Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Sweet Smelling Surprise

I was mowing in the lower garden on Labor Day (a fitting activity for the day, but hardly a "holiday" from work for me), and as I rounded a corner I received a momentary sensation of being immersed in honey.  I didn't stop immediately, but on the second round, when I was struck again at the same corner with a sweet scent, I hit the brakes and looked around.   There, draping over ‘Double Red’ Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus), were these little white flowers that were not supposed to be there.  

These are, of course, a Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis paniculata or C. ternifolia, whatever it is now), which self-seeded itself somewhere next to this trellis and grew unnoticed until now.  This trellis is flanked on either end by two Wisteria vines, which provide both color and a great fragrance each Spring, but in September they're a bit less noticeable, merely serving as a green window to view farther parts of my garden.  The growth of the Wisteria on that end is so thick that I couldn't easily find the Clematis vine source.

The dilemma now, of course, is whether to leave the Clematis there or to move or destroy it.  C. paniculata seems to grow very well here in this climate, and if I leave it here, it may eventually strangle the Wisteria ('Amethyst Falls’) on that end, and the adjacent Rose of Sharon.  I have two other C. paniculata, so one could argue that I've got plenty of it in my garden, but on the other hand, I'm not sure you can ever have too much of that vanilla-scented vine in an otherwise dreary August garden.  'Amethyst Falls' is not nearly as scented in the Spring as the Wisteria sinensis on the other end of the trellis, but it does rebloom for me and it is more dependable in late freezes than the W. sinensis.   

Decisions, decisions.  Are there ever any end to them in the garden? Can I hope that the Wisteria will keep the Clematis in check, allowing each year only these few delightful sprigs of scent to pull me into the shade on a hot day?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Mossy Alfred

After my experience his summer with him, gardeners who worship the Old Garden Roses absolutely must give the old Moss rose 'Alfred de Dalmas' a place in their garden.  I purchased him on a whim this Spring and he's been the most pleasant surprise of my entire rose year.

'Alfred de Dalmas' is a Moss bred by Jean Laffay (Paul Barden says it was Portemer) in 1855.  The rose is a nice light pink in the way of the demure OGR's, a perfect shell pink in favorable weather.  The very double flower opens to a cupped form with a mildly disorganized center and it stays there for several days, often grouped in clusters.  Open flowers are a medium size, about 3.25 inches diameter, and I believe the rose has a pretty good, if moderate fragrance.  Like most of the Mosses, the sticky glandular organs coat the bud and stem, providing a little variety in the garden.  The foliage is incredibly healthy, even now, late in the season.  He should be a rose of short stature, staying under 4 feet tall at maturity.

The surprise for me though, was the frequent repeat of flowers on my young bush. 'Alfred de Dalmas' is supposed to have an "occasional repeat" in the season, but my bush has not been without at least a few flowers all summer.  Even in the heat, it bloomed on and was one of the few roses, modern or otherwise to keep going for me.  It's been a great pleasure to have that sweet old rose scent extended into August. and on to September, instead of my usual pattern of saying goodbye to those memory-evokers by the end of June.

Helpmefind/rose.com notes that most 'Alfred de Dalmas' in commerce are actually 'Mousseline' (an 1881 Moss by Moreau and Robert).   The two roses look almost identical and authorities disagree whether they are different or the same rose.  Regardless, 'Autumn Damask' has to be lurking somewhere in the ancestry of this rose as the source for all that blooming.  'Alfred de Dalmas' has my vote as the best of the reblooming Moss roses, even outproducing pretty 'Salet' this year.

Sunday, August 24, 2014


'Podaras #2'
August, at least here in Kansas, should be renamed.  "Dog Month" might be a good choice.  Or "Browning Month".  Or just plain"The Garden is Tired" month.  Right now, as a heat spell lingers and everything green is in a life struggle to grow just a little more, my garden is certainly winding down, tired and old, unkempt and straggly.

Take, as an example, the Falso Indigo (Baptisia australis) 'Purple Smoke' below at the left.  Ignoring the fact that I've consciously tried to move or kill this particular clump three years running because it gets too large for the plants around it, I have to admit that it's a fabulous plant in May and early June, blue flowers towering above perfect blue-green foliage.  Now, it's a blackened, dried-up caricature of itself, seed pods blackened and brittle.  A good gardener would remove it now, condemned straight to a burning pile.  A bad gardener grumbles about it as he walks the dog, but puts off his seasonal cleaning and weeding until the temperature drops below 100ºF.

And the iris and daylilies all look terrible, suffering from heat and drought together, long past flowered youth.  The center of each clump tries to survive by stealing water and nutrients from their peripheral limbs, leaving the more visible outsides to dry and break. There are no signs of rebloom from the reblooming irises this year, no energy to spare for creating petal or ovary.

There are, to be sure, some bright spots in the garden.  My 'Sweet Marmalade Nectar Bush' Buddleia (otherwise known as 'Podaras #2') has decided to survive.  That's the picture at the top of this blog entry (surely I couldn't lead off with the decrepit Buddleia, could I?)  It was planted late in 2013 and the harsh winter almost did it in.  I didn't see a living sprout until late June and as some sparse gray-white foliage appeared, I've been pampering it with extra water and protection in the hope that it will gain strength and come back again in 2015.  I love the perfect foliage and bright orange flowers of this one and this morning I saw the only Monarch butterfly I've seen all year, feeding from this one bloom.

The sedums are also doing well of course, impervious to the drought and coming into their own season in the spotlight.  Autumn in the Flint Hills is a "Sedum Spectacular", in the words of auto salespeople.   Sedum 'Black Jack', backed up by Sedum 'Matrona', makes a quiet and gentle statement of survival here at the left, flower heads ready to bloom and feed the autumn insects.  I grow so many sedums here on the Flint Hills that I often forget there are roses in my garden, hidden and dormant as they are between the sedums and ornamental grasses.

I pray, this Sunday morning, that Fall comes soon to relieve the garden and gardener from our shared misery.  We're tired and both need to be put to bed for Winter.


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