Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Turkey Crossings

Or should it be "turkeys crossing?"  ProfessorRoush came across this delightful family troupe on his way to a local Iris sale early Saturday morning.  I hope everyone appreciates the pictures, blurry though they are, because taking them made me miss the mad initial rush of iris fanatics into the piles of iris starts, and thus I missed out on all the best iris cultivars.  Certainly the drivers of the two cars that passed me as I was stopped in the middle of the road and taking pictures with my iPhone must have thought that I was a mad as a hatter.

The Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo, is native to North America, although by a quirk of history it was named "turkey" because the trade routes from North America to Britain in the 1500's were routed through Constantinople, and thus the British associated the bird with the country, Turkey, and the name stuck.  Wild Turkeys are certainly prevalent in Kansas, and I often find them visiting my garden in early Spring, although sightings this time of year, when they are keeping their broods to the woods, are unusual.  They don't seem to harm my garden (with the sole exception of one previous incident noted here) , and they can be quite entertaining as they strut from bed to bed.

If you are the sole remaining American that hasn't heard yet, Benjamin Franklin wanted to make the Wild Turkey the national bird because he thought the Bald Eagle was lazy for stealing fish from other birds.  It is unfortunate in some ways that Wild Turkeys didn't win out over the Bald Eagle.  Turkeys get a bad rap for being stupid, but that's just because of our impressions of their big, fat domesticated cousins.  Wild Turkeys are exceptional citizens and good parents.   Just take, for example, the wisdom exhibited by the three hens in this covey.  They've kicked the bothersome polygamous males out of the group and they are sharing the burden of herding and henpecking the five youngsters, much like the soccer moms of our own species.  As I drove up on them, and by them, they kept the little ones in the center, pushed them to the edge, and then put themselves between their offspring and my car, offering their last feathers as protection.  Obviously the poults are not yet into the turkey equivalent of their rebellious teens or the hens wouldn't have been quite as blindly devoted.

These Wild Turkey's are probably the Rio Grande subspecies (Meleagris gallopavo intermedia) because of their geographic location and the buff, light tan color of the tips of the tail and lower back feathers.  They have longer legs than other subspecies, presumably better adapted for the tall grasses of the prairie, although I don't know if their legs are longer so they can walk better among the grass or because long legs make the females more attractive to males for other reasons ("Don't preen for that one Fred, her legs are so short and stubby that the grasses cover up her tail feathers").  Darwin's Natural Selection is still likely active though, although our human reasoning may fail in understanding the true mechanisms.  Heck, it's a well-known fact that most human males prefer human females with long slender legs over short stubby ones, and no one really knows why (I'm going to refrain here for my own good from the usual side reference to Mrs. ProfessorRoush).   Human females don't spend much time strutting in the grasses these days, so the height of the prairie grass probably isn't the driving issue. Well, I don't think so, anyways.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Three Years and Blogging

Earlier this week, ProfessorRoush noticed the proximity of his third anniversary of blogging on Garden Musings and began toying with the thought of a deep, reflective blog entry to commemorate the occasion.  Since then, I've mulled over ideas and chased after flickering images and begged the garden deities for a theme.  I wanted to find a way to tell you (and me) what I think I've learned from blogging; to tell you how 525 blog entries have changed me and changed my writing and why I may not quite be done.  Alas, a useful blog muse just kept eluding my efforts.   Until Friday morning, that is, as I was leaving for work and experiencing an odd feeling that something was undone.  Something was calling me from the garden. 

Since I was not in a frantic hurry to make a living that morning, I took a moment just to walk out back onto the slightly wet patio and listen to what the garden had to say.  My back garden, softly lit from the glowing dawn and covered in glistening jewels from an early morning sprinkle, waited patiently for me to find its secret.  Glancing around, I focused quickly on a Northern Bayberry, a fine and nondescript green shrub of my landscape, that I otherwise rarely notice.  This time it drew my attention by shouting at me, a dying branch brown against the rest of the thick olive-green foliage, demanding attention.  And there it was, suddenly there.  My blogging metaphor.

Somehow, my garden chose to surprise me once again, as it does over and over, this time unveiling a volunteer Redbud tree within the bayberry, strong, 8 feet tall and healthy.  This adolescent woody treasure must be every bit of three years old and all this time it has been protected from my pruning shears, hidden within the heart of the nurturing bayberry bush.  Despite my claims that I pay close attention to my garden, this stealthy native has exposed the lie, laid bare the fantasy that I'm in charge of my garden.  It is completely out of place, this Redbud, and it will someday demand that the nearby lilac and cherry tree and perennials bow to its dominance, but I can't remove it now.  Such a will to live must only be respected and cherished.

And therein lies the story of this blog.  The entries are sometimes informative and sometimes inane, sometimes funny and sometimes foolish. There are bad pieces that simply bomb, as unsatisfying to me as they must be to you.  But occasionally, just as an occasional surprise to myself, I find a lyrical voice or pen a written phrase that lifts me up and calms my desires.  I hope and believe this is happening more often.  In a personal blog there are no copy writers, no editors to correct my mistakes, no rewriting once the "publish" button is pressed.  As it is cast upon the ether, the writing is either good or it isn't, but there it is.  Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, has made the observation that exceptional talent is not just born, it requires 10,000 hours of practice to arrive.  If he's right, then I have only 9500 more blogs to go before I'm complete.

As I wrote on the day that I started this blog, three years past, I write not out of narcissism or for profit, I write simply because I must write.  If you find it interesting to follow the twists and turns of my mental meanderings, then please, keep reading.  And I'll keep trying to surprise you, just like the shy Redbud popping into my garden.    

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Pink Poppy Perfection

During the three short years of existence of this blog and its 520+ entries, I can't believe that I haven't written about or shown you a single photo of one of my favorite garden plants.  At least, I think I haven't, because one sometimes loses track of 500 blog entries and searchable text can only carry me on its back just so far. 

This beautiful salmon-pink pompom is present in my garden as a legacy, a descendant of seed given to my father by the father of a childhood friend of mine, who grew them in a large garden en masse for their "wow" effect every year.  I'm not positive of the exact species, but I suspect that this is a plant sometimes described as Papaver laciniatum, a highly double and deeply lobed variant of the bread poppy.  Notice how carefully I'm dancing around the likely accurate species name?  All I know for sure is that here and there in my garden, when the cold, wet soil is disturbed enough in early spring to allow this annual to take hold and grow, I get these gorgeous flowers back as a gift in mid-summer.  They pop up at random spots for me, often near desirable plants where I slow down my weeding enough to identify what living thing I'm uprooting.  They self-seed effortlessly, and all I have to do is to avoid hoeing them out when they are mere babies.

The plant itself  has a nice blue-green shade and healthy foliage, rarely shows insect damage or fungus, and doesn't care if rain comes often or doesn't come at all.  The leaves are lobed enough to be a mite prickly, although I can pull the plant bare-handed when I need to.  I don't pull them bare-handed though, because if you do, your hand gets covered in the sticky, white sap of the plant.  As they begin to flower, first you see these swelling, drooping buds, which later stand up proudly on their short day of open life.  After the petals fall, the seed head magically becomes a shaker that opens when the seeds dry so that a few seeds are flung by each gust of wind or nudge of a passing animal.  What a perfect plant to place in Kansas; a drought-tolerant self-sowing annual weed that is distributed farther each time the wind gusts get stronger!  Even better, they bloom at the height of heat and summer, as other flowers are fading and before the ornamental grasses claim the garden for their own.

I only regret that I am terrible at sowing them to come up where I want them.  I've tried mass plantings, but I sow them too thickly and they don't thrive, or I sow them too late and then they don't grow, or it is not wet enough for them to get established.  I also suspect that they may need a period of cold stratification to make them start to grow.  Someday, I'll figure out the formula and then I'll have a "wow" factor in my garden too.   Until then, I'm thankful for this passalong plant and the Kansas winds that spread it far.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Striped and Rugose

I have Scott Keneda of Red Dirt Roses to thank for alerting me to the fact that my lust for striped roses was missing a key player;  a striped rose that would rebloom consistently, wouldn't get blackspot, and would stand up to colder climates without blinking.  That rose is Ralph Moore's 'Moore's Striped Rugosa', a 1987 introduction with the registration name of 'MORbeauty'.

Ralph Moore bred 'Moore's Striped Rugosa' from a complex seed parent named "9 stripe" crossed with 'Rugosa Magnifica'.  According to rosarian Paul Barden, the stripes come from 'Ferdinand Pichard' four generations back in the seed parent.  It was not released until 2005, when it was introduced by Sequoia Nursery, Moore Miniature Roses Historic Archive, a long time to wait for such an exceptional rose. 

'Moore's Striped  Rugosa' is slow growing for me, about a foot high in its first full summer, but healthy, with nice dark green Rugosa foliage.  It has been an almost continual bloomer since it was just a single stick with leaves, those beautiful uniquely striped and fully double flowers popping up again and again.  The petals have a red and white striped upper with an almost completely red reverse; the red itself is slightly to the blue side, much like 'Ferdinand Pichard' in hat regard.  Blooms average about 3.5 inches in diameter for me, and have a mild Rugosa-like fragrance.  They start out with hybrid-tea form and end up a mildly disheveled cup form, and so far they stand up well to the worst heat of summer.  Most references tell me that the bush will grow 4-5 feet in diameter and the mildly rugose foliage tells me that it will be blackspot free here.  It certainly has been so far, and it survived winter unprotected and cane-hardy.

The nicest thing about 'Moore's Striped Rugosa' is that it is a welcome change from the strong Rugosa genes of mauve-rose-purplish roses and single or semi-double blooms.  I think this one will be quite a show piece when it reaches it's mature size.  Does anyone know if it sets hips?  Oh, that's probably too much to ask for, isn't it?   No rose is perfect.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Witches' Broom Arrives

The first words in my mind, about three weeks ago, as I discovered the potential disaster pictured to the right, was a horrible parody of Draco Malfoy in the first Harry Potter movie:  "It's true then.  Rose Rosette Disease has come to Hogwarts."  Read that statement with a really exaggerated English accent and you'll know how it sounded in my mind.  Crazy, I know, but somehow I must have neurons cross-firing between "witches' broom" and my mental images of the magical world of Hogwarts to make that connection.  And, yes, I'm a fan of the Harry Potter series, but, no, I haven't taken to calling my garden "Hogwarts."  I don't have a name for my garden.  Come to think of it, "Hogwarts" might be as good as any, but I'm guessing that Mrs. ProfessorRoush won't see the humor in it.

I digress, however, as I try to avoid the awkward subject at hand.  Although I'm not entirely 100% positive, I highly suspect that the misshapen foliage and canes show above are Rose Rosette Disease on my 'Golden Princess' rose.  I suppose there is always some faint hope that this was damage from herbicide drift, but that multi-prickled cane appearance and warped leaves are pretty damning evidence to the contrary.   The canes on this rose should look like the photo at the left, a more normal area of the bush. 

Either because of inborn psychology, or due to my veterinary medical training, I'm not one to wait around and ignore a potentially garden-fatal cancer.  I'm not Scarlett O'Hara in my garden, thinking I can worry about this tomorrow.  In my reading on Rose Rosette Disease, I know that immediate action is necessary to prevent spread to other roses.  Since I grow over 200 other roses, an epidemic of RRD is to dreadful to contemplate, a fear which also helped me take decisive action.

I immediately initiated the "one strike and you are out" philosophy used by other RRD victims.  I have chopped out every cane (yes, with an axe!) that appeared to have any disease and I included the roots of those canes, resulting in the small and normal- appearing remnant displayed to the right.  This rose has one chance, a chance possible only because it is an own root rose and I could divide it without splitting a bud union.  If it shows me any sign of RRD in the near future, then this remainder gets shovel-pruned immediately, day or night, rain or heat.  I know there is no wild multiflora rose within over 0.5 miles, so I don't know how it arrived here except in the Kansas wind, but I'm not going to baby a diseased rose in my garden.

In the interests of rose-related education, if you've never seen RRD, take a good look at that top photo.  Symptoms of RRD include excessive thorniness, leaf malformation, bright red leaf and stem pigmentation, enlarged cane diameter or elongated shoots, and "witches' broom", the latter characterized by a dense mass of leaves and stems growing from a single point.   The causal agent of RRD has recently been proven to be a negative-sense RNA virus in the genus Emaravirus (Laney AG, et al, J Gen Virology 2011:92:1727-1732), that is spread by the Rose Leaf Curl Mite (Phyllocoptes fructiplilus) mite.

One deformed leaf, and 'Golden Princess' is no more.  At least I've got another, ordered last Winter by mistake...or was it by fortuitous clairvoyant foresight?

Friday, July 19, 2013

An Old Story

In my garden, working there,
I came across a spry young Hare.
It didn't run, it knew no fear,
It's known the gardener all this year.

This gardener will not do it in,
The Rabbit knows he is a friend.
The Rabbit calmly sits and chews,
The gardener watches now amused.

Rabbits are the price one pays,
For hale and healthy garden sprays,
Of flowers borne on strong green stems,
Of green leaves dancing in the winds.

But in the garden, somewhere near,
Other things are there to fear.
The Rabbit plays on unaware,
That Snake might also slither there.

Sometime soon, the two will meet,
The Snake and Rabbit, one with feet,
The other moves with rippling hide.
The Snake and Rabbit must collide.

Little Rabbit does not know,
The hand the gardener doesn't show,
His Karma never needs to suffer,
Fate will do the deed, but rougher.

Almost every day for the past month, I've come across this little rabbit in my garden, moving here or there, hiding until I was almost upon it.  We've visited enough that this rabbit is now tame, allowing me to move within an arms length this weekend without darting away in frantic fear.  Two hours later I came across this fully grown, magnificent Western Rat Snake in the vegetable garden and I didn't dart away in frantic fear either.   In general, I think rabbits are cute, but I'm not very excited about resident rabbits in my garden.  They don't often cause enough damage to irritate me, but as long as they're around, it is always possible that I go out some morning to find a prize new rose nibbled down to kindling.  I'm not very excited about resident snakes, either, but at least they don't harm the plants, unlike the rabbits.  In the end however, I'm most worried about my kriyamana Karma.  The Hindus may or may not be right, but why chance bad Karma merely to gain a few more flowers?  ProfessorRoush is generally, therefore, a benevolent God over his garden and is quite willing to let nature make the choice.  I suspect this Western Rat Snake will come across this rabbit sooner or later and will be greet it with a nice tight hug.  After all, Kansas is not overrun with rabbits as Australia has been and it isn't because the rabbit's don't breed like, well, like rabbits.  I don't want to be there to see the messy end, but sooner or later, I'm sure I'll come across this large proud snake with a big bulge in its body.  And after that I won't worry about the roses for awhile.

Nature can be very hard.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Bench 2.0

ProfessorRoush places a high value on permanence when selecting garden ornaments or furniture.  I like concrete or iron rather than plastic or wooden.  I want unpainted statuary versus stained or painted figures that need to be refinished every few years.  Heavy pieces are chosen so that I don't need to travel to Missouri to find them after every thunderstorm. Tasteful pieces appear when I can find them, although my tastes are subject to debate and questionable in many instances.

Consequently, when my old iron and wooden garden bench to the right of the front walkway started to deteriorate beyond the point where staining the wood was curative, and to the degree where sitting on it was a chancy proposition, I knew it was time to find a new one, but I couldn't part easily with the ironwork.  This old bench had stuck with me through wind and rain, snow and heat. Who wouldn't have a little interior rot when you spend each of 10 winters outside under a blanket of ice or snow? This bench deserved a second chance and I was just sentimental enough to give it one.

Enter Bench 2.0, my amateur remake using the original iron sides and back.  I used composite/permanent redwood-colored deck material for the seat and back.  The decking material didn't come in the right widths, but I overcame and adapted with selective use of the pre-drilled iron holes and bolts with lock washers.  I tend, when building something, to build crudely but to over engineer everything, so I assure you that six weight-challenged individuals and a dog could sit safely on the new bench.  The curved back iron piece would have required too much work to make it fit, but I reversed it and screwed it back onto the back to increase the weight of this piece and keep the floral print visible.  At this point, nothing short of a tornado is going to move this bench, which I've relocated to my growing "redbud grove" near the shade of a Cottonwood.  Not as formal, but still classy, eh?  It won't need to be redone again for like the next 6 million years and only then to repaint the iron.  And the cost to redo?  Less than a new bench (in fact less than the metal bench that replaced it out front).

You're wondering about the light blue sides aren't you?  That happens to be my "color" for the garden.  I paint almost all the iron in my garden that hue of rust-inhibiting paint, known variously as "wildflower blue," "brilliant blue," or "periwinkle blue" depending on the brand.  I think it looks nice when placed among almost anything in a garden, and it stands out just enough to call attention to itself without screaming at visitors.  Please don't tell Mrs. ProfessorRoush that my garden has a "color" though.  She'll laugh at me and call me strange. There is no accounting for taste is there?

Monday, July 15, 2013


In this year's young group of Griffith Buck roses, the award for the best performance by a newcomer goes to little-known 'Chorale'.  This rose has wowed me over and over with its color and its form.  In my "Central Buck" bed, it grows right next to 'Quietness', the latter a better-known and highly regarded Buck rose, yet 'Chorale' is out-performing it day after day.

'Chorale' is a light pink Shrub rose bred by Dr. Buck in 1978.  There is little information on the Internet regarding this rose beyond its parentage, listed on as a tetraploid cross between a seedling of 'Ruth Hewitt' X 'Queen Elizabeth', with a seedling of 'Morning Stars' X 'Suzanne'.  'Suzanne' is a pink Spinosissima and gives 'Chorale' her presumed hardiness and perhaps the moderate thorniness, but I can see little other evidence of Spinosissima in her.  The other three ancestors are all Modern hybrids, with 'Queen Elizabeth' the only well-known rose of the group.

'Chorale' has nice, high-centered, fully double blooms of 50 petals and the color is a perfect pale pink that will blend well with almost any other rose or perennial.  The blooms are large, approximately 3 1/2 inches in diameter, and they fade to white as they age.  She has a strong apple fragrance that is particularly prominent on hot days, dark green, healthy leaves, and she blooms continually; since she was six inches high, I've never seen her without a bloom and already this summer she's on at least her 3rd flush in the photo at the left.  I can't ask for more from a baby rose. 

'Chorale' was chosen as a blackspot-susceptible control plant in one Earth-Kind study (Zlesak DC et al, HortScience 2010;45:1779-87), but the results of challenging the plant with 3 different "races" of blackspot did not show 'Chorale' as the worst of the test group.  In fact it had less blackspot than Belinda's Dream, a designated Earth-Kind rose for two of the three strains of blackspot.  Since rose cultivar resistance to blackspot is dependent on the blackspot strain or strains in a region and since resistance changes as the pathogen evolves, I can only state here that 'Chorale' is blackspot free in my garden at present (unsprayed), as you can see from the photo above.   

A "chorale" is a "hymn or psalm sung to a traditional or composed melody in church," or it refers to a "chorus or choir".  When Dr. Buck named this rose, I'm not sure if he was paying homage to the beauty of the blooms or if he was referencing the fact that this rose always seems to have a group of blooms on it, but I suppose he could be referring to both meanings of the name.  Regardless, this is a rose that I'm going to expect a lot out of in the future. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

To Trap or Not To Trap

I hope that Shakespeare will forgive me for my corruption of his prose, but that is the million roses question, isn't it?  Conventional wisdom holds that the use of Japanese Beetle-specific traps will increase beetle damage on plants adjacent to the trap sites.  You can find that "wisdom" repeated everywhere, Extension articles, Internet blogs, over and over, accepted and final.

Well friends, ProfessorRoush had a mentor who once said to me "If I wrote that the sky is green in a book chapter of an authoritative text, in 10 years the entire world would be repeating that the sky is green."  Phrases like "conventional wisdom" just raise my hackles, because if we've learned anything from the past millennium, it's that "conventional wisdom" often isn't worth a darn.  If we followed "conventional wisdom," all maps would still be Flat Earth-oriented, we would still believe the Sun revolved around the Earth, the New World would never have been discovered and I wouldn't be trying to garden in the hell-hole of Kansas.

In the throes of anguish that Japanese Beetles have finally reached Manhattan, Kansas, I set out to look at some of the actual research behind the no-trap recommendation, and I can already tell you that the question is far from settled.  Most of the statements that Japanese Beetle-specific traps increase plant damage and don't affect beetle numbers are referenced back to two papers in the Journal of Economic Entomology, 1985 and 1986, authored by F. Carter Gorden and Daniel A. Potter from the University of Kentucky.  The papers indeed reach the referenced conclusions, but if you examine the materials and methods of their research you'll discover the interesting fact that they placed their traps at 1.2 meters above the ground in both studies.  I already knew that a more recent study, by Alm in 1996,  found that a height of 13 cm above the ground was the most efficient trap height, which just happens to also be the average height that Japanese Beatles fly around a garden.  The 1985 and 1986 papers, for those metrically-disadvantaged, had their traps at 120 cm, so, in essence, they were expecting these lumbering insectoid rocks to find the traps approximately 10 times farther off the ground than they normally fly.  Thus science advances gardening.

 I also reviewed a 1998 Journal of Arboriculture paper by Wawrzynski and Ascerno that found that mass trapping over 15 acre area caused a 97% reduction in Japanese Beetles within 4 years.  Consequently, I really question if "conventional wisdom" hasn't been keeping gardeners from using the best tools for this particular job.   Commercial traps that use both floral attractants and pheromone lures are demonstrably effective, and the one pictured here is readily available and performed pretty well in a 2003 report by Alm and Dawson. 

What does that mean for ProfessorRoush's garden?  It means that I'm going to buck the conventional wisdom and trap the bodacious beetles out of my garden for a couple of years to see if I can slow down the Beetle Invasion (For baby boomers, I'm referencing the current Japanese Beetle Invasion as opposed to the 1960's Beatles invasion of the U.S.A).  Based on the research available, I will place my traps as close as possible to the recommended 13 cm height and I will place them at least 30 feet away from the nearest important plant so as not to attract beetles right onto my roses.  I will empty the traps regularly so the dead beetle stench doesn't drive others away and I will make sure the lures stay attached.  I'll let you know how it goes.

I've already caught three hard-shelled fiends that won't be breeding little beetles for next year.  I hope that it is simple logic.  Less breeding, less beetles, more roses.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Speaking of Presents

'Timbercreek Ace'; Lovell, 2004
While I'm on a roll with gifts from fellow gardeners, a pair of other long-awaited newcomers to my garden bloomed for the first time on Tuesday last.  The beautiful yellow-throated deep purple daylily to the right is 'Timbercreek Ace' (Lovell, 2004), a gift this Spring from a K-State client whose hunting dog I was treating.  Somehow, veterinary visits with me often end up in discussions of gardening, prompted perhaps by something the client was reading while waiting or an offhand comment that is made.  In this case, I discovered the client was a daylily aficionado, and he learned that although I'm a rose nut, I occasionally dabble in daylilies, resulting in the welcome gift which was planted in a prominent place in my garden.  'Timbercreek Ace' is a diploid, early to mid-season, reblooming daylily officially listed as a black dark purple self above a yellow green throat. 

I should note here that as a state employee, I can't accept gifts of over $25 so to the K-State auditors listening in, I checked and a start of 'Timbercreek Ace' is commercially available for under that least from some places.  As a 2004 variety, it is, however, both one of my most recent daylilies and one of the pricier ones.  I'm grateful to the client for it, especially after reading that a mature plant will have better than 22 buds/scape.  What a display this will be someday!

The gorgeous bicolored daylily to the left is an unnamed daylily(#45BO5) bred by a local Hemerocallis activist and breeder, Dr Steve Thien.  I obtained it two February's back as the winning bidder in an auction to benefit the K-State University Gardens.  It wasn't, therefore a gift to me, but it was a nice gift from Dr. Thien to the Gardens that I "intercepted."  Last year, it struggled in the drought, overshadowed by a native Asclepias tuberosa that I allowed to grow too close to it, and it didn't bloom.  This year, with the butterfly milkweed cut back, it's doing better and has two nice scapes full of blooms.
Daylilies take a lot of grief from WEE (wild-eyed environmentalists) who disdain non-native plants.  While I grow as many native forbs as I can in my pseudo-lawn of native prairie, and allow the self-seeders into my garden beds when I recognize their seedlings, I still appreciate daylilies for their acceptance of the searing summer heat and their bloom during an otherwise dead period in my garden. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Polareis Present

I'd like to honor today a generous reader of Garden Musings who contacted me clear back on January 31st with an offer of a sucker of 'Polareis'.  She was responding to my unlove for 'David Thompson' and felt that I should try out a better Rugosa.  It arrived on Friday, March 22nd, just in time for a late Spring snowstorm, but I planted it out immediately under a milk jug and prayed for the survival of the little sprouts. 

And survive it did, to bloom for the first time on July 7th.  The plant is still only a foot tall, but putting out buds by the dozens, so it promises lots of blooms to come.  The foliage of 'Polareis', as you can see from the photos here, is moderately rugose, medium green, and exceptionally healthy in the Kansas sunshine.  That first bloom took forever to open, taking 6 days to go from showing color like the bud at the top of the picture, to fully open, teasing me every day with progress, but not enough until July 7th to blog about.

'Polareis', registration name 'STRonin', has a mildly double bloom (about 25 petals), which open up blush pink and then fade to perfect white.  References tell me that my tiny bush will grow to 5-7 feet tall and wide someday, with occasional repeat bloom and that it is hardy to Zone 3.  There is a moderate rugosa-like fragrance.  'Polareis' also goes by the names of Polar Ice®, 'Polarisx' and 'Ritausma', the latter its original name near the Baltic region.  'Polareis' is a diploid, the offspring of a cross between R. rugosa var plena 'Regal' X 'Abelzieds'.   Bred by Rieksta in 1963, it was introduced in Germany in 1991, and then in the USA by Star Roses in 2005 as Polar Ice®.  Although Suzy Verrier seems to have been involved in its cross-identification as 'Ritausma', she doesn't list the rose in my 1991 copy of Rosa Rugosa, nor is it listed in the first edition of Osborne's Hardy Roses or any other of my rose books.  In the magazine Perennials, in 2001, Suzy Verrier did publish an article titled "Rugged, Riveting Rugosas" which does describe 'Polareis' "at the top of my list" and states that she believes it to be the same as 'Valentina Grizodubova'.   It seems like this rose keeps getting passed from gardener to gardener and renamed each time it passes.

For me, I'll always remember it as Gean Ann's Rugosa.   Gean Ann, 'Polareis' does bloom now on the Kansas prairie.  Thank you again for the gift, and for thus inspiring the double pun in today's title. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Huns at the Gate

History doesn't report what the reigning Roman Emperor said when the Huns first reached the gates of the Eastern Empire, but I do know what ProfessorRoush said today when he saw this metallic green creature munching away on a rose.  Unfortunately, my verbal outburst cannot be repeated in print, nor orally in the presence of good Christians or children, so my response will also be lost to future generations.

As I fearfully predicted last year, the frontier of expansion for Japanese Beetles has shifted west and they have reached Manhattan, Kansas.  I was walking my garden this morning, taking pictures, when, from twenty feet away, I saw a dark spot at the center of a bloom of 'Topaz Jewel'.  On closer examination, there he was, a solo advance scout for the Japanese Beetle horde.  A few seconds after I took this picture, he wasn't nearly so complacent because he found himself between a rock and a hard place, the latter represented by the sole of my shoe.  It was barbaric, I know, not to offer him a last meal or a chance to redeem his soul, but spies are not subject to the niceties of the Geneva Convention, at least as I understand it.  At least this particular spy won't be reporting the location of my personal paradise back to his buddies.

I know, I know, where there is one Japanese Beetle there must be more, but this scout wasn't fornicating with a fellow member of his species as they normally are found, and so I conclude that he was alone.  I immediately inspected every rose in my garden and found no others present this morning, and you can bet that every morning and evening for the next few weeks I'm going to become close friends with every blossom in my garden. 

My second proactive move of the day was to go to the K-State Rose Garden to inspect the roses there and I hadn't gotten ten feet along the garden before finding another Japanese Beetle in 'Jen's Monk', pictured at the left.  Again, I could find no camp followers for this scout so I concluded he was alone, although I did find two specimens of an unknown beetle, shown below, elsewhere in the roses.  I don't know the identity of these latter interlopers, but both flew away when disturbed, rather than dropping moronically to the round as Japanese Beetles do.  The confirmed Japanese Beetle I found, however, was summarily executed on the spot.   

By eliminating the beetles as they are found, I hope to delay my eventual defeat and keep their numbers down until their natural enemies, such as Tiphia wasps, can aid in the war effort. According to this USDA pamphlet, peonies and knotweed, both of which I already grow, are good nectar sources for the wasps and fly predators of Japanese Beetles. I know the first years of invasion in a new area are the worst for destruction and then an equilibrium is reached.  Perhaps my Purple Martin allies will help me keep the beetle numbers under local control for a few years while the rest of the environment catches up.  I'm a little concerned about the blooms on the top of my seven foot tall 'Sir Thomas Lipton' being an unguarded back door for invasion, so some help from the avian equivalent of a stealth drone would be most welcome.  To my Purple Martins, I say "Good Luck, and Good Hunting!"

Addendum 070713:  Found one Japanese Beetle, a female this time, on 'Folksinger'.  Hopefully, there are no children to mourn her loss.  I also found one of the "different beetles" on a rose.  I'm going to have to catch the next one and send it to K-State entomology.

Addendum 070813:  Found another male last night on 'Morden Sunrise'.  Then found two beetles this morning 'Folksinger' (one male and one female, the male escaped). 

Addendum 071113:  Found another male on Therese Bugnet.  Collected this one and preserved to show the Master Gardener's group and to prove I'm identifying them right!

Addendum 071313:  Found another Beetle on 'Sir Thomas Lipton' where I could see it (I still can't see the top).  They've resorted to trying a stealth entry into the garden.

Addendum 071613:  One beetle on 'Martin Frobisher'

Friday, July 5, 2013

New Purple Roses

ProfessorRoush must have been in a purple mood when he ordered roses this year because at least two of my new roses are deeply and darkly purple and others also have some murky red tones.  The large velvety single at the left is 'Basye's Purple Rose', a rose that I had grown before for a couple of years and then inexplicably lost in the first year of the recent drought.  I simply couldn't continue without 'Basye's Purple' in my garden, so I quickly replaced it.

'Basye's Purple Rose' is a Hybrid Rugosa shrub rose bred by Dr. Basye in 1968 as a cross between R. rugosa and R. foliolosa    As the photo illustrates, this is a large (2.5 inch diameter) single rose with a deep velvety texture and large orangish-yellow stamens.  I detect little or no fragrance in the rose and it doesn't seem to form hips in any appreciable number.  It is supposed to be a 5 foot shrub, but my former specimen only made it to three feet and the current one is about the same size at 2 years of age.  'Basye's Purple Rose' does bloom in flushes, but it seems to cycle slowly for me; 3-4 flushes per year seem to be the maximum.  Except for the death of my previous shrub, it seems to be a very healthy bush, with no blackspot or mildew on the mildly rugose leaves and few, if any, insect problems.  It is fully cane-hardy here in Zone 6A. This year it was the last rose to bloom during the "first flush" in my garden.

One nice surprise is that 'Basye's Purple' has new canes that are strikingly red and strikingly thorny compared to the old canes (see the photo above right).  No, folks, that's not Rose Rosette disease, it's just the way they're supposed to look.  Somewhere in development, those prickles must drop off because the overall bush is not that thorny.

My second new purple rose, pictured to the right, is the old Hybrid Gallica rose 'Tuscany Superb'.  I've lusted for this rose for years and finally found a source.  In its second year in my garden, it stands around 2 feet tall and a foot wide and these were its first blooms here at home.  This rose is a hard rose to photograph for me because I can't seem to get the color right.  In real life, this rose is darker and has more blue tones than this picture shows.  'Tuscany Superb' was bred by Rivers prior to 1837 and is said to be a seedling of the ancient Gallica named 'Tuscany', although several sources say the bushes and roses of this "father-son" pair are hard to tell apart.  Tuscany Superb' is fully double (around 60 petals) with a deep dark purple/red color and a moderate Gallica fragrance.  Once-blooming, and hardy, it is completely disease-free for me, without even the hint of powdery mildew that many Gallica's have in my garden.   'Tuscany Superb' has already ended its bloom and  receded into the green background as other roses begin their second flush, but I'll look forward to its bloom as a larger shrub next year. 

I'll have another dark red/purple rose to show you soon, a Buck rose, but I just got the first bloom from it today and I'm waiting for a good picture of subsequent blooms.  Stay tuned for a little known jewel that I hope is going to become a star in my garden.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Native Rain Garden

Cobaea Penstemon
ProfessorRoush is feeling a little vindicated this summer at the prairie revival occurring in his back yard.  As faithful readers know, three years ago I stopped mowing most of the gentle slope between my back patio and the main garden beds, an area I had mowed for 10 straight summers.  I began to let the prairie heal itself, only mowing once a year in late winter. This action has caused no small amount of angst in the household, since Mrs. ProfessorRoush envisions the house and garden as surrounded by a carefully manicured lawn, and she protests loudly and regularly that she wishes that I would just mow those areas.  Unfortunately for her, Mrs. ProfessorRoush married me, a gardener whose urges towards order and socially-acceptable gardening practices are always willing to play second fiddle to my innate laziness and personal distaste of any work that can't be also be classified as fun.  In defense of Mrs. ProfessorRoush, she has offered to mow the lawn for me, a nice gesture that I declined for fear that she'd scalp the entire horizon.
Black-Sampson Echinacea
Mowing the lawn has never, ever been my idea of fun, although NOT mowing has provided me no end of merriment.  For instance, there was the day when the local Prairie Garden club came to view my roses.  These pro-natural-gardening women were horrified at the mere idea that Mrs. ProfessorRoush felt that the Penstemon cobaea pictured above should be mowed along with the grass.  In fact, their reactions were similar to those of another strong Kansas woman, Carrie Nation, when she was presented with the opening of a new brewery.  I was worried for a minute that they would storm the house and stone Mrs. ProfessorRoush.  One after another, visitors to my garden support my decision to allow the garden to grow au natural.   I recognize that asking other gardeners for their opinions on the value of native plantings is a bit like asking Republicans if they favor tax cuts, but perhaps Mrs. ProfessorRoush won't make the connection and then import a group of rampant suburban Stepford Wives to outvote my supporters.

In the droughts of the last two years, I often wondered if I'd have grass, let alone flowers, in this area, but this year a wave of penstemon developed in one area and, several weeks later, the Black-Sampson Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia) were blooming hither and yon over another area at the same time as the Catclaw Sensitive Briar (Mimosa quadrivalvis) was blooming.  Not a bad succession of flowers, if I do say so myself.  Most recently, the Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea) has begun to decorate the prairie from horizon to horizon.  I can't wait to see what comes after that.  Obviously, I'm hoping that these native flowers spread over the years and provide me with a free garden full of entertainment.

Purple Prairie Clover
The prairie grasses themselves go on forever here, happily growing with any water that falls with intermittent storms or hoarding the water they capture more regularly from the morning dews.  Entire urban landscape departments are focused on creating and maintaining "rain gardens" to help decrease runoff and conserve natural rainfall, but all I have to do is stop mowing the grass on my slopes to see the ground begin to soak up every drop.  I've got the rain garden to end all rain gardens here. This year the grass is already twice as tall as in either of the past two years, and it threatens to hide the main garden from my sight for the month of August, a good month to ignore the weeds in the rose beds and stay indoors anyway.  By September, I'll be somewhere off admiring my late blooming Sumac, but will someone please send out a backyard search party for Mrs. ProfessorRoush if she disappears?  She's afraid the grass will grow so tall, she might get lost in it, or worse, find a snake.  Either occurrence would be unfortunate for my health.  

Monday, July 1, 2013

In Glory, the Sky

There are moments here on the prairie, exhilarating and yet satiating, when the Kansas sky flows deep down into my soul to quench the fires that often rage within.  Summer scorch, drought, floods, grasshoppers, late Spring freezes, winter ice, and tornadoes, all merely are prices we choose to pay in exchange for sunsets like this, golden and tranquil along the western horizon.  This blessing from a particularly merciful Deity came last Friday night after the passing of the storm cell pictured below, a knot of winds and rain rolling first from southwest to northeast as I was lamenting that it was going to slide past us to the north, but then suddenly shifting south under the influence of prayer and anguish and proceeding to drown my sorrows from a thundering heaven.  Before anyone asks, these pictures were taken without a filter, the world presented here as it appeared in, as they say, "living color," the sun and sky conspiring to beauty despite their amateur photographer.

A strange sequence filled the heavens after the storm.  First, an emerald haze formed to the south and east, lightning and thunder chasing the rain and roiling clouds into the darkness of the night.  Then, on its heels, a low bank of clouds appeared in the north and west as in the photograph below, fluffy and solid, a line of marshmallows aglow against the setting sun.  If the Rapture had come at that moment, sweeping across the earth with this silent wall of softness, I would have surely accepted the juncture as a fit beginning to the End of Time, perfectly executed and consummated.
The world didn't end, but the evening did as the sun sank into the westward clouds, leaving me not behind after The Rapture, but still in a state of rapture, thankful for the soaked earth and the colorful firmament glowing with glory, a tapestry of oranges and golds and pinks and yellows reflected off the wet ground to bid me a peaceful and restful night, the gardener's soul refreshed and satisfied. 


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