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Proper Insulation Can Save your Plants!

This past snow was exciting, beautiful, and for some, provided much needed time indoors.  For others, the snow and subsequent colder temperatures cost much more than they anticipated. Attic spaces that are not properly insulated can allow heat to escape.  Melting of the snow/ice will ensue (in our case from this storm, up to 3 feet of snow in some areas!!!) thus creating an avalanche of destruction on the foundation and plants below.  In some cases, it will bring the gutters with it!!  Additionally, trying to shovel the snow off your plants will only make it worse. Properly insulating your home not only saves you on your direct energy cost but will avoid potential subsequent repair cost and is the MOST COST EFFECTIVE amendment you can make to your home at this time!

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Garden Clutter

Oh, it's been a long winter, as evidenced by the copious amounts of garden ornament and furnishings (often still in the boxes), awaiting warmer temperatures.  Those enticing garden catalogs were hard to resist, as their focus is on wonderful outdoor summer life; something that seemed so far in the future.  The down side to all this early buying is that it was purchased before the garden was designed.  So instead of asking, '"How many people do you typically entertain?" or "What sort of play areas and spaces do you want for your children?" our challenge is to make all the styles, colors and themes fit together cohesively in the landscape.  Clutter is confusing and can negatively affect the energy of a space.   In design, it's truly putting "the cart before the burro"  Style should be determined first.  Traditional, contemporary, arts and crafts, country home, etc. and then the spaces determined by desire and need.  If the client is set on 'collections', than vignettes may be the solution to organization and simple hardscape materials to provide a canvas for the 'stuff'...I mean, 'ornament'. Bottom line; start with a theme/style; lay out the desired functional spaces and then coordinate the furnishings and ornament within those…

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Petro lends a helping hand…

For the last few years Petro has worked closely with the staff at Pecometh Camp & Retreat Ministries.  Petro donates their time and design eye for the development of the group’s most recent undertaking: the new Adult Retreat Center! The volunteer designers at Petro became an integral part of the design team providing valuable suggestions regarding layout, grading, drainage, and material selections during the design/development phase.  To start, the designers at Petro spent time facilitating workshops with key staff.  They worked together to select building color schemes, re-align driveways to ease circulation, evaluate species for the Storm Water Management area, among other various tasks as well, all to provide the most efficient, sustainability, and aesthetics for the center. The building phases are now complete, and the ribbon cutting was held last month.  Currently, Petro is donating time to help with the courtyard design.  The Retreat Ministry will be looking for Donors to create the pavers for this area.  Petro has connected with Increte, a contrete contractor who will ALSO donate time, materials, and installation of over 2,000 square feet of concrete to the project! The new retreat is located on the Eastern Shore in Centreville, Maryland, with beautiful tranquil views…

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Lessons from Hurricane Lee – continued ‘Surface Drainage’

I recently saw a ‘grab’ line in an advertisement for a drainage company that stated “The most common solution to drainage is a system of French drains”.  No! This is wrong.   A French drain in the wrong location can be a costly mistake. Here are a few basic rules for handling surface drainage: If the area can be graded to divert the water, this should be the first approach.  A minimum of 2% slope on turf is sufficient to move water. If grading is not an option a surface drain, or better yet -a catch basin, could be an option.  The inlet point must still be 2% higher than the outlet point.  Excavation and distance are key financial considerations. For standing, percolating ground water a French drain system is a viable option.  Water takes the path of least resistance so gravel surrounding an open perforated pipe draws the water in.  The pipe still needs to be diverted to a lower elevation in order to remove the water from the area rather than just gathering it. A turf swale is a good conductor of water Catch basin with atrium grate to intercept surface water French drains should not be located next…

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Inside Looking Out…

What is your seasonal window view...? ...Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... The view to the outside changes dramatically through the seasons.  Are your views taking advantage of what Mother Nature offers every year...? Extend your residence from the interior to the exterior by properly taking advantage of your viewsheds.  A landscape does not always need to be experienced by exposing oneself to the elements but can be enjoyed through lovely framed "views" from your cozy interior.   Add a focal point , perhaps some lighting, and your views can give you something to look forward to during the short winter days. Take a glance out your window...walk through your home...sit it in your favorite chair... Are the views to the exterior maximizing their potential...?  Let Petro Design/Build help plan for all seasons!  Contact us  info@petrodesignbuild.com  or  301.249.9000

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House guest get welcoming ‘Hug’

Porticoes historically have been used in architecture to define an entry, create an area of welcoming and gathering, and of course protection from the elements: SNOW, rain, and sun! At Petro we specialize in helping to create these inviting elegant arrivals with spectacular curb appeal, while adding value to your home.  Let a custom portico express functional architectural language to your residence while welcoming your guests... Email us now to set up a consultation.

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Lessons from Hurricane Lee

A ‘1000-year’ storm event is certainly the true test of the capability of a home drainage system.    Yeah, yeah “it was a freak event” yet we have had 4 ‘freak’ events in the last 6 years and it only takes 1 to add thousands of dollars in repairs or, at least, raise your insurance premiums. Even a trickle of water in a finished basement space can ruin flooring, drywall and furnishings and feed deadly molds. Not surprisingly, most of the damage I’ve seen, in regards to drainage, was caused by the neglect of common sense principals. Drainage is one of the most important elements of a sound foundation and so, truly, the most cost effective preventative you can implement. Preferably, the builder was diligent when your home was constructed.  If your home was built in the 80’s you can cross that diligence off the list.  Faulty foundation drainage may not be evident until after the home warranty has expired or until a storm ‘event’…more on this in a future blog. It is curious to me how homeowner’s will trust their maintenance crew for resolving drainage issues.  Asking a mowing and mulching crew landscape design questions can be detrimental but relying…

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Fall is the Time for Planting

If you thought Spring, the time of natural renewal, was the best time for planting, you might be surprised!   FALL…. is actually the best time to let roots take hold and give your new garden time to develop and grow.  The parts above the ground may have to deal with the cold onset, BUT the roots will continue to grow and prosper till the soil below starts to freeze, well into winter.  This gives the plant months to “take root” versus trying to immediately acclimate and produce leaves/flowers/etc.  in the hot Spring and Summer months. Currently, Petro has several great planting jobs in progress, including a job along the water in the Mount Vernon, Virginia area.  This planting features native buffer plantings, framing beautiful veiwsheds to the water.  Species included native grasses such as Panicums and Carex, tolerant perennials such as Salvia and Rudbeckia, and, beautiful roses.   A second plant installation nearing completion is located in woodlands outside of historic Ellicott City.  Specified in this project are unique natives like Winterthur Viburnum and Mahonia, better known as the Oregon Grape Holly. If you are thinking about new plantings, now is the best time.  Contact Kathleen to schedule an appointment.  Or…

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Lechuza Self Watering Planters

PETRO RECOMMENDED PRODUCT OF THE MONTH: LECHUZA self watering planters   Form meets function in this innovative growing system by LECHUZA. LECHUZA self-watering planters feature a sub-irrigation system that allows appropriate self-watering for up to 12 weeks depending on the plant type, planter size and location. In addition, LECHUZA planters include removable drainage plugs and an interchangeable plant liner to be used indoors or outdoors. This delightful product includes simple elements such as a water level indicator, a supply shaft to make watering and adding fertilizer quick and easy, and a separator, which forms and separates a water reservoir within the planter. This system makes at home plant care simple and carefree for frequent travelers or those who simply can’t find extra time in the day to exercise their green thumbs. The secret to LECHUZA planters doesn’t lie solely in the mechanical pieces, but in the plant substrate used in place of soil. The plant substrate, called LECHUZA-PON provides optimum watering and supports root aeration. Nutrients are stored and released only as the plant needs them and unlike soil, LECHUZA-PON does not compress by itself. The mixture is reusable and adjusts ph-value as well.   Petro has successfully installed self-watering…

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Petro has on staff LEED AP!

Landscape Architect, Colleen Bathon is LEED AP certified! LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and is an internationally recognized certification system highlighting the importance of green building and sustaining our environment. The program was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and provides building owners with a framework for implementing and measuring practical green building design, construction, maintenance, and operations. Using the LEED process will help promote sustainable design, buildings and development.  This certification can be applied to both residential and commercial building types. LEED aims to achieve high performance in several areas of human and environmental health including sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and environmental quality. If you are interested in how your home/building could apply for LEED status, OR interested in learning more about sustainable applications for your site contact us.  info@petrodesignbuild.com For more information on LEED, visit www.usgbc.org.

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