Friday, June 14, 2019

Timeous Turtle Trek

"Arf, Arf, Arf;" the neighbors dog, Huck, was barking incessantly last night as I traipsed around the garden, trimming dead canes off a rose here, transplanting a rose or two there, and watering seedling, just-purchased roses.  Eventually, Bella and I sought him out, curious as to what he had found on the prairie, 20 feet off of my neighbor's driveway.  I was betting snake, but as it turned out, I was quite wrong.  The dog had found a large turtle, probably a quarter mile west and above our pond, heading straight as an arrow towards my neighbors pond, across the blacktop driveway and another quarter mile down the next draw.

This seemingly ancient creature is a
Snapping turtle, Chelydra serpentina, identified by its long tail and ridged shell.  Yesterday evening, that turtle's tail was as expressive as any dog's, flipping angrily whenever Huck got too close.  Hunkered down for the photo here, he just wanted to be left alone on his journey, presumably in search of more abundant food or agreeable mate or both.  As always, when I run across such creatures, I do a little reading, and found out from Wiki that the folklore about snapping turtles biting off fingers and toes is just a myth, with no confirmed cases.  Although they can certainly apply a painful bite, and while you shouldn't pick one up by the shell because their necks can stretch completely around their armor, they actually have less bite force than a human.  They often live 20-25 years, with a maximum reported age of 38 years, so I wonder what the chances are of this being the same just-hatched turtle that my daughter found during a 2014 burn?  Probably not a likely coincidence but it's fun to think about it.

Up until the turtle, it was a peaceful evening in the garden.  I had spent some time admiring the first blooms of some dark red Asiatic lilies (photo at the top) that I planted as summertime filler among the viburnum bed.  There used to be other colors and varieties planted in the bed, but the only long term survivors seem to be deep red.  Not that I'm complaining, because I swoon over that dark rich color against the green of rose and viburnum foliage.

I have and encourage other fillers in these beds, but I count on serendipity and Mother Gaia to supply the most important.  Everywhere that the Butterfly Milkweed,  Asclepias tuberosa, (left, above) decides to show up as a "weed," I let it remain in all its orange glory.  In a similar fashion, I'll allow any Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) (right) to grow unmolested in any bed.  The fantastic fragrance of these wildflowers, especially the Common Milkweed, are an early gift to me, and their value as a food source for caterpillars and butterflies make them all keepers in my gentle garden.

Turtles and milkweed were the sendoff last night for me to seek satisfied slumber with dreams of butterflies and blooms.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019


Mystery free rose
ProfessorRoush has been waiting patiently for several years to identify a rose that has struggled in my garden; trampled by deer, dehydrated by drought, and encroached upon by neighboring plants (including an overbearing 'Applejack' in the vicinity), it has nonetheless survived.  Before this year, this year of over-rain, she has never bloomed, growing slowly from a seedling that I protected to the current bush, about 2.5 feet tall and as wide.  Now, I ask you, what is she?

I've looked at my obviously lousy records for clues to her provenance, and there have been several roses planted in this area, mail-order rooted cuttings, in the past 10 years.  Some grew well for a season or two and then faded, or succumbed to RRD.  For instance, 'Amiga Mia' was to the left and forefront of this plant in the bed, and I well remember "my friend" and her loss to RRD.  I had hopes that this was the Buck rose 'Countryman', but now, upon seeing the first blooms, I can now eliminate that rose, a much deeper pink than my current demure blushing bush.   Similarly, 'Frontier Twirl', 'Aunt Honey', and 'Enchanted Autumn' have been in this general vicinity, do not match this rose in bloom or behavior, and all have moved on to another higher gardening dimension.

Because this rose has never bloomed before, I have concluded that it must be a non-remonant rose, since I haven't seen her try to bloom before, likely an Old Garden Rose, perhaps an Alba or even a very shy Bourbon?  The foliage, closely examined, is moderately shiny and glossy, not like a Damask or Gallica, and it is reasonably healthy, with little or no blackspot despite all the rain.  The blooms are very double, light pink, fading to cream on the outside, and they almost recurve with a button eye.  Thorns are sparse, small, and curved down on the stem. The round buds did brown up and deform like 'Maiden's Blush' often does in my garden in a wet year.  The fragrance is strong and sweet with no tea overtones .

Sadly, I think the solution to this particular mystery lies in a rose band I planted in 2011, obtained as a "free rose" from Rogue Valley Roses.  RVR used to provide a free extra rose or two with their orders, depending on the size of an order, unsaleable roses that they had mislabeled or managed to lose the label or overstocked roses they had on hand.  Usually they would pick a rose for you that would survive well in that customer's particular hardiness zone.  My notes show that my free rose that year was planted in this area, and although 8 years seems a long time to have this struggle in my garden, I really can't remember how long this particular plant has been here. So, if it was my "free rose," I probably never will know exactly who this rose is.

Still, it has a beautiful bloom, relatively healthy foliage, and seems to be resistant to RRD, so I'm hardly in a position to really care about calling it by its given name.  I'll just christen it "Pink-maybe-Alba" and enjoy the show when I can.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Numbing Nutsedge Nightmare

Sometimes, a little gardening knowledge is a burden too difficult for the gardener's soul to bear.  We see things that others don't, the subtle hues that don't belong, the texture that doesn't blend, and it tears at us, ripping away the mantle of civil society and bearing the dark soil within.  We try to seek justice, try to shift the weight of wisdom off our shoulders, but find no relief.  Such it was with ProfessorRoush this past week.

Every day, as I come to work, I pass the simple bed pictured above along the sidewalk, a few short yards to the left of the entrance.  On May 30th, I noted with some amusement the overgrowth of yellow nutsedge in the bed (circled in red) among the struggling daylilies (circled in blue), and brought it to the attention of the individuals who oversee the care of the bed, passing along both my identification, my recommendations for a nutsedge-specific herbicide, and my general angst at discovering this unholy mess outside my workplace.

 Today, I noticed that the bed had been sprayed (see the photo directly below) and that all the plants were dying, nutsedge and innocent daylily alike.  Obviously this area was sprayed with glyphosate or some other non-selective herbicide.  While my call to arms had been heeded, my renowned advice had not.

While cogitating this distressing development, reeling and staggering from the renewed load placed upon my shoulders, I meandered to the beds on the right side of the entrance, and realized to my horror that these beds were no better, in fact far worse, than the original abomination was.  Preserving them for prosperity, I present them here for you to ponder:

Bed portion 1; Containing a world-beating crop of yellow nutsedge (circled in red in the foreground), with some barely surviving ornamental grass in the back (circled in blue).  I think this grass was originally Panicum 'Cheyenne Sky' or something similar.

Bed portion 2: A really not-delightful mix of more original ornamental grass (blue circles), crowded into the margin by what I think is a wild tri-lobed sumac (orange circle), and more yellow nutsedge (red circles).

Bed portion 3:  A miserable grouping of ornamental grass (blue circles), common dayflower (yellow circles) and yellow nutsedge (red circle).  The common dayflower, as you know from my previous rants thereof, is a virtually indestructible weed in this region.

I shall suffer on here, sickened by the senselessness of the slaughter I've seen, but not in silence, nay, I have again unleashed the furies of  unsolicited advice on the herbicidal unwashed.  Unrequited, I may soon have to resort to guerrilla gardening in the shadows of night, spray bottle and trowel in hand, a furtive figure following a path to futile madness.   

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Purple Wow Factor

'Orpheline de Julliet'
I think this blog is far past due for a rose update, don't you agree?  Old Garden Roses are nearly always beautiful and generally healthy little floral critters, but even these time-selected varieties seldom bring me to my knees with awe.  This particular new rose in my garden, however, 'Orpheline de Julliet’, is certainly making me sway on my feet if only just a little.

I planted 'Orpheline de Julliet' in 2017, a small band without much substance at the time, but a lot of promise.  She survived the drought of last year, growing a little but not spectacularly.  This year she has grown to approximately 2 feet tall and wide, and is finally giving me a show that I hope will only grow over the years as she reaches her advertised mature height of 6 feet tall.

'Orpheline de Julliet', whom I'll nickname "Orphie" here, is a Gallica rose of unknown heritage.  Some sources trace her to William Paul's The Rose Garden published in 1848, while others claim she was listed in Vibert's catalog in 1836 and give her a pre-1836 birthdate.  According to Brent Dickinson, the name translates to "July (female) Orphan," so named because she often blooms later than most once-blooming roses, an orphan at the end of the rose season.  Here, in Kansas, I wouldn't call her particularly late, as she is blooming along with 'Madame Hardy' and right at the tail of the main rose bloom in my garden.  Officially, lists her as "crimson and red", with a strong fragrance, full quartered bloom form, once-blooming, and with a Zone 4 cold tolerance.

'Tuscany Superb'
The lure of Orphie, however, is in those deep crimson blooms.  I've seldom seen a rose with such deep color, similar to 'Tuscany Superb' but with more full flowers and even deeper tones.  My 'Tuscany Superb', seen at right, struggles in the garden, while Orphie is drawing my attention right from the starting gate and is much healthier and more robust. Set off against a light green matte foliage, the blooms fairly pop from the bush across the garden, don't they?  Yes, 'Orpheline de Julliet' will be a keeper in my garden, with proven survival power and the ability to make Mrs. ProfessorRoush gasp as she comes round to her corner.


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