Thursday, April 28, 2011

Springtime lingerers and returnees

We still have a few anemones: white, red-and-white fringed and striated, and blue. Thalia and iphieon were among the last to remain in bloom. All leaves from springtime bulbs are dying back. We do still have an amazing display of various sweet peas, some smelling too soapy and others good and spicy. For the first time, there are very striated pink ones, tending toward coral. Morning glories of all kinds continue to spring up everywhere, blooming in the grass. It's getting too hot for there to be many more Little Marvel and Burpeeana peas to eat. Some of the lettuces are bolting. Asclepias is returning on its own, but it's not in bloom yet. I suspect that it will be mostly all yellow, rather than the red-orange and yellow that's showier but not so hardy. At long last, within the past two days or so, there are shoots coming up from Pride of Barbados, at least in some places. Four o'clocks are blooming everywhere. The day before yesterday, the first Rose of Sharon blooms were to be seen, three on one shrub, white with crimson centers. The remaining oleander is producing buttery blossoms. Delphiniums and firewheels are scrawny this year, both as plants and as flowers. All fennel has returned well from the roots, and some are beginning to come into bloom. Violas are still flowering in the shade. Bright Lights cosmos spring up everywhere, and we've seen both orange and yellow flowers. Poppies of many kinds are in bloom everywhere and much more attractive to the honeybees than we had remembered. Nasturtiums continue to bloom in pots, but they must be kept in relatively shady places in order not to fry to a crisp.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

They're b-a-a-a-c-k!

These irises don't appear every year. They are the most beautiful, subtle color. They smell of licorice or anise. They came to us in a gift sack of narcissus bulbs, but we can't remember whether they came from Bastrop or from next door. White irises are the most common ones to be seen in old yards in Austin or nearby. Either these or yellow ones seem to be second-most common. In the yarden are also to be seen ranunculus flowers of many colors, a few red anemones, the last of the all-white anemones, the last of the Thalias and iphieons, sweet peas from volunteer plants, many kinds of morning glories sprawling in the grass where they sprouted from last year's seeds, chive flowers, yellow milkweed (complete with Monarch larvae feeding on them; there are parsleyworms feeding on the fennel, not yet in bloom), 99-cent clematis, poppies of several kinds, from giant mysteries to returning corn poppies, all either pink or red, bachelor buttons of several colors, blue delphiniums, pink evening primroses, a few flat-top Asian-style irises (all blue), and tomato and chile flowers. Hyacinth beans are germinating everywhere, and so are returning cosmos. We continue to love the color and scent brought by our profusely blooming former mystery rose, now identified as Dr. Huey, so far as we're concerned, thanks to information provided by a kind reader and expert in solving puzzles in the world of roses.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mid-century modern material culture

Farewell, Lux Minute Minder; hello, Lux Minute Minder. The old one's done for. The spring may have broken, or just become detached, but I couldn't open the rusty back of the case to find out which. Here's a link to an image of a light-blue timer of the same vintage; my old timer is the standard white. The old one is branded "Robertshaw" on the bottom left, "Lux" on the bottom right, "Minute Minder" at the top of the case. "Robertshaw" dates the old timer as being from 1961 or later, according to the Wikipedia entry. I find it sad that the Wikipedia people are not sure that the Lux Minute Minder is worthy of an entry. All vintages of the timer bear the iconic vertical imprints and ridges at the bottom center of the case, and the rocket-like pointer is still prominent (see illustrations). My old timer was a present; I loved it as much as I loved my personal flashlight, personal battery radio, and Bulova folding-case travel alarm clock, all of which were also presents. Lux timers used to be available at local supermarkets in the housewares aisle. I never bought one, because my old one was still good. When it finally wasn't, I had to go on line to find a modern replica, made in China by the current Lux Products Corporation. I grew up among people who often cooked using wood-burning ranges and ovens and who didn't use recipes, let alone timers. I like having a timer as a fail-safe device, and I like using a mechanical, analogue timer.