclaim the nutrients in the foliage to store in the underground bulb. Once the foliage is withered and brown, you can rake it away.
eclectic landscape by Land Design, Inc.
Check your watering system. Now’s the time to make sure your irrigation system is in good working order. As the days heat up, you’ll be relying on it to provide your plants with water just as it’s needed. To test, run each system manually for at least five minutes to make sure there are no leaks or no repairs needed. Leaks are usually obvious, with geysers of water and noisy splashes making the source apparent.
mediterranean landscape by Nicolock Paving Stones and Retaining Walls
Set out starts of heat-loving plants. This is the time of year to set out starts of heat-loving plants such as tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, melons, eggplant, corn and beans. Just check to see when the last frost date for your region occurs. Once that date has passed, you should be safe to plant these frost-sensitive plants.
by Genevieve Schmidt
Tote out the tomatoes. For a bountiful harvest even in cool coastal climates, try grafted tomatoes from Log House Plants. These tomato varieties are grafted onto a more vigorous root stock, so they have better disease resistance, grow more quickly and, of course, bear a lot more fruit. While they’re more expensive than a normal tomato, they’re a great solution for small gardens, as they give you a bigger yield from far fewer plants.landscape by Proven WinnersDon’t forget the accessories. While you’re planting your summer vegetables, don’t forget to pick up a few plants just for beauty as well. Now’s the time to plant frost-tender and heat-loving plants such as impatiens, petunias, million bells, coleus and more. This ColorBlaze Keystone Kopper coleus from Proven Winners would make a great addition to pots or garden beds. Plant it near purple flowers or dark black foliage for a modern, fresh display.

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Celebrate Spring With a Flower-Arranging Party

Gather a group of friends to learn expert tips for making beautiful floral arrangements in a fun environment. Perfect for a bridal shower, birthday gathering, or just a reason to get together with friends, this party is a true celebration of the season’s abundant flowers and produce.

Set Up a “Flower Market”

The day before the party, head to your local flower market to pick out the best and brightest flowers the season has to offer. Be sure to get greens, fillers and flowers in an assortment of colors and sizes. Avoid yellow leaves and brown stems, and don’t hesitate to ask a sales associate for help. On the day of the party, display your finds in market-style galvanized buckets, where guests can easily access the flowers they’ll be using in their own arrangements.

Create a Seasonal Table

For lunch, cover the dining table in butcher paper and add a romantic runner made with floral fabric cut straight from the bolt. Place a few beautiful arrangements in the center of the table, along with small dishes full of seasonal sweets like peaches and cherries. After the meal, remove the runner to reveal a functional workspace for the “flower school” portion of the party.

Perfect Placement

The place setting is simple but beautiful: a china dinner plate, your favorite flatware and a folded napkin. Fabric flower pom pins are the perfect focal point, and once guests sit down they can wear their pins throughout the party then take them home.

Bon Appetit!

Create a fresh menu full of vibrant and seasonal snacks that reflect the natural garden feel of the party. And don’t be afraid to have fun with your food. These miniature shrimp salad sandwiches are topped with green onion and cut into hearts for a fun, feminine touch.

Party Menu
Honeycomb served with Blue Cheese, Blackberries + Pears
Salmon Lollipops
Shrimp Salad
Tomato Sandwiches
Key Lime Cake
Martha Washington Candy

Sweeter Than Honey

Create a simple yet impressive appetizer display by ordering a square of raw honeycomb, then arranging it on a wood cutting board with ripe pears, fresh blackberries and a strong blue cheese like Roquefort or Stilton. Set out knives so guests can help themselves by digging out pieces of fresh honey to drizzle over the cheese and fruit.

Flip the Switch

After guests have finished eating lunch, clear the table of the flowers, runner and dinnerware, and leave the butcher paper to serve as a workspace that can be thrown away for quick cleanup at the end of the party. Give each guest the tools she’ll need to get started with her own arrangement: a pretty vase or pitcher, pruning shears and an apron.

Class Time

Invite a florist or experienced friend over to lead the flower-arranging instruction and teach tips to the group. At this particular party, instructor Ash Bailey from The Byrd Collective shows guests which foliage works best for forming a stable base for the rest of the arrangement. Rather than prescribing a formula or “recipe,” she teaches guests how to have fun with the flowers by putting together the colors and textures that capture their attention.

View More Here: http://www.hgtv.com/entertaining/celebrate-spring-with-a-flower-school-party/pictures/index.html

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Get This Look: Greenery in the Home

Greenery can add a lot to a home, but for many homeowners the idea of incorporating living plants into a space is daunting.

“So many of my clients will say, ‘I kill everything I have!’” said designer Jamie Herzlinger. But what she tells them is that many of the latest trends in greenery don’t require a lot of maintenance.

Despite the size of the planter, these succulents require very little care.

“Succulents and air plants just need a little bit of water,” Herzlinger explained. “I think they’re a fantastic idea because it’s a great way to bring nature in, and you don’t have to have a green thumb.”

Succulents, cacti and air plants are not new forms of greenery. Popular across the U.S. in the 1970s and continuously a form of greenery in Southwestern states, these hardy and low-maintenance plants are now a hot way to add nature indoors.

The Container Matters

Although succulents are primarily shown in glassy, modern planters, Herzlinger says that these plants can be added to any vessel. The shape and structure of the planter will determine the look of the space.

For example, Herzlinger suggests a traditional planter for an elegant look, perhaps sticking a plant in a blue-and-white porcelain Chinese foot bath.

Unusual planters make liven up the table in this entryway.

“If you were to pot that up with living moss, that sitting on a dining room table with gorgeous sterling candlesticks, it is as beautiful as fresh-cut flowers,” she said.

For a more contemporary look, a glass or wooden container can be hung on the wall as living art. Even in the kitchen, small apothecary jars or containers can be the perfect home for an air plant.

Curated, Not Over-Accessorized

As with any accessory, less is more. There is a tendency to want to add more items to a room, but often Herzlinger finds herself taking out the items her clients add.

“Try accessorizing with one large item or groupings of two to three,” she explained.

A small terrarium is a great addition to this traditional living room.

The look should be touches of greenery, not jungle.

Other Plant Options

While some designers rely on faux plants and flowers, Herzlinger believes that with enough low-maintenance plants out there, there’s no need to go with the silk versions.

Her other suggestions for low-maintenance plants? Moss, cacti and fig trees, if your space has high enough ceilings and plenty of light.

Jamie Herzlinger added fresh-cut flowers and greenery to this space.

And, in a pinch, fresh flowers can be found at any local grocery store and are the easiest green addition to a room.

See more ways to add greenery to your home on Zillow Digs.

Source: http://www.zillowblog.com/2013-05-01/get-this-look-greenery-in-the-home/

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Housing Giving Off Mixed Signals: Are we recovering or not?

Housing has been a tremendous drag on the overall economy, and while the ink is not yet dry on the history books, fingers are still pointing in every which direction, and there is not a consensus regarding when the sector will be recovered, but the emerging consensus is that the recovery process has begun. We liken it to a patient being released from the hospital after being in a coma – there will be rehab, there will be slow walking in the beginning, speech will be slurred, and the brain will be slow, but like a recovering patient, housing will take baby steps before being back to 100 percent. That said, what remains unseen is whether or not the nation has learned any lessons, and how hard the pendulum will swing.

house home Housing giving off mixed signals: are we recovering or not?

Home sales are up, inventory levels are tight, mortgage rates are low, housing starts and permits are up, and three in four major metros are considered improving markets, and various indicators imply that housing is improving as the crisis has come to an end and the nation is trying to catch its breath before it begins walking again.

So what are the mixed signals that have some saying the sky is falling while others are saying the housing sector just ate a can of spinach a la Popeye?

Positive: Housing Starts Way Up

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau revealed that housing starts hit their highest level since 2008 (the year the economy crashed, by the way), and although construction of single-family homes fell slightly, total starts rose seven percent in March over February, rising 47 percent over March 2012. In February, construction levels hit a four year high.

Positive: Inventory Levels Are Up

Bill McBride at CalculatedRisk said of recent data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), “So far in 2013, inventory is up 9.6% (above the peak percentage increase for 2011 and 2012). It is possible that inventory could bottom this year – it will probably be close – but right now I expect inventory to bottom in early 2014.”

Inventory has been so tight that Realtors report increased buyer activity has created tight markets – so tight that buyers must offer within 24 hours due to multi-bidding scenarios across the nation, so buyers are having to make sure their financing is in place and they are ready to make an offer before they even get in that car with an agent.

Positive: Home Values on the Rise

According to the Zillow Real Estate Market Reports home values are rising faster than rent, and while national home values only rose 0.1 percent for the month in the most recent report, February marks the 16th consecutive month of home values rising, marking the second largest annual gain since August 2006.

Home values took a massive hit when the economy crashed, and many homeowners were suddenly underwater. Rising values helps current homeowners, but Redfin warns that several cities are in danger of another bubble as the market heats up.

Negative: Builder Confidence Dips

According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes fell two points in April, dipping to 42 meaning more builders remain pessimistic about the sector than optimistic. The NAHB cites rising building material costs and concerns over the supply of developed lots and labor.

“Supply chains for building materials, developed lots and skilled workers will take some time to re-establish themselves following the recession, and in the meantime builders are feeling squeezed by higher costs and limited availability issues,” explained NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe.

Negative and Positive: Rents Stabilizing

Landlords have had a nice go of things as rents have steadily rose since the housing crash, as much as 30 percent in a single year in cities like Boston. The good news for renters but bad news for landlords is that rental market growth is slowing and with over 100,000 units already approved to come online this year, rents are said to be stabilizing, and may even begin dropping as soon as this fall.

Negative: Consumers Don’t See This as a Recovery

According to the MacArthur Foundation, 58 percent of Americans believe we’re “still in the middle” of the housing crisis and roughly one in five people believe that the worst is yet to come.

Additionally, 45 percent of current homeowners said they can see themselves renting in the future – not exactly a ringing endorsement for the housing sector. Fully 59 percent of homeowners and 67 percent of renters think “renters can be just as successful as owners at achieving the American Dream.” Three in five said “the focus of our housing policy should be fairly equally split on rental housing and housing for people to own.”

Negative: Credit Remains Tight

According to NAR, lending is still tight, a condition the trade group warned could hold back the recovery in the long run. NAR notes that members report continued problems faced by some buyers in qualifying for loans. “This is particularly the case for condos in view of FHA owner occupancy requirements. A number of REALTORS® expressed concern over unrealistic loan requirements by financial institutions.”

Buyers aren’t alone, though, as builders find themselves impacted by tight lending as well. “Many builders are expressing frustration over being unable to respond to the rising demand for new homes due to difficulties in obtaining construction credit, overly restrictive mortgage lending rules and construction costs that are increasing at a faster pace than appraised values,” said Rick Judson, National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Chairman and a home builder from Charlotte, N.C.

Positive: Construction Jobs Way Up

The March 2013 jobs report shows that construction employment is growing faster than overall national employment, and “relative to the level of construction activity, there are actually a lot of construction jobs,” notes real estate search company, Trulia.com. Residential construction employment grew 3.8 percent in March compared to March 2012, while overall national employment only grew 1.4 percent.

Trulia notes that the number of residential construction jobs per housing unit under construction is actually above the pre-bubble level: there are now 3.7 jobs for every unit under construction, compared to 2.6 in 2001. As the economy continues to see signs of improvement, Trulia notes the sector could see labor shortages.

The Verdict:

While there are many more indicators to take into consideration, this simply addresses the tip of the iceberg. The fact is that as a whole, housing is no longer plummeting into a hopeless abyss, rather is trying to climb its way out of one – but the industry is not out of the hole yet, and unless politicians interfere, the sector could see some substantial improvement (but not necessarily a full recovery) this year.

Source: http://agbeat.com/housing-news/housing-giving-off-mixed-signals-are-we-recovering-or-not/

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Homeownership Rate Lowest Since 1995

The U.S. homeownership rate declined in the first quarter, hitting its lowest value since 1995, signaling that buyers face substantial challenges in the current market, according to data released Tuesday.

The homeownership rate declined to 65% in the first quarter, down from 65.4% during the same period in the prior year, according to a report from the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Tight credit, tight for-sale inventory, the challenge of saving for a down payment, and more rental single-family supply all helped lower the homeownership rate,” said Jed Kolko, chief economist at real estate site Trulia.

The homeownership rate represents the number of households that are occupied by owners divided by the total number of occupied households. The rate has declined fairly steadily for years, and is down from a peak of 69.2% in 2004, when the housing market bubble was ramping up.

From region to region, homeownership rates show substantial variation. In the first quarter, the homeownership rate stood at 59.4% in the West, 62.5% in the Northeast, 66.5% in the South and 70% in the Midwest.

Interest rates remaining near record lows have supported the housing market’s recovery over the past year. However, economists say overly strict lending standards are keeping some would-be borrowers from buying homes. And though the economy has steadily added jobs, unemployment remains relatively high.

Home builders have taken notice of these trends, ramping up apartment construction. Recent government data showed that construction starts for structures with at least five units rose 82% over the 12 months ending in March, compared with a gain of 29% for single-family homes.

Elsewhere Tuesday, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported that first-quarter originations for commercial and multifamily mortgages rose 9% from the same period in the prior year.

Source: http://blogs.marketwatch.com/thetell/2013/04/30/homeownership-rate-lowest-since-1995/