Monday, April 24, 2017

Rosette Roundup

It's time, my friends, to report the results of the Rose Rosette Plague and Massacre of 2017.  I spent the weekend before last culling out the victims and mourning the holes left in the landscape beds, and there are still a couple of very sick individuals to tackle.  This weekend, I had a brief respite from the slaughter of so many innocent roses while I accompanied Mrs. ProfessorRoush on a short day-long journey.

The Newly Departed, dead or ripped from the ground and cast on a funeral pyre:

Prairie Harvest (2)
Double Red Knockout
Freisinger Morgenrote
Rosenstadt Zweibrucken
Carefree Beauty
Improved Blaze
The Fairy
Hot Wonder
Golden Celebration
Alba Odorata X Bracteata
Morning Blush
Charlotte Brownell
Prairie Star
Hawkeye Belle
Queen Bee
Red Moss (2)
Variegata de Bologna
Cardinal de Richelieu
Lady Elsie May
Prairie Sunset
Winter Sunset

These are, mind you, just the roses that were showing Rose Rosette at the end of last year.  I have not kept count, but I've probably lost 50 roses to RRD, or at least 25% of the rose cultivars in my garden.   I have a number of other roses that just failed to return this year, but never showed any signs of Rose Rosette; were they weakened by disease and then finished off in a tough winter?

As far as groups of roses, the Rugosas seem to be the most resistant.  I've only had one, 'Vanguard', definitely affected with RRD, although I'm suspicious of my 'Conrad Ferdinand Meyer' at present (but who could be sure, given its already excessive thorniness?).  Most of my gallicas and albas seem to be resistant to RRD, although hybrids, like 'Morning Blush', are fair game.  The Griffith Buck roses are hopeless.  I've lost most of them, either due to RRD, or due to a combination of subclinical RRD and winter kill.  My remaining Griffith Buck roses are either pretty isolated in distance from the main rose beds, or they are probably living on borrowed time.  For those who are wondering, I don't believe the idea of cutting diseased canes off at their base has ultimately saved any rose and believe me, I tried.  When you see the disease, destroy the plant immediately.

I've filled some of the holes, after an appropriate waiting period, with new roses, primarily Rugosas or OGR's, hoping that they are resistant to RRD.  I just received starts of 'Moje Hammarberg', 'Fimbriata', 'Scabrosa', 'Armide', 'Georges Vibert', and 'Orpheline de Juiliet' from Rogue Valley and planted them today.   I also went on a "sucker" spree last week and transplanted suckers of 'Harison's Yellow', 'Souveneir de Philmon Cochet', and 'Dwarf Pavement' into a number of areas.   I'll probably regret the invasive possibilities of the 5 new clumps of 'Harison's Yellow' if they all live, but not until they get out of hand.  My roses are going to be overwhelmingly yellow and early in a couple of years.

While I was out with Mrs. ProfessorRoush, I acquired the metal rose shown in the photo accompanying this blog entry.  It may be prone to rust (sic), but I'll bet it doesn't become extra thorny nor develop witches broom growths from Rose Rosette Disease.  One way or another, I'm going to have roses in my garden, eh?

Friday, April 21, 2017

Yellow Bird Grows

Well, the forsythia bloom got slaughtered sometime this winter, and my red-flowering peach was a bit of a dud this year, but for some unfathomable reason, the magnolias here all bloomed better than ever, not a hint of winter damage.  I can only conclude that at some critical moment during development, the buds of the former were blasted by a cold night, while the fuzzy plump magnolia buds just kept on ticking.  I know we had one night of -10ºF in December, but it seemed like a mild winter overall.  My roses, however, were also blasted back to the ground, even some of the hardiest.  Somewhere, either the winter dryness of the prairie or some extremely cold night was harder than usual on the plant material.

Anyway, as you can see from the photos, Magnolia 'Yellow Bird' has lifted my spirits for nearly two weeks and she continues to bloom today.  I thank my lucky stars for the day I snatched this up at a local nursery, pricey, but worth every penny for its weight in gold right now.  I'd been holding my breath for weeks, watching and waiting for these buds to shine free.

'Yellow Bird', which started out from a two foot tall twig, is now topping 6 feet tall.  This year her blooms came out before the foliage, so I didn't think she was quite as "showy" as she normally is when these blooms burst from the green foliage background, but she certainly didn't hold back her abundance.  Her appearance isn't helped by the wire cage she lives in, but I'm not about to let the deer damage her.  Someday she can rise above all this.

'Yellow Bird' is scented, but not as heavily as my other shrub magnolias, 'Ann' and 'Jane'.  I would describe the scent as a light citrus-y fragrance.  But, always the cynic, I wonder if I'm imagining it because the bright yellow blossoms remind me of lemons and are nearly as big?

Her bloom began this year around April 10th, opening quite a few at once when we had two warm days in succession as seen on the picture on the left, below.  She opened almost everything, a vast orgasmic display, by four days later when the picture on the right was taken.  People, I'm in love.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Sedges and Pussy-toes

Mead's Sedge (Carex meadii)
As he works around the garden, ProfessorRoush always keeps an eye on his areas of native prairie for unusual forbs and for the date of annual blooming of the early forbs.  Right now, while the prairie grass is still low from the spring mowing, I noticed two low-growing grasses shouting for attention.  Well, I thought I noticed two low-growing grasses.  ProfessorRoush was wrong again.   Repeat after me:  grasses are hollow, rushes are round, and sedges have edges.  Each belongs to a different taxonomic family, and even the most amateur botanist (like me) should strive to recognize that they are distinctly different, even more so than Chihuahua's and Great Danes.

The nice little yellow thing above is Mead's Sedge (Carex meadii), which seems to grow everywhere as an understory for prairie grasses.  When it is interspersed with the purple of ground plum (at right), the soft yellow and purple hues make the nicest little microcosm of spring pastels.  Mead's Sedge is a triangular-stemmed sedge named for Samuel Barnum Mead, (1798-1880), a U.S. botanist and physician.  It prefers limestone or chalky soils, which describes my ground in spades (sic).

Field Pussy Toes (Antennaria neglecta)
Every spring, I also see these little fluffy club-like heads pop up, another "grass" that I notice.  Well, this is actually Antennaria neglecta, also known as Field Pussy Toes (as listed at, or Field Cat's Foot (as listed in my copy of Tallgrass Prairie Wildflowers).  Of the common names, I think Field Pussy Toes is a much more interesting name, don't you?  Antennaria neglecta is a member of the family Asteraceae with the sunflowers.  I've seen this growing for years among the grass stems and assumed it was a grass, but when you look closer, the bases of these flowers are the white-gray-woolly leaves laying flat on the ground.  It grows in colonies and although it is dioecious (bears male or female flowers on separate plants), each colony is a clone and is either a male or female colony.  The photo at left depicts the male, or staminate, form for those who care about such niceties (yes, I peeked).

In Kansas, Field Pussy Toes have to be differentiated from Parlin's Pussy Toes (Antennaria parlinii).  The latter has leaves that are shinier and have less "hair."   While my Field Pussy-Toes live in environments suggested by their name (i.e. prairie fields), Parlin's Pussy Toes prefer rocky oak-hickory forests and glades.   For those who are interested in having Pussy Toes in their own gardens, Monrovia has a pink form, Antennaria dioica 'Rubra', available for sale.

As I've noted before, each year I try to remember to note the return of the early species to my prairie in my field guides, and for Field Pussy Toes, I've noted their first occurrence anywhere from March 25th to May 4th, with the earlier date from 2012 and the later from 2002.  Field Pussy Toes, like many other species on my prairie, seem to be pushing their growing/flowering period earlier, supporting the global-warming crowd.  On the other hand, I've got 3 dates written down for Mead's Sedge; 4/10/2000, 4/15/2003, and 4/10/2017, and its appearance is not apparently changing over time, supporting the climate-change deniers.  Who knows?  

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Life Renewed

ProfessorRoush had prepared a profound plum of gardening philosophy for you to ponder today. However, the accompanying photo, of 'Yellow Bird' Magnolia, newly displaying a perfect yellow hue and partially escaping from its protective cage, is substantially more appropriate to represent the deliverance and rebirth of the season of Passover and Easter today.  Happy Easter 2017, Everyone.

(PS:  For those of both a Christian and Country bent, my brother-in-law introduced me to the song Outskirts of Heaven by Craig Campbell.  Take a listen on this sunny Easter day.)


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