Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sunday Scissor-Tail Snapshot!

Oh, you can't fathom the frustrations ProfessorRoush has endured this season while fruitlessly chasing this phantom, frustrations built on a foundation of years of failure.  I can't count the number of times I've tried to capture this feathered fiend in digital dots, a number that surely equals the number of times I've cursed over poor results.  How many trips up and down the blacktop road in front of the house have I made, stalking this Scissor-Tail?  How often I've glimpsed this graceful creature, camera-less, and how often he remained hidden when I had a decent camera at hand.  Once, weeks past, I chased him down the road, coming close enough to capture a far off silhouette, but never close enough for more than a speck of fickle Flycatcher on the frame.

Tonight, we set off for a carryout pizza run, and there he was, perched boldly on the fence, not 30 feet from my driveway.  And once more, there I was again, no camera at hand.  When we returned, he remained still, warily waiting to tease me with failure.  Always a masochist for the attentions of a sadistic bird, I ran inside the house, and returned with the camera and car, hoping that the familiar disguise of a Jeep Wrangler would allow me to get close enough for a decent photo.

But he was gone again, nowhere to be found on a pass up and down the road.  I moved slowly, scanning fence and sky for movement, meadowlarks and swallows happy to oblige, but no sign of the Scissor-Tail.  I prepared myself for another date with the demon of disappointment.

Then, just as I reached the driveway, another bird flushed him from the Osage Orange tree across the road and he flitted down, in his swooping scissortail way, to land again on the fence.  A quick 3-point turn aided by the short turn radius of the Jeep, and I was on him, snapping feverish photos and praying that I wasn't trembling to the extent of blurring the shots.  A few quick posed photos and he came to his senses, floating away on the wind, but leaving behind his soul, imprinted in my camera.

I sat still some seconds longer, stunned by the moment, my heart beating madly, my breath coming short as I savored my victory and tasted my triumph.  At last, with a lingering look in the direction he took, I moved on with my life, forever changed by crossing his.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Kaveri in Kansas

It is high time (well, not "High Times" in terms of the magazine of that name, but high time in relation to being the proper time) for ProfessorRoush to report the results of a commercially-initiated experiment, that of my experience with the 'Kaveri' bulbs.  As I reported earlier, I received 5 bulbs this Spring from Garden Media Group for evaluation by and had planted them shortly after arrival.

 'Kaveri' lily is a brand new cross between Asiatic lilies and Oriental lilies (OA) that was introduced by Longfield Gardens.   Sources describe it as being fragrant, to produce 6-8 flower buds that open into upward-facing blooms, and to grow up to 40 inches tall.  While I admit that I was not and still am not excited about the orange and red color mixture of 'Kaveri' itself, I was intrigued by the interspecific cross.  I grow a number of Orientpet lilies, the interspecies hybrids of Oriental and Trumpet lilies, and because Asiatic lilies grow well here, I was hoping for a similar happy experience with 'Kaveri'.

My five bulbs, planted immediately into the alkaline soil of Kansas and then watered excessively by the very wet and cool spring we experienced, resulted in two full-grown lilies with open blooms.  Of the three "failures," one bulb failed to come up, one came up and then fizzled eventually in the rain,  and the third was trampled by Bella when it was a foot tall.   All in all, not a spectacular result, but about par for the course for a typical plant trial in Kansas clay.  They bloomed just past the peak of the Asiatic lilies in my garden, and are probably one to two weeks ahead of any of my Oriental lilies.  They thus fill an important niche bloom time between the species, and their bloom in my garden coincides with the peak of the daylily cultivars.

These two mature lilies are both 31" tall and each has 5 blooms or buds ready to open.  I presume the number of buds will increase over the next couple of years to the expected 6-8.  The blooms are quite large, approximately 6 inches across, reflecting Oriental lily size more than Asiatic, and the petals are likewise thick and waxy like their Oriental ancestors.  They do face forward and up and a mature clump should make a nice statement in a garden.  And they ARE fragrant, but pleasantly so in my opinion.  Their fragrance is sweet, like an Oriental lily but happily not nearly as thick or cloying as the latter, and it doesn't carry more than a couple of feet away.   Since I can't be in the same room with more than a single bloom of a strong Oriental lily, and sometimes not even that, I'm happy that 'Kaveri' keeps its fragrance available when I want it, instead of smothering me with it.

It may be obvious from the above comments that I like the idea of an OA hybrid, but I wasn't excited by the particular color of 'Kaveri' itself.    While there is certainly no accounting for taste, I hope for my own tastes that the future brings other colors into this mix, because I really prefer the quieter colors of the Orientals over the brash colors of the Asiatics.    I could only find one more OA hybrid on a quick internet search, 'Sunny Crown' and it looks much like 'Kaveri', perhaps with less orange centers and more yellow margins.   Alas, in further reading, I found that the F1 hybrids of Oriental and Asiatic lilies are all sterile due to lack of chromosome pairing, and so they cannot be used for further cross-breeding without modification.  Leave it to scientists, however to find a solution;  it seems that doubling the number of chromosomes with colchicine allows the polyploid progeny to produce some backcrosses that hold promise for the future.  A future bright, I hope, with fragrant-but-not-too-fragrant OA lilies that are pink or white.

All that being said, I do think 'Kaveri' is a nice accent for my reading garden statue, don't you agree?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Yarrow Yearnings

ProfessorRoush is completely gaga this year over his yarrows. I've resolved to seek out more of them as the summer goes on, perhaps even braving a trip to a nursery that is unfortunately infested with Japanese Beetles, to look for new varieties.  My Achillea, drought resistant and tough as they are, also came through our recent monsoons well, tolerating swampy ground and, in fact, thriving on it.  My sole complaint is that the established clumps of yarrow in my garden outgrew themselves and are flopping around.  I've found that yarrows stand better if they haven't been fertilized and grow under a smidgen of drought.

'Cloth of Gold'
I've long known that there are some really fabulous yellow yarrow varieties available in my area, and these two, 'Moonshine', and 'Cloth of Gold' are the yellow yarrows in my garden.  While most of my yarrow are A. millefolium, 'Cloth of Gold' is actually A. filipendulina, which grows taller and broader (at around 3-4 feet) than the A. millefolium varieties who top out at around 2 feet.  'Cloth of Gold', however, is flopping everywhere right now while 'Moonshine' is erect.

Some great red yarrows have also been recently introduced. I have promised a gardening friend a division of 'Pomegranate', the deep red variety of the "Tutti-Frutti" series.  This year, mine is "to die for", a sensuously deep purple-red mound of color that isn't well represented by the photo at the right.  And the picture below of the whole clump, accentuated by a bright red daylily whose name has been lost, is just fabulous.

'Red Velvet'
'Red Velvet', at left, is a more routine red in the same bed, almost mundane compared to the nearby 'Pomegranate', while 'Strawberry Seduction' (below right), in an adjacent bed, is a saucier yarrow wench from the "Seduction series" by Blooms of Bressingham,  Sprouting bright yellow pistils as accents for the bright red color, it is a little stiffer, a little more compact than the other red varieties pictured here.  Tonight, I read on some Internet sources that 'Strawberry Seduction' is supposed to fade to a nice light yellow, and, checking this morning, I see that they are right.  I've never noticed that before.
'Strawberry Seduction'

'Colorado' series 
I've recently added a plant from the 'Colorado' series that I hand-selected in bloom at a local nursery.  The picture here looks a little more white than the actual bloom, which is a very light gray with pink tones that I thought was attractive.  The 'Colorado' series is another recent set of introductions, more compact and drought tolerant than many.

'New Vintage Rose'

The most brazen specimen blooming at present, however, must surely be 'New Vintage Rose', about 3 years old for me.  This neon beacon is hard to overlook in the garden, for both humans, and butterflies.  'New Vintage Rose' is shorter, very floriferous, about 20 inches tall, and the color darkens as it matures.  I need to remember to also divide this one and make a new bed of riotous color with it and some other gems.  

I hope you include Achillea in your drought-tolerant landscapes.  They have really come a long way from their pasture forb ancestors.


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