Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mme Plantier, I presume?

'Madame Plantier'
Just because I feel guilty about trashing a world-treasured Alba rose in my last rose post, I'll show you an Alba rose that I really wish I'd planted years ago.  My one-year-old Madame Plantier bloomed for the first time this year and I am most definitely impressed by the young maiden.

Unlike my spoiled 'Maiden's Blush', 'Madame Plantier' gave me quite a display this year, young though she was.  She was covered from head to toe for three weeks with 3 inch blush-white blooms, and every one of them just as perfect as the picture to the right.  No blight, no browning buds, no thrip damage.   I think "scrumptious" describes this rose best.  Somewhere, in my reading, I had gained an impression of  'Madame Plantier' as being less than a star, so I had avoided her until recently. What a mistake that was, because a star she is!

'Madame Plantier' is an 1835 Alba bred by Plantier of France.  Well, I think she's an Alba.  Some references list her as a cross of Rosa alba and Rosa moschata, while others list her as a Damask rose, the result of a cross of R. damascena and R. moschata.  Regardless of the actual heritage, the clustered blooms lose their blush as they age, much like a young lady growing into womanly maturity, and they end up flat with a nice button eye.  The bush is almost thornless, completely hardy without protection here, and completely blackspot and fungus free so far.  I've read that she's going to get much bigger, and the canes will stay flexible, so I've provided her lots of room for her anticipated 8 by 8 foot size and drooping arms. What a spectacle that will be!

While researching this rose, I stumbled upon a reference that characterized the scent of 24 Old Garden Roses, and so I can report that Madame Plantier contains 31.44% 2-phenyl-ethanol, 28.11% benzyl alcohol, 21% hydrocarbons, 8.63% geraniol, 5.91 % nerol, and trace amounts of 20 other organic compounds.  Do we really believe that we can take the essence of a rose and distill it to a few carboniferous chemicals?  Blasphemous! This formula is TMI (too much information) and reveals too much of the soul of this beautiful rose, and so I will now attempt to forget I ever heard it.  There are none so cynical as a rosarian who has seen a favored rose stripped of its mystery.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Chipping Cheerfully

Just for those who were wondering how the Chipping Sparrow eggs were doing, I'm happy to report that the babies have hatched and are growing just fine.  Momma Chipping Sparrow, however, looks a bit harried and tense as she tries to keep these hungry little critters fed.

Lately, watching these little bits of life develop, it strikes me that there is nothing quite so life-affirming as watching a nest of baby birds go from egg to fledgling.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Now You See It (or not)

Eastern Meadlow lark nest, exposed
I got another surprise Sunday morning as I was watering a fairly new Acer rubrum 'Autumn Flame' to the west of the house, in an area that I used to mow but have left "long" these past two years.   Practically at my feet, a brown streak exploded and then quickly disappeared into the eight-inch-tall grass about 25 feet away.  Looking carefully near my feet, I found another bird nest filled with 5 brown-speckled eggs.  Using some local forbs as references, I mentally marked the location.

I returned about an hour later to photograph the nest and spent about 25 minutes looking for it, even knowing it was within a 5 foot square area, and I located it only after I got on my hands and knees and slowly combed the brush to find it.

 Can you find the nest?

How about now?  It's like one of those "Where's Waldo?" games isn't it?  Imagine me moving gingerly around the area, expecting every minute to hear a crunch as I accidentally ruin the nest.

Well, I'll make it easy, the nest is in the exact center of the photo below.  In the first photo above, it's in the right third quadrant at the center line, and in the second picture it's at the upper left.  Almost impossible to find even from a few feet up or away.

This is an Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna) nest and although it is laying exposed on the ground for lumbering animals to step on or slithering snakes to seize on, I've got to give the mother Meadowlark extra credit points for care.  This is a much better camouflaged and constructed nest than the matted patches of grass the Killdeer start their families in.  I guess I'm being a little judgemental here, but, hey, I know a dotting mother when I see one.

I won't go looking for this one again because I'm afraid of damaging the brood, which takes about 2 weeks to hatch and another 2 weeks to empty.  And my own inability to avoid a nest that I KNOW is there makes me wonder how these birds ever evolved to ground-nest in an area filled in recent centuries by bison herds and in millennia past by larger herbivores including primeval horses, rhinos, and mastodons.  I would have predicted that the first stupid bird to drop an egg on the prairie would have seen its eggs quickly crushed and its gene pool darwinized to extinction.  Timing the movement of the herds, perhaps?  Sheer numbers?   Certainly. there weren't many other choices for nesting sites, since there were few trees on that virgin prairie.

But this nest does make me even more happy that I let the grasses grow in this area over the objections of Mrs. ProfessorRoush.  Aside from the decreased mowing time and gasoline usage, I'm now seeing the beginnings of the environmental riches that the native prairie can provide.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Disappointing Maiden

Warning: For those Old Garden Rose fans who just can't stand a bad review on any rose born prior to 1867, it might be best for your mental health if you stop reading NOW. 

'Maiden's Blush' at best, but a little balled up.
Okay, if you're still reading by this time, I'm going to assume that you either relish hearing about the deficiencies of a former queen of the garden, or at least that you've braced for the worst.

I confess that I was once in love with the venerated Alba 'Maiden's Blush', but the veils of infatuation have been lifted from my sight over time and she has fallen from grace.  Here in the Kansas climate, years of evidence has convinced me that she has turned out to be a faithless lass, cool and demure and virtuous in a rare year, but more commonly crumpled and nasty and worn. 

The soiled dove
Many readers here are likely familiar with Michael Pollan's Second Nature, and what he has to say about his experiences with Old Garden Roses and 'Maiden's Blush' in particular.  Michael waxed so eloquent, and marginally pornographic, about 'Maiden's Blush' that she was impossible for me to resist.  I've had her in my garden about 11 years and she is now a massive shrub in my beds, around 6 feet tall and broad.  In the early years of the 21st century, I had some good times with her, even including her in my own book, Garden Musings, as the seventh in a group of my ten favorite roses (pages 59-60).  But, over time, I've come to realize that, at best, a lot of her blossoms will be damaged by a little botrytis blight, and at worst, many of them turn brown and don't open at all.  Don't get me wrong, I treasure the exquisiteness of the occasional perfect blossom;  the creamy petals, blushed with pink in colder years, opening to a delicate picture of coyness.  But I would estimate only 10% of her blooms make it to that perfection.  The rest, well, let us just say that a soiled dove still has its beauty, if can you look past the blemishes.   Every year, I look at the buds coming on and think "wow, 'Maiden's Blush' is going to have a great year."  And then, even in dry years, a rain and a little cold weather comes at the wrong time during her budding and she simply molds at the edges.  To be fair, I think the same thing happens to many of my Albas, like, for instance 'Leda', but that's a story for another time.

Bush form of 'Maiden's Blush' at peak bloom 2012
When she's good, this ancient rose (prior to 1400) is very good.  Intensively fragrant, very double, and solidly hardy in Kansas, she doesn't suffer from blackspot or mildew in the southern exposure I've given her.  The bush is rangy, with occasional bare legs, and not very thorny, so there are both positive and negative aspects to her overall form.  She goes by many names, this one, so don't be confused if you see her listed as 'Great Maiden's Blush', 'Cuisse de Nymphe' (translates to "thigh of nymph"), 'Incarnata', 'La Virginale' or others.

I'm going to keep her as a part of my own garden because I simply can't give up those times when she is warm and friendly and gives me her all.  But I can no longer recommend to my fellow Kansans that she be allowed to trifle with the affections of any except the most dedicated rose fanatics.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Warning; Zealots Crossing

We've all seen them.  The bulging eyes moving frantically from side to side seeking an exit. Antic feet sliding sideways in a fruitless attempt to escape.  The dazed expressions that signify aural and mental overload.  Saliva pooling and drool overflowing as the higher cognitive functions are beaten down and dulled.  All of these and more the signs of a normal person trapped in a zealot's snare, unable to fly to freedom against the onrushing tide of words and enthusiasm.

Such was the lot of a few poor souls this week when I gave a Tuesday Talk at the K-State Rose Garden sponsored by The Friends of the KSU Gardens.  I'd been tapped several months ago to talk about the Garden and rose history in general during a walk around the rose garden and my anticipation had built up to the boiling point, but at last the scheduled time had arrived.  A half-hour came and went in an instant as I poured forth a partially coherent stream of information about rose classes and the AARS and the Gamble Fragrance Award and rose breeders and anti-Knock-Out-ism.  No one actually ran from the venue, and no children were permanently scarred by the lecture, but I'm concerned that several attendees will require some recovery time before they can again look at a rose as a simple lovely flower.

Zealots and fanatics can both be defined as being "marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion".  Synonyms for the words include "rabid", "bigoted," "phrenetic," and "mad."  Winston Churchill is quoted as saying "A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject."  All right, I hear all that, but I still don't understand why zealotry is seen as a bad thing.

I put to you that little progress would be made in the World without a zealot or three or four challenging The Man. Yes, the world might be a calmer place and there might be fewer wars, but without a little irrational enthusiasm, little gardening would be done.  Who among us would garden if we didn't conveniently forget annually that every year the quail would come to eat the corn before it sprouted, that a late frost would nip the first tomatoes we put out, and that a drought in August will always cause us to carry water daily for the pumpkins?  And if some fanatic doesn't pick up the torch of rose snobbery and defend the Old Garden Roses, who among us will stand to speak out against scentless and bland 'Knock Out'?  

Somewhere out there, I hope I planted a seed at the lecture.  A seed that will grow and cause someone to shun the Big Box Stores and their 'Knock Out's in favor of a real rose.  Perhaps an English/Austin hybrid, or a mail-order Gallica, or a hard-won Griffith Buck-bred 'EarthSong' or an EarthKind-recognized rose?  A rose worthy of the name rather than just another colored flowering shrub.  Such incremental changes are the lifeblood of a zealot and I'm proud to be so labeled if I can cause yet another 'Knock Out' to dry up on the shelf, unpurchased.  And, somewhere along the way, provide a little aid and comfort to the Friends of the KSU Gardens.   

(Author's note;  The picture above is of the "Rose" statue in front of the KSU Rose Garden, surrounded, ironically in light of this blog entry, by 'Livin Easy' roses).

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Ha! Caught'em!

Finally, my game camera has captured its first infrared photos of unauthorized nocturnal garden visitors (as opposed to the 300-odd candid pictures of ProfessorRoush puttering in his own garden).  It has gone over a month without catching of a single critter since I placed it into the garden, so I was thinking about abandoning all hope or at least preparing to move it yet again, but suddenly there they were.

Thankfully, I have not documented evidence of the existence of Bigfoot in my garden, but I have captured two separate creatures on two separate nights.  One of them, wandering out of the garden after a presumed late night snack at 3:05 a.m. on 5/22/12, is obviously a deer, or more accurately, a doe. This same doe was likely also the cause of a hollyhock eaten back to nubbins sometime on 5/18/12, but that is the only deer-like damage I have detected recently.  With the continuation of last-year's lack of rain here, you can forget about footprints as collaborative evidence of garden raiding parties.

Okay, I've got a deer, but what is this other thing, which visited on 5/14/12 at 10:17 p.m.?  Much lower to the ground (I'd estimate it at about 1 feet tall and maybe 2 feet long), and with erect ears visible in two pictures?  I'd think coyote, but the hindquarters seem too plump and low-slung.  That is the butt of a pig, not a coyote and the coyote would carry its head higher.  Raccoon? I can't see the tail that I'd expect there and it probably wouldn't have the ears.  Bobcat?  That would be an incredible find, and, again, the hindquarters look wrong. Rabbit?  It would be a big one and where is the fluffy tail?  A previously undescribed prairie mammal or an alien creature from another world?  That would indeed "be wondrous strange!"  To mangle and turn Hamlet's statement into a question, are there really "more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy?"  In this case, I sincerely doubt it.

On the bright side, I now know three sure things that I didn't know yesterday.  First, I've got a deer that returns repeatedly to the green larder of my garden.  Second, there is another something prowling around at night that probably isn't there just to sample the greenery.  Third, both of these creatures are lazy and bold since they are taking the mown paths from my garden down into the prairie rather than coming and going through the taller, denser grass. 

Maybe I'd better rescind their invitations and quit mowing the paths?.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Red Moss

'Red Moss'
I don't know why, but I somehow associate the name 'Red Moss' with the ominous feeling of doom evoked by Poe's The Masque of the Red Death,  I suppose that association only occurs because of the similar sounds of the respective name of the rose and title of the short story, but it is unsettling nonetheless.  And the feeling is blatently false, because 'Red Moss' is a troublefree and dependable rose in Kansas.  At 8.8, it also has one of the highest merit ratings by the ARS for Old Garden Roses, testifying to its good growth in most climates.

'Red Moss' or 'Henri Martin'
'Red Moss' is more accurately known to rose lovers far and wide as 'Henri Martin', an 1862 breeding by Jean Laffay.  This once-blooming rose was named for the French historian involved in the creation of the Statue of Liberty, although most who know 'Henri Martin', the rose, wouldn't know the significance of the name.  Like most of the moss roses, it has a strong fragrance and resembles a semi-double Gallica rose in bush form, foliage and flower, except for the mossy buds.  I have two 'Henri Martin', both of the same age, one about three feet tall and wide and the other, interspersed with a pair of sun-blocking taller roses, is taller, approximately four feet in height.  This rose sprawls a bit on its own, so smaller plants might be smothered within its reach if the gardener allows such a travesty.

Moss roses, for the uninitiated, have mossy-looking growths on the sepals of the buds and calyx.  These are actually a glandular mutation of the prickles and oil glands, and the moss, when brushed, adds a balsam or piny scent to the rose fragrance. All moss roses have two sepals with moss, then one without, one with, and the last of five without.  True moss roses are believed to be descendents of a sport of  a centifolia rose and first appeared around 1700.  They were bred sporadically by rosarians through the 1800's and into the current century, with several fascinating and more recent introductions by the late Ralph Moore.

I grow three moss roses, 'Red Moss', Chateau de Napoleon, and 'Old Pink Moss', the latter likely being the original centrifolia sport.  All are bone hardy in the Kansas climate and survive drought and wind without failing.  Blackspot is nonexistent on the old moss roses, however the 'Old Pink Moss' in the K-State University garden, placed in a fairly stagnant area in terms of air flow, is prone to a little mildew now and then.  If I have a complaint about 'Red Moss', it would be that the bush is sparse, with overly flexible canes and no real mass of foliage.  The flowers, however, make up for that failing as does the complete lack of need for additional care while the season progresses.  I should also point out to the unsuspecting that the color or 'Henri Martin' resembles the Redoute engraving or a "red" Gallica, really a rose-red rather than the bright red displayed by many internet pictures of it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Hunter Hype

There lies a rose within my chest
A rose, crimson red and beating
In summer's heat it knows no rest
Steadfast 'Hunter', never fleeting.

I grow it, yet it stabs my hand
with prickles, fearsome sharp and many
Rugose the leaves, of health and grand
A simple rose, yet good as any


The sparkling rose referred to in this miserable rhyme, of course, is the 1961 introduction by Mattock in the United Kingdom.  'Hunter' (sometimes called 'The Hunter') is a cross of the tetraploid orange-red floribunda 'Independence', and the light pink diploid cross of R. arvensis and R. rugosa known as R. paulii, or simply just as 'Paulii'.  'Hunter' boasts double-petalled bright red flowers of long-lasting color, fading at last to a deeper red-purple before falling from the bush.  He stands in the middle of my front house bed, about 4 foot tall, and in a rare winter has had a little bit of cane dieback, but the gorgeous red flower is worth taking that chance.  I fell in love with the idea of this rose after being introduced to it by Suzy Verrier in her 1999 text Rosa Rugosa.

Published and posted information varies widely on this rose and I'll add in my personal observations.  First and foremost, let me state that I've had this rose almost a decade and it took until this year to convince me that it really was capable of an exceptional display.  Some sources state that it lacks vigor, and for me it indeed struggled for several years, surrounded by Monarda and other perennials, and it seems to have suddenly decided to just grow over them and live in the sunshine.  Since then, the past three or four years, it has added bulk and thick canes, spreading out without growing taller.  Some references say the rose is prone to blackspot, and while I do see some yellowing and loss of the lower foliage regularly, I haven't seen the typical fungal appearance and I don't spray my 'Hunter'.   The fragrance is listed from "mild" to "strong," but I would agree with a "mild" rating.  Bloom repeat is sporadic throughout the summer, with three to four flushes over the season that never reach the bounty of the original flush.  

If you plan to grow this rose, be aware that it retains the thorny genes of the Rugosas and that this is one of the most wicked roses I grow in that regard. My 'Hunter' is well-placed, in the center of the bed, to prevent ruining trousers.  And skin.  And perhaps marriages.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Butterfly Addendum

Buckeye butterfly
Yumpin Yimminy, so many pictures, so little organization!  Yesterday, during my blog titled "Butterflies Are Free", I somehow missed these two butterflies in the picture files from the same day, bringing my one day total of identified butterflies to ten.

How could I have missed the Buckeye butterfly?  Bright orange and with all those blue eyes staring at me.  This one was sneaking an early sample of Achillea 'Moonshine'. 

Cabbage butterfly
It was probably easy, on the other hand, to miss the Cabbage White butterful, hidden among the Mockorange blossoms.  Looks a little bedraggled as well. 

Sorry, everyone, I'm appropriately remorseful at providing incomplete information yesterday.  Too many butterflies to count! 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Butterflies are Free....

Variegated Fritillary butterfly
Well, perhaps not free, but they are periodically plentiful at certain times.  I am a bad gardener in the sense that I don't pay a lot of attention under normal circumstances to the butterflies in my garden, although I do give occasional thought to selecting native plants and other plants that will attract them. 

Pipevine Swallowtail
The recent bloom of my 'Blizzard' Mockorange and 'Globemaster' Alium coincided to lure in the butterflies like.....well, like flies. The Pipevine Swallowtail at the left, however, preferred the hillside of Purple-Leaf Honeysuckle for its evening meal.  I took all eight of the different pictures within about 1/2 hour one evening.  Identifying them took much longer. 

Painted Lady butterfly
I'm not very good at identifying them, but I've made my best attempt here and I owe any accuracy strictly to a 1991 Emporia State University publication titled 'The Kansas School Naturalist, Vol 37, #4;  Checklist of Kansas Butterflies. Better experts like GaiaGardener (whose previous posts stimulated me to take a look at my own butterflies) will have to check my identifications carefully. 

Dogface Butterfly
The phrase "Butterflies are free, and so are we" is a line from the theme song to a 1972 movie that was also named Butterflies Are Free. It was one of the first movie roles for beautiful actress Goldie Hawn, memorable to a young teenager primarily for the glimpse of the panty-clad gluteus maximus of the then-young and still just-as-gorgeously-perky Ms. Hawn.  Beauty, indeed, exists in all creatures of God.

Checkered White butterfly
I suppose if you are going to visit a white Mockorange near two colonies of insect-eating Purple Martins, you would be best served to be mostly white yourself, invisible, as long as you stand still.

Virginia Lady butterfly
Some butterflies show signs of being the worst for wear, even though the season is early.  Battle-scarred and missing limbs, the goal of life remains the same; leave behind another generation, and you've done your duty for your species.

The identification of many butterflies seems to hinge on pretty small differences and sometimes, judging by the pictures posted on the WWW, it is important to know the regional differences in color intensity and patterns that may exist.  The "skippers" group defeated me in my attempts to identify the butterfly at the right.

Red Admiral butterfly
I am only a novice here in a foreign land filled by fairy-like aerial wraiths, but I will undoubtedly return again, lured by the ephemeral nature of the prey and the rich legacy of the field.  And maybe, just because I like being able to spot a brief blur and proclaim it "Red Admiral", a regal-sounding name if ever one existed.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Carefree Bloomer

'Carefree Spirit'
I promised this post to some visitors to my garden (well, actually they were captive relatives quickly lured into a stupor by my incessant babbling about the garden).  During a garden walk, they had described a spectacular rose bush growing in their neighborhood.  As we walked further along the garden, seeing all the roses who still retained a bloom or two, they added that it was a "simpler" rose with few petals, and that it was red, and maybe had a white center.  I took them, in time, to my 'Carefree Spirit' rose and they proclaimed it as the rose they had seen, although mine was much smaller at two years of age then the bush they remembered.

'Carefree Spirit' (MEIzmea) does indeed put on a spectacular bloom display, and she will continue to bloom freely throughout the summer.  Introduced by Conard-Pyle in 2009, her actual origin is a little confusing as she is listed as being bred by both Alain Meilland or Jacques Mouchotte (a breeder in the House of Meilland) in 2007.  Do I sense some Gallic discord in the House of Meilland?  She is also listed in helpmefind as the result of a cross between a 'Red Max Graf' seedling and a seedling of 'Pink Meidiland' X 'Immensee', and in other places as a descendant of 'Carefree Delight', a previous AARS winner.  If she really has 'Max Graf' and a R. kordesii seedling in her background, even my limited knowledge of rose hybridizing would leave me to suspect that the bush is very vigorous and winter hardy, and indeed she is completely winter hardy in my climate.  This is indeed a tough bush, surviving and doubling in size during a summer and winter of drought, and the glossy dark green foliage requires no spray against fungus or beast.  So far, even the deer have left it alone. In 2004, the All American Rose Selections group stopped spraying fungicides at its test gardens, and Carefree Spirit was the first (and still the only) shrub rose after that revolution of care to win the coveted AARS award (awarded in 2009). Thanks to God that the rose marketers have grown some sense about the characteristics the public desires in new roses, because roses like 'Carefree Spirit' may yet rescue us from 'Knock Out' hell. If my garden visitors can recognize and covet such a rose, then so will the public at large.

 My 'Carefree Spirit' is about three feet tall, and she is supposed to reach 5-6 feet at maturity.  She bloomed in the late group of roses in my garden, with 'Madame Hardy' and 'Chuckles' and 'American Pillar' to name some other late roses, so she's bringing up the rear of the first rose bloom and starring in her own time.  I will admit that her allure is entirely due to the bounty of her blossoms because 'Carefree Spirit' is scentless to my nose and she isn't thornless either.  Ah well, no rose is perfect.  Except 'Madame Hardy' of course.  And, my readers, let us please choose to ignore the closeness of the phrase "bounty of her blossoms" to "bounty of her bosoms" in English.  I'm an old man, love of roses can possible be taken too far, and I should be allowed my small literary illusions without comment.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Magic Number Four

Chipping Sparrow eggs?
It never fails.  Just today, on a day of vacation to work in the garden, I was puttering around as usual, all the while thinking "what should my next blog be about?"  It must be blatantly obvious by now that I could blog ad infinitim about roses, evermore adding one more to the list of roses I've discussed, but Garden Musings already is top-heavy with roses.  If roses were the only thing I ever wrote about, I'm afraid I'd risk alienating some readers.  Believe it or not, I do occasionally try to relieve the monotony here for those who aren't unwaveringly rose-crazy.

Like magic, the answer to my question lay in the 'Carefree Beauty' rosebush I had just trimmed.  There, deep in the heart of this stalwart rose, was a tiny nest, about 2.5 inches in diameter, with four of the cutest little sky-blue-speckled-with-black eggs I've ever seen.  After an exhaustive search through my field guides and the Internet, I believe these eggs are most likely those of a Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina).  It is a very common sparrow around here in the summer, and the nest placement, about 4 feet off the ground in a bush, is correct, and the eggs are distinct and resemble the available pictures on the Internet.  Thankfully, these eggs don't resemble one of the many sparrow species in this area that are light blue with lots of light brown spots or I wouldn't have been able to even guess at the origin.  I'll try to confirm the identity with a visual of Momma Bird in the next few days, but it is going to be difficult at best.  I've scared her off the nest a few times today, but haven't been able to discern anything but a quick brown blur darting into the nearby viburnums.

Killdeer nest
I also found yet another Killdeer nest today while mowing, also with four eggs.  Why does four always seem to be the number of eggs for birds in Kansas anyway?  This new nest was placed almost exactly where another brood was raised two years ago, on a hillside in very short grass.  I would never find these nests if the Momma wouldn't try to lure me away, feigning a hurt wing.  Today's Momma didn't even bother with that;  she just sat on the nest and fixed me with a baleful eye while I mowed around her.  For the life of me, I don't understand why they don't nest in the taller grass that I never mow, in this case just 10 feet away, but I suppose they have their reasons.  I think they're pretty gutsy to lay these eggs on the almost bare ground.  The wider view below will give you a better idea of how exposed these eggs really are;  the eggs are in the center of the picture.  It must be a tough life to be  Killdeer chick.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Gallicandy Pink

Yes, I'm aware that you may have a little difficulty deciding that the picture at the right is a rose, not a big wad of bubblegum, but that's only because of the pink bubblegum coloration of this aptly-named Hybrid Gallica.  This is 'Gallicandy', one of Paul Barden's creations growing in it's second full summer in my garden.

'Gallicandy' (or ARDtuscoth) was bred by Barden in 2003, according to the information on  She is currently about 3 feet tall and around, with a mature height expected of 4 to 6 feet.  The third of my Barden hybrid gallicas to bloom, she seems to have a sparser bloom than the others ('Marianne' and 'Allegra'), but she also has a longer bloom period, over one month and still going.  Of course, that all may change as she gets a few more seasons on her.  I'm hoping, at the least, that at mature size she blooms more freely, if not as long.

Blooms are very double and approximately 3.5 inches in diameter.  The bright pink color holds well, barely fading over more than a week in the Kansas sun.  Fragrance, to my nose, is moderately strong, not as strong as 'Allegra', but not mild by any means. This is not a bush I'd want to tangle with because it is armed to the core with prickles, but I think she'll make do well with a light trimming every year.  The foliage is medium green, matte, and clean, with no blackspot visible despite my principled non-spraying.  She has held up well to the winter cold and winds of Kansas and she survived last year's drought without extra water after August. 
I'm not going to say yet that 'Gallicandy' has won over my heart as a favorite yet, but she has got potential.  Even in this first year of bloom (she didn't bloom as a small band last year), her overall production is equal to better known Gallica's like 'Charles de Mills' in my garden.  And anyway, where else can I find a rose that looks, for all the world, like it's producing big wads of pink bubblegum?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

America triumphs over Knock Out!

Along with many other rose lovers, particularly along with those who like "old" roses, I occasionally go into a funk about the state of the rose industry, curse the day Bill Radler first thought about producing 'Knock Out', and mourn the loss of inventory at the local nurseries.  If you're not familiar with the issue, this link, titled "The Rise and Fall of Our National Floral Emblem", explains it pretty well.  The article was originally in the American Rose Rambler in 2010. 

The outlook has been particularly depressing this year as I wander the local stores and see only Knock Out's and shrub roses.  Two prominent local nurseries, who were faithful up until this year, stopped carrying Hybrid Teas, Floribunda's, Grandifloras, or Climbers at all.  It is as if  'Peace' and the AARS awards never existed.  Even the cheap container roses at the big box stores look more decrepit and lonelier than normal, mere memories of the roses I love.

But yesterday, on a trip to Home Depot to buy some spray paint, I found hope amidst despair.  I was wandering by the garden center roses (I still can't resist) and couldn't help but hear a woman exclaim, "Look at this 'Knock Out', Tom."  What a great color and so full of petals!"  "Oh, and it has a great smell too!"  

There, among a great sea of single-flowered  'Rainbow Knock Out's and 'Knock Out' itself, this shopper had spied a single misplaced plant of large-flowered climbing rose 'America', and recognized it for its uniqueness among the heathens.  Although I'm not a fan of 'America', Mrs. ProfessorRoush loves the rose, always has loved it, and I grow it although it struggles here in Kansas.  In fact, I've lost a couple in tough winters, but my latest has held on four years and, trimmed like a shrub, seems to be vigorously protesting my attempts to restrain it.

In a flash, I think my fellow shopper has shown me the future of roses.  It's not that the American public innately prefers the likes of  'Knock Out' and the Drift roses and other landscape roses.  It is that the rose industry made prima donnas of roses, commercialized them, branded them, weakened them, and cheapened them.  Perhaps it is a good thing that the AARS winners are being shunned.  Mostly, they sucked.  Blackspotted, cold-sensitive, thorny-caned monsters, we are not rejecting roses, we're rejecting what they have become.  We're rejecting novelty color and bling for dependability and health.   'Knock Out' is popular because anyone can grow it south of Zone 3 without care.  The fact that 'Knock Out' has no fragrance, simple blooms, and a mild color doesn't matter.  What matters is that 'Knock Out' is healthy and doesn't die.

So now, I'm thinking differently.   The breeders and nurseries have simply been taught a lesson.  Yes, there will be a period of turmoil in the rose-growing world.  In the interim, hard-liners, like myself, will turn to smaller specialty mail-order nurseries and the public will just have to put up with they're offered by Big Box.  But after that period of time, breeders will again improve the flowers and add scent back to fair rose, and increase the numbers of petals while keeping the rose bush healthy.  And we'll have new roses that we love.  Different roses, but better roses for it.  And the rose industry will rise again.  We won't forsake the rose for marigolds and snapdragons.  The world is not that crazy.

Friday, May 11, 2012


'Carefree Spirit'
The last few roses to bloom for me are streaking into full display right now, so I thought I would take a few moments this morning to look through this year's pictures and identify those roses that I think really made a spectacle of themselves this year.  Not those roses that just bloomed well and often, but roses who literally bloomed so freely that you "couldn't stick a finger into them without hitting a bloom."  There were several of those, and it also struck me that most of the overachievers are also peaking right now, later blooming than most of their cousins.

'Carefree Spirit' is a relative youngster, in its 2nd full summer for me, but already it is living up to its promises. Carefree blooming and with a willing spirit, those are traits we all love in a rose.

The biggest overachiever in my garden may be my miniature climber 'Red Cascade'.  I took this picture this morning and its quality suffers as the eastern sunrise gives it an unnatural orange tint, but take a gander at a rose that is very well-named; a waterfall of bright red flowing over the limestone blocks.

'Red Cascade'

Hybrid musk 'Ballerina' is a timeless rose and provides me a more pastel-colored vision to salve the burns on my cornea, but she is still blooming like a champ right now.

'Jeanne Lavoie'
It is not so unusual for classy blooming miniature  'Jeanne Lavoie' to have a first bloom as flush as this one, but once again, she proves that she is a beautiful lass and a workhorse in the garden.  Five feet tall and growing, she should top that trellis by next year.

'American Pillar'
I always look to rambler 'American Pillar' to finish out the show for the first bloom cycle, and again this year, it isn't disappointing me.  This picture, taken this morning, reflects the fact that I didn't properly trim it and tie it up this year, but, regardless, this monster of a rose certainly has its ostentatious side.

Among the more double-flowered and larger-flowered roses, I have to give special recognition here to red 'Hunter' on the right and bright pink 'Morden Centennial' below, both of which are now fading.  'Hunter' stands proudly among the young Monarda seedlings in the picture, and 'Morden Centennial' is now far past bloom, but they bloomed their heads off in their own times just to make me happy.  Both are always dependable roses for me but their early exhibition this year was more spectacular than I remember ever seeing either of them.  Thank you, girls, for adding a special splash to my rose season!  

'Morden Centennial'
As I scroll through my photos, there were many other well-blooming roses this year, the expected visual bounty from roses such as 'Champlaign' and 'Chuckles' and others, but the roses above were the cream of the crop in my rose parade.  What roses outdid their usual beauty for you this year?  What roses were your showoffs this year?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Snakes Ahoy!

One never knows, do we?  Last Friday started out as a normal day, but it certainly ended with a bang.  After my workday, Mrs. ProfessorRoush and I slipped away for a bite to eat, and then she went on home to walk our ancient Brittany Spaniel while I stopped back to check on a resident doing a surgery. 

I can testify that Mrs. ProfessorRoush was entirely normal when we parted, but twenty minutes later when I pulled into the garage, I was met at the door to my car with a disheveled, shouting caricature of my wife and a very excited Brittany.   At least I think it was my wife for she was moving so quickly her outline was blurry.  It seems that on their walk, they had encountered the first of this summer's snake denizens.  

Scotophis obsoletus, Western Rat Snake

As I listened and tried to calm Mrs. ProfessorRoush, all the while wondering if the garage and car windows were going to shatter from either decibel level or pitch, I understood clearly what detectives and FBI agents are up against when they discuss the unreliability of eyewitnesses.  If I had taken Mrs. ProfessorRoush's account as gospel, this particular snake had coiled up to a height approaching ten feet, threatened to strike at my Brittany with bared fangs, and then chased them out of the yard. 

I know that I've led many of the readers of this blog to believe that I'm also scared of snakes, but that is not entirely true.  Yes, I don't care to have them pop up at my feet or strike at my shovel from underneath a perennial I'm transplanting, but my panic episodes at such times are temporary and only rarely results these days in running clear past township or county borders.  I have been so desensitized by the number of reptiles on the Kansas Flint Hills that I certainly still jump, but then I calm down while I'm waiting for gravity to reacquaint the earth with my feet, and I rationally determine the type of snake and the relative danger to my garden visitors (pet or human).

This particular snake was (is) about a six foot long and 2 inch diameter Western Rat Snake, Scotophis obsoletus (or is it Elaphe obsoletus? Or Pantherophis obsoletus?), and it is a constrictor, not a biter.   I did not, as counseled by Mrs. ProfessorRoush, "get a shotgun and blow it to smithereens."  I have a strict species-ism hierarchy in my garden, hating rodents more than snakes, so I welcome any of the latter benign hunters.  Additionally, I have yet to see a poisonous snake in my garden and I have theorized that if a nice, big rat snake is clearing out the hunting grounds, I have less chance of hearing a rattle next to my feet as I trim the roses.  A snake this big will also occasionally catch and give a rabbit a love hug, so this guy may even help me to raise some lettuce this year.  Besides, according to my references, the Western Rat Snake has a home range of approximately 30 acres, so I'm not very likely to see him again soon.

All of the proceeding thoughts weave a nice rationalization, but it doesn't wash at all with Mrs. ProfessorRoush, who prefers all slithering insects and reptiles to be in the process of decay.  Not even the chance for fresh lettuce can dissuade her, and I now have some work to do to restore my gardening knight in shining armor image at home.  C'est la vie.   

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Chuckles for Joy

I've been wrong, wrong, wrong.  Wrong about the garden worth of 'Chuckles', wrong about the breeder, and wrong about just about everything to do with this rose.  Grown on me, it has, and become one of the stars of my garden.

I believed for the longest time, right up until I began to research the rose for this blog entry, that Chuckles was a Griffith Buck-bred rose.  But it isn't a Griffith Buck rose, 'Chuckles' was, according to, bred by Roy Shepherd in 1958.  How did I get it so wrong?  In this case, there is a perfectly simple explanation.  I swear that I'm innocent, Your Honor.  I purchased my 'Chuckles' from, where it is listed as a Griffith Buck rose.  It is not, however, listed as a Buck rose on Iowa State University's website or anyplace else.  Heirloom just has it wrong.  'Chuckles' was bred from a seed parent cross between 'Jean Lafitte' and 'New Dawn', and the pollen parent was 'Orange Triumph'.

She's also not a shrub rose, as I previously thought, she is classified as a Floribunda.  I can see that now, the profuse bloom and intense garden presence of the bush. 'Chuckles' is a continuous bloomer in my garden, rarely without a few eye-catching blossoms.

What I haven't been wrong on are all the parts that are dependent only on my eyes.  'Chuckles' is a low growing rose, about 3-4 foot tall at maturity in my garden, and almost 6 feet in diameter. The blooms are mostly single with 4 petals, but they are large in diameter, almost 4 inches across. The blooms are an eye-searing hot pink, a color that I did not like initially, but one that I've developed a taste for.  Each bloom also has a bit of white at the center, and they come in clusters, with new blooms, older blooms, and buds all visible in the same cluster as you can see in the picture above.  Stamens are golden on new blooms but fade quickly to brown.  There is little to no fragrance to the rose, but, then, nobody's perfect.  The bush is perfectly hardy here, in 5A/6B, and it is probably hardy far to the north since I saw it listed on a website named "LandscapeAlaska".  I never spray her for blackspot or other fungal diseases.  Look at that perfect foliage above;  glossy, dark green, and unspotted.  She's at peak right now in my garden, and has come into her own in this, her 6th year in my garden.

Most importantly of all, 'Chuckles' is one of the most aptly named roses of rosedom.  Anyone in her presence can't help but be cheered up by a single look of those bountiful bright pink and white blooms.  If I were to design a garden for a depressed friend, 'Chuckles' would be a necessity.  Heck, all of us could use one or two 'Chuckles' in the garden to cheer us up from time to time.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Hybrid Gallica 'Allegra'
Of the several Paul Barden-bred hybrid Gallicas that are entering their second full summer in my garden, I believe that pink 'Allegra' has my vote for newcomer of the year.  She's at full bloom, right now, and I'm quite impressed by the durability of the blooms in the Kansas wind and sun.

'Allegra' (ARDjoy) was bred by Paul Barden in 2000 and introduced, according to "helpmefind" by The Uncommon Rose in 2004.  I find the bloom of 'Allegra' reminiscent of the superb 1816 Alba 'Konigin von Danemark', with a similar shade of pink and the same neat button-eyed and quartered appearance, but much larger bloom size and with a better fragrance.  'Allegra's very double blooms are every bit of 4 inches in diameter and it has an incredibly strong Gallica scent to my nose, among the strongest of rose fragrances in my garden, right now second perhaps only to 'Madame Hardy' and 'Madame Issac Pierre'.  In its second year of age, it is 2.5 feet high and around, and I expect it will reach its advertised mature height of 4 to 6 feet easily. It was fully hardy last year in my garden and has no blackspot or mildew presently visible.  Look closely at the clean foliage in the pictures if you don't believe me.

A few more blossoms of 'Allegra'
Many of my garden roses were affected by the recent cold and damp nights and left with discolored, pale, or balled-up blossoms, but impressively, 'Allegra' seems immune to the weather and has provided me with a number of perfect blossoms.  According to Paul Barden's website, I can expect four to six weeks of bloom with flowers opening sequentially on inflorescences, so a long bloom phase is yet another positive note for 'Allegra'  Paul also hinted that this rose doesn't hit its stride until it is several years old, so I can only imagine the beauty to come next year.  A cross of Gallica 'Duchesse de Montebello' and St. Swithun (a pink David Austin/English rose), 'Allegra' reportedly does not sucker like it's Gallica ancestors and for that, I'm thankful because I grow tired of rooting out Gallica suckers in my rose beds.

I'm always interested in the origin of the name of a rose and 'Allegra' is an excellent example of why the written notes of rose breeders are so often a treasure.  I speculated, from knowledge buried deep with my musical training, that 'Allegra' would denote a rose that bloomed or grew, as the dictionary indicates, "with a light and lively tempo", but Paul Barden's website notes that he named the rose "to honor a dear friend of mine who fell in love with this rose when she first saw it."  And thus, a rose was named.


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