Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sweet Fragrance Abounds

'Sweet Fragrance', 8/26/11
In contrast to my last, less than glowing post about 'April Moon', let me show you a rose that HAS earned a permanent spot in my landscape.  A local nursery that I frequent, Lee Creek Gardens, has a number of the  Bailey Nursery "Easy Elegance(tm)" rose offerings, and several years ago I picked up three of them to try out.  The best of these, I believe, has turned out to be 'Sweet Fragrance', a coral/apricot rose that is aptly named for the sweetly fragrant blossoms.



'Sweet Fragrance' (registered as 'BAInce') blooms continually in my garden, but the sometimes occasional blossoms are bordered by four to five waves of blooms during the season.  She is a Ping Lim-bred rose, introduced in the US by Bailey Nurseries in 2007.  The picture at the right was taken recently during the 4th bloom phase of this summer, still quite prolific despite just coming out of the recent heat wave.  I did not edit or crop the picture at all, it is straight from the camera (except for some compression), as flower-filled as it was taken.  Buds of 'Sweet Fragrance' are hybrid-tea-shaped, but open into somewhat unorganized double blossoms in large clusters that have tones of yellow, orange, coral, pink and apricot all mixed together.  The older the blossom, the pinker it becomes.  The three foot high shrub has had no dieback in three winters and it needs no spray here in Kansas to keep it healthy. 'Sweet Fragrance' was awarded Portland's Best Grandiflora in 2008 and again in 2010.

Ping Lim has only recently come to my attention, but he is already an acclaimed rose hybridizer, with three All American Rose Selections ('Daydream', 'Love and Peace', and 'Rainbow Sorbet') to his credit.  On his website home page, http://www.rosesbyping.com/, there is a fabulous picture of a cream pink and yellow 2012 introduction named 'Music Box' that has me drooling already. Please don't go look at i,t because I'm afraid everyone will want one and they'll be sold out before I find one.

Easy Elegance(tm) roses are all grown on their own roots, and they came to me potted as fairly large plants compared to most marketed own root roses.  All three of the varieties I grow are vigorous and healthy, and sooner or later I'll blog about the rest of them.  But for now, search out 'Sweet Fragrance' to add a peachy note of color and fragrance to your garden.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Too Hot for April Moon

Batten down the hatches! Unusually for me, I'm not going to try to spin any perfect yarn about my love for the rose in today's blog.  Dr. Griffith Buck's 'April Moon' is one of those roses that I've tolerated, but that has yet to grow on me.  It isn't that it is terribly diseased, extremely ugly, or a sparse bloomer, it is simply never quite lived up to my expectations for it.

'April Moon', introduced in 1984, is officially described as a "medium yellow shrub", with "lemon yellow buds" tinted red, opening to double (25-30 petal) blooms of lemon yellow (color code RHSCC 14C).  Here's a neat note;  according to helpmefind.com, 'April Moon' has "28-30 petals.....large double (17-25) petals) bloom form."  Let's make up our minds, shall we?  Is it 30 petals or 17?   'April Moon' is supposed to grow 3 foot tall and four feet wide and have a sweet fragrance.  It was a cross of 'Serendipity' with a seedling of 'Tickled Pink' and 'Maytime'.    

So what is my problem with 'April Moon'?  Let me count the ways.  First, I would never in a million years have called her lemon yellow.  The only blossoms I ever see are white with maybe the mildest yellow tinge.  Perhaps she just can't stand the summer heat in Kansas.   Buck's 'Prairie Harvest' is a much better yellow from that breeding program, if still a very light yellow one.  Second, the rose is barely double in my eyes, seldom reaching 20 petals. And it opens so fast that I've never been able to photograph a bloom in that "half-open" phase.  It seems to be tightly wound in bud one day and then fully open the next.  It has no fragrance that I can find, and three years old, my plant has barely made it to two feet high, let alone three.  In fact, my 'April Moon' is so different from descriptions that I wonder if I was sent the right rose when purchased.

Are there positives about this rose?  Yes, of course there are.  It does seem to be completely hardy without dieback in my Zone 5b climate, and it has good disease resistance.  The photos on this page were taken recently and you can see from the healthy foliage that blackspot is not an issue on this rose (remember that I don't spray for fungal disease in my garden).  The bloom does repeat well throughout the growing season. Most importantly, if you are the sort of rosarian that likes to rave about golden stamens, then you may like this rose because it has stamens in spades.  Me, I'm not ready to spade-prune this rose, but so far, it has been a poor sister to 'Prairie Harvest'. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jens Munk mystery cont.

Well, I stuck to the plan and exhumed my dead Jens Munk rose.

I have to be truthful here and admit that I did not carefully follow and dig around each separate root to definitively examine the entire root ball.  In engineering terms, what I did would be described as considering all available environmental factors and determining that the best way to facilitate a solution to the issue was to apply increasing lateral mechanical force to an anchored beam, resulting in a separation of the fauna/soil interface. To the rest of us, it means that on a hot (97F) day, with the Kansas sun bearing down on me, the best I could manage before my body turned to dust was to dig out the soil around the crown of the plant to a depth of 3 inches and encircle it with a really thick rope.  I then tied said rope to the trailer hitch ball on my Jeep, jumped into the air-conditioned Jeep,  put it in first gear, and jammed the accelerator down until I ripped the plant out of the ground.  That is why the remaining roots look so short in the picture to the right.

I learned nothing, essentially.  I could not determine any earthly reason why Jens Munk died.  When you look closely at the picture above, you can see that what I really had here was two plants, the plant at the left of the above picture that died first, and the plant to the right of the picture that recently died.  I cleaved them apart with an axe, as you can see at the left, and examined the cut surface, as you can see below.  Yes, there was a little dirt in the center, but the wood and roots all around that area were firm and showed no evidence of rot.  Cutting into the crown above this with a saw demonstrated no hollow areas of rot or borer damage. There were no cankers or below-ground mushrooms growing here.  No chewed away roots or tunnels running into the prairie soil.  The soil around these roots was moist (but not too moist) and had a pH of 6.4, well below the prairie soil that exists outside my mulched beds, which normally runs in the pH 7.2 range.



So, I can't tell you that I learned anything to shed light on the apparent suicide of Jens Munk.  I have a small, actually a miniscule hope that one of the pieces of roots, now deprived of its above ground Master, will be healthy enough and have enough stored energy to put out a new stem of its own.  Hope, but little faith.  But I'm willing to give it some time, until next Spring perhaps, to see if a miracle will occur.  Then, I'll follow my usual pattern and plant something else in this spot, and shortly thereafter I'm sure that I'll find that Jens Munk is growing again, about one foot to the side of where I just placed the new rose.  It has happened to me that way time and again, but I'm quite willing to accept tempting the Fates, if that is the price of adding Jens Munk to my garden again.



Friday, August 26, 2011

Good Morning Queen Bee

'Queen Bee', 8/26/11
 As I think about what I'm planning for the next few blogs (and including yesterday's blog), I'm afraid in danger of spending a little too much time on roses at the expense of offending those readers with broader gardening minds.  But, hey, what can I say?  Deep, deep down, I'm a rose guy and the Fall flush is coming.  Bear with me and I'll try to intersperse a few blogs on something else. 

But today I certainly can't resist showing you the candelabra growth on my young 'Queen Bee' rose, finally opening last night.  I noticed yesterday that it was blooming too late to get a decent shot (or at least what I'll accept as a decent shot, poor though it would be to a professional photographer). So I ran out this morning as the sun rose to catch this glowing red rose at its best, in this case backlit by an eastern sun at 6:30 a.m.  I can't wait for this rose to get some growth on it beyond this first year in the ground, because I've got a hunch that I'm going to be royally pleased with 'Queen Bee' for years to come. 


'Queen Bee' is a 1984 introduction from Dr. Griffith Buck.  She has dark red buds that open to cupped, very double, blood red blooms with a decent fragrance.  You can see from the foliage of this rose that blackspot is not an issue here in Kansas.  Since this is 'Queen Bee's first year in my garden, I can't vouch for her hardiness here yet, but this complex cross of  a seeding of 'Rosali' X 'Music Maker' to another seedling of 'Square Dancer' X 'Tatjana', should be able to do fine in my Kansas Zone 5b climate.  She is, however, the most floriferous of the 6 new Buck roses I planted last Spring, literally blooming her head off all summer. 

I love bright red roses in general and this one is destined to become special to me. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Rainbow's End

I was recently asked by an anonymous email if Mrs. ProfessorRoush has a favorite rose, and if I know which rose it is.  I am suspicious that it was Mrs. ProfessorRoush, herself, who may have asked the question just as a test to see if I've been listening, but I'm going to answer it here anyway to prove that I DO know the answer as every good gardening husband should.

'Rainbow's End' miniature rose
Mrs. ProfessorRoush has long been captivated by miniature roses. In the heyday of Nor'East Miniature roses, I planted a number of miniatures right outside the kitchen door for her enjoyment, but that was also during a time before I discovered how hot, dry, and windswept that particular planting area really was. Needless to say, the miniatures dwindled there over time, despite my best efforts, and I have since moved the survivors to more hospitable sites. Her favorite rose, however, then as well as now, was the Nor'East miniature introduction 'Rainbow's End'. Since I know which side of my bread is buttered, I strive to keep a couple of them around, and I leave a few blooms on her nightstand from time to time.  I don't know what it is about that rose, the color, the form or the general cheerfulness of the blossoms, but 'Rainbow's End' is the one rose that Mrs. ProfessorRoush commands me to keep around.

'Rainbows End' (Registered as 'SAValife') is a 1984 introduction by Harm Saville that grows about one foot tall and in diameter for me.  It has beautiful, perfect, hybrid-tea-shaped double, yellow 1.5 inch blossoms whose edges are dipped in red.  The red spreads towards the center as the blossom ages, and no two blossoms on the same plant ever look alike.  'Rainbow's End' is a cross of the classic yellow miniature 'Rise n Shine' and the pink 'Watercolor'.  It won the Award of Excellence (AOE) for Miniatures in 1986 and it is often an award winner on the flower show tables.  Disease resistance in my garden is good, although very near the end of the season I sometimes see a little blackspot or lose some leaves at the base of this rose. I see some dieback in my Zone 5b climate, but Kansas winters haven't killed one yet. There is a climbing sport on the market, but I have only grown the bush form.

So, whoever asked if I knew which was Mrs. ProfessorRoush's favorite rose, I hope that I passed the test.  If it was actually Mrs. ProfessorRoush being sneaky, I'm glad she didn't ask me for the color of the Bobbi Brooks pantsuit she wore on our first date or, for that matter, what the names of the kids are or if I know how many years I've been married.  Non-gardening things are sometimes to difficult to recall. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Oh Woe, Oh Poe

Once upon a noontime dreary,
while I staggered hot and weary,
ending up my daily chores.
I came upon a redbud stout,
with dying leaves and stems about,
and branches on the garden floor.

The wind had capped it, neatly snapped it,
When? I'll never know for sure.
But less than I could not go by
and leave this at my backyard door.
I could not leave this mess to clutter,
but was loudly heard to mutter,
"Help me Lord, don't test me more."

So up the tree went tools and me,
I climbed the trunk and scraped my knee
I sawed till I was dearly sore.
The dead branch I removed forthwith,
The blighted look is now a myth,
And dead leaves I saw nevermore.

I heard the tree cry "Nevermore!"


(For those who prefer their explanations in more clear language than my feeble attempts at Poe-ish poetry, I was dead tired last Sunday, when I noticed that a branch had been broken off Mrs. ProfessorRoush's favorite redbud.  Even for a dehydrated, overheated gardener, the dead leaves were a dead giveaway.  So, knowing that Mrs. ProfessorRoush would be highly displeased if I failed to trim the damage on her favorite tree, I climbed and handsawed off the broken spire, which happened to be the growth leader of the tree.  Darned fickle Kansas winds!) 
 P.S.  As you can see from the sky in the top picture, it may have been beastly hot, but it was otherwise a gorgeous Kansas day!   


Monday, August 22, 2011

50 and Counting!

I've not much time in my blogging phase today since I'm busy at the real job, but I thought it's an appropriate time to note that Garden Musings gained its 50th public follower this weekend!  I want to recognize and thank all those whose readership and encouragement keeps me blogging.  Whether you follow my blog publicly or through email or feeds, Thank You!  My occasional sanity depends on you, each and every one.

The sunny face at the right is a volunteer descendant of some 'Mammoth' sunflowers I planted last year.  This one cropped up outside my garden fence line in the prairie, happy as can be, not as big as her forebears, but just as cheery. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Final (Touch) Daylily

'Final Touch' daylily
Whew!  One of my favorite daylilies, dual clumps that lie next to either side of my front steps, had not bloomed at all this year and I had given them up as bad drought actors until yesterday.  Daylilies, however, are as dependable as the sun in Kansas and finally these late actors both bloomed, taking center stage as my landscape begins to take on Fall tones.

This is 'Final Touch', a late-blooming daylily as one would expect from its name, but I never expected it to start blooming quite THIS late.  This beautiful diploid has 4 inch soft bicolored pink and cream flowers with a green throat and it is quite fragrant.  It is classified as winter dormant, but of course that means nothing to gardeners in Kansas since every daylily is dormant here.

'Final Touch' belongs to a group of daylilies labeled as "Trophytakers®."  I had never heard the term before, and my Gogglefoo powers must be weak today, because I still can't definitively find out what organization or individual is behind it.  The original website for the group seems to be down.  From hints here and there, I think these may be selections by famed daylily breeder Darrell Apps of Woodside nursery;  not all are his daylilies, but I believe he was the evaluator of all of them.   I was able to find out that it is a group of 50 outstanding daylilies that must all bloom for a minimum of 42 days, more than double the average daylily.  I can't find what climate they are supposed to bloom for 42 days in, but if Mr. Apps selected them all, it must have been in Kentucky.  Certainly, any daylily that starts to bloom in Kansas in late August may not have 42 days left until first frost.  Trophytaker® daylilies must be vigorous growers and hardy to Zone 5.  They must be "beautiful" (however that may have been determined), the foliage must remain attractive till late in the season, and they must be insect and disease resistant.  I don't know why I've never heard the term, because I grow a number of the other Trophytaker® daylilies; 'Barbara Mitchell', Red Rum', and 'Joylene Nichole', among others.

Regardless, I view 'Final Touch' as a fitting end to my daylily season. If there has to be a rear end to the long string of daylilies, at least it's a beautiful rear end.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Death of a Monk

'Jens Munk', 8/19/11
The game is afoot Watson, for a great mystery has arisen on the prairie.  On Monday, I returned from a 4 day trip, little knowing that gloom and despair had visited my garden in my absence.  From as far away as the windows of the house, though, I could easily see that a monk had died in my garden.  A 'Jens Munk' Canadian Rose, that is. I took a picture of it this morning so you could view the dearly departed with me.  Completely sad, isn't it?  Click on the picture if you absolutely must see it in vivid detail.






'Jens Munk', 4/24/11
I'd been watching and nursing this beautiful shrub rose along for over a year, pampering it with judicious compost and water, but now that it has given up the struggle, I'm determined to investigate the death until the culprit is identified and blame is assigned.  As regular readers of my blog know, I first noticed the rose had a problem last fall when approximately half of the bush suddenly died and I talked about it then in this blog post.  At the time, I was blaming the late summer drought we had last year and you can bet that I lavished some extra care and water on it this year, especially in the long stretch of 100+F temps we had in July.  It started out the year pretty decently, with the remaining bush leafing out well and looking healthy as you can see at the left.  A couple of new canes had sprouted in the vicinity of the dead ones I had pruned, and I had hopes that the bush was going to recover.  Alas, in the span of a few short days the rest of the bush went from green, to brown and shriveled, and it did it in the period after we had finally had some cool relief from the drought and summer heat stress. 

I'm slightly torn between digging it up to get "at the root of the problem" or leaving the roots alone in case some surviving tender rootlet wants to regrow.  This rose has never suckered as most Rugosa hybrids do, so I don't have the benefit of being able to get an easy start of it.  I've decided to uproot it to inspect the roots anyway.  I can't imagine what the issue was;  no visible disease, no rot in the canes I cut off last year, no rodent activity in the area, no sign of iron chlorosis. I've never seen crown or rose gall here on my roses and there is no evidence of it on the surface of this own-root plant.  The other roses closest to it, including 'Robusta', 'Blanc Double de Coubert', 'Alchymist', and 'Louise Odier' , are all doing well and look healthy.  At least two of those are also Rugosa hybrids, so I can't blame the bloodlines.  I'll examine the root system, the canes, and also test a soil sample for pH.  One thing I'm sure of is that the rose didn't get too dry this year.


In memory of this cold-hardy beauty of a rose, taken from me in the prime of her life, despite her excellent overall form, healthy foliage, nice pink blush, and the few plump hips that I always admired winter, I give you 'Jens Munk', glorious in May of 2009, before the decline started:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bountiful Bourbon

'Coquette des Blanches'
It has taken only four years to realize that the Bourbon rose 'Coquette des Blanches' was a great selection for me to grow here in Kansas.  My records show that I planted it in 2007, but I have absolutely no idea where I came across this rose.  Several posters to the Internet talk about getting it as a bagged cheap plant at Home Depot, so perhaps that was where I found it in the spring of '07.  I also don't know, other than the fact that I love the Bourbon fragrance, why I thought this Zone 6 rated rose would grow in my 5B climate.  But grow it does, and it rivals the continuous blooming shrub roses in my garden for floriferousness in the summer heat.

'Coquette des Blanches' was a 1871 introduction by Mons. Lacharme, who was reportedly trying to breed a pure white rose.  Unfortunately for Mons. Lacharme, 'Coquette des Blanches' isn't white, but rather a blush white or pale pink. The French translation of the name, "vain of the white ones" is probably a snooty  comment on the impure color.  At least it wasn't grubbed out at birth, but was recognized as a beautiful and valuable rose to pass on to civilization.  The flower is fully double and slighly cupped, with a strong Bourbon scent.  It often opens to show that little green pip at the center that I appreciate in Old Garden Roses.  It stands about 5 feet tall here in the Flint Hills at 4 years of age, with a nice vase-like shape and healthy foliage, but I've seen descriptions from California where this rose makes it to 9 feet tall.  I can attest that it is hardier here than the Zone 6 it is commonly rated at because I've seen no winter dieback at all over 4 winters here in 5B.  No blackspot either, and I never spray it.

06/29/2011, 2nd bloom
The real value of this rose however, other than the beautiful pale pink tones of the flowers, lies in the fast and reliable repeat of the blooms.  This is not a typical Bourbon in my climate like 'Variegata di Bologna', repeating once, sparsely, if I'm lucky. in the Fall.  'Coquette des Blanches' blooms almost continously and drop cleanly, leaving no hips behind.  Just take a look at the second bloom phase, from June 29th of this year, shown at left.  Additionally, for an almost white rose, the petals don't turn brown and linger on the bush as 'Blanc Double de Coubert' or 'Frau Karl Druschki' are apt to do, but they fall away pink. I don't deadhead my roses, so you can see from the picture at the left that this is one of the most self-cleaning roses you'll ever grow.  My 'Coquette des Blanches' is in it's fourth bloom phase right now, just out of the extreme heat of summer, and every bit as covered as the 2nd bloom cycle pictured.

If and when you can find it, give 'CdB' a try.  I wish I could tell you where to obtain it, but you won't regret it if you get it in the ground.

 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hummer Time

My gardening year is now complete because the hummingbirds have finally appeared at my feeder.  I don't know how it is in other parts of the Midwest, but here in Kansas, I go through a distinct pattern every year taking care of the hummers and I generally feel a little slighted by them in the late spring and summer.

I always watch a migration website carefully in the spring and put out my feeder just after they are sighted in Wichita. Then I spend the months of May, June, and July, waiting, filling the feeder, watching the ants and the wind empty the feeder (liquid doesn't stay long in a feeder that is blown horizontally by the wind), cleaning the feeder, and refilling the feeder.  It is a never ending cycle.  But for at least the last five years, I haven't seen any hummingbirds until early August.  Maybe they head for town first and around August people tire of feeding them in town so they have to look around more.  Maybe the nectar opportunities in the rest of my garden are better in May, June and July and so they don't have to resort to the artificial stuff where I'm more likely to spot them. Perhaps they visit me now because they're storing up for the fall migration and I provide them ready, rich food. Maybe they have a betting pool to see how long the stupid gardener will keep at the fruitless endeavor of filling the feeder.

Regardless, just about the time I stop paying attention to the feeder, when the hot weather breaks, I almost always suddenly spy one exploring the feeder, as I did early this week on a cool morning.  I immediately filled the empty feeder, and now, once again, I have a pair of Ruby-Throated hummers darting in every few minutes. The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) is the only hummer I've seen in this area and its migration route comes right through the center of Kansas. The male, pictured above where you can see a hint of his deep-red throat, actually spends most of his time sitting on top of the feeder stand, guarding the feeder and all he surveys. He is not very chivalrous, as is the nature of his species after mating, because he regularly chases the female away.  Ruby-Throated hummingbird males are not committed spouses, so after quick courtship and copulation on the ground (something they have in common with humans), the males don't stick around to provide a stable living for the family (okay, perhaps another thing in common with an increasing percentage of humans). It's the female who builds the nest and raises the young.  The female of the pair, pictured at left, scurries in and out when the male is gone and I probably should follow her to see if she has had a nest somewhere nearby.  By now, any nest should be empty, but it is possible she has been hanging around all summer spending most of her time at my honeysuckle and salvia and has raised a brood here.

I'm not current on my slang or rap music, but as opposed to "hammer time," "hummer time" sounds, and is,  quite a bit nicer (no jokes here, please).  I certainly appreciate the visits to my garden from the hummingbirds, however late they may be, for the lightness and cheerfulness of their presence.  They're about as close to being real garden fairies as I'm ever actually going to see.    

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Thirteenth Tribulations

Well, everyone, let us give it the old College try, shall we?  As promised before, I'd like to try hosting a monthly blog link party with the subject of garden trials, mistakes, and bad outcomes.  There are several link parties for beautiful pictures or interesting blog posts out there on the web, but I've always thought that I learn better from mistakes.  Maybe by sharing our mistakes here, we can help others avoid them.  We'll call it "Thirteenth Tribulations," because it'll run the thirteenth of every month and because I am fond of alliteration and I needed another "T", and a "tribulation" is "an experience that tests one's endurance, patience, or faith."  I don't know about you, but I find my gardening patience, faith and endurance tested almost daily, so I'll always have plenty of material to link.   I'll open up the linky thing on the 13th of every month and then close it at midnight on the 14th.

And this is the inaugural linking post!  So everyone, please dig in and link to a post on your blog or website that is about a gardening lesson learned;  some plant that doesn't do well in your area, some poor plant color combination that you tried, some episode where the squirrel dug up all your tulips, or a story about that time that the ice storm snapped off your Japanese Maple.  For the first one, we won't worry about how far back the original post was, but after this, we can try to keep to posts within the previous month or so.  Everyone ready?  Link away!

(I'm being especially bold, by the way, because I'm posting this first linky during a period where I'm going to be away from the computer for a day or so.  Well, God loves children and fools and...hopefully...bloggers stretching their abilities). 


Friday, August 12, 2011

The Biggest Disappointments

Sometimes it doesn't pay to get your hopes up, does it?  As my own example for tomorrow's inaugural "Thirteenth Tribulations" blog party, I'll give you a look at a plant that I had the most tremendous hopes for.  Early this spring, the yellow-foliaged plant pictured at the right popped up in one of my beds and I couldn't remember planting anything like it for the life of me.  I was able to identify it later from my plant maps as Coreopsis tripteris ‘Lightning Flash’ (introduced in 2007), which I had planted in 2009 but don't remember seeing at all in 2010.  All spring and early summer it grew up, keeping the delicious yellow foliage until a few weeks ago.  The picture is from April 27th, but the clump eventually got over 3 feet tall and kept that yellow hue to the foliage, a fine counterpart to the bluish Panicum it was planted near. 

Well, at least it kept the yellow hue until it got ready to bloom.  At about the 3 foot height, this beautiful plant turned a nondiscript green and disappeared into the border. I was still hoping for a spectacular bloom from it, but alas, the pretty yellow flowers, pictured up close at the left as they began to bloom last week, are lost from a distance as you can see below to the right.



















Talk about your letdowns. None of the published descriptions of  'Lightning Flash' that I could find suggested that it would have a disappointing bloom, although the Kemper Center website suggested that it is "perhaps better known for its foliage than for its yellow flowers."  The plant IS drought tolerant and needed no extra water in full sun, so I'm not going to throw it out of the border, but it has left me wanting.  I'm hoping that all those buds that remain open simultaneously to give me one last, large peep show.  I never expected such an exhibitionist plant would turn so shy as it flowered. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Daylilies Still

Hemerocallis 'Chorus Line'
I note that my earliest post about daylilies blooming this year is on June 23rd, but here, over 8 weeks later, a number of daylilies are still bravely holding on even after one of the hottest July's on record.  And I'm not just talking about 'Stella de Oro' or 'Happy Returns', either.  Despite the heat, the colors seem to be more vibrant than ever.  Now, I give you 'Chorus Line', a 1981 diploid, in brighter and more refined color than any of the thirty or so pictures of it I found on the web:



Hemerocallis 'Old Barnyard Rooster'
Tetraploid 'Old Barnyard Rooster', a red self, is holding up well and bright as the dickens.

















Hemerocallis 'Dream Legacy'
Tetraploid rebloomer 'Dream Legacy' bloomed throughout the season, but seems to have lost most of its purple edging to the heat.















Hemeroclalis 'Frans Hal'
And then, of course there are the oranges.  Old standby 'Frans Hal', introduced in 1955, is a late bloomer that performs well despite the browning foliage supporting it, as does the unnamed orange daylily below.










And, proving once again that you don't need to know your name to be both beautiful and tough, this lovely lavender in my front bed is numbered "7", but I have no idea what its name is today.  Gorgeous, though, isn't it?   


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bird Gifts

While we are on the subject of volunteer plants (see yesterday's post), I'd like to show you another shrub that popped up on its own, this time in a border next to the house.  This is a 6 inch tall specimen of Cotoneaster apiculatus, or Cranberry Cotoneaster, that has seen fit to try to sneak in unnoticed to my landscape.  Compared to my cultivated, nursery-purchased specimens, which are attacked by spider mites and look wretched every year during August, this one is either in a spot more to its liking or it is too small yet to be noticed by the spider mites.  It is green and healthy and proclaiming its right to life, and I think I'm going to transplant it and give it a chance somewhere. 
I always have trouble pronouncing certain species and Cotoneaster is one of them.  Wikipedia tells us the phonetic spelling is  kəˈtoʊniːˈæstər, which is even worse for me than trying to interpret the Latin.  There are symbols there that aren't even English for gosh sakes. I turned, as usual to the excellent Fine Gardening Magazine's pronunciation guide which audibilizes the word for you and which I would say as "Ko-tone-e-aster."  There, now, isn't that simpler?

Because of the uncertain genetics in this volunteer, however, I suppose that I can't assume that it will stay in an expected 3 foot tall by 6 foot diameter space, so I'm trying to find a spot somewhere on the periphery of the garden where it can romp away if it feels a genetic need.  I presume that this one is from a seed spread by a bird, just as the mulberries in my yard must be, and so hopefully it will bear and increase the food available to my flying winter garden inhabitants.  Of course, this bird-sown gift may benefit the bees more, because my larger cotoneaster's are covered in white flowers every spring and the bees flock to them as an early source of nectar.  The birds helping the bees.  There's got to be a metaphor for love in there somewhere.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Whence thou comest?

I realize that I was neglecting my garden in the past few weeks of heat, in favor of my own personal survival, but how, oh how, did I miss this stray mulberry seedling to the point that it got so big? I mean, talk about embarrassing. This one popped up in a hillside bed of purple-leaved honeysuckle so it was hardly inconspicuous as soon as it got taller than the honeysuckle mounds.  If I had let this errant creature get any bigger, I'd have had to hire a tree service to haul it off!
Every verdant area of the planet, I suppose, has a group of first colonizers, "weeds," and then a group of scraggly, undesirable weed trees that make way for the more stalwart forest citizens such as oak and beech.  In Kansas, the weed trees that pop up most often in my borders seem to be mulberries, red cedars, osage orange, and cottonwoods, although russian olive trees also lately seem to be frequently trying to gain a foothold.  Of the main four, I'm a sucker for our native cottonwoods, so I commonly transplant them somewhere where I can allow a large, rustling tree.  Red cedars are easy to spot because of their foliage differences from most of the plants in my deciduous borders, and I can't allow them to proliferate because I know that any untended land in Kansas quickly becomes a crappy red cedar forest if neglected.  Osage oranges usually announce themselves by stabbing me with their thorns when I pass, so they are often both easy to find and simultaneously provide me with sufficient motivation to remove them.  The mulberries, however (I believe these are native American red mulberries or Morus rubra), blend in somehow, the right color or the right shape, and my eye often misses their incursions until the sunlight is just right to set them off from the surrounding foliage.  There are two other mulberries in my garden right now, one that I keep forgetting to remove at the base of a mature 'Carefree Beauty' rose, and another hiding out among the blackberries, whose leaf shapes aid it in camouflage.  

Red mulberry saplings don't grow to be large or very useful trees, but I often think about letting a few grow on the periphery of my garden; for the birds, you see.  There are several wild ones growing down around the pond and around my acreage and I know they've got to be valuable resources for the wildlife, whatever I think of their messiness and lack of value to humans. Okay, I know some of you eat them, but the wild mulberries here lack any sufficient flavor for me to favor them. But I have a bigger problem than that with the idea of leaving mulberries to grow for birds.  Male and female flowers usually occur on different trees, so to transplant a fruiting tree to my landscape I have to let it grow tall enough to allow me to identify it.  And by that time it is so big that moving the chert rock to create a nice planting hole would seriously test my innate laziness.  The birds, I think, are just going to have to find their sustenance elsewhere in my garden, or fly down to the pond at suppertime.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Weatherman Wrong

Well, not just the weatherman, but the entire weather forecasting system is sometimes stumped by the fickle nature of the Kansas Flint Hills.  Yesterday at 8:00am., weather.com and the local news all predicted a return to highs in the mid-100's for the Flint Hills after a brief respite in the high 90's late last week.  I hurried outside to mow and get at least some minor work done in my neglected garden before the heat rose.  A warm south wind was blowing and the temps quickly rose towards the 90's. And then low and behold about 10:00a.m., as I mowed, the wind increased rapidly and it got darker and darker and then simply ominous to the west and north.

It didn't rain, as a big summer storm slid just north of us, but I didn't complain a bit because by 1:00 p.m. the temperature was a cool 81 degrees and it didn't rise back into the 90's all day.  Last night a little rain came, and this morning it was downright chilly to my heat-wave-adjusted internal thermometer.  Forecasts for the next 10 days show a number of low nights in the 60's and only two days into the 90's.  The heat wave has broken here!  The only creatures in my garden that aren't happy about that are the cold-blooded snakes and lizards slinking around in my peripheral vision.  I don't know if my fellow Kansas blogger Gaia Garden is right in her eloquent post about global warming, but at least I know now that I'll see Winter once again in the Flint Hills.  I was beginning to wonder.  Even the sun yesterday evening, exiting with a golden sunset, seemed to want to apologize to the Flint Hills earth and gardeners for all the troubles it has caused in recent weeks.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Crapes by Chance

You would think, given the summer heat in Kansas, that crape myrtles, those southern summer stalwarts, would be an ideal plant to brighten up the August doldrums.  And in fact, they are a blessing in the hot times, but due to the split personality of the Kansas climate, it is too cold here in winter to see them reach their full potential as they do in Oklahoma, or even Wichita, where I've seen several hardy tree-sized specimens. 




Crape myrtles, you see, are a shrub in my 5B climate, not a tree.  I first began to add them to my garden a few years back when they suddenly began appearing in the local gardening stores.  Ten years ago, you never saw them for sale here, but I suppose that the onrushing tide of global warming has spread far enough north that the great commercial gods of Lowes and Walmart decreed that they might sell a few to Zone-defiant idiots, and so I began to purchase them when I saw them.   In fact, one of my best plant bargains ever was to purchase a 2 gallon 'Centennial Spirit' crape for $10 in August on sale at a big box store about 5 years back. At the time, I bought it merely because I couldn't resist the bright red, cheery color, but it has turned out to be my most dependable and tallest crape.  Every year, it grows up to become a 5 feet tall bush in my garden, and it opens up in early August to be a beacon in its border. 



'Centennial Spirit' (Lagerstroemia indica 'Centennial Spirit')  is a plant with just about everything going for it in my climate except for a partial lack of  winter hardiness.  It is attractive to bees,(see above) impervious to insect pests and disease, blooms its head off, and has a great fall color as you can see at the left (in a picture from late October, 2009). The deep green foliage is resistant to drought and never wilts.  Patented by Oklahoma State University in 1988, 'Centennial Spirit' is only listed as hardy to Zone 7, so I guess I should be thankful that it grows here at all, instead of bemoaning the fact that it won't ever reach its advertised 10-20 foot mature height as a true tree.  Alas, however, like every other crape I grow, it dies back to the ground or almost to the ground every year, so I cut it off like a spirea in the spring and wait for it to show up during my August despair to drag me along into cooler September.  I can't fault it entirely for not being "stem-hardy", though, since I grow a number of crapes and none of them grow unscathed through a winter.  Diminutive 'Cherry Dazzle' grows back every year and has the same nice bright red color, but only makes it a foot high by September.  Rose-red 'Tonto' and white 'Natchez' were specifically bred for Northern climates and will grow decently tall, 3, and 4 foot respectively, but they still die back to the ground each winter.  And none of these have the fall color of 'Centennial Spirit'.

'Centennial Spirit' is a product of the vision of Dr. Carl Whitcomb, an Oklahoma State University professor who established LaceBark Inc., a horticultural research company located near Stillwater, OK, in 1986. He has produced a number of new crape myrtles, including Dynamite, Pink Velour, Red Rocket, Raspberry Sunday, and 'Prairie Lace'.  If I could send Dr. Whitcomb a message, I'd ask him to please help out the poor neglected souls just a few hundred miles to the north by breeding hardy crape myrtle trees for Kansas. My only other hope is to pray for global warming to continue, and if this summer is any indication, it would be just my luck to have crape myrtles that are winter-hardy, but succumb to the summer heat.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Announcing! Thirteenth Tribulations

Just a short note to announce that starting on August 13th, Garden Musings will host a monthly blog link party titled "Thirteenth Tribulations".   As readers know from this previous post, I've got a hankering to provide my fellow bloggers with a cathartic "show your garden errors" linky thingy.  So, providing I've got the linking system figured out, we'll try the first one about a week from today (the reason I chose the 13th of each month for a recurring blog party about garden mistakes should be obvious). 

So fellow bloggers, be saving up your anti-gardening lessons;  plants that performed terribly, blooms that clashed next to each other, stories about the neighborhood kids who pulled up all your crocuses, or the time that the rain storm washed away your stepping stones.  It'll be fun I promise.  Well, if not fun, at least we can all have a good cry together.  See you next week on the Thirteenth!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Rattlesnake Plant

I decided to blog today on a tough-as-nails perennial plant for the benefit of those fellow gardeners who also garden in a hotter-than-heck semi-arid environment like Kansas.  For those of you in dry, rattlesnake-friendly country, Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium) is a problem-free, drought-resistant addition to the garden.  Be aware, however, that despite the common name of this plant, its roots do not heal rattlesnake bites as legend suggests.  I'm a little disappointed about that, myself, because I'd sure like to have a cure available some day when I run across confirmation that rattlesnakes about in my garden as thickly as the books say they should.
 
Rattlesnake Master (also called Button Snakeroot or Button Eryngo) is a Zone 4 hardy plant that, once planted, never needs to be cared for again.  It is listed as a native Kansas wildflower, but I've never seen it growing wild in my immediate vicinity.  I can't remember where I first learned of it, but I do remember that after reading about it, I drove as quickly as possible to my local plant pusher...er...uh....nursery, to ask if they knew where I could get a specimen.  As luck would have it, they had two potted specimens that a client had ordered and then not picked up; two beaten up, neglected plants that didn't appear as if they would survive the first night out of the pot.

But, survive they did and now every year they return to my garden and provide a little novelty to my August border.  The foliage is silver-gray, and the plant is upright and stiff, so it stands out well from surrounding darker green foliage and provides good foliage contrast if you place it right.  Bees and butterflies are attracted to the honey-scented flowers and the plant itself is a host plant for Swallowtail butterflies. It grows about 5 foot tall every year, flowers consistently in late July, and doesn't seem to spread itself around indiscriminately.  Don't listen to everything you read about this plant because some sources are flat out wrong.  I read on Dave'sGarden.com, for instance, that Rattlesnake Master requires consistently moist soil and that I shouldn't let it dry out between waterings.  In reality, I've never given this plant extra water and in our current drought period, the soil around this plant has barely had a molecule of dihydrogen monooxide to spare for a month.  I've also read that handling the plant causes skin irritation, but that particular side effect has only happened to me when I haven't been careful of the spiky leaves.

This member of the carrot family should grow well in the garden of those who like its bluer cousins, the Sea Holly's such as 'Big Blue' (Eryngium zabelli).  Both types of Eryngium grow in my garden, but the white flowers of  Rattlesnake Master stand out more vividly in the August garden. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Composting Karma

It is time, I think, to unveil my super-duper, space-age, Lifetime 65 Gallon Composter.  Yes, I bit the bullet, took the plunge, went for broke, jumped in at the deep end, and took one for the team by purchasing this hi-tech tumbling aerator in an effort to improve (decrease) my carbon footprint and to help me appear to be a gardener worth...whatever organic brownie points I can get.  Good golly, Miss Molly, rotting vegetable material has gotten so complicated!

I had been eyeing this little gem, and other similar artificial composting bins in Sam's Club and in various gardening catalogues, for quite some time. I had weighed the benefits of tumbling versus "in-at-the-top-out-at-the-bottom composters" for some time and since I only infrequently and reluctantly turn my low-tech, toss-in-the-weeds garden compost pile, I became convinced that a tumbling composter would allow more frequent aeration of the material (it would be less work, anyway) and thus help me be a better composter. This plastic monstrosity, purchased at Sam's Club, had dropped to around $80.00 a month ago when I finally brought it home, so I guess I finally found the point where the price intersected with my basic Miserness.  For gosh sakes, don't buy it at the manufacturer's link above, where the identical composter is listed for $169.99, nor on Amazon.com, where it was priced above $130. 

This particular composter is designed with black, double-walled panels to absorb and retain heat, has an internal mixing bar that increases aeration of the material, and a large door to make it easy to get "stuff"in and out of.  I don't know if it is the "best" available, and I am not an agent for the company, but it seemed to fit what I wanted.  While many would deny that I could ever be mistaken for an accomplished composter, I do know a little about the theory, and so far all those embellishments sound okay to me.  Even so, although the accompanying instructional material talks about finished compost in as little as a month, I'm not going to hold my breath. It is merely a compost tumbler, not a miracle catalyst that will turn a lazy gardener into a reincarnation of Jerome Irving Rodale.

In the past, Mrs. ProfessorRoush has been resistant to participating in the creation of compost because the standard compost pile in my garden is a long walk up and down a hill from the house. For that reason, I placed the new tumbler in a convenient spot about 20 feet from the back door in an effort to encourage Mrs. ProfessorRoush to add the kitchen peelings to it.  Although she initially grumbled that it would smell and draw rodents and snakes, she finally agreed that the great Organic Gardening Gods would likely pleased by her sacrifice.  Okay, I don't know, along with all the sighs and eye-rollings, maybe she just decided to humor her half-crazy husband.  Anyway, I assured her that as long as she didn't add meat, eggs, grease, or our non-house-trained Italian Greyhound to the composter, it would not become a blight upon the entire household.  And I take it as a sign of good will that she has since taken that first step of keeping most of the household vegetable and fruit peelings for me and telling me when they were ready to be walked the twenty feet outside and placed into the composter. 

I have just one question remaining about the composter.  How long, do you think, do I have to use it before the environmental benefits I gain will make up for all the plastic and aluminum and stainless steel composing it and also offset the fuel to ship it here from China?  Just wondering when my carbon footprint karma will balance out?

Wilting Worries

When the ambient temperatures top out daily over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, even a diligent gardener can miss the important signs of plant stress, but it would be tough to miss the miserable plant suffering that I've seen over the past two weeks here in Kansas.

There are many plants that I believe seldom or never require extra water in my garden, but I've seen my beliefs and plant knowledge tested recently.  Consider the well-established forsythia at the left;  when you drive into the driveway after a work day and you are greeted by this sight, it is a not-so-subtle hint that practically everything in your garden should get a little extra watering.  Even the normally drought-resistant lilacs planted alongside this forsythia were showing signs of stress.  At such times, my general philosophy of never providing extra water to my landscape cedes to my pragmatic side and my water bill begins to skyrocket.

I do expect some degree of damage in this heat from a few of my more pampered beauties.  My witch hazel certainly tends to like its water in bucket-full amounts, as do most of its family members, and I always try to add a little extra water during these tough times to keep it happy.  Witch hazels are seldom seen in landscapes in this area, and for good reason, and I gain a little pride by keeping it alive in my garden.  But sometimes, as you can see pictured at the right, even extra water isn't enough, the leaves drying up in a single day as the ground below it turns to concrete.  I've seen the same thing happen to magnolias in my garden, and I am wandering the garden morning and night with a hose right now to try to prevent disaster.
I can't blame the plants, though, or the Flint Hills climate that tests them. I wilt right alongside them whenever I have to venture out at midday, and I take just as much extra water to keep going while I work in the garden.  I do, however, curse those modern Chicken-Littles/Nanny-State Ninnies who have written that we shouldn't drink out of garden hoses.  It doesn't stop me from doing it, and I don't believe that I have experienced any negative effects from that practice in 50+ years of doing it, but now I think about it almost every time I take a drink of that life-giving fluid.  Please, just leave me alone to drink in peace.

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