Between Garden Tours, Funds Go To Work

October 27, 2016

The money sprouts every spring in Book Hill Park, dangles from the rosebushes at Montrose Park and shades the old brick sidewalks. The greenery that makes Georgetown so special comes […]

A Homegrown Page-Turner

April 14, 2015

It is always good to be the star, and in “The Bullet” – Georgetowner Mary Louise Kelly’s new thriller – we are. Along with Caroline Cashion, the book’s heroine, Georgetown itself plays a big role.

In fact, the word ‘Georgetown’ is right there on the front page. Cashion is a (fictional, of course) professor of 19th-century French literature at Georgetown University.

Unlike most professors, Cashion is beautiful and loaded with interesting secrets, the most intriguing being: Why is there a bullet lodged in the back of her neck, a bullet (it gets even better) that she never knew was there?

Unraveling the why and figuring out the who lies at the heart of the book, which includes several familiar settings. Early on, Cashion gets drunk at the Tombs. (I say from experience that she’s among the legions who have done the same thing.) Shortly after, she cops to an obsession with Pâtisserie Poupon’s croissants – she also likes the bacon quiche – and hangs out at Saxby’s on 35th Street.

As the pace picks up, Cashion figures out why she’s carrying a bullet around in her neck. She is attacked at her house on Q Street and runs to the Georgetown University police for help. It turns out she was adopted when she was three years old, and the bullet in her neck is the same bullet that killed her mother. Who killed her parents? Why? She soon realizes that, because the markings on the bullet she’s carrying could identify the killer, she is in danger.

Kelly wrote most of the book while on sabbatical in Florence last year, where her two boys learned to rattle off Italian slang and honed their soccer skills. Now she’s back home in Georgetown. It is nice to think of her staring out at the dry hills above Florence while thinking about the coffee at Saxby’s. Now she’s probably sitting at Saxby’s thinking about the caffè latte at her favorite place in Florence. [gallery ids="102026,134910" nav="thumbs"]

Georgetown Markets Build Community

January 16, 2015

It used to be the two “S’s,” Scheele’s and Sara’s, that kept the east side of Georgetown going. That’s where us disorganized people go to pick up a pint of milk for cereal or bottle of wine for a dinner party. Now the two “S’s” have been joined by a third, Stachowski’s, and the neighborhood is hopping.

Stachowski’s opened on the corner of 28th and P streets last April. “Initially the neighborhood was our core group,” says Jyoti Mukherjee, the store’s manager. “Now it is steady all day everyday. We probably serve about 400 people a day—people from all over, Arlington, Bethesda, Capitol Hill.”

Stachowski’s, named after local chef and owner Jamie Stachowski, is primarily a butcher shop, but it does a brisk business in sandwiches and take-out dinners. The most popular things on the menu are probably the pastrami sandwich and the grinder, but the shop sells cookies, bread and fancy sodas as well. Aside from the standard steaks, and lots of sausages, there’s also a lot of demand for pork and veal cheeks. Probably the weirdest order they’ve ever gotten was for quail gizzards.

Business is very good. So good, in fact, that there is some discussion of opening new stores in other walkable neighborhoods. “We are the right concept at the right time in the exact right place,” Mukherjee says. “Being on this corner and the smells and the life around this place–there’s a great sense of community here.”

And that is what is it all about, say the Georgetowners who rely on their neighborhood food stores. “They build community,” says Dave Salwen, a Scheele’s loyalist. “They know you, they know your neighbors, and you get to know your neighbors.”

And the stores are part of the fabric of the block. Scheele’s, which is at 29th and Dumbarton, “keeps keys, lends jumper cables, we’ve used their fax machine, done package drop off there,” says Barrett Tilney. “I even got a Christmas card this year from Ms. Lee (Scheele’s former owner)!”

Scheele’s current owner, Dong Kim, says his customers are loyal; there just aren’t enough of them. His store stocks items of acute need in the neighborhood: bagels for sleepy teenage boys, tennis balls for the avid players at Rose Park, Diet Coke for the frazzled yummy mummies. “It is important for the neighborhood,” Kim says, though he is planning to use Twitter and other social media to pull in more customers.

Sara’s, on busy Q Street, is all things to all neighbors, both a place to pick up bread and a drycleaner, shoehorned into a fairly tiny space. It, too, has a devoted clientele. “I go there a couple of times of a week,” says Ned Herrington, “mostly when I run out of chicken noodle soup.”

And (this is sort of a secret,), the coolest Georgetowners have something neither money nor fame can buy: a house account. Sara’s doesn’t offer them, but Scheele’s does and Stachowski’s is starting to—meaning you can get your morning coffee or dinner’s duck casserole without resorting to such a plebian thing as carrying a wallet.

Seams Bursting, Hyde-Addison Moves Forward

May 21, 2014

Welcome to Georgetown, Hyde-Addison Elementary School – even though you’ve been here since 1907.

Hyde-Addison, on the west side of Georgetown between P and O Streets, is growing too big for its buildings: Hyde for pre-kindergarteners through 2nd graders and Addison for 3rd through 5th graders. The school needs basic work to keep up with the latest ideas in teaching and learning.

The first part of the project will retrofit the Hyde building to make it more accessible and enable it to accommodate more students. The second part of the project is the construction of a media center, a gym, a cafeteria and a walkway connecting the two buildings.

Dana Nerenberg, Hyde-Addison’s principal, who will be leaving at the end of the school year to be with her fiance in Oregon said, “The most important part of the renovation is to improve learning conditions for our students. We will enjoy new lighting, flooring and furnishings in every space. We are also excited to have bathrooms adjacent to every classroom. This will be convenient and preserve learning time.”

Hyde is bursting at the seams with children. Some of them are products of the general baby boom in Georgetown. (Visit any local park – they’re all swarming with little ones and their nannies.) And some of the pressure on Hyde comes from the expansion of the school’s in-boundary population and the possibility that Burleith’s kids will be added to the Hyde pool in the near future.

For some time now, Hyde-Addison has been moving, slowly, through all the layers of bureaucracy that embrace – or encumber – the D.C. school system, the city itself and, perhaps most onerous of all, Georgetown. One of the reasons Georgetown looks like, well, Georgetown, is because there are many fierce guardians keeping it that way.

The one that strikes the most trepidation into the hearts of the legions of architects, engineers, planners, shopkeepers and plain ol’ rich people who populate the neighborhood is the Old Georgetown Board, whose message is simple: “My name is OGB, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” (Sorry, Percy Bysshe Shelley.)

Coming before the OGB for the fifth time in April, Hyde-Addison got preliminary approval to proceed, which is a great step forward. As Hyde parent and former ANC commissioner John Lever diplomatically noted, “As with all large public efforts in Georgetown, it must go through several different review bodies.”

The OGB is not the last stop for Hyde. After the project gets OGB and Commission of Fine Arts approval, the school will coordinate with the District’s Department of General Services to begin work next school year or as soon as all the permits are in place.

Architectural rendering of Hyde-Addison Elementary School

Summer Camps of the Day

April 11, 2014

Ahhh, summer. My boys would spend the best time of the year playing “gear grinding game,” which isn’t its name but is what it sounds like. Bloody and stupid, to give into gear grinding game would be to raise a serial killer. But, if you parents have the cash, you won’t have to visit your darlings in San Quentin. Instead, you can raise basketball-playing public advocates with crocheting skills, all with the help of your local summer camp.

For the little ones, of course, there are sports and crafts and, well, “the whimsy and joy of summer.” St. John’s Episcopal Preschool promises to foster “links between the natural world and aesthetic experiences. Utilizing indoor and outdoor classrooms and studios, children express their own observations and theories using multiple media.” By multi-media, they do not mean computer games.

But when they get a little bigger, camp does sometimes mean computer games; making them, not playing them. Georgetown Day offers a set of classes called 21Innovate. The programming part introduces `’tweens to Linux, HTML and something called Ruby & Dynamic Web Pages (I don’t even know if they go together and the ampersand is part of the name or not.) For high schoolers “eager to experience and explore the relationship between social justice and policy,” GDS will help students “take action by engaging in the development and execution of policy and advocacy work.” Wow. I’m already scared.

Hardy Middle School offers camps under the D.C. Department of Parks and Rec. There’s one called “Three Pointers and Prose Camp,” which is a “high energy basketball camp, which incorporates on-court skill development and game play, with the writings of some of history’s luminary African-American poets. Campers will spend time each day reading a daily selection, before hitting the court for more hoops.” Poetry would go a long way toward improving the NBA, if you ask me.
Basketball is big all over D.C. Georgetown University, not surprisingly, offers up basketball camp, ostensibly led by the school’s own coach, John Thompson. Heat stroke appears to be a major concern, as the boys (only boys, 8-18) live in air-conditioned dorms and play on air-conditioned courts. Best of all, though, they get all-you-can-eat meals and a FREE Nike t-shirt. That might entice my boys. The only thing they care about more than shooting monsters online is Nike swag.

No matter what your kid wants to do, there’s a camp to match. Sports camps are everywhere–no curling, but pretty much everything else, from fencing to diving, baseball to tennis. The DC YMCA wants to know if you’ve “got a yen for lunar learning?” If so, buckle up for air and space camp (I could swear my sister enrolled years ago). “Appetizing Art” camp lets you bake and eat things that “not only look great but taste great, too!” Sidwell has a knitting camp. “Imagine your child spending her day in the care of warm and loving counselors knitting, crocheting, hand and machine sewing the day away making the most adorable creations.” Anything I could think of, I could find. Except, finally, I was thwarted. The only Dungeons and Dragons camp I could find—there is one, though—is in Indianapolis.
[gallery ids="101683,144128" nav="thumbs"]

Robert Nixon’s ‘Mission Blue’ at the Environmental Film Festival

March 20, 2014

It’s the story of two powerful forces. One is human; the other is integral to future of the human race. Robert Nixon’s documentary film, “Mission Blue,” is the story of renowned oceanographer Sylvia Earle and her relationship with the sea.

“I hope ‘Mission Blue’ shows people what we are doing to the oceans,” Nixon says. When he began working with Earle on the film, he says, “She said, ‘Please, make a hopeful film.’ And this is classic Sylvia, because she knew how hard that would be. But we believe we’ve done that. The film is very much about Sylvia’s life as a witness to nature and as a witness to what we’ve done to our planet.”

“Mission Blue” is coming to Washington as part of the 2014 Environmental Film Festival. It will make its D.C. premiere March 22 at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History. Earle is an explorer-in-residence with National Geographic Society, and where, as Nixon says, “she has ten of thousands of specimens.”

Washington is also home for Nixon and his family, and he says he’s been delighted to watch the Environmental Film Festival grow into a major event and a first-rate place to show films. And he would know. He’s made a dozen acclaimed films, including “Amazon Diary,” “Real Jaws” and “Gorillas in the Mist.” He also inspired and documented a massive clean up of the Anacostia, led by teenagers who live close to the river.

“Mission Blue” opened this year’s Santa Barbara Film Festival. Directed by Nixon and Fisher Stevens, the movie, Variety said, captures the “majesty and imperiled status of the world’s aquatic life,” and the “spectacular underwater photography offers eye candy aplenty.” It also tells the story of the ocean story in human terms, through the eyes, drive, and lungs of Sylvia Earle.

“She is the hardest working, most tireless person I’ve ever met,” Nixon says. “We dove all over the world with Sylvia. And as exciting as it is to go diving with her, you don’t want to be her dive buddy, because she just does not use any air. We’re in the Galapagos, a hundred feet down, I’m hanging onto things and moving all over the place. I’ve got a camera. Sylvia’s next to me with a camera, just as calm as could be. After a while, I look at my air. I think, “Oh, I’ve got to be thinking about going up,” and I’d look at her air and it’d hardly moved at all. You know, you don’t want to be the reason why Sylvia has to go up.”

The Rixey Scale: Design Mix of Modern and Classic

January 17, 2014

It’s a gut renovation, costing upwards of $1.5 million dollars. The windows are covered in plywood and the whine of power drills makes it hard to think, but neither Victoria nor Douglas Rixey seem to notice. Well-dressed and thoughtful amidst the dust and clatter, they are comfortable here. Until the client moves in in March, this is their space.

And this house on Q Street in Georgetown will be quite a space. It is Victoria’s project. She’s putting in geothermal heating and air conditioning via three wells 320 feet deep in the backyard, solar panels and LED lights. Victoria says she expects the house’s owner will be able to sell excess electricity back to Pepco. The floors have radiant heat built under them, and the hot water comes on demand. Gone are the energy-inefficient days of tanks holding gallons of hot water. The row house’s new owners are downsizing from a grander space elsewhere in the neighborhood, and they, like many of the Rixeys’ current clients, want to live in a green, sustainable house.

Rixey-Rixey Architects has been operating in Georgetown since 1985. They’ve been around for so long, Douglas jokes, that he sometimes works on houses he’s already renovated—three or four times. The firm’s staff consists of Victoria, Douglas and their Irish Jack Russell, Dex, whose main contributions include sniffing and walks to construction sites. Not all their work is in Georgetown, though. Victoria just finished a horse stable in Marshall, Va., and Douglas has built two new houses in Sanibel, Fla.
“We trusted Douglas enough to turn to him for sensible advice for our Little Compton [R.I.] and Concord [Mass.] houses,” says Kate Chartener, a former client in Georgetown. “His design for the back half of our [Georgetown] house was pitch-perfect, and we still felt that way 10 years later.”

The Rixeys, who work separately on their projects, says they’ve designed upwards of 100 houses in Georgetown. Their signatures include staircases and soap dishes. The house on Q Street boasts a three-story staircase, capped by a skylight, a way to bring light into tight Georgetown spaces. The soap dishes are a Victoria specialty, one that drains the soap properly and has a distinctive look.

The couple says that Douglas is the big-picture guy and Victoria best on details.

“Douglas gently presses clients to define what they truly like and need, and he has a great knack for delivering a product that shows style and design integrity,” says Robert Chartener, Kate’s husband. “He designed a 2001 extension that looked like an original part of our late 1890s house. Douglas Rixey is one those rare men who can drive a large motorcycle, while explaining the difference between Queen Anne and Georgian mullions.”

The houses are as diverse as the Rixeys’ clients. They’ve done work for a race car driver on N Street, for D.C.’s permanent ruling class of lawyers and for various government chiefs. One or two of the government honchos have requested elaborate security features that range from cameras, panic buttons and bullet-proof glass to doors bad guys can’t break down.

Aside from the elaborate security, the Rixeys have managed some interesting design requests. One client wanted leather walls and floors — for a library, Douglas says, not a bondage chamber. Another asked for sterling silver doorknobs, about 20, costing upwards of $2,000 each.

Business is pretty good, they say. Not quite up to pre-recession levels, but 2012 was one of the firm’s best years ever. Some years, they do four or five projects a year; other years, 20. They have a front-row seat on the latest fads and trends in architecture and design. Right now, master bedroom suites are in high demand, suites complete with fireplaces, big bathrooms and dressing rooms. The Rixeys, however, caution against taking out all the bedrooms. One huge bedroom and no others make for a tough re-sale, and they try to keep re-sale in mind as they work on current projects. Other trends for the master suite include mini-bars, vaulted ceilings and screened porches with sliding doors that can open up the whole room to the outside.
Other changes in luxurious living include a strong push for sustainability. The couple designed their own vacation house in Virginia’s Northern Neck.

“We set a budget for ourselves,” Victoria says. “But one of the really important things we just had to have was geothermal heat and air conditioning.” With solar panels, the whole house will be off the electrical grid, she says. More and more, they find themselves using recycled material in kitchen countertops and bathrooms and glass instead of marble. “We just used some glass on a lovely master bath in the East Village,” Victoria says. “The white glass tiles are a dead ringer for Thasos marble, a gorgeous clear all-white marble that’s becoming harder and harder to find because it has been over quarried.”

Technology has become a key part of designing a house now. Douglas describes a client who, he says, “can manage his house on his iPhone. The house is wired so that he can see who is at the front door, unlock it, turn on the air conditioning, play music in the kitchen and open the pool cover. From Paris.” A new idea is a swimming pool cover that disappears below that water level. “Every week, there’s something new,” Douglas says.

Some of the changing trends reflect a changing clientele. The Rixeys say more and more young families are moving into Georgetown, and often they ask for more casual, flowing spaces: houses where the kitchen, the living space and the backyard all melt into each other. Outdoor kitchens are hot. Formal dining rooms, Victoria says, are on their way out. The Rixeys have also noticed that more and more people are thinking about the future — and about “aging in place” — with some clients asking for elevators and wheelchair-accessible rooms.

Digging down has also been an important part of the Rixeys’ work in Georgetown. Because of a shortage of space and because of historic preservation rules, clients often can’t built out or up, so they go down. “Underpinning,” or taking basements lower and making them more livable, is part of many Georgetown renovations.

Finally, the Rixeys say the constraints of working in Georgetown make any project challenging. Yet, even with tight spaces, shared walls, nosy neighbors and tight parking, they say they’ve faced no more than one or two complaints over 25 plus years. And, though they moved out of Georgetown a couple of years ago, to renovate a house in Old Town, they’re looking at a new house in the East Village, figuring it might be time to move back home.

The Langhornes’ Contemporary on N Street, NW

Douglas Rixey began working with a son of past clients to begin a modest renovation. An international race car driver, the son had purchased a historically non-contributing house from his parents in the heart of Georgetown. Shortly after design work began, the eligible bachelor became engaged and — during the design process — married. What began as a very modest renovation turned into something much more, a high-tech modern house (shown in photos here) for a young family. It was completed just last year and was a star of the 2013 Georgetown House Tour. Recalls Rixey: “It was a tremendously dynamic design process, but also great fun, as the husband and wife were constantly bringing new ideas to the table.” The house has an in-home theater, smart-house wiring, geothermal heating and air conditioning and open living spaces that wrap a four-level floating stair, next to a glass elevator. [gallery ids="101448,153644,153650,153632,153636,153639,153647" nav="thumbs"]

Gemstones: Going Past Diamonds Into Color

Ah, Valentine’s Day. A truly loathsome ‘holiday,’ if you ask me. Once, in my younger and more pliant days, I went with a date to a Valentine’s dinner party with a red food theme. I’m not kidding. I think I’ve blocked it out: Every single thing on every plate was red. How many beets and tomatoes can one girl eat? Blech.

But maybe you’re past the red food stage and are ready for the next step in romance. Big presents. That would be rocks. Sparkly ones. Want a flutter of deep green on that ring finger? How about an unexpected glimpse of blue? According to a wildly unscientific Yahoo poll, diamonds are the most popular gemstones, but that’s changing. And what makes certain stones popular is a function of fashion, or demand, and yes, the other side of that ol’ econ 101 staple, supply. The rarer, the better, the more expensive.

According to the Gemological Institute of America, diamonds are above all about cut. They’re meant to flash, sparkle, wink, catch the light. A rough, uncut, diamond does none of those things. The diamond you covet is, in essence, wrought by man. But colored stones — now there, that’s about nature, Gaia, fire, the mother goddess, the earth.

But let’s move past diamonds. Everyone else is, it seems. Colored rocks are becoming more and more popular. The deep restless green of the emerald, the glow of the dangerous ruby, the clean bright blue of the sapphire — the color is what matters. For fancy jewelry, according to Yahoo, emeralds are popular, coming in right after diamonds, at number one, and pearls at two. After emeralds, apparently we like aquamarines, then tourmalines, then opals. Garnets are seventh and sapphires eighth.

I couldn’t tell you what most of those stones look like. Garnets, I think are … red? But that’s part of the changing nature of fancy jewelry. Nowadays, it doesn’t matter so much if your rock is the size of Gibraltar — it is the piece itself, the art of the setting that makes the jewel. Mix it up — turquoise AND diamonds. And leather. Some high-end stores sell precious gems imbedded in plastic, wood or intricate silver wires. That’s the demand part of the equation: There’s less interest in big chunks of rock in a simple setting and more in design, spiritual connection, meaning.

Typically, precious gemstones are defined as diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphires and opals (and pearls, yes, but they’re not gemstones, eh?). But what makes things valuable? Scarcity. Amethysts were once considered precious and were highly prized by ancient Greeks and up until the 19th century. When huge deposits of amethysts were discovered in Brazil in the 19th century, the price and the allure of the stones plummeted. Supply and demand.

At times during the last century, peridot, aquamarine and cat’s eye have been considered precious, though now most jewelers classify them as semi-precious if, indeed, they classify them at all.

And then there are the stones that are so rare you’ve never even heard of them. Red diamonds, ruby red, at $2 million to $2.5 million a carat. Serendibite, from Sri Lanka, black and shiny, for $1.8 million a carat. Blue garnet, which changes color from greenish blueish to purple, depending on the light. The most expensive blue garnet, 4.2 carats, sold for almost $7 million dollars in 2003. And don’t forget jadeite, andalusite, red beryl and clinohumite. They may sound like social diseases, but if you get your hands on one, hold on tight.

The biggest sellers of all time, however, are the classics, but with a twist. Color brings in money. And, interestingly enough, the biggest sales lately are in Hong Kong, aimed at the newly affluent of Asia. A ring with a blue diamond flanked by two pink diamonds sold in Hong Kong for $10 million dollars last October. According to Sotheby’s, which sold it, it is “a fancy blue diamond weighing 6.01 carats.” The buyer chose to remain anonymous.

In Geneva, in May, Christie’s sold a heart-shaped diamond weighting 56.15 carats. Christie’s marketed the diamond as “Love at First Sight,” and began advertising it last Valentine’s Day. And in 2010, Laurence Graff bought a pink diamond that used to be owned by fellow jeweler Harry Winston. It weighed 24.78 carats, and he paid $46.2 million dollars for it. It is the most expensive jewel ever sold at auction.

Finally, the real seller in the fancy jewelry world is provenance. If Liz Taylor, Wallis Simpson or Princess Di owned it, add on a couple of zeros. If it has fancy relatives, perhaps it is part of a stone that belongs to the Queen of England, tack on some more zeros. If it has a story, even better. Christie’s London sold the Wittelsbach diamond in 2008; it has a name AND a story, the auction house wrote in its press materials that the “diamond originates from the Indian kingdom of Golkonda. It is rumored that King Phillip IV of Spain purchased the jewel and included it in the dowry of his teenage daughter, Margaret Teresa, in 1664.”

So my advice: Get yourself a pretty stone. Wear it well. Have adventures with it; take it down the Zambezi and up the Alps. Dodge unsavory characters and feral animals. Drop it in a martini in Beijing, curry in New Delhi. Have an interesting life, and your jewels will live it with you.

84th Georgetown Garden Tour:

Some of them are grand. Some are architecturally intriguing, some full of plants with exotic names, like chocolate mimosa (you don’t drink it) and Cambodian buddhas. The 84th Georgetown Garden Tour takes place Saturday, May 5, and it is all about the eight paces, large and small, tucked behind high walls. One of the recurring themes of the tour is how inventive Georgetowners can take a tiny space and turn it into a dynamic and interesting outdoor “room.”

The garden tour, which is, after all, an urban garden tour, focuses on the problems inherent in small, enclosed gardens: the neighbors, their trees, their children, sun, the lack of it. It is impressive what people can do with small gardens. They create spaces on different levels, they “borrow” views, install marvelous statuary from exotic lands, put in charming water features, plant masses of very dark purple foliage (almost black). All of these are on show in this year’s tour.

One such garden is 3200 P Street, according to long-time garden tour organizer and local tyrant Edie Schafer. “It is extremely interesting, it has everything in it, they’ve got a water feature and they’re really into the plants. It is a small space, but they’ve done a lot with it,” she says. That’s part of what draws a crowd to the tour.
These gardens don’t necessarily start out with beautiful bones and knockout views; their owners have to work to turn them into something special.

There are plenty of big, grand gardens as well. Bowie-Sevier house, which stretches from Q to P Street, has old boxwoods, a pool and a play area for the young family which lives there. You could get lost there, the space is so vast. The garden on the corner of 28th and Q is also attached to a stately old house, and the trees there have probably seen more intrigue than your average member of Congress.

Some houses interact so well with their gardens that you can’t really see one without engaging with the other. A house on 28th Street boasts a low curving wall, a windowpane mirror and a terrific, multi-trunked Kousa dogwood. But what’s really alluring about the space is the way the big light-filled living room opens into the
garden. It makes you want to grab a book and sit in the sun, though the house’s owners might have other ideas.

For a Georgetowner, one of the best parts of the tour is the authorized snooping. The neighborhood is full of pleasant little houses and vine-covered walls. But when you get behind the front walls, it really gets interesting. Spectacular secrets lie in wait, swimming pools, Balinese dancers, rare cacti. To the outsider, Georgetown is closed up, has its street face on. To tour goers, all is revealed.

Gardens are always changing, Schafer says. “When you put a vine on a house it often has its own plans, like taking off all over the place or refusing to climb where you want it to climb, and ends up somewhere you don’t want it to be. This is also true of low-growing perennials and groundcovers: you put them in a bed and the next thing you know they are all over the lawn, not what you had in mind at all. So, then you dig them up and put them back where they should be. Do they stay there? Not necessarily.” That’s the reason why the garden tour is so interesting, she says.

Some of these homeowners are “fearless gardeners,” Schafer adds, happy to try new ideas, new plants, new ways of looking at the world in their backyard. After all, the word, “paradise,” comes from a Persian word for walled gardens.

The tour runs Saturday, May 5, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can get tickets for $35 at ([], or call 202-965-1950.

Christ Church, 31st and O Streets, N.W., will serve as headquarters for the tour. In addition to purchasing tickets at the Church, you may also peruse the unique Garden Boutique which will offer beautiful topiaries, fine porcelain vases, and unusual gardening tools for sale. Included in your ticket price is an afternoon tea served at Keith Hall, Christ Church, 2 to 4 p.m. The not-to-be missed tea features cookies, tea sandwiches and sweets, all handmade by members of the Georgetown Garden Club. [gallery ids="100770,123483,123469,123478" nav="thumbs"]

Environmental Film Festival Coming March 12

September 12, 2013

Two weeks before show time, the Environmental Film Festival’s office on 31st Street NW is a place of quiet chaos. The festival begins March 12, and its small staff is working on details, logistics, and last-minute decisions. The festival’s staff is only ten people, but the numbers they generate are big: 190 films, 75 different venues, 111 world premiers and thousands of patrons.

Late on a recent Wednesday afternoon, questions flew around the office. “Do you know when he’s flying in?” asked Peter O’Brien, the festival’s executive director, about a presenter. “And how about the launch party,” Chris Head asked Georgina Horsey, “When do we send out the invitations? Now?” Someone else asked about the social media push. Will the launch party invitation go on Facebook, Twitter or just email?

The theme of this year’s festival are rivers in human lives. One film, Lost Rivers, is about the hidden veins of water underneath major cities. Another traces the Rhine from its source in Switzerland through Europe to the North Sea. Where the Yellowstone Goes will answer that question, and another film looks at the perils facing the mighty Amazon.

For Washingtonians, the festival offers a look at the city’s own rivers. For those who spend time on the Potomac, Potomac: A River Runs Through Us highlights Washingtonians’ ties to the river that is the source of our drinking water. Festival-goers can explore the Anacostia via a series of stories from and about people that river.

Back on 31st Street, however, are the people who make the films run on time. Without them and their long days, the river of films, events, and presentations would dry up. Right now, the planning is in full swing. “What if we run out of food for the party?” someone asks. Meanwhile, Helen Strong, who does PR for the festival, wonders aloud if she can get Lisa Jackson, the former head of the EPA, to do a quick TV interview after a film. “My mind is blown by the amount of work the people in this room do,” says Rana Koll-Mandel, pecking away at her computer.

There is reason for so much concern. Last year, they did run out of food at the launch party. “We had enough planned,” explains Peter O’Brien, “but someone didn’t show up with it.” It all worked out fine–they had plenty of wine at the party, and plenty of films at the festival.