Friday, September 30, 2011

Perfectly Placed Pyracantha

I don't know how most gardeners deal with "Firethorn" or Pyracantha, but over the years, I've found it a somewhat difficult plant to place.  It's a great shrub for xeriscaped landscapes in Kansas, and semi-evergreen to boot, but most cultivars are enormous when mature. Even the most refined forms get pretty large and can overwhelm a border.  The form most often recommended to gardeners, of course, is Pyracantha coccinea 'Lowboy', a specimen that only grows about 3 foot tall.  Be forewarned, however, this cultivar still spreads like its brethren, however, often to 6-9 feet in diameter.  My 6 year old specimen is currently about 4 feet tall by 6 feet wide and still spreading.

Pyracantha is best known to gardeners for the really nice Fall display of bright orange berries as shown in closeup to the right, but this is a good multi-seasonal plant.  It is said that the berries attract birds and provide food in the Winter, but they seem to last on the bush till late Winter, so it seems likely that the birds consume it only in desperation.  In Spring, the shrub bears small white flowers that are enticing to honey bees, and it keeps the leathery, dark green foliage well through the driest of Summers (like this one), often turning a bit burgundy with late Fall and Winter.   Most sources list it has hardy to USDA Zone 6, but I've never seen damage to my Zone 5B plants. There are times in early Spring when I think it looks a bit ratty, but it quickly shapes up as the weather warms.   There are some wicked thorns, of course, but that attribute just makes it a good choice for planting below the windows of a young daughter's bedroom, in anticipation of her teen years and the creatures that may be attracted to the gardener's abode at that time.  Nothing is better than a barrier of well-grown Pyracantha or a stiff shrub rose for cooling the ardor of a teenage boy.
I initially placed a 'Lowboy' into my back patio border in 2000, but it grew quickly to smother several surrounding perennials.  The thorns make this a plant you don't want to have to thin on a yearly basis, either.  Then, in 2005, I noticed a small trail leading under the shrub, and in late winter, as the leaves thinned out, I realized that while Pyracantha is impervious to deer, the prairie pack rats think that it is a good foundation for a communal dwelling.  Since I detest the little creatures, providing them shelter approximately 10 feet from my back door was not a favorable idea, so I thinned and shortened the spiny branches at some risk to my dermal covering and then burned them out, protecting surrounding plants as best I could by a constant spray of water.  So much for Pyracantha in my borders.

But, since I like the shrub and the Fall display it provides, I decided to place another specimen out on its own, farther from the house where an occasional pack rat colony wouldn't give me conniption fits and where the beauty of the shrub could romp unrestrained without danger to more refined perennials.  It sits now in my far front yard, sited so as to obscure the electric box and water meter from view of the house, in a manner recommended by any and all landscape manuals that the Extension service provides.  See, you can't see the electric box at all in the picture above.  Nor the pack rat colony growing at its base.  I did warn you, didn't I, that there are times when it looks ratty?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Anonymous Aster

As I'm somewhat of a scientific mindset, I take some pride in being able to identify most of the plants in my garden and the surrounding prairie on sight, and each its proper (albeit often mispronounced) Latin name. So it is doubly frustrating to me when I forget to write down the position and name of a new plant.  Furthermore it is triply frustrating when the new plant turns out to be a keeper.

I'm quite chagrined, therefore, with this new very double white Aster-like thing that popped up in the very front line of my front border the past couple of weeks.  This was a small green blob most of the summer, growing slightly over time and requiring absolutely no care, and then recently, it stood up and shouted for my immediate attention with the extremely profuse bloom. 

At about 18 inches in height and width, it is undoubtedly well-placed in its site, prominently displayed now in fall in front of the  taller, and now spent, peonies, sedums, and various shrubs that make up the majority of this border.  But what, pray tell, is the variety?  I have grown a number of asters over the years but they are all blues and pinks, no whites ever, and most of them survive a year or two and then dwindle in a harsh winter or summer.  I have absolutely no recollection of planting this one, although it is obvious that I agonized over the site and potential size of the plant, and I evidently neglected to note down the pertinent information in a timely fashion.  My best guess is that this was a $6.00 gallon pot, grown by the KSU Horticulture students as a fundraiser, that I bought on a whim about this time last year while I was walking to the 2010 State EMG Continuing Education meeting.  If that is where I obtained it, I guess it stands as a good demonstration of the judgement of the Hort. students, but not so much as an example of the diligence of the gardener in recording his world.

Regardless of my consternation, my Anonymous Aster is a pretty little thing, isn't it?  Perhaps in this instance, I should let Beauty be a reward in itself, and not care so much about the name.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

2011 EMG Educ. Conference

Just finished up with the annual Extension Master Gardener's conference here in Manhattan the last couple of days, and a rousing time of camaraderie was had by all! 

The conference here was kicked off by a great keynote speech by David Salman, the President and Chief Horticulturist of High Country Gardens.  David's opener was an interesting discussion of the principles of xeriscape gardening, with many illustrations of plants that will grow in Manhattan. It was really great to hear from a gardener who sees less rainfall than we do here in Manhattan, and one so dedicated to preserving our water resources and helping us design beautiful landscaping.  David's nursery has a blog as well, appropriately titled The Xeric Gardener.

I went to several talks, but my personal "education time" this year was cut short because I gave two talks myself.  I did one presentation about the process of writing a book and blog, in concert with Local Extension Agent Gregg Eyestone, who writes a weekly newspaper column and contributes to Riley County Extension's blog.  I did another talk on growing Hardy Roses in Kansas, and then repeated it the next hour in a second slot since it had been a couple of years since a rose topic had been on the agenda.  Had a great time and some good give and take in all those sessions, and I also enjoyed talking with other Kansas blogging friends such as GaiaGardener.

I've got enough canned talks now on roses and other topics that I'm thinking of sacrificing one of the separate pages of this blog to put up the PDF's of those talks for others to view. What do you think? Good idea or not interesting?

As far as the talks I attended for personal gain, I learned why I haven't been doing well with raspberries (DON'T GROW HERITAGE IN KANSAS), I learned about the basics of tissue culturing from a retired engineer whose home propagation setup is good enough to be a Homeland Security nightmare, and I learned a bit more about the theory of color and design in the landscape.

Along those lines, for those readers who are not Extension Master Gardener's, consider this a plug for joining and contributing to your local groups, wherever they may be across the nation.  Yes, you have to put in a little community service along the way, but that time is well paid back by the network of local gardeners you engage.  Where else do you get the opportunity to spend two days playing hookey from our day jobs and pretend you have entered the wonderful world of full-time gardening for pleasure?   

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Barden Vigor

While I'm still in the throes of yesterday's post, dreaming about the potential of  a particular rose in my garden, I thought I should update readers on what I hope is the beginning of a beautiful human-rose relationship.  Everyone knows from this blog that I'm a big proponent of Old Garden Roses and Griffith Buck Roses and Modern Shrub roses;  in short, of SUSTAINABLE ROSES.  Well, after a cold winter and a summer of extreme heat and drought, I wanted to show everyone the health and vigor of the Paul Barden rose bands that I planted last fall, little sprigs of green that I hoped could take on the Kansas climate.

In the picture below, the 5 roses in the foreground are the one-year appearance of several of the above pictured bands.  From right to left, they are 'Jeri Jennings', 'Allegra', 'Morning Blush', 'Gallicandy', and 'Marianne'.   These five nice shrubs, all between two and three feet tall now and nicely branched, look like the very picture of health.  Yes, they received a little extra water this summer in the midst of the drought, but  these happy, disease-free specimens received no fungicides, no insecticides, and only a little compost during the summer.  Not a single blackspot-covered leaf among them, either!  The whole picture is a great example both of the vigor and health of the Paul Barden breeding line and of the importance of buying own-root, sustainable roses and having the patience to let them grow.  They're going to bloom their heads off next spring and I'm going to be a happy, very happy camper.

The only worry I had with any of the Barden roses was that I almost lost poor 'Mariane', at the far left.  She had made it through the winter as a single cane standing proudly in the snow only to snap off at her base in the early Spring winds.  Another cane soon came up in April but some little rabbit made an early meal out of that one.  I didn't have much hope she would reappear a third time, but appear she did, a testament to purchasing own-root bands, and this time, protected by the collar of an old milk jug, she made it to early adolescence, now almost as full as the rest of them.

The Griffith Buck roses I planted in another bed this spring are going strong as well, also without fertilizer or fungicide.  Three of those are pictured at the right, the purchased 'Queen Bee' and 'Folksinger' blooming in the background, and my own rooted cutting of 'Prairie Harvest' in the foreground.  Not quite as large as the Barden roses above, but still healthy and ready to calm down for the winter. 
It's going to be a great spring of roses here in the Flint Hills!

Friday, September 23, 2011

High Hopes for Marie

As a late summer treat, I finally got a semi-decent, but still a bit blurry, picture of a bloom from a rose that intrigues me right now.  Let me introduce you to a fairly rare rose in the States, the now-heirloom hybrid tea 'Mme. Marie Curie'.

I received this rose last fall as a free rose in a shipment from Rogue Valley Roses, and it went into my "Barden" bed along with a number of Paul Barden's Gallica creations.  It was a fairly weak looking specimen and I knew it was a Hybrid Tea, just marginally hardy in this climate, so I coddled it all winter long with one of my then-new glass cloches.  Through this hot dry summer, it struggled a bit, giving me a hint of a beautiful yellow bloom every once in awhile, but never appearing healthy until lately, as it sent up the two nice strong canes pictured below.  I hope it has turned the corner for me.

'Mme Marie Curie' is a 1942 rose bred by Gaujard of France, and it is known as 'Quebec' in Europe.  It was introduced into the US by Jackson and Perkins in 1943 with the name 'Mme Marie Curie', and it was a winner of an AARS award in 1944.  It bears a large, 5 inch, Hybrid Tea-form bloom of about 25 petals and although the first blooms have been fleeting and small for me, I have noticed that the petals don't fade to light yellow as most yellow roses do, but they dry and remain a very vivid bright yellow.  HelpMeFind only lists this rose as hardy to Zone 6B, so it may take some special winter care in my area, but I'm willing to provide it for a few years until I fall in or out of love with this rose.

My yellow beauty here is named for the discoverer of radium and polonium, the widowed and famed Polish-French scientist Marie Curie.  I remember reading as a boy about Madame Curie, the first woman to win a Nobel, and the  the only woman to win in two fields, and the only person to win in multiple sciences.  This rose obviously has a high standard to live up to.  You need to be careful searching for this rose on the Internet, nowever.  Enter only "Madame Curie" and "rose" and you get a 1997-vintage orange and pink floribunda of that name that is not nearly as attractive as the pure yellow of the older Hybrid Tea.  I also found a white Japanese-bred climber named, in English, "Marie Curie IYC2011" that seems to be recently introduced.  I suppose we'll someday need a brochure to separate the roses named for this icon of early 20th Century science.  A collector's bed of roses named for Marie Curie, anyone?

(Got to run now.  The younger version of Mrs. ProfessorRoush has just darted into the room, needing the family computer pronto.  Can't a man blog in peace?) 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Story of My Summer

Before anyone panics, NO, this is not a picture of a KSU-physics-department nuclear test cloud over the Jayhawk's football stadium in Lawrence.

But as a rather useful illustration of the frustration that is gardening in the Flint Hills,for all of those who don't live in Kansas, I give you the picture below, snapped on my way home from work on September 9th. 

I had just gone north from the Vet School, took one look due west, and immediately grabbed my trusty "Jeep" camera, the Nikon CoolPix L22 cheapo that I keep in the glove compartment, and pulled over.  This random rain cloud, the first actual rain hitting the ground that I'd seen in over a month, is sitting just to the south of my house, which is just over the hill on the western horizon at approximately the right hand edge of the cloud.  By the time I'd gotten home 5 minutes later, the cloud had moved on, leaving a 500 foot or so wide sprinkle path over my neighbor's driveway and the pasture between us. 

It was another week before we finally got a decent rain, an all-night soaker that provided us a solid inch of rain to wet the topsoil down four inches or so.  It's an odd feeling to dig down into the dirt of my garden right now; moist soil for the first few inches, and then dry subsoil as far down as my shovel will reach.

Welcome to the Flint Hill's my friends...welcome to the Flint Hills, the most damnable excuse for a mid-Continental climate evident to gardening civilization.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Beds in the Sun III

To finish off my saga of the backyard bed layout requested by GaiaGardener, I'm moving to another picture, a continuation of the previous beds showing the beds laying to the south-west corner of that area.  The previous posts on this subject were Beds in the Sun and Beds in the Sun II.

I've already mentioned the bed labeled "J", my "Barden Bed" which is a group of 12 roses, mostly Paul Barden creations obtained commercially from Rogue Valley roses.  I've added a number of new daylily starts to the outside of this bed, hopefully to bloom after these once-blooming gallica and alba creations are long done.

Bed K is a long border, my "Viburnum Bed" the third oldest in the garden, composed mostly of mixed shrub roses and about 8 viburnums in full sun.  People always seem surprised to see the viburnums growing in full sun here, but they are troublefree in this location. It is anchored on the East (left) side by an 'Arnold's Red' Bush Honeysuckle, and on the West (right) side by a 'Golden Spirit' smoketree, the latter now 5 years old and about 7 feet tall.  Several Old Garden Roses are placed here, including 'Celestial', 'Duchess de Montebello', 'Charles de Mills', and 'Rosa Mundi.'  There are also a few assorted other roses, including the rugosa 'Sir Thomas Lipton', 'Dornroschen', and Buck roses 'Carefree Beauty', 'Griff's Red', 'Freckles', and 'April Moon'.  A couple of nice grasses, Panicum 'Northwind', and Miscanthus sinensis 'purpurascens', along with a Sumac 'Tiger Eyes', provide some late Fall color along with the viburnums.

Bed L is my most formal bed, composed of nothing but Buck roses, English roses, Modern Shrub roses, and a very few Floribundas and Hybrid Teas.  If it's a modern hybrid-tea-like rose, it is likely in this bed, surrounding a concrete bench.  There are a few OGR's here as well, 'Leda',  'Variegata di Bologna', and 'Henri Martin' as well.  There are, at last count 58 living roses in this bed.

Bed M is a long bed laying among the three taller beds and it is the oldest of what were my mixed iris and daylily beds.  Here again, the iris keep fading out, overwhelmed by the daylilies, and so I'm converting the bed to daylilies only.  I mow this one off every fall as mentioned in previous posts.

The last of these beds, Bed N, is my "Rose Berm" and it is the oldest bed in this part of the garden.  It was created 10 years ago by a gift from my mother of two truckloads of topsoil spread in a long hump, so it is mostly a raised berm about 2 feet higher than the surrounding prairie.  Along with the topsoil, I got lots of bindweed seed that I have to continually watch for even a decade later.  This bed is anchored by a 'Purple Fringe' smokebush at one end and a 'Blue Bird' Hibicus syriacus at the other, but otherwise there are about 30 roses in the bed, ranging from several Canadian Roses such as 'Alexander MacKensie' and 'Morden Ruby', to Old Garden Roses such as Bourbon 'Louise Odier' and Damask 'Madame Hardy', and even a couple of (gasp) Knockout's; 'Double Red', and 'Double Pink'. My Rosa eglanteria is here, as well as one of my two 'Austrian Copper' bushes, and a 'Harison's Yellow'.

So that's it, my main garden.  I'm going to wait awhile and talk about other things, but eventually I'll give you an overall glimpse of my front, back, and side landscaping beds.   Hope this helps place things I've mentioned in this blog!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

GGW September Photo contest

Like others who took on the challenge of Gardening Gone Wild's September Picture This Photo contest, I had a hard time choosing between entries.  The guest judge, Christa Nue, picked a very open subject, "Late Summer Garden," and then made it harder by providing examples ranging from closeups to colorful garden beds, to wild vistas.  Late Summer and Fall subjects are apt to be more difficult in the Flint Hills, a landscape which is often at its best in Fall as the late cool rains turn the grasses and hillsides red in contrast to the late sunflowers and goldenrod that rise amongst them.

As an example, I briefly considered this more natural vista of wild goldenrod on the prairie.  I got lucky with an early morning mist for this picture, taken across my neighbor's pasture.  This golden, unplanned field is composed of a mix of native goldenrod species, including Downy Goldenrod (Solidago petiolaris), Rigid Goldenrod (Solidago rigida), and the ubiquitous Missouri Goldenrod (Solidago missouriensis). 

When I think of a Fall garden, I often think of rose hips, so a recent picture of Rosa eglanteria hips appealed to me on a closeup level. Orange skin and wicked curved barbs, rose hips hold the essence of the fading sunlight.

 And for a pure late summer flower show, nothing rivals Hydrangea paniculata in the Flint Hills.  This cultivar is 'Limelight', no less interesting in late summer for the browning, drying petals, their demise hastened by the drought which still lingers.  Seeing this, I remember why they're popular subjects for dried flower arrangements.


Roush GGW September Entry 'Goodbye Summer Harvest'
But, I finally settled on entering the picture at left  into the contest; an overripe, overgrown, group of forgotten cucumbers on a fence.  I know that the overall subject is a little unusual, but the title of "Late Summer Garden" suggested more of a vegetable garden feel to me.  And in the end, I couldn't resist the papery, detailed texture of the dried leaves and prickly stems of these cucumbers.  Make sure you look beyond the overall "orangeness" of the composition and click on the picture to see the full size version to appreciate the detail.  To me, this picture screams, "Summer Is Over!"  

(Rats, it's been automatically compressed because it is so large....really, the leaves look great in full size!)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Perky Betty Boop

One of the delights of the gardening act is that occasional moment when, despite all the careful planning of the gardener, despite the research about and the search for special plants, despite the careful site selection, and the arduous care afforded many plants,  the gardener finds a miraculous unplanned beauty, a serendipitous excitement, that was still unplanned for.  Sometimes, I wonder if the very plants are conspiring against our plans, growing bountiful and beautiful not "despite" the gardener, but to spite the gardener who believes the beauty is all due to him.

Rosa 'Betty Boop' is one of those plants that I never expected to really love, nor that she would return my love.  I bought her on a whim as a bagged $3.00 specimen several years ago, merely because a gardening friend loves the rose.  I was never really attracted to the rose by the published pictures I've seen but somehow I still felt that I should give her a chance in my garden.  And I never expected much from her.  Many floribundas struggle in my Zone 5b garden, surviving, freezing back to the ground every year, but, once on their own roots, at least providing me with an occasional bloom that keeps me from spade-pruning them.  That's all I really expected for 'Betty Boop'.

But, for reasons I can't explain, I dumped this cheap, grafted rose in the front of my house, a place of pride next to the edge of the walk, stacking the odds against her by placing her at the edge of the bed where it would be coldest in the winter and driest in the summer.  And she has defied me by growing stronger and more beautiful every year.

What gardener cannot love the delicate mix of yellow, pink and white displayed by the newly opened flowers of 'Betty Boop'? The open, welcoming cheerful faces presented to the sun? The yellow pistil and stamens, private parts of the flower on full display for dashing bee drones with their minds on food and sex?  Yes, the yellow fades as the blossoms age, and the pink becomes slightly less vivacious, but she still welcomes all who would admire her.  I've been stunned by my growing appreciation for this rose and I'm grateful that she chose to surprise my expectations right there, at the beginning of my front walk. Even in Fall she shines, placed accidentally next to Sedum 'Purple Emperor', welcoming my visitors with a contrast of deep purple and bright pink and white.

'Betty Boop' was a 1998 introduction by Carruth, so she is a relatively new floribunda to the trade compared to some of the old classics. Her semi-double form matches the delicate nature of her shading to perfection. I'm told she has a strong scent and I'm embarrassed to admit that I haven't even tried to inhale her blossoms although I've grown her now 5 years. She grows about two and a half feet tall in Kansas by the end of the season, and despite my lack of winter protection in Zone 5B, she usually doesn't freeze entirely to the ground but retains about a foot of thick canes to start her off strong every year.

For the record, I'm not old enough to have viewed this roses' namesake Betty Boop cartoons, but for the younger gardeners in the audience, Betty Boop is arguably the most famous sex symbol of animation, a symbol of the Depression, and a caricature of the carefree Jazz Age flappers.  I actually don't think I've ever seen one of the original cartoons, created in the 1930's, but I've always known Betty Boop was a sex symbol instinctively, right down to my XY chromosomes.  If nowhere else, you've seen her painted on the nose of many a pictured WWII fighter plane or bomber, a reminder of home and love to the young pilots of that era.  And the rose 'Betty Boop' captures that image perfectly, reminding a young-at-heart gardener that beauty and perkiness is a good thing for the garden as well.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Beds in the Sun II

In the continuing saga of my back garden beds, today's post details a few more of the beds:

Bed D is an Iris-only bed in terms of the perennial planted there (Okay, in truth there is a bunch of daffodils in the bed as well).  Bed E and another bed that I'll show later were mixed daylily and iris beds (about 60 irises and daylilies in each), but the daylilies there are slowly outcompeting the irises. Or else the irises are fading because they're in a flat area with too much clay and they don't like wet feet. Or perhaps the iris there don't like to live in a rundown daylily neighborhood.  Anyway, Bed E is now primarily daylilies, a few remaining struggling irises, and a Witch Hazel ('Jelena'), while the majority of the irises have been moved to their survival to Bed D, where I hope they get better drainage and where the fighting will stay within the family.

Bed F is a smaller mixed rose and ornamental grasses bed containing 14 smaller shrub and Old Garden Roses and 5 grasses.  One big mistake that I'm about to rectify was placing Panicum 'Prairie Sky' into the center of the bed, because it is flopping over all the roses and smothering them.  The two Calamagrostis in the bed, 'Overdam' and 'Avalanche', are tall and strong and much better behaved.  The roses really are a varied crew; 'Purple Pavement', 'Belinda's Dream', 'Salet', 'Duchess de Rohan', 'Duchess of Portland', the Griffith Buck rose 'Golden Princess', 'Westerland', and 'Austrian Copper', among others.  Right behind this bed (south) lies a small Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea), eight years old now and only four feet tall.  Talk about your slow-growing trees!

Bed G is my "Evergreen" bed, containing a small assortment of very common broad-leaved evergreens and conifers, of which the largest is a Wichita Blue Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum).  I also cheated in this bed and placed a volunteer red-flowering peach tree (Prunus rubra) that lights up the spring.

Beds H, I, and J are the newest beds, just started last Fall or this Spring.  "H" contains primarily my newest Griffith Buck roses, just planted this Spring and still continuing to be planted (I added 4 new roses to this bed just this weekend).  So if you've been enjoying my descriptions and pictures of  'Bright Melody', 'Iobelle', and 'Queen Bee', they are from this bed.  One side of the bed outside the roses are 6 divisions of Sedum telephinum 'Morchen', planted there in the spring, and the other side is a line of new daylily starts just planted.  Bed "I" is still under development.  I was thinking a big bed of annual cottage flowers, but now I'm thinking of a bed concentrating on ornamental grasses, particularly timely right now so that I can move all the grasses that are now elsewhere and currently smothering the adjacent roses, into this spot, so they can just lean against each other.  Bed J was started last Fall.  As a teaser for coming attractions, it is full of Paul Barden's creations, and so it is my "Barden" bed, and I'll describe it better next time.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Best Laid Daylily Plans

My, how often the best-laid plans of mice and gardeners succumb to the realities of life!  I really thought I had it set up perfectly this year, my latest attempt at the acquisition of cheap, perfect daylilies, but alas, I failed again miserably in the execution of said plan.

I always look forward to the first weekend of September, because it promises the Daylily Society sale at the local farmers market. Thus it appeals to my miserly gardening pocketbook.  But in the past, I've come to the sale completely unprepared, choosing daylilies because the name sounded nice or because the description of the color seemed promising, only to later find myself disappointed once again that "melon" was orange, and "peach" was orange from more than two feet away.

But this June, I made a special effort to visit the local indoor mall during the annual Daylily Display, an event at which the local Daylily nuts...err..uh...enthusiasts display their prettiest daylilies during the height of the season.  These people are pictured in the dictionary next to the term Addict Enablers, in this case the addiction in question being my incontrollable need to grow the newest daylily varieties.  Several of the evil Hemerocallis pushers are local breeders who also exhibit their latest creations at the Display.  Unlike my previous visits to the Display, however, I came prepared with pad and pen, writing down the names of what I considered to be the choice 15 to 20 varieties. 

When I got home, I even went one step further and typed up the list while my memory was fresh, in lieu of my usual policy of relying on my mostly illegible handwriting and failing memory come September.  I also purchased, for the bargain price of $10.00, an annual membership in the Flint Hills Daylily Society, which entitled me to attend a pitch-in dinner and have first choice at the daylilies for sale on the night before the big public September sale.  I couldn't miss this time.

Well, I did miss.  Work intervened and I didn't make it to the pitch-in daylily dinner, nor to the Extension Master Gardeners bimonthly meeting on the same night.  Desperate, I went first the thing Saturday morning to the sale, armed with my list of delicious names such as "String Theory", "Red Hot Mama" and "Bella Donna Starfish".  And they didn't have any of those varieties for sale.  Oh, some of them had been in the sale the night before, but they had all been snatched up by my fellow FHDS fiends.  So I resorted to looking at the pictures compiled by color of each variety, a time-consuming activity, and I missed several other beautiful cultivars while doing so.  There was even a special table of "expensive" daylilies, some divisions as high as $10, and I failed there as well, looking at the names and then looking at the pictures, and then finding the ones I wanted snatched up before I could decide about them.

But, I guess I did okay in the end.  I came away with 12 or 15 varieties (see the picture above), generous clumps for $5 to $7 dollars apiece that were actually often three small divisions in each clump, leaving me with 35 or 40 new daylily starts for $99.  And such pretty names and colors too. 'Apple Tart'.  'Butterfiles in Flight'.  I'm just sure that the highly touted melon and peach daylilies I purchased won't look orange this time.

Monday, September 12, 2011

September Thirteenth Tribulations

Welcome to the second monthly Thirteenth Tribulations!  As previous readers are aware, the 13th of each month, Garden Musings hosts a blog circus where you can link your blog telling about your personal gardening tribulation.  In other words, link to a blog entry (made within the last month) that describes your landscape design mistakes, your plant deaths, your battles with deer, or your horticultural mishaps, so everyone else can learn from them!  The LinkyThing opens at 8:00 p.m. tonight and will close at 8:00 a.m. on the morning of the 14th. I'll open up the linky thing by the 13th of every month and then close it at midnight on the 14th.

For my own blog on a garden misery this month, I'll just link to my attempt at poetic license previously on my August 23rd post titled  "Oh Woe, Oh Poe!".

I owe an apology also to Sarah and others who have been trying recently to look at August's Thirteenth Tribulations post.  I had started this monthly series under a free trial subscription to LinkyTools which expired, and so the links went away!  But, surprise(!) I paid the annual subscription and they're back up now so check them out at the link above!

Also, I owe a big thank you to Horticulture's blogging editor Meghan Shinn for putting in a plug for Thirteenth Tribulations!  As I commented on her blog post, "we all may not garden together, but we can commiserate together."  Hope we get a load of folks who look forward each month to participating!

Please link away for this month below!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunflowers in Heaven

There are times, in all our lives, when an event so large, so memorable, and so life-altering occurs, that ever after we will recall exactly where we were, and what we were doing, when the paradigm shifted.

My earliest memory, from age 4 1/2, is the funeral of President Kennedy, a memory etched in granite because I somehow remember my mother sitting before the television and crying.  I recall where I was sitting, and what our family room looked like, in the middle of the night when the Eagle of Apollo 11 first touched down on the Moon.  I was in a DisneyWorld motel, interested in politics at a young age, and watching live as President Nixon resigned in '74 while my parents and baby sister enjoyed the rides in the park.  When my childhood dreams of space travel died in 1986 alongside the crew of the space shuttle Challenger, I was watching the launch in the lobby of the University of Wisconsin veterinary school next to the students and the NASA-obsessed Dean.  When Columbia failed to survive reentry into the womb of Earth's atmosphere, I was listening on the radio, driving to Topeka with my son to buy a jewelry cabinet as a Valentine's Day present for Mrs. ProfessorRoush.

And yes, I remember, and will as long as I draw breath, the moments of the morning of 9/11/01.  I was in my office, early on a Tuesday, a surgery morning for me, when a buzz rose from the adjacent client lobby of the veterinary school.  Coming out, I saw the small TV in the lobby tuned to the national news, news-anchors just starting to try to explain the video of smoke coming from the World Trade Center, long before we knew about the Pentagon attack or about Flight 93.  I saw the live video as the second plane hit.  When the first tower fell, at 8:59 a.m. CST, many in the room missed it, but my surgeon's eyes saw the floors drop away into the dust cloud and I knew instantly that hundreds, if not thousands, were gone.  And I remember the days following, glued to the news every spare moment, until it was finally undeniable that the nightmare was real.

All those lost, the innocent souls in the Towers and planes and the Pentagon, and all the brave men and women who tried to rescue them, I like to think of and pray for them all now as bright Kansas sunflowers shining in Heaven, surrounded by a blue Kansas sky, the same clear blue sky that is said to have been over New York on that day long past.  It's a simplistic view of Heaven, I know, but I can think of none better or more perfect. The peak Fall bloom of the Common Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) along the Kansas roadsides is forever linked to my memories of September 11, 2001, because I saw them each day, as I drove safely here in the Heartland to and from work, while America mourned our dead.

And as for the murderers, the subhuman scum who caused the wanton destruction and loss of life ten years ago today, I know that this is not a very kind or noble thought, particularly from a gardener who is trying his best to follow a good path through Life,  but I hope those cowards are rotting in Hell, in the driest and hottest desert without water or food, with scavengers ripping at them every second.  No, I haven't forgotten, nor have I forgiven.

Addendum:  I noticed that my blog friend Hanna, of This Garden Is Illegal, has also blogged about September 11th.  I want to publicly applaud and acknowledge her husband's service and the sacrifice her family is making for our freedom.  Join me to pray for his safety and quick return.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Beds in the Sun

A week or two back into the past, GaiaGardener asked if I would take the time to post some overall pictures of my garden beds to help readers place some of the plants that I write about into their respective 3-D spaces. 

I have agonized for a time over the thought.  Reasonable though the request seemed, it involves an act that many, if not most, gardeners find to be unnatural;  that of the complete exposure of our gardens, with all their un-deadheaded plants, dehydrated hydrangeas, and misplaced statues.  No sanitized focus on the occasional perfect flowers or the dynamic foliage as we see in most blog posts, showing the overall beds will expose the drought-stricken, insect-eaten, fungus-stained reality show that is my garden on most days. I was too young for the free-love movement of the late sixties and have no naturist bent, but I'd bet most of us would sooner post au-natural pictures of ourselves than our naked entire gardens.  The latter seems just a little too exhibitionist-like, a little too revealing for a conscientious gardener.  

But, given the choice between displaying an old man's wrinkles and moles or exhibiting the deficiencies of my garden design, I suppose it is more humane to readers if I choose the latter.  So here we go.  I'll apologize preemptively for the drought-stricken appearance of my sun-blessed garden and for it's lack of overall acceptable design and any number of other faults you may find with it. 

The photo above is a broad, unedited view of what we'll call the Main Garden, taken from my bedroom window. This view is behind the house, faces due south, and shows a corner of my back patio and the surrounding bed, and a broad view of the beds in the "back yard" that slope away  from the small pergola down to an unseen farm pond and then back up towards the Colbert Hills Golf Course and Manhattan proper.  Outside of the photo, to the left,  are two Purple Martin houses and farther on, nothing but prairie, and to the right lies four unpictured trees (Sycamore, Buckeye, Magnolia 'Yellow Bird' and a 'PrairieFire' crab), and then a electric-fenced vegetable garden, a few lines of grapes and blackberries, and a small, slowly-growing orchard wraps to the west.  As you can see, there is no shade in this garden whatsoever, from the unmowed areas of prairie grass in the foreground, to the rose beds at the back.

For the bed descriptions themselves, we'll use the second picture, below, of the left half of the garden.  I labeled the beds with letters, so we can talk about them, and it'll likely take us a couple of posts to get through them.

Bed "A" is what I refer to as my "peony bed," so-named because the main grouping is a collection of about 20 peony varieties in the center and right hand side, backed on the left (east) by some ornamental grasses, forsythia, and Rose of Sharon. If I blog about a peony, it likely exists in this bed since there are only a couple of others scattered about my landscape.  At the far end of this bed is another pergola, covered by a pair of wisteria, that provides an east "exit" to my garden.  

Bed "B" is the second-oldest of my shrub rose beds and it contains about 20 old garden, Canadian, and rugosa roses. I call it my "East Rose Bed." There are no perennials except roses in this bed and the only ornament is my Aga Marsala statute, a chaste young woman reading a book.  In this bed are, among others, 'Pink Grootendorst', 'William Baffin', 'Harison's Yellow', 'Alchymist', 'Robusta', 'Maiden's Blush', and 'Reine Des Violettes'.

Bed "C" is a long narrow bed stretching across half the garden that I know as my "Hydrangea Bed."  It contains, as it's name suggests, 6 Hydrangea paniculata cultivars, from 'Limelight' on the east end to 'Pink Diamond' on the west.  But this is a very mixed perennial bed, with 8 roses, 7 ornamental grasses, a peck of daylilies, a forsythia, and other assorted shrubs.  The centerpiece of the bed is a 7 foot tall wire-supported Clematis paniculata tower.  This is also the bed where I've moved the Zen Frog into a permanent home.

I think we'll stop there and pick this back up in a couple of days.  Stay tuned next week, dear Readers!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Anguish and Joy

Yes, I know that I haven't posted in several days.  No big excuses here, though.  When last Tuesday came around, and the thermometer crossed back over the 100F mark and stayed there through yesterday, I just couldn't face my garden or anything to do with it.  Aside from watering a few potted plants and the surviving roses of the Heirloom Roses shipment from a few weeks back, I hibernated and dreamed of winter.

And dreamed of rain.  We haven't had over 2/10ths of rain in the past month and things are beyond drying up, they're dry.  I haven't done more than mow the edges of the blacktop (where the crabgrass always grows fastest) in a month, so I guess the positive side is that I haven't been sitting on a roaring mower every week.   Last weekend, knowing that summer wasn't saying goodbye without another heat wave, I watered many of the beds, feeling guilty that I was breaking my "no extra water" rule but wanting to protect the  roses, and then I withdrew from the garden and garden thoughts.  Read some trashy vampire-mystery novels (James Butcher and Laura Hamilton) and pretended I was in Alaska.

But, as the psalmist wrote "...Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning" (Psalm 30:5).   Temperatures today (Saturday) in the low 90's are supposed to lead to daytime highs in the 70's through the weekend and a 40% chance for rain tonight.  I don't hold much hope for the rain, since I've seen several weeks of 30% chances come and go, but at least the temperatures will mean that whatever moisture gets added to the garden might stay around more than 30 minutes.

I'll leave you with this; one of my favorite pictures of my now-grown son.  He was born in Wisconsin but we moved here shortly before his first birthday, and in this picture, taken at about 1 1/2 or 2 years of age (he walked before he was 9 months old), he proved himself to be quickly adapting to Kansas weather as he was rejoicing in a surprise shower after a long hot dry period.  I remember I could hardly get him to hold still from slapping those bare feet down in the puddles on the still-warm concrete.   I don't think the Batman shirt would fit me, but this is otherwise exactly what I plan to do the next time it rains here, if it ever rains here again.


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