Category Archives: flowers

Iris You Were Here, Redux

Last spring I posted a photo of a single deep purple iris in bloom. It was just as lovely this year (as was another clump of the same variety that I planted alongside of the house). As I noted last year, to the right of the purple iris was a grouping of giant yellow irises not yet in bloom.

This year, as the yellow flowers begin to fade, another batch of irises — which I picked up at The Pec Thing last year — are just now beginning to open on the opposite side of the fading yellow beauties.

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Look at all the buds waiting to open!

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A delicate beauty, huh?

All of these were collected randomly from different flea market vendors. I had no idea when I planted them – hoping simply to soften the neighbor’s cement retaining wall – that they would provide more than a month’s worth of tall, gorgeous flowers.

As much as I love irises, they’re a close second to my favorite flowers: peonies. Now if I could just get some magenta double peonies to thrive.

What are your favorite flowers, and do you grow them in your garden?

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Unwelcome distractions

Yep. It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve posted anything. It’s not that I’ve been super busy or anything – I’ve just been overwhelmed with a bunch of unexpected distractions.

Way back on Easter my gas oven started acting glitchy. Sometimes it ignites, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it works perfectly, and sometimes it starts fine but doesn’t maintain the proper temperature. Not a big deal since I don’t bake much in warm weather. Little did I know that was merely a precursor of what was yet to come.

Last month my lone window air conditioner broke. Because the house has unconventional windows that won’t accommodate window units like traditional double hung windows do, the AC was permanently built into an opening where a canopy window used to be. (That’s in the addition, so bungalow purists can rest assured that no original windows were sacrificed for the sake of my comfort.) As if the idea of replacing it wasn’t ordeal enough, it broke just as my property taxes and second-quarter income taxes were coming due (on the same day, no less – the joys of self-employment), which meant replacing the AC had to wait, despite a couple of nasty heatwaves.

About ten days ago – as soon as I started seriously shopping around for a new air conditioner – my 2-year old refrigerator decided to break. That’s one repair that couldn’t be put off.

The first thing the refrigerator repairman said was, “Oh, this is one of those Whirlpool Maytags.” My response: “That’s explains it! First the Whirlpool range, then the Whirlpool AC, now you tell me my Maytag is a Whirlpool too? I should have known!”

According to the repairman the freezer hadn’t been defrosting. At all. When he removed the back panel inside the freezer there was a thick sheet of ice encasing the all of the working parts. It took him over 45 minutes and a heat gun just to melt enough ice away so he could assess the problem. He said it was a faulty thermostat – apparently thermostats aren’t supposed to rattle.

The upside of the service call was the repairman diagnosed the problem with the oven just from my description of its (literally) off-and-on problem. He’d already been there two full hours, and an extra hour of labor plus the new part would have almost doubled the price of the already longer-than-expected service call so I didn’t have him fix it while he was here. With a heatwave and a broken AC it’s not as if I were planning on baking anytime soon.

The saga doesn’t end there. A box fan I’d set near some windows to bring “cool” air into the house in the early mornings and late evenings died. I can’t say that was entirely unexpected, since the fan originally belonged to my Grandma who passed away in 1991.

As soon as the refrigerator was fixed my TV started acting up, too – about 80% of the time there’s sort of a vertical kink in the picture, and it no longer wants to shut off properly. I almost wish the same were true of my DVD player – a few days after the TV began refusing to turn off the DVD player actually shut itself off while I was using it.

Want more? The very day I realized the refrigerator wasn’t cooling properly, I was outside watering my plants and the metal watering can fell apart while I was using it. When the spout fell off it nearly killed my cucumber plant.

Disclaimer: this photo was staged after the fact.

Wait. There’s more. The other day I noticed a petunia in one of my window boxes was missing. Squirrels and cats sometimes get into the window boxes and make a mess digging and throwing dirt around, but if they dig up a plant they typically leave it. This time there was no mess and no sign of the petunia. I looked under the hostas and around the corner of the house. It was gone.

As annoying and frustrating as this string of incidents has been, I’m thankful than only things have broken. Sure, the refrigerator needed immediate attention, but it’s possible to live without an oven and AC for a while. If the TV dies, I have a little 13″ TV I can hook up to the cable in a pinch. Old milk jugs and juice pitchers work well enough for watering plants. The petunia was practically free, anyway, given the bargain I got on my flowers this year.

Even so, having so many things go wrong at the same time is a bit overwhelming. The little things just added insult to injury.

The good news is the refrigerator seems to be working well again, and I had a new AC installed a few days ago. The old one was in so well it took the handyman longer to remove it than he thought the entire job would take. It’s in just in time for the 100-degree temperatures local forecasters are predicting for later this week (I really hope they’re wrong).

It might not be the prettiest thing in the world, but I love my new air conditioner. Doggie Lily – who’s a very furry Husky, Collie, Keeshond blend – likes it even more than I do.

Lily chillin’ in her favorite spot: under my desk

The handyman came back a day after installing the AC to insulate and weatherproof it from the outside.  When a neighbor familiar with my recent run of luck saw his van here again she called and said, “Well, what’s broken now?”

Luckily nothing else. So far.

A Blooming Bargain

Not every house has window boxes, so if you’re lucky enough to have window boxes you really ought to use them. Don’t you think there’s something sad about empty window boxes during the growing season?

Until the other day mine were sad and empty, but that’s because I’m slowly slogging away at painting the exterior trim (whenever weather and time allow) and wanted to paint the window boxes, too.

For some reason, the brackets supporting the boxes were painted brown to match the siding, so while I had the paint out I painted the brackets white, too. I think it makes the window boxes stand out a bit more. (This is when I wish I’d thought to take before & after shots.)

It was also time to replace most of the potting mix in the boxes (I only remove about 2/3 of the soil since the old dry dirt and bits of broken clay pots help with drainage), so I bought two 16-qt bags of potting mix at $4.99 each along with flowers for the boxes and three flower pots:

  • 3 white Geraniums – 88¢ each
  • 1 flat (half flat?) of 12 plum-ish Petunias – $7.99
  • 2 6-packs of white Impatiens – $1.58 each
  • 2 6-packs of mixed Portulaca – $1.58 each

Last year the portulaca did really well in the gorgeous strawberry jars my brother’s family gave  me, but I’m down to one now, so I moved that to side of the porch that gets the afternoon sun. I put the rest of the portulaca and geraniums in terracotta pots and set those on each side of the stoop where the strawberry jars were last summer. Here’s the strawberry jar, but the other pots look scraggly so no photo of those until they fill in:

Hey – check out how great Mark’s new porch rail looks with a couple coats of brown paint!

Best part of all? With a $15 store rebate on the paint and $9.17 worth of unused, unopened merchandise I returned, the grand total – tax and all – was just $3.74.  Don’t you love a bargain like that?

If  you’re lucky enough to have window boxes, too, what did you plant in yours this year? If not, what are some of your favorite summer flowers?

Iris you were here

Yes, “Iris you were here” is a bad pun, but cut me a little slack. This is the first bloom from the irises I got at The Pec Thing last fall:

Just behind this beauty is a clump of “mystery” irises that should bloom in a few days. I bought those at the same flea market a few years ago when a vendor had a bin of assorted, unidentified iris rhizomes priced ridiculously low – something like three for $1. Bargain hunter I am, I chose three. All of which turned out to be yellow – the one color I dislike (somehow, even yellow isn’t bad when it’s an iris).

Last summer at a garage sale I picked up a division of lavender irises that have grown, but don’t show any signs of blooms just yet.

Oh – and the tulips in the back of the photo? My brother gave me those in potted plant form one Easter – probably 10 years ago – and they were  prettier than ever this year.

Not bad for someone with a brown thumb!

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