Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sunday Scissor-Tail Snapshot!

Oh, you can't fathom the frustrations ProfessorRoush has endured this season while fruitlessly chasing this phantom, frustrations built on a foundation of years of failure.  I can't count the number of times I've tried to capture this feathered fiend in digital dots, a number that surely equals the number of times I've cursed over poor results.  How many trips up and down the blacktop road in front of the house have I made, stalking this Scissor-Tail?  How often I've glimpsed this graceful creature, camera-less, and how often he remained hidden when I had a decent camera at hand.  Once, weeks past, I chased him down the road, coming close enough to capture a far off silhouette, but never close enough for more than a speck of fickle Flycatcher on the frame.

Tonight, we set off for a carryout pizza run, and there he was, perched boldly on the fence, not 30 feet from my driveway.  And once more, there I was again, no camera at hand.  When we returned, he remained still, warily waiting to tease me with failure.  Always a masochist for the attentions of a sadistic bird, I ran inside the house, and returned with the camera and car, hoping that the familiar disguise of a Jeep Wrangler would allow me to get close enough for a decent photo.

But he was gone again, nowhere to be found on a pass up and down the road.  I moved slowly, scanning fence and sky for movement, meadowlarks and swallows happy to oblige, but no sign of the Scissor-Tail.  I prepared myself for another date with the demon of disappointment.

Then, just as I reached the driveway, another bird flushed him from the Osage Orange tree across the road and he flitted down, in his swooping scissortail way, to land again on the fence.  A quick 3-point turn aided by the short turn radius of the Jeep, and I was on him, snapping feverish photos and praying that I wasn't trembling to the extent of blurring the shots.  A few quick posed photos and he came to his senses, floating away on the wind, but leaving behind his soul, imprinted in my camera.

I sat still some seconds longer, stunned by the moment, my heart beating madly, my breath coming short as I savored my victory and tasted my triumph.  At last, with a lingering look in the direction he took, I moved on with my life, forever changed by crossing his.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Kaveri in Kansas

It is high time (well, not "High Times" in terms of the magazine of that name, but high time in relation to being the proper time) for ProfessorRoush to report the results of a commercially-initiated experiment, that of my experience with the 'Kaveri' bulbs.  As I reported earlier, I received 5 bulbs this Spring from Garden Media Group for evaluation by and had planted them shortly after arrival.

 'Kaveri' lily is a brand new cross between Asiatic lilies and Oriental lilies (OA) that was introduced by Longfield Gardens.   Sources describe it as being fragrant, to produce 6-8 flower buds that open into upward-facing blooms, and to grow up to 40 inches tall.  While I admit that I was not and still am not excited about the orange and red color mixture of 'Kaveri' itself, I was intrigued by the interspecific cross.  I grow a number of Orientpet lilies, the interspecies hybrids of Oriental and Trumpet lilies, and because Asiatic lilies grow well here, I was hoping for a similar happy experience with 'Kaveri'.

My five bulbs, planted immediately into the alkaline soil of Kansas and then watered excessively by the very wet and cool spring we experienced, resulted in two full-grown lilies with open blooms.  Of the three "failures," one bulb failed to come up, one came up and then fizzled eventually in the rain,  and the third was trampled by Bella when it was a foot tall.   All in all, not a spectacular result, but about par for the course for a typical plant trial in Kansas clay.  They bloomed just past the peak of the Asiatic lilies in my garden, and are probably one to two weeks ahead of any of my Oriental lilies.  They thus fill an important niche bloom time between the species, and their bloom in my garden coincides with the peak of the daylily cultivars.

These two mature lilies are both 31" tall and each has 5 blooms or buds ready to open.  I presume the number of buds will increase over the next couple of years to the expected 6-8.  The blooms are quite large, approximately 6 inches across, reflecting Oriental lily size more than Asiatic, and the petals are likewise thick and waxy like their Oriental ancestors.  They do face forward and up and a mature clump should make a nice statement in a garden.  And they ARE fragrant, but pleasantly so in my opinion.  Their fragrance is sweet, like an Oriental lily but happily not nearly as thick or cloying as the latter, and it doesn't carry more than a couple of feet away.   Since I can't be in the same room with more than a single bloom of a strong Oriental lily, and sometimes not even that, I'm happy that 'Kaveri' keeps its fragrance available when I want it, instead of smothering me with it.

It may be obvious from the above comments that I like the idea of an OA hybrid, but I wasn't excited by the particular color of 'Kaveri' itself.    While there is certainly no accounting for taste, I hope for my own tastes that the future brings other colors into this mix, because I really prefer the quieter colors of the Orientals over the brash colors of the Asiatics.    I could only find one more OA hybrid on a quick internet search, 'Sunny Crown' and it looks much like 'Kaveri', perhaps with less orange centers and more yellow margins.   Alas, in further reading, I found that the F1 hybrids of Oriental and Asiatic lilies are all sterile due to lack of chromosome pairing, and so they cannot be used for further cross-breeding without modification.  Leave it to scientists, however to find a solution;  it seems that doubling the number of chromosomes with colchicine allows the polyploid progeny to produce some backcrosses that hold promise for the future.  A future bright, I hope, with fragrant-but-not-too-fragrant OA lilies that are pink or white.

All that being said, I do think 'Kaveri' is a nice accent for my reading garden statue, don't you agree?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Yarrow Yearnings

ProfessorRoush is completely gaga this year over his yarrows. I've resolved to seek out more of them as the summer goes on, perhaps even braving a trip to a nursery that is unfortunately infested with Japanese Beetles, to look for new varieties.  My Achillea, drought resistant and tough as they are, also came through our recent monsoons well, tolerating swampy ground and, in fact, thriving on it.  My sole complaint is that the established clumps of yarrow in my garden outgrew themselves and are flopping around.  I've found that yarrows stand better if they haven't been fertilized and grow under a smidgen of drought.

'Cloth of Gold'
I've long known that there are some really fabulous yellow yarrow varieties available in my area, and these two, 'Moonshine', and 'Cloth of Gold' are the yellow yarrows in my garden.  While most of my yarrow are A. millefolium, 'Cloth of Gold' is actually A. filipendulina, which grows taller and broader (at around 3-4 feet) than the A. millefolium varieties who top out at around 2 feet.  'Cloth of Gold', however, is flopping everywhere right now while 'Moonshine' is erect.

Some great red yarrows have also been recently introduced. I have promised a gardening friend a division of 'Pomegranate', the deep red variety of the "Tutti-Frutti" series.  This year, mine is "to die for", a sensuously deep purple-red mound of color that isn't well represented by the photo at the right.  And the picture below of the whole clump, accentuated by a bright red daylily whose name has been lost, is just fabulous.

'Red Velvet'
'Red Velvet', at left, is a more routine red in the same bed, almost mundane compared to the nearby 'Pomegranate', while 'Strawberry Seduction' (below right), in an adjacent bed, is a saucier yarrow wench from the "Seduction series" by Blooms of Bressingham,  Sprouting bright yellow pistils as accents for the bright red color, it is a little stiffer, a little more compact than the other red varieties pictured here.  Tonight, I read on some Internet sources that 'Strawberry Seduction' is supposed to fade to a nice light yellow, and, checking this morning, I see that they are right.  I've never noticed that before.
'Strawberry Seduction'

'Colorado' series 
I've recently added a plant from the 'Colorado' series that I hand-selected in bloom at a local nursery.  The picture here looks a little more white than the actual bloom, which is a very light gray with pink tones that I thought was attractive.  The 'Colorado' series is another recent set of introductions, more compact and drought tolerant than many.

'New Vintage Rose'

The most brazen specimen blooming at present, however, must surely be 'New Vintage Rose', about 3 years old for me.  This neon beacon is hard to overlook in the garden, for both humans, and butterflies.  'New Vintage Rose' is shorter, very floriferous, about 20 inches tall, and the color darkens as it matures.  I need to remember to also divide this one and make a new bed of riotous color with it and some other gems.  

I hope you include Achillea in your drought-tolerant landscapes.  They have really come a long way from their pasture forb ancestors.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Frog Fear Freakout

Today's blog was guest submitted by Dr. Ranida Phobia in lieu of ProfessorRoush who is currently under treatment er, uh, "indisposed":

When I first saw him this morning, ProfessorRoush seemed unusually jittery, eyes darting feverishly left and right, up and down, his limbs as restless as a puppet under the direction of a seizuring master.

"What's going on?" I asked.

"Ssshhh, they'll hear you!" ProfessorRoush frantically whispered.  He was haggard, unshaved, and his face was flushed.

"Who'll hear me?"

"The frogs, the darned tree frogs," he replied, "They're everywhere."

"So what?"

"They're freaking me out, man.  They're always there, watching me, perching on everything and watching me work.  Sitting on the porch railing, sitting on the windowsills...."

"Easy, buddy, they're just frogs."

"No, no, no!  I'm telling you, these are different.  They're more focused-like.  I think these frogs are intelligent, smarter than before, see, and they're observing us, taking notes and probably reporting back to their frog overlords."

"Ah, c'mon, There are just a few more out there now because we've had a wet spring," I said, as I began to ease out of reach of the trowel ProfessorRoush was clenching.

"That's it, exactly!  They must have reached a population density that allowed their collective consciousness to bind and amped up their intelligence.  They're planning now, something's gonna happen, I just know it.  The other day, one was just waiting for me, perched on a faucet handle I was reaching for.  Probably would have grabbed my arm and chewed it off, man.  I jumped a mile high when I saw it."

"Calm down, calm down.  I'm sure it's all just a coincidence and you'll feel better once the weeding slows down and you get some rest."  I felt the best approach was to keep my voice low and level and back away from ProfessorRoush as he began to flex his biceps and his eyes began bulging out.

"I think it's global warming," he whispered.  "I think all the Birkenstock-wearing WEE (author's note: he means Wild-Eyed Environmentalists) are right about us changing the climate and the world.  And the frogs are the first sign, but where they were going extinct before, now they've realized that global warming is good for them in Kansas, brings them more rain, and they're expanding their reach, getting ready to take over from us.  It's the dinosaurs all over again, man.  Except that we're the dinosaurs."

"Oh, that's probably pretty unlikely, pal.  Let me call someone and ask about it for you, okay?"

"Look, there's one right there.  He climbed 20 feet right up that brick wall, just to spy on us.  Don't you see what's happening?"  ProfessorRoush began to run now, heading for the front door, slashing the air with the trowel, shouting "They're already here, you're next, you're next!" as he ran.

Sad, but relieved of fears for my personal safety, I watched ProfessorRoush run inside.  The 911 operator was very calm and polite and said they'd send some help right over.

At least I think that was the response. We didn't have the best connection.  The operator sounded like he was calling from the bottom of a well and his voice was a little hoarse, like he had a frog in his throat.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Mary Rose and Cuthbert Grant

Sometimes, even ProfessorRoush wonders if the real purpose of his blog is to herald the joy of roses to the world at large, to serve as an outlet for pompous written expression or fire-fanning frustration, or merely to sound the gong of life and proclaim the joy of breathing still.  Today however, there is no hidden message, no subtle cynicism to digest.  I simply love the photo at left and so I'll discuss the rose in the foreground as a pretense for displaying the photo here.

The floriferous subjects here, taller and deep red Canadian rose 'Cuthbert Grant' behind pink and demure English rose 'Mary Rose', came together in a moment of May, 2013 to form a photo engrained in my memory.  I don't know if it was the lighting or the quiet evening ambiance or the wine color of 'Cuthbert Grant', but it remains one of my favorite impromptu garden pictures, imperfectly composed  and focused as it is.

'Mary Rose'
I've discussed 'Cuthbert Grant' before, and he remains one of my best Canadian roses, but I haven't touched on 'Mary Rose' until now.   She was one of the earliest David Austin roses I ever grew, and while she is not my favorite English rose, she has earned a place by persisting in this shady spot, thriving some years and barely hanging on in others.  'Mary Rose', or AUSmary, is a medium pink shrub rose introduced in 1983.  She is cluster-flowered, with double cupped blooms that are infused with a heavy fragrance.  She blooms in flushes, not quite continually, and her only real failings in my eyes are those delicate petals, short-lived in the ravages of my prairie winds.  I don't get to enjoy these blooms long outdoors, so I cut them and bring them in as I find them.  She is stout, seldom over three feet high and wide in my garden, and generally healthy, although she can lose her skirt from blackspot in humid weather.  This daughter of 'Wife of Bath' and 'The Miller' does seem to be reasonably hardy in Zone 5, experiencing some cane dieback, but she is seldom nipped to the ground. 

Average roses on their own, together the colors of these two roses are perfectly suited partners, the strong hues of the regal gentleman and the coy complexion of his shy lady blending seamlessly to complement each other.  If all the tints of a garden and all the marriages of men and women mirrored the devotion and bond between these two, as strong as the connubiality of myself and Mrs. ProfessorRoush (publicly avowed here in the interests of my continued health), then the world would be a better place and the garden a more beautiful one.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Anyonewanna Euonymus?

'Moonshine' Euonymus
No plant is more mundane, and likely more underused in our landscapes, than poor mispronounced, maligned euonymus.  It is the sad, simpleminded stepchild of gardening, spurned by buyers at big box stores and absent on the tables of many local nurseries, no prospect of noticeable flower or seed to improve its appeal.  It receives little press, little fanfare to announce either its planting or death, but euonymus , also known as wintercreeper, grows gamely on, a steadfast evergreen anchor of the bourgeois landscape.

Consider this blog entry a plea to resurrect its rightful place in the border, an entreaty to envision and enact a euonymus Eden, if you will.  I'm aware that it is contemptible in its commonality, boring in its banality, but it is hardy and hale and handsome in most sites.  The biggest and really the only failing of euonymus is actually the gardener's lack of imagination and foresight in cultivar selection and placement.

ProfessorRoush is not fond of coniferous evergreens, and may therefore subsequently be more open to experimentation with broad-leaf evergreens than perhaps your average mediocre dirt-digger, so I've grown several euonymus over time.  And while Euonymus kiautschovicus 'Manhattan' is the most common euonymus grown here in Manhattan, Kansas (the "Little Apple", as opposed to Manhattan, New York, the "Big Apple"), I've managed to avoid it like it was poisonous.  Hard to believe, but it simply is too bland, and grows too big, even for me.

'Emerald Gaiety' Euonymus
 I've long enjoyed Euonymus fortunei 'Emerald Gaiety', however, as a repeated fixture in my landscape, and I get entirely overexcited over E. fortunei 'Moonshadow', preferring the latter over the similar, but more trashy, 'Emerald 'n' Gold' cultivar.   'Emerald Gaiety' looks good for 50 of the 52 weeks in a given year, with lighter lime-green new growth in the spring and pink-tinged chilly edges in the winter, losing its appeal only at the end of winter when old leaves drop and brown over a few weeks.  'Moonshadow' provides an enduring and  beautiful specimen shrub on both sides of my entry walkway, glowing most brightly with the new growth of Spring.  Pruning either shrub is easily accomplished; just remove the fast-growing spikes each spring to keep it shaped and remove any non-variegated growth that occurs.  I've also shaped both cultivars with hedge-trimmers in early Spring, without any visible long-term detriment to their survival or appearance.

Right now they are quiet, mere notes in the landscape, their unobtrusive presence noted in the photo here by the white arrows in my front border.  They are obedient and calm, providing light contrast and balance to the bountiful flowering perennials among them.   In winter, however, THEY are the color, resistant green and white or green and yellow splotches to remind me that life remains in the garden despite the frigid temperature and frozen gales.  I depend on them, and ignore them, their devoted and yet fickle gardener, taking full advantage of their easy-going nature and their pest-free presence.

And "euonymus" is pronounced, for those who-wanna-know, if-you-must-know, "yoo-on-uh--muh-s".  So there. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Duplicitious Bulbs

I believe that I must be the last gardener on the planet to realize that John Scheepers and Van Engelen are sister companies, but I offer this information for others of my unbaptized and unknowing ilk.

They tipped their hand this year, bulb emperors without clothes, because I received both catalogs by mail on the same day, a seeming coincidence that initially elicited my amusement at the acute timing of the two companies.  That night, as I feverishly looked through the luscious, colored John Schleepers catalog for some desired lilies and alliums, and then through bland Van Engelen, I realized that both catalogs had the SAME OFFERINGS listed BY THE SAME EXACT ORDER!  Always slow, and one to easily be fooled, I looked at the information for ordering and found both companies had the same exact address and phone number.  Fool me for a decade, but never longer.  I was somewhat chagrined to search the internet and discover that such a treasonous bit of advertising sleight-of-hand was certainly not an unheralded secret.

I have ordered from both over the past few years, and I was initially a little angry that some devious advertising executives had taken me in, but further investigation revealed that the Van Engelen website freely discloses that both companies had the same owner and the same offerings and it tells me the reason why I (and you) want BOTH catalogs;  "John Scheepers offers flower bulbs in smaller units with significant volume price discounts while Van Engelen offers the flower bulb collection in larger, wholesale units with volume discount pricing."  John Scheepers and Van Engelen were, in fact, both owned by the late Jan S. Ohms, as is John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds.  Ohms acquired Van Engelen in the 1970's and John Scheepers in 1991.  

For my purposes, the well-illustrated John Scheepers catalog allows me to see and pick items by appearance, but after identifying my shopping list there, I turn to Van Engelen, which offers better pricing for both small (5 bulb) and large (>100 bulb) lots.  Oddly, Van Engelen doesn't offer lots of 10 bulbs and other intermediate sizes, so for some items, John Scheepers is the better source.  This year I've identified 14 items, 10 of which I'll purchase from Van Engelen, and the other four from John Scheepers.  I still don't understand why the companies publish and mail me two separate catalogs, a duplicate expense that surely must be reflected in the price of the bulbs, but I recognize that the answer may be entirely logical but beyond me, tied up in some Federal red tape of bulb importing and wholesale laws of which I'm happy to remain ignorant.  Or, it could be that the blue-blooded upper crust of bulb gardeners spurn the colored-flower pornography of John Scheepers and stick with the tasteful lists of Van Engelen.  And I suppose that Van Engelen sounds more Dutch and authentic for a bulb source than John Scheepers.   Regardless, if you've only been buying gluttonously large lots from Van Engelen, make sure you receive a John Scheepers catalog as well, if only to look at or drool on the photos of each item.

Note:  I am not associated with either Van Engelen or John Scheepers, nor do I receive any favors from either firm beyond the services they provide their average customer.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Alas, Sweet Marianne

With a heavy heart, ProfessorRoush feels that he must give a full accounting of 'Marianne', sweet wonderful 'Marianne', who fills me each Spring with such deep hope and yet year after year leaves me with bitter disappointment.  Soiled 'Marianne', too delicate and too beautiful for the harsh realities of gardening in the Flint Hills.

'Marianne', full view, 2015
I planted Paul Barden's 'Marianne' in 2010, and despite some early setbacks from the ravages of wind and animals, she reached her mature 6'X6' frame by 2013.  She remains at that size for me, without the need for pruning or protection of any kind.  This is a gorgeous, voluptuous untouched bush, and yet she manages not to sprawl over her neighbors and, with proper attention, a little nip and tuck here and there, I think she would make a perfect shrub rose.  She is completely disease resistant and cane hardy here in my garden.  She also never suckers, a most impressive feat considering that her 'Duchesse de Montebello' mother suckers everywhere.  A truly trouble-free rose.

Each Spring, she fills those hardy canes with buds, fantastically obese creamy buds, which occasionally open into the most beautiful apricot brushed flowers any rose nut could desire. As the buds form, my heart swells, ready to explode with the first flush of bloom from this rose.  But each May, her bloom coincides with our "rainy" season, the humid days and damp grounds of mid-Spring, and the delicate petals of those beautiful buds ball up and wither, or the petal edges turn brown and shrivel, or the deep copper tones fade away to sepia.  With the damage to the flowers, the spectacular scent also seems to wane, refusing to fill my nostrils with the nectars I need.  You can see what I mean here, at the right, the nearly perfect flower in the center, but the buds around it all beginning to show a little staining, a little bedraggling of the edges.

About one bloom in ten or perhaps twenty opens to full glory for me.  The bush always makes a fine conglomerated display from 20 feet away, but appears a hopeless mess up close.  Even the top photo of this blog shows some damage, almost perfect, but a little frazzled.  I'm disappointed again and again by her easily damaged nature.  She also forms no hips to otherwise save the display for another season.  Most often, the fully opened blooms look like the examples at the left, sometimes beautiful, but never quite good enough to show to highfaluting visitors.  Don't get me wrong, 'Marianne' is not a bad rose, she is just not right for a Flint Hills climate.  In another setting, where her bloom period would coincide with a hotter, drier season, I think she could bowl over a platoon of gardeners and leave them breathless in the grass.  Here, in rough and rowdy Kansas, she is just too delicate and refined.  I will never shovel-prune her, but I suspect I will remain ever disappointed, ever waiting for her perfect year.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

2015 EMG Garden Tour

The 2015 Riley County Extension Master Gardener's Manhattan Garden Tour (27th Annual) came and passed last Sunday, and I believe it was the best ever.  Today, we learned that it was, in fact, the most attended ever.  For a small band of gardeners and a small city in the middle of the country, Manhattan gardeners did themselves proud.  ProfessorRoush could be slightly biased, however, because one of the gardens on the tour was that of a friend.  Of likely greater consequence in my bias, however, is my "status" as the tour day roving photographer for the Master Gardeners.

With a relatively new Nikon camera, I captured over 600 pictures in the six tour gardens in 3 hours, not including over 250  additional photos of the gardens last Thursday on the "pretour."   These, I have culled down to about 600 photos that were in reasonable focus, of decent composition, and pretty cool.  For instance, I hope the painted pine cones above captured your attention as surely as they did mine.  They were a table accent in one of the gardens and a fine accent at that.  The fabulous deep red lilies against the white fence in another garden provided another bright spot of color.  Make sure you click on the photos to see them a bit larger.

Due to various and sundry Federal regulations, the vast mass of which I'm completely unaware and likely violate to some degree or another on a daily basis, I can't show you any photographs of people on the tour or I'll violate HIPPA or FIRPA or one of the OTHER-PAs.   I can, however, show you these two ingenious "pot people", Clay, and Terra.  Near them; in timeout, the gardener had placed their daughter, Mary Jane.  Get it?  Timeout?  Mary Jane?  How's that for garden creativity?  I sense these homeowners may have some history within the 70's as former hippies.

The same gardeners with the pot people also had a wonderful butterfly garden, where I captured these two beauties feeding on the milkweed.  Here lives a gardener that truly practices what she preaches.

On the garden pretour, near the end as dusk was falling and a storm cloud was rolling in, the night lighting and landscaping around this pondless water feature turned the whole area into magic.  I could have spent hours taking photos from every angle at this garden.

As a gardening voyeur, ProfessorRoush is mad about plant combinations, and several of the gardeners could teach lessons in style.  One standout is the grouping around this angelic statue; blue spruce, Japanese Maple, variegated Fallopia japonica, and yellow-tipped arborvitae, an almost flowerless garden with lots of color, restful and serene.  The same gardener had the spot of various hostas accented by a green globe seen at the left, below.  A green paradise in a single photo!

Another combination I appreciated was the soft gray foliageand pink daisy combination from a second garden:

ProfessorRoush does not get excited over heuchera as a general rule.  I've lost several varieties to sun-burn in my  own shadeless garden, but I could not ignore the beauty of the dappled sunlight on this specimen heuchera.  What a sight!

 I'd love to show you the whole photo set, all 600+ of them.  They might not appeal to your everyday crowd at a NASCAR race, but I suspect that many of you would enjoy seeing them.  I'll leave you, however, drooling at the prospect of another few hundred fabulous photos and contemplating this simple photo of a statue that left me determined to locate a copy of my very own.  This little reading child would look great in my reading-themed garden.  And if I  can't find a copy, well, do you think this gardener would notice its replacement by a cement pig with wings or a nice stone rabbit?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Nice & Naughty Knautia

Knautia macedonia
Occasionally, one has a nice plant that does well in your garden but is overlooked by many gardeners.  Such plants often serve the triple purposes of a conversation piece, an educational opportunity, and a bragging item.  Such is the place occupied by Knautia macedonia in my garden.  I've grown it for years in my front landscape, or rather, it has grown itself; self-seeding, carefree, drought-resistant, and pest-free.  I planted it, it grew, it spread, and I simply enjoy it and remove the dead stems each Spring.  It has survived years of neglect, drought, and, this year, an almost record amount of rain.  Frankly, although sometimes I have to point it out to visitors, I wouldn't attempt a garden in the Midwest without it, even though the common name of the genus, "widow's flower" gives me a bit of pause.

I learned of Knautia macedonia years ago from Lauren Springer Ogden's first book, The Undaunted Garden.  Mrs. Ogden had a section at the end of the book highlighting, if memory serves, about 50 plants that were well adapted to her arid eastern border of the Rockies.  Knautia macedonia was one of those and I remembered her description when I saw it for sale at a local nursery.  The photos here, I believe, represent the original species, although I think it used to be more scarlet than it seems to be now.  Or perhaps I was just younger and the colors were correspondingly brighter.   At one time, I also grew K. macedonia 'Mars Midget' in the same area.  'Mars Midget' is a shorter cultivar with this overall color, but with whiter stamens.  I don't know if it survived, or perhaps interbred with the species to give me a bit of a darker red hue.  There is another commercial selection available, 'Thunder and Lightning', but it doesn't appeal to me because it is one of those modern monstrosities of plant selection with variegated leaves combined with a more puke-purple flower.  Yuck.

Knautia grows on the northeast side of my front border, at the feet of bright red Rugosa hybrid 'Hunter' as you can see above, and it blooms for most of the summer before dying back to a reliable perennial base.   The smaller flowers in the photo above are all K. macedonia, the brighter red larger flowers are 'Hunter', and the mauve-red blobs at the left of the photo are 'Kansas' peonies that are past their prime.  A closer photo of the Knautia macedonia mishmash is shown here at the left.  The plants are relatively short, but the flower stems rise high above the border and sprawl carefree around all their neighbors.  Gardeners' who like Knautia must be willing to tolerate a moderately disheveled but predominately pretty lass who is a little loose with her limbs and who is prone to procreate at random places throughout the garden.  ProfessorRoush most definitely falls into that class of gardener.  Also self-seeding and equally flirtatious, but not yet blooming in the same area, is my bright red, square-stemmed  'Jacob Cline' Monarda that will later add more bright red to this scene sometime during the second flush of 'Hunter'.   Red without end, amen.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Strong Survivor

Let us talk now of courage and survival in the face of adversity.  No, I am not even remotely referring to the trials faced by reality tv stars, nor to that of politicians who are in constant need of help to remove their feet from their mouths or other orifices despite their coincidental fortunes donated by special interests.  Let us talk now of 'Survivor', a rose that has earned a place in my garden by sheer tenacity and determination.

'Survivor', also known as 75659-5015, is a gangly, tough, thorny shrub rose of a fabulous, deep red, cluster-flowered semi-double once-blooming form.  If I haven't given you enough adjectives to describe her, let me add she is scentless, resistant to blackspot, has dark-green semi-glossy foliage, forms hips, and occasionally suckers,  She grows to about 4 feet tall with supple canes that sprawl randomly about.  She is also completely cane-hardy here and is said to survive in Zone 3b and lower.  Although I noted she suckers, she will not massively invade a bed like a Gallica rose will, and she is easy to keep under control.

'Survivor' is, without a doubt, the most aptly named rose that I grow.  I grew her first in a garden in town, then moved her via a sucker to my prairie before there was a home on the land.  I later moved a sucker to the second rose bed that I created where she survived for a decade shaded on one side by taller 'Seven Sisters', and another by 'Maidens Blush', with towering 'William Baffin' at her back.  Finally, two years ago, I took pity on her and moved the majority of the bush onto a more sunny spot next to 'Madame Hardy' (recent photo at right) and also placed two suckers into another bed.  Every single one of those roses are still growing, including the lonely cane of shining red flowers placed amidst the prairie grasses where it gets burned almost every year, and, as I noticed last week, a resprout of the rose beneath 'Seven Sisters' (below left).  

'Survivor's parentage is a partial mystery.  I obtained her in the 90's from Robert Osborne's Corn Hill Nursery, where she was originally introduced in 1987. Osborne obtained her labeled as 75659-5015, believed her to be bred by Dr. Svejda and part of, but not introduced with, the Explorer program.  He described the parentage as 'Old Blush' x 'Fru Dagmar Hastrup'.   That origin has been called into question and denied by Dr. Svejda.  'Survivor' is still listed in Modern Roses 12 as bred by Dr. Svejda, but on helpmefind.com/rose as bred by Henry Marshall in 1975.  It is likely that she was a sister of Morden #71659501, a cross of 'Adelaide Hoodless' and a seedling descended from 'Crimson Glory', 'Donald Prior', and R. arkansana.  Looking at her, I expect that the latter parentage is correct, because she has many characteristics in common with 'Adelaide Hoodless', although 'Survivor' is much more resistant to blackspot in my garden than Adelaide Hoodless, and she is of less dense form.

Regardless of how she is considered, as an orphan, a cast-off, or an unintended release, 'Survivor' has earned her name and her place on my Kansas prairie.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...