This Old Erie House
By Linda Martin Community Blogger
Owners of old houses have so much in common that house talk comes easy between us. Please join in the conversation as we try to fix, restore and update our old Erie houses.  Read more about this blog.
Archive for the ‘garden and flowers’ category
Posted: June 7th, 2010
  • I did get my Boston ferns hung up as well as my beautiful red begonias.  The begonias are hanging from each side of my porch pillars flanked by the Boston ferns on the sides.  My automatic watering system is in place. I stood back and was pretty pleased with the results, that is until the first big red begonia blossom landed on the wide white porch railing.  It stained the white paint red.  I knew it was too good to be true!  And worse yet, I came back a few hours later and the red stain was an India-ink blue!  I’m not going to panic yet, perhaps a day or two and the stain will decompose into dirt and wash off with plain water.  If not, I’ll try some kind of Oxy cleaner and if that doesn’t work, perhaps the Lysol mold-killing bathroom bleach cleaner will do the trick.  There are also some stains from the petals on the white siding below the porch, too.  And here I thought I found the perfect replacement for the fungus-prone petunias.
  • Wow, what a storm we had Saturday night!  I love watching the lightning storms from my upstairs sleeping porch.  I’ll stay up until the wee hours of the morning to watch a good thunderstorm.  I had all the windows taken out of the sleeping porch and the screens put in for the summer so it feels and sounds just like you are outdoors but protected from the rain and bugs  It never rains in because of the low overhang of the roof on that side.  So when it started raining hard and the wind picked up, I just sat in my sky-chair swing I have up there eating an orange and marveling at the pretty lighting across the sky. It was so great.   It was very warm on the sleeping porch and suddenly the temperature dropped around 2AM.  My teeth started to chatter and the wind started blowing from the opposite direction.  Rain started blowing in horizontally and I jumped out of the swing and ran for the door of the house which I couldn’t hardly close behind me.
    I woke my husband up thinking we were having a tornado because I knew there were tornado watches out.  Of course it wasn’t a tornado but it was a very severe thunderstorm.  He went out and put the windows back in on the sleeping porch and went into the attic and closed the window up there that we always leave open because rain never comes in from that side of the house.  The attic floor was sopping wet under the window.  He sopped up the mess with towels.  It was dark but we noticed the street in front of our house was flooding.  By then the wind had died down some but the rain was still pouring down. The water was already up past the door of our car that was parked on the street so it was too late to move it.

    Idiots at 3AM were driving through the deep water for fun which caused the parked cars on the side of the street to bob and turn in the water and causing more water to get into the cars.  Teenagers or drunk adults (it is hard to tell the difference in the dark) were running and yelling through the water on the street at 3AM waking up the whole neighborhood or at least those who had slept through the thunder.  We watched from our front porch until the water finally receded enough to move the car to higher ground in our driveway.  I brought a stack of towels to my husband so he could try to soak up the water on the floor of the car.  All his CDs were sopping wet.  He did what he could to get most the water out of the car’s carpet.  You can’t go turning on a shopvac outside at 3AM even though it probably would have been less noisy than the people running through the water.

    My husband vacuumed out the water Sunday morning and we are hoping it doesn’t mold.  It would be nice to get a dry, sunny day so we can leave the windows down and get it to air out.  Luckily, the house dried out fine and all that wind and rain didn’t even bother my hanging plants.
Posted: June 1st, 2010

This past weekend turned out to be the weekend we broke down and bought plants for my hanging baskets.  We stopped at several nurseries and either cost or variety of flowers kept us searching.  We ended up at Stans and they had beautiful begonias. As much as I love the wave petunias, they have a fungus problem every year on my open covered front porch.  I have a green thumb with large-flowered begonias so that’s what we bought to go in 4 of my baskets.  The leaves are very pretty dark green with purplish tones.  The flowers are bright red.  Stans also had really nice ferns in hanging baskets so for the sides of the porch I bought large Boston ferns to hang.  These plants should love the shade and the drip watering system I installed a few years ago. The best part is I can bring them in and set them on my planter shelf in my 2nd story sleeping porch (with a lot of windows) for the winter and come next spring, have them ready to put out again. I won’t have to fight fungus on these plants and now only have to worry about fungus on my roses.

I bought some pretty tangerine-colored begonias for my back deck a few years ago.  I  first tried to keep my begonias alive during the winter by bringing them in to the sleeping porch where it doesn’t get below about 45 in the winter when we keep the door shut from the house.  I forgot about them out there and the plants got watered maybe 2 times the whole winter.  They died off and I was mad at myself for forgetting about them.  In the spring I went to get the planter pots to use again and I saw the begonia sprouts were coming back up.  Those are 3 years old now and just as healthy as the day I bought them and are just about ready to bloom now.   I just give them some fertilizer to keep them going.  That sure will save money not having to replace the basket flowers every year.  The ferns should winter well on my sleeping porch, too.  At some point I’ll probably have to re-pot the begonias in new soil while they are dormant in the winter to keep them going strong.

Today I’ll be hanging the baskets and hooking up the drip lines.  I still have several small cement planters I made to be part of a sink garden that I haven’t found plants for yet.  I may dig up some purple-colored  lamium that I have growing in one part of my garden and put some of the runners into the planters.  Also I have two big pots on each side of our garage door that we bought ornamental grasses for last year.  I cut the dead grass down to the soil and have been waiting for sprouts.  It’s not going to happen.  They will be replaced with something that is recommended for our growing zone which really lessens the selection.

Posted: May 27th, 2010

I bought  3 clematis at Mason Farms last week and a bunch of containers of lamium and had price shock at the checkout counter.  But I’m hoping  this is a one-time purchase.  These plants will come up and flower every year and the ground cover will fill in.  It’s amazing how little space the ground-cover plants in the 4-inch pots take up.  After all that money spent, the garden still looks bare.  But in a month, I’m hoping it will fill in and in the long run will cost less than planting the cheaper annuals every year.

Clematis is pronounced CLEM-uh-tis.  I pronounce it clem-a (short a)-tis with the emphasis on the A sound because I had never heard it said by anyone.   But just as I was writing this, I decided to look it up on the online dictionary that has audio of the pronunciation and I can relax because both ways are correct.  Good, because it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks.

I have 5 beautiful Clematis that are about 3 years old now.  They got leggier and leggier each year and the lower parts of the plant is woody without leaves this year. One, as of last week, didn’t have any leaves on the whole plant and just a whole bunch of dead tendrils and I thought the plant had died.  I took the pruners to it and cut it off at the base and threw it all in the wheelbarrow.  I noticed the inside of the stalk where I had cut it had fresh good wood and sap.  I couldn’t believe I just ruined my clematis.  It had such gorgeous flowers every year all summer long and I had just cut it down.  But a few days later a shoot came up and it is climbing like wildfire up the lattice. When it blooms I’ll post a photo.

It is such a wonderful thing to live in the age of computers and the internet where you can look something up and get answers. After cutting that clematis down and discovering my big error  I thought I’d look up what was the proper way to take care of them.  I had no idea that you prune clematis and different varieties are pruned different ways.  I’m not sure what varieties some of my previous clematis are but I can look them up by their flowers and then know how to prune them.  My plants were so leggy I was thinking they weren’t so pretty anymore and was wondering how often I’d have to replace them but that was before I read about pruning them.

On this website, it says clematis can live 50 years with the proper spring pruning.  If that is the case, then all the money I invested in them is well worth it.  That website also tells you how to prune your clematis.  I also read in one of my latest issues of an old house magazine that you can make new plants by taking a tendril near the base and burying it a couple of inches and staking it or weighting it down.  Every few weeks you can check on it to see if it rooted.  If so, then you cut them into separate plants.  I’ll find out what magazine that was and post it later.

Pictured below is the plant I cut down (when it was doing well.)  This photo was taken June/2008. 

Posted: May 17th, 2010

My landscaping skills are pretty poor.  I admit that.  Some people have the knack but I’m not one of those people.  However, my best bet landscaping so far has been not to plan it.  Some years the hodgepodge look kinda looks good, other years it looks very unpleasing. I did like my red dahlias along side the house.  I had those for 2 years but they grew so tall!  The red color was beautiful against the white color of the house but they didn’t bloom until late summer here in Erie. As you can see I had to stake them and they were unruly. Continued below photos….

I bought 2 Jackson Perkins rose bushes last summer and planted them in large pots not knowing what to do with them.  My back yard is a postage stamp size, no room there.  I came across climbing Queen Elizabeth roses at Walmart for only $5 each a couple of weeks ago and they had to be planted this past weekend as they were already sprouting and still in their root bag. I had Queen Elizabeths when I lived in California and they had lots of blooms though they don’t have a lot of smell.  Still I want as many blooms as possible.

Yesterday we planted the climbers, one on each side of our porch.  When and if they grow tall enough, I’ll built a trellis on each side of the porch for them to climb onto.  We planted the bush roses that were in the planters from last year along the side (where the dahlias used to be.)  They won’t have the same effect as the dahlias but they should look nice and neat.  The driveway doesn’t get very many hours of sun so I’m not looking for loads of blooms but we’ll get some.

I’m still hunting for my ferns for the basket.  In fact, I think I’ll head out this afternoon and look around for a bargain.

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Posted: May 7th, 2010

Each year I put out hanging baskets on my front porch and back deck.  We love the petunias that have fragrance and the best ones seem to be the purple Wave variety. The smell is wonderful on a hot, humid evening.  There is one problem, though.  They get that wilting disease or blight.  It’s our Erie humidity.  I bought a fungicide last year but by the time you notice anything is up with the flowers, it is too late.

So this year I’m changing up my plans.  I’m going to go with something that loves our Erie humidity.  Ferns.  They should look really pretty hanging in the baskets.  On the sides of our front porch I have much larger baskets and I still think I’ll put petunias in them.  I can monitor the 2 baskets better than I could all 8 of them.  I’ll just have to spray often.  Also, the sides get more air flow. But if they get hit with the blight, then this will be the last time I give them a chance.

I have drip lines already set up and all I have to do it get my drippers out and put them on the tubing.  I’m looking forward to a great growing season.  Now I just need to find some sales on ferns.


I just came back from Walmart and ferns are $12 each, way over my budget because I need 6 of them.  I’ll need to look around.  Maybe I can find smaller ones, but who wants a puny fern in a basket?

Posted: December 23rd, 2009

After all my complaining about taking that baseboard off, I got rewarded. I’m so into local history in general and the history of our house. I was sanding the floor with my orbital sander along the edge where the baseboards were and a little piece of paper came flying up through the air and landed in front of me. It was about an inch square and dirty. I picked it up and took a good look at it but couldn’t tell what it was. I took out the magnifying glass but still couldn’t read it very good. Next I put it on the flatbed scanner and scanned it at 1200 dpi and enlarged it.

It was a 1933 canceled stamp from Chicago celebrating 1833 to 1933, Century of Progress, Fort Dearborn . These are little treasures that make all the work a little easier to deal with. I also found a little scrap of wallpaper that I hadn’t previously known was on the wall. It is a light tan color with a tiny cream-colored heart on it. It’s a small piece so I don’t know what the rest of the pattern was.

Finding the little stamp put a halt to my day’s work and put me into search mode. I took a needle-nose pliers and a tweezers to pick up stuff that was down in the cracks at the end of the floorboards that was previously hidden by the baseboards. Lots of lint debris, a hairpin, a stick pin, some blue paint chips, a tiny piece of newspaper that read, 1924, and a partial piece of what looks like part of a greeting card.

Because of the delays I’m not even going to try and finish the living-room floor before Christmas. What does it matter if I’m a week later, it’s still going to get done. The floor is totally ready to finish (sanded and vacuumed) but I don’t want the smell in the house for Christmas. So tomorrow will just be putting my tools and supplies away, cleaning the house from all the dust I created again and wrapping presents.

Posted: October 23rd, 2009

I finished the weatherstripping project I started and woke up the next day with the reddest eye. It would make you turn away it is so horrifying, it looks like I was stabbed in the eyeball. I don’t need a costume for Halloween, I am the costume. I must have broken a blood vessel in my eye by straining to push the button on the can of foam insulation? Like that is really hard. Maybe it was carrying the ladder from the basement. How soft have I gotten in the past couple years that I break a blood vessel just doing a caulking project?

Some thoughts:

  • I just remembered that you never seal the whole storm window.  You need openings on the bottom.  Moisture builds up between the inside windows and the storm windows and the condensation has to drain out or the wood will eventually rot on the bottom of the sill.  You’ll see those holes at the bottom of the frame on the prefab storm windows/screens and they are there for this purpose.  Keep them clear so water and moisture can escape.  I have to go back and take a thin knife and open up a space along the bottom that I sealed. Seal the inside windows all the way around.
  • I looked up what to do with my potted roses I  bought this past summer.  They are full-sized roses in barrel-like containers that I have set out in my garden.  I was debating whether to leave them out or bring them in.  I have never grown them in this climate before and being in pots their roots would be above ground level.  I did a search to see what hardiness zone we are in using my zip code and the results were:  we are in zone 6a.  That would do damage to roses in pots left out.  I decided we will haul them into the unheated, detached garage which will almost be as cold inside as it is outside but they will be out of the drying winds.  We (actually my husband will be doing this) will carry them in after they have “hardened” for the winter.  I found out that roses build up a thicker cell wall as the temperature gradually drops  so you’ll want to leave them out to “harden” and bring them in before we get down to the below freezing temperatures.  According to some forum responses on gardening being inside out of the wind will be all they’ll need (and a little water) if they have had a chance to adapt to the cold.  I hope this works. If anyone has more information about what to do with potted roses, please let me know.
Posted: October 10th, 2009

How I hate this time of year. Yes, the leaves are gorgeous but I hate putting everything away that we set out in the spring. In the spring it was fun taking everything down because there was a whole summer to look forward to.

Today I unpotted all the plants in the hanging baskets and washed them off. I grabbed the bird feeders to wash and put up for the winter. We’ll feed suet for the winter. The hoses and automatic watering system has to be taken apart and stored inside. The fountain, chairs, tables, BBQ and on and on has to be cleaned and put away. I have to move all my potted plants someplace that won’t freeze. That’s the one really big difference about living in a cold climate. In California, I left most everything out for the winter because you’d still get very nice days to BBQ and sit out on the deck and enjoy. I like potted plants and I could leave my potted rose bushes and some other plants out and they’d be fine.

I notice some of my neighbors seem to thrive this time of year…everything is put away on a certain date, like clockwork each season, and they seem happy while doing it. I just can’t get into it.

My husband brought down the storm windows to put up on our sleeping porch today. We saw the paint was peeling which gave me a sick feeling. We moved them to the basement where I’ll have to scrape them down and paint them quickly before winter. The winter snow and ice would ruin the wood if I left them as is. The weather-stripping on some doors and windows and fixing some caulking that is failing has to wait a week. I was able to find time to get one scraped, sanded and painted today. Five more to go. With all the rain we are getting I feel lucky to have a workplace in the basement to paint things like that.

The one advantage to the coming winter is we stay home a lot more. It’s the time of year I pick a couple major projects to work on. I’d also like to get a stain-glass window made for my son that I promised him a couple of years ago. Maybe it will happen this winter.

Posted: September 10th, 2009

I spent so much time trying to find my “Wave” petunias back in the spring.  They had to be the trailing kind for baskets and I wanted the blue/purple varieties because they have more fragrance.  I went to many, many nurseries until I found the right ones.  You can read about it Here.

After all that work, my petunias started dying off.  I read in an Erie Times News article on August 22 about the tomato blight that has hit the nightshade family of plants in the northeast.  Our cool, wet weather is part of the problem this summer.  Fungi likes this kind of weather.  Petunias, I found out, are in the nightshade family, like tomatoes and potatoes.  I always thought the petunia stems and leaves looked a lot like tomato plants with the fuzz and all.

Last year I had the same thing happen.  I thought maybe it was spider mites or some very small bug that got them.  This year I used all new potting soil and put a lot of effort into planting the baskets to hang from my front porch.  Six in the front and more on the back deck.  I bought new basket liners, too.  However, when I went to plant them, the old ones still looked good so I kept and used them.  Big mistake.  Get new ones every year.  It saves in the long run.

I planted 6 plants in each basket. They were going good for a few weeks and then, within a few days, I started noticing some substantial dying-off of the leaves.  My heart sunk because I then remembered it happened last year, too.  I had some Immunox stored on a shelf in my basement and sprayed them.  I followed up in another week with another application.  It was too late, but it kind of saved a couple of the plants but still, they looked bad.  I took them down and will dispose of them, the soil and the basket liners.  I’ll bleach the baskets and let them sit out in the sun.

Below are what all my petunia baskets look like except the ones on the sides of my porch.



When researching this problem, one person on a message-board thread gave advise to someone with a similar problem.  Don’t keep using petunias if your area is subject to blight. You also won’t have to use all that insecticide and fungicide if you get plants that do well in your area.  That is good advice if the area is going to be shaded (like my porch.)  All the effort and expense of planting something that doesn’t thrive is silly.  Next year, I’ll plant some other flower that does well in baskets, in our climate or settle for a different variety of petunia.  The two side baskets that are really big and had new liners didn’t have as big a problem.  They get more air and sun than the baskets in the front side of the porch.  They also are of a different variety.  Below is a photo of the side basket. The side baskets started to die off on the porch sides but the outside of the baskets is doing really good.


Posted: August 20th, 2009

During this hot, muggy and rainy week I haven’t done much in the way of improving my house. My gas dryer decided it was a good time to give out on me. Trying to find a fix for it will be taking up some of my time in the next day or two. I’ll be checking for a trouble-shooting tree for gas dryers on the internet. I’m wondering when there will be “cash for clunker dryers” coming our way. Why not, why should I be left out? So anyway, I’m drying my clothes with no heat. Yes, it takes about 3 to 4 70-minute cycles to dry a load. They do come out soft and wrinkle free, though. :-)

If you look at the side bar of this webpage, you’ll notice the Monarch Butterfly pages. Raising them was really fun. There are lots of photos and some videos.