Monday, November 29, 2010

'Linda Campbell'

One of the first Rugosa hybrids I ever grew, at my old town garden, was the crimson Ralph Moore cultivar 'Linda Campbell' (trademarked 'MORten').  I had just begun my search for hardy roses to survive Kansas and had not yet jumped on top of the Griffith Buck or Canadian Roses, but I had happened across mention of the phenomenal breeder Ralph Moore and his many unique cultivars.  My 'Linda Campbell' came directly from Moore's Sequoia Nursery when it was still in business, and the specimen that I now grow is a sucker from that original purchase.  All on its lonesome out on the prairie, it lights up the entire end of my garden bed in the hottest of summers.   

'Linda Campbell' was introduced by Moore in 1991 and named after a friend.  It's namesake was a two-term President of the Denver Rose Society, ARS Life Judge, and was involved in her husband's rose business (High Country Rosarium, now named High Country Roses and located in Utah).  A cross of the salmon miniature rose 'Anytime' and the pink Van Fleet heirloom 'Rugosa Magnifica', this bright red rose with yellow stamens lacks perceptible scent, for those who care about such things, but it is also a disease-free performer in the Northern garden.  'Linda Campbell' blooms continually with clusters of 8-15 semi-double blooms highlighted against that dark green barely-crinkled foliage, and she is entirely self-cleaning on her own. Fully cane-hardy in my Zone-5 garden, Linda stands about 3-4 foot tall and spreads around to 5-6 feet when left on her own, but she rarely suckers and is nearly thornless.  The picture of the young bush, at the left, hardly does justice to the glory that she is in mature growth.  She has a nice upright habit and never makes a nuisance of herself except to brighten up her area of the garden every time you look.
Ralph Moore, who is known to rosarians as the "Grandfather of the American Miniature Rose," dabbled in breeding various different rose strains for over 50 years.  Sequoia Nursery, which he opened in 1937 as a general nursery, became his center for breeding miniature roses.  His work in miniatures was monumental, but his breeding programs of striped roses and moss roses also form the foundation for much of the work still going on in those areas. Alas, the world lost him in 2009 when he passed at the age of 102 and Sequoia Nursery closed the same year.  I've since seen pictures of Sequoia Nursery as posted on the Internet only a year later and it is sad to see the disrepair that only a year has brought in this former mecca of the rose world.  There are rumors, though, that Moore's breeding stock may have been transferred into safe-keeping and that the tremendous potential of his breeding lines may not yet be lost.  'Linda Campbell' is a testament to his genius and should be grown in every rose lover's garden.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Garden Tour Requests

To all the trembling gardeners out there;

Yes, this is the time of year when Extension Master Gardener's are busily planning out next year's Garden Tour in your local town.  Take it from me that this is no reason to rush out and spread trash around the vegetable garden nor to maim the Weigela in hopes that your garden is overlooked for consideration.  In truth your garden was likely scouted out during the previous summer in anticipation of the coming year by some cunning Master Gardener and your name was placed on a list of possibles and a secret file generated about your garden.  Remember when you found the dew marred by footprints moving through the garden one early summer morning, but yet nothing seemed to be amiss save the roses that were mysteriously deadheaded?  Remember that dark summer night when you could have sworn you saw lights floating about your daylilies for a few seconds, and the thyme walkway looked trampled, but all you found was that the tomatoes had been staked up a bit higher? Those weren't the actions of a new SWAT team at Homeland Security, they were the next most dangerous group, a stealthy bunch of Master Gardener's with a mission and a complete inborn inability to leave the plants alone.

When the fiends finally reveal themselves with a request to display your lovely garden on the tour, take a deep breath and just say yes.  Despite what you've read about the horrors of hundreds of people closely scrutinizing your azaleas and trampling the clematis, the gardening public that will visit your garden on G-Day (shorthand for the actual tour date) will never notice the henbit springing up among the roses because their eyes will be only on either the smallest details of that double peach-colored miniature rose or on the larger picture of your garden composition.  Mirabel Osler, in A Breath from Elsewhere, describes these visitors to her garden as either Crouchers or Gapers, respectively. The Croucher’s move bent over at the waist, meticulously naming, admiring, and coveting individual plants, while the Gapers saunter around a garden in a state of enlightened bliss but miss the details of the latest daylily cultivar you just spent $100 for.  Despite what you've heard, the public won't mutter that your lilacs are ruined with mildew, or comment on the unholy color of the white marigolds (at least within your hearing range).  I've been a site for my local garden tour and I found the people that came through are truly delightful and only inquisitive and complimentary, not overly critical.  Sometimes, you'll even gather enough compliments to deceive you into believing you might actually be a real gardener.

It won't be any more work than normal, either, to get ready for the Tour.  You won't do anything crazy like shoveling off three feet of snow over the garden in January so you can begin Spring cleanup early, and of course you won't begin to build the Taj Mahal of gazebos or put in that 3 acre water feature just to impress visitors.  And those rumors about evening up the grass ends with hand-trimmers at midnight the night before G-day are just myths circulated by scaremongers. Trust me, you'll barely feel the urge to spread a little extra mulch this year.

So, for the benefit of Master Gardener's everywhere, just say "Yes."   Please.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Glorius Sunrise

There are mornings, beyond understanding, when we wake up and the world that has lately seemed small and brown and drab is suddenly made golden and magical by the sunlight.  As I went outside to do the morning thing with the dog, what greated me on a recent morning was this sight at sunrise:

Sometimes the gray, late Fall mornings just steal the life from the morning here on the Flint Hills, but other times, most times, the sun turns haze to a prism and brings the prairie alive.  Yes, the picture shows this area of the garden needs some ornamental grasses moved and a better wall to block garden from prairie. And yes, the milk jugs protecting the new rose bands distract from the picture. And, yes, my Marsala Aga statue in the center background looks lonely and small on the greater scale of the garden. But the morning dew has picked up the red tones from the grass and the few evergreens in this view are holding on bravely.  And I'm happy that the prairie has chosen to greet me with a smile this morning.

I've often said that Manhattan has the most sunny days of anywhere I've ever lived and somewhere, sometime, I always remember that I heard the number quoted as 330 sunny days a year.  However, I confess that I can't find anything near the 330 day figure on an Internet search.  According to a USNews report of best places to retire, Manhattan only has 36% (131) sunny days/year.  Okay, that site may not be accurate anyway, particularly since it states that the OZ museum is in nearby Lincoln (it's in nearby Wamego, 20 minutes away, and the closest Lincoln is Lincoln, Nebraska at 2.5 hours away).  Manhattan is listed as having 127 sunny days/year on an astronomy site, 145 clear days on a Hi-Tunnel Gardening site (126 additional days that are partly cloudy), and 219, 218, or 214 sunny days as listed on various pages of and finally 218 days on

Who's to say who is right?  The low figures seem to count only cloudless days, and since our clouds here are often small and intermittent, the 271 day total listed on the Hi-Tunnel site as having some sun may be closer to our real figure.  I don't know where the real answer lies except to say that there seems to be plenty of sunlight here to feed the full value of life and I'm thankful for what each day brings.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Chicken Fetish

One of the definitions of "fetish" by The Free Online Dictionary is an "object of unreasonably excessive attention or reverence."  If that's the case, then I must admit that along with my collection of cement rabbits in my garden, I also have a certain small fetish for artificial roosters in my garden.  Oh dear, Sigmund Freud, what exactly might that say about my psyche?

The rooster at the right watches over my lavenders right outside the back door.  This is a straight western exposure, lots of sun and wind and cold during the winter.  Made of cast iron, I was pretty sure when I purchased it from the garden store that it would withstand the prevailing Kansas winds in this exposed site, and so far, it has "withstood" the worst that the prairie can throw at it.

The second rooster, at the left, is a nice addition to my front landscaping, even placed as it is overshadowed in the summer by the bright red bee's balm (Monarda didyma 'Jacob Cline') surrounding it.  It is also a perfect example of why "permanent" garden ornaments shouldn't be formed from terra cotta.  It slowly decays a little bit each year, but at the same time, I so love the patina and the color of the thing that I can't bare to provide it any shellac or coating.  I assume that someday, after another long winter or two, it will become just another an unrecognizable crumbling clay pillar, but till then it stays vigilant for me to scratch out  any insects that try to invade the house from the front. 

There's just no accounting for garden taste now, is there?  Wait till I finally write about my rabbits!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fall Foliaged Roses

'Morden Centennial' Hips
There is no doubt that I miss the roses when winter hits and the final buds shrivel as they decide it just isn't worth it to continue struggling through the cool days and cold nights.  I've been watching my garden carefully for the opening of those last buds, grabbing them greedily each night for a quick trip inside so we can still enjoy their beauty before Winter grips the Flint Hills.

Rosa 'Purple Pavement'
Roses, in the past and currently, have not been great contributors to the fall and winter garden.  Yes, there are a number of roses that provide some nice red or orange hips that contrast nicely against the snow.  There are also a few roses whose leaves, given the right fall conditions, turn a nice yellow or yellow-orange before they finally tumble down.  In my garden, 'Purple Pavement' is one of those roses that gives me a nice yellow before the leaves drop and sometimes it might even leave a nice juicy red hip or two around.  And gardeners in-the-know have been aware for a number of years that a few roses, such as 'Therese Bugnet', have a nice purple-red hue to their winter canes that even rivals that of the red-twig dogwood.

'Therese Bugnet' winter canes
The future, though, is bright.  Paul Barden has been talking about breeding new bright-red fall foliage into roses on his website and his blog here and here.  He's reporting good results from crosses of 'Therese Bugnet', R. foliolosaR. solieana, and R. arkansana, among others.  He doesn't know what all the blooms look like yet, but with further breeding, I'm sure he'll end up with some beautiful four-season roses.  I didn't purloin the pictures, so you'll have to follow the links to get there, but make sure you take a look at them and while you do it, dream of an improved Knockout with bright red fall foliage to rival a burning bush.  Now if Mr. Barden can just improve the yucky red-orange color of Knockout in the process!  

P.S.  Yes, I've been a little slow posting the last 10 days.  Alas, preparing lectures and allowing for the twists and turns of life sometimes interfere with my hobbies.  Readers, please keep checking back when I get lax.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Rose Readings

I've been long in the midst of a wonderful book combining some of my favorite roses and their histories.  Titled Pink Ladies and Crimson Gents, by Molly and Don Glentzer, this one is a must read for any rosarian who loves old garden roses.  Molly is the writer and Don is the photographer and they've collaborated on a unique project.

This colorful text looks at fifty different roses, most of which are old garden roses but some of which fall into the modern category.  For each rose, there's a delicious full-page photograph of a perfect specimen of that rose, taken against a pure white background to be free of distractions.  No insect damage or blackspot on these roses! You can almost feel the roses on each page and sometimes you think that the briefest wisp of old rose scent has passed by on a draft as you read.  'Mme Eugene E. Marlitt', 'Mme Isaac Pereire', and 'Lady Banks', 'Sir Thomas Lipton', 'Napoleon', and 'Don Juan', all the cultivar-honored names of history are there, along with the individual stories of both the breeder of the particular rose and a short biography of the honoree.  

It's a highly readable book, and in a perfect format, one of those books that I refer to as "throne reading."  You know, those books that can be read a page or two at a time while you are otherwise briefly occupied in a sitting position on a white porcelain chair and biding your time with necessary physiologic pursuits.  It takes me a while to get through a book in that manner, two pages at a time, but I'm pretty sure that 'Gertrude Jekyll' and 'Graham Thomas' don't mind, as long as I get to their stories at last.

Old Rose fanatics will appreciate that the authors acknowledge that many of the blooms were taken at G. Michael Shoup's Antique Rose Emporium in Texas and at Vintage Gardens.  I myself grow several roses from the former, having enjoyed its Brenham, Texas establishment once as a sort of side-trip pilgrimage during a visit to friends.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Time Change Blues

If there is any motivation that is most likely to change a mellow-natured gardener into a raving anti-government libertarian, I believe that it is the semi-annual ritual we go through here in America involving the move to and from Daylight Savings Time.  No greater proof exists that government has intruded into our private lives than its audacity to mess with our internal biological clocks.

As lamented by other gardeners this week on several garden forums, most perturbing of all is that I no longer get to see my garden in the daylight during the weekdays since it is suddenly dark as I come home from work. My relaxing evening stroll around the garden is gone and my quick jaunts outside to photograph the last rose or the last daylily are over. I'm entering the long winter's depression of not being able to see anything living or growing for days at a time.

The whole history of Daylight Savings Time (called "summer time" in Britannia) is quite interesting and entire books have been written about it. Whether you want to blame Benjamin Franklin or George Vernon Hudson (an entomologist who liked the increased evening light for collecting bugs) or Robert Pierce (a Liberal Member of Parliament who wrote the first legislation), or your respective meddling government divisions, most of what you think you know about Daylight Savings Time is either not true or is debatable. It doesn't routinely save energy, in fact in warmer areas it increases energy use because air conditioners are used more when the evenings are longer. It reduces late afternoon traffic accidents, but causes difficulties and increases costs for business with travel, timekeeping, and record-keeping efforts. It primarily benefits retailers and sports venues, at the expense of late night entertainments and farmers. And we have no idea what fiddling with our biological clocks is doing to our health. I'm sure that if I ran enough statistics, I could prove that DST causes cancer.
Benjamin Franklin, by the way, shouldn't be blamed. His 1784 suggestion to Parisians to rise earlier and use less candles (complete with suggestions for governmental taxes on window shutters and candle rationing) was a satire. Somewhere a number of governments haven't gotten the joke.
Please, I beg of the vast uncaring federal bureaucracy, either send us to DST year-round or at least leave us alone on Standard Time so we can adjust once and for all. I am a simple native farmboy, raised to open my eyes with the sunrise and close them at sunset, and I have never adapted well to sudden changes in my wake-sleep schedule.  My failure to roll with the clock is arguably worse than for others because I was raised and spent my first 20 years in one of the small areas of the continental United States (Indiana) that never changed time until the bureaucrats messed with our biorhythms further in 2006. When I take trips, like my recent trip to the two hour-delayed time zone known as the West Coast, I've always found myself waking at around 4 a.m., raring to go while the rest of the city is still long asleep.  And then when the nightclubs or late evening business meetings beckon, I'm sure to be semi-somnambulate, or else actually dozing quietly between the rented hotel sheets, while the parties rage on.  I can only sleep in when I travel east.

My semiannual aggravation with DST is getting worse, not better, as I get older.  I just know I'm going to end up being one of those old farts who walk into the living room in my pajamas around 8:00 p.m. during the wife's Christmas party and proceed to tell everyone goodnight. Of course, as I age further and I cycle through DST a few more times, the guests will be lucky if I remember the pajamas.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Secret Assassins

The website "Garden Adventures" runs a weekly creature feature that I learned about from Toni's Signature Gardens blog, so I just had to add a plug for my own candidate for Little Shop of Horrors.  The picture below was taken last weekend while I was on my Bluebird Trail, cleaning out the boxes for winter.  Near one of the nestboxes, sitting on the top rail of an iron fence and presumably soaking up the sunshine to warm it and start the day, was this 1.5 inch long monster with an iridescent back and a central ridge of spikes.  Since I'm not one to collect insects, nor to touch them without provocation, I hoped that the picture would suffice for an entomologist to identify it.

This spiked creature was subsequently identified for me by a KSU Entomologist as a Wheel Bug, Arilus cristatus, the only member of its genus and a formidable predator of soft-bellied insects, particularly caterpillars and pests such as Japanese beetles.  It is considered a beneficial insect, although it has also been noted to feed on other beneficials such as honey bees and lady beetles. The larger females kill and eat the male after copulation, similar to the fabled Black Widow spider.  One of the largest terrestial North American bugs, it pierces its prey with a sharp beak and injects saliva to dissolve the soft tissues from the inside-out, first immobilizing and then killing the victim in less than 30 seconds. My reticence to touch it was wise as I've learned it can inflict a very painful bite on people, described as being worse than a hornet's sting, and it will create a wound that may take months to heal and often leaves a scar.  For such a vicious bug, one web site noted that in captivity, it quickly becomes accustomed to being handled, but I, for one, am not contemplating keeping one as a pet.

Do you ever wonder, with such a killer bite, why this bug needs all the scary appendages, the ridged back spine and the spikes on top and in the middle?  This thing is right out of the movie Aliens, only needing a wee Sigorney Weaver to make it fit the part.  Does an insect predator really need to advertise that it is a predator?  Isn't that counterproductive to obtaining dinner?  I would have predicted that it would make more sense for predators to look like lambs and lambs to look scary, but I guess it doesn't work that way in the bug world.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

October Glory Survives!

While the fall colors have generally been disappointing in the Flint Hills this year, I had held out hope for my October Glory Maple (it was so spectacular last year!).  Alas, it too is lacking some of its normal vibrant red tones in this long warm fall, although the leaves still look pretty darned good against the clear Kansas sky.

I should be happy though, about this tree's continued survival amidst my rocky soil and the past summer's drought.  I planted this beauty in 2007, and as you can see from the pictures at planting time, chiseling out a hole from the loose flint took some effort and resulted in a pile of flint chips that rivaled the tree's root ball.  I wanted it in the front yard, high near the house, so it could be a flaming beacon seen for a long way away when fall comes, but the soil on the top of these hills is a bit sparse.  The local Extension Horticulture agent and I have a bet as to the ultimate survival of the tree, but so far, it seems to be holding its own, having grown about a foot in each of its three years in my yard.

Acer rubrum 'October Glory' is a rapid growing Red Maple cultivar with one of the best fall displays of red leaves in commonly available cultivars.  As advertised, it holds its leaves longer than most other trees, and as I look now across my yard, it is currently the only tree out there with a full compliment of leaves, except for the dull brown Bald Cypress and my tiny Scarlet Oak out back.  It grows with a nice globular form, ultimately stretching 40'-50' high with a 25'-35' spread.  Although it is said to prefer slightly acid and moist conditions, it seems to grow fine on my alkaline, dry prairie. 

One never thinks of a maple tree as being lethal, but as a veterinarian I was interested during my research to learn that the dead or wilted leaves of red maple are extremely toxic to horses, with ingestion of three pounds considered lethal.  I don't treat horses anymore, but I'd better file that one away and make sure I don't put my compost pile near the north fence lines where my neighbor pastures horses. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Anti-Knockout Cultivarist

Okay, I'm just going to say it.  Somebody's got to say it first, so I will.

I absolutely hate the Knockout series of roses.

Well, okay, I don't absolutely hate them, I just regret their existence on the earth. And I don't really hate Knockout's existence, per se, I simply resent what they've done to the marketplace for roses and to local landscaping in general.  Oh fine, I do hate them. Be honest with me, won't you?  Don't we all?

Too much of a good thing is almost never a good thing.  The American electorate recognizes the fact and rarely gives either political party full control of  Executive and Legislative branches at once.  If they do, they quickly realize the error and correct it, as we saw yesterday on Election Day 2010. 

So it is with Knockout and its cousins Double Red Knockout, Pink Knockout, Double Pink Knockout, Sunny Knockout, Rainbow Knockout, Blushing Knockout and whatever other Knockout deformities there are to come. Bill Radler is a genius as a rose breeder, and he may indeed have, as one website said, "single-handedly brought rose genetics from the 20th Century into the 21st Century," but he also may be partially culpable in the recent bankruptcy of a number of large rose-breeding companies. Don't get me wrong, Knockout is a great rose. It is certainly disease-free, hardy, self-cleaning, and it blooms and blooms and blooms. It's just that in its original form,"red" Knockout is really a kind of a dark, dark pink, not anywhere near crimson red, and so I find the color clashes against my preference for bright, clear colors in my landscaping. It also has no fragrance and thus, to a real rosarian, lacks a soul. Unfortunately, Knockout is becoming so ubiquitous around town that it is about to join my common, oft-derided trio of Stella de Oro, gold-tipped junipers, and purple barberries as the fourth member of an uninspiring contemptuous landscaping quartet planted everywhere we turn our gaze. What is wrong with professional landscapers that leads them back repeatedly to those four plants?  It is so bad around here that I recently noticed that the little traffic dividers and parking lot planters in the newest commercial development were reddish-pink Knockout's as backdrops to the lower-grown dayglow-orange Stella de Oro's as far as the eye could see. Yuck. I turned my Jeep away and hightailed it to more soothing vistas.

I didn't see the tsunami coming until this year, when every local box store had nothing for sale but own-root Knockout's of various types and when the local independent nurseries were reduced to selling Knockout alongside the various normal smattering of Hybrid Teas and Grandifloras. And although all these commercial establishments were just in competition with each other to sell the most Knockout's, and although it seemed like many of them had a lot of Knockout's left over on sale at the end of the season, I've got an uneasy feeling about where the trend is leading for next year.

I'm already on the fringe of the rose gardening world with my preference for shrub and Old Garden roses, so I really detest being shoved farther towards eccentricity as rose fashions change. I can't help it: the graceful ladies that I love have better scent and form and even though they're a little more diseased and older than the newer Knockout harem, and although they don't clean up after themselves but need me to help them get rid of their spent old parts, I loved them first and always will.  Yes, I do grow a couple of the Knockouts; the bright red Double Knockout and the Double Pink Knockout, and I have another Radler rose, Carefree Sunshine that somehow, inexplicably, isn't listed as one of the Knockouts.  But all three of them are just "there" for me, nothing special, needing no care, no spraying, no pruning; just plain boring. I need the variety of bloom form, I need the heavenly scents of myrrh, musk and lemon, I miss the need for my expert care by my Old Rose gals.

In a well-discussed GardenWeb thread entitled "In Defense of Knockout," one contributor wrote "Some of you are just snobs.  Admit it."  Okay, I will.  I'll go even further. I'm declaring a class war against the new vanguard of Knockout's.  Go ahead, feel free to call me a "cultivarist," a term I just coined to describe those who are bigoted against certain bourgeois rose cultivars.  Or better yet, join me.  We can wear the label proudly as we fondle and sniff our 'Madame Hardy' blooms.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The White Poppy

Two summers back, I came across quite a surprise in the midst of the tall prairie grass.  I suppose I'm pretty decent at keeping my eyes open for the unusual any more when I walk on the land I now know so well, but I was unprepared for the sudden appearance of a stunning plant I'd never seen here; Argemone polyanthemos, perhaps better known as the "prickly poppy", or "crested pricklypoppy"

This beautiful, delicate, perfect white tissue paper of a flower was growing on my prairie in a single spot down on the slope leading to my pond, and in about as dry and lousy soil as I have. A closeup of the bloom demonstrates both the delicate nature of the petals and the contrast of the golden stamens and red-tipped stigma of the flower, but it really doesn't do the flower justice compared to the real-life experience. The blue-green spiny leaves make the plant almost as attractive as the blossoms, although the white really pops out from the foliage around it.  I've seen the plant before in Colorado, where it seems more prevalent, but never seen it here even though it is listed as a Kansas wildflower. It didn't pop back up the following year (it is an annual) that I could find, so now I'm wondering if it was a fluke or whether I'll see it again.  Because of the long taproot, it is resistant to transplantation and so should be grown from seed where desired.  I'd like to try to save seed and grow it in my garden proper, but I may have to seek seed elsewhere unless I get lucky again.

Argemone polyanthemos may be found blooming on the Tallgrass prairie from June through September, primarily in disturbed areas and along roadsides. References sources state that it may indicate areas that are overgrazed, which I would further take to mean that the plant may have been more plentiful on the prairie in olden days when the praire was less managed and was overrun by massive herds of buffalo. The prickly nature of the stems cause livestock to leave it completely alone and all parts of the plant are said to be poisonous. Even the bright yellow sap is supposed to be irritating to the skin, and was supposedly used by Native Americans to remove warts, but I handled the plant without incidence.

Readers of Garden Musings already know that I'm a sucker for sky-blue plants.  And that I lust after the Himalayan Blue Poppy, Meconopis betonicifolia, which survives about 3 days on average in my Kansas garden (yes, I've tried, even to the extent of putting ice cubes on the ground around it). Now, if someone could just breed Argemone to be sky-blue in color, I might just have a chance to reach Nirvana!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...