Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pleasing Profusion

I blogged yesterday that my garden had exploded with roses and I thought that everyone deserved at least a little peek at the bounty therein.   There were 170 rose bushes blooming when I counted yesterday.   'Alchymist', with a rainbow of colors in one bloom, leads the way into my scenery and provides the hook for my readers to take a peek.  'One of my two 'Alchymist' is blooming the best and healthiest I've ever seen it, so I'm reaping the rewards from deciding to trim this stiff-armed climber into a bush form.

My front bed (below) is alive right now with color all over from the roses, irises, peonies, and a weigela.  I took this picture as I was taking prom pictures of my daughter yesterday evening.   The roses seen are (left to right), cheerful tricolored 'Betty Boop', scarlet 'Hunter', yellow-orange 'Morden Sunrise', and cardinal 'Champaign' in the shade at back.

My back patio bed is a string of shrub roses.  Just barely blooming, at the top, are white 'Madame Hardy' and pink 'Fantin Latour', with the more profuse pink flowers of (back to front), 'David Thompson', 'Carefree Beauty', 'Prairie JOY', (not Prairie Sunrise'), 'Zephirine Drouhin', and 'Jeanne Lavoie' stealing the show.  Oh, and a deep red 'Dark Lady' at the bottom by the pot.

'Variegata di Bologna'
My main formal rose bed (below), which contains almost 50 roses, simply boasts roses too numerous to name, but it is a wave of color.  Front and center in the foreground is towering 'Earth Song', with a shaded bright yellow 'Sunsprite' beneath its feet and a 'Garden Party' to the side.  However, every year I await one special rose from this bed, the scrumptious 'Variegata di Bologna', pictured from yesterday at the right.

I can't show everything today, there are just too many roses out there in the garden proper, but I'll leave you with a taste of the bed I call my "rose berm".  This was my first shrub rose planting, and the west end of the bed, seen here, has a number including (roughly left to right) 'Linda Campbell', 'Iceberg', 'Double Red Knockout', 'Harison's Yellow', 'Souvenir de Philemon Cochet', 'Hawkeye Belle', and (in the foreground), 'Rose de Rescht'.  Yes, you didn't read it wrong, I have a 'Double Red Knockout' front and center despite my ranting about them.  Nobody's perfect.

  I hope all your rose days to come are as happy and contented as mine are right now!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Marvelous Marianne

My roses exploded yesterday.  Completely exploded.  Rose bushes that had not opened a single bud the day before were covered with blooms.  And along with that profusion of blooms, the first of my long-awaited Paul Barden Hybrid Gallicas, 'Marianne', made her opening debut, the belle of  yesterday's ball.

'Marianne' (ARDgoldeneyes) has had a tough life out here on the prairie, as you can guess from the pictures of these blooms that each show a little wind-storm damage.  She was planted in the fall of 2010, so the rose bush that you're seeing has really had only a single summer's growing season, and a hot, dry one at that.  Early on during the spring of 2011, some marauding animal or the relentless prairie wind broke off the single cane of her band and I thought I'd lost her, but back she came from the roots, fighting for her life.  She's about 2 1/2 feet tall right now, and a little wind-beaten from recent weather, but demure and beautiful nonetheless.  At mature height she is supposed to be a 5 to 7 foot tall rose.

These blooms on the young 'Marianne' are approximately 3 inches across on the first day, and I expect as the bush matures, the blooms will stretch a little larger.  They are very double (advertised as 40+ petals, although I haven't counted) and as delightfully fragrant as their Old Garden forefathers.  The blooms, as you see, range from a blush white to the more expected peach tones and it will be interesting to see what the Kansas sun does to their coloration.  'Marianne' is not a very thorny bush, polite to my bluejean legs as I pass by, and she shows no sign of blackspot or petal loss at present.

'Marianne' bush, 2nd year
'Marianne' was bred by Paul Barden in 2001 and introduced in 2005.   She seems fully hardy here in Zone 6A (the former 5B), having survived one rough snowy winter as a band and also last winter's dry but mild temperatures.   If you are looking for more information about her, the best source is undoubtedly Barden's own website entry about 'Marianne'.  There, he writes "This Hybrid Gallica is a robust rose, as one might guess from a glance at its parentage. It has, in my opinion, inherited many of the best traits of each parent; the wonderful vigor and coloring of 'Abraham Darby' and the bloom form and disease resistance of 'Duchesse de Montebello'."   It is rare and delightful in rosedom to get so much good information straight from the breeder.

Myself, I would only add that 'Duchesse de Montebello' is one of my favorite OGR's for Kansas and I had high hopes for 'Marianne'.  Hopes that were fulfilled with my first sniff of the first blossom.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Purple Power

'Purple Pavement' has been given its time on Garden Musings, but there are many roses out there in rosedom with deeper purple hues, and a couple of them have started blooming here in Zone 6A.  Among the purples, I grow the Old Garden rose 'La Reine' (right) currently blooming its head off, and the newer purple floribunda 'Rhapsody in Blue' (bottom left), just coming on.  Both are the "most purplish" ever, a hypercolorful  phenomenon that I feel is occurring in all my pinks and purple roses this year.  I don't know if it is the result of the hot March/cold early April/hot late April weather here or something else, but the colors of many roses all across town are much deeper this year.  I'm not complaining, mind you.

'La Reine', in 2005
'La Reine'  is an 1842 Hybrid Perpetual bred by Jean Laffay.  In my garden, this is a stiff upright bush of perhaps 5 feet in height.  It is an almost thornless rose and sports a very double flower about 4 inches in diameter, and it does rebloom once or twice during the year.  Some pictures on the web show it as pinkish-purple, and others as more purple like my picture this year, and you have to be careful to differentiate this rose from the shell pink bourbon 'Reine Victoria' when you search for it.  Pictures on the web show 'La Reine' in shades from pink to purple, and I've got pictures from 2009 that show this same bush in carmine-pink, and from 2005 (left) with pinkish-purple tones.  I much prefer the deeper purple of this year's blooms.  If these seasonal color enhancements hold true, I can't wait to see 'Charles de Mills' and 'Cardinal de Richelieu' this year!

'Rhapsody in Blue'
'Rhapsody in Blue' (FRAntasia) is a newish shrub rose bred by Cowlishaw in 1999 and introduced into the United States in 2007.  This semidouble rose opens flat with a  nice smokey-purple color and yellow stamens, but I am so far underwhelmed by the (lack of) vigor in the bush and the slow bloom repeat.  It reportedly grows to almost 8 feet in some areas, but it has yet to top 2.5 feet tall in my garden, partially due to extreme winter dieback in several of the 4 winters I've grown this bush.  What the heck, I'll give it a few years, now that I'm 6A and not 5B, and see how it does over time. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


In terms of R. rugosa hybrids, I have just the opposite feelings about 'Robusta' (KORgosa) as I previously mentioned about 'Purple Pavement'.  I like the bright clear red color of Robusta far more than the muddy rose-pink of PP, but the 'Robusta' bush is an awkward thorny danger to man and beast.  I have two, at either pole of an elliptical bed that I refer to as my "east rose berm", but I wish they were farther inside the bed each time I snag my clothes on them in passing.  'Robusta' is the one rose that makes me wish I had chain mail gloves during spring trimming.

'Robusta' grows far less dense than 'Purple Pavement' and the form appears more like a bad Hybrid Tea with its copy of a Hybrid Tea's ungainly rigid cane spread.  'Robusta' grows about 6 foot tall and almost as wide in my garden, and in previously more Zone 5 winters, it might have a little killback on a few canes.  He is a single rose, of 5 large petals with occasional repeat, and this is one of my "indicator" roses for blackspot.  In other words, unlike many of the roses I grow, this one needs occasional spray else fungal disease will take off most of the leaves.  'Robusta' was bred by Reimer Kordes in 1979 from a seedling cross with R. rugosa regeliana.  In my experience, many of the Kordes roses (for example, 'Illusion' and 'Rugelda') have wicked thorns, so the evil spikes on 'Robusta', a triploid, are no surprise to me.  There is no fragrance that I can detect.
Between the lack of disease resistance and the thorns, you might wonder why I persist in growing this rose, but look no farther than that bright cherry-red color.  What a beacon 'Robusta' makes in my garden when he is in full bloom! Of course, if you follow that beacon you'll end up sliced into ribbons, but that is just one of the realities of loving a good really red rose.  Come to think of it, why do I grow 'Robusta'?

I can  think of only really good reason to grow a large hedge of this rose:  to limit trespass across your yard from neighborhood school children.  Or perhaps if you wanted to have a sure way to protect a daughter from an avid suitor at her window.  A few of those thorns, properly placed, would take the ardor out of anyone.

Please Get Out There and Vote!

I had mentioned earlier this month that eCollege is running a Top Garden Blog contest and Garden Musings is in the running.  So please, hit the link below and go out there and vote before April 30th!  Thanks!

Online Colleges
Online Colleges

Ain't it wonderful what hoops a blogger will go through for a little recognition?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Purple Pavement

If there are dependable roses for a prairie garden; hardy, disease-free, tough pioneer roses, then surely the Rugosa's should be numbered  among them.  One must, however, learn to take the bad with the good of Rugosa's.   Many are fragrant and their leathery leaves resist blackspot and insects better than most modern roses.  On the downside, they often grow to be enormous bushes with a wicked set of thorns and they can sucker like crazy.  A few Rugosa hybrids, however, are the exception to the rule, and in my garden I would put the relatively recent hybrid 'Purple Pavement' in that latter category.
'Purple Pavement' was bred by Karl Baum in 1983 and sports a semi-double bloom with a good strong sweet fragrance and occasional repeat.  This is a truly "round" bush rose suitable for use as a low hedge. I haven't pruned the pictured bush at all.  Described as growing by to 5 foot tall, it has reached only 3 feet in height and width in my garden in its 4th year and it has yet to sucker.   It is rated hardy to Zone 3b and withstood last summer's heat and drought very well in my garden.  I  also noted in a previous post that Purple Pavement can contribute a little fall color to the garden, the leaves turning yellow before finally dropping down and at least a few fat orange hips left behind.  It is not a well-publicized rose so don't feel bad if you haven't seen one. Suzy Verrier lists it, in her encyclopedic Rosa Rugosa, but only in a single line. It is not mentioned in Osborne and Powning's Hardy Roses, nor in the classic rose compendiums by Peter Beales.   There is a German synonym for 'Purple Pavement' is also known as 'Rotesmeer', if you're having trouble finding it.

The only drawback that I would list for 'Purple Pavement' as a garden rose is the appealing (to me) bloom color.  I am not personallly fond of the magenta-purple-pink common to many of the Rugosa hybrids such as 'Hansa' and 'Rugosa Magnifica'.   'Purple Pavement' may be described as "red" in many sources, but it is definitely "rugosa purple-pink".  If you like that hue, however, you might want to grow more of them than the single specimen that I allow to exist.  At least it minds its manners in the garden and doesn't provide you with wide-spread offspring to muddy up your color scheme.


I realize this post will carry little weight with those New Englanders who get the predicted 8-16 inches of snow today (Buffalo'ers, you know who you are!), but this iPhone screenshot, taken at 6:00 a.m., will suffice to tell you how the weather fairs in Kansas today.  Luckily, no frost in my high nest above Manhattan, but there's a light frost down here in the bottoms, sufficient to stunt any tomatoes out there at this early date. 

For your daily dose of absurdity, notice the notation for the high on Wednesday; 91F....a swing of 59 degrees in two days.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

They All Grow Up

Many years ago, when my daughter was perhaps six or so years of age, she returned from a late spring Manhattan Zoo outing and presented me, her hazel eyes sparkling with excitement, with a few maple seeds that she and her friend had collected from the sidewalk at the zoo.  Assuring me that these were special seeds from a marvelous and special tree, she demanded that I plant them immediately.  And I, acknowledging that they were magic seeds (made so merely by her efforts to please a gardening father), did indeed plant them with her help and direction, all the while thinking it unlikely that they would ever germinate and grow from the immature little samara that they were.

One blasted little seed did grow however, to my daughter's delight, and after finding a one-foot tall Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) seedling in a very poor place to allow further growth of a tree, I subsequently transplanted the sapling not once, but twice, all the while secretly hoping that the tree wouldn't survive the move(s).  It sounds terrible now, but this very common North American species with brittle wood and shallow roots was not high on the list of trees I wished to add to my landscape.

Evidently, however, God ignores pretentious gardening fathers and protects the dreams of stringy-blond-haired little girls because that maple has grown and thrived to become the largest tree of my yard, surpassing even the volunteer Cottonwoods that I have also allowed to mature.  At around 12 years of age, it is perhaps twenty feet tall with a trunk 6 or so inches in diameter, otherwise unremarkable except for its health and the mass of light yellow leaves that it drops for my lawnmower to pick up each Fall.

My daughter's maple surprised me this spring by setting seed for the first time, just as my little girl prepares to graduate High School, leave our nest and go off to college this summer.  ProfessorRoush, for all his deficiencies, is not so spiritually obtuse that he has missed this not-so-subtle cosmic hint about the nature of time.  Little gangly girls do grow up, despite the desires of their fathers, to become beautiful independent women, just as the tallest maple can grow from the smallest seed.  I get it, okay?

This tree will always be a part of my garden, serving forever to remind me of my young daughter and the seeds we planted, growing steadfastly and strong despite all the obstacles faced.  It has been with us through the Spring of young family life, the storms of adolescence, and it will soon serve to provide shelter and relief from the hot Kansas sun for an aging and reminiscing gardener.  Someday I hope that, long beyond my time, when this tree's time on Earth is over and being gauged in the number of growth rings, someone remembers to count the first dozen rings as I would, in the terms of memory.  This was the year she lost and regained her front teeth, this ring for the year the braces were removed, this one the first time she drove a car, this the year of her first teen love, this the year of her graduation....

Friday, April 20, 2012

It Galls Me

Something always spoils the applesauce, doesn't it?  You're anticipating a good rose year, checking the roses daily and closely to catch a glimpse of that first bud on a new cultivar in your garden.  And then you see that first leaf affected with blackspot.  Or the fine new rose cane broken off at the base by recent winds.  Or the cute little spiky balls hanging on one of your roses.

Cute little spiky balls?  Wait a minute, I think those are rose galls!

I've seen similar structures on oak trees, but never on my roses.  A quick bit of Internet research tells me that my assumption is probably correct.  These galls are likely formed by a gall wasp, perhaps a Diplolepis sp. wasp, who lay eggs on the roses in spring and whose larvae then become encapsulated within a chemically-induced distortion of the plant material.  Cut a gall ball open, as I did, and you are met with a moist cavity containing a very squirmy, disgusting, tiny white larva who is quite perturbed at the disturbance. After a more careful search, I did find some smooth balls on another rose ('Banshee') which contain similar larvae, but that seems to be the extent of my infestation.   As I am not an entomologist, I'm at a loss to determine exactly which species has chosen my rose (in this case 'Marianne') to invade, but it is probably not the Rose bedeguar gall, Diplolepis rosae, as it isn't "mossy" enough in appearance. One source, a University of California Extension publication by ML Flint and JF Karlik, suggests that there are perhaps 40 different types of rose gall.  Even worse, according to Wikipedia, there are some 800 species of gall wasps in North America. 

For the life of me, I can't find a decent "reason" for the existence of gall wasps.  Okay, they form galls, but what else do they do?  Don't laugh, it's an important question.  I need to know if I should crush these galls under my heel or let them mature on the contingency that gall wasps are a beneficial predator of a far worse disease agent.  A rose blooms to please the rosarian and its pollinator and make new little rose seeds.  An oak tree forms acorns to make little oak trees and provide squirrels an incentive to plant the acorns.  Is being a plant parasite the sole purpose of a gall wasp?  To make more galls and thus more little gall wasps?

I may be waxing a little too metaphysical today.  If I carry my thought a little further, I must also acknowledge that the gall wasp may be by turn wondering what my existence means.  Does the large bipedal mammal exist solely to protect his roses and make more little bipedal mammals?  Or merely to write about his fleeting thoughts and send them out into the ether?  Exactly how many angels can dance on a rose bud?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Blanc or Philemon?

There are near white roses and there are almost completely white roses, and there are really, really white roses.  And then, according to most renowned rose experts, there is the white of Rugosa hybrid 'Blanc Double de Coubert'.    In the Rugosa family, I grow three white roses; 'Blanc', an offspring or sport of 'Blanc' named 'Souvenir de Philemon Cochet', and 'Sir Thomas Lipton', the latter of which I've written about before.  All are periodically remonant here ('Philemon' may be the most frequent bloomer) and are reliably cold-hardy in my former Zone 5B climate.

'Blanc Double de Coubert'
'Blanc Double de Coubert' is an 1893 hybrid Rugosa shrub bred by Charles Pierre Marie Cochet-Cochet (what a mouthful of a name!).   The semi-double, 3-inch blooms are indeed very white, she's very thorny, and the foliage is indeed rugose and healthy, but agreement about this shrub rose seems to end there.  Some sources say she has strong fragrance while others describe a moderate fragrance, like "Pond's Cold Cream".  Some sources say it produces fabulous red hips each fall, while a few state that it rarely produces hips.  Cochet-Cochet introduced it as a breeding of 'Sombreil' and Rugosa alba, but many experts suspect it is simply a sport of the Rugosa species. 

I can only say that, in Kansas, the tallest I've seen 'Blanc' is about 3 foot tall, and I wouldn't have labeled her as very vigorous. I'll flat out state that I'm not very fond of her at all. She seems to do better in full sunlight and without neighbors than she does in a hedge of other roses.  She has a pleasing and moderately strong fragrance, but I rarely see her set hips, and to me, a rose without hips is like a woman without....curves.  I've never seen blackspot on the leaves, but the shrub has an unfortunate tendency to shrivel up and die suddenly on me, probably indicating some dissatisfaction with my placements of her.  Oh, and I agree that she's white, but I don't believe that the white of 'Blanc' is any more pure than many other roses or other plants.  Gertrude Jekyll, herself, labeled 'Blanc' the "whitest white rose of all," and this statement gets repeated often since no one dares to argue with the blind Ms. Jekyll even long after her death, but if one accepts her statement, we have to also accept that breeders never did as well or better in the 119 years since 'Blanc' was introduced.  I, for one, think Sir Thomas Lipton is just as white and is a much more vigorous rose than 'Blanc', although 'Lipton' admittedly lacks the fragrance of 'Blanc'. 
'Souvenir de Philemon Cochet'
The controversy seems to continue with 'Souvenir de Philemon Cochet', which is simultaneously described  as either a sport or a seedling of 'Blanc'.  I'm personally a believer in the latter provenance, because my 'Philemon' has a distinct pink blush in cooler weather, which you can see in the picture at the left, that I have never seen in 'Blanc'.  Regardless of parentage, I firmly believe 'Philemon' is a better rose for Kansas than 'Blanc'.   It reaches about the same height, 3 foot, but is a bit more vigorous and spreads into a broader bush than 'Blanc'.  I love the very double and larger (4 1/2 inch)  blooms and the fragrance is equal, if not better than 'Blanc'.  Bred by Philemon Cochet and introduced in 1899 by Charles Pierre Marie Cochet-Cochet, it has never set a hip for me, but it does retain the thorny nature of its parent.  According to Paul Barden's website, although I think the article was written by rosarian Suzy Verrier, Souvenir de Philemon Cochet may be particularly shade tolerant, growing slightly taller in the shade, and I believe I would agree with that assessment.

So, how does one choose between these roses? If you must  grow a classic, and have the time to baby it, then I suppose 'Blanc Double de Coubert' is your woman.  If you want a more trouble-free, waist-high, almost white rose, then take Mr. 'Souvenir de Philemon Cochet' as your new rose.  And if you want an impenetrable 7 foot high hedge that repels dogs and teenagers alike, than 'Sir Thomas Lipton' would get my recommendation.   All three are starting to bloom today here in my Kansas garden.

Monday, April 16, 2012

PawPaw Possibilities

Down my eastern hillside, near the unmown prairie, I have a line of trees planted that has, through no planned vision of my own, become a sort of collection of tree oddities, at least of trees somewhat rare for Kansas.  These include a hawthorne, sourgum, bald cypress, two American persimmons planted only because my daughter likes persimmons (they're not old enough to bear fruit yet however), and a Common Pawpaw (Asimina triloba).  

The latter has had a rough life for a young tree.  It stands, right now, only about 3 feet tall, having been burnt early on in a fire and then, the next year, chewed down to a nubbin by marauding deer.  Still, it survived, and every year it puts out a few of those large, Cretaceous-era leaves to remind me that older and larger creatures once walked this earth.  And this year, imagine my surprise to see it bloom!  I didn't know Pawpaws bloomed, although any idiot amateur gardener like myself should realize that if they bear large banana-like fruit, they must bloom at some point.

PawPaw blossom
The bloom appearance, if you've never seen one, is quite unique, and I now understand the "triloba" species name, because the three-lobed calices of these flowers are quite distinctive.  These small muddy-purple flowers are thick-petaled, about the size of a dime, and would go unnoticed if you didn't look closely.  They appear, nestled next to the branch points, before the leaves have opened in the spring. Their flower faces are directed downwards and you have to practically lay on the ground to appreciate their structure (well, on a three-foot tall tree, anyway).  Look closely from a ground perspective, however, and you'll be amazed at the rich deep color of the petals and sepals, which surround a stiff wax-like receptacle and stamens.  I would recommend that you sample the fragrance of the flowers at your own risk, however, since the flowers have a musky odor that I will charitably describe here only as "yeasty."

In my ignorance about this tree, I had no intentions related to a higher environmental consciousness than hoping someday to taste its edible fruits, but in reading about the Pawpaw, I have since learned that it is the sole source of food for larvae of the Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus).  I've never seen one of these gorgeous butterflies, but as my Pawpaw grows, I'll be sure to leave any such larvae alone and to watch for the appearance of any errant migrants that make it this far west.  "If you build it, they will come" was the line from the movie Field of Dreams.  Well, maybe, just maybe, "if I grow it, they will come" works the same way for a gardener.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Clematis Interruptus

'Guernsey Cream'

If you happen to be waiting for the roses to come back onto my blog, you should indeed have faith for their return, but at present, the cooler weather has halted most of my roses in bud stage.  'Marie Bugnet' is my sole rose with most of her beauty now exposed to the world.  Poor 'Harison's Yellow' shows some bright yellow flowers, but it is still spotty and underwhelming at present.  Almost every other established bush was aroused by the warm March weather and has opened one or two buds as teasers, but the climax of the season now seems to be a little bit farther into the future than I recently anticipated.  Wait a minute? Beauty exposed? Arousal?  Climax?  Could it be that I'm a little too excited about this upcoming rose season?

In the meantime, just so that all my readers know that I occasionally grow something besides roses, allow me to present the early-blooming clematis 'Guernsey Cream', which currently brightens the path near my front door.  'Guernsey Cream' is a single clematis, with creamy white 5-inch wide blossoms and anthers, and oh, what a show it is putting on right now!  Mine is a young plant, only in it's 2nd full season and never yet pruned, although 'Guernsey Cream' belongs to pruning group 2 and should be pruned lightly only after flowering anyway.  I planted 'Guernsey Cream'  near bright scarlet clematis 'Rebecca', and although both are on separate trellises now, I hope to have them intermingle someday into a stunning display, flush with red and white early in the season and again late in August.

Clematis montana rubens 04/08/12
Clematis (Clematuses? Clemati?) are a smidgen difficult for me to grow well in Kansas (no surprise there), because of the hot summer sun and the ripping winds.  'Guernsey Cream' and 'Rebecca' are up against a wall near a house corner in my front bed, protected from two directions from wind and from the western hot afternoon sun.  I also grow, for those who are interested, blue 'Romona' and white 'Alabast'  against other house walls with north and east exposures respectively, Clematis montana rubens (left) in a more exposed position but against a low stone wall, and 'Jackmanii', a second 'Romona', and Clematis paniculata out in the open unshaded spaces of my garden.  Well those, and a couple of Clematis integrifolia in my front beds who constantly threaten to seed themselves to the western horizon.  The latter seem almost a little too well adapted to Kansas, and I don't recommend their drooping faces for most gardens.  Please note, however, that assessment hasn't stopped me from potting up and spreading their bounty to other unsuspecting local gardeners (insert evil Professor grin here).  Kansas misery loves company.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Winged Lilacs

American Lady butterfly
I was delighted, a few evenings back, to find my Korean lilac fittingly buried by gracefully-flitting brown-orange butterflies.  The lilac season in Kansas is already nearing its end, somewhat shockingly on this premature April date before they normally have even started blooming. Two different lilacs bring up the rear in my garden, the Syringa meyeri 'Dwarf Korean Lilac' pictured at the right, and the 'Josee' hybrid pictured below.

It is the Korean lilac that is the more fragrant of the two, and the American Lady butterflies (Vanessa virginiensis) were robbing it for nectar en masse, six or eight of them at a time.  The American Lady's are one of the Brush-footed butterfly families, and are of moderate size and, I would judge, merely moderate beauty as butterflies go.  I enjoy butterflies as a denizen of my garden, but I've never been as particularly fascinated or captured by them as I am, say, by rose varieties or bird species.  I've never made a concerted effort to be able to identify them on sight beyond the usual knowledge of when a butterfly might also be a swallowtail, or is instead a moth.  I can identify a Monarch, but I take no pride in that ability as I recognize that most young schoolchildren can identify Monarch butterflies due to the intense popular press the Monarch's enjoy.  Fly a few thousand miles as an extended family effort twice a year and it seems everyone thinks you're special.

My poor 'Josee' was neglected by the butterflies that evening, but I felt it was also making a special effort for my attention by showing off its subdued color hues against the variegated iris at its feet.  'Josee', as previously mentioned, may not be my most scented lilac, nor have the strongest coloration ('Yankee Doodle' has that distinction in my garden), nor does it have anything special like the picotee flowers of 'Sensation', but it does have one big advantage;  it was the first of the reblooming lilacs released and it really does, occasionally, dole out a panicle or two for my enjoyment in August.  Any lilac willing to defy its ancient nature to that degree for me will always have a place in my garden and my heart.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ready to Burst!

'Austrian Copper'  4/10/2012

ProfessorRoush spent his lunchtime today checking in on the K-State Rose Garden, part of the Kansas State University Gardens, where he volunteers some Extension Master Gardener time.  My primary goal was to toss down some alfalfa pellets to stimulate and fertilize the roses this spring, but I was also surreptitiously checking on the early bloom of 'Austrian Copper'.

The K-State Rose Garden looks incredibly healthy this year and the roses are brimming over with buds.  It is going to explode in approximately 2 weeks time and I'm going to be in surrogate rose heaven between my own garden and this rose garden adopted by the EMG's.  The only roses blooming with any intensity in the garden yet, however, are 'Austrian Copper' (above right) and the 'Therese Bugnet' roses that surround the bronze "girl with a rose" sculpture that is at the front of the garden (below).  'Austrian Copper' is a rose I purchased at Home Depot two summers back and donated to the garden.  I had seen 'Austrian Copper' that year in Colorado and immediately purchased my own band via mail-order, only to find that Home Depot offered them in 2 gallon pots in June for the same price as the band I purchased.   Who could have predicted that would happen?   Because of the vibrant orange color and the early bloom, it never fails to draw comments from visitors to the Garden.
'Therese Bugnet', of course, is a stalwart rugged rose for the K-State Rose garden and envelopes the bronze statue with its furry gray-green leaves and red winter stem.  They are getting big, though, and we are soon going to have to tackle the thorny creatures to restrain their exuberance.  The modern Hybrid Teas and Floribundas in front of the statue are some of  the recent AARS awards winners, so this display is going to change its focus from background to foreground soon.  Ah, the rose year is upon us!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Back To My Rosy Roots

'Benjamin Britton'
I've begun thinking recently that too few gardeners set a straight and true gardening course and steer along it.  We start out with a garden in our mind and we try to build that garden in the soil. Too soon, we are tossed among the waves of garden fashion, the trends of garden design, setting out a nice hosta bed we never intended to add, or marring our shadeless garden by the addition of a large red maple that will eventually smother half the sun-loving plants.  I know that I am guilty in this regard, collecting new plants on impulse purchases, experimenting with new species and even new genera that don't fit into my garden's themes, and in general, just mucking up any semblance of continuity in my garden design. 

As a doctor (okay, as a veterinarian), there are several symptoms that are diagnostic for the disease that I hereafter dub "Garden Dishevelment Disorder", or GDD.  By listing them below, I hope to do humanity and gardeners everywhere a service.  Knowing and admitting you have the disease gets you halfway to a cure.

1.  Do you frequently read a marvelous article in Fine Gardening about, for instance, Camellias, and resolve to purchase and attempt to grow every last Camellia cultivar you can find, despite gardening in the USDA Zone 2 regions of Alaska?

2.  Do you impulse buy plants at Big Box stores or at supermarkets, without the slightest idea of the plants identity or cultural requirements, merely on the basis of flower appearance or cost?

3.  Do you often buy plants without the slightest idea of where you are going to plant them?  Include and admit here all those plants you've purchased with the knowledge that a particular bed is full, but the belief that you just might still be able to "spoon it in."

4.   Do you collect plants in certain genera with no thought given to where they fit in your overall garden design or if they are, in fact, appealing on a grand garden scale?

5.  Do you create new beds for your garden without thought given to garden design, but merely to expand the number of plants you can grow?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you have GDD.  If you answered yes to all of them, as I do, then you need real help, deep long-lasting help, to even pretend that you have a garden rather than being a simple obsessive/compulsive plant hoarder.

This winter, I looked more closely than ever at the plants that grow well here on the prairie, at the plants that add to my overall garden design, and at the plants that I just enjoy growing.   From that self-garden-examination, I've resolved, as evidenced by recent purchases, to go back to my rose roots (sic).  There are not many other genera (okay, maybe daylilies and peonies) that are as effortless to grow well on the prairie as Old Garden Roses are.  And I might as well face it.  Deep at heart, I'm a rose gardener.  A rose (Mirandy) was the first plant I bought when we purchased our first home, and I still can't walk past a new rose at any store without determining if it is worthwhile to purchase. 

To begin my transition back to more roses, my plant purchases this year so far have been 15 mail-order and three local potted roses.  I'm expanding from OGR's to some more modern roses, since I'm now theoretically Zone 6 and I have a prayer of getting a Hybrid Tea intact through winter.  I've got 5 more roses on order and I'm looking today for two shrubs and a tree to fill a couple of holes.  But the large, impossible to transplant, Miscanthus's (Miscanthi?) that I've eliminated from the borders are being replaced by roses.  And I think I can squeeze a couple of more roses into the "hydrangea bed".  And maybe I can add a new bed or two, and dedicate them specifically to roses.....

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Thankful Mornings

There are times, gardening here in the Flint Hills, that I am frustrated beyond endurance, tired of fighting the fierce winds, the stony ground, the late spring freezes, and the summer swelter.  The ice storms, the periodic and seasonal droughts, and the ever-present danger of prairie fires are just a few of the traumas that batter my gardening soul.  There are also moments, however, when the incredible beauty of the Flint Hills takes center stage and lightens my burden:

As it did one early morning this week, when a low-lying fog hugged the valleys to my west (above) and brought mystery and grandeur to the prairie. 

Or as it did yesterday morning, when my back garden emerged clear and calm above the misty lower pastures (above). 

Early in the season, the sparse early blooms may be washed out by the bright noon sun, but with morning light and a little dew, the lilacs in the foreground pop and the colors of the purple smoke tree  in the background seem somehow more vivid.  As the garden greens with spring, so my heart rises, buoyed out of fog with my growing garden.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Forsythia UnCut

As a general rule, I prefer to allow my shrubs to grow according to their own natural manner.  Stated in another way, ProfessorRoush is quite derelict in his efforts to force unruly shrubs to grow in unnatural and restrained fashions.  Or, even more simply put, I detest topiary in any form and I really hate to prune shrubs. 

The result from these efforts, of course, is an informal, devil-may-care feeling for much of my garden, but occasionally even the best-behaved child needs a haircut lest the grandmother (or in the case of shrubs, Mrs. ProfessorRoush), think we are bad parents. 

Take the 'New Hampshire Gold' forsythia pictured above both pre- and post-bloom.  It had a very nice, prolific bloom this spring, but, as forsythia are prone to, once the flowers are gone, I've got an airy, messy green blob squatting on my landscape.  This year, one of my planned spring garden chores was to prune the forsythia, and along the way remove the many suckers threatening to spread the bush on into Nebraska.

So, I'll ask you to make the call.  Pre-pruning is on the right,  post-pruning from the same angle on the left below.  Did I do a good thing this spring, or did I capitulate to group-think and ruin the natural lines of the plant?  Should I have gone further and made a box turtle or an elephant out of the unshaped mass?  Mrs. ProfessorRoush has already weighed in and is definitely on the "haircut" side, but then, she always wants my garden to be neater than I'm prone to keep it.

Most important to ProfessorRoush, of course, will be the effect my pruning has for the next bloom of this shrub.  I'm hoping that the experts are right and the shrub fills in and has more bloom and is more compact.  Time, as always in a garden, will tell.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Aphids Abounding

I don't often intend for the Garden Musings blog to be a basic garden instructional blog, but my finding of aphids among the roses in the K-State Rose garden, and my subsequent Iphone picture capture of said aphids, shown at left, was too good to leave untold.

For those who have never visited, the K-State Rose Garden is healthier this year than I've ever seen it, and I'm all a-quiver for the blooming days to come.  I stopped by a couple of days back to check on the results of the EMG's recent pruning efforts at the garden and to assess if any current work was needed.  In among the healthy bountiful budding roses, were a few buds or leaves with apparent growths of seething green hair, aphids (also known, appropriately, as "plant lice") which did not then, nor should they ever, send this gardener into a panic.

If you see them, and have not run across such creatures before, DO NOT reach for your bottles of synthetic or organic poisons.  Aphids seldom cause extensive damage on roses in an outdoor garden, and they can be easily controlled by squishing them off the buds (which I accomplished here by rolling the buds gently between my fingers), or by blasting them off with a brisk spray of water.  Both methods of control are satisfying and enjoyable, at least if you don't mind a little bit of green insect stain on your fingertips.  Cackle in an evil manner while squishing, if it suits your fancy.  I knew, even while brushing off a few aphids here and there, that in a few days these bushes will be swarming with aphid-eating lady beetles who will be most happy to rid the garden of the problem all summer long.

Imagine, for a moment, how a lady beetle must look to the poor soft-bellied aphids.  I'll bet that aphid mothers (who are parthenogenetic, thankfully unlike the vast majority of human females in history), have a hard time convincing aphid larvae to sleep at night, fearful as they must be of the red and black-spotted monsters in their closets.  Aphid mothers also probably make their children behave in supermarkets by telling them, "if you don't be good, the lady beetle will eat you."

Great picture, huh?  So good, in fact, that I added the source onto the picture, knowing that this one will probably spread out over the Internet and be used elsewhere.  I don't usually "watermark" my pictures, not really caring if anyone uses my pictures from this blog, as long as they're not making money off of them, and I'm not the world's greatest photographer anyway.  Please feel free to use this picture to educate others, just as you can any of my pictures.  I would appreciate it, however, if you acknowledge the source for pictures because in the long run, it'll bring people back to this blog.  I don't make any money from blogging, but I do get paid in readers, the only currency I care about.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

eCollege Blogging Nominated!

I just found out this morning that Garden Musings is nominated for eCollege's Top Garden Blogs Award.  As an amateur gardener and blogger, jousting away at the Garden Gods out here in a "flyover" state, it is warming to know that somewhere, sometime, one of my readers considers this effort entertaining, if not actually worthwhile.

eCollege asked me to provide my number one tip for the aspiring gardener and here it is:
Photograph your garden often, and then write about it.

It's one thing to garden.  It's another entirely different thing to photograph your garden, because that helps you see your garden, or your garden composition, or that honeybee, through the eyes of another gardener.  And then it is a completely new level of gardening to write about your garden, in a personal diary, a webblog or a book, because writing about it (preferably for consumption by others), forces you to THINK about your garden.  I would encourage all of you to try a blog of your own because you are free to do anything you want with your own blog. Writing, I found again by blogging, is just a whole lot of fun if you start out without a specific endpoint in mind.

As I wrote in the first post, of July 28, 2010, I'm a veterinary surgeon and university professor who turned back to writing for some respite from my normal daily grind.  I wrote my first book of gardening essays, pictured below, just for me but it was enjoyed immensely by the other three people who found and read it.  I blog now so that another three or four people out there can enjoy the blog in the same way. The majority of my blogs are about garden philosophy, garden writing, or simply surviving the brutal gardening universe of the Kansas Flint Hills.  I spend a lot of time writing about roses because I'm an avid amateur rosarian, and I often feature my wife, Mrs. ProfessorRoush, in bone-dry humor pieces  because she's a convenient non-gardening muse.  I write for release, and I write to provoke my readers to think, and I write for love of gardening and writing itself.  If I happen to write about a garden topic from which you accidentally learn something useful, then that's just gravy on the mashed potatoes.

For the students who participate in eCollege, I'd appreciate your support for Garden Musings and I hope you find it both informative and fun.

New Leaf, Writer

I am "draft post" crazy right now, stacking up a number of post ideas after the drought of the last two winter months.  Pictures of the early garden blooms are running my SDcard over and demanding that I honor them with a blog.  But at the same time, I'd be negligent to my purpose of celebrating garden writers if I didn't blog on my latest read, A New Leaf, by Merilyn Simonds.

I'll state it flat out;  this is the most delightful garden read I've had all year, maybe the best for several years.  Ms. Simonds is, by reputation, an established fiction writer, new to the genre of garden writing, but her previous experience shines throughout this book of garden-focused essays.  I marveled over and over, and was humbled to my core, by the wonderful use of language, the phrasing, and the vivid descriptions, heedless of whether her subject was daffodils, hollyhocks, or fungus.  Lord, how I wish I could write at her level.

Some examples:
All my gardening life, I have wanted to grow in swaths...But I have not always had the luxury of landscape.

The beds that seem so sedate in April, and maybe even May, spiral out of control in June.  The self-seeders are getting it on like teenagers home alone.

I have always thought of peas as too much work: all that popping and thumbing of pods and for what?

People come to the the same time they come to the psychotherapist's chair:  when they reach the halfway point, when the number of years that stretch ahead are no more than what's behind.  The summer solstice of a life.

Daffodils are, to my mind, the very best of Spring bulbs.  They don't ask for much more than a bit of April sun and rain to rise golden into the air.

See the point that I was feebly trying to convey?  Despite  a self-described reputation as a voracious reader, I am rarely tempted to repeatedly slow down and enjoy the feel and flow of the language.  Ms. Simonds, in A New Leaf, took me beyond the garden into a fresh garden of words and pages.  A garden that blooms in phrases and imagery every bit as well as the physical garden it describes.

I wait now, Winter biding time for Spring,  hoping that there is another set of garden essays coming from Ms. Simonds in the near future.  And I'm challenged by her example to write better; to set garden images in words instead of digital pictures; to churn the soil in words as effortlessly as with a spade.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Last Daffodil

Here it is, the last new daffodil to open in my yard this Year of Our Lord, 2012.  All the others, the Trumpets, the Large-Cupped, the Small-Cupped, the Jonquils and the Species, have given me the gift of their bloom and moved on, leaving behind only their grasslike foliage to wither, die and litter my garden beds at leisure.

I find myself a trifle melancholic at the thought of these cheery faces withdrawing to their soil homes for summer recuperation.  I don't begrudge them the rest they are so well and truly due, but I do regret that my time with them is so short, my admiration of their perkiness so fleeting.  I treasure daffodils above the other bulbs here in the Flint Hills, for only they are strong enough to survive the prairie unassisted.  Tulips live short lives and constantly need replenishment.  Crocus peek above the brown buffalo grasses but are instantly whipped to shreds by the winds.  Scilla provide me with calm induced by their sky-blue presence, but they lie too low to the ground to impress visitors, and they require the extra moisture of a mulched garden bed to flourish.  The daffodils alone endure.

Daffodils harken me to Spring with their jovial yellows and oranges and creams, impervious to late freezes and unappetizing to deer.  They laugh at the winds of Spring, keeping perfect form and color through rain and storm.  They carry the hope of the prairie gardeners, giving form to our long Winter expectations and filling the promises of our optimism.

As they leave us, plunging head-long into hibernation away from the harsh rays of Summer, the memory of their friendship stays behind in the gardener's heart, a kernel of Spring locked away to tide us through the next winter.  The daffodils are gone, but they've promised to return with the next warming soil.  And we garden on madly alone, through irises and roses and daylilys, mums and grasses and asters. Waiting all the while for the next perfect daffodil to fill the promise of the resurrection of Spring.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Roses? April Fools, Not!

'Harison's Yellow'
Whatever this crapola is, global warming or normal climate variation or coincidental heat spell, it has to stop and it has to stop NOW!  I was outside this morning doing routine garden chores for this time of year and I suddenly noticed this:

'Marie Bugnet'

And this:


And this:

Three different roses blooming on April 1st?  I understand that two of them have Rugosa blood and the third is normally an early rose;  but April 1st?   'Marie Bugnet' is normally the first rose to bloom for me, starting, on average in the 1st week of May.  The earliest bloom I ever saw on that bush was April 21st, in 2009.  The next earliest was April 23rd, in 2005.   April 1st?: preposterous!  'Harison's Yellow' has only bloomed once in April in 10 years; on April 30th, 2005.  This cosmic scheduling is ridiculous.  The lilacs are in peak bloom here.  My earliest peony (Paeonia tenuifolia) and my earliest iris ('First Edition') have just started blooming.  Tulips are starting to open. Clematis montana has just started to bloom.  Daffodils have just slacked off.  And my roses are blooming?  A closer look reveals that rosebuds are developing on most all of my rosebushes, but perhaps in less than normal number.  I'm all for being able to enjoy the scent of roses early for the season, but at this rate, we'll be done with roses blooming by May and their normal abundance may be lessened.

Looking at the odd bloom sequence, I believe what it tells me is that the bulbs and other flowers dependent on ground temperature for growth initiation are blooming closer to their "normal" time, while the plants dependent on air temperature to develop buds are being pushed by the (today) 90F degree temperatures.  That's my theory anyway, and I'm sticking to it.

I know it's April 1st, folks, but this is no April Fool's.  I took these pictures today, April 1, 2012.  God Save the Planet.


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