Saturday, June 29, 2013

Nest Eggs

Like my friend Connie over at Hartwood Roses, ProfessorRoush has been marveling of late at the display of life represented in his garden by its more finely feathered inhabitants.  After spending the early Spring fretting that my self-designed Bluebird boxes had an unusual number of vacancies, the second wave of Bluebirds has hit and every box within easy sight of my garden is occupied by a bright blue aviator.  This picture, taken with my iPhone, was captured one night recently after I saw momma scoot off her nest in the box nearest my vegetable garden.  I'd watched her flying back and forth from the box for about three weeks.  Aren't they just a beautiful shade of blue?  About half the size of the Robin eggs I photographed earlier this year, these four eggs looked for all the world like delicate china just got shipped to me in a straw-padded box.

The very next day, by a happy coincidence, I looked again and those beautiful eggs had already been replaced with these jaundiced, mostly naked and very tired chicks.  Mamma Bluebird was not happy that I was back peering into the nest box.  I'm going to leave these babies alone for a couple of weeks, at least until I'm able to hear them crying for food as I pass by.  Sshhh...they're sleeping right now!

The Killdeer have also been busy feigning injury in an attempt to lure my lawnmower away from a certain patch of grass in the front yard.  They've undoubtedly  been bragging to their friends about their success in that endeavor, because a 6 foot diameter patch of my front lawn hasn't been mowed for 3 weeks now.  In the center of the grass, of course, is the usual clutch of four exquisitely camouflaged white and black speckled eggs.  In actual fact, if this spot looks familiar to you, it's the exact same rocky four inch area where a Killdeer couple hatched four babies in 2011 and I blogged about here.  Amazing, isn't it?  An acre of mowed prairie in my front yard and these parents pick the exact same spot to raise a brood.  Are they the same couple from two years ago?  Are they offspring from that nest?  Are there other factors about this spot that make it so attractive and so different from another rocky spot less than 2 feet away that I, a stupid human observer, would have said was nearly identical? 

All of which leaves me wondering;  Did the Killdeer just start nesting this particular spot since I built a home and started mowing the prairie for them?  Or have there been decades.... centuries.... millennia of Killdeer offspring born on this same patch of earth, in the grazing grounds of ancient buffalo?  I'm just shivering in delight at that thought.

Update 6/29/13, 8:26 am:  Mrs. ProfessorRoush mentioned to me last night that she had seen a "bunch" of little birds and two big ones running around the front driveway.  I checked this morning, and sure enough the Killdeer eggs hatched, sometime between Thursday evening and yesterday evening.  Four little balls of fluff on stilt legs running around being inefficiently herded by two anxious parents who seemed to be dividing their efforts;  one to corral babies and the other to feign injury and lead me away.  How can a 0.5X1.0 inch egg turn into a chick about 4 inches tall and 2 inches around almost overnight?  And we humans complain about how fast our children outgrow their clothes!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Wild Ginger Woes

My, that's a beautiful rose, isn't it?  This exquisitely formed and delicately colored Hybrid Tea-style bud belongs to 'Wild Ginger', a 1976 introduction by Dr. Griffith Buck.  Unfortunately, this is one of only two decent pictures I've ever been able to take of this rose.  If 'Wild Ginger' was a human being, I would say that she was camera shy, but the truth is that she just seems to be an unphotogenic muse.  For a rose bred from a seedling of 'Queen Elizabeth' and 'Ruth Hewitt' crossed with the pollen of 'Lady Elgin', she's also not very regal in form. 

'Wild Ginger' has been growing in my garden for 4 years, and that beautiful bud perfectly represents the always unfulfilled promise of this rose, an instant of perfection followed by inevitable disappointment.  Maybe this roses' failings are my fault; a placement too shaded by taller shrubs around it, a lack of air circulation leading to disease or too much competition from nearby perennials.  Perhaps this is just a rare Buck rose that doesn't meet my expectations.  It might do well in some climates or microenvironments but it surely doesn't like where I placed it in my garden.

Officially an orange-blend Grandiflora, 'Wild Ginger' grows tall but has given me only a few sparse 4 foot tall canes that whip and often break in the Kansas winds.  Blooms are mildly double and large, with 20 petals or so, with a mild fruity fragrance, but I see them borne singly more often than clustered.  The buds are indeed beautifully colored, but they open quickly into flat, disorganized messes.  Even when partially open, the petals often seem misshapen or deformed like the photo at right.  The orange and pink and tan color shadings are definitely "to die for", but the petals spot quickly with rain and are often affected by Botrytis blight.  'Wild Ginger' has dark green semi-glossy leaves, but they are prone to blackspot and the overall bush form is more like a spiky Hybrid Tea than a nice shrub rose.

In a nutshell, as beautiful as she is, 'Wild Ginger' is a soiled dove in my garden, prone to fungus, blemished, and frankly not very attractive below the neck.  I hope that somewhere, there's a climate where she stays more groomed and less diseased, and I intend to give her a chance in more sunlight as soon as I can get a cutting started from my sole own-root plant.  That action might just be an antiquated male reflex to save a soiled dove, but I can't give up on a beautiful lady without trying at least once to see how she'll do in a palace with clean clothes. 



Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Garden Bookoholics Anonymous

It is not often that ProfessorRoush steps away from his libertarian politics and asks for action by the authorities-that-be, but someone really needs to step in and close down Half-Price Books before this vile, crack-den masquerading as a commercial enterprise drags me deeper into garden book addiction and debt.

We should form a club of garden book addicts, calling it Garden Bookoholics Anonymous or something similar, with our own twelve-step program.   I'm already a member of Garden Statueholics Anonymous, so I'm already halfway down that path anyway.  I've always enjoyed reading garden-related literature, particularly essay-type pieces based on experience, but whenever I cross over the threshold of Half-Price Books, I seem to fall into an abyss, wild-eyed and avid, with no evident self-restraint or shame.  Take last week for example.  I was on an innocent visit to my parent's home and wasting time while my wife shopped, when I happened across this local book-pusher's establishment.  On the feeble justification that I only had a few minutes and wasn't likely to buy anything, I stepped inside.  In hindsight, I now recognize that such excuses are common among addicts;  "I only tried the Burgundy to see if it differed from the Boone's Farm," or "I only stepped inside the strip joint to see what it was like," are identical in intent, if not in prose. 

In five minutes I walked out with 6 hard-back books, all purchased at "a bargain," and all irresistible to a garden-book collector.  How could I deny that I needed Gardening With Grasses by Piet Oudolf himself?  How to abstain from the pleasures of Suzy Bale's The Garden in Winter?  Peter Loewer is a well-known garden author and I couldn't forgo Thoreau's Garden, could I?  Growing Roses Organically just spoke directly to my rose-nut soul and I listened.  A trip to another Half-Price Books addict den two days later yielded another four books.  Jefferson's Garden by Loewer was another classic.  Bizarre Botanicals was essential in case I ever wanted to grow a Venus Flytrap or some other tropical monstrosity.  McNaughton's Lavender, The Grower's Guide had some beautiful pictures that might help me identify the varieties in my presently-blooming lavender bed.

As others with similar addiction know, I've previously reported cataloguing my garden books collection on a nifty little phone app, and it came in handy on my recent binge, preventing me from buying books I already own.  To reveal the depths of my depravity, I will note here that my collection now includes 486 gardening-related books.  Yes, I know that one is not supposed to reveal the extent of one's collectibles on the Internet in case enterprising thieves are lurking, but I feel there is little danger that someone will break in to steal my garden book collection.  Anyone who wants the collection for their own use deserves only my sympathy and pity, and, for money-motivated thieves, the whole collection is probably worth about $12.78 if sold to a second-hand book store.

Gardening bibliophiles with a similar addiction, please repeat after me.  "I admit that I am powerless against the lure of books by Sydney Eddison and Henry Mitchell and Sara Stein."  "I hope to believe that a Power greater than myself can restore sanity (if not God, at least a forceful spouse might intervene)."  "I will continue to take inventory and promptly admit when I've bought a bad book."   Oops, that last one may not help. Curses, a pox on Half-Price Books!  I don't really want to stop.  Can it really be that terrible if my garden book addition keeps me away from the Devil's Brew and out of strip clubs? 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Distant Drums Disclosure

'Distant Drums', fully exposed
ProfessorRoush finally conceded to convention this summer and purchased the widely-acclaimed Griffith Buck rose 'Distant Drums'.  This uniquely-colored rose has been rising in popularity over the past few years, but I'd previously resisted it because that same unique-color just turned me off.  It always seemed a little murky, a little too mauve, for my tastes, and so I inevitably opted for other rose choices each time I considered it. 

I had sort of obliquely promised that I'd try 'Distant Drums' to Rev. Keneda of Red Dirt Roses last year, however and since I'm giving an upcoming talk this Fall about the Griffith Buck roses, I decided that I shouldn't give it without at least a season growing 'Distant Drums'.  I asked for it for Father's Day but it didn't appear, so I did what any good father would do and purchased it for myself under the premise that I am a decent father and deserved it.  In reality, my family probably wouldn't have gotten the name right anyway and I might have instead been given some hideous Hybrid Tea like 'Big Daddy' or one of the two frightful Floribunda's named 'Drummer Boy', so this seemed the simpler and more direct approach.

'Distant Drums' is a shrub rose introduced by Buck in 1984.  Officially a mauve or purple blend, I believe the bloom color of this rose varies with the temperature and season.  I've seen it as very "mauvey" coming from the greenhouse, but so far my (unfortunately) grafted specimen has fortunately been more orange and pink, a color combination that I approve of.  It seems to start with pinkish-mauve buds and then open up with gold tones to reflect the Kansas sun.  It will be interesting to see what it does this Fall as cooler weather hits.

'Distant Drums', early bud opening
The very double blooms have a strong fragrance and it blooms both singly and in clusters on a healthy bush with medium green foliage.  Obviously, I can't attest to winter hardiness of this offspring of 'September Song' X 'The Yeoman', but I expect it is fully winter hardy in my climate.  I can tell you that I've got a young own-root 'September Song' that was also started this Spring and I'm very impressed with it's rebloom rate, so I've got high hopes for the rebloom of 'Distant Drums'. 

As I look over the reviews and marketing for this rose, it is no wonder that 'Distant Drums' is growing in popularity.  A writer from Ellensburg WA wrote "This is an unusual color rose - sort of a coffee/cream inner color, fading to a mauve outer color. It has an antique look to it - very old fashioned feminine."  Feminine?  Obviously this writer is wrong because 'Distant Drums' seems to be a male rose to me.  The Weeks Roses tag that came with my rose was nauseatingly effusive: "Stop, Look, and listen up!...Distant Drums grows much like a Floribunda in habit, drumming out clusters of pointed brunette buds that swirl open to revel ruffles washed with orchid pink.  All this set to music against dark green foliage makes for a toe-tapping commotion in the landscape."  A toe-tapping commotion?  Hmmm, I haven't toe-tapped in my garden for some time.  And what, pray tell, is a "brunette bud"?  If Mrs. ProfessorRoush finds me growing other brunettes in my garden, I'll surely find myself bedding down in the gazebo. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Ambrosia Abounding

The quote "Earth laughs in flowers," is from a Ralph Emerson poem named Hamatreya, and it really doesn't have the sweet, happy meaning that everyone attributes to it.  In Emerson's poem, the Earth is literally laughing at Man; any Man who dares to presume that a portion of Earth is his, denying that man dies while the Earth endures....laughing at us with flowers.

I realized today that "my Earth" laughs at me too, only it laughs in Ambrosia artemisiifolia.  That's Common Ragweed to you and I, also known as Annual Ragweed.  Everywhere that I sink spade in soil, this pernicious weed pops up.  I never see it on the unbroken prairie and I've never let it set seed in my garden, but I would estimate, from the frequency it crops up as a weed, that half of the mass of any given spadeful of my soil must actually be ragweed seed.  

I had an infestation in my iris bed this year so bad that I considered, for a time, selling the house merely to rid myself of it.  Here it is (above), growing in the middle of a daylily.  There it is (below), hiding at the roots of a rose.  It spreads, I think both by runners and seed.  It laughs, I know, at my feeble attempts to remove it.  It's partially resistant to glyphosate, shrugging off the first blasts from the sprayer like it was being watered.  I suspect that it suppresses growth in plants who dare to grow in the same soil with it, like a walnut tree with soft velvety leaves and a pollen that brings tears to the eyes of man.

I've got a hunch that the very name, Ambrosia, was a joke by Linnaeus himself.  Ambrosia, of course, was the food of the Greek gods, thought to bestow immortality to those who consumed it.  "Food of the gods," my royal hiney!  The only immortality ragweed provides is to itself.  Once established, it's impossible to unestablish. 

My favorite wildflower website, kswildflower, lists the habitat of Common Ragweed as "disturbed sites, roadsides, waste areas, prairies, pastures, stream banks, pond and lake margins, old fields, fallow fields; wet to dry soils."  Mull on that for a moment.  Ragweed grows anywhere that the soil is disturbed, like it was created for the sole purpose of badgering mankind.  Each plant produces over a billion grains of highly allergenic pollen in a year.  I don't believe all that pollen is necessary just for reproduction.  Perhaps one billion pollen grains per plant is just the Earth's way of getting even with us for disturbing it. 

Crabby old Emerson was  only partially right.  The Earth doesn't laugh at our fleeting folly in flowers.  It laughs in ragweed.  Thoreau probably learned that at Walden's Pond, but never bothered to tell Emerson.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Vie et mort dans le jardin

The Spider and the Fly is a poem by Mary Howitt (1799-1888), published in 1829. The first line of the poem, "Will you walk into my parlour?' said the Spider to the Fly," is one of the most quoted lines of poetry, although I would guess that most of us wouldn't know anything about the author or the rest of the poem.

The quoted line sprang quick and sure into my mind when I looked at this recent photo of 'Leda', the multicolored Alba that so vexes my rose-growing abilities.  The second line of the poem, "'Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy," certainly fits this blushing rose; so delicate and beautiful if caught at the right moment.  This spider set up shop on main street, following classic marketing principles of visibility, attractiveness, and access.  Business, it appears, is good in this neighborhood.

I don't think I knew the spider and the fly were there when the photo was taken.  Still, here they are, caught up in the struggle of life and death within my garden, a still life in my personal version of an NSA spy drone, the camera lens of my Canon capturing the moment.  I wonder, does the spider care that I've captured it in the moment of conquest?  No matter that the gardener thinks he controls the garden, I am reminded again that I am merely another tool in this garden; a tool to provide water and mulch and flowers for the vast symphony of life that ebbs and flows beneath the surface.

Howitt's poem is a cautionary tale to warn the unwary about evil creatures who use flattery and charm to draw us in, and she ends with the words "Unto an evil counselor close heart and ear and eye, And take a lesson from this tale of the spider and the fly."  She was obviously writing as an advocate for the fly, but once written and distributed, words and meanings are subject to interpretation and change by the greater world, much to the chagrin of many an author or politician.  As a gardener, I'm rooting strongest here for the maligned little spider.  This minuscule fly probably wasn't harming my garden, but if it sustains the spider until the first fat, juicy Japanese Beetle comes lumbering by, then it was well worth the sacrifice.  Predator and prey, dancing together through the cycle of life.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Lively Lightening

Oh, dear!  As you can see, ProfessorRoush was gone from home for several days, but came back just in time to play with his iLightningcam iPhone app.  I thought this was the best shot of the evening and it should therefore lead the blog.  I just love the blues and purples that are brought out in the photos.

I got home in the early evening, quickly mowed the worst of the overgrown grass in front of the house, and was witness to this lovely sunset:

Which rapidly darkened and turned into this:

And this:

We didn't get much rain with this system, but at least I got a little fun out of it.  If you're wondering how long it takes to capture these, I had all of these within about 5 minutes of turning on the camera. As I wrote before about this iPhone app, it is also supposed to be good at capturing fireworks and this coming July 4th will be my first opportunity to test it.  You can be sure I won't miss it!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Buttery Beauty

I've long nurtured a 'Rosenstadt Zweibrücken' that was almost smothered by a similarly-flowered shrub, my 8 foot tall and wide 'Freisinger Morgenröte' (who makes up these German names anyway?!).  Both have been present in my oldest rose berm for better than 10 years, but the 'Rosenstadt Zweibrücken' disappeared for a couple of years, only to peek out two years ago and struggle a bit since then, caught between the Freisinger and my tall 'Alexander MacKenzie'.  I keep pruning things away so it will get light and survive and it does just that, but no more.

'Rosenstadt Zweibrücken', or KORstasis, is a small remonant pink blend shrub rose of 3 to 5 feet at maturity (mine is about 3 feet tall), that was bred by W. Kordes & Sons in 1989.  The German name roughly means "Rose City"  and Zweibrücken is a city in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, on the Schwarzbach river.  At first glance, you wouldn't think much of the flowers on this shrub; semi-double, only about 2.75" in diameter and without any fragrance, but each individual flower in this clustered rose is a masterpiece of delicacy.  The finely veined pink on the outer petals turns to yellow at the center as if the ample golden stamens were reflected onto the flower.  It seems only moderately healthy in my garden, but since it tries to grow in the shadows of taller roses, I might be more to blame than the rose.  I do have to watch it for blackspot, but again, part of that might be the environmental stress it lives under.

This year, my 'Rosenstadt Zweibrücken' (also known as Spanish Enchantress or Morningrose) surprised me by opening up this perfectly butter yellow bloom next to the regular pink/yellow blend flowers.  At this point, I'm not yet sure if this flower is a sport or just some quirk of the weather, but the unopened buds around it seem yellow as well and you can bet I'll keep an eye on this cane to see if that color holds true.  The world just can't have too many reblooming butter-yellow roses.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Blue Grass Marriages

Sigh....Mrs. ProfessorRoush informed me late last week that my "blue grass" was looking very pretty.  Like many gardeners, deeply engaged into my own vision of the garden, I asked "what blue grass?" wondering if perhaps a long-deceased small clump of blue fescue (Festuca glauca) had miraculously reappeared in my peony bed.  Alas, Mrs. ProfessorRoush had merely noticed and appreciated that the various lavender species were blooming in the rock edging just outside our back door.

It's a broad divide, this chasm between gardening and non-gardening spouses, seemingly as unbreachable as the differences which currently divide the red and blue state mentalities.  Like many such marriages, ours is tested by a constant skirmish between the siren call of the garden and the mundane honey-do chores of changing light bulbs and tightening the screws of kitchen drawer handles.  Mrs. ProfessorRoush has recently offered the preliminary terms of a truce, taking over watering of the windowsill boxes of herbs on the deck and the two containers of annuals near the front door, and I very much appreciated and accepted this initial overture, even though I sometimes notice wilting basil and begonias and am thus compelled to remind her that it is time to water.

Mrs. ProfessorRoush has further offered to help me in mowing and weeding chores, but I have so far rejected both proposals out of hand.  Mowing was rejected for reasonable and practical reasons.  I bag lawn clippings and use them as mulch at this time of the year.  Mrs. ProfessorRoush is unable to repeatedly lift and empty the two 80lb bags, which is actually viewed as a virtue by a gardening husband who sleeps more secure in the knowledge that she would be unable to move and bury a body without help.  There are some parts of my gardening persona that would welcome help with the weeding, but those fools are shouted down by the isolationist gardener in me.  Like the East Germans of the early 1990's, I'm deeply afraid of the consequences of tearing down the Wall.  Comments about our "pretty blue grass" provoke gruesome mental images of a newly-weeded bed, ragweed standing proudly among the uprooted and dehydrating carcasses of irises and daylilies. Oh, the carnage! Oh, the horror!

I am content, at present, simply to accept this unsolicited compliment from a non-gardening spouse and to let the slowly grinding wheels of diplomacy work through the other issues.  As I age, I recognize that I may someday need help lifting the clipping bags myself, and I may also be less reticent about the occasional loss of a few defenseless yarrow.  Aging, however, also carries the dangers of still more conflict.  I might, for instance, expect more help from a similarly aging spouse while Mrs. ProfessorRoush might envision hiring a work force of muscular, sweaty, shirtless young men to trim the roses.  If the latter is my destiny, then I simply welcome the growing gender equality of the workforce and must make sure that I remain in charge of the interview process.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


If I have raved over 'Vanguard', it's only fair that I also list my biggest disappointment of the "new-to-me" roses.  If I set aside my concerns over several roses from last year that didn't make it through the drought (and thus may not have been given a fair chance), my most disappointing new rose is 'Frühlingsmorgen'. 

'Frühlingsmorgen' (or "Spring Morning") is a Hybrid Spinosissima bred by Wilhelm Kordes II in 1942.  The large pink and white single flowers are very attractive on any given website, including helpmefind, but my young specimens do not resemble any picture I can find of this rose.  I obtained two 'Frühlingsmorgen' from Heirloom Roses last year and while both have single blooms, the resemblance stops there.

 Mine start as uniform very light pink (no "halo" effect of pink surrounding primrose yellow centers), and they fade very quickly, within hours, to white.  More importantly, even though they are young roses and 2-3 feet tall at this time, the blooms are perhaps one inch in diameter, a far cry from the 4 inch diameter blooms that are supposed to come from this rose.  My specimens also appear less thorny than other website pictures of this rose.

The foliage is healthy, although not very Spinosissima-like.  These roses, whatever they are, were hardy enough without winter protection so I can't complain on that end.  If they didn't start out pink, however, I would think that I had been given more 'Darlow's Enigma'.   
If anyone has any other ideas, I'm happy to hear them.  Perhaps the very moist stigmas of these flowers will aid in the identification.  I expect the female parts of flowers to be moist to collect pollen, but these seem almost overly....sticky.  Gooey.  I don't mean to be a prude, but they are almost embarrassing in an anthropomorphic sort of way (click the photos to blow them up).  I've looked for similar roses on Heirloom's web site and nothing else seems likely there.  I know that sometimes young roses don't resemble their mature forms, so I guess I'll wait this one out, although I've got a year now to wait, since 'Frühlingsmorgen' is a once blooming rose.  Perhaps this rose will yet quiet my worries and have the yellow fall foliage that is characteristic of  'Frühlingsmorgen'.  If I'm very lucky.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Vivacious Vanguard

As the first flush of roses dissipates here on the prairie, I've been disappointed by a few "new-to-me" roses and surprised and delighted by several, but there have been none yet that I've been happier with than a little-acclaimed Hybrid Rugosa named 'Vanguard'.

'Vanguard' is a 1932 rose bred by  Glendon A. Stevens, a little-known rosarian from Pennsylvania.  'Vanguard' is a breeding of  a seedling of R. wichuraiana and R. rugosa 'Alba' crossed with the old Hybrid Tea 'Eldorado'.  Although there have been two recent more roses named 'Eldorado',  the parent of 'Vanguard' must have been the orange-blend 1923 Pernetiana Hybrid Tea by Howard and Smith.  'Vanguard' was introduced by Jackson & Perkins and is officially described as salmon-orange, with pink edges.  I can't figure out why the rose is not better known, but perhaps it is because little is written about it and some of that is not positive.  Peter Beales, in Classic Roses, describes it as "a vigorous shrub, rather untypically Rugosa, and well-foliated with glossy, bronze green leaves." Suzy Verrier, in Rosa Rugosa, doesn't say a lot that is complimentary about the rose, claiming it is barely hardy in her climate and has excessive winterkill. In a comment on, Paul Barden said "it leaves a great deal to be desired, in my opinion."   Osborne sand Powning do list it in Hardy Roses, but hardy to only zone 5. lists it as hardy to 4B.  I can only add that it had no winter die-back at all here in 6A in its first winter.

Truthfully, to my eye, the rose is a blend of pinks, oranges, and yellows, varying with the weather. Flowers seem to be more pink in colder and wetter weather and yellow as the day warms.  The blossoms start out with Hybrid-Tea form, but then open up huge, just huge, about 5 inches across, borne singly or in pairs, and mildly double with about 25 petals.  It has a strong and sweet Rugosa-type fragrance and sparse but sharp thorns.  It is labeled as once blooming by Verrier, with rare rebloom by Paul Barden, but repeat-blooming by Beales and in Hardy Roses.  The websites of Rogue Valley Roses, from which I obtained my rose, and Vintage Roses also both list it as a mild rebloomer, so I do have some hope that Verrier and Barden were, for once, wrong and that I'll see late summer blooms of 'Vanguard'.  Perhaps this rose varies rebloom by the climate.  I don't know yet if 'Vanguard' forms hips, but some Rugosa-type large red hips would be a perfect Fall finish for the rose.

I think 'Vanguard' is going to become a very large rose here in Kansas, living up to its reported 10 foot height in the references.  My one-year-old specimen is already almost 5 foot tall, much taller than the 7 other roses planted in that bed at the same time.  It has a nice vase-like structure at this age and I can already see several new canes starting for next year.

One of the biggest assets of this rose is surely going to be the mildly-rugose light green and completely disease free foliage. In fact, when a local professional horticulturist toured my garden looking for peonies to divide for the KSU rose garden, this rose's foliage caught his eye quickly and he had to stroll over to examine it closer.  'Vanguard' is reported to be rust susceptible, which could be an issue in some climates, but I've never seen rust on any rose in my garden. 

'Vanguard' won the ARS Dr. W. Van Fleet Medal in 1933 and the David Fuerstenberg Prize (ARS) in 1934.  It may not win any awards in your garden, but it has the "best of show in its first year" award from me this Summer.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Misc. Garden Crap

No, literally; "Miscellaneous Garden Crap."  ProfessorRoush collects and archives many garden photos, and sometimes, when I am wanting to provide readers a break from my unstoppable barrage of rose worship, I pull up something else to talk about.  For today's blog, I actually have two photos linked by a common theme.

'Earth Song' Rose and Caterpillar Frass
The first, shown at the right, was taken in mid-May at the Kansas State University Rose Garden.  It is a picture, if you look closely, of a partially-eaten 'Earth Song' bud, complete with the "frass" manufactured as a result of digestion of this former beautiful bud.  If you look closely, you'll also discern the green side of the responsible
rose caterpillar visible in the large hole in the center and presumably still happily munching away.  For those unfamiliar with the word "frass", it is defined as "debris or excrement produced by insects."  In plain words:  insect poop.  I cannot identify the culprit species since there are lots of caterpillars that eat rose buds and since I am far from expert at soft-bellied immature insect identification.  My control method for this infestation, after I took the photos, was to remove the affected bud en masse and smash it under my heel.  Hey, sue me, most of these rose caterpillars are unexciting small brown moths and I'm more partial to the roses, myself.  Anyway, I submit this photo as the prime internet source for a photo of rose caterpillar frass for those who need a picture.

Evidence photo related to pending cat-icide
On a similar theme, I've seen a lot written lately about the supposed devastation of garden birds by resident and feral cats, but I learned this morning of perhaps a better reason to keep cats and gardeners apart.   I had left a sizable bag of potting soil open in my garage and Mrs. ProfessorRoush's calico cat had, well, let us just say it decided it was too lazy to leave the cool garage for the hot afternoon sun and sought out the nearest convenient litter pan.  Sorry about the slightly fuzzy hand-held picture but I was not about to drag this bag out into the morning sunlight to get a faster exposure at 6:00 am.   I haven't decided yet if I'm going to keep using this bag of potting soil.  On the plus side, Mrs. ProfessorRoush's stupid cat has probably only increased the nutrient value of this soilless mix.  On the negative, I'm just worried about what I might find buried deeper in the bag.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Plentiful Panoramas

ProfessorRoush recently joined the technologically-addicted Mrs. ProfessorRoush and her diminutive clone and upgraded from my archaic iPhone 4 straight to the iPhone 5.  It wasn't, if you are wondering, because I was jealous that I couldn't talk to Siri, nor was it because I thought the i5 was an actual improvement for web-surfing.  I was simply envious of the picture quality improvement over the iPhone 4 after witnessing several rose photos that Mrs. ProfessorRoush has been furtively taking and then posting to Facebook.

What I didn't know before purchase, but quickly discovered, was that panoramic collages can be produced by the iPhone 5 by any idiot able to stand still and swivel their hips.  Now, I'll admit that the images are not perfect, being an iPhone and all, but they do serve to tell a tale.  Witness a panorama of my back landscaping taken last night:

Blooming left to right are 'Morden Centennial' (barely glimpsed), 'Christopher Columbus', 'Jeanne Lavoie', 'Zephirine Drouhin', 'Morden Blush', Prairie Joy', 'Carefree Beauty', 'David Thompson',  'Fantin Latour', and 'Madame Hardy'.  I've used the original 5mb files so you can blow them up and look closer.  Neat to get it all in one picture, eh?

My "East Rose Berm," pictured above, starts out on the left with the last few first flush bright red flowers of 'Robusta', then orange 'Alchymist', 'Adelaide Hoodless', a pink mislabeled rose that I bought as 'Charles de Mills' but which I suspect is 'Constance Spry', 'Pink Grootendorst' with darker pink 'William Baffin' in the background, 'Madame Hardy' and 'Cardinal de Richelieu' on either side of my "Aga Marsala" statue, and finally another 'Robusta' that has finished blooming.  There is a small bed to the right in which can be seen 'Belinda's Dream' in front of 'Westerland', Purple Pavement', 'Salet', and 'Golden Princess'. 

'Banshee', first bloom of 2013
In essence, I think the iPhone 5 takes some decent pictures and some not-so-good images, depending on what you're looking for, but the panoramas are a nice option.  The iPhone seems to be hideous on reds; red roses turn out both poor in color tone and in focusing, but it can take some very nice photos of whites and blush pinks.  I thought the photo of 'Banshee', on the right, came out just perfect on the first try!  It's not ready to replace a good Canon or Nikon yet, however.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Calling Docteur Jamain

'Souvenir du Docteur Jamain'
There are many, many new roses blooming in ProfessorRoush's garden and I am fairly giddy about most of my acquisitions from last year.  I have some exciting and fabulous roses blooming for the first time on this Kansas prairie and I'll feature them each as I gain more information about their hardiness and response to the Kansas climate.  A handful of the new roses have been disappointments as well, and I will, in turn, reveal their sins by exposing them on this blog sometime after I finally decide I don't like them.

One new rose that I already like very much is 'Souvenir du Docteur Jamain', an 1865 Hybrid Perpetual bred by Francois Lacharme.  My own-root specimen was planted in the Summer of 2012 and at its first birthday it stands three feet tall on several canes, with healthy dark green foliage and no blackspot yet, although it is too early for me to really judge the disease resistance of this rose. The BLOOMS are the strongest reason, if you need one, to grow this rose.  The canes are covered with these very double-formed and very dark red or wine-red colored blooms that are fairly large, perhaps four-inches in diameter, but yet the canes are stiff enough to keep the whole bush upright in the Kansas wind.  No slouching for Dr. Jamain!  Blooms are incredibly fragrant too, with odiferousness on a par with the fragrance of the best Bourbon roses, as one would expect from a seedling of 'General Jacqueminot' and 'Charles Lefebvre'.  I've been extremely pleased that every day since the first blooms, I've taken a picture of it, each day thinking the bush could not possibly sprout more blooms, and each day it is yet more covered.  The good Docteur is supposed to be remonant in flushes, but I don't know how often I'll see repeat bloom, since it didn't bloom at all last year.   'Souvenir du Docteur Jamain' does have a few thorns in defiance of references that say it is "nearly thornless," and I'm told that my 3 foot rose will eventually be difficult to keep under 7 feet tall, which may cause some problems in the Kansas tornadic wind storms.   The bloom color darkens with age, becoming more violet, like arterial blood fading to venous over time. In that, I suppose, it mirrors life and death, vitality and senility all on one plant.  Several sources state that this rose may burn in hot sunshine and I'm waiting to see if that will be the case in the Kansas sun.  So far, I've seen only deep purple, not brown from this rose.

A number of references attributed the revival of this rose to the infamous 'Vita Sackville-West', who reportedly discovered it growing in Hollamby's Nurseries (as named by Graham Thomas) and distributed it.  If that was indeed the case, then Vita, a pioneer in so many aspects of gardening, is also one of the earliest documented Rose Rustlers.  In the end, I expect to agree with Peter Beales, who, noting the problem of sunburn on the petals, nonetheless said "At its best it is of rare beauty and even at its worst can still be enjoyed."  I'm going to keep enjoying it as long as the bloom and the fragrance grace my garden.

Update 6/6/13:  Now I understand the notes about this rose "burning" in sunlight.  One day of harsh sun (it's been cloudy here for 6 days, very usual, and the rose turned into this: 

A number of dark old garden roses (Cardinal de Richelieu for example) do this so I didn't think about it being unusual.


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