Monday, June 30, 2014

Glowing Amy Robsart

'Amy Robsart'
I was happy this Spring to see the first full bloom I've gotten from R. rubiginosa  hybrid 'Amy Robsart'.  I planted her in the Fall of 2012 and last year she went from a rooted start to about 2 feet tall and had only a few sporadic blooms.  This year, she's gone from 2 feet to about 5 feet tall and she looks to become a massive bush in time.

The blooms of 'Amy Robsart' have completely met my expectations and surpassed them.  The single blooms are larger than the species R. rubiginosa (eglanteria), and they are so bright pink that they glow with an internal light and pop out against the bright foliage.  I was absolutely smitten with the otherwordly contrast of the yellow stamens over the small white center of the flower, with that bright, almost translucent pink all around.  'Amy Robsart' gets mild to moderate blackspot in my garden depending on the time of year.  Her foliage has the same green apple fragrance of the species, but is a bit lighter.

'Amy Robsart' in front of lighter pink  'John Davis'
'Amy Robsart' was bred by Lord Penzance before 1894.  Her parentage is described as Rosa rubiginosa var. camadrae R. Keller X Rosa foetida Herrm.   Peter Beales, in his Roses text, described her as "dull for most of the year but spectacular in full bloom."  I agree.  The bush is very healthy, and already, as a youngster, she has the look of a monster that will sprawl over everything around her.  In my garden she looks to reach her advertised 10' X 8' stature and become a thug.  She is hardy to Zone 4 and had no dieback in my tough winter last year.   'Amy Robsart' does form sporadic hips which turn orange-red in Autumn.   

I've got 'Amy Robsart' planted next to my species R. rubiginosa so that I could directly compare them, and if I were only to grow one, it would be 'Amy Robsart' rather than the species.  She has a fabulous bright flower, and is more garden-worthy, even if the fragrance of the foliage is not quite as strong as the species.    

Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Shade Of Relief

 At last, my shade house is complete.  I took advantage of a cool Sunday last week to finish attaching the baseboards, stretch the cover, and secure it in place.  A cool Sunday in the late June of Kansas means that by 2:00 p.m. I was still roasted and mildly dehydrated in the low 90's temps, but, hey, it was done.

It is astonishing what the presence of a mere high tunnel shade house does to the aura of a garden.  It immediately feels like the garden is composed less of a series of beds plopped into the middle of prairie grass, and instead it promotes a sense of a purposeful and planned garden.  Despite placement deep down into the vegetable garden and off to the side, its existence somehow balances the overall garden.  "Here," it says, "is a thoughtful and determined gardener."  Thank God, I was able to erect it well enough that it isn't askew and disclosing the gardeners complete desperation to fight the searing Kansas sun.   I should also be thankful that I didn't erect a real greenhouse else I'd have delusions that I might someday become a decent gardener instead of a serial plant killer.

If you ignore the weeds in front and behind the structure, the laughing masses of weeds that I swear weren't there two days ago, you'll see that I followed my original purpose and placed it around and over my very pampered strawberry bed.  I've done about everything I can now, mulching the strawberries in black plastic so that the natural rain is concentrated in the rows and the competition of weeds is lessened.  I've run drip hoses up and down the rows so that the mere turn of a faucet at the house can mitigate the July scorch of the prairies.  I'm carefully directing runners back into the rows, to fill in the bare spaces and increase the yield.  Now I must merely wait through Fall, Winter, and Spring to harvest the fruits of my labors, hoping all along that Winter doesn't get too cold and dry or that Spring doesn't recognize the humor of a late freeze.   A garden might not provide fruit or sustenance, but every day it provides the gardener a lesson about the virtues of tolerance and patience.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Garden Love Story

Time stood still in my garden today.  Time stood still while I paused to absorb a lesson of love and tolerance from two very different creatures thrown together by the whim of chance and the necessities of other lives.  My garden is a witness every day to a love that should not be, a love that few dare to speak of,  a Romeo and Juliet joining of souls so vastly different that they trivialize the Shakespearean plot.  Moose, my skinny garden predator, and Bella, the puppy replacing a daughter, are the picture of bliss in the brief moments they share.  No seconds are wasted marveling over their friendship, they know only the rapture of each other's company.
Cat and dog, as differently matched as the sun and moon, are yet alike in their huge hearts, their simple joy from the touch of another warm body.  Bella is a lover, happy to see anyone and everyone crossing her path.  Moose is more restrained, but just as desperate for attention as Bella is to provide it.  Many are those who live only in search of that one perfect love, exciting and exuberant,  joyfully unrestrained in the celebration of another's presence.  Bella and Moose are content in their forbidden love.
Moose waits continually by the front door, pacing patiently for Bella to visit the garden.  Millie, his former close companion, has been missing for some time now and hes increasingly lonely.  Bella paces the floors indoors, watching through the front and back windows for a glimpse of the other, begging to go outside as often as she can convince her master that she could possibly require a visit into nature.  Outside, they fly together, the cat swooping in to tease the dog, the dog using weight and leverage to pin and muzzle the cat.  Never is a claw or fang unsheathed, the weapons of the predators set aside for a cuddled eternity, as playful and tender and caring of the other as any other loving pair.  Finally, the impatient owner pulls them apart to encourage attention to the business at hand. 

My sainted mother often says "There's a fool for every fool", an expression she normally reserves for human couples who she perceives as individually flawed, but perfectly matched.  It surely applies here as well, the match between the ebullient puppy and the lonely cat, each filling a need in the other.  It's a lesson that this gardener needs to assimilate, a willingness to seek peace in the midst of diversity, an acceptance of different to support the beginnings of love. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

New Camera, New Garden

ProfessorRoush has a new camera.  Nothing really fancy, but I am setting aside my beat up and almost 10 year old Canon Rebel in favor of modern file sizes  rather than files that are no bigger than those on my iPhone 5.  The Canon was still okay, as evidenced by the couple of thousand pictures on this blog, but it had some autofocusing problems and was pretty battle-scarred.

The new camera is a Nikon D3300...kind of bottom of the line for Nikon DSLR's, but with most of the picture quality of the big boys.  In a few brief pictures yesterday, I established that it was working well and focusing better on auto than my Canon and it was going to help improve my photos.  But I was in for a big surprise.  In selecting cameras, I tend to ignore the bells and whistles of camera special effects because I was trained on film, where the best you could do was manipulate F stops and shutter speed unless you used a filter.  These new cameras are entirely another animal.

This morning, playing for 20 minutes while I walked the dog, the special effect modes are sucking me into the depths of an exciting new world.  Some of them are simple.  The picture to the right shows deep red 'Kashmir', taken this morning in low light on automatic exposure.  Like all digital cameras I've ever known, this Nikon has a problem with reds, oversaturating them. The picture at the top, however, of deep red 'Kashmir', was taken with the "low-key" effect.  Much better for color, don't you think?

There's another special effect that I already know is going to get ever more use as well; the "selective color" effect.  Take the non-descript peach daylily to the left above.  If I use the camera to pick out the yellow of the throat and use the selective color effect, I get a pretty boring photo like the one to the left.

But if I take a photo of a more vivid pink daylily with a yellow throat like the one at the right, and then, keeping the effect on and using the yellow chosen from the first yellow daylily above as a selective color, I get the picture below:

Like, Wow!, right?  The possibilities for just this one special effect are almost endless and I have a feeling I'm going to be spending a lot of time hunched over with a camera in my garden in the next few days.  The pictures above are all just exploratory photos taken within my first half-hour of using this camera, not really worrying about holding the camera still or picking the best bloom or lighting.  There's a whole new garden waiting out there.  And I'm chomping at the bit to see what the "super vivid" effect can do with a Kansas sunset!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Pleasing Combos, Native or Not

A recent post by Gaia Gardener about nice combinations of native prairie plants was timely and I made a mental note to blog this combination, of butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) and catnip (Nepeta cataria) that sprung up voluntarily in my back garden.  This one is for you, Gaia!   I now have 8 or so Asclepias volunteers around the yard and I've blogged before about my accidental combination of Asclepias and a 'Fiesta' forsythia.   The catnip simply grows everywhere.  I fact, I weed out more of the catnip than I permit to  grow.   I wonder if the daylily in the foreground will bloom in time to add to the display?

Gaia's post also reminded me to occasionally look beyond the roses and view the rest of my garden, and while I was in a mood to appreciate plant combinations, there were several other combinations that were particularly pleasing to me at this time of year.   Here is an iPhone photograph of a couple of  recently planted lilies against the backdrop of tall, stiff 'Karl Foerster'.  I'm not that fond of "Karl", but even blurred in the Kansas wind, as it is here, it makes a good foil for the flowers.  The pink blooms intruding at the lower right are Griffith Buck rose 'Country Dancer'.

You should always assume that any pleasing plant combination in my garden is the result of a happy accident because, well, because that's exactly what it is.  I'm a plant collector by heart and I tend to plop down any new plant that tickles my fancy into the next open available spot, full speed ahead and ignoring the dangers of clashing colors and inappropriate size differentials and wildly differing growth patterns.  They can always be moved if they prove they can survive the Kansas climate, right?  Here, one of the more colorful lilies has opened up against the fading 'Basye's Purple Rose'.  The deep reddish-purple rose makes a nice contrast to the more orange-red lily.

It's probably now obvious that within the past couple of years, I realized that Asiatic, Oriental, and Orientpet lilies are useful to fill in the dreary period between the end of the first wave of roses and the cheery summer daylilies.  I'm seeing the payoff from planting a lot of lily bulbs into the beds the past two summers.  Here, a nicely colored lily blooms in front of a Yucca filamentosa 'Golden Sword', both in the foreground of a nice, light pink 'Bonica' shrub rose.

Soon, the lilies will fade and other accidental combinations will quietly bid for my attentions.  The next round of blooms will be the colorful daylilies against other neighboring plants, and then the late summer flowers such black-eyed susans and daisies will hold center stage, and finally grasses will become the focus of the garden.  And then another growing year, along with all its fleeting combinations, will be gone. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Glowing Fire

I'm sure that we all could cite an example of a great idea that was ultimately poorly executed.   In my opinion,  'Morden Fireglow', a Parkland Series Ag Canada shrub, is one of those great ideas that needed a little more refinement before it was rolled out to Main Street.

I've grown two 'Morden Fireglow' roses, one at the old house and one here on the prairie, and I really can't say enough about that eye-dazzling color (officially he is "scarlet red"), but the unique bloom color is where my enthusiasm for this rose ends.  Everyone who sees it wants to grow it because those bright, orange-red, loosely double blooms really stand out against the bright green foliage.  Neither bush that I've grown, however, is anywhere near what I'd call a vigorous rose.  It lives, and it doesn't have any appreciable dieback in cold winters, but it also has never grown over 2.5 feet tall or wide in my gardens. 'Morden Fireglow' starts out the season okay, but then seems to either suffer from heat or fungus or both.  It struggles. and then fades away in the late summer.  This is a rose that I have to occasionally spray for blackspot just to help it keep a few of those semiglossy leaves into Fall.   

'Morden Fireglow' was bred by Henry Marshall in 1976 and introduced in Canada in 1989.  It was a complex cross of [{(*Rosa arkansana x Assiniboine* x White Bouquet) x Prairie Princess} x Morden Amorette] x 'Morden Cardinette' according to Internet records.  He bears his small (3" diameter) blooms in clusters and blooms have a cupped, open, and loosely arranged form.  There is no fragrance that I can detect. I see three to four flushes over a season, with some periods of no bloom at all in between, and I wouldn't say 'Morden Fireglow' is an overly floriferous rose.  I agree with one Internet writer that listed 'Morden Fireglow' as the worst of a group of around 12 Canadian and Rugosa roses in their garden in terms of floriferousness.  The same source also stated, "Morden Fireglow is sort of weird in that the center petals don't ever seem to unfurl, while the outer petals do."  I think you can see what that individual is talking about in both pictures here on this blog entry.  Several references suggest that 'Morden Fireglow' has large hips in the Fall, but I don't deadhead my bush and I've never seen any on my bushes after growing it for 15 years.

If you can't live without adding this bloom color in your garden (and the pictures here are pretty representative of the actual color in my garden), then by all means go ahead and grow the thing.  Be advised, however, that 'Morden Fireglow' will take a bit of coddling and that, because of its low height, you'll need to put it in the front of a border for it to put on a display.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Beautiful Blemished Rose

ProfessorRoush has waited for years to discuss 'Lèda', the classic painted Damask rose.  I've waited because she never seemed to have a good year; as a young bush she often had only a few flowers that would always be destroyed by Spring rains, fungus, storms, or various other environmental influences.  This year, I believed, was Lèda's year.  She was not hurt at all by our tough winter, keeping her three foot stature without dieback.  Hundreds of perfect buds followed, the bush loaded with the promise of delicate beauty about to be revealed for my world.  An early flower opened to tease me with a taste of heaven.

And then she disappointed me once again.  Rains in May, just as the photo at the right was taken, turned the rest of the ready-to-open blossoms to brown botrytis-blighted mops right as they began to open.  The few that opened completely were marred, beauty stolen in the night.  Hundreds were completely browned, with a very few only mildly disfigured, like the flower pictured below.  Even worse, I think her annual problems are entirely limited to me since she is raved about in every other reference I can find.  Perhaps the former Queen of Sparta is still mad about Zeus seducing her in the guise of a swan but for some reason she only displays her anger here on the Kansas prairie.

'Lèda', also known as the Painted Damask rose, is a near white Damask bred before 1827.  She has a strong fragrance and displays, when she's not marred, a very double, reflexed, button-eye bloom form.  Some sources say she has repeat later in the season, but I've never seen it.  That's too bad, because later blooms in my annual dry July or August might not be damaged.  In my garden, at 5 years old, she's reached 3 feet tall and across, a round bush with dark green foliage.  The foliage and bush, at least, are healthy.  

I'm about to give up on 'Lèda'.  Her beauty is either not meant for this world, or at the very least not meant for Kansas.  To paraphrase Longfellow, "When she is good she is very very good, but when she is bad she is horrid."

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Persicaria polymorpha

Now that's a mouth full of Latin, isn't it?  I believe that you'll find that if you say it fast three times, Persicaria polymorpha is easier, however, than repeating "giant fleeceflower" quickly three times.  This beast of a plant lives in my front landscaping, near the walkway, and it always causes a scene when a visiting gardener sees it in flower.

I discovered it myself several years ago while on a gardening tour in the neighboring county where it was shining brightly and stealing the show at a friend's garden.  I immediately left the tour and proceeded to my then-favorite garden center to ask if she had any.  Thankfully, she had one small plant left over from a custom order for a landscape job and I took it home and planted into a nice spot.  One thing to admire about Persicaria;  a small plant will flower and one year later it will be spectacular!

I called my giant fleeceflower a beast, but, other than its size, it is an impeccably well-restrained garden citizen.  Actually a strain of knotweed, Persicaria polymorpha might flop on some more diminutive neighbors after a heavy rain, but it will soon stand itself back up (mostly) as it dries.  It helps if you don't ever fertilize giant fleeceflower, starving its growth to stay within the constraints of its genes.  It doesn't spread by runners or self-seed, as far as I can determine.  I've recently divided my now 5 foot diameter clump to start others in my garden and it is as simple as dividing a daylily.  Well, perhaps similar to dividing a slightly tough-rooted daylily.    I'd certainly recommend putting it among shrubs or perennials.  Standing alone in a lawn, Persicaria will just look like a big weed you should have removed.

Persicaria polymorpha was formerly known as Polygonum polymorphum.  Because of its good behavior, some speculate that it is a hybrid, rather than a species.  It grows about 5 foot tall, takes all the drought and sun you can throw at it, and is hardy in the worst of my Zone 5 winters.  A perennial, all the care that giant fleeceflower needs is to cut it to the ground each spring.  No pests seem to bother it, it blooms all summer long from early June through mid-September, and those creamy white panicles don't brown and enter an ugly phase.  Even in my hot Kansas sun, I might call them a little "toasted", but they primarily stay creamy for a long time and then turn reddish-brown in fall.  I leave them on all winter to provide some structure in the snows.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Dung Beetles

Ladies and Gentlemen, gardening friends of all ages, I bring you today, for the first time to be witnessed by many of your naive eyes, that most industrious of insects, creatures without which the world would be in a sh**storm of trouble.  I bring you the lowly dung beetle.

Look how busy Frick and Frack dung beetle are.  They had formed this almost perfectly round ball of cow or donkey manure (likely since those are the major source of poop in the area) and they were rolling it across a 15 foot asphalt road in the hot afternoon sun.  Why they didn't build their home on the same side of the street as the poop, I'll never know.  I'd love to tell you what species these guys are, but since there are several subfamilies of dung beetles in the superfamily Scarabaeoidea, and more than 5000 species in the subfamily Scarabaeinae alone, I don't have a chance of even coming close.  For some fun dung beetle facts, consider the following:

a)  There are three groups of dung beetles;  rollers (like the ones above), tunnelers (who bury the dung wherever they find it, and dwellers (who just live in the manure).
b)  A dung beetle can bury dung 250 times its weight in a single night.
c)  Dung beetles are the only insect known to navigate using the Milky Way.
 d) It is likely that this ball of crap I photographed is intended as a brooding ball; two beetles, one male and one female, stay around the brooding ball during rolling, the male doing all of the work (as usual).  When they find a spot with soft soil, they bury the ball and then mate underground so the female can lay eggs in it.
e)  The successful introduction of 23 species into Australia resulted in improvement and fertility of Australian cattle pastures and reduction in the population of bush flies by 90%.
f)  If the idea of these things grosses you out, try and remember that the Egyptians worshipped the scarab, a dung beetle.

Hey, waste collection is a lousy job, but somebody has to do it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Here and Gone

Photo courtesy of Ben Brake
This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of hosting a tour group of gardeners from Omaha for a brief period.  They scheduled a tour of the KSU Gardens through the Chamber of Commerce and had asked to visit a couple of "large gardens" while they were in Manhattan.  So a little over a hundred gardeners suddenly descended on my garden this past Saturday evening. 

Photo courtesy of Ben Brake
They seemed to enjoy the visit.  Sadly, the roses were all almost gone, with 'American Pillar', at left, bringing up the rear as usual.  Some Asiatic lilies were beginning to bloom and some late, frozen over roses were blooming out of turn.   I heard "beautiful" a number of times and I answered questions as fast as I could.

Photo courtesy of Ben Brake
When a group of unsuspecting gardeners encounters a rose zealot in his natural environment, they risk an epidemic of glazed eyes and aural exhaustion.  That's me, holding forth on the right of this photo.

I was most often questioned about this plant, a giant fleeceflower or knotweed (Persicaria polymorpha), slightly drowned by the last rain storm, but still a spectacle in the garden.  You can read more about Persicaria in a blog later this week.

Photo courtesy of Ben Brake
Bella, our not-so-new-now-puppy, was excited by the visit and all the new people she got to meet.  That right ear seems to flop up whenever she gets bouncy.  But doesn't she stand with pretty lines?

Photo courtesy of Ben Brake

The tour group was here, and then just as quickly gone on their buses, but they left behind a nice gift certificate that I used to purchase two new daylilies and a hollyhock.

Photo courtesy of Ben Brake
The garden is quiet again.  All the photographs here, except for the Persicaria, were taken by a family friend, Ben Brake, whom Mrs. ProfessorRoush imposed on at the last minute.  Ben can be seen with a camera at every K-State sports function toting a Nikon camera that makes me salivate and he's pretty good at it, don't you agree?  Photos of people enjoying the garden are always so nice to view again after the frenzy is over.


Monday, June 9, 2014

Intuited Love

'Red Intuition'
This, friends, is the rose that ProfessorRoush has been waiting for.  I don't recall where or how, but somewhere last year, I came across a picture of 'Red Intuition'.  Given my fondness for striped roses, it was inevitable that this one would eventually grow in my garden.  I bided my time over the past year, staring daily at the post-it note above my phone with only its name listed in my poor penmanship.  And this Winter, while ordering roses for the current season, I obtained it from Palatine roses in Canada.  

And ever since then, I've been waiting still.  The bare-root, grafted rose came on time, went straight into the ground, and began to leaf out.  I had a brief scare with our very late April frost, which knocked it back a bit even though I had covered it up overnight, but it shook off the frostbite and eventually sent up a bud.  A bud that opened slightly 3 days ago, as you can see below at the left, and then proceeded to tease me petal by petal until today, in the late afternoon, when it was finally fully open (as above) and met all my expectations.

'Red Intuition' is recorded as discovered in France by Guy Delbard in 1999, and introduced in 2004. It is patented in the US as DELstriro.  The rose is described as red, with dark red streaks, stripes, and flecks, and double with 31 to 39 petals (it's also listed as having 17-25 petals on the same page of  It's a large bloom of about 4.5" diameter, borne solitary or in small clusters.  The bush is described as tall, nearly thornless, and with semi-glossy foliage.  'Red Intuition' is a sport of 'Belle Rouge' (or DElego), a 1996 Hybrid Tea by Delbard.

'Red Intuition' is certainly a beautiful rose all on its own, but my interest in it goes far deeper than its stripes.  There is a "lost" Griffith Buck Hybrid Tea rose that Dr. Buck patented and named 'Red Sparkler' and I'm playing a hunch.  I've only seen one really poor picture of it (the same picture is reproduced everywhere), and to my eyes it was the splitting image of 'Red Intuition'.  Official notes indicate that 'Red Sparkler' was the same 4.5" diameter size as 'Red Intuition' and had a similar number of petals, but it differs in that it is listed as a velvety red rose with pink AND WHITE stripes so maybe I'm all wet.   My concern is that 'Red Intuition' has leathery, semi-glossy foliage, while 'Belle Rouge' reportedly has glossy foliage, so if 'Red Intution' is a sport of the latter, it was a double sport, both in foliage and in flower color. That would be darned unusual.  Add that to a rumor that Dr. Buck is rumored to have sent bud wood of 'Red Sparkler' to Europe at one time and maybe you can understand why I'm going to get a plant of 'Belle Rouge' and grow it right next to my 'Red Intuition' to compare the foliage.  Just in case the lost rose isn't really lost.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Made in the Shade

ProfessorRoush has had a busy week of gardening with more to come.  In addition to last weekend and the evenings, I took a couple of days off work so that I could exhaust myself in the garden.  Two days, sunup to sundown, and I'm tanned like a tanning-bed addict.  No, now don't get too excited, girls.  Only on my arms, face and neck.  My snow white legs are the really titillating image.  A classic "farmer's tan" on a gardener.

It's time to unveil  the skeleton of a project which began on delivery of a large package last Wednesday.  There, down in the vegetable garden.  Do you see it?  I'm not going outside on this rainy Saturday morning to give you a better view, but how about the closeup below?  Sorry about the window screen in the way, but that's a frame for a shade house, amazingly and partially erected by yours truly.

I can live without many things in my garden, but I'm tired of growing a nice crop of strawberry plants each spring and then watching them burn to a crisp in July and August.  So I resolved this year to build a shade house to help the plants get through the brutal Kansas sun so that I can enjoy a proper harvest next year.  This shade house is 24'X14' and covers the entire patch.  Using a sledgehammer for the first time in a decade, I drove the 14 posts down through the rock and clay all by myself in a single evening.  Well to be honest, I drove 10 of them and I dug and cemented the 4 corner posts in place to help hold the house down against the occasional tornado.  Chalk up one victory for the aging gardener!   Right now I estimate the first ten years of strawberries will work out to about $1/berry.

By no means is this the end of my gardening week, either.  Today, over 100 gardeners from Omaha are visiting my garden.  They came down to Manhattan to see the KSU Gardens and ended up asking the Chamber of Commerce to visit a couple of "large" local gardens.   My garden may not qualify as unique or educational, but "large" got me on the list.  The garden, despite the waning roses and the long gone irises and peonies, is in about as good a shape as I've ever had it after a week of effort.  And to top it off, tomorrow is the annual Manhattan Area Garden Show and I'm the roving photographer for it.  My gardening week will end Sunday night, and for once I'll be glad to leave the garden and go back to paying work!        

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Banshee or Banshees?

My reading is causing ProfessorRoush an identity crisis about a rose.   'Banshee' is a great rose in my climate, but the rose I call 'Banshee' may be one of several different roses known under the same name, sort of a reverse alias, if you will.  My faith that I have the "real" 'Banshee', if there is such a plant, is only based on my faith in Connie of Hartwood Roses, from whom I purchased 'Banshee'.  She obtained her plant from a cemetery in King William, Virginia.

'Banshee' is a pink Damask-like once-blooming shrub known prior to 1773.  My specimen is four years old and approximately 5 feet tall by 6 feet wide and is still growing .  Blooms are lightly double (17-25 petals) and start out medium pink, but quickly fade to blush.  Individual flowers last about 5 days before petal drop and are intensely fragrant.  Leaves are light green (sometimes described as pea green) and usually come in compound leaflets of 7.  She reminds me a lot of 'Maiden's Blush', in bush form and in flower, but she exhibits none of the wet weather balling and blight that 'Maiden's Blush' does here.  'Banshee' is completely hardy here, surviving last year's very cold Zone 5 winter without any cane dieback or loss.  I don't recall seeing any hips form but will watch again this fall.

Paul Barden has a lot to say about 'Banshee', in fact reproducing a 1977 American Rose Annual article by Leonie Bell titled "Banshee: The Great Impersonator".  Bell  regarded "the Banshees" as a strain rather than an individual rose, and believed her to be a Gallica.  Newer sources suggest that it is a R. turbinata hybrid.  The real 'Banshee', or one of her suspected full sisters, should have an acorn-cup shaped hip and a calyx more than twice the length of the bud and glanded.  And the pea green leaves.  The blown up photo at the left is a good example of the long calyx and the glanded bud.

'Banshee', faded and older flower

'Banshee' is a rose that is either loved or hated, perhaps dependent upon climatic influence and on whether a particular rose is the real 'Banshee' McCoy or an impostor.  In my climate, my 'Banshee' doesn't ball up or drop 90% of the buds before opening as other writers complain about, although 'Maiden's Blush', often been marketed as 'Banshee', does.  'Banshee' does seem to be a bit unorganized in habit, opening later to a flat and mussy flower with lots of stamens.   I have seen no blackspot or other fungus on Banshee, and in fact it seems an iron healthy rose.  Or a healthy family of roses, as the case may be.


Monday, June 2, 2014

Distant Drums Doubt

Friends, you would think that an old gardener could catch a break.  Out here on the Kansas Prairie, I garden in defiance of scorching sun, bitter blizzards, desiccating droughts, gale-force winds, rocky soil, and even the occasional prairie fire.  Is it too much to ask if the gardener's wife could cut him a little slack?

I took the picture above yesterday morning when the ground was still wet with dew and I sent it to Mrs. ProfessorRoush after telling her that I thought I'd captured a photo of a rose with exquisite coloring.  After receiving it on her iPhone, sitting in an adjacent room to where I was engaged on the computer, I heard her immediately exclaim "no way!".  And she then proceeded to accuse me of faking the coloration by photoshopping it.  And wanted to know where it was in the garden (even though she passes by it every day).

Mrs. ProfessorRoush is a wonderful wife and human being, but I was deeply hurt that she could suggest I would resort to falsifying a photo to deceive her.  I'm certainly not above cropping out a decaying bloom from the corner of a picture, nor occasionally playing with the brightness/darkness setting of a photo, but I would never, and probably could never, fake a picture like this one.  I don't even own Photoshop.  I do my cropping and compressing on the Microsoft Picture Manager  that comes with the computer.  If I had really faked this photo, I'd have certainly smudged out the insect bites on a couple of the petals.

The photo is, of course, of Griffith Buck's 'Distant Drums' rose, a rose that I've written about before and one that is admittedly not one of my favorites.   The blooms of this rose always have a unique coloration, but this trio went above and beyond their usual palette.  Since it just gave me a chance to astonish Mrs. ProfessorRoush, I may have to raise my personal ranking of 'Distant Drums'.  It's not often that I can gain a little respect at home, even if I have to loudly and fervently assert my innocence to get it.

I liked the photo so much, in fact, that I just made it my "masthead" for the blog.  What do you think of it?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Chasing the Rose

From Carol, at May Dreams Gardens, I learned of a new and very readable book about a "found" rose and I put it on my birthday list to purchase and read.  Of the three books I purchased as a self-gift for my now past birthday, I chose to read Chasing the Rose: An Adventure in the Venetian Countryside first.  Chasing the Rose is by Andrea di Robilant and it has kept me captivated for several nights this week.

The book is a journey of the search for the identity of a rose, known as  'Rosa Moceniga', that was found on the author's ancestral home of Alvisopoli, Italy (a city named for its founder, the author's great-great-great-great grandfather, Alvise Mocenigo).  It's a journey that covers vast spaces, as di Robilant searches for clues about its origins in several countries and gardens, and also covers vast time periods, for it is, in part, a historical essay on his great-great-great-great grandmother Lucia's relationship with the Empress Josephine of Malmaison and a history of the "China" roses. 

The story is quite entertaining regarding the rose and, because of the historical info, educational at the same time.  It was also eye-opening for me, because the author interacts several times with Professor Stefano Mancuso of the University of Florence.  Professor Mancuso is one of the pioneers in the field of plant neurobiology, a field that views plants less as insensate organisms battered at the whims of man and nature, but as information-processing organisms with communication between all parts of the plant and responses to the environment.  He even gave an interesting TED lecture in 2010.  There is even a Society for Plant Neurobiology, which you may belong to for the annual membership of $60, and a Journal of Plant Signaling and Behavior that publishes manuscripts about plant responses to environmental stimuli.

Heck, I thought we'd left all that behind in the 1970's after the publication of SuperNature, a bestseller about ESP and plants and other mystic crap that captivated me in my teens.  It has since been discredited, but the book made a wave among the wannabe hippies with its reports that a razor blade left in the pyramid of Cheops will magically become sharp again and that plants can sense the death of nearby snails, among other made up or poorly investigated crap.  Now here the idea is back, complete with all the controversy.  Wikipedia has even stepped into the fray, moving an entry on "plant neurobiology" in 2012 into an entry regarding "plant perception."  

I don't know where you stand on the subject, and keep in mind that there have been no discoveries of neurons or a brain in plants, but in the future, you might be a little nervous about missing a watering of your potted plants.  You never know when they might retaliate by psychically strangulating us in our sleep.


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