Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Camaïeux Grand Funk

♫I'm in love with the girl that I'm talking about
 I'm in love with the girl I can't live without
 I'm in love but I sure picked a bad time
 To be in love
 To be in love♫   Grand Funk Railroad

That song is stuck in my head, an "earworm" that I can't get rid of whenever I see this rose.  I've never followed Grand Funk Railroad, couldn't name a single song they wrote before I researched them today, and barely knew that they were (are?) a music group, but this tune still leaps right out of my ancient memories.

I'm smitten, today, with a new rose in my garden. 'Camaïeux' is a planting made last year as I began my search for Old Garden and Rugosa roses that might be resistant to Rose Rosette Disease.  Combining that search with my weakness for striped roses, the descriptions of 'Camaïeux' seemed like she would be a natural addition to my garden, so I made the purchase hastily online with trembling fingers hurrying the keyboard, so as not to miss its window of availability.

And then, last week, she opened for the first time, 'Camaïeux', the newly risen princess of my roses.  She's so young yet that I have only a few blooms to show you, so young that a picture of the bush wouldn't be representative of her ultimate form, but I just have to share her now with the world.

'Camaïeux' was bred, in France of course, by Gendron, and introduced by Vibert in 1830.  She is a violet-striped Gallica who blooms once in the summer and is said to mature at 3' X 3'.  These three-inch blooms have a strong Gallica fragrance for me, and are very double, ultimately opening flat with a button eye form.  The foliage seems healthy at present, with no signs of the mildew that Gallicas' seem to fight in my garden, and even as a baby she survived cane-hardy in a winter where other long-established roses have been nipped.  I have high hopes for 'Camaïeux'.

As it turns out, by expanding the Gallica contingent of my garden and blog, I'm now also going to increase my iTunes library.  My brief glimpse into the background of Grand Funk Railroad has opened me to the possibilities of this band known best for  We're An American Band, and The Loco-Motion.  It is Some Kind of Wonderful that I never realized that I knew and loved so many of their songs, but their tracks are evidently carved along the neurons of my childhood memories as strongly as the sunshine days of my youth.  At least, for a mere $7.99 purchase in iTunes, I now have new earworms to play over and over in my head, providing variety down the lonely path to insanity.  

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Banshee & the Brown Thrasher

'Banshee'
Visualize this, my friends.  You are strolling through your garden on a warm spring evening, calm breezes and quiet murmurs from the growing grasses, harsh sunlight making harsh shadows and long shapes on the ground, squinting your eyes against the glare of the setting fire as you stop to admire the delicate beauty of a shy new blossom.  Blushing, it peeks from within a shadow, luring you closer for a moment of admiration and lustful indulgence.

Suddenly, an explosion occurs from inches away, a brown blur bursting from within the branches, startling you into instant flight, survival and safety foremost in fright.

All this, and more, I experienced when I stopped to admire 'Banshee', a Damask shrub rose traced back to 1773 by some sources, but listed as 1923 in Modern Roses 12.  My particular specimen came via a purchase from Hartwood Roses a number of years ago.  Once believed to be an older Gallica, she is now thought on helpmefind/roses to be a turbinata known under a variety of other names.  'Banshee' is, in fact, known as "The Great Impersonator" among roses.   'Banshee' is a 7 foot tall shrub for me, nearly as wide, with long lax stems and few or no thorns.  She is extremely healthy and completely cane-hardy in my climate, strongly and sweetly scented, with loosely arranged double (17-25 petals) white blooms blushed strongly with pink.  She blooms once a year over a long period of spring, and although most sources suggest that she balls up in wet weather, I haven't noticed her do that nearly as badly as 'Maiden's Blush' does in my garden.  Since the "balling" seems to be mentioned so ubiquitously, could it be that I've got an impersonator of 'Banshee' here?

The aforementioned "brown blur" was a Brown Thrasher, Toxostoma rufum, presumably a female of the species.  Once my heart rate slowed down from the adrenaline rush, I looked closer and found that I had disturbed her incubating a clutch of  five pale blue-speckled brown eggs in a delightful, but rough, little nest of twigs.




Brown Thrasher's are abundant east of the Rockies, and I'm pleased to make the acquaintance of this otherwise nondescript little bird of my prairie.  They are said to have the largest song repertoire of all birds, over 1000 different types of song, but since I have never taken the time to learn bird identification by song (except for the "Bob White" of quail), I don't know how many of the early morning choir outside my bedroom windows may be Brown Thrasher's, but I suspect they may represent a large portion of the chorus.  An omnivore, it will evidently eat anything and it is fiercely territorial around nests, even attacking humans.  I'll give this nest a wide berth in the next few weeks since I don't want to initiate a mini-replay of Hitchcock's 1963 The Birds here in Kansas, even less with myself in the starring role of frantically-pecked-to-death human.

That's life in my Kansas garden today, a rose that might-or-might-not be 'Banshee', harboring a perfect little potential family of avian Von Trapp's.  And lots of sunshine and, finally, more normal summer temperatures than the recent and long cool spring.  If you need me, I'll be in the garden.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Garden Musings In Motion


ProfessorRoush thought he'd attempt a wee little blogging experiment today and, at the same time, try to bring you a small glimpse of the fury of a Flint Hill's storm.  He has long wanted to include movies in the blog and it occurred to me that conversion to animated GIF's might work.  I apologize in advance if the files are a little big for slow Internet connections.

On 5/18/2017, there were severe thunderstorm warnings in the area, and sure enough, in the early evening the sirens started to blast and the Thursday night TV lineups were interrupted for continuous local weather coverage.  A Tornado Warning was posted directly for western Manhattan, and we began watching out the windows.  While taking the photo of the ominous cloud at the left, I suddenly discovered that in one of the recent iPhone upgrades, there was a new photo option for time-lapse video.

Modern technology is absolutely incredible, isn't it?  Who would have thought, 40 years ago at the beginning of the computer age, that a slim device in my pocket would become more versatile than any camera in existence at that time, would replace our entire stacks of records and tapes, would carry all our databases and records, and would manage all our communications in ways that we could never have imagined?  Each of these videos captures between 1 and 2 minutes of actual time, a time span roughly equivalent to my attention span and ability to hold the camera still with only moderate fidgeting.  Make sure you click on the pictures to view them in full size and majesty.

Setting aside my awe and wonder for technology, and moving on to my awe and wonder for Mother Nature, from our high vantage point northwest of Manhattan, we expected at any moment to see a long finger extend from the cloud to touch the earth, but it never materialized and Manhattan, and we, were safe.  When the rain and wind finally hit us, my garden took a little beating, but it too, withstood the test of climate with little damage.    ProfessorRoush was left only with the memories and a newfound magic ability to add to his photographic repertoire.

There's a second part of the experiment of course.  I was going to put the still photo on this entry first, but then thought, "Hey, who not lead off with a video?"  Besides learning if the videos would play in the blog, I also wanted to see what happens to the "preview" image created when some of you link my blog to yours.  Will it show motion as well?

(Postscript addition;  The "preview images" in links in other blogs DO show motion.  Yay!)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Where in the World was ProfessorRoush?

For today's enjoyment, I thought a minor mystery was in order to keep you on your toes.  The rules are simple; use the clues to guess where I was this weekend.

The first clue is this flower, a Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla patens), a member of the Buttercup family (Ranunculaceae).  One of the earliest native flowers to bloom in its region, the Pasque Flower was blooming profusely in the high mountain region I visited this past weekend.

When I spotted it, I thought it was a crocus, which I knew was not native to the region.  I was not being totally naive in my identification, since this flower was called "wild crocus" by the pioneers in the area.  Another common name for the flower is the Easter Flower, because of its early bloom period.  A little research revealed its true identity and proved that it was right where it was supposed to be, between 8500 and 11000 feet above sea level.  One other thing I learned in the research is that all parts of this delicate little plant is poisonous, full of cardiogenic toxins and oxytoxins.

This clue may not help you much, but the mammalian fauna pictured here was native as well.  This little prairie dog was playing hide and seek with my camera, but it finally surrendered to the photographic necessity of the moment and posed for a still photo.  





Nor is this lichen planting likely an easy giveaway to my vacation location, unless you are able to discern what kind of stone the lichen is growing on.  There are easily 5 or 6 different species of lichen growing in this photograph, from the blue-grey mass to the light yellow and rust spots on the rock.


Within view of the Pasque Flowers and the rock formation with the lichens, there was this homestead, the homestead of the widow Hornbek, built in 1878.  Adaline and her four children homesteaded this cabin and made a thriving ranch out of the area.
Are you getting warm yet?   Marco?  Polo.



The real reveal may be this photograph.  It depicts a formation known as the Big Stump, one of the main attractions within the National Monument it stands in.  The Big Stump is a petrified redwood, about 10 feet in diameter.  It was buried in a volcanic mud flow in the Eocene area, then preserved and fossilized.  Many other stumps in the area were sold and carted off before the area was designated a National Monument.  If you look closely at the black spots of the top center of the stump, you might discern that those are broken off and embedded saw blades from an attempt to saw up the stump and move it early in the last century.  As an internal scale, you can check out the cropped off arm of a family member at the right of the informational plaque.   All of the petrified stumps in the area are now Federally protected, although after viewing the lichen colonies, I'm not sure that they are protected very well.  Lichen, over centuries is every bit as destructive to stone monuments as are greedy men with metal saws.

That's all I've got for you.  Ready to guess? Yes, for those who concluded that I was in Colorado, and further, that I visited the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, give yourself a pat on the back.  I was visiting family this past weekend and doing touristy things, which, for anyone unfortunate enough to accompany me, always means either a botanical or historical side visit.  The Florissant Fossil Beds is an interesting little spot with lots of geology and paleontology to view and I highly recommend it to those who can stand lots of fairly dry science presentations.  The Park Service does what they can to make the history, both ancient and recent, come alive for visitors, but there is only so much you can do to make an Eocene fossil formation exciting to the average viewer, however fascinating it is to nerds like ProfessorRoush.  Also, if you visit Florissant, be prepared for lots of hiking.  There are 15 miles of foot trails leading from the Visitor Center through the National Monument.

Friday, May 12, 2017

(Fru) Dagmar Hastrup

When a gardener is pressed by misfortune, by weather, illness, or insect, he or she will sometimes stoop to admiration of the unadmirable; to false flattery of the faulty.  Thank heavens, for the salvation of my sanity and reputation, 'Fru Dagmar Hastrup' is performing at her nondeplorable best this year in my garden and I can be honest about her virtues.  Perhaps in a normal year, she would be and has been outshined by gaudier specimens, but this year she is the rugose Belle of the Spring Ball.



She's about a three-year old plant in my garden, this simple Danish maid, and just now reaching early adulthood and nearly mature growth.  Standing at approximately 3 feet tall, she's short for a Rugosa, although she already shows a middle-aged spread, wider than her height.  Suzanne Verrier, author of Rosa Rugosa, suggests that she "is usually larger on its own roots than on an understock. "  For me she has been, in the past, a not very ostentatious lass for most of the year, although the exceedingly excited bee in the photo at the upper right might disagree.

'Fru Dagmar Hastrup' was discovered by Knud Julianus Hastrup at the Hastrup nursery in Vanloese near Copenhagen, Denmark in 1914.  Herr Knud is said to have likely named the quiet lass after his wife, Dagmar Henriette Vilhelmine, and according to Marianne Ahrne, writing on helpmefind.com/roses, she has always been known throughout the Scandinavian countries as simply 'Dagmar Hastrup'.   "Fru" is the older Scandinavian equivalent to the English Mrs. or Mistress, an older formal title dropped by the 1960's Swedish population  in a wildly du-reformen fit of familiarity.  In the interest of political correctness, I should probably also bend to the winds of conformity, since Modern Roses 12 also lists her as merely 'Dagmar Hastrup', but as a married gentleman, I'm going to stick here to the formal address out of respect to Mrs. ProfessorRoush.  

A silvery pink, single Hybrid Rugosa, 'Fru Dagmar Hastrup' blooms freely and often, forming beautiful scarlet hips each fall as I've previously described.    I haven't yet noticed, but she is also reputed to don attractive foliage in the fall, trading her flawless rugose medium green foliage for new and more warmly-colored attire.  Verrier gave an extremely flattering review of her, stating she "ranks as a classic among the rugosas."

Until this year, however, when she finally reached my waist, I did not know that this single rose packed a huge punch of fragrance, the clov-iest spicy clove fragrance that I've ever experienced.   I suppose that sauce for the bee is also sauce for the gardener.  'Fru Dagmar Hastrup' is completely cane hardy, drought-resistant, and, best of all, disease-free.  If there were a Tinder for roses, everyone would be swiping "up" for 'Fru Dagmar Hastrup', intent, like this bumblebee, on an easy hookup.   Like most Rugosas, I'm sure 'Fru Dagmar Hastrup' would be happy to use her thorns to oblige.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Wear Out, Not Rust Out

Those who don't like books, or those who don't like the act of reading books, may not appreciate my recent post on the reading I've been doing, nor will likely have little interest in this one.  If you find yourself however, preferring printed ink on paper to digital projections of words; if you don't feel empathy with the coldness of an iPad, but are satiated by the softness of a simple page or the weight of a binding; if you feel most joyful in a comfortable room surrounded by shelves and stories; then I know a book you'll love.

In my recent blog post, I was waxing on the pleasures of reading Beverly Nichols and garden reading in general and I had just finished Nichols' Laughter on the Stairs.  His next text, however, Sunlight on the Lawn, grabbed my attention quickly, swept by a strong current of language and thoughts straight over the written waterfalls into a pool of garden philosophy and pleasure.

Nichols has a gardener, "Oldfield," a recurring character from his books, full of hard-won wisdom and observations about life.  One example, expressed in Sunlight on the Lawn, occurs when Nichols finds Oldfield training a rose to a wall, sans gloves, and asks him about it.  Oldfield then "...had turned to me with a kindly smile, and had said: I reckon some of the young 'uns would be wearing gloves for a job like this.  But I don't hold wi' gloves.  What I allus say is, a man don't put on gloves when he makes love to a woman.  No more he should when he tends a rose."

I'm with Oldfield.  ProfessorRoush doesn't tend roses with gloves either.  In fact, I would post a picture of my forearms as they appear currently, freshly flayed from a much-needed weekend of trimming rose canes, but I'm afraid that the photo would finish the faint-hearted among you.  Suffice it to say that tending roses is a little rougher on the skin then most sessions with feminine flesh.

Early on, however, in Sunlight on the Lawn, Nichols relates a conversation with Oldfield that has a much broader application to life than his list of activities better done without gloves. The background is that Oldfield is aging, and despite it, still works long days at strenuous labor.  Beverly tries to get him to cut back but Oldfield won't.  Oldfield expresses it, through Nichols, like this:  "I want to wear out," he said very softly.  "To wear out.  Not to rust out."

"To Wear Out, Not Rust Out."  Of the great bumper-sticker slogans of gardening, that one ranks pretty high on my list.  Or, as Beverly Nichols put it further, "to pass on with one's old spade still bright from use."  My spade, upon my demise, won't be bright from use, but it just might have moist clay still clinging to it, if I'm fortunate.   I'm often questioned, by my wife, by family, by friends, of why I stay so active and have so many hobbies.  Sometimes, at my most tired, I myself wonder why there are entire weeks when I haven't sat down until I collapse into bed at night.  Now, thanks to Nichols and Oldfield, I have a good answer.

"I want to wear out, not rust out."

(Aside:  The hoe in the picture above is my paternal grandfather's tomatoe planting hoe.  I can't fathom the years of use represented in this hoe.   Look at the number of nails at the top, multiple repairs to hold the head on.   The sweat-blackened area, halfway down the staff, is worn smooth and a bit smaller by calloused hands, and the hoe balances perfectly if you hold it there.  A relic of a good life lived hard.)  

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Yes, Size Matters...

...for rain gauges, anyway.  I have no experimental data regarding other subjects.

ProfessorRoush has always been a purchaser of those little cheap 1 inch diameter rain gauges, both for price and for their ability to be mounted easily to a post.  I always wanted them cheap because, as often as not, I leave them open-side-up a little too long and lose one to frozen shatterage nearly every year.  For ages, I had one down at the garden and one up by the house, the nearest for convenience on cold rainy spring mornings and the farthest because the rain in Kansas is so spotty that I thought the second often might have differing readings (though it doesn't).

Then, a couple of years ago, I purchased a 2 inch rain gauge that stuck into the ground on a little metal stand (pictured at left) and I immediately noticed that it commonly registered more rain than the smaller gauges, sometimes double the amount of rain.  What the heck, an inch is an inch in regards to rain, right?

Recently, on an experimental whim, I purchased the rain gauge pictured at the right below this paragraph, which is about halfway between the two previous sizes.  And in the recent rains over several days, the tally was; Biggest gauge, 3.4 inches, medium gauge, 2.7 inches, and two small gauges, 2.1 and 2.2 inches respectively.


What I neglected to previously consider was that rain never falls straight down in Kansas.  It commonly sweeps in at a 30º angle to the ground.  Sometimes, it seems to be completely horizontal and never actually reaches the ground, or thereabouts.  I'm pretty certain that if my face didn't sometimes intercept the path of rain, those individual droplets might make it as far as Missouri before they fell.  So a simple explanation might be that some of the rain is hitting the side of the gauge instead of dropping into it.

Of course, any decent mathematician would have calculated in seconds that the area of a 1 inch circle is πr², or 0.785 square inches.  Held at a 30º angle to oncoming rain (and estimating by eyeball), the apparent opening of the now ellipse is 1 inch X 0.6875 inches.  The formula for the area of an ellipse is πab, or π(semi-major radius)(semi-minor radius).  In this case, that is π(0.5)(0.3438) = 0.54 square inches.  The same amount of rain just doesn't have the same target area, so the gauge doesn't fill as much.  Voila!

Of course, the real "angular diameter" of the gauge to rain that falls at near subtornadic velocity has a more exact formula  (δ=2 arctan(d/2D)), but then you get into arctans and deltas and other things that I don't want to spend time relearning. I'm still confident enough to put the validity of my crude explanation and estimates of rain depth up against the likely validity of a specific 20-year future climate change prediction by any scientist, "settled science" or not.  Bigger IS simply better, regarding rain gauges, and I'm sticking to it.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Rainy Day Reading

Since the weather has chosen to turn cold and miserably wet the past few days (and off and on for the past month), ProfessorRoush has been catching up on his garden reading.  To be truthful, I'm aching to drown myself in a good story, so I'm also watching less television in favor of losing myself in the thoughts of others.   To ensure my enjoyment, I turned back to some garden classics and purchased two of Beverly Nichols wonderful books.

If you have overlooked Beverly Nichols, I'd encourage you to seek out any of his garden-centered books you can find.  Nichols was an English bachelor gentleman from another age, cultured and clever, and his writing is incredibly fluid and floral.   I  read several of his books some years ago from the local library, but I just finished Laughter on the Stairs, and am half through Sunlight on the Lawn, the 2nd and 3rd of the "Merry Hall" series.  

 Laughter on the Stairs is focused on the Merry Hall Estate and the semi-fictional characters of Mr. Nichols' dry wit, but gardening is sprinkled throughout, especially in the last pair of chapters titled The Flower Show; Acts One and Two.  Reading Nichols, I find myself slowing down from my normal speed-reading pace, and savoring his sentences.  For example, the following passage from Laughter on the Stairs:

"I heard a timid voice asking if I would like a glass of elderberry wine.  Yes, I said, I should like it very much.  Which was quite untrue, for though elderberry wine is a most melodious title, though it has a music which would have delighted Keats, it is, in practice, like extremely disgusting invalid port.  However, I drank it with a will, on this occasion, out of a thin and elegant sherry glass, in tribute to a brave little lady who had nobody to care for her."

Another of my readings was encouraged by the recent release of Potted and Pruned, by garden blogger Carol J. Michel, author of the blog May Dreams Gardens and a Hoosier, as I once was.  Carol was kind enough to offer autographed copies on personal contact, and this book therefore fills two spots in my library, both garden-related and autographed.   Books like Carol's, and my own, are probably inevitable extensions of our garden blogs.

 Potted and Pruned is a collection of 36 garden essays, each a gem with something to offer everyone.  My personal favorites were Chapter 4 All Gardeners Are Delusional, Chapter 21 GADS (Garden Attention Distraction Syndrome), and Chapter 29 Time in a Garden.  And for those who care about classification, after reading Chapter 24, Buying Shrubs, I found that I would classify as a Gardener, a category which combines the worst characteristics of Experimenters, Grabbers, Rescuers and Researchers.  Read Potted and Pruned and you'll find out what else Carol thinks about the motivations of plant purchasers.         

Friday, April 28, 2017

Amorous Intentions

Froggy jumps and Froggy crawls,
the Gardener has disturbed it.
Sluggish blood moves icy limbs,
New Spring has come to stir it.

Turtle tramps and Turtle creeps,
the Gardener has perturbed it.
Passions lift the heavy shell,
no distance can deter it.

That's the way of life and time,
both move on despite our wills.
Love and mating drive our minds,

to chance the danger for the thrills.

My quiet and lonely winter garden came alive two weeks ago with other creatures besides the berserk Bella and her frisbee-throwing owner.  First, there was Mr. Frog, disturbed by my invasion of his daylily patch home and upset that I was spreading grass clippings across his neighborhood.  This Cope's Gray Treefrog was a little slowed by the remaining chill in the air, so he didn't startle me by jumping from between my feet.  He also didn't stay around to watch my activities very long, thankfully, since frogs make me uneasy when they watch me work.   I do like, however, knowing that my garden environment supports these fragile amphibians, even if they are probably munching on the daylilies.  Couldn't they just eat the henbit?


Just one day after meeting the first frog of 2017, I was in my front garden beds when I heard Bella frantically barking in the backyard, a bark that said "Attention! Intruder! Come Kill It!"  Intrigued, I moseyed around the back to find a perturbed painted turtle (Chrysemys picta marginata) peering cautiously at a bellicose Bella from underneath its scarred shell.  This turtle was a long way from its aquatic habitat (presumably my pond) and had meandered up and across the tallgrass prairie to the buffalograss of my backyard, a distance of several hundred yards.

Since it is mating season for these lumbering lunkheads, however, there was no mystery about its willingness to climb relative mountains.  As an adult male of my own species, who was once a teenager, I am well aware of the idiotic and dangerous feats one attempts for the possibility of female fraternization.  My first roller coaster ride at 16 years old (I was terrified of them at the time), was initiated at the impromptu invitation of a comely lass of my own age.  I stood in line for the world's tallest coaster and rode it, without a nice hard shell or a scant prayer of survival, yet convinced by testosterone that it was a worthy way to die.

 Ah, love!  It does indeed make the world go round, or at least in my case, it makes the prairie come alive.  I'm willing to indulge a little amore in my garden as long as the snakes don't come lookin' for lovin'.  Adam and Eve aren't the only ones who had fun in the garden but skedaddled when the Serpent showed up.  

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.

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