Sunday, August 2, 2020

Color Echoes and Garden Dramas

Basye's Purple Rose
While mowing yesterday, ProfessorRoush yesterday that he had accidentally and serendipitously planted a "color echo" side by side in the same bed, unrecognized until both bloomed at the same time.  Everyone who has spent time on my blog knows that I am a fan of trouble-free Basye's Purple Rose (top, right).  It's blooming sparsely but steadily right now, preparing, I hope, for a big fall show.

Buzz™ Velvet
Basye's Purple is in the foreground of the picture to the left.  Just across the bed, in the background of the photo, is its color twin, a dwarf butterfly bush that I planted in 2014.  This one is Buddleia davidii 'Buzz™ Velvet', a rich copy of Basye's deep magenta color if ever there was one.  'Velvet' is one of the series of Buzz™ buddleias hybridized by Planthaven Int’l, and he survives well in my garden, one of only two that have returned for more than 5 years running ('White Perfusion' is the other one).

Buzz™ Velvet may be a "butterfly bush," but it wasn't drawing any butterflies yesterday in my garden.  No, the butterflies were all running to the Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum) that sits near the feet of my 'Jane' magnolia.  I have a single specimen of Joe, and he's as coarse and weedy as his name suggests, but at least he's fragrant, and fragrant in a good way.  Dull pink is a charitable description of his complexion, but in contrast the fragrance is to die for.

Joe Pye Weed does, however, beckon insects from all over the garden, just as it did the Painted Lady butterfly I photographed on it, and it has a delicious, sweet and light fragrance for ProfessorRoush to enjoy as well.  Sometimes even a weedy plant has a few positive attributes.

Wheel Bug 
Like many gardening stories, however, this happy meeting of a fragrant plant and a beautiful butterfly is not without cautionary notes.  Just two feet in front of the butterfly, another of life's little dramas, was playing out on the Joe Pye Weed.  This Wheel Bug, Arilus cristatus, has grabbed itself a bumblebee for it's evening meal.  I've also written about Wheel Bugs, and this largest of the assassian bugs (Hemiptera) is a common predator in my garden, if a nonselective one.  Mr. Wheel Bug, can you please, in the future, leave the bumblebees alone and concentrate on Japanese Beetles and June bugs?  Or are they just too tough for you, you coward?

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Storm A-Comin

The oncoming week of temperate weather conditions is wasting no time in arriving, with the temperature dropping from a 93ºF high two hours ago to a pleasant and breezy 85º at present.  And the sky to the west is providing that uneasy feeling best defined as "ominous."

It's Kansas in summertime, and I, for one, welcome the relief that this "cold front" is going to provide, as well as the rain to keep the prairie thriving down to those long roots deep down in the soil. 

Behold the panoramic majestic prairie in the calm before a storm:

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Be Shameless, Bee Red

'Midnight Marvel'
It's a red week here on Garden Musings, with several of ProfessorRoush's favorite bright red plants in full bloom at once.  I began the week stunned by the dinner plate size and brightness of Hibicus 'Midnight Marvel' as she came into full bloom.  This rose mallow is a toddler for me, the entire plant only two years old, but it reached three feet tall and wide for me this summer and it blooms every day with dozens of the most beautiful scarlet-red flowers I can imagine.

'Midnight Marvel'
Bloom, bloom, bloom, across the garden she's a beacon, a "come up and see me sometime" kind of gal.  All that red even spills over into the foliage, more burgundy than green, as if the red in this plant's veins couldn't be contained in the enormous flowers.  She is almost too red for a simple man to witness.

'Honeymoon Deep Red' foreground,
 'Midnight Marvel' background
'Honeymoon Deep Red'
'Midnight Marvel' has a similar but less attractive neighbor sharing her bed, one with equally-large blossoms on a more diminutive form, the frumpy Hibiscus moscheutos 'Ambizu', also known as 'Honeymoon Deep Red'.   These blossoms creep over the crimson line to slightly mauve and, because of that, I find her less attractive.  Alone, her lipstick mauve against the bright green foliage would be satisfactory, but, as you can see in the photo at the right, 'Honeymoon Deep Red' looks a little dumpy next to 'Midnight Marvel', just another poor sister to Cinderella at the Annual Ball.

'Centennial Spirit'
Simultaneous with 'Midnight Marvel', my favorite crape myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica ‘Centennial Spirit’, awakened in a nearby bed.   This morning, looking out my bedroom window, I was momentarily confused by its brightness and thought something new was blooming in the rose garden beyond it.  My sense of unease over something in the garden that didn't fit was compounded by the aftereffects of sleep and it took me a minute of staring to realize the "red" was nearer than the rose garden and, in fact, blazing forth in its expected space.

You don't need to listen to me spout the marvels of  ‘Centennial Spirit’, you need merely to follow the bees to see which red plant they prefer.  'Midnight Marvel', as bright and beautiful as she is, is a sterile wasteland for other life, while 'Centennial Spirit' buzzes with activity.  Bumblebees, smaller bees, and other insects are all over 'Centennial Spirit' in a frenzy, moving quickly from crinkled blossom to blossom, fighting each other to see who gets to the pollen first.  To the eye of Mother Nature, there is no contest for which is the better garden plant.  Look closely to the photograph at the right; see the "sweat bee" hovering nearby, waiting for the gluttonous bumblebee to move over?

I was caught up for a few minutes this morning, trying to capture some decent "bee on crape myrtle" still life photos.  Believe me, these weren't nearly so easy to get as my earlier pictures of bees on my roses.  On roses, bumblebees loiter, crawling over and over the pistils, collecting pollen from a wide area.  On this crape myrtle, it was almost like the plant was too "hot," the bees dropping onto a blossom briefly, but off again often before I could zoom in and focus.  At times like these, I'm thankful most of my photos these days are spontaneous and taken on a nimble iPhone; quick-to-focus and with a fast  "shutter" speed, almost, but not quite, able to freeze the motion of even a bee's wing.  But sometimes, just occasionally, and with lots of luck and patience, there comes a photograph worthy of framing.  Don't you agree?  I think I'll title this one Chub-bee in Red Lace.  Get it?

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Squealworthy Coneflower

You should have heard Mrs. ProfessorRoush squeal yesterday evening when she saw this picture!  We were watching those last few minutes of nightly news in bed, both browsing through our phones, when it became a contest of "who took the better picture of my hibicus" (I'll post those in an upcoming blog entry).   "Can I have it?" were the first words out of her mouth.  Mrs. ProfessorRoush is always wanting to steal pictures from Garden Musings to post on her Instagram account, even before I've posted them here in the blog.  Normally, I tell her she has to wait until I post then on the blog, trying to reserve that first glimpse for Garden Musings readers.  But it occurs to me now, far too late, that I should barter favors for pictures while her photo envy is aroused.

This very tall perennial stands about 6 feet tall for me and will bloom now to the end of August.  And I don't know what it is.  I suspect it is Rudbeckia laciniata, because it's the right size (about 6 feet tall and columnar) and the leaves look perfect and of course it appears to be a coneflower.  It is perhaps even the 'Autumn Sun' cultivar since that name stirs a few brain cells.  But I will never know, of course, since it doesn't show up on any of my maps.  How is it that I make a point to mark down every plant I bring into the garden beds and ten years later I have not a single clue of the real identity of this plant?  There is no Rudbeckia anywhere on the map of this garden bed and the only Rudbeckia sp. anywhere in the garden is R. hirta.  Frustration, thy name is plant identification.

Showy, dependable, insect-free, disease-free, drought-tolerant, non-invasive (in my garden), who really cares about its identify, the real question is "why haven't I ever divided it?"  I guess "Stupid is as stupid does," according to Forrest Gump.  I've had it in the garden at least 10 years, maybe 15.  I should have a hundred of these things by now, a complete landscape of 6 foot tall bright yellow towers.  Okay, maybe that would be overreacting a bit, but I could at least have a half-dozen around, given the scale of my back garden.  I will note that some internet sources say that this plant can spread through rhizomes but it has shown no sign of doing that in my dry clay soil.   Well, I vow to correct my failure to propagate it this year, no more waiting. says to divide it in the fall, so divide it, I shall.  Before it fades away and I forget about it again.  No reason to write a note to remind myself because I'd just lose it anyway.


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