Here are the most read home and garden stories of 2021, a window into the past year. And to an even more comfortable, stylish, organized and climate-conscious 2022.
Vice President Harris remains at Blair House while the official residence is repaired
Our top story of the year was this from Jura Koncius about Vice President Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff delaying their move into the official Vice President’s house at the Naval Observatory while the house underwent extensive repairs. While they waited, they stayed at Blair House, the President’s official guest house. The elegant house across from the White House is the traditional quarters for the incoming president on the eve of the inauguration and a place for diplomatic entertainment. Harris and Emhoff stayed there until April, when they moved into the Vice President’s residence.
Melania Trump is no longer in the White House, but she has made her mark on the public spaces
Also on the list was Koncius’ story about the updates and improvements Melania Trump made to the public spaces of the White House when she was First Lady. She hasn’t made the renovation of the 132-room mansion a major focus, but she has made a few additions, including a bronze statue of Isamu Noguchi. She also oversaw an update of the rose garden and a restoration of the East Room, and she had new fabrics installed in the Red Room to replace sun-damaged upholstery and walls.
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It’s pruning time. Here’s how to do it without resorting to “cancer murder.”
Longtime gardening columnist Adrian Higgins retired in the fall, but he left us hundreds of beautifully written columns of wisdom and advice. In January, he wrote about how to properly prune trees in winter without slaughtering them, and railed against what he often called “cancer murder”: pruning weeping myrtle stems back about eight feet, regardless of natural form or biological ones needs of the tree. He offered advice on how to be more careful when pruning trees to encourage spring growth.
Vice President Harris is making her mark on the Washington area crochet scene
As it turns out, Harris is a crocheter. Koncius wrote about Harris’ March visit to Fiber Space, a yarn store in Alexandria, Virginia, where a yarn named Observatory Circle is sold in her honor. The Vice President’s interest in the popular hobby also inspired yarn bomber and street artist London Kaye to organize the creation of a crocheted mural featuring Harris’ likeness and the words ‘I’m Speaking’ to be installed on the Wharf. And Allison Hoffman, owner of Crafty is Cool in Austin, designed a pattern to crochet a Harris doll.
Would you like to create a butterfly garden? Here’s what you can plant based on your space.
Plants – both indoors and outdoors – have been a hot topic this year, and Kathryn Streeter wrote about what to plant to attract pollinators. She spoke to gardening experts about which varieties are best for the balcony and small and large gardens, with a focus on native plants. Specific recommendations included Allium, Phlox, Black-Eyed Susans, Joe Pye Weed, and more.
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How to clean your bathroom in 10 minutes, 30 minutes or an hour
Let’s face it: cleaning the bathroom is a tedious and often gross task. But it must be done. Author Christina Sturdivant Sani offered advice on how to do it well depending on how much time you have. For a quick 10-minute fix, put away items and clean counters and other surfaces with disposable towels. If you have 30 minutes, tackle the sink, toilet, and shower with an all-purpose spray. For a deep clean, focus on aspects like grout, bath mats and linens, or toiletries.
The 10 items every kitchen needs, according to experts
Writer Ashley Abramson asked several experts what it really takes for new homeowners to achieve a working kitchen. The answers? A good blender (not a dollar store one), a nice trash can, a sink drain strainer, and a kitchen mat to cushion your feet while you’re at the stove, among other things. Yes, these items are the epitome of utility, but they make a world of difference when it comes to making your kitchen work for you.
How to have a lush garden without using too much water
Addressing – and mitigating – the effects of climate change was a priority in 2021 as much of the American West struggled with drought, extreme heat and fire. Writer Sarah Fowler explored how homeowners can adapt their lawns and landscapes in the age of extreme weather. Recommendations included adding plants native to hot, dry climates; Choosing native grasses or rocks and shrubs for ground cover; and be mindful of how and when you water plants outdoors.
Looking for a more resilient and less needy lawn? Try Zoysia or Bermuda grasses.
Similarly, an August column by Higgins on turf options touched on alternatives to traditional fescue. Two in particular, zoysia and bermuda grass, are more heat-resistant options and require less water than fescue. He writes that as summers tend to get hotter and winters tend to be milder, these varieties are an increasingly viable option in the mid-Atlantic.
How to remove popcorn tops and when to call a professional
Textured or “popcorn” ceilings are a feature of many homes, particularly those built in the 1950s through the 1980s. Home maintenance and repair columnist Jeanne Huber says they were popular because spraying on the texture saved builders the expense of painstakingly smoothing out drywall seams and nails or screws, then priming and painting. Nowadays, however, those bumpy ceilings can make your home look dated. Huber gave advice on how to safely remove them in this story.