Thursday, May 31, 2007

Weekend Events

Here is an online link to this week's Top 5 Home & Garden Events listing on page 29 of today's print edition. Pick up the Washington Examiner at any area metro station.

I'm praying we get some real rain soon, but hoping it happens before or after the Annapolis Secret Garden Tour this Sunday. (Picture at left is courtesy of the tour organizers.) I've been planning around that date as a Birthday outting for myself for months. Though my birthday is June 4 - I'll observe it on the 3rd as well. Birthdays that fall on a Monday should automatically claim the entire pre-weekend for celebrating!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Open Garden to Mark Summer Solstice

Washington Gardener
Summer Solstice
Open Garden Day
Back by popular demand!


Washington Gardener Magazine will host one Open Garden Day this summer on Thursday, June 21 from 4:00-8:00pm.

(Marking the Summer Solstice at exactly 6:06pm.)

~ Come by with your garden questions
~ See our trial gardens in progress
~ Renew or subscribe to the magazine in person
~ Purchase gift subscriptions
~ Single copies of our back issues and current issue also for sale
~ Pack of Eastern Native Wildflower seeds with any purchase
~ Light refreshments
~ Children's activities
~ Information table on various area garden events and groups
The Open Garden is rain or shine.
826 Philadelphia Ave. (Rt. 410), Silver Spring, MD. We are an 10-15 minute walk from either the Silver Spring and Takoma Park metro stops. Also, several Metro and Ride-On bus routes pass nearby. If driving, please park on King Street - next to the Public Storage building.
The event is free. Registration/reservations are not required. Please pass this invite on to anyone your gardening friends and family.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Pond-erings

Spent yesterday afternoon taking down the photo contest exhibit (winners come pick up your photos asap!). Then as we have a heat wave, thought it was high time to clean out my pond and set it up for the season. I had ordered my annual water plants and bags of barley straw from dealers in NC and PA respectively on Ebay. With those coming in Priority Mail, it was added pressure to get the perennial plants repotted, set upright, cleaned out, etc. It took me about three hours in the muck, but it is right as rain now. Thank goodness this is only an annual event.

I topped off the water this morning, then threw in the annual plants and barley. Poured in some dechlorinator and sediment settling potion too. Now all I need to do is get to a pet store to buy a new crop of feeder goldfish -- the 10 for $1 kind -- and a few sprigs of anachris to add some oxygen to the mix. Both the fish and my anachris bit the dust in that deep freeze we had last February. They'd survived the past two winters just fine and I even had some of my "annual" parrothead plants overwinter. This year, no dice. All turned to blackened mush at the bottom of the pond. Oh well, this is why I do not name my fish or get attached (at least I try not to). They just have to many predators and are too fragile -- still, sad to see them go. Pictured is my pond last summer with 7 live fish in it -- they were camera-shy so you'll have to take my word for it.

My NBC4 appearance went reasonably well last Thursday. Here is where they linked to me as well as what they said on their blog. I left them the rose we demonstrated planting on-air. It was not in the best of shape by the time it hit the ground and with this heat wave it is not getting the best start. Will see if it survives for them on my next visit. http://www.nbc4.com/news4at4/10662869/detail.html
http://www.nbc4.com/news4at4/index.html

For The Love Of Roses
I call it my annual "Behnke Run".
After I rake up all the dead leaves ... after I pull up all the stubborn weeds ... after I sweep up the dirt and other debris from my backyard patio ... it's time to plant flowers!
That means ... a "Behnke Run" ... as in the nursery in Beltsville. This isn't meant to be a plug for the company. It just happens to be the destination for my favorite May outing -- buying a bunch of glorious, colorful annuals for my patio pots.
Please don't tell Kathy Jentz that roses are not on my flower shopping list this year. Jentz is the editor and publisher of "Washington Gardener" magazine and today during a live segment on News 4 at 4 she explained that -- despite common belief -- roses are not difficult to grow.
In fact, she says roses:
- are hardy.
- don't need full sun.
- don't need extra room.
- are disease resistant.
- are easy to prune.
- and mix well with other plants.
I may have a green thumb, but a yellow stripe runs down my back when it comes to red roses.
Maybe next year.
Posted at
2:43 PM by Kathy Banks, Show Writer

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Meet Me at the Mall

Here is an online link to this week's Top 5 Home & Garden Events listing on page 30 of today's print edition. Pick up the Washington Examiner at any area metro station. I thought Memorial Day holiday weekend would be a tough one to get events listing for as there are really no tours, workshops, etc. planned. It was not so hard though to put this one together once I went to my secret "go-to" sites: Brookside, USNA, Longwood, USBG, and the Cathedral.

I'm co-planner of the GWA Region II Meeting coming up on June 25 here in Washington, DC. This is for garden writers -- specifically members of GWA from the Northeast region. However, those outside the region and nonmembers can register as well. We have a great line-up including a green roof tour and talk. The event was a bear to arrange because of the timing -- just before APGA is meeting in town and the Mall's Folklife Festival. So we got a lot of "don't bother us now, call us later" type rejections from TPTB, which I found bewildering considering the fact that most any organization is normally begging for even one reporter to show up and cover them, much less having 50 garden writers actually coming to you and eagerly anticipating the visit! Ah well, water under the bridge. Here are the event details. (Note that part of this schedule is incorrect, we are not being given a tour of the NMAI grounds. It should be corrected soon.)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Slogging Away

Thanks to my many mouthy posts on the GardenRant blog I was awarded a new pair of Sloggys Ultra Lites in my choice of color - Pea Pod. I promised a review after trying them out for a bit and have to say I love them. And not only cause they were free to me, but because I've been wearing them everywhere -- from running to the post office to my local TV appearances. They are comfortable and I'm a very picky person on that point with a closet full of unwanted looks-good-felt-okay-in-the-store-yet-hurt-my-feet-the-first-time-I-wore-them-out shoes to prove it. I've pretty much gone down to just 4-5 pair of wearable shoes these days and a few others I'll tolerate for special occasions. Since I'm car-free and walk literally everywhere I've very tough on my shoes and I simple will not stand for any that rub, squeeze, or cause blisters on my feet.

I also have a pair of purple Crocs and a pair of red Sloggers classic garden clogs. The red clogs have been a garden-wear staple of mine for at least three years now and I still will wear them for all the heavy, dirty garden tasks like moving mulch, turning compost, digging planting holes for shruns, etc. For lightweight, everyday work like weeding, planting up containers, tying back wayward vines, etc. these new light, airy Sloggers are the best. The new Sloggers have replaced my Crocs in many cases for non-garden wear as well, but I'll still sport the Crocs when say the color matchs my outfit better or the mood strikes.

BTW I saw the same Sloggers for sale at a True Value hardware store near Tenleytown NW DC and they were $21.95 - less than Crocs and certainly reasonable enough. I'm thinking of buying a second pair in Petal Pink. For sizing: I normally wear a 8.5 shoe, so thought I should go up to a 9 - but the Sloggers folks steered me to the 8 and they were right, it fits me perfectly.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

To Kill A Mockingbird - The Sequel

They're ba-ack! Entirely appropriate in this era of prequels, sequels, and epic extensions (I'm looking at you, Tolkein Jr.), the Mockingbird couple are back and have hatched a new little brat. I'm assuming it is the same couple as last spring that I wrote about Wildlife Habitat application.

I've been spending the late afternoons of the past few days out in the garden trying to get in all the sample/test plants I can and starting to get semi-ready for the Open Garden Summer Solstice Party I'm planning for June 21. That means I've had plenty of interaction time with this ah-hem "charming" couple and their equally "adorable" offspring.

Again this year they have driven off all the squirrels and most other creatures, which is not all bad. But there constant calls at any garden invaders including my cat, Chantilly, and myself is annoying as hell. Yesterday, the young one (pictured here taken through a screen*) went on a hop about. Unfortunately for him/her, it did it when my cat was out sunning herself by me as I planted up petunias.

Chantilly got close enough to smack it about a bit, but it had spirit and fought back, while the parents and a few near sparrows screamed up at storm at the cat. I threw a cup of water on my cat and she ran inside. Next time, I may not be so generous. Actually next time, I may not be around as many neighborhood and stray cats use my pond as a watering hole. If one of them comes along when I'm out and about - it is hasta la vista, baby.

I did a bit of Mockingbird research here and see they are not only not endangered, but may be overpopulated in our region. (Makes me feel a tad less guilty should the baby succumb to Darwinian forces.) I note with great interest this paragraph on the Wild Acres Program, DNR, Wildlife & Heritage Service page:

These birds are highly territorial, especially when nesting and raising their young. It is not unusual for Mockingbirds to chase other birds and peck at pets and people, which venture too close to their young. Remember it is against both state and federal law to harm a Mockingbird. If you are having problems with one attacking you in Maryland, please contact our wildlife damage hotline toll free in the state at 1-877-463-6497.

I called and left a message. I'm really curious to hear what remedies they can possible recommend for these aggressive buggers. They have been going for people's faces which is not at all cool. I'll report back any response I get here.

* Look at that face! Does that look innocent?

UPDATE: The Wildlife folks called me back this morning. As expected the advice was "don't go in that area" or carry a large umbrella. Since that area is on an urban street corner one block from a college and near many businesses, that really is not realistic nor is handing out umbrellas to all passersby. In the good news department, they said just 2 more weeks or so of this.

PS I'm set to be on Channel 4 at 4pm on 5/24 - talking about roses.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Purple Prose

As promised, here is a pic of me at the Woodrow Wilson House Garden Party on Wednesday. There was a thunderstorm early in the eve than a light drizzle, but still a good turnout and a successful event. Though you can't see it well, my hat is decorated with a band 20+ blossoms from my 'Florence Delattre' rose. To match the rose, I went with an all-purple outfit theme. Washington Gardener Magazine readers will recognize it as the rose from the cover shot of our current issue. The fact that I was able to spare 20-odd flowers from this bush and still have many to spare shows you what a tremendous spring it has been for roses in the DC-area. Usually, I'm lucky to get 10 blooms all season from this particular bush.

I was interviewed for the new "My Home" Spring 2007 supplement in the Gazette newspaper. It came out in late April, but took me until now to obtain a copy of it as it only appeared in the upcounty editions of that weekly and the text is not to be found anywhere on their extensive web site. I finally got a hard copy and have scanned it in for my records and can share it upon request if you provide your direct email. I did get a few subscribers from this up in Poolseville, Olney, Boyds, etc., wish it had a more extensive exposure. Though better some, than none!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Best Laid Plans

Here is an online link to this week's Top 5 Home & Garden Events listing on page 29 of today's print edition. Pick up the Washington Examiner at any area metro station. Those are my nieces in their faerie finery at last year's Maryland Faerie Fest - a highlight of their social season! One of these years I'm going to have to plant a nice Faerie Garden for them. I have a few small faerie figurines strategically placed among my hellebores and pachysandra. That will have to do for now.

Pictured here is one of the blooms from my 'Silver Moon' clematis. I have two plants -- one on each side of the gazebo. Full shade and pretty dry, but blooming like crazy right now and each flower is the size of dessert plate. The pale lavender is one of my favorite colors. The photo doesn't show it well, but it also has a nice opalescent sheen to it that is another benefit to its being happy in a shade location.

Today was one of those days I was in perpetual motion, but at the end felt like I got nothing done. Looking back though, I did get a lot accomplished -- just none of things I'd scheduled or have on my to-do list. Two large boxes of sample plants arrived unexpectedly on my front steps this morning so that dictated an afternoon of planting and rearranging. I also stopped at the post office to buy 2-cent stamps for the new rates. (Grrrr - don't get me started! I should bring my change jar and just dump it on their counter. "You want my pennies? You got 'em!") The trip to the USPS, of course led to detours to pick up necessities at Rite Aid and Giant as well as a chat with a friend who works at NOAA. Finally, throwing my whole planned schedule off were two unexpected visitors this afternoon.

The first visitor, a lost dog, snuck up on me and Chantilly, my cat, while I was planting around my gazebo. I should've realized something was wrong when the constant squawking of the two mockingbirds had suddenly ceased. Isn't that the way it works in horror films? The eerie dead silence, then *bam* around the corner bursts the killer. In this case, the dog was friendly enough -- but still quite a shocker for kitty, who puffed up like a balloon. I never did get to read his tags or locate an owner -- he took off before I could find something to tie around his collar. He did have time though to eat the carrot butts I'd left at the bird feeder for the squirrels.

The second visitor was a homeless man who has been loitering around my street corner for the past few weeks. He is fairly young, very tan, and has a completely shaved head. I know he is homeless as the sign he carries everywhere with him reads: "Homeless - help me." I have seen him off and on. Some days he is literally standing in my driveway. Sometimes he is out approaching drivers as they are stopped at my light. Other times he is just gone. I had been debating on whether to call the police on him or not, not to arrest him -- just to get him to move along. Then today he rings my doorbell like 15 times in a row (annoying!) and asks me in quick succession whether I am with the Washington Post, if I want to hire him to water my garden, do I want to buy a back-up cell phone for $5. That would be no, no, and no. I ended the conversation as quickly and firmly as possible without being a bitch, but got to say he was working a nerve. Ahhh, urban living.

This is going to be another very busy weekend with a booth this Saturday, 5/19 at Spring Garden Day Green Spring Gardens. Then try to squeeze in visits to the 5/19-20 Maryland Faerie Fest, 5/20 Shepherd Park Garden Tour, and 5/20 Historic Hyattsville House Tour. Then Monday night is the 5/21 Silver Spring Garden Club Meeting.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Cutting Edge

The May 15 2007 issue of the Washington Gardener Enews is now out and archived here. The lead story is on creating a cutting garden. Something I myself do not practice, as I consider my entire garden fair game for cutting, but I certainly understand the urge to create a designated "free to cut" area that you cut chop away at guilt-free. My only internal "cut or not to cut" debates come around tulip time when there are maybe only 10 of one kind in bloom. In that case, I try to cut only those that have two or three blooms on one plant or have another bud about to open.

We tried something different this issue of the Enews and instead of a piece excerpted from the magazine, I ran a book review that we did not have space for in the last issue. I'm hoping we can offer more of this kind of bonus content in the future.

In this issue is also our new Reader Contest . This time for passes to Brookside Gardens' Wings of Fancy Live Butterfly Exhibit. Odds of winning are very good, so enter today!

Last Sunday morning I did a segment on WUSA (Channel 9) on growing roses. They link to me from here. I always enjoy doing these appearances, but wish they were not at the crack of dawn. Unlike many other gardeners, I'm definitely not an early riser.

Tonight I'll be at the Woodrow Wilson House Garden Party. Which means I need to come up with something appropriate for their Spring Hat contest. That means going out in the garden a and yes, cutting many of my precious blooms. Pictured here is one of last year's entries.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Old-Fashioned Favorites

Our latest articles in the Examiner is now out. It is on old-fashioned favorites for the flowe garden. Read the Washington Examiner version of the article online here (May 11 edition - page 67), or grab the print version at the red street boxes around town today - the article is on R411 (Real Estate section - page 11). Read the Baltimore Examiner article online here (May 11 edition - page 85), or grab the print version at the red street boxes around town today - the article is on R21 (Real Estate section - page 21).

Pictured here is one of the photos I submitted with this article -- a pink Lily of the Valley by Drena J Galarza, Washington Gardener Magazine staff photographer. It was taken in my garden last April. Odd thing is the photo printed with this article is not one that I had submitted with this piece, but was sent with another one. It is from a garden tour I went on last year in the Capitol Hill neighborhood and will be going on again tomorrow evening. That is after I have a table at the Silver Spring Garden Club's annual Garden Mart tomorrow morning and then do the Georgetown Garden Tour tomorrow afternoon. Whew!

Then I have to prep for my Channel 9 WUSA appearance at about 8:45 am Sunday morning. We'll be talking about the current cover story on roses. And luckily many of mine are starting to come into bloom now so I'll have plenty to cut and bring for "show and tell." A big bloom of my Zepherin Drouhin opened yesterday. I think I almost swooned. My two ZD's are in almost total shade flanking my front door. The fact that this rose blooms and has this heavenly fragrance is a minor miracle to me. So no excuses for not growing a rose - even if you lack sun!

Been a great spring so far for roses. Tons of buds forming, though the aphids are also swarming more than ever. I have done absolutely no spraying this year, which I may need to remedy. I have samples of Messenger to try out as well as an organic Rose Defense spray I purchased last summer. It is tough to find a day without much breeze around here as well as one that I'm actually home and able to get out in the garden! Plus I'm just naturally averse to spraying of any kind, just seems rude somehow -- like spitting in public, but on a much bigger scale.

Speaking of being out of the garden, you only have 9 more days to visit ArtOMatic. It is a good excuse to play hooky from work or a great place to take a date in the evening. It pains me that so few Washingtonians are aware of this incredible display of art that happens just once every few years. It is free, the hours are generous, and the art mix has something for everyone (except maybe the sheltered and protected young child). One of our photo contest award-winniers, Rob Rudick, is showing there too. My personal tastes run to found art and outsider art, so ArtOMatic is a real treat for me in that artists of all levels and backgrounds are admitted. No filtering by snooty art "experts." This is a true DC institution that is very fleeting. Take the metro over to Crystal City and catch it before it is too late.

Related to an earlier blog entry: Bethesda Magazine printed a correction of my quote attribution in their March/April cover story. The correction is on page 14 of their May/June issue.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Spring into Summer

You have just one more hour or so left to win our MPT Online Auction package of three subscriptions. The package is a $54 value - use one for yourself and the other two as gifts. Click here to register and bid. We are proud to support local public television and hope this package donation earns a nice chunk of change for them. The auction is on live on MPT right now (from 9-10 pm) so you can phone in a bid if you'd prefer that over online.

Here is an online link to this week's Top 5 Home & Garden Events listing on page 30 of today's print edition. Pick up the Washington Examiner at any area metro station. I'll be at 4 of these 5 events myself this weekend so hope to see you there.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Deposit, But No Return

I booked in ad in the Washington Post Magazine's annual spring home and design issue -- the perfect one I thought to reach my target audience especially as it came out the same weekend as the Leesburg Flower & Garden Fest. I paid for the ad in advance, submitted the text, proofed it, and anxiously awaited its publication last month. The issue came out - no ad. I thought maybe my eyes deceived me so I asked others to check their editions. Sure enough, no ad. Several days later I heard back from the WP ad rep -- apparently they goofed and I wasn't the only one who's ad was missing. That person responsible for the ad layout is now fired. How does that even happen though? Honestly I can't imagine how something so fundamental to the Post's business could have happened.

I'm pretty ticked that: A. I have yet to be offered or receive a refund or any compensation for this lost opportunity; and, B. They keep trying to push other editions of the magazine on me. The only reason I chose to try out the issue I did with them was that it included a lengthy garden article by Adrian Higgins and is well-read among area green thumbs. The other issues, from education themes to cover stories on women prisoners, just do not have that same core target audience I'm seeking i.e. Washington-area gardeners!

So now I'm in the process of getting a refund for the un-run ad and maybe seeing if I'll be placing in ad in the Washington Post Home section anytime soon or just appyling that part of my marketing budget to ads in more local reach papers like the Gazette. Or maybe this is just a sign I should save my ad dollars and put them towards more direct marketing and other efforts.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Everything’s Coming Up Roses

That headline was for my high school friends and anyone else who has seen the musical Gypsy more than a dozen times. Some of those songs are still emblazoned in my brain from the drama club rehearsals over 20 years ago. “You Gotta Have A Gimmick” pops into my head every once in a while, which is highly perturbing, especially lines like, “If you wanna make it, Twinkle while you shake it.” Um, I think I’ll take my marketing advice from elsewhere, thanks.

The May/June 2007 “Rose” theme issue is out and now available by mail order from us. (Details at http://www.washingtongardener.com/.) If you begin your subscription by June 15, we’ll start you off with this issue. Or you can purchase it in person at one of the many garden events we’ll be at in the next month include the Silver Spring Garden Club plant sale at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD, this Saturday, May 12, and the Green Spring Gardens annual sale in Fairfax, VA, on May 19. It is also on sale at area stores including the Arbor House, Alchemy, Politics & Prose, Borders, Barnes & Noble, and B. Daltons.

Now to update our long-neglected web site pages.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Radio Without Thorns

Last week I pre-taped a segment for WAMU's Metro Connection show. My first "non-live" radio appearance. It was fun pretending it was Friday, when it was Monday. The way my schedule has been lately, I have to keep reminding myself several times a day what date and day of the week it is. Saturday felt like Thursday. Today feels like Saturday. The only thing that keeps me straight is my TV-addiction and the fairly consistent network scheduling. (If it's Desperate Housewives, it must be Sunday.)

The radio segment was on roses which is our magazine issue's current cover story. Here is a link to the radio segment's audio clip. (The link may change when it get stored in the radio station's web archives, I'll try to come back and add an update to this when it does.) Reaction to it has been tremendous. I have to confess I'm not much of a talk radio listener, but apparently I'm in the minority because everyone I ran into this weekend said, "I heard you on the radio today!" It probably is a good thing that I so naively did not realize the big reach of this radio station's popular program or else the nerves would've kicked in.

Running from one garden event after another for the last 3-4 weeks, I finally get a breather for the next few days. I'm playing catch up on my long-neglected chores including a long list of "blog about this" ideas. So expect to hear from me much more this coming week and hope to be back on my daily blogging schedule groove.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

You say, "FlowerMart," I say, "Flower Mart"

Here is an online link to this week's Top 5 Home & Garden Events listing on page 28 of today's print edition. Pick up the Washington Examiner at any area metro station.

Please note that the photo used along with this listing (and on the front cover of today’s edition as well as pictured here) was taken by our staff photographer, Drena J. Galarza. For some reason the Examiner does not run photo credits or cutlines with "The List" items. It was taken at last year's Flower Mart at the National Cathedral.

I'll be at the Cathedral Flower Mart myself on Fri-Sat. Stop by the booth #45, the Washington Gardener tent, to sign up for a subscription, gift subscriptions (Mother's Day is coming up!), renew, buy back issues, or just purchase the current issue. We’ll also have a booth at the Baltimore FlowerMart same dates and times, I won’t be there myself but my partial clone (my brother, Ulli) will be. BTW the two events, though the share similar names, audiences, and the same dates, have NOTHING to do with each other. What I find amusing is that the Baltimore folks really have the claim on the concept and the name - 90+ year history and going strong - but the Cathedral folks I talk to are either unaware of the competing event or hold it in contempt. I admit some DC v. Balt snobbery myself, however in this case, I have to say the Baltimore folks come out on top as the originators. Dare I say though that the DC event is more my taste and style -- heavier on the garden vendors, lighter on the campy (doggie dress-up) contests. To each city, their own...

On Sunday, as mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, I’ll be volunteering at the Takoma House & Garden Tour. Hope you can make at least one of these area garden events.

Contest Deadline Reminder:

For our April 2007 Washington Gardener Reader Contest, we are giving out several sets of two passes each (worth $50 per set) to 8th annual Annapolis Secret Garden Tour. This tour takes place June 3 in historic downtown Annapolis, MD. Radio personality and national garden celebrity, Andre Viette, is the event’s featured speakers.

To enter, send an email with “Annapolis Secret” in the subject line to mailto:Editor@washingtongardener.com?subject=Annapolis%20Secret by May 7. In the body of the email include your full name and address.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

No Exit Plan

Miss Manners finally replied to my letter! I sent it in about a year ago and just as I was thinking of reprinting my "tour manners" article* here since it is the height of local home and garden tour season, I saw that my long-forgotten letter and her reply are published in today's Washington Post. It is about the extremely irritating practice of folks on home tours not allowing others to come out of a room, come through a door, or come down a set of stairs, but instead just barge on through and create a bottleneck.

I'm volunteering this Sunday at the Takoma Park House & Garden Tour. (At left, is a photo I took at last year's TP tour.) I'm going to be stationed inside the front entrance of one of the tour homes. I requested a home with a garden and to be up front as I think answering garden questions, should folks have them, would be useful to tour attendees. I'm anticipating a lot of the "What is this?" type of pointing and many queries along the line of "What don't deer eat?" It will be interesting to see a tour from the "other side" as I'm an avid tour-attendee myself and have lost track how many I've been on.

Lately though I've become very weary of the home/house part of these tours, I guess that should not be surprising given my gardening passion. But I really used to love seeing the insides of homes just as much as their grounds. Always fascinating to see what choices people make and how folks really live -- at least the polished up for company version. On the last few tours, I practically had to force myself to go inside some homes just to be polite and show interest or to get my tour pass validated.

Why the change of heart? I think it is first that so many renovated "historic" homes are the same these days and it starts to get really repetitive and boring. Same granite countertop, stainless steel appliances, Restoration Hardware gray walls, Crate & Barrel linens, etc. Snore. Everyone seems to shop from the same places and use the same catalogs. And don't get me started on the ubiquitous IKEA -- I have a real love-hate thing going with them...

The second reason I'm getting tired of the house portion of the tours is all the exausting stair-climbing coupled with the frustrating doorway/staircase traffic jams. When I'm on a tour, I move my ass. I do not dawdle. I want to see it all and get it done before the tour hours end -- in some case a real Sisyphean task! Which brings me full-circle back to my letter to Miss Manners. I never felt an urge to write to her before, though I've enjoyed her column for years (decades!). In this case though after writing my "tour manners" piece, I wanted to see what a real etiquette maven would say on the subject. I'm pleased to see she generally agrees with me and shares my plight. And maybe the publication of it at just the right seasonal timing will alert a few of the buffoons who might not know better.

*The "tour manners" article originally appeared in the May 18, 2006 edition of the Washington Examiner newspaper. If you would like to read the original piece, send me an email and I"ll forward a PDF of it. If you are running a local home and garden tour and would like to reprint it for the event, just let me know and I will forward the reprint permission version.