Sunday, April 17, 2016

Prairie Rapunzel

This blog entry, to many readers, will seem silly.  Pedestrian, pathetic, tired, and trite.  Let me assure you that, however bromidic and banal you see these digitized yellow gems, they represent the song of my soul, the apex of my gardening prowess.  For in my garden I, ProfessorRoush, have a living, blooming tree peony.  For this, I have slaved, suffered, and labored, entrenched and focused on the path to garden nirvana, heedless of setbacks and temporary defeat.  This lemony chrome beauty, this shining yellow, is the reward of my persistence, six years of toil for six immaculate blooms.  Triumphant, the gardener basks in their glowing glory, satiated and content in this moment of recompense.

I know, I understand, that many of you live in climates where tree peonies grown as carefree as dandelions.  You've stuck a desiccated, decrepit, cheap Big-Box tree peony in the ground and forgotten about it until it astonished the neighbors.  Not here, my friends, not here in Kansas.  Until this success of mine, I knew of one living, thriving tree peony in town.  One.  There are loads of Stella de Oro daylilies, purple barberries, junipers, and Knock Out roses around town, but tree peonies are as rare as a mild Kansas day.  The only more rare gardening plant in this vicinity would be a clump of Meconopsis.

To grow this particular Paeonia suffruticosa on the prairie, I've resorted to extreme measures.  Ridiculous, absurd, laughable, ludicrous, you provide the adverb, I've done it in pursuit of this yellow zebra.  The wind, the relentless prairie wind, is my sworn enemy.  Its allies are the intermittent drought, scorching August sun, and nibbling pack rats of my environment.  Although the photographs above are beautiful, the reality of my peony is far less spectacular.  It grows in solitary confinement, placed and viewed behind rows of chicken wire for protection from chewing winter rodent, rampaging deer, and clumsy dog.  It exists in a sheltered spot, shielded from hot afternoon sun by the house and from frigid North winds by a landscape wall of sun-warmed stone.  It is allotted extra helpings of mulch in the spring and frequent water in the summer.

This Rapunzel of my garden, this captured golden beauty, exists and blooms only for me.   There is no waiting prince to rescue her.  Mrs. ProfessorRoush has not noticed its 6 perfect blossoms.  She may have noticed, in deepest winter, that I have a chicken wire cage around a brown stick.  It is sad, somehow, that such a canvas of perfection can only be seen behind the ugliness of wire and steel, but like the endangered captive animals that adorn our zoos, its survival depends on protection and relentless commitment.   And love.  A love  whose name we dare not speak.  The love of a gardener for his tree peony, his princess, forever confined against the ravishes of the prairie.


  1. Six years? That is dedication for sure. You are obviously up for a challenge with a potential reward. I understand this as I am a helicopter parent to a tree fern. My reward is those magnificent fronds slowly uncurling from that trunk. Say, if Mrs. ProfessorRoush was a flowering plant, what would she be?

  2. Hmm...I'll have to think about that one....let me get back to you.


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