Sunday, November 13, 2016

Baby Got Hips

I like big hips and I can not lie
You other gardeners can't deny
That when a rose shows up with its foliage rough and tough
 And puts some red balls all around
You get glad, want to make some jam
'Cause those hips ain't full of spam
Seeds in those hips she's wearing
I'm hooked and I can't stop staring
Oh baby, I want to plant them wit'cha
And take your picture

Sorry, but once again, Baby Got Back seems to be my muse for starting a post.  Our first frost is finally upon us,almost 4 weeks late, and 'Fru Dagmar Hastrup' is ready, ripe hips shining in the sun.  These hips are the biggest and juiciest of the rugosas that I grow, and in these, I can finally see why wartime Britain relied on rose hips as a source of Vitamin C.  The first hip, at the top, is larger than a quarter, and the second is nearly that large.  Many sources state that these hips should be accompanied by fall color changes in the foliage, but I have yet to see my bush provide any color this fall.  Perhaps she will develop it later, once that first frost does its damage.

I do intend to plant the seeds within this scarlet dreams this winter and try for a crop of Rugosa hybrids.  After the loss of so many roses to Rose Rosette, I might as well hope and pray that 'Fru Dagmar Hastrup' was indiscreet with one of the Griffith Buck or English roses in the vicinity, making little roses that could have some RR resistance.  A gardener can hope.

Our average first frost in this area is around October 15th, but today, November 13th, is our first this year.  The view below was out my back windows into the garden as the sun rose this morning, bright and determined to chase away the frost.  I spent the cold morning indoors, and then ventured out into my garden on a beautiful afternoon to trim some volunteer trees from the garden beds; mulberry, elm, and rough dogwood are the usual culprits here.  It wasn't a huge chore, but I'm nibbling my way back into the garden slowly, picking away at the things that bug me the most from this dismal year.  For once, I welcome winter and I want a cold one to sweep the slate clean, so I can start over anew.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Angry Autumn

'Beautiful Edgings'
I'm angry at my garden.  There, I said it.  I'm ProfessorRoush and I'm angry at my garden.  There's no getting around it, no glossing over it, no mincing words to mitigate it.  The first step on the path to mindful recovery is always, no matter the circumstances, to admit your transgression.  It's not rational and it's not reasonable, but I'm angry at my garden.

I'm sorry, friends, that I haven't posted in such a long time.  I've been emotionally disengaged from my garden since the last days of April, lo those many Kansas days ago.  Disengaged since the late hailstorm ruined my flowery May.  Roses, irises, peonies; I've missed them all. Fruit, any fruit, was nonexistent in my garden this year.  No strawberries, grapes, blackberries, apples, peaches, and but a few cherries. You'd think that the usual summer daylily bounty wouldn't have been affected, but even the daylilies were subdued, either from the hail, or from all the excess rain.  Yes, to add injury to the hailstorm, my summer was filled with rain, normally welcomed in a hot July, but this year the rain just added misery; sprouting weeds everywhere, making a mess of the vegetable garden, and drowning the tomatoes and peppers.  We are officially, currently 8 inches over our average annual rainfall of 24 inches.  Rain is normally viewed as a blessing here, but 1/3rd more rain than normal on a garden that I've primarily filled with drought-tolerant plants is not a positive development.

The weather, of course, isn't my only excuse for a lousy garden.  There has been competition for my attention by events at work and by life in general, both of which couldn't be put aside as easily as deadheading or fertilizing.  My limited forays into the garden this summer have been to attend to seemingly incessant mowing needs and by occasional blitzkriegs against the hungry hordes of weeds, the latter motivated whenever I couldn't see the normal plants for the wild grasses and pokeweed and thistles popping up everywhere.

I'm also ashamed to relate this to my fellow rosarians, but you might as well know now that I have lost the battle against Rose Rosette disease here.  I've diligently pruned it out as I've discovered it, but as the hot days of August arrived, it became apparent that almost all my modern roses have succumbed; nearly all the Easy Elegance roses, English roses, Canadians and, worst of all, most of my beloved Griffith Buck roses.  Anything with modern breeding, including some "less-rugose" Rugosa hybrids, has abnormal branching and thorns from hell.  If there is any solace, it is that the 'Knock Out' hybrids perished first.

I'm trying, right now, to regain a smidgen of enthusiasm and to reengage with my garden.  I've tried to relish the bright spots during a dismal summer, chief among them the 'Beautiful Edgings' daylily pictured here.  It has bloomed almost incessantly for 4 months now, an ever-blooming daylily if ever there was one, an offering of hope that I cling to with each new daily flower.  This morning, as the fall temperatures start to move in, I noticed that the last honey bees are using its spent blooms for night shelter, slow to move until the sun warms the petals.  And the center picture shows the few remaining buds on the plant this morning, the last apologetic gifts of a graceless garden.

I intend to rebuild this winter, to start anew in any number of spots.  I've chosen to delay my efforts in favor of the "nuclear option," seeking the help of the first frosts to chase the marauders from my grounds and clear the lanes of counterattack.  Next spring, I will see a new garden or freeze in the attempt, less rose-focused but still flush with Old Garden Roses and Rugosas, empty holes filled with low maintenance shrubs and grasses, beds simplified.  And I'm going to plant as many divisions of 'Beautiful Edgings' as I can manage.  

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.


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