Sunday, July 31, 2016

July Drive-By

My, my, how time flies by and leaves us standing in the dust of our best intentions.  I was on track for several months to add bi-weekly notes to this blog, but in the middle of June my resolve ran up against the Kansas climate and melted like butter on a stove. This toadstool photo, taken this morning, is illustrative of our gardening year here.

You see, friends, I came into this gardening year so excited for new life and new growth.  Ample rains in March and April erased our long drought and opened up all the nascent promise of
my garden, a green and growing paradise in my immediate vision.  It was almost perfect right up until we received the hailstorm in the last week of April, a hail that stripped leaf and promise and future.

May was quiet here, quiet except for the few peony buds and roses that survived the hail.  There were few irises, peonies, and roses in my early garden, and as the season developed, it was apparent that there were to be no strawberries, cherries, peaches, or apples to console my feelings.  I struggled even to enter my garden, pained by the lack of bloom and vigor, but I held out hope for my stalwart daylilies.

And then, in late May and through June, the heat struck and the rain stopped.  The garden dried and the ground cracked.  The grass turned brown and even the daylilies slowed their onslaught.  Hemerocallis is a tough genus, but not tough enough for early drought.  They bloomed, but not in their usual numbers or robust cheerfulness.

In late June and early July, it rained again, and kept raining at regular intervals, a unusual pattern for Kansas, and the grass greened up and the weeds rushed in.  Weeds, weeds everywhere, but not a domesticated flower to be seen.  Normally, in July, I can count on mowing every other week and relaxing from the heat.  Not this year, for I have been forced into weekly mowings of the entire yard and weeding at every opportunity.   Roundup is my new best friend.  And the ground is wet, wet enough so that toadstools grow in July right by the front walk.  You can guess that the tomatoes in this area are not performing very well in the wet clay.  Right now, the only crops that look to be decent are watermelons and cantaloupes.

And so I stand, on the brink of August, too busy with other things to garden, too depressed to even look at my devastated strawberry bed, too chagrined to even hope for a colorful fall.  I'll write when I can.  I've saved a few photos of the best of the year.  Maybe I can summon the cheerfulness in August to highlight them.

Until then, adieu.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Spanish Rhapsody

'Spanish Rhapsody'
About time for a new rose, I think. I've written about this one before, but I've got some better pictures now and she's a survivor.  Allow me to reintroduce you to 'Spanish Rhapsody', a Griffith Buck rose bred in 1976 and introduced in 1984.   I planted her late last summer, and she seems to have survived at least one very dry winter without protection here on the Kansas prairie.  She's blooming her head off now, her first season in my garden, and I'm in love with those delicately colored blooms.

'Spanish Rhapsody' is a shrub rose, officially labeled as a pink blend, although the blend is actually pink, yellow, and something stippled that approaches deep rose.  The medium size bloom starts out with hybrid-tea-form and then opens over a day or two into a semi-cupped double blossom with yellow stamens.   The blooms primarily are one-to-a-stem, but there are some clusters as well.   I'm convinced that the petals darken the first day or two, and then start to lighten as they age. There is a medium fragrance, raspberry-like as advertised by others.  Take a look at the photo on the left, which shows several phases that the blooms pass through.  Try to ignore the two copulating Melyridae on the bloom at the top right of the photo.  Seems like I'm not the only one stimulated by those blooms.

My 'Spanish Rhapsody' bush is nothing to be excited about yet, only about a foot tall and several months old, but at least she's growing. Leaves are light green with a matte finish.  She's got a little blackspot, maybe about 15-20% of her leaves at present, but I'm not going to hold that against her because we're having an unusually bad blackspot year.  Even 'Carefree Beauty' was having some lower leaf blackspot by early June.   I'm not going to spray 'Spanish Rhapsody' so I can judge how she'll carry through a long summer.

'Spanish Rhapsody' is listed as a cross of 'Gingersnap' and 'Sevilliana'.   According to helpmefind/rose, she is a full sister to 'Gee Whiz', and 'Incredible'.  I've grown both those roses and they do resemble 'Spanish Rhapsody' with their stippling.   Neither of the former survived their third winter here, so I'm hoping 'Spanish Rhapsody' does better in the long run.  She's certainly the prettiest of the sisters in my opinion, the Spanish Cinderella, if you will, of the group.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

K-State Adaptive/Native Plant Garden

I risk being accused of a new shallow approach to the intellectual content of this blog, and perhaps of  random promotional content and motivation, but while the iron is hot and before the weather turns hotter, I want to place another Manhattan attraction on the radar of those who may visit.  Appearing every day, approximately 364 times more frequently each year than the Manhattan Area Garden Tour, is the most excellent display at the K-State Gardens of the John E. Tillotson Sr. Adaptive/Native Plant Garden.

Those of you who are native plant enthusiasts should plan a whole trip around this garden because it is, in my experience, unequaled for the use of native prairie forbs in a garden design. Here columbines, milkweed, echinacea, butterfly milkweed, yucca, coreopsis, penstemon, prairie larkspur and evening primrose, all mix in glorious harmony and mature abundance.  The display is at its peak now, in early June.    

This view, down the long axis of the garden looking towards the old conservatory will give you an idea of the flowing masses of perennial forbs that make up the display garden.  Coreopsis in the foreground and Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida) in the background provide the basis of a pastel palette for your pleasure.

I often find myself trying to take a peerless photo of a group of these echinacea in the fruitless pursuit of  photographic perfection.  It is most definitely an exercise in frustration for an amateur like myself, but there are lots of opportunities here to experiment with depth of field, framing, focus and shadows.  The hardest choice for me is always where the focus should be;  the plant in the center or the plant closest to the lens?   Sometimes, I capture a pretty nice image, only to realize that, on closeup, one of the flowers is damaged or blemished, marring the effect of the photo.  

The honeybees were going crazy over this newly-opened Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) during the Garden Tour.  The whole area was alive with bees moving quickly from bloom to bloom, humming with excitement and loud enough to drown out the noise from nearby traffic.  Does anyone else wonder, while viewing closeup photos of bees, how they ever lift those pudgy bodies with such small delicate wings?

I assume this is a form of Showy Evening Primrose, (Oenothera speciosa), but I've never seen it quite so blazenly pink in the wild.  I don't know if it is a collected species or a commercial cultivar, but the delicate petals laugh in the face of the hottest sun.  According to Internet sources, some of the Showy Primrose that start out pure white age to pink, like these, while others stay the pure white that I associate with the wild species.


Years ago, walking around the K-State Garden, I noticed an enticing sweet scent that seemed to be coming from some 6 feet tall, large-leaved plants.  In an embarassing display of naivete and stupidity, I asked what they were, only to find out that they were Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), the same weeds I'd grown up with in Indiana and fought hand-to-hand in my father's garden and fields.  They are a perfect example of how blind we can be to the good qualities of a plant that pops up in the wrong place.  I had no idea Common Milkweed was fragrant, nor that it would grow so tall if left alone.

I'll leave you with the sight of these bronze wildcats (the K-State mascot, for those who were unaware), which languidly observe the garden visitors during the day and come alive to patrol the native garden at night.   Sited in Phase I of the garden, right next to busy Denison Avenue, you can tune out the traffic and suddenly you're out in the middle of the Flint Hills.  I know that some gardeners (yes, I'm talking to you, Benjamin Vogt) believe that such an ethos is the only way we should be gardening.  When I view the success of this design, here at the Kansas State University gardens, I can only agree and encourage everyone to drop by and leave with some new gardening ideas.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

28th EMG Manhattan Area Garden Tour

I feel like I'm cheating a little on today's blog post.  It took no creativity and very little thought on my part to put this together.  I simply wanted to show the greater world what they missed on June 5th when they didn't attend the 28th Annual Manhattan (Kansas) Garden tour organized by the Riley County Extension Master Gardeners.  If you're green with jealousy when you get to the bottom, then I'll feel like I've done my part.

Truthfully, any creativity here is all on the part of the host gardeners for the tour, but my part in the garden tour for several years has been as the unofficial photographer.  Somebody decided years ago that I take decent photos and we got in the habit of providing the homeowners with pictures from the tour since the hosting gardeners have very little time to be taking pictures.  Call these photos, and the 700 others that I took on the occasion, small payment enough for all the work of the tour hosts.

As "photographer,"on the "pre-tour" evening when the EMG's tour the gardens, and on the tour day itself, I run around like a hyperactive madman, trying to compose decent photos in seconds and snapping the shutter madly at each bend in a path.

But I have lots of fun discovering the nooks and crannies of each garden, and cataloguing the  idiosyncrasies of all the gardeners.  This year, one of the gardens had a number of fairy gardens in various containers.  I, and Mrs. ProfessorRoush, especially liked the little pig family in this one.

There were garden rooms for big people too; one of the gardens had a number of outdoor sitting areas that gave the garden a romantic feel.

It's a small garden tour, in terms of city size, but there were some fabulous views and landscaping that I'd put up against others anywhere on this continent.  Notice the doorway in the hillside here;  it leads to an underground garden shed that was created to get around restrictions by the local homeowners association.

There were several water features on the tour, and lots of goldfish, but even I had to admit that these Knock Out roses made a fine foreground for this man-made waterfall.

The peonies and irises have faded, and it is too early for the main run of daylilies, but there were plenty of clematis and these bright Bachelor's Buttons to fill the views in the gardens.  And Knock Out roses, of course, lots of Knock Out's.

For reasons that I have trouble putting words to, I returned over and over again to this coleus container.  Something about their brightness in a shady corner and their contrast with the pot just called out to me.

These fine Castor Beans are planted in landscaping next to a semi-public swimming pool at the Manhattan Country Club, one of the site hosts for this year.  I have to make a mental note later in the summer to make sure  that the manager knows to remove the seed pods from these before the toddlers sample them.  Or before Homeland Security chases him down.

I always enjoy the quiet areas of a garden, and this peaceful angel and resident rabbit provided some restful moments from the hectic nature of the tour.

So, I'm sorry, but if you weren't one of the few hundred Manhattanites and locals who took advantage of the perfect weather of this year's tour, these photos will have to do until you can join us next year.  I keep thinking that the EMG's should make a calendar of these photos as a fundraiser.  What do you think?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...