Thursday, November 24, 2022

Christmas Conspiracies

While ProfessorRoush is usually a reasoned and contemplative individual (please pay no attention to Mrs. ProfessorRoush's cackling in the background), I am not ashamed to admit that the occasional attractive conspiracy theory does obtain some small foothold of territory in my mental processes.  In contrast, however, to those crackpots who insist that there was never a moon landing or those who maintain that the earth is flat, despite all the growing evidence against either view, I feel compelled to reveal, here for the first time, a real, personally documented, grand conspiracy. 

I'm positive that all of you, all gardeners and shoppers, all homeowners and plantspeople, have been experiencing a great sense of unease as Thanksgiving approached and local store aisles filled with holiday decorations and unwanted unnecessities, yet you've all likely been unable to pinpoint the cause of your disquiet.  I'll admit that I shared that underlying apprehension with you, until suddenly a great revelation appeared to me last week and, to my eternal shock I became aware, you might say "woke", that one of the great mysteries of civilization had been developing right in front of my eyes; a mystery I shall now reveal.

WHERE THE HECK ARE ALL THE CHRISTMAS CACTUSES THIS YEAR?   Normally, by this time, every checkout aisle and every floral display area would be filled with wilting but blooming $6-$9 pots of colorful red and white and pink and fuchsia Christmas cacti raised especially to capture your whimsy and your excess cash during your vulnerable moments of holiday shopping.  This year, there are none available, not one anywhere near Manhattan Kansas, a fact which I confirmed by personally visiting every big box store, grocery store, and hardware store in the area this week.  

I started out on this conspiracy track innocently, merely wanting to see if a new color or variety was available to add to my collection and brighten Mrs. ProfessorRoush's windows, yet the absence of the cacti became more evident with every store I searched.  Querying the internet for an explanation has been similarly unsatisfactory.  There have been no media reports of mass destruction of Christmas Cactus nursery facilities, nor scientific papers on sudden mutations of fungal wilt that threaten the extinction of the cacti group.  Asking Google the simple question "Where have the Christmas cacti gone?" is rewarded only by 10,591,251 occurrences inanely explaining how to make a cactus bloom, and it undoubtedly results in one's name being added to some secret list somewhere as well as causing your mail and social media feed to fill up with hundreds of ads for plant sales and fertilizer.  

We will call it the Great Missing Christmas Cactus Conspiracy of 2022, or "CCC-22", and later generations will remember this blog entry as the initiation of the movement alerting the world to their loss.  It is a fact that Government officials are completely silent on the issue and appear to be taking no action to investigate the mystery.  This is surely an occasion for Congressional inquires and appointment of special prosecutors if ever there were, don't you agree?  The President, Dr. Fauci, or at least the Illuminati must be behind the disappearance.  No, wait, it's COVID-19, isn't it?   SARS-CoV-2 was not developed to destroy democratic societies, save Medicare, and unleash the New World Order, nay, the ultimate goal by some powerful fiendish billionaire Christmas-cactus-hater was for the virus to wipe out annual production and commerce in Christmas cacti, wasn't it?

If you don't hear from me again, you'll know I touched a nerve somewhere.   Wake up, everyone, before it's too late to save the cacti!  Write your Congresspersons, call your Senators, and let's make our Christmas-cactus-loving-voices heard!

Sunday, November 13, 2022

November Notes

Dr. and Mrs. ProfessorRoush set out on a quick run for tacos and Crumbl Cookies® last night, a quest for the perfect Saturday night snack combination.  Well, that, and Mrs. ProfessorRoush has developed an addiction for the aforementioned establishment's iced sugar cookies and we needed to lay in a reserve stash in case she developed a craving when they're closed on Sunday.   Happy wife, happy life and all that.  Anyway, we had no more pulled out of the driveway than we saw a beautiful stag and doe framed in perfect sunlight in the neighbor's front yard.

Unfortunately we missed the chance for an equally perfect photo of the pair, but on our return home a mere 45 minutes later, I spotted this lurker hanging just around the back corner of the neighbor's house.  In the way of deer, he was probably just waiting to see if he could hang around until the cover of darkness when he would happily nibble away on the neighbor's landscaping, so I foiled him by driving down a side lane and spooking him.  Not before, however, I captured these images in the closing light of day, through the dirty windshield, but still not a bad picture.  He's beautiful and I hope his proximity to town allows him to escape the hunting season since most folks around here don't shoot into the random horizon for fear of hitting a house.  Most folks, anyway.

I've got a busy week ahead, so I'm not making it a long post today.   I've got to spend some of today preparing for a Johnson County Master Gardener presentation about Rugosa and Old Garden Roses.  Since they're all that Rose Rosette disease has left me, you can bet that I'm going to touch on that hell-borne scourge as well.  Happily, I was in Kansas City a few weeks back and, in a large outdoor mall, captured this image (below) of three 'Knockout' roses in their landscaping, right, so-to-speak, in my audiences' back yard.   Most of the 'Knockout' roses on display there were exhibiting signs of RRD, so I think this picture will drive home my point about growing and breeding RRD resistant roses.

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Seasonal Shifts

'Morden Sunrise'
Yes, friends, it's that time again.  That cursed time of time change, Daylight Savings to Standard, welcome to the world of waking at 5:00 a.m. while your body thinks it's 6:00.  That world.  ProfessorRoush wishes a face-melting pox on all the mealy-mouthed politicians who promised that last year was the last time they would confuse our biorhythms and increase our statistical chances of heart attacks and car accidents in the next week. Oh, wait, another promise from the same people who promised us 2 weeks would "flatten the curve" and save us all from COVID?  More's the fool, me.

My garden has seasonally shifted color and mood as well.   Two weeks have taken me from the last two roses pictured here on October 17th, to completely bare trees and the tans and umbers of autumn.   It seemed like it was overnight, one sudden drop into the mid-20ºF ranges and the world died, trees suddenly bereft of leaves who seemed to have come to their senses and dropped en masse, morphing their supporting structures from clumps to skeletons before I could prepare to mourn the change.  I'll bet the spider on this 'Heritage' was just as dismayed as I am.


'October Glory'
However beautiful the maple, it's a hard moment for a gardener to go from the sunny tones of 'Morden Sunrise' to the purple-red of 'October Glory' without warning.  This red maple is the only colorful tree still holding leaves, the strutting rooster among a few oaks clinging to leaves the shade of mud and dust.  I can turn from the computer and see it out the window, there in full sun, a beacon calling from my yard to the horizon.

Euonymous alata
The only match for the maple is my burning bush, Euonymous alata, who finally, after all these years, is reaching the potential that I saw for it.  This bush has been in its spot for two decades but never before this colorful, usually stripped of its leaves by winds and rodents before I can notice it.  It beckons me further into the back yard, calling me to its side, where the subtle oranges and yellows of the viburnum beside it on the right promises more subtle pleasures.

I'm resigned to winter, waiting for the first snowfall, already tired of the lack of life in the garden.  And yet this morning I planted hope, hope in the form of these bulbs and corms, small patches of color to march with Spring as it returns.  These crocus and puschkinia are now planted on either side of the driveway entrance, where they'll be noticed if the prairie winds don't pulverize their petals before they can appear.  It's an act of faith, this planting, for I planted a like number of crocus in the same spot last year, only to see just a few poor specimens survive to bloom.  Perhaps the waxy puschkinia will do better is the heartless prairie winter.   My garden, an experiment in patience, continues.....      

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Garden Gone

Friends, ProfessorRoush apologizes that he has been gone from the garden and this blog for so very long.  There is no grandiose excuse, no mealy-mouthed explanation for it, so I'll spare you the diatribe.  The facts are that September came, the drought deepened, and my garden and I stopped interacting.  Until yesterday, I hadn't mowed the entire garden for at least 5 weeks since it wasn't growing at all, a long stretch broken only by occasional swipes around the driveway and roadsides where the ground gets extra runoff, and I'd been waiting for the first frost to finish things off.   Finally, last week, we got that first frost in spades as we hit 22º on our first night below freezing since...well, since I can't remember last spring.

Yesterday, as a result, was a massive day to catch up with my garden and I did it all;  mowing the occasional spikes of grass that disturbed the otherwise smooth lawn, bush-hogging the taller prairie grass that I allow to grow as "rain gardens" in the summer, trimming, draining hoses, and just generally making everything look "in ordnung."  I'll miss the reddish hues of the tall prairie grass if we ever get rain, but it was browning quickly this year and I don't like to give the pack rats and mice any more room to thrive near the house during the winter then I have to.   I just finished repairing 3 downspouts where pack-rats had chewed through the nonmetal drain pipes and I don't need any more.

I was intrigued yesterday by the contrast between the 9/11/2022 photos (above) that I took of a clump of native dotted gayfeather (Liatris punctata) in the back and its appearance yesterday (right and below left), now mature and ready to spread seed through the garden.  I would have mowed this whole area earlier, in fact, but I held off just to let this clump mature, because I want it all through the backyard grass.  Nothing attracts butterflies like gayfeather, so you can just consider this my gift to future generations with colorful wings.  I'm hoping the whirling blades of the bush-hog spread it over the entire area and covered it with grass mulch for best germination.

Dotted gayfeather, appropriately for Kansas, is a member of the Sunflower family.   Drought-tolerant, its tap root can reach down 15 feet for water, and it doesn't transplant well as a result.  You have to cultivate it where you find it, wherever God and the winds decide to plant it.  It is flavorful to cattle, so I don't see it bloom in my pastures, just in the protected areas fenced away and allowed to flourish.  And roadsides in areas that aren't mowed by the road crews.

Other than these ramblings, my fall has been a kaleidoscope of spectacular sunrises and sunsets.  I've taken a number of pictures of shining examples of both over the past month, always intending to share them on the blog but never quite sitting down to it.   So I'll leave you, today, with my back yard this morning at sunrise, yellows and tans and browns and russets all blending into the horizon, and all neat and clean from yesterday's mowing.  While several trees are already bare, you can see the yellow cottonwood stand out tall and, to its left, a shorter red oak beginning to brighten up the view.  Soon enough, it will all be white, so I'm going to covet the colors as long as I can.


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