Signs of Spring

Glorious colors at Adams’ Garden Show; plus a man-scaping dilemma, and fixing cracks in walls

The weather has been so lovely, I ventured out to clean up some of the havoc caused by the two big snowstorms — there are boughs and branches down all over the place. The weeping willow that used to tower over the back of our property toppled and took pears and other smaller trees down as it went. A once-glorious magnolia looks like a giant took a machete to it, and my graceful dogwood lost all but two limbs. It’s a sad sight. But at least now there are snowdrops instead of snow.

Luckily, I’d already ushered in spring in a happier way at Adams’ Garden Show, which cheers the winter weary in mid-March at all three branches (Kingston, Poughkeepsie, and Newburgh). This year, it was the usual amazing display of stonework, arbors, waterfalls and ponds; shrubs, trees and spring flowers, with the air full of the intoxicating scent of hyacinths and lilac. One quibble: marigolds and chrysanthemums look out of place amid all those spring blossoms — I’d prefer pansies and primroses. Otherwise, it’s a treat, with experts on hand to answer questions (as they are in the nurseries all season). Thank you, Adams!

And now for the Q&A section: “How can I get my husband to dress better so that he’s more decorative around the house?” asks Anonymous in Ulster County. Well, Mrs. Anonymous, this isn’t really a décor question, but I see your point. Nothing puts a blot on one’s carefully pulled-together living room like a bloke lounging around in his skivvies or sweats, unless he’s George Clooney. We know that mentioning your preference (usually interpreted by guys as “nagging”) won’t help. Maybe you could buy your hubby some stylish, comfortable clothes in neutrals or colors that go with your décor, and “lose” offending garments in the laundry. Then flatter him when he’s coordinated. And good luck with that project.

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Onto something more… concrete. R. Haener writes: “My house is old, and every winter it shifts and large cracks appear and reappear in the poured cement walls. Is there a way to permanently fix them, or do we just keep filling in the cracks with plaster and paint over?”

This sounded serious to me, but Robert Wogan, of Wogan Building Works in Kingston (845-527-6477), was unfazed. “That’s what cement walls do,” he says. “If the foundation moves, the cracks will keep coming back. The plaster is just a Band-Aid.” Even though you said “large cracks,” I assume these are cosmetic fissures on interior walls, rather than big, scary, house-falling-down ones outside. Wogan suggests you might get longer life out of your repairs if you cut out a vee shape along the fissure using a masonry wheel, which allows you to put more repair material in. Make the vee about half an inch at the top, 1/8 inch at the bottom. Clean away debris. “Then lay fiberglass tape along the crack, which is better than Sheetrock tape,” says Wogan. “It gives the plaster something to bind to. Fill with plaster or Sheetrock compound, or a mix, depending how comfortable you are” with materials that set up at different speeds. “It might buy you three years,” Wogan says. (This method also applies to fixing a crack in a plaster-and-lathe wall.)

Other options, depending on where the cracks are occurring, include filling them with a paintable, cementitious caulk, or hydraulic cement. “If the cracks are below grade on an exterior wall, you could use a product like ThoroSeal, a fine aggregate almost like sand, that you paint on the wall,” Wogan adds. He suggests you Google those terms to find the product best suited to your situation.

Thank you R. Haener for your kind remark about this blog! And thanks, Mr. Wogan, for adding the word “cementitious” to my vocabulary.

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