Wednesday, April 29, 2015

It's a Yellow Kind of Day

But, it's a good yellow kind of day.  I was stupendously cheered up last night when I noticed the first few blooms on 'Harison's Yellow' were open.  The recent rose massacre, both from winter and my culling of rose rosette-infected roses, has been dragging down my spirit in the garden, but now as the early roses come storming back, I'm feeling my strength return minute by minute.  Honestly, who could not look on the sunny yellow face of 'Harison's Yellow' and not be smitten by joy?  I'd normally caution you not to sniff this offspring of R. foetida too closely, but in the vicinity of this bush last night, all I could smell was its sweetness.  Perfection, thy name is 'Harison's Yellow'.  At least as long as I don't have to prune you or fight those vicious thorns to cut out deadwood!

My 'Yellow Bird' Magnolia also continues to bloom and please the dickens out of me.  I've got to tell you, the longer this tree is in my garden, the more impressed I am by its winter hardiness, drought resistance and stamina.  There are probably places in the country where it won't thrive, but I strongly recommend it for the Midwest.  It originally started out  for me 5 years ago as a 3 foot tall seedling, but it has now topped me in height and is 6 feet or better, finally outgrowing the top of its protected cage.  Additionally, the bloom period this year has been exceptionally long.  She started blooming this year around April 7th.   I took the picture on the left, below, on April 17th, just after I felt the tree was reaching its peak bloom and right after a rainstorm knocked off some petals.  Yet a week later, on April 24th as shown at the right, she is still blooming and just last night I was admiring the dozen remaining blossoms.  I apologize for the cage, but if you look closely towards the bottom of the tree, you'll notice the bare stems where the deer "pruned" the buds that were outside the woven-wire fence.  It's a necessity to protect this tree for a few more years.

 As I've said before, the "experts" seem to think the emerging green leaves distract from the beauty of the soft yellow flowers, but I disagree.  "Yellow Bird" has light green glossy leaves, which in my mind provide much needed contrast to the blooms and I greatly prefer this form to my bush magnolias who bloom earlier on bare stems.  "To each their own," as the saying goes.  Happily, "Yellow Bird" lives on in Kansas.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Anxious Anticipation

ProfessorRoush seems to have been a little whiny about droughts and diseased roses this Spring, so I thought I would bring a brighter note to the blog, at least for this brief instant.  It is far too early for blooming roses here, except for an errant and precocious 'Marie Bugnet' currently gracing my garden, but I'll show you two roses from which I am anxiously awaiting a return performance this year.

'Snow Pavement', or HANsno, pictured above and at the left, is a rose that I've tried several times to grow from a bit of root rustled from an established plant om town, but I failed miserably until I found a specimen at a big box store last year.  I absolutely love the health and the pale lavender-white blooms of this very rugose Hybrid Rugosa. 'Snow Pavement' was bred by Karl Baum and introduced in 1984.  She grew in my garden last year to approximately 2 feet tall and wide, and should reach her mature 3 foot girth this year.  I saw two bloom cycles last year and I hope I see a few more cycles as this rose matures.  There is a moderate spicy scent.  I am, however, wondering a little about the hardiness of this rose.  Although rated hardy to Zone 3b, our hard winter blasted it down to about a foot tall for me this spring.  Of course, this was an exceptionally bad winter and I've seen several other normally tough Rugosas also smacked down to size, including usually untouched 'Conrad Ferdinand Meyer', 'Purple Pavement', and 'Blanc Double de Coubert', so just this once I'll let it slide.

A seemingly tougher addition to my garden last year was 'Charles Albanel' (pictured at right), another Hybrid Rugosa that is part of the Canadian Explorer Series.  'Charles Albanel' was bred by Svejda in 1970 and introduced in 1982.  He was a very low plant for me all last season, never reaching more than a foot tall, but he doesn't show any winter damage now and is leafing out the entire length of his canes.  He should get taller this year (normal mature height should be about 3 feet).  'Charles Albanel' seems to be a typical but not exceptional hybrid Rugosa, with mauve-rose tones, and untidy blossoms,   'Charles Albanel' is a thorny little guy, however, so I'm glad I've placed him away from the paths.   Like 'Snow Pavement', he is very healthy and I saw no blackspot on either rose last year.

Well, that's as cheery as I can be right now.  Please brace yourself for an upcoming whine about my rat-ridden tractor.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Puddle in Pink

No, the photo at the left is not a diagram of the Florida peninsula that I have outlined in pink to indicate the nesting areas of flamingos or the winter homes of manatees.  Nor am I illustrating coastal erosion nor designating the position of the continental shelf off Tampa Bay.  All of those might be useful illustrations for a discussion or lecture on those topics, but I will refrain from expounding on any of those at the present time.

This IS a rain puddle on my blacktop just past the garage pad.  In fact, it is not just any rain puddle, it is THE rain puddle, the MOST IMPORTANT puddle, the puddle that I seek after every rain to provide me with a first estimate of overnight accumulation when I want to avoid walking to my rain gauge in the morning chill.  Over the years, I've come to know what each area and depth of this puddle means in terms of rain on my prairie.  Small puddle; less than 1/10th of an inch of rain fell.  Medium puddle; rain measured in 10th's.  Large puddle; might have to watch or I'll slip when walking down the hill.  Puddle overflowing the blacktop; so rare here as to be counted with hen's teeth.

As this modest puddle illustrates, however, this past weekend did bring blessed, life-giving rain to us in several small spurts.  First there was 1/10th on Friday, then wind, then another 5/10th's on Saturday morning, then wind, then a bit more rain on Sunday.  I think we got a total of just over an inch.  We need more, meaured in feet, not inches, but at least we are now back above 50% of expected average rain for this time of year.  And the prairie is no longer coated in fine powder like the surface of the moon, nor does my clay contain cracks that Bella might fall into.

The small pink petals outlining the Saturday (larger) puddle and now floating in the smaller Sunday puddle are Redbud blossoms blown down from Mrs. ProfessorRoush's favorite tree.  Yes, the Redbud flowering period has come and again, regrettably, gone here on the Kansas prairie.  Time moves on and the gardener needs to get all those final Spring chores.  I think I saw the first blossom on 'Marie Bugnet' last night from the window.  If so, it is several weeks early, and I am running several weeks late..

Sunday, April 19, 2015

sesoR deredruM

In homage to my daughter's love of The Shining, and for Danny Lloyd's great child acting in the movie of the same name, you should read the title of this entry backwards to find the true meaning....

I had a sad start to this gardening year as I assessed the damages done by our recent cold dry Winter and still dry Spring, but I still had to face the worst moments of the season last week during my garden spring cleanup.  This Spring will hereafter live in my memory as "The Year of the Springtime Rose Massacre."  I set forth a couple of weeks ago with sharpened secateurs, honed trimmers and spade, intent on ridding my garden of any visible signs of Rose Rosette disease.  'Amiga Mia', 'Aunt Honey', 'Frau Karl Druschki', and 'Benjamin Britten' were ruthlessly ripped at young ages from my Kansas soil.  Shovel-pruned alongside them were 'Altissimo', 'Gene Boerner', 'Grootendorst Supreme', 'Calico Gal', 'Golden Princess', and 'Butterfly Magic'.  I was particularly sorry to sacrifice my favorite siblings 'Mme Isaac Pereire' and 'Mme Ernest Calvat', and I will miss their intense perfumes and come-hither blossoms this summer.  A once-blooming climber from a previous rose rustling episode was yet another casualty, forever destined to be an unnamed memory.  With malice in mind, I also took advantage of the wholesale slaughter to rub out 'Sally Holmes'.  "Sally Homely", as I refer to her, was only showing questionable signs of Rosette disease, but I pruned her on principle, a token offering to the God of Healthy Roses.

Only 'Folksinger' remains as a possible Rosette Typhoid Mary in my garden, on life support since I know she was previously infected, but in her defense she has shown no further signs since a low cane-pruning early last year, and her new growth all looks healthy at this time.  Of note, 'Golden Princess' was the second I have lost to unmistakable signs of Rose Rosette.  Out of 200+ individual roses, is that a coincidence, or is this cultivar unusually susceptible to Rose Rosette?  And stalwart survivors 'Purple Pavement' and 'Blanc Double de Coubert' died back to their roots this year.  Did these tough old Rugosas succumb only to the cold and drought of winter, or are they also silent casualties of Rosette infection?  Both appear right now to be growing back from their roots, but I've never seen the slightest winter kill before on either rose here in Kansas.

Today, I aim to continue the rose carnage, but this time I'm facing a different foe.  My beloved 'Red Cascade' was a victim of a pack rat blitzkreig this winter and I'm going to destroy their nest and free him from bondage,  You can see the mulch-formed mass of the nest in the center of the picture at the left, surrounded by all the dead and sick 'Red Cascade' canes.  I'm sure my counterattack will involve a great loss of innocent young rose canes, but I will not rest until the fascist pack rats have been pushed back to their prairie homeland.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Gifts of Spring

Spring has arrived, according to both the calendar and the plants here at GardenMusingsLand, but the gardener is only reluctantly going along with the flow.  I just can't seem to get into the season while the absence of rain keeps the green world subdued and the dust rises every place I touch the earth.  On a positive note, I'm about 75% through all my Spring chores, including trimming back most of the roses.  The roses were hit hard this year between the continuing drought and the early cold November and the Rose Rosette casualties.  I'll post more detail on the latter subject at a later date.

You can see, however, from the picture above, taken yesterday, that my garden has decided to move on without me.   While the winter was tough on the roses, the lilacs seem to be having a glorious year.  'Annabelle', at the lower left of this photo, is spectacular in bloom next to the beloved redbud of Mrs. ProfessorRoush and the full-bloom of the 'North Star' cherry tree in the right foreground.  If you stand in front of my garage doors right now, the fragrance from the 7 lilacs behind 'Annabelle' is almost overwhelming.  I don't even mind the stupid compost tumbler photobombing the picture.

Spring, and the kindness of strangers, has provided other gifts to my garden.  The bulbs at the right are 'Kaveri', a new OA (Oriental Asiatic' lilium hybrid  from breeder Ko Klaver and Longfield Gardens.  They were provided to me just yesterday for evaluation from the Garden Media Group and I planted them shortly after arrival.   OA hybrids are supposed to combine the high bud count and early bloom time of the Asiatics with the fragrance and size of an Oriental.  I'll let you know how they grew here in the summer once they have bloomed.

Similarly, now that the ground has thawed and I am planting again, I finally had the chance to try out these "Honey Badger" gloves sent to me last Fall.   They're a clever idea, but in full disclosure they need much finer and softer soil than I can find in this area.  I found them much less useful than a stout trowel in my hard clay soil, particularly where the flint chips are mixed in.  Kids, however, would absolutely love them for digging, so if you've got grandchildren or neighbor children "helping out" in your garden, they are great for a memory.  The clacking sound you can make with the claws is a bit entertaining as well, but old gardeners need no help to futher their eccentric persona.


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