Thursday, April 14, 2016


There was a repeated melody on the old television show Hee Haw whose refrain went "If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all."  Well, I can  now sing that melody to "If it weren't for distractions, I'd get some real work done."

You see, last Saturday was a day filled with distractions from my gardening goals.  In the midst of achieving my primary objective, putting out the 56 or so bags of landscaping mulch that I had purchased, I was pulled off task by a seemingly endless stream of diversions.  First, there was this gorgeous clump of wildflowers (above left) surrounded by still dormant prairie grass.  The native flower in question is Sisyrinchium campestre, also known as "White-eyed Grass", a member of the lily family.  It occurs all over this prairie, although perhaps in less striking clumps in most places.  Oddly, you may find the species under the name "Prairie Blue-eyed Grass", although the "eye" or center is yellow and the flower petals are definitely pure white in this area.

Another momentary interruption from task was my sighting of the first yellow sulphur butterflies of the season, floating over the prairie sea from island to island of this plant displayed at right, the Ground-Plum Milk-Vetch (Astragalus crassicarpus).  You'll have to imagine the butterflies, because although I spent 30 minutes trying to get one fleeting photo of these flitting ground-plum fans, I was unable to produce even a single blurry yellow blog of them on an image.  The majority of the butterflies that day were yellow, although there were also a few white sulphurs.  Astragalus crassicarpus is a legume and supposedly an ancient food source, although it holds no major claim to human food chains today.  My minor nibbles of the "berries" suggest to me that a better description of the plant is that it is perhaps edible, but not palatable. 

While unsuccessfully searching for still butterflies, and before returning to mulching, I came across this hideous nest of Eastern Tent Caterpillars (Malacosoma americanum) in my 15 year old 'Royalty' crabapple tree.  I hate those nasty caterpillars with passion rivaled only by my disdain for pack rats.  Immediately upon spotting this budding metropolis of leaf-consuming spineless larva, I froze to avoid alerting them.  I slowly and quietly reached to my back-pocket for pruners, in fear that the creeping crawlers might startle and move a few micrometers in an effort to get away.  There, I grasped and smoothly produced my Felcos (slow is smooth and smooth is fast as in the best traditions of gunfighting), and I removed the offending branch from my eyesight, grinding it into the grass under my heel some distance away from the crab tree. Wild Bill Hickok, himself, would have been proud of my resolve and lethality. 

My quest of mulching completion was then further delayed for another half-hour while I examined every tree in the immediate vicinity of the house and dispatched two more disgusting nests in similar fashion.  The 'Royalty' crab survived the necessary amputation and will live to display its sickeningly muddy-purple blossoms yet another season.  'Royalty' is not a crabapple that I'd recommend to other gardeners.  While some texts describe the tree as "particularly loaded with dazzle...covered in such rich, deep-pink flowers that it will literally stop traffic,"  I would describe the tree as a dull-purple blob with dull pink-purple blossoms framed by dull purple leaves and not worth any substantial cost outlay.  Not my favorite crabtree, but I'm still not willing to throw it to the non-mercies of the Tent Caterpillar.

All this and many more yet un-disclosed diversions, and I managed only to empty and spread approximately 30 bags of mulch before exhaustion and larval caterpillar hatred took their toll.  Still, as you can see in the photo below, I think the front landscaping looks better with its new makeup foundation base, ready for the finishing touches of rose rouge and dark green holly eyeliner as the season rolls along.  A garden, as a woman, can certainly be naturally beautiful, but a little foundation and highlighting nearly always help improve the allure.  With the exception, of course, of Mrs. ProfessorRoush, perennially perfect in complexion and grace. 

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