Thursday, November 28, 2013

Gratefully Thankful

ProfessorRoush is fully aware, and mildly abashed, that it has been quite some time since my last rose posting on this blog, but I promise that I'll get to one soon.  The next victim has, in fact, been chosen and is waiting in line.

Today, however, I awoke uncharacteristically grateful and I would be distinctly ungrateful if I ignored the feeling.  I'm not given to displays of random emotion, but I can't shunt aside the contented feeling warming me up on this cold Kansas morning.  I'm grateful for my life and my home and my love with Mrs. ProfessorRoush.  Grateful for my children, now almost grown and gone.  Grateful for the donkey's and the new barn cats and my garden. 

I'm grateful for the plants and life of the prairie.  I'm particularly grateful for the native blue sage that pops up randomly in my garden beds and provides a cooling reflection of the clear summer sky in the doldrums of August.  I'm grateful for the prairie grasses, and for the ample sunshine that makes it all possible.  I'm grateful for the mornings given to my life, fields dewy and golden with the rising furnace.

I'm extremely grateful for the Internet this morning, ready with all the information of the world at my touch-typing fingertips, including the origin of the word grateful.  ProfessorRoush's mind doesn't work in a straight line, often taking bends and u-turns through a maze of thought, and somewhere along this little piece of writing, I began wondering why we say that we are "full of grate."  There is no definition of "grate" in the English language (to sound harshly, to irritate, a frame of metal bars to hold wood) that seems pleasant.  Happily, a short search informed me that "grateful" derived from an obsolete meaning of grate as "pleasing", from the Latin grãtus as in gratitude, and that the first known use of "grateful" was in 1552.  It seems odd that "grateful" would have survived in the English language while "grate" no longer is defined as "pleasing."  It seems odd that I would even wonder about it.

But, strange as it is, I'm also grateful just to wonder about it.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Bluebird Harvest

While I was harvesting pecans, I was also taking advantage of that beautiful November Saturday to make my Bluebird house rounds.  I would rather do this annual chore now, in the sunshine and mild wind, traipsing up and down the hills through the tall grass, before the world gets cold and breezy again.

I'm pleased to report that 11 of 19 boxes, were occupied by Bluebirds this year, a record for me.   Eight of the eleven were boxes of my own North American Bluebird Society-approved design.  Of course, many of you remember the hatch group that I watched closely this year, raised in this nest (to the right) as it looks now and pictured during their growth period (below to the left).   If you haven't seen them before, this is a pretty typical nest for a bluebird, perhaps even a little on the cushy side.  Eastern Bluebirds are not, by any anthropomorphic comparison, very good architects and they seldom place more than an inch of unorganized grass in the bottom of their boxes, varying a little upon the depth of the box cavity.

Of the other eight boxes, two were completely unoccupied and six were occupied by whatever species in my area fills the entire box, top to bottom, with small twigs (House Wren?)  The latter six boxes were all close to the border of the trees in the draw.  I had placed them along that border but facing the open prairie, thinking that the Bluebirds would like the sites, but the Bluebirds seem to be drawn to boxes out in the middle of the grasses, on fence posts.  Since Bluebirds often start nesting in early February in this area, I presume they've got first choice on most of these boxes and are leaving the boxes around the woods and ponds for others.  I think this year I will move some of the woodline boxes out farther into the fields just to make sure I've got a surplus of Bluebird-approved housing in the area.

I have to be a bit careful, however, of my site selection.  I've found that the donkey's like to rub the boxes left within their reach, often to the point of knocking them down, so I've moved several boxes to the opposite side of the fence from the donkeys or into corners where the little brown asses will have trouble getting at them.  Ding and Dong must not like Bluebirds as much as I do.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Pecan Plenty

In the midst of a hectic early November, I almost forgot to collect pecans from my young tree, but after driving over them a few times, I did eventually notice that they had fallen from the tree and were awaiting harvest. 

Of course, my epiphany came when I was rushing around doing other things and so I picked them up as rapidly as possible and filled my pockets.  The ultimate result was this previously picked, pocketed, and photographed pile of perfect pecans placed on ProfessorRoush's kitchen counter.  There are, for those who want to know, 83 pecans in this pile.

Last year, I gathered about a dozen pecans from the tree at harvest, the first year it ever bore fruit.  If my crop proliferates at the rate of 83/12, or 6.92X per year, then next year I should harvest 574 pecans, and the year after I should get 3975 pecans, and then 27500 pecans in 2016, and 190348 pecans in 2017. 

I think I'll stop counting after that since I'll literally be rolling in pecans.  Or I can just start counting pecans by the dump truck load after 2017.  Pecan paradise awaits.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Rosette Reckoning

'The Magician' Rose Rosette
I suppose some are wondering why ProfessorRoush has been so quiet for the past 9 days?  I'd like to tell you that I've been on a fabulous vacation to a tropical isle, but truthfully I've just been swamped with lots to do and haven't the extra energy to write.  Well, that, and my gardening depression over what I'm about to show you.

Last Saturday, after the leaves finally were blasted off the roses by a cold spell, I used the opportunity of the bare stems to assay my roses for any signs of Rose Rosette disease.  And, of course, I found plenty of possible lesions, on 5 different roses to be specific.  One of the more definitive examples is pictured at the upper right, from a cane on 'The Magician', a recent shrub rose bred by Dr. John Clements.  The red arrow shows the thickened, thorny cane in question, originating from the much smaller branch indicated by the white arrow.

'Darlow's Enigma' Rose Rosette
Other lesions, such as that on 'Darlow's Enigma', pictured at the right, and 'Vanguard', pictured below left were a little less certain, but still highly suggestive.  The fourth and fifth possible victims are unfortunately two Griffith Buck roses, 'Iobelle' and 'September Song'. 

In the positive column, only a single cane was affected on each rose and each one high on the cane at that, and I wacked every one of these diseased canes off at the ground level in hopes that the virus didn't spread to the base.  I would also note that none of these roses are over 3 years old (are they thus more susceptible than established roses?) and that I found no lesions on any of  my Old Garden Roses or my "real" Rugosa Hybrids (I don't really count 'Vanguard' here since its foliage is not very rugose).

'Vanguard' Rose Rosette
On the negative side, two of these newly affected roses were Griffith Buck roses, increasing the affected number of those hybrids to 3/6 in my garden.  Thus 50% of the roses affected so far are Buck roses, although Buck roses do not account for nearly 50% of the roses in my garden.  Are they more susceptible?  Or am I seeing more on Buck hybrids because they constitute a majority of my "modern" rose hybrids; those that are not either Hybrid Rugosa or Old Garden Roses?  I don't know.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Still Life

I am well aware that the few roses in this vase are crumpled and frost damaged and certainly not the best representatives for my gardening skills.  I collected these last few buds from the garden Monday night just before a forecast hard freeze and it occurred to me that I should display their imperfect forms here for some of you who might believe that I don't grow any classic Hybrid Teas at all. 

Any Hybrid Tea roses in my garden have to earn their way in by fragrance, and they can only stay if they will return year after year in Zone 6B with minimal or no winter coddling and without regular fungal sprays.  Thus, I present to you 'Double Delight', 'Tiffany' (on the left) and two buds of 'Chrysler Imperial' (on the right).  I doubt that three more fragrant roses exist in all of the world.  In my garden, but not blooming right now, are also a decrepit 'Garden Party', a struggling 'Pristine', a miserable 'Granada', a scentless 'Touch of Class', two almost-scentless 'Olympiad',  and a mildewed and constantly balled-up, 'La France'.   'Double Delight' and 'Tiffany' are safe from my wrath, and I'll never live in a garden without 'Olympiad', but the rest of these interlopers constantly live at the precipice of spade-pruning.  Indeed, more than once I've expected and wished for  'Garden Party' and 'Pristine' to expire, only to see them send up a measly cane or two just to irritate me.  Some things just don't know when to die on their own.

I've always been particularly fond of 'Double Delight', however.  It is a marginal survivor in my area, but I fell in love with that overpowering sweet scent back in my adolescent rose-growing days before I knew better.  It was sort of like falling for the beautiful high school cheerleader before realizing that keeping her required you to spend all of your hard-earned minimum-wage money and future college funds on jewelry, ice cream, and restaurant meals.  Yes, she was nice to admire and hold and smell, but, darn it, she was still almost more trouble than she was worth.  And that was even without any bouts of fungus disease!  If you weren't a geeky nerd with no other similar female prospects, you'd have gotten rid of her years ago.  In the case of 'Double Delight', yes, it blackspots and it is an ugly garden bush and it throws up lots of double-centered flowers.  I do believe it is more even fragrant on its own roots than it is as a grafted bush, but if I wasn't still a geeky nerd at heart, I'd have shovel-pruned her long ago.  Or maybe not.  Where would I get another rose of that beauty, fungus or not?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ethereal Elegance

Extremely delicate or refined.   Almost as light as air.  Celestial or spiritual.  These definitions of "ethereal" all fit the last rose that shines defiant against the coming Winter in my garden.  Cheerful in spite of frost, embracing the sunlight from dawn to dusk, 'Betty Boop' carries alone the promise of delicate and refined beauty into the cold nights of November.  She may now be clothed in soiled foliage. and her days in warm sun may be numbered, but she blooms still, an angel of charm and elegance in the dying landscape.

I was struck yesterday, on a glorious, warm and bright Saturday afternoon, by the tableau of these bright yellow and red flowers against the now drab buffalograss nearby and the blanched prairie grasses of the distant background.  The individual blooms are stained here and there by the frozen dews, but the chilling nights of the past two weeks have made a porcelain study of the petals and deepened the contrast of yellow center and blushing edges.  While other roses in my garden have balled and browned, 'Betty Boop' still engages the gardener's soul with a passing glimpse, beckoning to close, to come hither and be smitten. 

There are lessons upon lessons here, in this rose, for one and for many.  The values of buoyancy and perkiness while the nearby world stands gloomy and grave.  The strength of fragility and softness in the defiance of certain destruction by the coming storms.  The lure of coy subtlety and refinement over blatant sexuality and wanton display.  The stolen embrace of sunshine and warmth during a fortuitous moment, returned back tenfold to the world in a smile.

Twas 'Betty Boop' who held my heart yesterday, calmed in her graceful hands.     

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Now? Really?

Like many other Texas-borne and -bred organisms, my Texas Red Yucca seems to be befuddled since it was transplanted from its native environment.  I have three plants, purchased on a whim after I saw them blooming in Las Vegas, and I am finding their bloom periods unpredictable at best.

Keep in mind that all three plants are the same age and size and they are cited about two feet apart in the same bed under the same tree.  Last year, two clumps bloomed, the center one starting in June and the south-most one in July, both continuing through September.  This year, the center clump didn't bloom at all.  The clump to the north end bloomed alone in June and has made a nice display all summer.  A closeup photo of the very long-lasting waxy flowers from that raceme is on the left, below.  Most recently, just a few days ago and after our first freeze here, I noticed two foot-high flower spikes growing on the southern-most clump as pictured to the above right.  Say what?  What possible natural signal would have enticed this plant to start blooming now? 

Talk about your messed up biologic cycles.  Land sakes, it must be more evidence of Global Warming!   Somebody please, quick, alert Al Gore!  He'll surely take action; at least, maybe, if you can pull him away from the millions he made selling his TV network to Al-Jazeera.

It will, at the very least, be interesting to see how the winter weather affects this raceme.  Will it shrivel up and turn brown and die?  Or will the waxy coating protect it from the frigid North winds and the dehydrating bright winter sun?  Will this stalk perhaps make it to March and then bloom in April, giving me 6 full months of bloom from a single stalk of flowers? 

No way could I get that lucky.  I'm predicting either a) a mouse will find these succulent stems delightful as a Christmas meal, or b) that the stress of the flowering stalk forming in late fall and into winter will result in the death of the plant, while its more intelligent neighbors bide their time and survive.  Or both.

Friday, November 1, 2013

I Want It!

ProfessorRoush doesn't often post pictures taken outside his own garden, but I can't resist posting this iPhone photo of a Halloween display that I encountered yesterday at a local horticulture proprietor.  Forget the Halloween paraphernalia, look at the garden table!  I took one look at this table, stained cement at about the perfect height for either "real" garden work like potting or for just display and ornaments, and I almost walked out the door with it despite the almost $400 price.  Shades of impulse buys, somebody purchase this thing before it lures me back!

I've never, ever, thought about a table in the middle of my garden, but somewhere in ProfessorRoush Fantasy Garden Land, this table, with its Griffon-style legs, stands adorned in Spring with forced pots of bulbs hidden among blooming wisteria vines.  There is a fat calico-furred feline soaking up the early Spring sunrays and lazily watching a torpid bumblebee lumbering near.  The view changes again in Summer, and I see the legs adorned in Jackmanii wisteria and a fragrant pink pillar rose draped over it along the back, butterflies floating slowly from bloom to bloom on placid early morning air currents.  I see this very table in September, arrayed with ornamental gourds and pumpkins, surrounded on the sides and back by tall 'Northwind' and Miscanthus 'Gracillimus' grasses.  What garden paradise can I create here with this eye-level cement muse?

Alas, while these beautiful vistas beckon, I can't escape from the realities of the Flint Hills.  I know that potted bulbs would be quickly swept off the bench by the Kansas winds of April, and the wisteria would likely refuse to bloom.  The fragrant pillar rose would rake across the table in Summer, scraping any contents to the ground in an instant.  The clematis would be wilting in the hot summer sun, particularly where it contacted the boiling concrete.  The colorful pumpkins and gourds of autumn would be whisked off to Missouri on the back of a thunderstorm while the grasses stood as silent guards around the cement tomb of summer's hopes.

Hey, look again at that picture.  It might not work out in my garden, but I think it would look great in yours!


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