Monday, April 24, 2017

Rosette Roundup

It's time, my friends, to report the results of the Rose Rosette Plague and Massacre of 2017.  I spent the weekend before last culling out the victims and mourning the holes left in the landscape beds, and there are still a couple of very sick individuals to tackle.  This weekend, I had a brief respite from the slaughter of so many innocent roses while I accompanied Mrs. ProfessorRoush on a short day-long journey.

The Newly Departed, dead or ripped from the ground and cast on a funeral pyre:

Folksinger
Prairie Harvest (2)
Double Red Knockout
Freisinger Morgenrote
Rosenstadt Zweibrucken
Carefree Beauty
Improved Blaze
The Fairy
Kashmir
Hot Wonder
Golden Celebration
Alba Odorata X Bracteata
Morning Blush
Charlotte Brownell
Prairie Star
Hawkeye Belle
Queen Bee
Champlain
Red Moss (2)
Variegata de Bologna
Cardinal de Richelieu
Lady Elsie May
Prairie Sunset
Alchymist
Winter Sunset

These are, mind you, just the roses that were showing Rose Rosette at the end of last year.  I have not kept count, but I've probably lost 50 roses to RRD, or at least 25% of the rose cultivars in my garden.   I have a number of other roses that just failed to return this year, but never showed any signs of Rose Rosette; were they weakened by disease and then finished off in a tough winter?

As far as groups of roses, the Rugosas seem to be the most resistant.  I've only had one, 'Vanguard', definitely affected with RRD, although I'm suspicious of my 'Conrad Ferdinand Meyer' at present (but who could be sure, given its already excessive thorniness?).  Most of my gallicas and albas seem to be resistant to RRD, although hybrids, like 'Morning Blush', are fair game.  The Griffith Buck roses are hopeless.  I've lost most of them, either due to RRD, or due to a combination of subclinical RRD and winter kill.  My remaining Griffith Buck roses are either pretty isolated in distance from the main rose beds, or they are probably living on borrowed time.  For those who are wondering, I don't believe the idea of cutting diseased canes off at their base has ultimately saved any rose and believe me, I tried.  When you see the disease, destroy the plant immediately.

I've filled some of the holes, after an appropriate waiting period, with new roses, primarily Rugosas or OGR's, hoping that they are resistant to RRD.  I just received starts of 'Moje Hammarberg', 'Fimbriata', 'Scabrosa', 'Armide', 'Georges Vibert', and 'Orpheline de Juiliet' from Rogue Valley and planted them today.   I also went on a "sucker" spree last week and transplanted suckers of 'Harison's Yellow', 'Souveneir de Philmon Cochet', and 'Dwarf Pavement' into a number of areas.   I'll probably regret the invasive possibilities of the 5 new clumps of 'Harison's Yellow' if they all live, but not until they get out of hand.  My roses are going to be overwhelmingly yellow and early in a couple of years.

While I was out with Mrs. ProfessorRoush, I acquired the metal rose shown in the photo accompanying this blog entry.  It may be prone to rust (sic), but I'll bet it doesn't become extra thorny nor develop witches broom growths from Rose Rosette Disease.  One way or another, I'm going to have roses in my garden, eh?

Friday, April 21, 2017

Yellow Bird Grows

Well, the forsythia bloom got slaughtered sometime this winter, and my red-flowering peach was a bit of a dud this year, but for some unfathomable reason, the magnolias here all bloomed better than ever, not a hint of winter damage.  I can only conclude that at some critical moment during development, the buds of the former were blasted by a cold night, while the fuzzy plump magnolia buds just kept on ticking.  I know we had one night of -10ºF in December, but it seemed like a mild winter overall.  My roses, however, were also blasted back to the ground, even some of the hardiest.  Somewhere, either the winter dryness of the prairie or some extremely cold night was harder than usual on the plant material.

Anyway, as you can see from the photos, Magnolia 'Yellow Bird' has lifted my spirits for nearly two weeks and she continues to bloom today.  I thank my lucky stars for the day I snatched this up at a local nursery, pricey, but worth every penny for its weight in gold right now.  I'd been holding my breath for weeks, watching and waiting for these buds to shine free.

'Yellow Bird', which started out from a two foot tall twig, is now topping 6 feet tall.  This year her blooms came out before the foliage, so I didn't think she was quite as "showy" as she normally is when these blooms burst from the green foliage background, but she certainly didn't hold back her abundance.  Her appearance isn't helped by the wire cage she lives in, but I'm not about to let the deer damage her.  Someday she can rise above all this.

'Yellow Bird' is scented, but not as heavily as my other shrub magnolias, 'Ann' and 'Jane'.  I would describe the scent as a light citrus-y fragrance.  But, always the cynic, I wonder if I'm imagining it because the bright yellow blossoms remind me of lemons and are nearly as big?

Her bloom began this year around April 10th, opening quite a few at once when we had two warm days in succession as seen on the picture on the left, below.  She opened almost everything, a vast orgasmic display, by four days later when the picture on the right was taken.  People, I'm in love.





Monday, April 17, 2017

Sedges and Pussy-toes


Mead's Sedge (Carex meadii)
As he works around the garden, ProfessorRoush always keeps an eye on his areas of native prairie for unusual forbs and for the date of annual blooming of the early forbs.  Right now, while the prairie grass is still low from the spring mowing, I noticed two low-growing grasses shouting for attention.  Well, I thought I noticed two low-growing grasses.  ProfessorRoush was wrong again.   Repeat after me:  grasses are hollow, rushes are round, and sedges have edges.  Each belongs to a different taxonomic family, and even the most amateur botanist (like me) should strive to recognize that they are distinctly different, even more so than Chihuahua's and Great Danes.




The nice little yellow thing above is Mead's Sedge (Carex meadii), which seems to grow everywhere as an understory for prairie grasses.  When it is interspersed with the purple of ground plum (at right), the soft yellow and purple hues make the nicest little microcosm of spring pastels.  Mead's Sedge is a triangular-stemmed sedge named for Samuel Barnum Mead, (1798-1880), a U.S. botanist and physician.  It prefers limestone or chalky soils, which describes my ground in spades (sic).





Field Pussy Toes (Antennaria neglecta)
Every spring, I also see these little fluffy club-like heads pop up, another "grass" that I notice.  Well, this is actually Antennaria neglecta, also known as Field Pussy Toes (as listed at www.kswildflower.org), or Field Cat's Foot (as listed in my copy of Tallgrass Prairie Wildflowers).  Of the common names, I think Field Pussy Toes is a much more interesting name, don't you?  Antennaria neglecta is a member of the family Asteraceae with the sunflowers.  I've seen this growing for years among the grass stems and assumed it was a grass, but when you look closer, the bases of these flowers are the white-gray-woolly leaves laying flat on the ground.  It grows in colonies and although it is dioecious (bears male or female flowers on separate plants), each colony is a clone and is either a male or female colony.  The photo at left depicts the male, or staminate, form for those who care about such niceties (yes, I peeked).

In Kansas, Field Pussy Toes have to be differentiated from Parlin's Pussy Toes (Antennaria parlinii).  The latter has leaves that are shinier and have less "hair."   While my Field Pussy-Toes live in environments suggested by their name (i.e. prairie fields), Parlin's Pussy Toes prefer rocky oak-hickory forests and glades.   For those who are interested in having Pussy Toes in their own gardens, Monrovia has a pink form, Antennaria dioica 'Rubra', available for sale.

As I've noted before, each year I try to remember to note the return of the early species to my prairie in my field guides, and for Field Pussy Toes, I've noted their first occurrence anywhere from March 25th to May 4th, with the earlier date from 2012 and the later from 2002.  Field Pussy Toes, like many other species on my prairie, seem to be pushing their growing/flowering period earlier, supporting the global-warming crowd.  On the other hand, I've got 3 dates written down for Mead's Sedge; 4/10/2000, 4/15/2003, and 4/10/2017, and its appearance is not apparently changing over time, supporting the climate-change deniers.  Who knows?  

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Life Renewed

ProfessorRoush had prepared a profound plum of gardening philosophy for you to ponder today. However, the accompanying photo, of 'Yellow Bird' Magnolia, newly displaying a perfect yellow hue and partially escaping from its protective cage, is substantially more appropriate to represent the deliverance and rebirth of the season of Passover and Easter today.  Happy Easter 2017, Everyone.

(PS:  For those of both a Christian and Country bent, my brother-in-law introduced me to the song Outskirts of Heaven by Craig Campbell.  Take a listen on this sunny Easter day.)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Hidey-Holes and Fairy Gardens

Unlike some of my fellow human-kind, ProfessorRoush has never quite bitten on the lure of the supernatural.  Sure, I have always liked a good scary movie, particularly in the company of a younger Mrs. ProfessorRoush.  In those days, she reacted to fright by clinging all the more avidly to my brawny gardening arms.  Scare the current Mrs. ProfessorRoush and she's just as likely to take a swing at you.

The whole gobbledygook of ghosts and goblins and garden gnomes, fairies or elves is not part of my fantasy world, and as much as I liked Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy, or even Brendan Fraser as the hero in the modern "Mummy" films, I seldom worry about encountering such creatures in real life.  I normally agree with Rod Serling, host of The Twilight Zone, who said, "There is nothing in the dark that isn't there when the lights are on."  At least that's what I tell myself on dark nights on the Kansas prairie when the wind is howling outside.  And when I'm trying to decide at twilight if the dark lump in my landscape is a known bush or a browsing deer or a Sasquatch.

I briefly reconsidered my thoughts on the other dimensions last weekend, however, when I noticed the little tunnel as pictured above, heading darkly under the roots of a Purple Smoke Tree.  Just for an instant, one can believe that this Hole would be a perfect little entry to Alice's Wonderland, the motivation for any number of fantastic tales.  Shrink me down, and how far would I tumble here before I encountered the Red Queen?  What sort of creatures, do you think, have made this Hole a haven?  Mundane little prairie frogs or mice?  An intrepid little pixie or goblin?  If a leprechaun had popped out of The Hole right as I discovered it, I wouldn't have batted an eye.  Surely, on this prairie, I'm not about to poke The Hole with a stick.  With my luck, it wouldn't be a grouchy gnome that would answer, it would be an unreasonably angry copperhead snake with vengeance on its mind.  

I won't do anything as rash as creating a fairy garden to lure something out of the Hole (the picture at the left is from a friend's garden), but I will watch this Hole for activity, perhaps spreading a few grass clippings on the bare ground so I can detect movement in and out of it.  In the process, I may discover new things about my prairie ecosystem, or I might be permanently perplexed at this prairie perforation, or I might yet discover that I'm just another part of the Matrix and learn something of the unknown worlds beneath our feet.  The mere discovery of this Hole has convinced me that I should at least be more open to the viewpoint of Woody Allen, who stated, "There is no question that there is an unseen world.  The problem is, how far is it from midtown and how late is it open?"

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Who Wore It Better?

'PrairiFire' Crabapple
ProfessorRoush has a guilty little secret to confess.  Come a little closer, please, I don't want to shout this to the world (looks left, looks right, swivels to look behind, lowers voice).

When I'm waiting somewhere, doctor's office or haircut or oil change, and when I rummage through the  magazines while waiting (I have to read, I can't just sit there), my favorite magazine to read is....People.   As much as I grumble about the cultural devastation wrought by Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and the Kardashians, I still prefer to bide my down time in the tabloid company of the stars.  To my further discredit, I think one of the best recurring themes in People are the "Who wore it better?" pictorials.  In full disclosure, I generally prefer Salma Hayek over Lindsay Lohan in that red evening gown.


'Royalty' Crabapple
Today, working all day in the garden, I was honored to be in the presence of three finely jeweled leading figures, my trio of crabapples, all decked out at once at the peak of their bloom.  Obviously vying for my affections, all three were posing the "Which of us is wearing it better?" question straight up.  So I thought I'd bring them here, to ask your help.  What do you think, who wore it better?

Was it 'PrairiFire', pictured at the upper right, with her prolific blooms destined to form oodles of 1/2 inch fruits for winter?  This 'PrairiFire' was planted in back in 2009 near the vegetable garden in one of the most continually moist spots in my garden and seems to be doing well here.   She is relatively fast-growing and the bees were very busy today tending to all her lady parts.  She has been a fickle lass for me, however.  I dallied with several other 'PrairiFire' in the past before this one and lost them all to drought or cold or prairie fire or  pure gardening incompetence.  'PrairiFire' is a little too high maintenance here in Kansas where the prairie fires can snuff her out in an instant.

'Red Baron' Crabapple
Or perhaps is it 'Royalty', adjacent to my front driveway, who shows off the best?  'Royalty', pictured at left above, is a 2001 planting, has a somewhat rotund overall form, and I often complain that she hides her purple-red blossoms within the wine-cast foliage; a pretty maid in purple sackcloth.  She has been a slow grower, but is stalwart and dependable in her own way, sort of a Carrie Amelia Moore Nation of crabapples.

And then there is Monsieur 'Red Baron', displayed at the bottom right, a suave gentleman, but yet another of the poor choices of burgundy foliage that I planted during my "wine foliage" period.  He is a 2002 vintage and is planted out near the road.  Tall and slender, 'Red Baron' seems as embarrassed to have his deeply dark red flowers as I am in admitting that I read People.  

Oh forget it, my introductions to each have probably swayed you towards my personal choice, 'PrairiFire', so I'm just tallying another biased poll like all the pollsters in the last Presidential election.  I, myself, undoubtedly prefer 'PrairiFire', even if she is a little high-maintenance, for her brighter blossoms and for the fact that she never produces suckers, chaste in contrast to the other two older crabapples who are prolific sucker-makers (sucker-ers?).  'PrairiFire', in my garden, is the strawberry-blond Julia Roberts of Pretty Woman, wearing it best, year after year.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

TIL: Hedge Shear Epiphany

TIL, for those gardeners who are not yet hip to Reddit, is shorthand for "Today I Learned" in millennial-ese.  ProfessorRoush was introduced to Reddit by his two millennial children, but I still need an internet Urban Slang Dictionary on standby every time that I venture into a new subreddit.

Anyway, TIL (actually I discovered on my own) something about the hedge shears pictured to the right.  I was using them to chop down some of my thickest Miscanthus clumps; you all know the massive monsters that I'm talking about, resistant to chopping, too slow to cut with a knife and too thick for easy trimming.  Some grasses fall easily to my battery-operated electric shears, but these demons have stems as large as 1/2" diameter, and are tougher than nails to cut with pruners.

To cut these mutants down to size, the best way I'd previously found was to insert the blades of the hedge shears around a section of grass, and then to slam the handles together once, twice, thrice, and more, over again and again with all my might.  It takes a lot of strength and energy to fell several large clumps this way, but I know of no better alternative; all my electric pruners simply clog up and stop on the thick stems.  A chain saw might do it, but I've never tried one, for the simple reason that I hate the loud, noisy, stinking things.

I've always wondered, however, about the reason for the wavy edge on one side of the blade (look closely at the left blade on the photos) of my manual hedge trimmers.  The only internet sources I could find that described it suggested that the wavy design "grips branches for solid cutting."   What I discovered today, however, is that if I pulled back sharply just as I closed the blades, the shears slice through the thick grass in MUCH easier fashion, like scissors on steroids.  Wow, what an epiphany!

This leaves me, once more, wishing I had a horticultural education so that someone would have taught me the correct way to use these shears sometime before my 57th birthday.  In fact, however,  now I wonder if the trick is taught anywhere.  I consulted Jeff Taylor's Tools of the Earth, and found nothing other than the repeated idea that the serrations hold the branches for cutting. Likewise, William Bryan Logan's The Tool Book discussed the wavy edge as an improvement for holding twigs, but left out this little technique of slicing.

So, for those of you who use this type of hedge shear to trim back your heavy grass clumps, give this technique a shot.  For the first time ever, I'm actually looking forward to cutting down Miscanthus.  I'll have to wait for next year, though, because the work went fast today.   I'm done cutting back grass in my own garden, and I'm not enthused enough to go find another garden and cut down some more right now.  I'm thrilled, not crazy.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

DeForsythiaized Depression

Okay, now it's obvious, Someone is just playing a particularly cruel joke on me.  I think it was just last year, or perhaps the year before when I said out loud that I should plant more forsythia, doubtless in a weak moment brightened as always by their cheery little blooms in the early spring.  Someone, Some Evil One, overheard me.  There must have been hidden microphones about, hard-wired back to the depths of Hell.  Or maybe I was inadvertently included on a wiretap directed at the Trump campaign.

You see, over 6 weeks ago, I cut some forsythia stems to force indoors, an early gift of spring to Mrs. ProfessorRoush.  They leafed out, but never bloomed, a disappointment I chalked up to my poor technique.  Then a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the forsythia were blooming all over town.  Since it's not uncommon for my windswept hillside to be slightly behind the concrete-warmed microenvironment of Manhattan, Kansas, I was not alarmed, just titillated as I awaited the many forsythia of my own garden.

This week, however, it became evident that I have waited in vain.  There will be no forsythia blooms here on the prairie this year, only a very few isolated bits of yellow that are invisible unless you are searching.  Not on 'Spring Glory'.  Not on 'Golden Times'.  Not on my new superbloomer 'Minder', also marketed as "Showoff".   Not even on 'Meadowlark', my favorite, said to be the most cold hardy of all the forsythia.   They are all leafing out, bloom-less and boring.

 Internet sources state that forsythia might not bloom for a number of reasons, including improper pruning, hard winter, or late spring frost. lack of sun, too much nitrogen, or just too darned old.  In medicine, I've come to learn that when there are a number of explanations, it usually means that no one really knows a cause.  In my case, I can eliminate improper pruning (fall instead of spring) because I don't prune my forsythia as a general rule.  They aren't too old because some of these plants were planted last year or the year before and are no where near maturity.  I can eliminate lack of sun because, well, because it's Kansas and they're all planted in full sun.  And we just had the mildest winter overall that I can remember.  I do have a general tendency to fertilize things too much, but a few of my forsythia never get fertilizer, so that is unlikely as well.  I'm attributing this one to the late freeze that I noted in this blog just 17 days ago.

I'm despondent, discouraged, and dejected over my deforsythiaization.  I'm not sure spring even counts without forsythia.  I'll try to console myself with the bright new foliage of 'Golden Times', pictured above, but it is not enough yellow to start to cheer me up.  And "next year" is just too far away.  Curses.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Concrete Leporidae

How many of you, Garden Fanatics, Part-Time Dirt Grubbers or Cutting Garden Aficionados all, would voluntarily choose to host a rabbit in your gardens?  No?  ProfessorRoush suspects that any decent comprehensive poll of gardeners would overwhelmingly demonstrate their lack of  interest in a resident rabbit or two, even accounting for the usual 80% of contacts that either slam the phone down or ask never to be called again, and for the  5-10% who answer in the affirmative in a misbegotten attempt to throw the poll numbers off.  I don't know about you, but my response to any pollster who calls me at mealtimes or during my Sunday afternoon naps (which seems to be the only time these demons call), is to give them the most contrary answers I can think of.  And then to place a curse on all their descendents.

Here's a news flash:  I LOVE RABBITS IN MY GARDEN!  Concrete rabbits, only, to be fair and accurate.  I have a weakness for fairly visible rabbit statues, here, there, and everywhere.  There is hardly a bed in my garden without it's resident rabbit, from the "Gentleman Rabbit" above, who greets visitors at an entrance point to the lower garden, to the "Begging Rabbit" at the left.








One of my favorites, and most recent addition, is the "Long-Eared Rabbit", that I added last year.  He stands in a refurbished bed of peonies and daylilies just off the back deck.  I enjoy him there, but the tall ears make his center of gravity higher and he tends to topple over on really windy days.












I have several "inquisitive" rabbits, sitting on their hind haunches and curious about their surroundings.  The tallest, at the left, is nearly two feet tall and hard to miss.  I inherited that one from my father's garden about 5 years ago.  Nearly as tall is the rabbit who peeks out from under a holly near the front door, always ready to thump out an alarm at the first site of intruders.








There are also a few more basic rabbits hidden here and there.  If I ever host a large garden party again, I might just make finding each rabbit a scavenger hunt for any children at the event.  On second thought, however, encouraging children to run madly around the garden is perhaps not a good plan.


You can even sit on the rabbits in my garden. This rabbit-themed bench sold itself at a single glance, providing a spot to rest and screening the pipe from a buried propane taken as it enters into the house.  The two "legs" of the bench, are crouching rabbits, better seen from the sides than from the front.




Subconsciously and consciously, I hope that my collection of concrete rabbits is viewed by any LIVING representatives of the clan as either a cautionary tale (stay around this garden and the gardener will turn you into stone!) or as a sign that the neighborhood is overcrowded and they should move on.  I'm about done collecting rabbits, however.  I've been able to successfully resist the impulse to purchase several recent rabbit sightings.  Any more hares in my garden and I'm afraid I might start having nightmares.  Even now, sometimes, late at night, I wonder and worry that they'll start breeding and producing more little concrete bunnies in my garden.  I'm not crazy; one can never be too careful around a bunch of rabbits.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Just in Time

Just in time, I got the debris cleared off the asparagus bed today.  See the new white shoot just breaking the soil in the center of the picture?    If I'd waited another two weeks, I'd have broken this shoot and others off as I snipped away at the mass of brown asparagus ferns, delaying our first freshness of the new year.  Mrs. ProfessorRoush likes her asparagus carried straight in from the garden, sprinkled with oil and Parmesan cheese, and then broiled.  I like it however she wants to fix it, that first taste of soil and spring.







It has been too cold, at least on the weekends when I've been free, to do much of the spring work in my garden, and yet today it simply got too hot.  The local weather app tells me that it is 92ºF here at 5:00 on Sunday afternoon and ProfessorRoush is not yet conditioned to working in heat, so I lasted about half a day in the garden.  I cleared the asparagus bed,  replanted the strawberry bed, put some gladiolus bulbs down, and moved a half dozen fragrant sweet pea plants from their cozy inside surroundings to the cruel world.  I was just starting to cut down some ornamental grasses when the warmth and a rising wind forced me back indoors. The rest of the week is cooler, thankfully, back to springtime instead of summer.  On the plus side, the temperatures for the next 10 days range from highs of 53º to 73º and lows from 57º to 37º, so hopefully, this 'Jane' Magnolia flower, just opening up today, won't get damaged and the rest of the 8' shrub should bloom without a hassle.

Since I've shown you 'Jane', I should give you a followup on my poor Magnolia stellata, bouncing back from the 20º arctic blast of last week.  Yes, the crinkled brown blooms distract from the newer perfect blush-white petals, but there are enough of the latter to waft the damp musky scent around its vicinity.  The fragrances of these two Magnolias are quite different, 'Star' gifting me with the scent of Mesozoic swamp, a deep and thick odor that is not quite sweet but not unpleasant, and 'Jane' emitting a light and definitely sweet fragrance with just the slightest hint of cinnamon.  Of the two, I'm drawn more to earthy 'Star', for some reason that likely rests in my animal brain more than my intellect.  'Jane' is just too....sweet....to entice me for another sniff.  'Star' says "hey there, Sailor, wanna sit on the sofa and mess around?", while 'Jane' says "I think I'd like to go get some ice cream tonight."

I was excited today to see that the Martin scouts have returned!  This year, I have been ashamed to say, I never even took down the houses for winter, but now I'm glad they are already up, two weeks before the April 1st date that I usually bring them out of the barn.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Tropical Surprises

I don't want to forget to relate that while I was communing with the art of tropical gardening during my time at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, I also learned a bit, ever the student thirsty for knowledge.  For one thing, I was fascinated by these large seed pods hanging from a trellis in the orchid room.  What were they, mangoes?  Some form of papaya?  There was no botanical marker that I could find at the base of the small tree they came from, so I finally had to search out a Marie Selby docent for the identification.

These, my friends are cocoa pods, just starting to ripen with the delicious seeds that will eventually become my favorite candies. I had seen them before, growing almost wild in Granada, but I had never seen them ripen.  Here, at last, is a reason to have a winter home in Florida; chocolate ready to pick off the tree!  Well, perhaps some processing would be involved, but still!   What will they think of next, vanilla from orchids?

Another surprise botanical treat on my visit was the finding, first, of bananas growing on an actual banana tree.  This bunch of bananas was badly beaten and broken down, but all the same they looked like they would someday be nourishing.  I was tempted to pick a fruit to compare tastes with the store-bought variety, but one never knows, these days, when a surveillance camera can be lurking and I don't need Homeland Security to open yet another file about me.

My largest botanical wonderment greeted me, however, from an adjacent tree; this incredible display of a banana flower ready to open and be fertilized so that the crown of ovaries above could bear fruit.  What a prehistoric feeling one gets while staring at this 8 inch long and plump blatant display of pure sexual reproduction brazenly free and open to the tropical air.  One glances behind oneself at a first glimpse and would not be surprised to see a Velocirapter creeping up to make a Mesozoic meal of modern man. What I'd give to be there now, a week later to see the flower open in all its musky splendor.

I had no idea, all these years of eating bananas, of the mechanics of the process.  Flower heavy and fecund, ovaries patiently presented for fertilization.  Once the world hits on a good pattern, it never lets go, eh?    

Sunday, March 12, 2017

I Told Them So

I tried to warn them. I really did.  You heard me just a week or so back, right here on this blog.  "Hush little darlings" I said, "Go back to slumber, it's too early."  Well, see them now, regretting their decision to open up quite so early.  Mother Nature strikes once more.  Now that I think about it, I believe I have taken a picture of daffodils covered by a little snow every year I have lived here. The impatient little devils!

I was hopelessly praying that my Magnolia stellata would hold off, but alas, this latest cold spell and bit of snow hit just when its display was at its peak.  I so wish I had taken a picture of the shrub yesterday before the blossoms browned and withered, if only for bragging rights.












Even worse, the musky scent is gone, vanished, without a trace from the flowers reduced to brown tissue.

I can only still hope that the few remaining unopened buds of the Magnolia keep their beauty and their fragrance hidden until better days appear.





And this apricot will certainly not be a producer this year.  There is a reason that Kansas is not a major exporter of apricots and you are witnessing it.

Still, however, the apricot blossoms and snow make a really nice photo composition, don't they?  Click on the closeup photo of the apricot blossoms and blow it up in all its splendor.  Wow, what subtle pastel colors!











And then there are the Scilla and the Siberian iris, peeking sky blue and purple out above their snowy feet.  Good gracious, can we just start spring over again?











I say again, "Garden, go back to sleep".  There will be time later for all this foolishness.  Let sleeping gnomes lie.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens (Photo Heavy)

I find it surprising that I've blogged now for a blue million years and haven't ever mentioned Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.  My parents have a vacation home just south of Sarasota, and so I visit Selby Botanical on almost an annual basis, an oasis of peace for me amid the tumult of vacation.  In fact, I was just there in late February, a planned break from the Kansas winter even though in the 5 days I was in Florida it was only a few degrees warmer there than Kansas.  If you've never been to Selby, it's well worth a couple of hours and the $20 admission to stroll the gardens, and even worth the extra $5 to tour the Selby Mansion on the grounds if you're into such domestic arrangements.  First and foremost, of course, one should appreciate orchids, the centerpiece of the Selby indoor conservatory.


I, myself, have always been a little partial to the blue or purple vandas.  I don't know why, I just am.










In the orchid house, these large containers "spilling" with a cascade of orchids make a fabulously creative display.








Even here at Selby, one cannot seem to escape the abominations of social media.  This "selfie stop", as declared by the sign, is a popular place for photos;  in fact I had to wait around for 5 minutes to get a picture of it without people around.  At least it hasn't been discovered, to my knowledge, by the Kardashians as yet.  Thank god the "K's" don't seem to be gardeners.










The larger grounds at Selby are fantastic.  Here, at a fork in the path, the bamboos grow taller than trees.















And, surprising to me, this arid succulent display does quite well here in a tropical climate.









I seem to spend a lot of my Selby time admiring the garden ornaments as much as the flora, however.  This little mushroom/toad house/fairy home drew me back again and again.













There are water features in several areas, but none worked better for me than this waterfall.  I played with exposure for softening the falls, but the real art was hiding in the little water nymph beneath the ferns.














Another statue, this "Mayan" figurine, called to me from its hidden grotto back in the orchid house.
This year I visited on a cloudy day, but the diffused light made for some marvelous photography at times.  These dark salvias made a nice photo for me against the storm in the distance, while changing the exposure really made them pop from the background.  Several visitors seemed to think these were lavender, but I kept my know-it-all trap shut.  No reason to spoil their enjoyment.




A low-lying swampy pool near the mansion, however, gave me what I thought was the best photo of the day;  a water lily to rival Monet for sheer beauty.






So, if you get near Sarasota, Florida, go ahead and feel free to drop the family off at the Ringling Bros. Circus Museum and go over to where the fun really exists;  at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens!







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