Flowers For The New Window Boxes

In the last installment of the garage window box saga, we had purchased two new 36-inch wooden window boxes from Home Depot to replace the old rotting ant-filled window boxes, and installed them using the same brackets the old ones had used. (For a refresher, check out this post for the pictures and details of where we left off.) So now that we had the new window boxes, it was time for the fun part: flowers!

Being the ultra-beginner-level gardener person that I am, and having never done window boxes before, I didn’t have a lot of ideas about what kind of brilliantly-designed flower arrangement to aim for — so we ended up just picking up this tray of multi-colored petunias from a small local garden shop:

Tray Of Petunias

We could have opted for all one color, but I really liked the amount of variety this one had. All that red and pink and purple and white just seemed so bright and happy. There were twelve individual little “cells” in the tray, so each of the window boxes would get six of those — I worried at first that this wouldn’t be enough, but as you’ll see later in this post, I think it turned out to be plenty!

Upon getting them home, we took out the plastic liners (which easily remove from the window boxes), and filled them up with potting soil, and then it was time to set to work planting all those flowers. This turned into something of a family activity, with all three of us out in the yard and Lillian fascinated by these new things:

Toddler Gardener

Or maybe she was just wondering how tasty all that dirt would be, haha.

Lillian wanted to sit in my lap during most of the planting process, and even helped a little by removing the little marker cards from each of the plants. Based on how happy she looks in this photo Joe captured of us, I think she was having a really good time:

Me And Lillian Gardening

(I, on the other hand, looked even more frumpy and hobo-like than usual. What can I say, it was the weekend.)

In terms of arranging the flowers, the only rhyme or reason that went into it was trying to make sure each of the window boxes got a variety of colors, and trying to spread them out instead of having all of the purple clumped at one end or some such. Here’s a view showing how the one on the side of the garage facing the house turned out:

Window Box With Flowers

And here’s the one on the other side of the garage:

Wooden Window Box With Flowers

The petunia plants seemed like just the right amount to fill up the window boxes, and hopefully as they grow over the course of the summer, they’ll get taller and fuller and maybe even start to produce that “cascade” effect over the sides. (Assuming I can keep them watered and otherwise avoid killing them. So far so good!)

And to wrap up this post, here’s an updated photo showing the garage with the newly flower-filled window boxes:

Garage With Flowers

I love the cuteness of having some flowers in those garage window boxes for the first time since moving in. And the above photo also shows how some of the weedy overgrowth is slowly disappearing from along the sides of the garage — I’m hoping to get that all cleared away and replaced with some garden areas before the end of summer, and some progress has actually happened on that since this photo was taken.

Speaking of progress — the back fence was installed this past weekend! Details and pics will be coming to a future post, but for now, here’s a teaser from Instagram of the fence in progress:

Fence Installation (Instagram)

(In case you missed it, the plan for the back fence can be found in this post!)

And in the meantime, does anyone have any tips or cautionary advice for caring for window box flowers in general or petunias in particular? The other day I found this video about how you have to remove the old shriveled petunia blooms in order to keep new ones coming, and then frantically ran outside and pinched off like fifty of them.

The Plan For Our Back Fence

Back in April, I mentioned that replacing the back fence was one of the biggest goals for our yard this summer, for a combination of privacy and aesthetic reasons. Since it sits between our yard and the alley and is currently just an old chain link fence, we get a less than stellar view of the alley and its garbage cans, and anyone going by gets to look into our yard like a fish bowl.

Just to recap and illustrate the current fence situation, here’s a photo taken while standing in the alley and looking into the backyard:

Backyard Alley Fence

So we knew we wanted to upgrade to a privacy fence — most likely of the six-foot wooden variety, which many of our neighbors up and down the block already have. We briefly flirted with the idea of trying to build something ourselves, but neither Joe nor I have any amount of experience or expertise when it comes to building wooden fences, and I could imagine us struggling for weeks with it only to end up with some crooked thing that would blow over in the next strong wind.

In short, we realized that we were in over our heads and decided to call in the pros.

Starting a few weeks ago, we began shopping around for some quotes from local fence builders, and while the project in general would be pretty straightforward, there were a few little specific details we wanted. For instance, the current fence isn’t perfectly straight, but rather extends outward toward the alley at a slight angle, going few feet past the edge of the garage. In a smaller yard this probably wouldn’t matter so much, but considering that our narrow city lot is on the small side to begin with, that angle translates into few precious extra feet of backyard. So naturally, we wanted any replacement fence to be the same way.

Here’s a side view showing a better view the angle of the fence:

Bend In The Chain Link Fence

The other thing we wanted was a better latch and/or lock for the gate. Currently the gate to our chain link fence just has the traditional kind of latch that flips up to let you open it:

Chain Link Fence Gate

And Lillian figured out how to open it in about two seconds, meaning we have to either hover right there by the gate, or jury-rig a loop of rope to keep it closed, to prevent her from running out into the alley (and potentially into the path of cars). So a nicer gate with a nicer latch would definitely be a safer and more convenient upgrade for our yard.

We had a couple of different contractors come out and take measurements and talk about what we wanted to do, and we felt comfortable enough to pick one a little over a week ago. Here’s the super-accurate diagram of our soon-to-be new fence from the winning quote:

New Fence Estimate

We chose the fence-building company mostly based on price, though we also liked their general professionalism and the number of examples they had, both in the form of photographs and in the yard outside their office.

I’m not sure if it’s legible in the handwriting above, but the new back gate will have a lock with a key. And as for the specific style, we decided to go with the “Traditional Board and Batten” style of privacy fence. Here’s a snapshot of the picture from the brochure they gave us:

Traditional Board And Batten Fence

The line sketched in pen is to show that there’s going to be a horizontal piece of wood for support on the inside of the fence, so it’s not a perfect representation. But we liked the general look of it — the board and batten style seemed like it would add a bit more texture and interest than the normal kind, and since the difference in price was minimal, we decided to go with it.

So that’s the situation with the back fence so far! We’ve made the initial deposit, and the work should begin in the next week or so (with the exact date yet to be determined). I’m really looking forward to seeing what it looks like once it’s all built — stay tuned for all the details which will be coming to this blog once it’s done!

And in the meantime, does anyone have any stories about having fences put in, whether by a contractor or by your own two hands? If so, did it turn out how you expected?

What’s Been Blooming Around The Yard? {Bloom Day, May 2013}

Over on one of my new favorite blogs, May Dreams Gardens, there’s a recurring feature that takes place on the 15th of every month called Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day, where bloggers from around the world share photos of what’s been blooming in their gardens.

Even though I’m not exclusively a garden blogger, working on prettifying our ugly yard has been a major theme here on this blog lately (and also, have I mentioned that I’ve been bitten by the gardening bug? I don’t know what happened, but since the start of spring I’ve been completely obsessed!) So for today’s post, I thought it would be fun to join in the Bloom Day festivities with a tour of what’s been blooming around our yard.

First, in the front yard, those hyacinths we planted way back in the fall of 2011 came back again:

Peppermint Looking Hyacinch

I love how full this one shown in the above photo is. Just a big explosion of blossoms. And the deep pink color with white edges kind of reminds me of a peppermint.

We had another hyacinth in front, a purple one, but it’s not nearly as full looking:

Deep Blue Hyacinth

The hyacinth in the above photo is actually the same one that could be seen sprouting in the photos shown in this post, and was one of the first hints of green to pop up in our yard this spring.

At the same time we planted those hyacinths, we also planted a bunch of tulip bulbs, and last spring we had a great variety of tulips come in. There were pink ones, and orange ones, and purple ones, and fancy double tulips, and tulips with fringed edges. (You can see a bunch of them blooming in this post from last year.) But this spring, for some reason only the orange ones came back:

Orange Tulips In The Front Yard

I’m not sure why it happened this way, and it was a complete accident, though I guess it gives the impression that we planted all the same kind on purpose!

Moving around to the backyard, we had a bunch of bluebells come up:

Bluebells Growing Like Weeds

We didn’t plant these (they’re from the previous owner) and they just sprang up all over our yard like weeds, mixed in with the grass, to the point where some of them ended up getting mowed. (Boo.) Upon trying to look it up, these would seem to be Grape Hyacinths or Muscari (Wikipedia article here).

Here’s a closer view of one of the grape-like clusters of blossoms:

Bluebells Closeup

And finally, I figured I’d include a photo of one of those surprise double daffodils that came up in the backyard, even though I already mentioned them in a previous post:

Looks like a daffodil, but fuller and fluffier.

I think the double daffodil in the above photo is probably my favorite of all the blooms shown in this post.

And that concludes the tour of everything that’s been blooming in our yard so far this year! I know it’s not a very long list, and the gardening bug in my head is saying, “plant some more stuff so you can have even more blooms next spring!” Haha. It’s an obsession, I tell you.

What about you guys — anything interesting blooming in your yard and/or garden lately? Does anyone have any guesses as to why only the orange tulips came back? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments!

Replacing The Garage Window Boxes

When I last left off blogging about our backyard progress, we had just discovered a huge colony of ants living in one of the window boxes on the garage (read all about that here) and subsequently removed the window boxes because they were very old and rotten. We were left with this unsightly view, with discolored patches where the window boxes used to be:

Garage Without Window Boxes

Those spaces that had previously been covered by the window boxes were ten kinds of ugly — peeling paint, dirt, spider nests. The one on the right looked like it wasn’t even painted at all behind that flower box. So the first step was to give it a good hosing down, and then touch up those areas with some exterior paint. Here is the much-improved view after painting those problem spots as well as the existing brackets for holding the window boxes:

Garage After Some Touch-Up Paint

Looking better already! The new paint’s shade of white may have been a tiny bit off from what was already on the garage (we just picked up a random quart of white exterior paint) but once it dried any differences were barely noticeable.

For the new window boxes, we decided to go with these ready-made ones from Home Depot:

36-inch window box, available from Home Depot as seen here.

36-inch window box, available from Home Depot as seen here.

They’re roughly the same length as the old flower boxes were, but a little shorter and narrower, and with straight sides rather than the slanty front the old window boxes had.

Also, even though the old ones just had the dirt piled right inside the wood, we also decided to pick up a couple of plastic liners to hopefully protect the wood of these new ones a little better:

Window Box Liners

The budget breakdown for the two new wooden window boxes with liners went something like this:

  • 36-inch Wood Window Box x 2 @ $24.98 each = $49.96
  • 36-inch Black Plastic Window Box Liner x 2 @ $8.98 each = $17.96
  • Total: $67.92

Not too bad, I don’t think — I doubt we could have built anything this nice ourselves in any reasonable amount of time, or for significantly less money. Plus the instant gratification was nice. For “installing” them, we just plopped them down on the old brackets like so:

Empty Window Box

As the above photo shows, they’re a little narrower than the old window boxes were, and the brackets stick out an inch or two past the edge. I’m tempted to try to go back and trim them down with a hacksaw or something, though it’s a pretty minor thing and I haven’t done anything about it yet.

For now, they’re just plopped down there on the brackets. One of the two old window boxes (the non-ant-filled one) wasn’t attached either, and was fine just sitting there on the bracket for years — the only concern now might be that a certain toddler will yank them down and get hurt. For that reason, I think I’ll attempt to attach them more securely this weekend if possible.

Anyway, moving on, here’s a view of what the garage looks like now, with the new window boxes:

Garage With Wooden Window Boxes

The natural wood color is definitely a lot different than the painted red — but overall these sleek new window boxes are a huge improvement over the rotting, sagging things we had before. (Check out this post for a refresher on what it all looked like when we started — we’ve come a long way already!)

So that concludes Chapter Two in the garage window box saga. Stay tuned for the final installment, the fun one where we actually put flowers in these things, to be posted in the next few days!

In the meantime, I’m curious to hear any feedback on the new window boxes, especially regarding the color/finish. Do you think these “go” with the garage and its roof color and such, or do you think the painted red ones were a better fit? Any thoughts or opinions would be appreciated in the comments!

My First Kid-Made Mother’s Day Gift

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone! This was my second one since becoming a mom, and since Lillian was six months old the first time around, there weren’t any kid-made gifts. But this year, she’s a toddler going to an awesome daycare where they do all kinds of arts and crafts, and on Friday I was pleasantly surprised to receive this lovely mug:

Mother's Day Gift Mug

All the kids got to draw on one as a Mother’s Day gift, and this was Lillian’s delightfully scribbly design! I’m so excited about this first of what’s sure to be many kid-crafted gifts to treasure. (The mugs were apparently baked in some way and should stand up to normal hand-washing, though I don’t think I’ll ever risk putting it in the dishwasher.)

Mother’s Day was really great, though. Joe took it upon himself to take care of every possible chore, and I slept in until I couldn’t sleep anymore if I tried. Then I took my time enjoying a cup of coffee and getting showered and ready for the day, and then Lillian and I hung out for a while so Joe could get showered and ready — we went all the way around the block with her big bouncy ball in tow, and then ran to the store to pick up a few things. Lillian behaved like a perfect little angel on this brief shopping trip, and I can only suspect Joe must have whispered to her at some point earlier, “be extra good for Mommy today.”

Afterwards, we went up to my aunts’ house for a cookout with my family, though we ended up eating our burgers and hot dogs inside since it was a bit chilly. Lillian enjoyed a hot dog cut into tiny pieces, and had a good time running around their big carpeted house. We looked at some photos my uncle had taken of some of that flooding we got last month, and my mom snapped this photo of me and Lillian at one point:

Me and Lillian on Mother's Day

When we got home, Joe got Lillian bathed and put to bed, and took care of the laundry and other chores, while I worked outside in the yard for a few hours… which may sound like a back-breaking chore itself, but I’ve been bitten by the gardening bug in a pretty serious way lately and couldn’t have enjoyed it more. Sadly I ran out of daylight all too soon, though.

All in all I couldn’t imagine a more wonderful Mother’s Day, and plan to give Joe the same treatment on Father’s Day… a prospect that I am both looking forward to (because he’s the awesomest daddy ever and deserves it) and dreading (because ohmygod is it going to be a lot of work!)

I hope all the moms out there had a great Mother’s Day!