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Sights and smells of spring

Outdoor lovers will have no lack of great garden and flower events in the coming months



spring, flowers, gay news, Washington Blade
spring, flowers, gay news, Washington Blade

The region is jam-packed with great outdoor festivals in the coming months. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Now that spring is here, several celebrations and festivities are blooming up around the entire District. Here are a few selections for those who wish to celebrate the warmer weather and a new gardening season.


Brookside Gardens (1800 Glenallen Ave., Wheaton, Md.) holds its Earth Day Festival on Sunday starting at noon. The festivities will include a Green Craft and Vendor Fair, activities for children and families and a community art project. The vendors include local crafters selling items made of reused, recycled, organic and sustainable products. From 12:30-3:30 p.m., there are walks and tours of the gardens, which include an Aquatic Garden, Azalea Garden, Butterfly Garden, Children’s Garden, Rose Garden, Japanese Style garden, Trial Garden, Rain Garden and a Woodland Walk. This event is free. For details, visit

The Book Hill neighborhood of Georgetown holds its 10th annual French Market today and Saturday at 10 a.m. About 35 Georgetown boutique and antique shops, restaurants and galleries participate in the event offering savings up to 75 percent. Strolling musicians, mimes, arts and crafts with Alliance Francais and live art demos by Art Soiree are included in the festivities. For more information, visit

Ladew Gardens (3535 Jarrettsville Pike, Monkton, Md.) offers its own Earth Day celebration with “Storytime in the Gardens: Earth Day Birthday” today at 10:30 a.m. and again at 12:30 p.m. Admission is $5-$10. Advance registration is required. To continue the festival, the garden hosts “Compost Critters” on Saturday at 10:30 p.m. and invites families to search for critters in compost piles while learning about recycling. Attendees will be able to create their own mini composter. Admission is $2-$10 and advance registration is requested. Visit for more information.

Green Spring Gardens (4603 Green Spring Rd, Alexandria Va.) holds a “Basic Gardening: Easy Makeover Tips” workshop on April 26 at 1:30 p.m. This class will help people who want to redo their gardens and landscapes. Cost is $10. For more information, visit

The U.S. Botanic Garden (100 Maryland Ave., SW) offers several different celebrations and tours for the spring season. Here are a few:

  • The garden starts spring right with the Earth Day Festival today from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Cooking demonstrations with seasonal produce will be available and attendees can mingle with representatives of environmental groups. The celebration will take place on the Conservatory Terrace and this event is free.
  • The Painting Orchids in Pencil and Watercolor workshop with artist Carol Beach is Saturday and Sunday at 9 a.m. The class will create a large painting of the anatomy of the orchid. Cost is $150-$175. For more information, visit
  • Enjoy jazz and blues at the ninth annual Big Band Jam with Harry Schnipper and the Blues Alley Jazz Society from April 23-26, starting at noon. This event is free and will take place in the National Garden Amphitheater.
  • The garden hosts the tour “Exploring Culinary and Medicinal African Plants” on Thursday at noon. The tour explores the several different foods and crop grown in Africa, such as cocoa and other foods used for medicine or even sweet foods. This tour is free and will meet in the Conservatory Garden Court.
  • The garden hosts the lecture “Medicinal Plants of Central Asia: Mountains, Deserts, the Silk Road and Soviet Astronauts” on April 26 at noon in the Conservatory classroom. Lecturer Sasha Eiserman, professor at Temple University, will talk about the history of the medicinal plants in this region. This event is free but pre-registration is required.
  • Writer Melanie Choukas-Bradley, author of  “City of Trees,” gives a workshop about identifying trees in the evening on April 26 at 6:30 p.m. and again the following morning at 10 a.m. Cost is $15-$20.

For more information about any of these events, visit


The National Cathedral (3101 Wisconsin Ave., NW) holds its annual Flower Mart on May 3-4 at 10 a.m. The festival features annuals, perennials, landscape exhibits, Olmsted Woods and garden tours, musical entertainment, gourmet food, a book sale and activities for children. The festival also includes at least 50 booths with gardening items, handbags and jewelry. Floral designers and embassies will design beautiful floral arrangements. For more information, visit

Ladew Gardens ( 3535 Jarrettsville Pike, Monkton, Md.) presents its Garden Festival on May 4 beginning at 8 a.m. with priority preview and lecture with Allan Armitage, a famous horticulturalist. This includes chances to shop first at the different venders and a continental breakfast. Tickets to these particular event costs $75-$100. At 10 a.m. general admission sales begins which includes admission to the festival as well as different tours. Admission to this is $15-$45. Visit for more information.

The Green Spring Garden (4603 Green Spring Rd, Alexandria Va.) hosts its Spring Garden Day on May 18 at 9 a.m. The even features 40 vendors of rare and unusual plants. For more information, visit

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Real Estate

Preserving D.C.’s historic neighborhoods

Some districts are well known and others may come as a surprise



HOAs are not prevalent in D.C. and only within the last few decades have we seen them spring up in a few developments.

Homeowners Associations (HOAs) often get a bad rap. 

Perhaps you can’t park in a particular area, your door must be a certain color, your mailbox has a specific height requirement, or your potential deck must be approved by an Architectural Committee that doesn’t include an architect.

Association rules may also dictate whether your neighbor can have his car up on blocks in the front yard, limit the hours of your cocaine orgies, or specify who will be allowed to picket your home within a gated community.

Sometimes, HOAs can delay settlement on the transfer of property, since the association generally must sign off on any changes made to the exterior that fall within their purview. 

If there have been unauthorized changes to the property, then the seller may be forced to take corrective measures before settlement can proceed. Examples I have seen include lack of architectural committee approval, work done without permits, deteriorating fences, and roofs that are due for replacement.

Whether you find them intrusive or think they help to protect your property values, today’s HOAs are far better than the restrictive covenants found in many parts of early 20th century America. Those covenants were designed to prohibit racial or religious minorities from purchasing a home in a particular neighborhood.

In April 1948, the Supreme Court ruled that such covenants violated the Civil Rights Act of 1866, but that didn’t end the practice abruptly. These covenants were finally outlawed by the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 and, while in some areas of the country you may still see them on a deed, they are unenforceable. 

HOAs are not prevalent in D.C. and only within the last few decades have we seen them spring up in a few developments within our neighborhoods. Instead, you may find your property encumbered by historic preservation standards.

The National Historic Preservation Act, codified in 1966, outlines laws and regulations that are applicable nationwide. The Historic Landmark and Historic District Protection Act of 1978 contains laws and regulations specific to the District of Columbia. As you can imagine, there is a common goal with a significant amount of overlap between them.

In D.C., the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) conducts preservation planning, identifies historic properties, reviews government projects for compliance, and promotes tax credits and incentives for ensuring the preservation of our buildings, monuments, and districts. 

Those of us who live in the DMV know that D.C. has a plethora of historic monuments and buildings. It is the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) that determines which landmarks and districts will be included in the DC Inventory of Historic Sites, which is available to the public here

Some of our historic districts are well known and others may come as a surprise. For example, when discussing historic districts, most people think first of Georgetown, Capitol Hill, Dupont Circle, or Anacostia, but did you know that Emerald Street and Kingman Park in Northeast D.C. have been designated historic? 

In fact, more than 30 local neighborhoods are now deemed historic, including some that I had never heard of, such as Colony Hill, added on March 21, 2021 (north of Reservoir Road NW and west of Glover Archbold Park), Strivers’ Section (bordered primarily by Florida and New Hampshire Avenues NW), and Washington Heights (north of Florida Avenue, east of Columbia Road and west to 18th Street NW). Several proposed historic residential districts also have applications pending, including Park View and Barney Circle. 

Sometimes the boundaries of historic districts aren’t clear. For example, when I lived near Union Station years ago, the south side of the street was considered historic and the properties on the north side were not. You can find out whether a particular property is located in a historic district by searching the address at

If you already live in a historic area, you need to be aware of what you can and cannot do with the front elevation and roofline of your home. The preference is for repairing a historic element rather than replacing it, and the design of an element as well as the material used must be compatible with the original structure. Guidelines for specific items can be found here

If your area is not designated as historic and you would like it to be, you or your organization can file an application with the HPRB. Review the criteria necessary for approval here

Be prepared to do a lot of community outreach and attend hearings to support your position, for as much as we want to preserve the beauty of our surroundings, there are likely to be as many people opposed to the idea as there are in favor.

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate/@properties. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.

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Rides in all sizes

With sky-high gas prices, how much car do you really need?



Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

With the current surge in gas prices, many potential buyers are taking a hard look at just how much vehicle they really need. Here’s a look at three choice rides in various sizes: small, medium, and large. 

Mpg: 26 city/29 highway
0 to 60 mph: 8.6 seconds 

Introduced in 2018, the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross channels plenty of excitement for those of us still pining for the sporty Eclipse coupe produced between 1989 and 2011. This affordable compact crossover offers similar cocky styling, including a futuristic fascia and tony Lexus-like tush. 

But despite the rakish good looks, the acceleration from the four-cylinder turbo is more practical than powerful. And the composed suspension is more amiable than arousing. But the nimble steering and taut cornering are perfect for quick maneuvers during rush-hour congestion and for squeezing into tight parking spaces. The straightforward cabin design comes with faux-aluminum trim and fairly comfortable cloth seats—though the lack of an adjustable lumbar support to cushion my back was a bummer. Some of the many standard features include 7-inch touchscreen, four-speaker stereo, Bluetooth and lots of safety gear: automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning and rearview camera. 

Step up to any of the three other trim levels to add heated seats, smartphone integration, synthetic suede upholstery, power panoramic sunroof, head-up display, additional safety gizmos and more. In other words, despite its budget-pleasing price, the Eclipse Cross boasts plenty of amenities. 

Mpg: 19 city/26 highway
0 to 60 mph: 7.4 seconds

Jeep Grand Cheerokee

Completely redesigned this year, the Jeep Grand Cherokee now looks more luxe-like than rugged. This could have been a disaster, considering the automaker’s reputation for churning out rough-and-tumble rides. Yet despite what is essentially a nod to Land Rover’s boxy yet soft-edged styling, this midsizer still retains its true Jeep DNA. 

This is evident in the seamless mix of smooth on-road handling with stellar off-road capability. There are more than a dozen trim levels, from the $41,000 base-model Laredo all the way up to the Summit Reserve 4xe PHEV at $77,000. While that’s quite a price difference, it shows Jeep’s commitment to offering a Grand Cherokee for every buyer personality. Sure, offering so many configurations can be confusing, but it gives drivers the chance to really customize their rides. This includes choice of three powertrains: standard V6, robust Hemi V8 and the fuel-friendly 4xe plug-in hybrid that can travel up to 25 miles on battery power alone. 

Inside, there’s so much glam you might think this was a high-end Mercedes. Depending on trim level, you can deck out the interior with quilted upholstery, open-pore wood, dual-pane panoramic sunroof, quad-zone climate control, second-row shades and other goodies. For techies, there’s a Wi-Fi hot spot, various USB ports, smartphone integration, 10.10-inch infotainment touchscreen and 10.25-inch digital gauge cluster. Call me a hedonist, but I especially liked the massaging seats, premium 19-speaker McIntosh stereo and a rear-seat entertainment system that adds dual hi-def screens with built-in Amazon Fire TV. 

Mpg: 14 city/19 highway
0 to 60 mph: 5.9 seconds

Cadillac Escalade

Introduced in 1999, the Cadillac Escalade received a complete makeover last year. The head-turning styling is daring and dramatic, with a massive prow-like hood, severely creased sheet metal, and bold, vertical lighting treatments that would make Thor proud. This colossus is 6 feet, 4 inches tall and tips the scale at a hulking 5,700 pounds—twice the weight of a Mini Cooper. 

Yet it’s surprisingly spry, outpacing the Mini Cooper by 0.3 seconds when accelerating from 0 to 60 mph. While power comes from a thirsty V8, half of the cylinders are automatically deactivated at cruising speed to reduce gas consumption. A more eco-friendly option is the diesel engine, which gets 50% better fuel economy. (And earlier this month, Cadillac announced its all-electric Escalade is expected by 2024.) I test drove one of the top-of-the-line Platinum models, with a hefty price tag of $105,000. To say this large SUV was oozing luxury is an understatement, with high-end finishes everywhere, adjustable ambient lighting, center console refrigerator, night-vision camera, 36-speaker stereo and rear-seat captain’s chairs. Perhaps even more impressive: The front dash has a staggering 38 inches of curved OLED screens, combining the digital gauge cluster, infotainment display and surround-view camera.

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Real Estate

Consider buying a beach house with a group of friends 

A lawyer can ensure everyone’s rights are protected



Enjoy weekends at the beach? Why not invest with a group of friends?

A trend that we are seeing across the boards (get it…like boardwalk) as we head into summer, aside from the swimsuits getting smaller and smaller, is friends buying homes together. Buying a property with another individual is not only an option for those in a relationship, marriage, domestic partnership, business etc. but also friendships.

With the pandemic and the increase of people wanting to move out of their small spaces in the city and leave for the more bucolic settings, the trend has been to ask your roomie, kiki partner or other friend to go halfsies on your primary residence. Why pay rent when you can have an investment and build equity in your home, right? Well why not take that approach for a second home at the beach? You will likely have the beach house to entertain and have friends over for weekends or weeks during the summer so let’s get them on the hook for more than just a few bottles of vodka or boxed wine. Let’s get their names on that mortgage.

With the rising market prices your borrowing power is stronger as a collective. Think of your group that you head to the beach with. How many of those folks would love to have a space at the beach? Likely all of them. If you can only afford $200k but three of your best friends can also only afford $200k then collectively you can afford $800k. Using simple terms and numbers here, but I trust you are tracking. 

Now that you have found those select few that you implicitly, or mostly implicitly trust and are financially stable let’s now consider the actual items that matter in practice such as (1) how you will split up days, weeks etc., (2) how and who handles/coordinates repairs to the property, (3) what happens if you no longer enjoy this person or someone wants out of the house and they’re on the mortgage? This is where a lawyer comes into place and can advise on creating an operating agreement similar to what a business or corporation would have in place to ensure that all parties in the home are protected and each has their own rights as well as common rights for the home.

I know what you’re thinking, this sounds a little dicey, but I know if you’re reading this, that you have likely been in dicier situations, and for those who really want a beach house to enjoy but might not have the capital to do so, this is a great option. Instead of renting a beach house for the season and paying high season beaucoup bucks, why not get a few friends together to buy a beach house together?

Justin Noble is a Realtor with Sotheby’s international Realty licensed in D.C., Maryland, and Delaware for your DMV and Delaware Beach needs. Specializing in first-time homebuyers, development and new construction as well as estate sales, Justin is a well-versed agent, highly regarded, and provides white glove service at every price point. Reach him at 202-503-4243, [email protected] or

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