Friday, March 24, 2017

Concrete Leporidae

How many of you, Garden Fanatics, Part-Time Dirt Grubbers or Cutting Garden Aficionados all, would voluntarily choose to host a rabbit in your gardens?  No?  ProfessorRoush suspects that any decent comprehensive poll of gardeners would overwhelmingly demonstrate their lack of  interest in a resident rabbit or two, even accounting for the usual 80% of contacts that either slam the phone down or ask never to be called again, and for the  5-10% who answer in the affirmative in a misbegotten attempt to throw the poll numbers off.  I don't know about you, but my response to any pollster who calls me at mealtimes or during my Sunday afternoon naps (which seems to be the only time these demons call), is to give them the most contrary answers I can think of.  And then to place a curse on all their descendents.

Here's a news flash:  I LOVE RABBITS IN MY GARDEN!  Concrete rabbits, only, to be fair and accurate.  I have a weakness for fairly visible rabbit statues, here, there, and everywhere.  There is hardly a bed in my garden without it's resident rabbit, from the "Gentleman Rabbit" above, who greets visitors at an entrance point to the lower garden, to the "Begging Rabbit" at the left.

One of my favorites, and most recent addition, is the "Long-Eared Rabbit", that I added last year.  He stands in a refurbished bed of peonies and daylilies just off the back deck.  I enjoy him there, but the tall ears make his center of gravity higher and he tends to topple over on really windy days.

I have several "inquisitive" rabbits, sitting on their hind haunches and curious about their surroundings.  The tallest, at the left, is nearly two feet tall and hard to miss.  I inherited that one from my father's garden about 5 years ago.  Nearly as tall is the rabbit who peeks out from under a holly near the front door, always ready to thump out an alarm at the first site of intruders.

There are also a few more basic rabbits hidden here and there.  If I ever host a large garden party again, I might just make finding each rabbit a scavenger hunt for any children at the event.  On second thought, however, encouraging children to run madly around the garden is perhaps not a good plan.

You can even sit on the rabbits in my garden. This rabbit-themed bench sold itself at a single glance, providing a spot to rest and screening the pipe from a buried propane taken as it enters into the house.  The two "legs" of the bench, are crouching rabbits, better seen from the sides than from the front.

Subconsciously and consciously, I hope that my collection of concrete rabbits is viewed by any LIVING representatives of the clan as either a cautionary tale (stay around this garden and the gardener will turn you into stone!) or as a sign that the neighborhood is overcrowded and they should move on.  I'm about done collecting rabbits, however.  I've been able to successfully resist the impulse to purchase several recent rabbit sightings.  Any more hares in my garden and I'm afraid I might start having nightmares.  Even now, sometimes, late at night, I wonder and worry that they'll start breeding and producing more little concrete bunnies in my garden.  I'm not crazy; one can never be too careful around a bunch of rabbits.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Just in Time

Just in time, I got the debris cleared off the asparagus bed today.  See the new white shoot just breaking the soil in the center of the picture?    If I'd waited another two weeks, I'd have broken this shoot and others off as I snipped away at the mass of brown asparagus ferns, delaying our first freshness of the new year.  Mrs. ProfessorRoush likes her asparagus carried straight in from the garden, sprinkled with oil and Parmesan cheese, and then broiled.  I like it however she wants to fix it, that first taste of soil and spring.

It has been too cold, at least on the weekends when I've been free, to do much of the spring work in my garden, and yet today it simply got too hot.  The local weather app tells me that it is 92ºF here at 5:00 on Sunday afternoon and ProfessorRoush is not yet conditioned to working in heat, so I lasted about half a day in the garden.  I cleared the asparagus bed,  replanted the strawberry bed, put some gladiolus bulbs down, and moved a half dozen fragrant sweet pea plants from their cozy inside surroundings to the cruel world.  I was just starting to cut down some ornamental grasses when the warmth and a rising wind forced me back indoors. The rest of the week is cooler, thankfully, back to springtime instead of summer.  On the plus side, the temperatures for the next 10 days range from highs of 53º to 73º and lows from 57º to 37º, so hopefully, this 'Jane' Magnolia flower, just opening up today, won't get damaged and the rest of the 8' shrub should bloom without a hassle.

Since I've shown you 'Jane', I should give you a followup on my poor Magnolia stellata, bouncing back from the 20º arctic blast of last week.  Yes, the crinkled brown blooms distract from the newer perfect blush-white petals, but there are enough of the latter to waft the damp musky scent around its vicinity.  The fragrances of these two Magnolias are quite different, 'Star' gifting me with the scent of Mesozoic swamp, a deep and thick odor that is not quite sweet but not unpleasant, and 'Jane' emitting a light and definitely sweet fragrance with just the slightest hint of cinnamon.  Of the two, I'm drawn more to earthy 'Star', for some reason that likely rests in my animal brain more than my intellect.  'Jane' is just entice me for another sniff.  'Star' says "hey there, Sailor, wanna sit on the sofa and mess around?", while 'Jane' says "I think I'd like to go get some ice cream tonight."

I was excited today to see that the Martin scouts have returned!  This year, I have been ashamed to say, I never even took down the houses for winter, but now I'm glad they are already up, two weeks before the April 1st date that I usually bring them out of the barn.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Tropical Surprises

I don't want to forget to relate that while I was communing with the art of tropical gardening during my time at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, I also learned a bit, ever the student thirsty for knowledge.  For one thing, I was fascinated by these large seed pods hanging from a trellis in the orchid room.  What were they, mangoes?  Some form of papaya?  There was no botanical marker that I could find at the base of the small tree they came from, so I finally had to search out a Marie Selby docent for the identification.

These, my friends are cocoa pods, just starting to ripen with the delicious seeds that will eventually become my favorite candies. I had seen them before, growing almost wild in Granada, but I had never seen them ripen.  Here, at last, is a reason to have a winter home in Florida; chocolate ready to pick off the tree!  Well, perhaps some processing would be involved, but still!   What will they think of next, vanilla from orchids?

Another surprise botanical treat on my visit was the finding, first, of bananas growing on an actual banana tree.  This bunch of bananas was badly beaten and broken down, but all the same they looked like they would someday be nourishing.  I was tempted to pick a fruit to compare tastes with the store-bought variety, but one never knows, these days, when a surveillance camera can be lurking and I don't need Homeland Security to open yet another file about me.

My largest botanical wonderment greeted me, however, from an adjacent tree; this incredible display of a banana flower ready to open and be fertilized so that the crown of ovaries above could bear fruit.  What a prehistoric feeling one gets while staring at this 8 inch long and plump blatant display of pure sexual reproduction brazenly free and open to the tropical air.  One glances behind oneself at a first glimpse and would not be surprised to see a Velocirapter creeping up to make a Mesozoic meal of modern man. What I'd give to be there now, a week later to see the flower open in all its musky splendor.

I had no idea, all these years of eating bananas, of the mechanics of the process.  Flower heavy and fecund, ovaries patiently presented for fertilization.  Once the world hits on a good pattern, it never lets go, eh?    

Sunday, March 12, 2017

I Told Them So

I tried to warn them. I really did.  You heard me just a week or so back, right here on this blog.  "Hush little darlings" I said, "Go back to slumber, it's too early."  Well, see them now, regretting their decision to open up quite so early.  Mother Nature strikes once more.  Now that I think about it, I believe I have taken a picture of daffodils covered by a little snow every year I have lived here. The impatient little devils!

I was hopelessly praying that my Magnolia stellata would hold off, but alas, this latest cold spell and bit of snow hit just when its display was at its peak.  I so wish I had taken a picture of the shrub yesterday before the blossoms browned and withered, if only for bragging rights.

Even worse, the musky scent is gone, vanished, without a trace from the flowers reduced to brown tissue.

I can only still hope that the few remaining unopened buds of the Magnolia keep their beauty and their fragrance hidden until better days appear.

And this apricot will certainly not be a producer this year.  There is a reason that Kansas is not a major exporter of apricots and you are witnessing it.

Still, however, the apricot blossoms and snow make a really nice photo composition, don't they?  Click on the closeup photo of the apricot blossoms and blow it up in all its splendor.  Wow, what subtle pastel colors!

And then there are the Scilla and the Siberian iris, peeking sky blue and purple out above their snowy feet.  Good gracious, can we just start spring over again?

I say again, "Garden, go back to sleep".  There will be time later for all this foolishness.  Let sleeping gnomes lie.


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