Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Friends, Old and New

At a certain stage of life, gardeners begin to notice that their connections with childhood friends are intertwined with rare reunions and increasingly frequent funerals.  While their qualitative value seldom changes, those friends seem to quantitatively dwindle at each successive reunion or wake, until at last the gardener is forced to acknowledge that he is old and nearly alone.  Old enough that lost loves are rekindled only from memory.  Old enough to compare present with past and wistfully remember better times.    

'Konigin von Danemark'
My recent hail hellstorm put a significant damper on the number and quality of roses that are blooming this year and has left me with the feeling that I'm attending a diamond reunion of old friends and classmates, many of them missing due to illness or death.  Some lost most of their blooms.  The survival of the new little ones is still questionable.  I have, however, taken some comfort in greeting a few old friends and precious new ones who persevered through the pummeling to provide me their pleasing presence.  Take, for example, 'Fantin-Latour,' photographed above, a fifteen year survivor of the Kansas prairie, yet as delicate and refined as a society debutante.  Or 'Konigin von Danemark' (seen at left), mine a cutting from a plant on an 1850's Kansas grave.  If this rose could tell me stories, I'm sure it could keep me entertained for hours with tales of its world travels and of pioneers and death and struggle.

'Marie Bugnet'
'Marie Bugnet', the purest white angel, bloomed second and sparsely for me this year, beaten to the garden by the bright sunshine of Harison's Yellow, as I noted earlier, but 'Marie Bugnet' is cherished all the more for its few perfect blooms.  I never understand why this rose goes unnoticed by most rose fanatics, because it would be one of my "must-haves" in any future garden.  She's a little sparse, but I have placed my dreams in several new basal breaks on the bush.

'Souvenir du Docteur Jamain'
'Souvenir du Dr. Jamain' added his deep red hues again to my garden, his foliage stripped away from naked canes, but each tall cane topped with a masculine carmine bloom.  I'm planning to cut him way back as soon as he finishes, in an attempt to strengthen and fill him out for a better season next year.  In fact, a number of my Old Garden Roses are overdue for rejuvenation and they're about to be given some help from my pruners.

'Due de Fitzjames'
Newcomer-to-me 'Duc de Fitzjames,' perhaps a Centrifolia and known before 1837, certainly lived up to his class, the blossom tightly packed with "red" petals and strong fragrance.  Why, I wonder, do we persist in labeling dusky pink Old Garden Roses as red when they are barely more than pink?  And is it really a Centrifolia or is it a Gallica as some sources claim?  Are there two different roses living under this name, one a deep magenta Gallica, the other a lavender Centrifolia?  This rose is young, but tough and I hope it will continue to survive.

'Gallicandy', in contrast, flashed off its neon-candy-pink blooms to perfection against the rough dark green foliage that survived the hail.   In fact, it seemed brighter than ever, perhaps taking advantage of the paucity of neighboring blooms.  The vibrant color of this Paul Barden introduction pleases me so much more than 'Duc de Fitzjames."  Or am I just biased for brighter modern dyes and colors rather than accepting of older norms?

'Snow Pavement'
One rose that I'm sure is going to be a keeper is my one year old 'Snow Pavement.'  I watched this rose for years, straggly and struggling in the shade of a large elm in the K-State Gardens, and I was underwhelmed.  Last year however, it was yet another "impulse buy" for me and I'm very impressed by the compactness of this rose in full sun.  I'm also coming to appreciate the light lavender-pink tones of 'Snow Pavement' more every day, especially when other roses aren't stepping up this year to steal away the limelight. I'm also becoming quite fond of the Pavement Series of rugosas and I plan to write more about them soon.

I'd love to have introduced you to more old and newer friends if space and time permitted, but yet another storm was on its way and Bella was wanting to move inside, her bravery under assault by the low-lying clouds trying to envelop the garden.  At least you know that my garden is a shadow of its former self, but there are treasures still to be had.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Yeah, They Got Me

I, ProfessorRoush, of normally sane intellect and body, must now confess that yesterday I participated, nay, I joyfully surrendered, to that most simple of marketing techniques; The Impulse Buy.  While browsing a Big Box gardening center, in hopes of finding something besides 'Stella de Oro' and 'Knock Out' relatives, I happened upon this 'Raspberry Sundae' peony in full bloom.  In my own defense, I would ask that before you harshly condemn me, you click on these photos that I took on my iPhone the second after I plunked down my $24.98 and placed this peony in my Jeep.  Spend a few quiet moments in contemplation of this gorgeous girl.  Look at the immaculate blooms.  Look at the healthy, tall, foliage of this peony.  Oh, if only I could reproduce the fragrance for you!  For the gratification of others with similar weak-willed buying habits, it came from Menard's,

'Raspberry Sundae' is a 1968 introduction by Carl G. Klehm, a bomb-shaped midseason lacriflora with pale yellow and pale pink and cream mixed into the most delicate display I've ever seen.  Martin Page, in The Gardener's Guide to Growing Peonies, states that "few flowers have been so aptly named," and he uses 'Raspberry Sundae' as his example when describing the central raised mass of petaloids that develop from both stamens and carpels, suggesting that the "bomb" name refers to a similarity with a "bombe" ice-cream sherbet.  I didn't have this peony in my garden before, but I will as soon as I can dig a hole this morning.  I need to find a prominent place for 'Raspberry Sundae' since she is very likely to soon become one of my favorites.

I was happy to see that 'Raspberry Sundae' was a creation of Carl Klehm, the third of a four-generation (John, Charles, Carl, and Roy) peony dynasty in the Midwest.  As I've mentioned previously, I have seen Roy Klehm speak in person at the National Arboretum and I grow a number of Klehm's striped peonies.  Now, my garden is host to yet one more Klehm peony.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Globemaster Grumbling

I've always believed that one of the best ways to learn new techniques or information, in a permanent manner so that it sticks, is to learn from your mistakes or from the mistakes of others.  I've often said to my students that the difference between a good veterinarian and a bad veterinarian is that a good veterinarian recognizes an error and never makes the same mistake again.  There are plenty of mistakes to be made in medicine without repeating them, but if you don't repeat the same errors, you eventually limit the damage you can do and by "practicing" you become good.  It might not be desirable to be the "practice-ee," but certainly over time the practitioner should get better and better.  Or so I believe.  Malcolm Gladwell, in Outliers, backs me up by hypothesizing that with 10000 hours of practice, anyone can master almost anything.

'Pinball Wizard'
It is certainly not a mistake for a gardener to plant fabulous large ornamental alliums, but in a hail-prone area, I just learned that you might not want to base an entire garden theme on them.  Of all the plants in my garden, they were the most damaged and seem to be the slowest to show any recovery.  The Oriental and Orientpet lilies were a close second in terms of initial damage, but they are now all putting out new, normal growth at their tops. In contrast, my large alliums are not responding to a tincture of time very well.  'Globemaster', photographed above, had developed buds of about 2 inches diameter before the hail and it went ahead and bloomed well after the hail, but the foliage at the base of the plant is still....horrible.  A similar group of three 'Pinball Wizard' bulbs, show here at the left, were only 10 feet away but were simply flattened, barely discernible now among the columbine and Dutch iris foliage.   They may not survive to bloom next year.

From my despair, I'd like to tell you that I at least learned something of the best variety of allium to plant in this region.  Last summer, I appreciated the display put on by the few allium in my garden, and by those in other area gardens, and I resolved to add more to my garden.  So last fall, I ordered and planted a number of new cultivars, including 'Ambassador', 'Pinball Wizard', 'Globemaster', and 'Gladiator'.  Of those, 'Globemaster', the trio pictured at the right, all kept their heads and necks intact, blooming well, but those were the only alliums to bloom well in my garden this year.  Is 'Globemaster' tougher than the others?  I'd love to say "yes," but my scientific training tells me that my data is inconclusive.  Not enough bulbs scattered around to form a valid opinion.  These were just as exposed as the others, but perhaps they just got lucky.

One might hope that a plant named 'Gladiator' could hold its own against a hailstorm, but the 'Gladiator' buds broke off and then proceeded to bloom like broken purple scepters (photo at left).  My group of 'Ambassador' wasn't able to negotiate at all with the hail and looks the worst of all these allium, not a single stem intact and leaves simply dying.  I'll spare you the horror of showing you a photo of the latter.

Is there any conclusion, any small thought or idea, that I can learn from this hail-ish experience?  Because I'd like to not repeat the same mistake of spending wads of money, nursing dreams of beautiful allium through fall, winter and spring, feeling hope rise with the stems, taller and taller, only to be dashed alongside the broken leaves in an instant.   Maybe, perhaps, just one.

Don't garden in Kansas.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Cheerful Christopher Columbus

'Christopher Columbus'
Often, in the worst of times, one is rescued by friends who were sorely overlooked in the best of times.  Friends who were always nearby, as solid as dry Kansas clay, and often just as inglorious.  Such it is with my 'Christopher Columbus', a quiet and brave lad who has always stood in the shadows of my garden, but never, before now, occupied the spotlight; an understudy who has suddenly stolen the show from the ill lead.  Please don't misinterpret my feelings for him here;  if I seem less than enthusiastic, my mood is not related to this stalwart rose as much as it is about the lack of other rose companions in this cruel spring.

I've briefly mentioned his presence before, but 'Christopher Columbus' has been in this garden since the summer of its founding.  I purchased him in 2001 from Heirloom Roses, a mere sprig of a rose with the virtue of a striped and cheerful disposition.  He rests still where he was first planted, in a southern exposure with the protection of a large 'Josee' lilac to the west and a yet taller Viburnum lentago 'Nannyberry' to the north, both of which served to protect him from the earlier hail storm that smashed the rest of my garden.  One of my few roses to bloom this year with some semblance of their normal abundance, I'll simply thank him for his survival over many years and thank Provenance for his protection this year.

'Christopher Columbus' has never topped 4 foot tall in my garden and grows almost as wide, about 3 feet in most years.  The clustered, semi-double flat blooms are 2" in diameter, and I disagree with Internet sources that claim it is strongly fragrant; mine has only a very slight fragrance.  He does repeat bloom, although sporadically and with less abundance over the summer.  The foliage is dark green and completely blackspot and pest free in this environment.  You have only to trim out the dead canes after each winter (which do seem to occur somewhat frequently even though he is cane-hardy in this marginally Zone 5 garden) to keep him looking his best.  The stripes however, the pink and white stripes surrounding bright yellow stamens, are magnificent, every bloom unique and eye-catching when it first opens.

If you choose to acquire him, you must be careful for there are at least two 'Christopher Columbus'-named roses out there and both bred in the same year, 1992 of course, for the quincentenary of their more famous namesake's Atlantic crossing.  One is an orange-blend hybrid tea introduced by Meilland, but my 'Christopher Columbus' is a floribunda introduced by Poulsen, also known under the aliases of Candy Cover, Dipper Hit®, Nashville™, and POUlbico.   That's a lot of names for a rose bred from two unnamed seedlings.   Nashville™ is its exhibition name, and it is known as Dipper Hit® within the PatioHit® Collection.  With all these names you might wonder why I still call him 'Christopher Columbus', but the latter is the name I purchased him under.  If you lust after his stripeness, just tell the nursery you want the striped 'Christopher Columbus'.   But good luck finding him because right now he is only listed under a German nursery and even then under the 'Candy Cover' alias.

In the meantime, however, I feel only fortunate to observe 'Christopher Columbus' as it leaps into this brave new post-hail world and receives its fifteen minutes of fame.  I appreciate it even as I know it is destined to fade back into my landscape until such time as it is thrust again into the forefront by a freak storm.


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