Saturday, June 30, 2012

Oh, Mr. DeMille?

Mr. DeMille, Mr. DeMille, I think I'm ready for my closeup!  I've been working so hard, putting on my colors, filling in gaps, and studying the lines for my part.  I think my left side is the best, don't you?  

Closeup photography of flowers is always rewarding, but simultaneously a technically-demanding exercise and yet sometimes not so.  I'm fully aware that to get the best pictures, they must be carefully framed and set, requiring tripods and lighting and perfect flowers.  But even rank amateurs, like myself, can see some fascinating sights at a macro level with a handheld camera, a complete different world from the normal eye's view at shoulder height three feet from the flower.     

Take the lily to the right, above, for instance.  I understand the hierarchy of pistil over stamens, the multiple brown pollens of the anthers vying to attach themselves first to the sticky stigma.  But who makes the spidery minuscule webs that I find in most flowers?  Are the inhabitants still there, hiding, or long gone?  Is the purpose of those filaments to trap infinitesimal insects that I wouldn't even have dreamed existed?  Or are they insect equivalents of the debris left behind at a human campsite?

And then the softer, cumulus-cloudy nature of the anthers of Hibiscus 'Blue Bird', show here from its right side.  I've read that the structure here depends on bird (hummingbird) pollination.  The bird approaches from the front, bumping its head on the stigma and then, further in, it must reach past the anthers to get the nectar prize, in the process covering its head in pollen.  Then, at the next flower, the pollen from one is transferred to the stigma of the next, and so on, and so on.
The vivid contrasts of Hibicus syriacus 'Red Heart' are best viewed at close quarters.  In this cultivar, the brilliant purple-red at the base of the cream-hued sex organs make a bullseye that any hunter could recognize and that the hummingbird will hone in on.
There are things to say, as well, for the mid-range closeups, the photos that don't threaten to show the pores and blemishes of the photogenic stars, but that show the composition, the lines of beauty, the blends of color.  Marilyn Monroe reclining gracefully and suggestively on the chaste lounge.  Natalie Woods splendid in the grass.  Simply composed, the sweet clustering of the Bailey rose 'Sweet Fragrance' can match the beauty of those iconic stars.   

In your own garden, don't forget as you snap photos of the scenery, you should also photograph the individuals, and, deeper, even their pieces and parts, because beauty will be found at all levels, in all plants and in all gardens.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Yellow Border

I had promised, long ago, to portray the front of my home, and in the next week or so, I'll attempt a couple of posts to do just that, starting today with my "yellow border", the northwest corner of the house, which hides the unavoidable garage behind a yellow and green progressive hodgepodge.

I didn't consciously set out to create a yellow border, I intended for a mix of yellow and sky-blue, but my timing happens to be entirely off regarding the mixing of the colors.  That, and the blue plants tend to die, while their yellow counterparts seem to keep on keeping on.  The sunny fate of this portion of the garden was sealed a few years ago with my planting of Oriental lily 'Yellow Dream' on a whim.  A few smallish bulbs,and now, two years later, I've got four clumps of enormous fragrant lilies who demand to be both seen and heard.  

Early in the spring, the light blue of Scilla and Puschkinia are visible, but they soon fade as the cheery faces of daffodils take over and the yellow begins.  Alongside and in front of the yellow-tipped Thuja orientalis ‘Sunkist’, the daylilies and lilies and Black-eyed Susans form in long succession, 'Happy Returns' and 'Stella de Oro' followed by more regal daylilies and the yellow buttons of Centaurea macrocephala.  We reach a climax of yellow upon yellow now, at the end of June, as 'Yellow Dream' oriental lilies take center stage.  I shouldn't complain, for they are beautiful, fragrant, and healthy, a triple play of floral excellent.

The occasional blue of Clematis 'Romona' blooming on the brick wall, a blue Babtista reaching stiffly skyward, and a blue Clematis integrifolia have their brief moment, but they are drowned out by the endless yellow.  Even daylily 'Beautiful Edging', pictured at the right, while not strictly yellow, fulfills the daylily curse of appearing as all yellow from a few feet away.   In the hot sun, the pink edges never appear at all, let alone long enough to notice. 

I know it's not Sissinghurst's White Garden, but it is still pretty satisfying to little unknown me.  Right now, this year, this part of the garden is my shining accidental triumph, a yellow bright spot to reflect back the Kansas sun.  If you can't beat the heat,  at least you can join it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Jeri Jennings

Jeri Jennings
The Rose, more than any other flower, has been associated throughout history with people, common peasants, characters and aristocrats alike.  The names of many, many varieties reflect their time and their heritage, echoing important historical figures, wealthy benefactors, lovers, and rosarians.  One such rose however, of more modern heritage, is named after a prominent current rosarian; 'Jeri Jennings'.

'Jeri Jennings' (or ARDjeri), the rose, is a 2007 release from the breeding program of Paul Barden.  She is a Hybrid Musk of esquisite golden-yellow color, as you can see at the top, heavy gold in the center with the outer edges fading to golden-pink, and she is cluster-flowered with individual flowers just shy of 2 inches across. The fragrance of 'Jeri Jennings' is intense, with aftertones of her musky origins and the blooms drop cleanly at the end of their time.  She's in her second summer in my garden now, about 2.5 feet tall, and I have little doubt she'll reach her predicted height of between 4-7 feet.  Her canes are supple and sprawl a bit, so it looks like the bush will be wider than she is tall at maturity.  Those sprawling canes are of great benefit, as they seem to promote flowering all along their length.  Both flushes that have occurred thus far in my garden this summer have been lush with color  (a sun-bleached picture of the second recent flush is pictured at the left).   A cross of  miniature 'Joycie' and a 1904 Lambert Hybrid musk named 'Trier', 'Jeri Jennings' is labeled as being hardy to 6A and has survived nicely in my mid-Continental clime.  Paul Barden describes her on as "possibly the best rose I have bred, to date."

I haven't had the pleasure of meeting Jeri Jennings, the person, but I know of her passion for rescuing lost roses, and of her writing (she has two chapters in The Sustainable Rose Garden, printed by Newberry Books in 2010), and I know that she is a still-active rosarian, with excellent advice about roses and gardening, who participates in the Antique Rose forum on   One of the chapters by Jeri Jennings in the aforementioned book is "Secret Garden Musk Climber", so I can't imagine a better tribute for a lovely rosarian. 

I've seen one drawback to 'Jeri Jennings' here in Kansas.  Last year, as a very young rose, she had a little bit of blackspot, but this year she's had a full-blown outbreak, losing about 70% of her leaves at one point near the first bloom cycle, although you can see from the picture that she has rebounded nicely.  I think she likes the heat better and a little spraying didn't hurt.  Given the severity of the first outbreak, though, I think this is a rose who will become a sentinel for fungal disease in my garden, signaling the occasion to spray my few remaining Hybrid Teas and other susceptible roses.  I seem to have the same problem with 'Golden Celebration' an English rose of similar hue, the only two roses in my garden with that golden-yellow color and two of the three most likely to show blackspot early (Morden Blush is the third), so perhaps the Kansas environment is still just resentful of all the Forty-niners a century ago, greedy men who crossed this dry prairie at a hard sprint and left it behind for the rich California coast.

(P.S.; Jeri Jennings, the rose, is not very thorny;  small, insignificant prickles).

Monday, June 25, 2012

Unconditional Love

'Unconditional Love'
I have a new youngster in my garden, just a toddler starting to stretch out, and I swear, here, in front of witnesses, to give it 'Unconditional Love' forevermore.  I came across this 2003 introduction (registered as ARDwesternstar) while looking for Paul Barden roses on Rogue Valley's website and, unable to resist a bright red rose, I ordered and planted it this Spring.  'Unconditional Love' is a miniature Moss rose, and it has nice mossy buds to prove it. The first bloom flush, from a rose only a foot tall, was quite spectacular as you can see at the right.  Blooms are small, but very bright red and very double, and the color holds until the blooms drop free.  She's supposed to only grow two feet tall, so I have her placed in a prominent spot front and center of a new bed where she can return my adoration with blooming abandon.   I'll write more about her next year as she comes into adolescence.
(The "thistle" at the lower left, for those who are wondering, is a white prickly poppy, Argemone polyanthemos, that I have successfully gotten to grow from seed in this bed.  I'm trying to get them started self-seeding, so the prickly poppy and 'Unconditional Love' will just have to snuggle up together and get alone this summer).     

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Daylily Drifting

'Night Embers' ?
As a gardener, one either seems to "get" daylilies, or one doesn't.   I've never been a rabid daylily fan myself, but their utility in a Kansas garden is such that most who garden in the Flint Hills will inevitably turn to daylilies as a way to fill border gaps with a minimum of fuss.

The real beauty of daylilies, however, is the versatility of their form and color and in the way my favorites change year to year.  Every time that I'm about ready to stop growing a particular color or form of daylily, when yet one more another look at a brassy orange or a muddy red ruffled flower leaves me near screaming, another season rolls around and I cease and desist in my extermination plans.  I sudddenly find the ugly ducklings are now the beautiful swans, and the daylilies that I liked last year are just not quite as appealing.

'Little Grapette'
I've drifted through love-hate phases that are likely common to many Hemerocallis growers.  The "hate the oranges and apricots" phase.  The "hmmm, the oranges look pretty fabulous this year" phase.  The "I'm wild about spider daylilies" phase.  The "subtle pinks and corals turn me on" phase.   The "eyed daylilies are the cats meow" phase. The "anything but Stella de Oro" phase.

This year, a poor year for daylilies in the dry Flint Hills, I'm in a "dark red and purple" phase.  Where 'Beautiful Edging' seems to have failed me, and where "Kwanso" is leaving me a little bit uneasy, the dark daylilies are standing out in sulky splendor.  'Little Grapette' is really purple, for once.  'Prairie Blue Eyes' is full of deep almost blue hues it has lacked in other years.  The dark reds are not quite black, but are certainly drawing me deeper into their mysteries than ever before. All this yet another example of nothing under God's creation lacking value.

So, just as a piece of advice from ProfessorRoush to reader, never turn down an offered daylily, no matter the color or form.  You may hate that brassy orange this year.  You may detest the short, stature and light yellow of 'Happy Returns'.  Apricot daylilies may leave you sick to your stomach, and purples with yellow throats may appear clownish in your garden this July.  But someday in the future, every daylily will have its moment in the sun, and you'll be glad they're still a part of your garden. I'm glad this year that the purples are here and I wish, once again this year, the oranges and 'Stella De Oro'  would die.  I can't just spade-prune the oranges, you understand, because Mrs. ProfessorRoush isn't as fickle in her daylily tastes and the oranges are her favorite every year.  When she wants me to plant more of them this year, I plan to smile, nod, buy more purples, and lie.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Striking Serendipity

A second blessed event 0f RAIN (!) occurred Wednesday night.  Short-lived, but a nice little downpour of a little over an hour yielded 2.6 inches of rain.  We may even be wetting the subsoil now!

I had just recovered from a day of clinics, eaten supper, perused the paper, and watched the evening talkies, when I realized that a decent storm front had assembled and was about 20 miles northwest of Manhattan, bearing down on us.  I've been waiting weeks for this opportunity, and, seizing the moment, I quickly donned garden shoes and ran out to spread a bag of alfalfa pellets on as many roses as I could.  I always like to spread the pellets just before a rain so they'll "uncompress", mold a bit, and be a little less likely to draw rabbits and rodents to the base of my roses. 

Now this is what I call lucky!
 After emptying the alfalfa bag, I grabbed my camera and went out to take a few pictures of the developing storm front.  And then, by a "stroke" of luck, I snapped the photo of lightning shown above.  The camera was hand-held and looking straight west, past my neighbor's mirthful sign and over his pasture to the western ridge.  Gorgeous, isn't it? And better yet if you could see it in the non-compressed form.  I've hoped for years to snap such a picture and here it is, mostly focused, straight, and as good as I could hope for.  God, in action, right on the Kansas prairie.

The rock sign, in case you're wondering, is at the entrance to my neighbor's property a few hundred feet to the west of my house, and it carries a slightly altered quotation from "Paint Your Wagon", both the name of a 1951 musical and the 1969 motion picture (Lee Marvin, Clint Eastwood) inspired by it. The hit song of the musical and movie was They Call the Wind Maria, with "Maria" pronounced "Ma-rye-ah."  My neighbor, as you can guess, is a little bit of a character to love such a haunting song that he had a rock engraved with it.  I surmise that he didn't know the correct spelling of the song title, but then neither did Mariah Carey's parents, who, according to omniscient Wikipedia, named Ms. Carey after the song.

The actual lyrics are:

Away out here they got a name
For rain and wind and fire
The rain is Tess, the fire Joe,
And they call the wind Maria

This picture was taken looking due north from the front of my house, as the storm came in.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Isaac's Wife

'Madame Isaac Pereire'
While I'm on the subject of Old Garden Roses, one of the biggest mistakes that I've made in gardening (up until now) is to have waited this long before trying to grow 'Madame Isaac Pereire'.  This grand old lass is but a yearling in my garden, and her health, beauty and productivity is rapidly making me into an avid fan.

'Madame Isaac Pereire' is a dark pink Bourbon rose bred in France in 1881 by Armand Garcon.  The rose is named after Fanny Pereire, the wife of a prominent French banker, who used the inheritance after his death to honor his memory and simultaneously have this rose named after her.  In a very Continental twist, Pink Ladies and Crimson Gents reveals that Isaac Pereire was Fanny's uncle as well as her husband, a bit of salacious gossip that I somehow can't resist keeping in memory.

I was afraid of this rose, in my previous Zone 5B garden, because of her often-rating of Zone 6, and so I simply never applied Zonal Denial as a growing technique in her behalf.   But, come to find out, she did just fine as a one-summer-old unprotected shrub last Winter in my garden, and she's started back in this year without a pause.  Reputedly one of the most fragrant of all roses, I agree with the crowd about her strong bouquet, but I am insufficiently talented to confirm that tones of raspberry are prevalent in her ambiance as stated by others.  The very large and very double flowers are often quartered, and they hold their form as long or longer than most of the Bourbon class.  The bush form is sprawling, as you can see in the picture at the bottom of the blog, and I now understand first-hand why previous admirers like to stake her out in the garden to encourage bloom all along those long limbs.  I know that some consider her a short climber, with strong canes up to eight feet high, but I'm going to trim her as a shrub.  My specimen is a moderately vigorous bush, already this season pushing up 4 new large erect canes above the three foot level, and she's very healthy, with less than 10% of her unsprayed leaves bearing blackspot and with no noticeable defoliation.  I've seen no mildew on her matte green foliage here in Kansas.

She was sparing of her blooms in that first summer, and so, until recently, I believed her to be just another Bourbon, nothing special except exuding a decent fragrance.  What I hadn't anticipated are the rapid and bounteous rebloom cycles of this rose, making it the most prolific of my OGR's in terms of repeat flower production.  I'm encouraged now to look for 'Mme Ernst Calvat', a lighter pink sport with the same glorious fragrance.  The picture at the bottom is this year's first bloom cycle, but the second bloom cycle, now underway, is just as colorful and, because of the summer heat, even more fragrant.  One other secret I'll reveal about this rose;  this time of year, when Hybrid Tea and Floribunda blooms are bedraggled by wind, discolored by rain, and chewed by insects, my 'Mme Isaac Pereire' blooms still seem to be perfect, every one.  I don't know how she avoids the factors that disfigure the blooms of other roses, but she does.

I currently lack the knowledge and experience to tie down those long canes in gentle restraint, but perhaps this winter I'll borrow Fifty Shades of Grey from Mrs. ProfessorRoush and study it so that I can be properly prepared to restrain her (referring to 'Mme. Isaac Pereire') in the garden come next Spring.  This old gardener will try anything to encourage blooming of an Old Garden Rose.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Blackspot Susceptibility; Old Garden Roses

'Madame Hardy'
At last comes the third blog in my series reviews of roses for blackspot susceptibility.  Two Mondays ago I reported my Griffith Buck roses and last Monday it was the Canadians and Rugosas.   Since I also grow a fair group of Old Garden Roses (compared to some mythical average rosarian in my mind), I'll throw down on them in this third blog of the trio.  As before, the first number is the estimated percentage of leaves with blackspot and the second number the estimated percent defoliation.

Old Garden Roses:
Fantin Latour 60%-20%
Madame Hardy 0%-0%
Double Scotch White 0%-0%
Konigin Von Danemark 0%-0%
Comte de Chambord 0%-0%
La Reine Victoria 0%-0%
Zephirine Drouhin 5%-0%
Celsiana 0%-0%
Duchesse de Montebello 0%-0%
Charles de Mills 10%-15%
Louise Odier 5%-50%
Ballerina 30%-30%
Rose de Rescht 70%-5%
Variegata di Bologna 80%-10%
Red Moss (Henri Martin) 0%-20%
Salat 0%-5%
Duchesse de Rohan 0%-5%
Reine des Violettes 10%-10%
Madame Issac Pierre 10%-0%
Cardinal de Richelieu 0%-0%
Belle de Crecy <5%-5%
Blush Hip <5%-0%
Coquette de Blanches 5%-0%
Duchess of Portland 5%-0%
Frau Karl Druschki 10%-10%
Ferdinand Pichard <5%-0%
Shailor's Provence 0%-0%
Madame Plantier 0%-0%
Maiden's Blush 0%-0%
Seven Sisters 0%-0%
La France 20%-80% (not really an OGR, but the first Hybrid Tea).

This is normally a fairly blackspot-free group, but Fantin Latour got spotted up early and pretty badly, and Variegata di Bologna presently has a touch of the fungal flu.  As you would expect however, it is hard to go wrong with Old Garden Roses.  Most of our current disease troubles began after the breeding of 'La France'.  I grow 'La France' for conversations-sake only; if there was ever a balled-up, blackspot ridden rose, it is that first miserable offspring of crossing a Hybrid Perpetual with a Tea rose.  Why, oh why, did society ever decide that 'La France' was the future of roses?  For sheer gloriousness, I think the world went wrong and should have stayed with 'Madame Hardy', 'Duchesse de Montebello', and 'Madame Plantier'. Those are three classy old dames who can still show a gardener a good time.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Beetles! Get'cher Beetles Here!

Hey, You! Yeah, you, Fella!  Take a look at these!  Japanese Beetles for Sale!  These little green friendlies would love to hitch a ride into your garden and fornicate in it and make babies.  Cheap!  End of the Year Sale! Don't wait until they reach your area on their own!  Get'em NOW!

This morning, on a trip out of town, I innocently stopped at a large regional nursery about 60 miles east of Manhattan.  This nursery sells each Spring, among other plants, the largest variety of potted roses for a radius of 100 miles.   Being who I am, I could not help but stop to view their sale on the few remaining potted roses, hoping particularly to find a 'St. Swithun' marked down to a price that even a curmudgeonly rosarian would like.  And there, I saw them.  Japanese Beetles!  Fornicating in 'The Wedgwood Rose'!  And, looking around, they were on all the roses!  And the perennial hibiscus! And the daylilies (insert primal scream here)!  I took the pictures displayed here with my Iphone, to dispel doubting Thomas's and the likes of government types who claim that UFO's do not exist.

To understand the full depth of my horror and the stream of curses I uttered, you should be aware that Japanese Beetles are not yet endemic just 60 miles west, in Manhattan, Kansas, and I was unaware that they had been seen in anything but temporary outbreaks west of Kansas City.  You East-Coast rosarians should imagine, for a moment, an idyllic garden where you had never seen a Japanese Beetle, but you had heard they were massing at the seashore.  That is the fear that I've been living with for 5 or 6 years now, viewing the pictures of destruction at other gardens on the Internet and waiting for the beetle-induced Armageddon.

Fellow Gardeners, I am irate, nay, I am INCENSED at the callous disregard of this nursery for the public.  Questioning a worker at the store, "Yes", they did know that they had living, breeding Japanese beetles on the premises.  "They've been here for two or three years."  And "Yes" they had notified the authorities and were being monitored.  Why then, I wondered, were their embeetled roses and other plants still for sale?  How was it that they felt it was okay to participate in spreading these things around? I understand a conscientious gardener sticking to their organic principles and refusing to spray, but surely a commercial nursery wouldn't hesitate to nuke every inch of plant and soil.   One thing for sure, I wasn't buying any roses today.

Friends, this whole issue puts me deeply into an ethical and moral dilemma.  I have a vocal libertarian streak, distrusting authority of all kinds and advocating that petty little government dictators, (like Michael Bloomberg, currently trying to regulate the size of soft drinks at the movies in NYC), be exiled to Elba.  But I wished instantly and fervently on the spot that there was a government agency that would step into this void, tell this nursery they have to put up signs warning unknowing customers, and curtail sales to western customers.  Or better yet, depopulate and burn the nursery to the ground, as they have done in the past to farms with tuberculosis and brucellosis in their dairy herds.

I know, I know, eventually beetles will reach Manhattan Kansas on their own.  But I had a small hope that the Flint Hills would be a 50 mile-wide barrier to westward expansion; a no-beetle-land of poor food sources for their migration and extensive annual prairie fires to wipe out early scouts.  Little did I know that a nursery on the infested side of the zone would blatantly offer to sell me a potted plant with either beetle larvae in the soil or, in my case today, some actual beetle couples who would have been happy to have intercourse in my back seat during the Jeep ride home and then quickly disperse into my Beetle Eden of 200 rose plants.  Just as bad, I've bought plants from this nursery every year, my latest being a peony last August during a sale.  It has been long planted in my garden, all last Winter and this Spring, far too late to grub out now.  Until now I've tried, myself, to be a no-spray gardener, mostly faithful to the organic cause, but within seconds I was contemplating which insecticide I should use first.
I drove speedily home, calling friends and local nursery owners on the way like a Paul Revere of horticulture, spreading the word that the beetles were coming.  Local nursery owners were unaware and surprised at the disclosure.  Flashes of Kevin McCarthy screaming "They're here already! You're next!" at the ending of the classic movie The Invasion of the Body Snatcher's were running through my mind.  I came straight home and ran into my rose garden, inspecting every bloom for insects lounging in post-coital bliss, finally collapsing in relief as I determined that I'm still free from infection.  And then I took a long hot shower in disinfectant soap and burned my clothes.  You can never be too careful.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Praise Be

According to yesterday evening's Manhattan Mercury, a miserable daily rag which keeps the wailing gardener informed of each and every increment of annual water deprivation, we had received 8.37 inches of rain year-to-date, with a deficit for June of 2.67 inches and a deficit for 2012 of 6.67 inches.  Yes, that's correct, we have only received 55.6% of our normal rainfall in 2012, adding more pain to the drought from Fall of 2011.

We have been seemingly deserted by the rain deities.  Just last Sunday, I watched a cloud split and go north and south of us, leaving this area clear and dumping 4 inches of rain on areas only 1/2 hour away.  The storm must have known that I had sworn to dance naked on the driveway if it rained and thus, in its wisdom, spared my neighbors from such a blinding glimpse.

Last night, I made no such threat of joyful full-exposure, and, safe from that unsightly danger, a gorgeous front formed and commenced to downpour here at 11:00 p.m.  ProfessorRoush, of course, went promptly into the most restful, worry-free sleep in weeks amidst the lightening and thunder and rain pounding on the roof.  And woke up this morning to the beautiful sight of both rain  gauges (I keep one near the house and one near the vegetable garden), containing 2.2 inches of rain. Even the daylilies are happy, although the dewy specimen above will likely be a bit spotted as the day wears on.

The forecast still shows chances for rain of 50%, 30%, and 60% respectifully for the next few days and, not normally a greedy sort, I'd  be pleased to see similar rainfalls every day of the next week. Yes, surely, Praise Be.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Canadian Crimson Glory

One of the hardiest, red hybrid-tea-style roses to grow here on the Flint Hills prairie is an older introduction from AgCanada, the bright red rose 'Cuthbert Grant'.  'Cuthbert Grant' is a "Parkland" series Canadian rose, bred at Manitoba, but it was named after a prominent Métis leader who led the victors at the Battle of Seven Oaks and who became an important early figure of the Hudson's Bay company.  

'Cuthbert Grant' was one of the first Canadian roses I grew in Kansas and it remains one of my favorites of that group.  Blooms are cardinal to dark red, with more of a purple-red hue in colder weather, and they fade to a lighter but again more purplish-red hue.  The double blooms (17-25 petals) start as a hybrid-tea type bud and then open relatively quickly to a cupped shape.  I love to experience the strong fragrance of this rose in the garden, but because of the quick opening of the bloom, 'Cuthbert Grant' doesn't last long as a cut rose indoors.  I should disclose that different references list this rose as having strong fragrance to none at all, but my own nose is voting on the strong fragrance side. Blooms come in clusters of 3-9 flowers on long slender stems. This rose is one of the first to bloom in my garden, then it will take a rest and it seems to bloom in several smaller periodic flushes though the summer before producing a second great flowering in the fall.  I wouldn't, in other words, call it a continuous bloomer, but it does produce several flushes over a summer.

'Cuthbert Grant' is extremely resistant to blackspot, powdery mildew and rust.  The Montreal Botanical Garden listed it as being an outstanding variety for disease resistance in a 1998 trial, and I never spray my 'Cuthbert Grant' rose.   It's a medium-tall bush, about 4 to 5 feet tall and 3 feet around as a mature bush in my garden, but in hot climates, it is said to shoot up to over 8 feet.  I noticed one reference on that suggested the bush has a slight weeping habit, but 'Cuthbert Grant' has only had strong, thick erect canes in my garden.  It is reputed to be hardy to Zone 3 and I can certainly attest that I've never seen winter-induced dieback in Zone 5.  In fact, as I think about it, this rose seems to be unusually resistant to cane dieback or damage at all times of the year compared to modern hybrid teas.

'Cuthbert Grant' is a Hybrid Suffulta (a R. arkansana descendant), a result of crossing 'Assiniboine' (a red Hybrid Suffulta itself) with a 'Crimson Glory' x (Donald Prior X R. arkansana) seedling. He was bred by Henry Marshall in Morden, Manitoba and released in 1967.  I'm assuming the strong fragrance of Cuthbert comes from the 'Crimson Glory' grandparent, since its fragrance has much the tone of that latter rose.

In a nutshell, if you are discouraged by the disease and cold susceptibility of the real 'Crimson Glory', try 'Cuthbert Grant' instead.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Canadian and Rugosa Blackspot Review

'Hunter'....of course
This post is the second in a series of three Mondays on which I review a major group of my roses for blackspot susceptibility.  Last week, of course, I reported my Griffith Buck roses.  Today, I'll note the damage on my AgCanada-bred roses and selected Hybrid Rugosas.  Of course, many Rugosa Hybrids who have very thick and rugose leaves are not susceptible at all, and I can vouch for Blanc Double De Coubert, Souvenir de Philemon Cochet, Scabrosa, Purple Pavement, Pink Grootendorst, and F. J. Grootendorst as blackspot free.

As before, the first number is the estimated percentage of leaves with blackspot and the second number the estimated percent defoliation. And now, without further ado, the Canadians and Hybrid Rugosas: (with a few odd roses thrown in that were bred in Canada but not released by AgCanada).

Prairie Joy 0%-0%
Morden Blush 10%-5%  (this rose is my blackspot "indicator")
Marie Bugnet 0%-0%
Therese Bugnet 0%-0%
Cuthbert Grant 0%-5%
Morden Sunrise 10%-20%
Morden Centennial 5%-10%
J.P. Connell 60%-80%
David Thompson 0%-0%
Hope for Humanity 0%-0%
Adelaide Hoodless 5%-5%
Champlain 0%-0%
Henry Hudson 0%-0%
Alexander MacKenzie 10%-70%
Morden Ruby 0%-0%
John Franklin 30%-20%
Morden Fireglow 20%-10%
Winnepeg Parks 10%-50%
William Baffin 0%-80%  (leaf loss may be due to drought)
Survivor 5%-5%
John Davis 5%-5%
Martin Frobisher 0%-0%
Prairie Dawn 10%-60%

Hybrid Rugosas:
Conrad Ferdinand Meyer 5%-0%
Sir Thomas Lipton 0%-5%
Moore's Striped Rugosa 0%-0%
Robusta 10%-20%
Linda Campbell 20%-10%
Hunter <5%-0%
Rugelda <5%-0%
Topaz Jewel 0%-0%

As you can see above, the Canadian roses are hit and miss on blackspot susceptibility with John Franklin, Alexander MacKenzie, Winnipeg Parks, Morden Sunrise, and J.P Connell almost sure to have a little blackspot.  In fact, J.P. Connell always lies somewhere between struggling for life and trying to die for me and I would grub it out if I only had the courage of the Cowardly Lion (a little Kansas-Wizard of Oz reference there).  Morden Blush, interestingly, is usually one of my earliest roses to show blackspot, but this year it isn't as affected.

Rugosa blood, as you can see, does not necessarily mean that blackspot can be forgotten.  Robusta and Linda Campbell have both been a bit disappointing to me in that regard, but I keep them around for their cardinal red color and dependable repeat. Certainly, it seems the more rugose the foliage, the more blackspot resistant in this group.

Next Monday I'll spill beans on the Old Garden Roses that I grow.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Lavender Lessons

"There’s flowers for you;
Hot lavender, mints, savory, marjoram;
The marigold, that goes to bed wi’ the sun,
And with him rises weeping; thes are flower
Of middle summer, and I thek they are given
To men of middle age."
William Shakespeare The Winter’s Tale, iv.4

There are not many of these flowers given to THIS man of middle age, but I do GROW some of them.  I don't rightly know of all the places on the six habitable continents where lavender may grow well, but the Kansas sunshine and heat certainly don't hurt its survival prospects here. 


I did have some trouble, back in my Zone 5B years, wintering lavender through to Spring, but those troubles seem to be gone now that I've been magically transported, garden and gardener, into Zone 6.  I grow several varieties as a sort of short hedge along a rock wall in a very exposed and wind-swept area, and I've got a couple of other bunches of lavender in my outer garden beds. I am a big lavender fan, but I am probably a poor second next to the butterflies pictured here, in my admiration for it.  I depend on it, after all, for luxury and indulgence, but not for my sustenance.

The majority of my soil is clay, and I was skeptical about growing lavender here since it is supposed to like well-drained, sandy or gravelly soils.  What I believe I have learned from growing it here in Kansas, is that it may not require good drainage if the soil doesn't get wet enough or stay wet long enough to be a bother.  Certainly the soil is solid clay next to the rock wall but it does have decent drainage and anyway, we haven't had enough rain to wet your whistle, let alone drown lavender.

I unfortunately haven't keep track of the cultivars along the wall.  Ten cultivars have lived or died or been divided into a hedge that now appears to be composed of three.  In flat areas of my garden, many of the lavenders I've planted have died out, but the lavender pictured in such blue splendor at the bottom of this blog grows in a clay bed with little drainage and it is the best bloomer of all of its cousins this summer.  I don't know its name either, because its identity was lost when I lost my notes of new plantings last year.  It may, however, be L. intermedia 'Grosso', a memory supported by the vivid color and prolific bloom.  I believe that most of the other survivors in my garden are L.augustifolia cultivars as those always seemed more hardy.

So, Kansans, try some lavender.  Keep it dry and treasure it well. The return in flittering beauty alone makes the effort worthwhile.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Sub Rosa Surprise

While my fellow blogger Hartwood Roses was accompanied by a bumblebee in her garden this morning, I had a more stealthy companion of my own as I gave my young roses a good deep soaking during the cool part of the morning.  Caught out between 'Gallicandy' and 'Marianne', the creature pictured below was trying to lay still, silent and unnoticed, all to no avail.

Or perhaps, it was trying to invite me for a literal sub rosa meeting to discuss some important aspect of my garden chores.   This is, of course, a small portion of the caudal half of a Common Red-sided Garter Snake, (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis), whose overall length was about 3 feet and with a girth of around an inch at widest.  It was likely a female due to the short length of the tail, and that would be about my luck since the females bear up to 85 young in mid-summer.  I'm sorry that I can't show you all of it, but by the time I retrieved my camera and returned, it had moved quickly out of the open and it was obviously not inclined to introduce itself and make friends this morning.  I tried and failed to capture a better photograph than this, but once it realized that a large predator was stalking it, the snake stayed good and secure under a rose bush, not even moving when poked.  Yes, that's right, I stalked and speedily shoved the stealthy sub-rosa snake with a stick, but it slowly slithered under shelter and stayed silent.

I would be normally be very personally proud of not shouting or jumping at the first surprise sighting of the reptile, however I believe that the snake should get most of the credit for my own calm attitude since it was laying perfectly still (probably hoping not to accidentally get a cold shower from the hose).  It took me a few seconds to realize that the bright orange specks and the yellow-white stripes didn't belong among the light brown shade of the grass clippings I use for mulch.  

I appreciate the garter snakes of my garden for their control of rodents and spiders, and they are beautiful creatures, but I'd generally prefer that they perform their part of the garden maintenance out of sight and out of mind.  They certainly shouldn't feel the need to entertain me in conversation as I water.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Nothing But Blue Skies

'Blue Skies'
I'm afraid to admit that I'm falling in love all over again with yet another rose, in this case one that has trifled with my affections before and left me sobbing over its sudden disappearance.

'Blue Skies' is a Griffith Buck rose (with the registration name of BUCblu) that I have long desired to grow and, in fact, I have tried and failed to establish it twice before.  I can chalk one failure up to an overbearing and smothering nearby Panicum sp., and the other to a poor specimen (a grafted, bagged, $3.00 Grade 2 rose), so I hope that this time, the third time, will really prove a charm.

And, so far at least, so good.  This rose is so spectacular that it hurts me.  I purchased a band of 'Blue Skies' this Spring from Heirloom Roses and it arrived in excellent condition and now, 2 months later, is a one-foot tall rose "toddler" that has bloomed twice already and is heading rapidly into its third flush.  I cannot, of course, speak to its winter hardiness in my zone, but I wasn't going to wait until next Spring to blog about a rose of this perfect-ness.

I have not, in the past, been a real fan of "blue" roses, but I'll make an exception for the pink/mauve/lilac 'Blue Skies'.  Released by Dr. Buck in 1983, its parentage, according to Mary Buck, is  [(Soir d'Automne x Music Maker) x Solitude] x [(Mainzer Fastnacht x Tom Brown) x Autumn Dusk], a combination that I can't quite get my head around.  Whatever the heritage, 'Blue Skies' has, even as a small bush, provided me with a good number of perfect hybrid-tea style buds on long stems.  The double blooms have a strong fragrance and it may well be one of the fastest repeat cycle bloomers in my garden.  I hate to report a final assessment yet, since it is such a young bush for me, but disease resistance is excellent at present, absolutely not a blemish on the foliage anywhere.

 ProfessorRoush doesn't grow many Hybrid Tea-type roses, and Mrs. ProfessorRoush has soft spots for both lilac-colored roses and for Hybrid Tea blooms, so I'm keeping my figures crossed and watching this rose closely.   Because, of course, I want smooth sailing at home and 'Blue Skies', nothing but blue skies, from now on.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Melyridae (Soft-winged flower beetle)
"Mrs. ProfessorRoush is not fond of bugs."  I'm sorry, but that statement isn't strong enough to accurately summarize the situation.  "Mrs. ProfessorRoush hates bugs!"  Yes, perfect, that wording is more descriptive of the depth of her emotions.  Mrs. ProfessorRoush hates spiders and ants and chiggers and ticks and bagworms and generally just about anything that has six or eight legs and gains entry to her home or body.  And she's also not very happy with ProfessorRoush when insects hitch a ride on his flowers into the house.

Thus, we reached a domestic crisis when a number of the creatures pictured here began falling out of every rose bloom that I, her knight-in-shining-armor, so chivalrously tried to gift her.  And as I examined my roses closer, these were everywhere, hiding in the open blooms and running around or abandoning ship at the first sign of human interference or disruption.  The blooms seemed to tolerate these free-loafer tenants without damage, but the bugs were surely putting a strain on the whole "I'm sorry for breathing, here are some roses to make up for it" sequence of my marriage.

Thanks to the Kansas State Extension entomology and their excellent diagnostic service at, I now know that these are beetles in the family Melyridae, also known as soft-wing flower beetles.  They do not, in fact, harm the roses, but are omnivores that primarily feed on other insects and insect eggs, and that sometimes add a little pollen and nectar to their regular diet.  Their larvae live and feed in the soil and there are 520 species in 58 genera of Melyridae in North America.  The "melyrids" as the bug people refer to them, are nuisances to those of us who bring flowers indoors, but they will not eat the carpet or survive long in our homes.  From a fascinating publication titled The Coleopterists Bulletin (2003;57:154-160), I learned that melyrids may even be important pollinators in the western United States, and that my personal melyrids probably visit other flower species as well as my roses.  The author of that article seemed more excited by that discovery than I felt upon reading it, but hey, how much does it really take to excite a coleopterist?

 Melyrids were once recognized as the "Bug of the Week" by someone calling herself "The BugLady," who appears to work for the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Field Station.  These beetles may contain batrachotoxins, potent heart and nerve toxins that are also found in poison dart frogs in the South Pacific, so I would recommend that you do not make Melyridae a mainstay of your own diet even though you'd have to eat your weight in them to be harmed.  I think I'll keep the latter information from Mrs. ProfessorRoush, lest she begin shaking the blooming roses over my soup du jour.

Regarding my melyrid infestation, I view them as a simple byproduct of my religious conviction to not indiscriminately use insecticides in my garden. If I were spraying the roses with Silent-Spring-inducing poisions instead of allowing nature to find the controls for me, I'd have less melyrids, but also less ladybugs, and I would increase the chance that some insect that the melyrids normally eat would proliferate and cause more damage.  So, I'm going to let bygones be bygones and simply shake out the roses a bit more carefully before presenting them to Mrs. ProfessorRoush.  And hope that she forgives me.   

Monday, June 4, 2012

Buck Rose Blackspot Review

Now that I've seen others state on the Web that it has been a bad blackspot year for their roses, I feel confident enough to come out of the fungal-shame closet and agree that I've been entertaining the same thought.  I don't know if it was the early March warmth or the cool nights of recent weeks, but blackspot has been a struggle at the K-State rose garden at this early date. In my own non-spray garden, I also believed that the roses were a little "fungus-ier" than normal.

So I resolved to note down the degree of blackspot damage on all my roses and did exactly that this morning.  And, you know what?  I think that maybe it is not quite as bad as I thought.  I seem to have been misled by an early defoliation of one of my 'Prairie Harvest' (normally quite resistant), and the damage on my 2-year old Paul Barden rose, 'Jeri Jennings'.  'Jeri Jennings' definitely got  the black spots aplenty, but 'Prairie Harvest' just seemed to turn yellow and defoliate all but the top leaves. I'm still not sure if that was blackspot-induced or drought-induced.  She seems to be coming back.   The rest of my roses are mostly doing quite well, in contrast to my undocumented impression, with exceptionally bad disease only on floribunda 'Rhapsody in Blue', English Rose 'Golden Celebration', and pink floribunda 'Gene Boerner'. 

For reference's sake in this modern era of gigabyte data and online searchs, I will report the blackspot tendencies of three of my rose groups, the Griffith Buck roses, the Canadians, and the Old Garden roses, today and over the next two Mondays.  Today, we'll tackle the Buck roses, at least those roses who are at or beyond their second season with me.   The first number is the estimated percentage of leaves with blackspot and the second number the estimated percent defoliation.  The list, of course, begins with Carefree Beauty, an Earth-Kind® decorated rose and often a resistant control rose in disease plot-tests.

Carefree Beauty 0%-0%
Country Dancer 0%-0%
Freckles 0%-0%
April Moon 0%-0%
Griff's Red 0%-0%
Wild Ginger 0%-5%
Hawkeye Belle 10%-20%
Prairie Harvest 0%-80%  or 0%-0%  (one defoliated, the other perfectly healthy)
Prairie Star 80%-20%
Winter Sunset <5%-0%
Earth Song <5%-0%
Quietness 20%-0%
Polonaise 0%-0%
Pearlie Mae 10%-0%
Golden Princess <5%-0%
Queen Bee 10%-10%
Honey Sweet 0%-0%
Folk Singer 0%-0%
Bright Melody 0%-0%
Iobelle 0%-0%
Golden Unicorn 0%-0%
El Catala <5%-0%

I noted roses with "<5%" above when I found a leaf or two with some blackspot, but generally the rest of the rose was unaffected.  The health of most of these roses are not surprising, or should not be surprising for the Buck-bred roses, since Dr. Buck bred and raised his roses under a no-spray policy in a similar climate to mine.  'Prairie Star', 'Quietness', 'Pearlie Mae' and 'Queen Bee' seem to be the only ones that I grow currently with some degree of blackspot present.  Other, that is, than the quandary that 'Prairie Harvest' is presenting me with.  I have one bush almost defoliated and the other unaffected.  I don't know if this year is a quirk from a rose that I've grown for at least 10 years and whose foliage is normally very blackspot-resistant, or whether the rose got damaged from something else like our current drought.  Time alone will tell the me truth.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Heritage of Blooms

It occurred to me last weekend, and I find it incredibly hard to believe, that I've somehow overlooked blogging about David Austin's 'Heritage' rose before now. 

'Heritage' has a prime spot in my landscape, right out in front of the house towards the right corner, next to the driveway and walkway.  That site is on the west side of the house and she gets a little less sun (maybe 8 hours/day at the height of summer) than some of my roses, but she seems none the worst for the partial shade.  She is about 8 years old, own root, and she's a tall vase-shaped rose (about 6 feet tall) with a lot of presence in the border.  That first bloom, with all those shell-pink delicate blossoms, is a stunner.

'Heritage', or 'AUSblush', has always been a healthy bush for me, with little blackspot and no mildew.  I don't spray her healthy, glossy dark green foliage, but I do provide a little extra water to this bed at the height of summer because it tends to dry out fast with the hot afternoon sun.  She has strong erect canes, never slouching or breaking to the wind, and I commonly go into Spring with between 10 and 15 healthy strong canes on this rose after pruning.  Winter hardiness in my formerly Zone 5B climate was and still is very good, with no dieback noted in most years.

'Heritage' was released by Austin's English Roses breeding program in 1984. Classified as a shrub rose, like many of Austin's creations, she bears light pink, fully double flowers of up to 40 petals that are 4 inches or so in diameter. The flowers are, as advertised, very fragrant when you bury your nose in them, but this is not a rose that I've noticed perfuming the air around it, no matter how prolific the bloom.  I've also found that she doesn't last very long in a vase, but her initial beauty keeps me bringing those blooms inside to stay in the good graces of  Mrs. ProfessorRoush.   She keeps her few thorns to herself (the rose, not Mrs. ProfessorRoush), and is ladylike in her manners, and so she is safely placed near my walkway to the front door.  A tetraploid rose, her parentage is described as a seedling X 'Iceberg'.  Knowing that, I'd like to add that 'Heritage' is a much healthier rose in Kansas, in my experience, than 'Iceberg', who seems to be a better rose everywhere else than here.

I only grow a few English Roses, among which are 'The Dark Lady', 'Mary Rose', and 'Golden Celebration', but so far 'Heritage' would be my pick for Kansas, since the bloom form, hardiness, and health of the bush are more dependable than the others.  It is not an accident that this rose is likely the first that a visitor to my house would encounter. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Blackberry Bounty

It's Blackberry time here in Kansas!  It's Blackberry time here in Kansas! 

There should be a song written to the wonders of blackberries here in the Flint Hills, a boisterous song to rouse the spirit and whet the palate.  Many fruits are iffy in these dry, thinly-covered hills, but blackberries are usually not among them. The peach crop can be wiped out with an inopportune freeze, strawberries die with the droughts, the watermelons and cantaloupes survive only at the mercy of the squash bugs, and grapes can disappear overnight as the June Bugs arrive, but blackberries, oh blackberries, usually can be counted for a fresh, sweet beginning to the summer.  Okay, maybe except for last year.

I grow a number of blackberries varieties, in theory, but I may be down to one or at most two varieties in reality.  I originally began with a row of thornless 'Arapaho', 'Navaho', 'Black Satin', and 'Cherokee', but those original plants have dwindled with crown gall and I've moved suckers everywhere to grow in other areas, so it's entirely possible that I've ended up with only one of the original cultivars (probably 'Navaho', which seemed the most vigorous) and certainly no more than two of that group.  This year I'm making a concerted effort to provide these thornless varieties some deep watering at intervals (economically, with soaker hoses), in an attempt to improve the number of canes and the harvest.

A couple of years ago, the University of Arkansas released some varieties that fruit on primocanes as well as the floricanes.  Hoping to get two harvests each year of blackberries, I purchased three plants each of Prime-Jim, Prime-Jan (both 2 years old) and Prime-Ark 45 (a yearling) to try.  Of the former two, Prime-Jim seems to be the better variety for the Flint Hills.  It is a thorned variety, but the canes are stiff and erect, not trailing and grabbing at everything in sight like the old classic varieties.   This year, my three Prime-Jim plants have many, many more berries than Prime-Jan, and they are ripening at a quick pace and all at one time.  There are so many berries on Prime-Jim that I don't even care what the second harvest is like because the first out-does any other blackberry I've seen.  Prime-Ark 45, which is said to be the best producer and have the largest berries, is not old enough yet for me to evaluate, and it has been at a disadvantage anyway, putting on most of its current growth during late summer of last year in the midst of a drought. 

I suppose I should expect hybrid blackberries to do well in an environment where wild blackberries grow up everywhere that is not mowed, burned, or otherwise treated, but one can never be sure what evils man may have created during the "improvement process."  Except for a little bacterial crown gall, blackberries are normally trouble-free for me.  In fact, my only problem with blackberries is that I rarely harvest enough of them to use in jam or jelly.  My family tends to eat them off the vine, unwashed, but oh so warm and sweet (the berries, not the family), as fast as they ripen on the canes.  Blackberries stain us, and sustain us, until the main garden bounty comes with summer.


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