Thursday, July 30, 2015

A-Hoya There!

Flowers occasionally pop up in the most surprising places, sometimes in places where we should expect them, but where we least expect them.  Indulge me, for a moment, and imagine that you have had a nice foliage plant in your office for eight or ten years, a plant that struggles to gain sunshine and one that you occasionally overwater or underwater to the brink of death.  Imagine that it occasionally puts out a new shoot, but otherwise grows extremely slowly, fighting for every inch of its precarious life.  Now imagine your astonishment when you are on the phone one day, engaged in a quite boring conversation, and you look over and see this strange, alien thing hanging from your office plant.

I found myself in that exact scenario last week, when I saw the really strange looking structure shown above as it appeared hanging off my Hoya carnosa plant last week.  Hoya carnosa, also known as the Wax Plant, is about the only plant that can survive my fluorescent prison confines with me, and I actually grow two of them in my office for the dual purposes of extending my Seventies back-to-nature office decor and of advertising my gardening prowess in that most unlikely of places.

I wasn't aware that this plant would flower, but if I had known one of its alternate aliases, Porcelainflower, then my surprise might have been muted.   Hoya carnosa does flower infrequently, and these perennial structures are known as spurs.  Spurs, I'm told, should not be damaged because the plant will flower annually from this same spur and the spur and resulting flowers will get longer as it gets older.  Thick-petaled, waxy flowers on my single spur opened eight days after I first noticed the buds (see the photo below), and they are a fabulous star-within-a-star-shape and scented with, I swear to Mother Nature, the scent of delicious chocolate.  Native to east Asia and Australia, H. carnosa  is able to adapt to bright light, but it can tolerate much lower levels as an indoor plant.  It is said to be an excellent remover of pollutants in the indoor environment, and I can surely use all the clear air at work that I can obtain.

I believe that my Hoya is H. carnosa variegata, a variety with white-edged leaves.  I was surprised all over again today when I googled the plant and found the variety of cultivars that are available.  Like nearly everything else on this earth, Hoyas have their own afficionados, and I ran across a website run by someone named Christina that will open your eyes on the Hoyas.  Now, unfortunately, I've fallen down the rabbit hole and I've got to look for some of the other cultivars that I've seen described during my search.  There is always a new twist awaiting a plant collector prone to passions.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Blue Flowering Grass?

Common Dayflower
Sometimes Nature, herself, smacks us on the forehead with the creation of a little unsolicited garden plant combination that draws our immediate attention.  I had just that sort of mental face-slap as I strode into the veterinary college within the last hour, noticing these pretty blue flowers waving among a ornamental grass clump to the left of the entrance.  My semi-aware brain immediately snapped into frantic overdrive.  Blue flowers?  Ornamental grass?  What new cultivar was this?

A closer look revealed the beast lurking within the beauty.  The ornamental grass clump is a Panicum cultivar, probably something like 'Cheyenne Sky' or 'Shenandoah', beginning to turn red on the tips here in late July.  I grow several at home, and every Fall I enjoy the soft spikelets atop the stiffly erect blades of the grass.  Here, in front of the limestone building, this blue-green cultivar stands out in nice contrast, although it doesn't create quite as lively a scene as it does in my constantly wind-swept garden. 

An Unholy Combination
The flowers, of course, are those of the Common Dayflower, Commelina communis, a thug that I've mentioned before and wrote about in my book, but never really discussed here.  It is quite a beautiful flower, really.   The gorgeous dual sky-blue petals soar above the bright yellow staminodes, while the less conspicuous anticous fertile stamens hover over the single, smaller, obscured white petal.  Harmless in appearance, the plant is actually one of the most invasive plants I've ever known, a fearless Asian invader bent on world domination and more ruthless than any human barbarian horde.  I obtained a single clump early in my gardening career from a friend fiend who grew them beneath a shade tree.  Released into the unrelenting sunshine of my Kansas garden, I quickly found that it spread ruthlessly, impervious to glycosphate. 2,4-D, and everything else I've thrown at it.  I've tried to burn it out, starve it, and stomp it to death.  In its native environment, it grows primarily in moist soils, but here it has laughed equally at droughts, heat, drowning and frigid winter temperatures.  I haven't let a single plant flower in my garden for 15 years now, and still it persists, defying my best efforts at Dayflower genocide.  My sole hope is that somewhere, hidden in a small laboratory, a mad scientist is working on a small nuclear bomb suitable for garden-size applications. 

No matter how beautiful this combination seems, consider this a forewarning that you would have to be crazy to try it in your own garden.  Of course, I'm overlooking the fragile sanity level of most avid gardeners.  Anything to outdo the neighbors, right?  Several of you already have mentally placed this combination into your gardens, perhaps along the garden paths where it can be experienced at close quarters, perhaps just around that specimen bush, where it will surprise and delight a visitor?  Don't.  I'm telling you, just don't.  God only knows how many years, State workers and tax dollars it will take to eliminate the Common Dayflower from this one clump of ornamental grass.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Beautiful Edgings

'Beautiful Edgings'
I'm not leaving the daylily world behind me this year without a "shoutout" (to use vernacular from my students) for my favorite daylily.  This delicate creature is 'Beautiful Edgings', and I know that she's not flashy and that she doesn't have the biggest blossoms, or the brightest coloring, or the most rain resistant petals, but she still is my favorite.  Please allow me to explain.
'Beautiful Edgings' is a midseason "reblooming" daylily hybridized by Copenhaver and introduced in 1989.  She is officially described as cream-edged rose with a green throat, but I find that after colder night temperatures she has strong yellow tones like those at the left.  A 'Best of Friends' seedling, she stands around 30 inches tall in my garden and bears flowers that are around 5 inches in diameter.   She has received a number of awards including the Stout Silver Medal Runner-up in 2006 (missing the award by 7 votes), the 2006 Lenington All-American Award, the 2002 President's Cup, the Award of Merit in 2002, and the 1999 Honorable Mention List.

  My original plant was in the front bed, on the northwest side of the house, and she was fortuitously planted near where I walk every day.  Once I accepted how fabulous she is, I divided her again and again and I now have 5 or 6 clumps spread around the area.  This time of year, when she is blooming, I make sure to observe her every morning as I walk the dog, and I occasionally refresh my memory of her delicate fragrance.  Fragrance is rare enough in daylilies, and 'Beautiful Edgings' has one of the best in my garden.

I've never been able to fully understand the term "reblooming" as it applies to daylilies.  Certainly, I can understand "reblooming" in relationship to my detested 'Stella de Oro', continually blooming for months, and I have a couple of daylilies that bloom now and then will put out a token bloom or two in the fall.  Many other daylilies, however, display what seems just to be an extended bloom period, and for those, my "anti-marketing hackles" are raised.  How much is real reblooming and how much is hype to capture gardeners who look for "reblooming" on the label?

Regardless, while 'Beautiful Edging' is one that only has an extended period of bloom, I'm glad to great her each morning as long as she will stay, each morning that I'm awaken by the intrepid Bella whining to alert me to her urinary bladder discomfort.  I'll eagerly crawl out of bed and perform an unpleasant task to experience such beauty.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Krazy 'Kwanso'

Oh, no.  We're not leaving orange daylilies behind us without discussing that most classic of "ditch lilies," Hemerocallis fulva 'Kwanso'.  Here it comes, just when you thought it was safe to reenter the garden.

For most of my gardening life, I have enjoyed 'Kwanso' and defended it against all detractors, foreign or domestic.  It was one of the first daylilies I grew, and, as you already know, is tough and hardy and difficult to kill.  It's also colorful and fragrant as all get out.  In short, it would seem to be the perfect daylily for a beginner gardener.

Invader #1, 15 feet away from source.
Unfortunately after years of mutual enjoyment, my 'Kwanso' has become a thug.  I'm aware that the term "thug" has recently become politically incorrect, but I know of no better descriptive term for its behavior.   It's the same old story; you nurture and pamper one of your children and then it enters puberty and runs amok with newfound freedom.

I first noticed that 'Kwanso' had become a problem last year when I recognized a thicket of healthy, tall daylily fans was starting to strangle the vigor out of my 'Fantin Latour' rose.  Acting in what I thought was a perceptively preemptive fashion, this Spring I pulled up many of the individual crowns and roots of 'Kwanso' in this area, applying herbicide to any stragglers in order to leave a single manageable clump in the area.

Little did I know, however, that the prescient promiscuous beast had already made a break for freedom.  Suddenly, these past few weeks, another overly-healthy daylily clump in a nearby bed revealed its true identity as it engulfed a more modest cousin (photo above).  I've now found three other clumps of H. fulva as they bloomed in different spots throughout the garden.  'Kwanso', unbeknownst to me, spreads aggressively by seed as well as by stolon, presumably with bird or rodent assistance.

Invader #2, 40 feet away from source
If you have these or similar forms in your garden ('Kwanso' is a double form of the species and there is another cultivar, 'Flore Pleno' with 18 petals), stand fairly forewarned and destroy them now!  To reach a proper prospective, I would recommend that you rewatch the 1958 classic film, The Blob, and picture me in the starring role so well portrayed by Steve McQueen (but younger and much more hip than Steve), trying to convince the unsuspecting townspeople that a crisis is at hand.  Because that is my goal now, to spread the truth far and wide.  If 'Kwanso' can survive Katrina's flooding, as reported, it has the potential to be an invasive weed at best, a complete monster at worst.

P.S.  I've seen reports that there may be a variegated form of 'Kwanso' available.  I'd be interested in hearing if it is less invasive or whether it reverts to nonvariegated easily.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Hemerocallis Haiku

'Bettie Mae Ferris'
After making fun of Mrs. ProfessorRoush's tastes in daylilies in the last post (as previously noted, she considers orange daylilies to be the height of fashion), I thought that I would try to atone with a carefully-written haiku:

Sun seared daylily
Golden rays within become
Shining floral love

'Tuscarilla Tiger'
I didn't promise you it would be good haiku, did I?  To fully appreciate my efforts at reconcilation here, you should know a piece of our history.  Early in our courtship, Mrs. ProfessorRoush attended college far away and I attempted to keep her attentions from wandering with lousy love-stricken poetry delivered by snail mail.  She, in turn, tolerated said poetry because she was stuck in a news-less limbo and needed my continued letters to inform her of minor world events such as the 1979 Iranian Embassy hostage crisis.  To be a helpful and attentive boyfriend, I also wrote sonnets and poems to improve her English 101 grades.  I know, that was cheating, but it was done for love and I disclose it only now, certain that the academic statue of limitations has finally passed.  I've always been pleased, since I never had a single day of college English, that her instructor made her read one of my sonnets aloud for the class.

So here, my darling, is a charming haiku to the genus Hemerocallis, accompanied by some of the classic orange daylilies that so warm your heart.  Can I please stop sleeping on the lawn now?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Daylily Spectacular

'Forbidden Fantasy'
Daylily season is just moving beyond its peak here at Garden Musings, so I thought I would provide some colorful entertainment in the form of some of my favorite daylilies.  There will be, of necessity, less of my usual colorful commentary, however, as this is a pretty long post full of photos.  I'll start off with the daylily that I think is the most spectacular my garden:  'Forbidden Fantasy'.  Go ahead, let go of the ruffled rim and slide down that purple surface into the bright yellow and green center.  Titillating, isn't it?

'Alabama Jubilee'
All daylily affections are dependent, however, upon your personal color palette and taste.  Mrs. ProfessorRoush, for instance, likes the oranges, the more gaudy the better, and she has expressed her appreciation for 'Alabama Jubilee, a somewhat tasteless addition from last year.

'Amethyst Art'
A long time stalwart in my back garden beds, however, is 'Amethyst Art', which has unfailingly provided me with loads of flowers for the past decade.  I think the shade of pink-purple here matches the center perfectly.
'Bubblegum Delicious'  2015
I purchased 'Bubblegum Delicious' about 3 or 4 years ago and it has developed into the most prolific clump of flowers.  Look at that display coming on in the photo at left!   I'm disappointed, however, that this year the colors seem muted compared to last year.

'Bubblegum Delicious' 2014

'Butterflies in Flight'
'Slender Lady'
Sometimes, in some years, my tastes change and I enjoy the yellows again, either in subtle, tasteful forms such as 'Butterflies in Flight', or, when the spiders catch my eye, as in 'Slender Lady'.  The latter is quite the image of a bulemic model, isn't she?

'Laura Harwood'
'Southern Wind'
'Southern Wind' (left) and 'Laura Harwood' (right) are two new daylilies for me this year, two of the few times that I've selected a daylily by seeing the actual bloom instead of just the plant tag.   'Laura Harwood' has an enormous bloom, larger than my outstretched hand.  And everyone knows that anything over a handful is wasted.

'Margaret Mitchell'
'Margaret Mitchell' is a wonderful symphony of subtle color; here she blooms hidden deep inside a lilac. She's a canvas of pink, purple, white, and yellow, all designed to lead those pollinators right to her luscious core.  I need to make a mental note to move her out into the sunshine this Fall.

One of my favorites this year, and always, is this bright red daylily that I have evidently split into several clumps and spread near my Griffith Buck rose bed.   Here it blooms alongside yarrow 'Pomegranate'.  I think this is most likely 'Seductor', since it bloomed with the 'Seductor' that I have identified in another spot, but another possibility is 'Old Barnyard Rooster'.  Anybody want to weigh in?

I hope you enjoyed the show.  I certainly have enjoyed them this year.  And to all the daylily aficionados who have recognized that these are not even close to the newest and fanciest daylilies out there, you just keep sneering and keep dividing your daylilies for club-support sales.  I'm happy to take any of the newer ones off your hands at $3.00 a start.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Secondhand Roses

While I'm off on a garden book tangent, I am pleased to show you one of the many reasons why I browse secondhand book stores and visit every Half-Price Books store that crosses my path.  Last week, I ran across what I think is a first edition of Roses by Jack Harkness, published in 1978 by J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd.

Roses is a catalog of sorts, printed in the style of its era.  None of the flashy full-color-photographs-on-every-page of modern book layouts, this one has two inserts of color plates, 16 pictures in each insert chosen from the hundreds that Harkness described.  I bought it, not for the photos, but for this famous rose breeder's prose regarding the hundreds of roses. Summarizing this excellent work, Harkness wrote, "I could truly claim that this story has no end, an obscure beginning, and a heroine who is forever changing."

Each individual rose description is marvelous for their collective gold mine of personal insights.  Take, for example, what he writes about my personal favorite, 'Madame Hardy';  " of the most wonderful roses, provided its lax, ungainly growth may be forgiven...a further pardon is required in case the weather sweeps away its intricate flowers.  I do so pardon it....a bloom like that is remembered all your life."

He was not as complimentary of 'Mme Isaac Pereire' and her sport 'Mme Ernst Calvat':  "These two are generally examples of the beauty of old garden roses.  I cannot see why....if 'Mme Pierre Oger' is Cinderella, these two are the Ugly Sisters fortissimo....long branches are clad with dull foliage, nasty little thorns and, revolting in color, frequently ameliorate that sin by failing to open at all"  Grudgingly, he finishes his description of these widely-acclaimed intensely fragrant Bourbons with " give the devils their dues, they are both fragrant."  

I certainly agreed wholeheartedly with the opening of his description of 'Blanc Double de Coubert': "This rose has been praised too much...the petals are thin, easily spoiled by rain....If one wants a double white rose, I see no point in planting this one."  And his paragraph about 'Charles de Mills':  "I have had little joy from this variety, which the experts describe as tall....(it) does not grow tall when I plant it and I do not admire its short buds...(but)it improves on opening."

 I especially admired and noted the book's dedication "To Betty Catherine Harkness.  I met her in 1946, had the extraordinary sagacity to marry her in 1947; and we have lived happily ever after, thanks mainly to her."  Should I ever write another book, I must remember to follow his lead and provide some recognition for the long-suffering Mrs. ProfessorRoush.  I believe she also exhibited "extraordinary sagacity" to accept my proposal of marriage, even though she might submit some trivial examples to suggest otherwise during our 32 years together.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Unlikely Lavender Queen

My most recent garden-related read, The Unlikely Lavender Queen by Jeannie Ralston, was a book that I chose hoping I'd get some pointers in lavender cultivation.  Lavender production tips didn't seem like they were the primary purpose of the book, but truthfully, when you buy most of your reading material at Half-Price Books, you can't be that picky about where you get your information.  And I'll state here and now that while it is a great read, you aren't going to learn much more than you probably already know about lavender.  Well, except the factoid of which town was ALMOST named the official Lavender Capitol of Texas before the Texas legislators chickened out. 

As I stated, The Unlikely Lavender Queen is a really good read, published in 2008, by a really good writer.  Jeannie Ralston has an impressive resume of writing essays for multiple famous periodicals like Allure and National Geographic, and her writing style reflects it.  From a reader's standpoint, this is an enjoyable, easy-to-follow autobiographical work and it would make a great "book club" read.

In short, the book is a woman's journey along her life path as she tries to find herself, make a family, and find ways to tolerate the wild whims of her nutball husband.  I confess that during most of the book I constantly wondered why Ms. Ralston didn't divorce the guy.  Please note that last brutal assessment is the conclusion of another eccentric husband (me).  In short, Ms. Ralston was a modern New-York-City-loving feminist who fell in love with a talented National Geographic photographer, marries him, has two boys, and is dragged from New York to Austin and then to 200 acres and a remodeled stone barn near Blanco, Texas, all while her career suffers and she suffers from being repeatedly dislodged.  Although I referred to the husband as a nutball, he seems to be a nice guy, but he has wield impulses, like creating a lavender farm, that Ms. Ralston can't effectively oppose.  So she gets dragged along, and, at the books conclusion, he's also sold their homestead and lavender enterprise and moved her to Mexico with the boys.  Like Jeannie, I couldn't believe that a marriage counselor sided with him on that one.  I also still can't believe Ms. Ralston went along with him.  Seriously, I think Mother Teresa would have told him to hit the road at that point.  Mrs. ProfessorRoush would surely have kicked my butt from here to sundown, provided she hadn't smothered me in my sleep at many prior junctures of this story.

You'll enjoy the read as a bibliophile, but anyone with remotely militant feminist leanings will throw it across the room after every chapter.  Consider yourself warned.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Purple Prairie-Clover Ponderings

ProfessorRoush has a whole set of native wildflower photos that I've been sitting on, but each time I attempt to collect my thoughts and present them to you, another wildflower blooms and steals my attentions.  This week, it has been Purple Prairie-Clover, Dalea purpurea, that has been littering my rain garden with color.

I'm writing the name hyphenated as "Purple Prairie-Clover," rather than "Purple Prairie Clover", because Wikipedia makes a big deal about it not being a "true" clover (genus Trifolium).  I suppose since Purple Prairie Clover is the common name, I can take any liberties I choose with it, so, really, who cares about the proper grammar here?  Since my go-to website for wildflower info,, uses the hyphen however, then so shall I.

True clover or not, Purple Prairie-Clover is a perennial of the Fabaceae or Bean Family, which I'm especially happy to have in high numbers in the rain garden since it's a legume, fixing nitrogen for the grasses and forbs around it.  It seems to be increasing year after year in my back garden and I'm not surprised since it is high in protein and favored by livestock.  Previous to my invasion and siege on the prairie, this was most recently a grazed plot of land, so the Purple Prairie-Clover had probably been practically grazed out over the years.  The past week, the density of the plant is such that the prairie is dotted with purple and I enjoy the blossoms the most in the morning with dew hanging from them.  The bees are also happy about its presence here.

Dalea candida
There is a White Prairie-Clover, Dalea candida, but those are less prevalent in my prairie and I'm just as happy.  Dalea candida suffers from a problem shared by many white flowers; as it ages, the white turns to brown and just looks plain ugly.  Purple Prairie-Clover, by contrast, only fades to light purple-pink before the petals drop cleanly.  Both species are very drought resistant because of those thin, tough-skinned leaves, and the 6 foot long taproots that reach deep into the soil.

Ever the professor, I was interested to learn that Dalea purpurea contains pawhuskins A, B, and C, and petalostemumol.  The pawhuskins possess affinity for the opioid receptors and pawhuskin A, the most potent of the three, acts as an antagonist of mu, kappa, and sigma opioid receptors.  Probably that's just more useless information to clog my brain, but if I ever get accidentally covered in poppy sap during my garden excursions, I hope I remember to just grab some Purple Prairie-Clover and chew it as the antidote.  Need that as a mnemonic?  Just remember "ProfessorRoush Postulates Purple Prairie-Clover Possibly Prevents Poppy Poisoning."

And, yes, this whole blog entry was written just to lead to that last sentence.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

I'm Ticked Off

Hey, now this isn't fair.  This entire summer, the tick-averse Mrs. ProfessorRoush has been forcing me to disrobe in the laundry room immediately upon entering the back door and to submit to a humiliating tick check which involves minute inspection of every inch of my tender pink skin.  While that might sound like the start of a fun afternoon to some of you, you can trust me when I say that the only intimate contact it initiates is her scratching at every suspicious skin blemish to assure that some creepy little legs don't appear at the edges.  On most occasions, satisfied that I'm not harboring a pregnant momma tick which could birth-start a tick Armageddon in the house, she banishes me immediately to the shower, merely bleeding from a few overzealous scratch marks, while she lifts my clothes with a stick and washes them in scalding water.

On two previous occasions Mrs. ProfessorRoush did find and remove ticks, justifying her careful diligence.  There were also two other instances when I found and removed small ticks on my own due to her understandable but unconscionable unwillingness to diligently examine certain skin expanses.  The past few weeks, however, I had returned tickless and we had dropped our guard, sure that tick season was over.  Heck, I had even scabbed over the previous tick-created welts that I received from each bite.  I seem to have developed a type II sensitivity to tick bites this year and I form a nice hive at each bite, even when the tick hasn't been attached long.

Today, when I was driven in from a good day of gardening by the July heat, I noticed that my shoulder was itching and, in the mirror on the way to the shower, saw a small speck in the center of a red circle that appeared different from my normal freckles.  Primarily, it looked different because it was RAISED.

There were a few lost moments of reaction while Mrs. ProfessorRoush located her reading glasses.  I've found that older wives are constantly wearing the wrong glasses for the activity at hand and I would estimate that they spend approximately 25% of their lives looking for the alternate pair.   Once she could see the speck closer, she still wasn't sure that it was a tick.  She and I were both willing, however, to play it safe and have her grab this possible part of me with the tweezers and rip it off.  I braced myself for the fear that my farsighted wife would pluck a piece of ProfessorRoush rather than an invasive arachnid, but the "speck" was removed without any trauma other than a raised heart rate and some minor palpitations.  Under a magnifying glass that I've had since I was a child (a side benefit of living a long life interested in the sciences) we discovered that it was, in fact, a tick, the same minuscule invader pictured above one a paper towel next to a 22 gauge hypodermic needle.

There are, it seems, Darwinistic advantages to having a little tick hypersensitivity, even though this episode will likely initiate another series of strip tease inspections by the missus.  If I hadn't started itching, this little guy could have feasted for a few days on my fair skin.  Instead, thankfully, he was encased in this paper towel and flushed down where the sun doesn't shine.  Tough luck, buddy.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Resilient Red Cascade

It's official, folks.   ProfessorRoush is declaring that his beloved 'Red Cascade' is well on its way to recovery.  This formerly dismembered and pack-rat-pissed-on climbing miniature is fighting its way back from oblivion, or more accurately from an illness that I hereby designate as "Pack Rat Den Doldrums."  As the first person to describe the condition in roses, I think I deserve the right to name it.

You'll recall that, in early May, I ripped out the pack rat den that had been woven around the plump and supple six foot long canes of  'Red Cascade', and I hacked the remnants of the rose back to sparse six inch stubs.  This (at right) was its appearance after the massacre, a few green canes among a lot of brown canes, all barely free of a mound of rat-urine-encrusted mulch.

But, here it is on July 4th, photographed on my iPhone from the seat of my lawn mower, blooming for the first time in a year, and attempting to add its short cascade of red blossoms to the red, white and blue celebrations of the day.  The new, smaller canes are pencil-thick and growing longer by the minute, and the foliage is completely blackspot free.  It started blooming almost a week ago, sparse at first, but it seems determined to make up for lost time.  I suppose that I should grudgingly chalk up the new found vigor of 'Red Cascade' to the rat urine and feces infested mound of mulch I left around its base but I don't really want to think about it.

Everyone in the neighborhood is trying to get into the act, however.  A week ago, as 'Red Cascade' started blooming, I snapped this photo, again from the lawn mower.  A native Asclepias tuberosa was trying to steal my attention away from my intensively-cared-for rose and it was doing a fair job of it.  It sprung up last year, probably enticed to the spot by the as-yet-unnoticed aforementioned rat droppings.  It's really disgusting to think about this bounty as a product of rat poop, but, I suppose, organic manure is organic manure, whether it is rat crap or cow manure or donkey dung.  Luckily, I know that 'Red Cascade' is scentless so I won't be risking Hantavirus by trying to sniff the blooms.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Opinionated Gardening

'Stella de Oro'
Are all gardeners so opinionated, or is it just ProfessorRoush?  Because he has definite opinions about almost everything in his garden.  Sometimes even he tires of his opinions, his interminable rants about disease or weeds or flower color or poor performance that keep him from enjoying the garden.  Is it really necessary to constantly pontificate about whether this rose is better than that one, or how one grass is a thug, sprawling over everything in its vicinity, while another grass adds a really nice structure to the garden?

Take, for instance, his opinion about 'Stella de Oro'.  If you've read his blog for more than a few days, you know he detests the orange-yellow color of 'SDO'.  You've seen him rant about how tired he is of seeing it everywhere, often displayed in combination with a purple barberry or a group of banal junipers. One of the reasons that ProfessorRoush believes in a single deity is that creating 'SDO' as the most reliable, easy to propagate and longest-blooming daylily on Earth is surely a little cosmic joke made while God was in a good mood and resting on the Seventh Day.

'Happy Returns'
There are certainly better alternatives.  'Happy Returns' blooms a little less frequently, but the two fewer shades of orange in 'Happy Returns' makes it a much prettier addition to the landscape.  It is just as healthy and, these days, just as easy to find.  But, I guess it just doesn't contrast with purple barberries as well so it doesn't satisfy the peasant sensibilities of modern landscape designers.  And there are similarly named Stella's, such as 'Purple de Oro', which should be better, but they're less healthy and don't bloom nearly as often, at least for me.  The latter also isn't that purple, but that's another rant entirely.

Don't get me wrong, I grow 'Stella de Oro' in spades.  ProfessorRoush wouldn't, with his unlimited mental budget for plants, but I do.  In fact, a few weeks ago, it was the primary blooming plant in the landscaping in front of my garage, as you can see below.  'SDO's are almost all of the yellow that you see here, with the exception of a single 'Happy Returns' at center left.  In my defense, I'd like to tell you that I was a beginning gardener at the time and didn't know any better, but, truthfully, I grew 'SDO' in a garden before this one and I also hated it there.  Unfortunately, if you want to buy a lot of daylilies on the cheap at big box stores, you get 'Stella de Oro', sometimes even when it is labeled as something else.  And I was working on my budget, not that of ProfessorRoush's.  Thankfully, as I'll blog about in a few days, the 'SDO' are resting now and other, more attractive, daylilies and lilies are center stage.

Some would suggest that ProfessorRoush should strive to develop a more open mind and keep his opinions to himself.  But then what would he write about?  Endless essays about the beauty of every living creature would either cause his arteries to explode from the suppressed inner tensions or, alternatively, he would quickly run out of complimentary English language adjectives and his writing would be as boring as a landscape composed entirely of purple barberries and 'Stella de Oro's.  Writing, and gardening, is so much more satisfying if you can make use of all the options available.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Lily Confederacies

ProfessorRoush has enjoyed a bountiful season of Asiatic lilies this year.  It is currently at its peak and I have been taking and collecting photographs of all the individual blooms to share the beauty on Garden Musings.  I may do that later, but right now, I thought I'd share a few of the accidental, but still stunning scenes that the lilies and I have created together.

There is, for instance, this photo of my Totally Zen Frog, sitting now among the lilies, resting among the color.  I once thought of placing a similar stone throne opposite the frog so that I could meditate along with him, but I know I never sit down long enough to make that worthwhile.  Still, if I had surrounded it with similar lilies, would it have enticed me to slow down and enjoy a moment?

And here, on the right, tall and stiff 'Karl Foerster' stands as a backdrop to these white and blood salmon lilies.  If you've read through this blog, you know that I'm not a fan of the overused 'Karl Foerster', but here, in this moment, he adds some nice airiness to the sold and stiff Asiatic lily blooms, white smiling boldly up, blood salmon shyly down.

At left, bright red rugosa hybrid 'Linda Campbell' compliments these orangish and pink Asiatic lilies nicely.  I love how the pink Asiatic is folding a stem down over the 'Linda Campbell' bloom, as if to cuddle with it.

Sometimes, it's a combination of different perennials or grasses with the lilies that add up to create a delicious photo of the whole.  Here, pink and orange Asiatic lilies combine with a creamy aging Yucca filamentosa bloom and some dark purple daylilies.

And at left, Phalaris arundinacea ‘Strawberries and Cream’ provides stripes to tie together the composition of the three different Asiatic lilies around it.  

Other times, it's the lilies themselves that just make a pretty production.  At right, the cream and pink Asiatic lilies stand out well against the aging prairie hay mulch and the healthy lilac foliage behind them.  And below, this group of pink, white and yellow Asiatic lilies trail off into the smaller yellow of 'Happy Returns' daylilies to the lower left of the photo, seemingly shrinking to infinity beyond the frame, evolving, if you will, into another species right before our eyes.

I'll end with my "Gentleman Rabbit", a small statue that usually guards the path into my lower garden.  Today, he's holding a bouquet for your pleasure, an invitation to come and enjoy the garden whenever you find the time.  In my garden, Asiatic lilies have held center stage for the past 2 weeks, and they're making way for the Orientpets and Oriental lilies to come.


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