Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Earth Laughs in...Milkweeds?

Almost every gardener has surely read or heard the famous quote of Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Earth laughs in flowers," lifted from his 1847 poem Hamatreya.   Most of us equate this line with a calm and loving Mother Earth, gently expressing her warmth and love.  Within the context of the poem, however, the Earth is laughing at the silliness of man, who believes he is master and owner of the Earth, but who will nonetheless end up beneath the earth, pushing up daisies.  Whatever his good qualities were, Emerson was also a cynical old fart.

The tallgrass prairie laughs at me, I suppose, also in flowers, but they are the flowers of milkweeds.  This area of my pasture (see, there I go, believing I'm the owner instead of a temporary part of the scenery) is the area we used in construction of the barn, first to pile all the dirt from the excavation, and later scraped clean again as the dirt was used to fill in around the foundation.  Somewhere, deep in the soil of the prairie, an infinite number of milkweed seeds must be waiting, biding time until the stubborn grasses give ground.  
This milkweed is Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, a member of the Dogbane family and poisonous and inedible as forage.  I've always viewed it as a two-foot-tall weed in my pasture, tolerated by me because of its usefulness to monarch butterflies, but it does have some other positives.  A couple of years back I found it was growing in the K-State Native Plant Garden and didn't recognize the magnificent five foot tall, very fragrant plants.  I was embarrassed when the director told me what it was.  Seriously, a mass of Common Milkweed has the same affect as an Oriental lily on the air in its vicinity, but the milkweed fragrance is far sweeter and somehow less smothering.  I've also learned to my surprise that Asclepias syriaca is a perennial.  If I'm going to be laughed at anyway, I need to allow a few of them to grow in MY garden.  I might as well make them feel welcome if they're going to be lurking around anyway.

I hope Ralph Waldo Emerson (why do we always use his middle many other famous Ralph Emerson's are there anyway?) doesn't mind me calling the garden, "MY garden."  I may be borrowing the soil and sunlight and rainfall and the air, but I maintain nonetheless that the garden is mine.  I arranged it, I defend it against all marauders floral or faunal, and when I go beneath it, it will soon also cease to exist.  For a while, I suppose, to become a milkweed patch, but eventually the milkweed will lose too.  This is the prairie, and on the prairie, the grasses always win.   

Monday, July 28, 2014

Fifty-Two Loaves

Okay, okay, this blog entry is not about flowers or birds or the Kansas prairie.  Mea culpa.  It's not even about gardening, in a strict sense.  But it is about a book whose author, William Alexander, previously wrote about gardening in the form of a bestseller that many of you will know;  The $64 Tomato.   When I saw 52 Loaves on display two weeks ago at a Half-Price Books store, I recognized the author and snatched it for my garden book collection.

52 Loaves is an engaging story about a year spent in search of the "perfect loaf" of bread.  Alexander becomes intrigued by the process of making bread and he resolves to make one loaf every week until he achieves a perfect loaf.  The book is three parallel tales woven into one wonderful read.  First, he weaves a lively tale of the history of bread-making, the connection of particular breads to their cultures, and his travels and efforts to improve his doughy attempts.  Second, there is a shining lesson here of the development of an obsession, an all-engaging search that sets aside (at times) marriage, family, work, and play in the pursuit of goal.  Last, there is a humorous story through the book of life and family living under an obsession.  The choice of attention to bread over a chance of marital intimacy, for example.  The celebrated escape from Sunday church for the excuse of needing to be present for the bread-making process.  The family's weekly critical assessments of the loaves.

The tale concludes with Williams's short experience in a 1300 year old French monastery, where he brings his expertise, his levain (a bread starter) and the on site process of bread-making back to the monks.  Just his priceless description of trying to bring levain through the TSA from America to Europe is worth the price of the book.  I've leave you to discover what hair conditioner has to do with the story.

ProfessorRoush is no stranger to obsession, and, as a lifelong bread aficionado, 52 Loaves started my own.  I spent the last four days making my own local levain from the yeast clinging to grape skins in my garden.  And right now, while I write, I am waiting for my first loaf of peasant bread (page 328) to rise.  Nirvana awaits me, a few short hours hence.

(Update:  My boule was flat.  But delicious.  Must make stiffer dough next time or at least knead it more.)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

White Dove

If you have been searching for a white rose that will stand the heat of summer, cold winters, and wet springs, 'Paloma Blanca', a 1984 Griffith Buck introduction, is a rose that you need to consider.  Her name translates to "White Dove" in English, an apt metaphor for this beautiful white rose.

In my estimate, the factor that places 'Paloma Blanca' above other white roses is its staying power.  I've always been impressed by how long a bloom of 'Paloma Blanca' will last indoors or out.  I've seen garden clusters last for weeks in reasonable weather without fading or dropping.  Other touted white roses such as 'Blanc Double de Coubert', or 'Frau Karl Druschi' may have better form, but they won't last as long on the bush and they'll be brown ugly sacks by the time 'Paloma Blanca' starts to fade.  And the famous 'Iceberg' is a dud here in my climate, while 'Paloma Blanca' just keeps plugging along.  Other positives in her favor are that she blooms her head off from the time she is a very small bush (see the photo below of a few months old bush) and that she never seems to fade to brown as most white roses do;  petals seem to fall before they turn ugly.

'Paloma Blanca' is officially a white or near white Shrub Rose that has very double blooms (35-40 petals) but only a light rose scent.  Those double blooms are large and presented in clusters, but I wouldn't try to claim that they have a classic Hybrid Tea form.  They seem to start as fat buds and then "half open", displaying a little of the center for a long time without opening completely flat.    The blooms are a very pure white for the majority of their time on earth, although at colder temperatures I detect a little blush in their petals and in some lighting the center can have a slight yellow tone.  'Paloma Blanca' blooms continuously.

My 'Paloma Blanca' is only one complete season old, but I used to grow her at my previous home and I can attest to both her winter hardiness and her foliage health.  This is a very disease resistant rose.  I don't have to spray 'Paloma Blanca' for fungus here.  The picture at the left, taken just last week, is a bush that froze back to the ground last winter and has not been sprayed all summer.  At full growth, she reached 4 feet tall in my old garden, a columnar rose who doesn't get very wide.  Her breeding was a very complex mix of 'Vera Dalton' crossed with a seedling whose heredity included 'Lillian Gibson', 'Pink Princess', 'Florence Mary Morse', Rosa laxa, and 'Joseph Rothmand'.

In your search for a white rose, I hope I've convinced you to consider 'Paloma Blanca'.  A White Dove in the garden is always a welcome sight.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Oops, is this better?

Couldn't stand the lousy iPhone picture in yesterday's post so I recaptured it this morning with the Nikon.  Blooms are a day older, but I think this is better, don't you?  And it's 'Blue Skies', not 'Blue Girl'.  I don't grow 'Blue Girl'.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Heavenly Glory

Yesterday morning, in the cool dawn, I was out with my camera trying to immortalize a few new roses in the soft light of the sunrise.  I moved quickly throughout the garden, pausing here and there, eyes looking down, studying flowers and insects and cracks in the clay.  I pulled up a few prominent weeds, pondered when to move a particularly striking daylily, and checked the Japanese Beetle trap for prisoners.  I was lost, lost in the world at my feet, lost in the microsphere of green foliage and silken petals.

Suddenly, the bray of a donkey caused me to look up and opened my eyes to greater possibilities.  Over my neighbor's house, the sun of the new day was kissing the clouds as it rose.  Kansas, my friends, is a vast series of trials for a gardener, a punishing mix of drought and wind and harsh sunlight.  But we receive payment for our tribulations in the form of magnificent sunrises, golden rays of pure pleasure melting into pastel palettes of perfection.  It is these moments, stopped dead in mid-step by a glorious heaven, that I desperately try to freeze in memory and then carry into eternity.  Sheer beauty, waiting to be noticed by the puny gardener.

Oh, the rose photos didn't turn out so bad either.  Morning light brings out the best colors here, before the afternoon sun tires the blooms and washes them pale.  I've taken some better pictures of 'Blue Girl' with my Nikon than this mildly blurry picture with an iPhone shows, but this moment on the same morning couldn't be missed.  Whether on iPhone or Nikon, my best moments are captured in the morning, and so I rise with the sun, greeted by the sunshine, and joyful in each new day.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Fence-Sitters & Ground-huggers

Western Meadowlark
On the prairie there are few bushes and even fewer large trees for birds to perch on or hide in.  The endless grasses provide ample chances of concealment, but there are few opportunities to seek the high ground, to scan for approaching danger or food.  Consequently, most of the prairie birds can be characterized as either "ground-huggers" or "fence-sitters."  

The ground-huggers are elusive creatures, hidden both day and night, often nearby, but revealed only when they are disturbed, if then.  I've yet to see a Greater or Lesser Prairie Chicken, but I've heard their spring mating calls.  In contrast, I've often been startled by quail exploding at my feet.  Killdeer and Common Nighthawk, and turkeys are more abundant.  Getting a photo of any ground hugger, however, is difficult at best and requires more patience than I'm made of. 

The fence-sitters use any manmade or natural elevation to gain advantage, and although they are easier to spot, they are just as difficult to photograph.  They're able to see me coming a long way away, and hence they tax the abilities of my largest lense and my ability to hold it steady.  I was lucky however, last week, to capture these shots of the Meadowlark seen above and to the right.  This is probably a Western Meadowlark, but I'm told that I can't reliably tell Western from Eastern outside of song.  This guy was singing his head off, but I'm afraid I don't yet know the tune. 

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Even more fortuitously, I was happy to snatch  these blurry photographs of this Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher living nearby.  This beautiful male has been coming back every summer for five years to the Osage Orange tree across from my driveway. I often see him sitting on the fence in the early morning as I drive to work.  He always flits away just as I'm about to get within good photo range, every time that I stop the car and roll down the window, or even when I'm on foot trying to sneak up on him.  The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher's natural range is only up to the northern border of Kansas, so this guy is pushing the limits of his species.

I'm lucky to be blessed with his acrobatic performance flying from time to time, the aptly-named scissortail sailing like a kite in the wind;  A kite in the wind over a sea of endless grass, floating and buoyant on the currents of summer air.  I just wish he'd let me be closer before he soars, so I could properly admire the beauty of grace married to perfect form, the envy of many an aerospace engineer.

Ground-huggers and fence-sitters, the birds of the tallgrass prairie.  Each adapted in their way to hide or to flee, to fly for life and food, or to run for their life deeper into the grass.  Each successful at that most important game, survival and reproduction, over and over, on and on.         

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Toad Behavior

So, there I was, rushing home from a trip to Kansas City at 4:00 pm. on a hot Saturday afternoon because I had to go out and mow in the boiling sun and be showered again by 5:30.   "Why," you ask?  Because Mrs. ProfessorRoush, always mindful of social opportunities, had asked me earlier in the week if I would go out to dinner Saturday night with a couple of old friends who were going to be in town.  Ever the indulging and doting husband, I had agreed immediately, not knowing that "going out to dinner" would ultimately also include a plan for visiting my garden prior to dinner.  My garden that I have abandoned to the heat of summer, sans weeding and mowing for three weeks.

The lack of regular maintenance is not as big a deal as you might surmise, primarily because our ample rains of early June ceased around June 20th and we haven't seen a drop since then.  All the prairie grass has stopped growing except for a small rim around the asphalt where the grass gets more runoff.  And weeds have stopped sprouting, except for my Ambrosia sp. nemesis which seems to merely require dehydrated concrete to grow.  So, except for finding a few giants that I've missed, the garden really wasn't too terrible, but I still couldn't let it be viewed in its current condition.

Anyway, at minimum, the fuzzy edges needed to be trimmed, and here was Mrs. ProfessorRoush, trying to talk me out of it, telling me the garden looked fine.  I responded poorly to the discussion, stormed out into the heat, and proceeded to perform my impression of a Tasmanian Devil from a Bug's Bunny cartoon as I rushed about performing emergency cosmetic surgery on the garden.

Why?  Oh why, I ask you?  Why didn't I just point out that impromptu visitors to my garden are no different to me than impromptu house visitors are to Mrs. ProfessorRoush?  She goes into a tizzy every time visitors are nigh, despite keeping a house so constantly clean that I could safely eat off the floors at any random moment.  That simple analogy would have so easily been game, set, and match in favor of ProfessorRoush.  Alas, it seems instead that I was close to testing out my theory of eating off the clean floors for awhile.  

(The toad picture, BTW, is merely for blog decoration and is not a comment on the actions of any individual mentioned herein.)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Token Hybrid Teas

Yes, I grow some Hybrid Tea Roses.  A few.  A very few.  A small fraction of the Hybrid Teas that you would find in a regular rose garden are mixed among my Rugosa's and Canadian's and Old Garden Roses.  Except for a few Griffith Buck roses that are officially listed as Hybrid Tea's, however, I can count the classic Hybrid Teas in my garden on the fingers of both hands.  I grow 'Olympiad', 'Garden Party', 'Pristine', 'First Prize', and 'Double Delight', and....two that I  absolutely can't do without; delicate and refined 'Tiffany' and her older and more softly-colored sister, 'Helen Traubel'.
'Tiffany' is a 1954 offspring of 'Charlotte Armstrong' X 'Girona', bred by Robert Lindquist.  This delicate medium pink rose with a yellow base to her petals has a tremendous fragrance, strong enough to make her the second winner of the James Alexander Gamble award for fragrance from the American Rose Society in 1962.  She was also a winner of the coveted AARS award in 1955.  Blooms are large, double, and very high-centered on long stems.  She grows in my garden as the own-root clone of a former grafted $3.00 bag rose, a tough start to life on the prairie, but one that keeps her coming back year after year.   She is not cane hardy in my garden, and she needs occasional spray for blackspot, but as a rose princess, she's welcome to stay as long as she likes.

'Helen Traubel'
'Helen Traubel' is also a cross of 'Charlotte Armstrong', but this time the promiscuous lass dallied with a Kordes-bred Hybrid Tea named 'Glowing Sunset'.   This apricot-hued Hybrid Tea bred in 1951 by Herbert Swim has a larger bloom than 'Tiffany', with an average diameter of around 5 inches in my garden, and she grows a bit taller.  'Helen Traubel'  opens a little more loosely and quickly and I prefer her coloration, blushing and glowing at the same time.  Fragrance is moderate, not nearly as strong as 'Tiffany', but still lovely. 

These grand old dames are not viewed equally in rosedom.  'Tiffany' is widely viewed as a proper and refined lady of high acclaim.   'Helen Traubel' has a bit of a poor reputation, the black sheep of the sisters as it were, to the point where she is called "Hell 'n' Trouble" by some sources.  Various rosarians complain about the blooms of the latter nodding with weak necks, and a tendency for blackspot.  Personally, in terms of health and performance, I prefer 'Helen Traubel' over 'Tiffany' in my vicious climate.  In my garden, 'Tiffany' needs coddling, is only marginally hardy, and while her blooms are beautiful, I wouldn't ever describe the bush as vigorous.  In contrast, I've watched a dozen bushes of 'Helen Traubel' for a couple of decades in the Manhattan City Rose Garden, and out of a group of probably 40 different Hybrid Tea and Floribundas, she is consistently the most hardy and vigorous.  In fact, most years she is cane hardy without added protection at that garden.  'Tiffany' died out in the City Rose Garden and at the KSU Rose Garden.  I've only grown 'Helen Traubel' about three years in my own garden, but already she has twice the number of healthy canes as 'Tiffany'.  Both roses need blackspot preventatives in Kansas, so there isn't a clear winner in that regard.

All things considered, I think these two roses are a perfect example of roses who respond better to some climates and grow poorly in others.  I also see them as a rallying call for the importance of regional rose trials and lists of best regional performers.  It doesn't matter to me how large or beautiful a rose blooms in California if it won't stand up to the wind and heat of Manhattan. Kansas.  

'Helen Traubel'

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Basye's Purple Rose

For fellow rose-nuts who want to grow the unusual, I would recommend that they try 'Basye's Purple Rose' as a candidate for scratching that particular thorny itch.  For the photographers among the group, it will also present the challenge of correctly capturing the difficult wine-red color into a digital file.  As you can see from the varying hues represented by the photographs on this page, that is not an easy task.  The first photo, at the left here, best captures the exact tint and hue according to my eyes.  Iphone photos of this rose, like the second picture here, often turn out truly awful.  I've mentioned it in this blog before, but I like it enough that I felt it deserved a page of its very own.

'Basye's Purple Rose' is officially a mauve shrub rose bred by Dr. Robert E. Basye in 1968.  According to
William Welch, Basye rejected the rose as "a jewel in the rough", but the rose made it to commerce nonetheless, perhaps through stock given to Welch by Basye in 1983.  A cross of R. foliolosa and R. rugosa rubra, I've placed it in my mind as a Hybrid Rugosa, although I suppose it could just alternatively just as easily be described as a Hybrid Foliolosa.  Blooms are single with 5 petals, about 2.5 inches wide, have a mild fragrance to my nose, and repeat sporadically.  After the first flush the bush usually has a few blooms on it, but it won't make a large impact on garden color for the rest of the season.  I've seen the color described in various sources as "rich cabernet-red", "fuchsia", "magenta", and "rich wine-crimson with strong purple tones".  Personally, I would incorporate the velvety texture of the petals into my description of the color and tell the reader that the petals were cut out of the royal purplish-red robe of an English king.

This shrub is healthy here in Kansas, with no blackspot or mildew visible, but it is reported to mildew in some climates.  It has narrow medium green leaves, but the leaves towards the bottom 18 inches of the plant tend to drop off over the summer with no apparent disease.  The picture at left illustrates the bush in full bloom.  It was completely cane hardy in my garden last year in a winter that took almost all modern hybrid roses back to the ground, so I'm sure it's hardy in Zone 4 and probably can be successfully grown in Zone 3.  Terminal height in my garden is about 5 feet high and about 4 feet wide from the original plant.  It does throw up suckers on its own roots and I expect this rose could form a thicket if untended.  Young canes are red and very thorny, while older canes have less numerous awl-like prickles, but the bush form is gangly and not well covered.

'Basye's Purple Rose' is a collector's plant, not a landscaping specimen, and it seems to be primarily known and raised in America.  I couldn't find any mention of it in Peter Beale's Classic Roses, Twentieth-Century Roses, or Roses, but it is is described in G. Michael Shoup's Roses in Southern Gardens and William Welch's Antique Roses for Southern Gardens.  The latter describes it as ravishingly fragrant, but is the only source I've seen that attributes it with any substantial bouquet.

There are reports that 'Basye's Purple Rose' is tetraploid and fertile with modern roses.  Paul Barden listed the rose as "likely my very favorite Rugosa and certainly one of my favourite roses period.   Few, however,  seem interested in the rose as breeding stock.   Kim Rupert perhaps stated it most clearly in a  post on where he said "Able to be crossed with other roses, but far from willing and extremely willing to pass on awful plant architecture....a truly awful choice for breeding."   

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Beetlejuice Beetlejuice Beetle....

No!  I won't finish saying it.  In the 1988 Tim Burton film, Beetlejuice, the obnoxious ghost perfectly played by Michael Keaton, appears after the third repetition of his name.  So, I won't even think of Japanese Beetles lest I call them forth.

Opps.  Too late.  I found this little demon pictured in the photo above on July 4th, hiding in 'Golden Showers' at the Manhattan City Park Rose garden.  I've been expecting them to arrive soon, because I found my first last year on July 7th.  I didn't find any on July 4th this year at the KSU Rose Garden or on my own roses.  And, believe me, I looked carefully.

However, I had previously put some Japanese Beetle traps out at home, and inspecting this one, a Rescue! Trap, on July 6th, I found three males and a female, all of which I subsequently and thoroughly smashed to beetle pulp.  This trap was sent to me last year as a trial by a marketing agent for the Rescue! company and I believe it is a superior trap.   If you want to purchase one, it is currently $8.34 on   I particularly like the strength and thickness of the collecting bag and the zipper closure at the bottom which lets the bag be emptied and inventoried as often as I like.  Those of you who have ever smelled the eventual stench of a "nonemptyable" trap know exactly what I'm talking about.  A competitor's system in a different area of my garden hasn't captured any beetles yet, but I don't know if that means that the Rescue! trap is also simply better at attracting the beetles or if it is just positional coincidence.  I'll keep you posted.

Anyway, I've raised the drawbridge, stationed lookouts at observation points around the ramparts, and readied the cannons. And, thanks to this trap, there are at least three male and one female Japanese beetles who won't be fornicating on my roses or producing any future beetles in this season.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Positional Vistas

I am a gardener that spends most of my garden time looking down at the level of my feet, peering into the depths of each flower in search of beauty, examining each leaf closely for evidence of insect damage or fungus, standing fast against the tiny advance guard of marauding weeds.  I rarely take the time to glance up into the greater world and appreciate the wider views of my garden.  I could probably blame my approach to gardening on my surgical training because of the similar approach when I concentrate on a surgery.  In one moment, in a surgery, the world is small, the length of an incision or of a bone fragment.  The work completed, I take a breath and suddenly there is a bright room, with people and beeping anesthesia machines and the clank of instruments thrown back onto the table.  My innate focus on the activity at hand, however, is probably not training but is simply my nature and perhaps why I enjoy both my vocation and my hobby.  Anyway, the lesson for the today is to try not to be like me.

I was struck recently, walking Bella and passing by the northeast facing "entrance" to my back patio (shown above left), that a tall pillar rose on the left and the house on the right frame an almost good vista, the fake path stones leading one's eye to the patio and the statue and steps at the other end beckoning onward.  I was also struck by the fact that I know the view from top of the steps at the other end, shown to the right here, is not quite as artful, no frame to draw the eye and the satellite disk rudely imposing on the scene.

But those observations did serve to lead me into a search for other pleasing vistas in my garden and I learned once again that finding beauty is often simply a matter of one's perspective.  A frontal view of this peony bed, with peonies, mockorange, and honeysuckle in full bloom is not nearly so interesting as the "long axis" view at the left, with the curved line of the bed drawing our eyes down it.  It was a fabulous Spring morning, that day I took this photo.

And likewise, my lavender border, frozen back and beaten down by a harsh winter, looks like forty miles of bad road until the gardener or visitor takes a position to look along the bed, focusing on the upended limestone rock at the center.  The light blues, purples, grays and greens are so soothing that I could sit and look at this picture all day long.

I need to remember to look up far more often.  I live in a place where the sky and the land meet sometimes to form a fantastic view, a vista that only needs to be carefully framed to release the magic within it.  Two steps to the right and several feet forward and the picture at the left, of the low clouds, distant fog and my neighbor's house, could have been an even better memory of a special early morning.  We merely need to always remember to look for the beauty, frame it, and file it away, in a picture or in that collection of neural paths called a memory.  Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder, but it is certainly enhanced and improved by the perspective of the beholder.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Rural Rhythm

Among the Griffith Buck roses that I ordered and planted this year is a delightful delicate pink rose named 'Rural Rhythm'.  Introduced in 1984, 'Rural Rhythm' is a cross of 'Carefree Beauty' and 'The Yeoman' and is the first of the Buck roses I've run across that incorporated David Austin's English Rose line in the breeding.   I would say her appearance, however, reminds me of a more delicate 'Tiffany', the very shell pink blossoms of 'Rural Rhythm' tending to yellow at the base.  The petals on this rose are, however, almost translucent when the rose fully opens, reminiscent of the English rose parent.  According to Sam Kedem, the color of the flowers intensify in cool weather, so I'll be looking forward to that as Fall nears.
'Rural Rhythm' blooms in clusters of 1-5 and the flowers are full and quite large, about 4 inches in diameter.  They start out in Hybrid Tea form, but quickly open to golden stamens against a light yellow center. One poster on suggested that the flowers have weak necks but I haven't yet noticed that here.  On the plus side, the bloom is so light-colored that it doesn't burn in the Kansas sun, but not so light that it browns when it gets wet or fades.  There is a moderate fragrance to my nose, again tending more to the English rose parent.  My small bush has been blooming its head off (I counted 20 blooms at once on a bush that has yet to reach one foot in height or wide), but it is far to early for me to say anything about blackspot or winter hardiness here in Kansas.  Internet references suggest that it is both hardy to Zone 4b and blackspot resistant.  I did run across a really great pamphlet on hardy roses for Zone 4 from the University of Idaho Extension, which listed Rural Rhythm as having 50% winter dieback.  

Beyond everything else, I simply love the name of 'Rural Rhythm'.  I can't find any explanation of why Dr. Buck gave it that name, but it has everything going for it.  It has alliteration, it rolls off the tongue, and it reflects the quiet nature of the rose in the garden.  My rural garden.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Pink Daylily Rap

'Frosted Vintage Ruffles'
I like pink day-lilies and I cannot lie
You other gardeners can't deny
When a bud pops open
with a pretty lacy bloom
And a pink that's over the moon
You feel young

Sung, of course, to the melody of Baby Got Back.  I'm not in the habit of singing rap composed by Sir Mix-A-Lot, but I couldn't help thinking of this one in regards to my pink daylilies.  I would advise older male gardeners who like my revised lyrics to make sure they sing the words rather than hum it when they are near their spouses.  Most wives just don't seem to react well to spouses humming Baby Got Back in their near vicinity. Ask me how I know.

'Siloam Double Classic'
I realized, as the main daylily bloom came on this past week, that this year it is the pink-toned daylilies that are bringing me the most pleasure.  And not just any pink daylily, but primarily those with clear clean pink tones.  From top to bottom, the first three daylilies pictured here are 'Frosted Vintage Ruffles', 'Siloam Double Classic', and an anonymous beautiful pink daylily that I'm in love with.  You can be sure that I'll be dividing these clumps  to spread others around my garden this Fall. 

'Jolyene Nichole'???
Of these three, 'Frosted Vintage Ruffles', a 2000 introduction by Begnaud, is my favorite for its delicate porcelain petals, the shading from light to dark pink, and its excellent fragrance.  'Siloam Double Classic', by Henry in 1985, is indeed a classic and a multiple award-winner including a Stout Silver Medal Runner-up.  It deserves a place in everyone's garden.  The name of the third daylily has been lost to my poor records system, but is likely either 'Jolyene Nichole' or 'Siloam Full Dress'.  The former looks a lot like it, but the latter's description also fits and I can't find a picture of it online for comparison.  I've got a huge clump of it shining pink at me from all the way across the garden.

'Bubblegum Delicious'
Pinks that are not quite so pure are doing nothing for my soul this year.  This fourth daylily, 'Bubblegum Delicious' is a more recent (2010) introduction by Kelly Mitchell that I planted in 2013, but despite all the edging and ruffles, it leaves me unimpressed.  The overall combination is just a bit too gaudy for my tastes.  Daylilies are just getting too fancy for me.

(returning to Baby Got Back)...
So Gardeners! (Yeah!), Gardeners! (Yeah!)
Is your daylily good and pink? (Heck yeah!)
Then you should show it (Show it!)
Show it! (Show it!)
Show off that healthy bloom!
Daylily Got Pink!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

One Man's Milkweed, Another's Poison

I understand that there are biologists, both amateur and professional, who curse Carl Linnaeus for his Latin-infested taxonomic classification system, and I am sometimes among them.  I personally am quite thankful that someone else spent a lifetime pulling apart flowers and describing floral sex organs, because I don't possess the most minute fraction of the patience required.  On the other hand, all the Latin is a bit off-putting.  Today, however, I guess if Linnaeus hadn't been such a stickler for reproductive organ detail, I'd never have been able to identify the new wildflower in my untamed prairie backyard.  Well, Mike Haddock, the genius behind helped quite a bit as well.  Being able to look at a collection of native flowering plants grouped by bloom color and month of bloom is a big aide to those of us who can't count stamens.

This new find is Whorled Milkweed, or Asclepias verticillata L. as it was known to Linnaeus.  I'd never have guessed that this perennial was related to my ubiquitous Asclepias tuberosa because it is not my nature to stare lewdly at flower parts;  I look at leaves, and commonly fail at identification because leaf shapes are reborn again and again in different plant families.  Look, for example, at the leaves of Whorled Milkweed.  I would think those thin leaves resemble a coreopsis family member, but their whorled pattern around the stem is responsible for the species name. Surprise, surprise, the favorite habitat of this one to three foot tall plant is a place in dry prairies with chalky or limestone soils, so my yard is as much of an Eden for Whorled Milkweed as it is for me.  I'd just never seen it before.

Whorled Milkweed, also known as Horsetail Milkweed, grows in colonies just as depicted in the photograph to the left, and it is poisonous to livestock.  Luckily, it tastes so bad that it is rarely consumed from the pasture.  Whorled Milkweed, as other milkweeds, may contain cardiotoxins and neurotoxins, and dosages as low as 0.1% to 0.5% of body weight may cause death in hooved animal species.  The toxins are not inactivated by drying; thus the biggest danger to livestock is the feeding of hay containing the plant.  Clinical signs include profuse salivation, incoordination, seizures, and gastrointestinal upset and death may occur 1-3 days after ingestion.  So, all in all, the presence of this plant in my backyard may not be so exciting as it first seemed.  I need to remember not to cut my backyard for hay to feed to the donkeys, and I may have to watch that the dog doesn't take a bite of the plant, but otherwise I'm glad that Whorled Milkweed is back in my prairie.  


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