Thursday, August 30, 2012

Morden Centennial

Somewhere out there in the gardens of the world, someone else MUST be growing the AgCanada offering 'Morden Centennial', but information on this rose seems to be difficult to obtain, with few commenters on the normal sites.  I've looked in a number of places, and seen links to many others that are currently unavailable, but the real value of 'Morden Centennial' seems to be a very large secret (until I reveal it to you below!)  A wonderful website at the University of Minnesota does place 'Morden Centennial' in its list of roses "recommended for low maintenance landscapes," but,f you'll pardon my digression, perhaps the most useful chart on that web page is the chart of roses that were NOT recommended.  The comment section of the second list detailed why each rose was not recommended, and was most interesting because they confirmed my impression, for 'Morden Fireglow' for instance, that it was a blackspot magnet, but also because the authors tossed out the Grootendorst roses for "lack of fragrance".  Do all roses HAVE to have fragrance?  No one seems to care that our fall garden standout Crape Myrtles or Rose of Sharon are very fragrant, do they?
'Morden Centennial' is a medium or bright pink Shrub rose, with fair, but not exceptional repeat bloom.  It was bred by Henry H. Marshall in 1972, and released in the AgCanada Parkland series in 1980, just in time for the centennial of the city of Morden, Manitoba, founded in 1882.  The mildly-fragrant blooms are large and double, of about 40 petals, and often cluster-flowered on small stems, but they have the drawback of going quickly from bud to completely open form.  The foliage is dark green and semi-glossy, and it seems pretty resistant to blackspot here in my climate.  The bush form is vase-shaped and 3-4 foot tall, with stiff, thick canes and moderately-wicked thorns.  'Morden Centennial' is an offspring of a complex cross, with heritage from 'Prairie Princess', 'R. arkansana', 'Assiniboine', 'White Bouquet', and 'J.W. Fargo' in its gene pool.  'Morden Centennial' is rated hardy to zone 2B, but I read an entry from a Minnesota cabin in Zone 3 that stated the plants didn't do well over several winters in Zone 3, but did better when transplanted to a Zone 4 residence.  I've never seen winter kill of any kind on 'Morden Centennial' here in Kansas. 
I would not dispute that 'Morden Centennial' puts on a nice garden display during peak bloom, but the repeat blooms are sporadic enough that I wouldn't put it front and center in a small garden.  The great secret about 'Morden Centennial', though, is its fabulous contribution to the winter garden.  If you are not a fanatical dead-header (as I am not), this rose puts on numerous large bright orange hips to brighten up the winter garden in a display that will match any of the winter hollies or viburnums.  I'm sorry that my picture, at the right, is not taken from a garden covered in snow, but truly, the bush is covered with large orange balls that can be seen from across the garden.   Those hips are almost 3/4ths inch across and they get ever more bright red-orange as winter goes on.  This rose ornaments itself for Christmas, so you won't have to.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sudden Spruces

Federal law should require a warning sign on the dashboard of every gardener's car to alert  unsuspecting passengers of the dangers of unexpected stops and swerves.  As a passenger in my Jeep, Mrs. ProfessorRoush is often being thrown into the dashboard or side door as I slow down suddenly to view a Garden Center storefront or swerve to admire a floriferous rose near the road.  I feel such adventures enrich her life by providing relief of her boredom on trips across town.  She has returned my thoughtful acts by considerably enriching my vocabulary during these jaunts. 

Mrs. ProfessorRoush was accompanying me recently on a Sunday morning coffee run when I passed the Blue Spruce pictured here and came to a sudden stop in the middle of a Manhattan street.  As a long-suffering gardener's wife, she was not surprised at all by the action, but merely briefly commented on the hot coffee spilled from the cup in her hands onto her lap and onto the dashboard.  Thankfully, she was mollified as I explained that it was important to the World that I capture and share the photographs here as prime examples of a "what not to do" garden technique.  

There are a plethora of gardening books and articles centered around the idea of "Right Plant, Right Place." Some clever writers put a twist on that philosophy and take a "Wrong Plant, Wrong Place" approach.  I'm using these photos on this blog to illustrate an "Abominable Plant, Atrocious Place" example. 

Properly sited in a landscape, Colorado Blue Spruce can be magnificent specimen trees; indestructible, colorful, and drought and deer resistant.  Many suburban and rural homes built from the 1940's through the 1970's had a Blue Spruce planted nearby so that the homeowner's good landscaping taste could be clearly displayed.  We grew smarter in the 1980's, however, and realized that these trees are not meant for small yards or even for most yards.  They are particularly abhorrent when planted in the 8 foot wide space between the driveway of a house and the sidewalk/street, as pictured here.  Do you think this homeowner has any clue that in the next decade, he'll be constantly trimming these limbs away from his garage and from the sidewalk?  That it will smother the euonymous and grass planted around it?  That it will become a complete nuisance as its constantly shed needles clog the downspouts of the house and litter the driveway? 

As an Extension Master Gardener, sworn by oath to spread gardening knowledge to the uninitiated masses, I was sorely tempted to knock on the door of this home and educate the occupants about the horticultural evil that they have unleashed in their landscape, but Mrs. ProfessorRoush persuaded me that the homeowner might not be thankful for nor receptive to such enlightment at 6:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning.  Acceding to the wisdom of her superior intuition in such matters, I can but hope that this homeowner, aware of their shortcomings, is a frequent and dedicated reader of my blog, and that the next time I pass through this area, I'll be treated to the view of a far better choice of plants for the space.  With my luck, of course, it'll be a grouping of 'Knock Out' roses, but I suppose small positive steps are better than no steps at all. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

I Lay Awake...

I laid awake all night and listened to the rain.  I listened as the dry raspy voice of the parched ground was stilled under a steady gentle shower.  I listened as the wind gently caressed the earth, drawing away the stored heat of the sun's furnace.  I listened as the lightning flashed and demanded in a deep, booming voice that the soil bring forth life again.  I listened as the world became right again.

This was the radar view as I settled in last night, the whole area of middle Kansas on the brink of a break in the drought.  The national media has focused here recently, noting that drought has struck the hardest in areas of Kansas and Iowa, calling it "extreme" or "exceptional" drought here in this band of Flint Hills that I've chosen to garden.  Yesterday's newspaper, as always, grimly listed the tally; 14.21 inches of rain so far in 2012, 11.51 inches less than normal.  I was afraid, seeing this radar picture, knowing that I'd seen it several times before in this summer, the promised storms breaking on the shores of the western Flint Hills and leaving us yet dry.  For an hour more I wondered, until the first gentle drops kissed the skylights, increasing in tempo until my anxiety eased at last.

My rain vigils are dependent both on modern technology and on ancient instincts.  I'm addicted to an Iphone app called MyRadar, which allows me to see the rainstorms coming at the touch of a button, direction and severity on full display.  I don't deal in rain chances.  Twenty percent or sixty percent predictions mean nothing in the mid-continent unless you actually see and feel the thunderheads build.  My inborn and farm-bred intuition of when the rain will wither or build, and where it will head and how far it will spread, are still far better than the muddled mathematical measures of local meteorologists.  I recently have come to suspect that authorities have conspired to change the reference colors on radar in the same way they manipulate the Homeland Security threat level.  Storms with orange and red pass over us with barely a dribble where in the past they meant deluges and discussions of cubits.  Forget green and blue, those colors now leave us frustrated and weary.  At the end of any actual rain that reaches the ground, I use simple gauges to tell me if we were teased or fulfilled, but my first knowledge of the volume bestowed is always from a small depression in the blacktop right off of my garage pad.  Filled to overflowing is more than 3/4th's of an inch.  Barely damp is less than a 10th.  My hopes and dreams are raised or dashed with my first morning sight of that puddle.

I laid awake all night and listened to the rain. The patter of the rain against the window near my left ear, and the rhythmic breathing and occasional snores of Mrs. ProfessorRoush in my right ear, calmed me and rested me far better than sleep.  The rain continues now as I rise, with chances for more rain in each of the next three days, God-willing.  But for now, the puddle overflows and I and the prairie earth are renewed.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Napoleon's Hat

I am the proud landlord of one Old Garden rose that you may know better under one of at least 10 aliases, including Crested Provence, Cristata, Crested Moss, R. centifolia cristata, or R. centifolia muscosa 'cristata'.  I knew it first under the more fanciful name of  'Chapeau de Napoleon', a moniker bestowed because some think that the fringed calyces resemble the tri-cornered hats worn by the famous French emperor.  The "proper"appellation, if you want to exhibit the rose in competition, is 'Crested Moss'.  In private conversation, of course, we of the bourgeois or peasantry classes can simply call it "Napoleon's Hat" and every rosarian will know the rose we're talking about.  Well, most of them will, but one should be aware that DNA analysis has shown that 'Crested Moss' is not the same rose as 'Crested Provence'.  As with any number of roses, the fact that they look alike doesn't necessarily mean that they are clones of one original plant.

'Crested Moss' is a once-blooming, medium pink, double-petaled rose that was actually not known when Napoleon was alive, but was a "found rose" discovered some years later (some authorities say as early as 1820, others as late as 1827).  'Crested Moss' is believed to be a sport of Centrifolia muscosa 'communis', the 'Common Moss Rose'.  Most sources, especially those written shortly after its introduction by Vibert in 1828, suggest that it was discovered in 1827 near Fribourg, Switzerland, growing in a monastery wall (or a nunnery wall). 'Crested Moss'  has been used extensively in hybridization by Ralph Moore and those efforts are reprinted on Paul Barden's website in an article by Mr. Moore.  He writes that the rose is usually sterile and does not set seed, but he was once able to collect enough pollen to cross with 'Little Darling', 'Baccara', and 'Queen Elizabeth'.  Ralph Moore noted that since those first attempts, he was never again able to find anthers (pollen) on any plant of 'Crested Moss'. 

In my garden, my two year old plant has the characteristic sparse foliage noted for this rose by Paul Barden, and the reputedly slow-growing plant stands about 2 1/2 feet tall at the time of this writing.  The foliage has grown more dense over the summer since flowering and the bush has achieved a more rounded form with a little judicious pruning.  'Crested Moss' is cane-hardy here in Kansas and it has withstood the current drought very well.  If you choose to grow it, you'll be rewarded annually by the strong damask-type fragrance and the clear pink color of the blooms.  If nothing else, the mossy calyx (a collective term for the sepals of a flower) creates a unique memory for visitors to your garden.  More than once, I've been near a point of failure in my attempts to excite a new visitor about the roses, but when they spy these unique buds, a connection forms and they start spewing forth questions. Questions that I usually can't answer, but at least I no longer have to search among mundane gambits to elicit conversation.  "How about this weather?", or "How about those Wildcats?" get tossed aside for a more stimulating discussion (at least to me) of Napoleon's three-cornered hat.  I am almost always able to restrain myself and stop before the visitor's eyes completely glaze over once again. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Dry Times and Desperate Measures

The dry time has come, my friends, when a gardener's principles of xeriscaping and letting plants fend for themselves has smashed into the proverbial hard spot.  As a gardener on this bit of prairie, I try mightily, sometimes seemingly against my better judgement, to have as little impact as I can on my environment.  Minimal extra water use, lots of mulch, pesticides only in emergencies, no inorganic fertilizer, plants selected for the conditions of my region.  I fail mightily as well, harvesting corn drenched in insecticide (growing corn here in Kansas at any time qualifies as an emergency), watering marginal plants in dry times, and choosing some plants because they are unusual or interesting or pretty, even if they are better adapted to Costa Rica than this mid-continental desert.

I understand, however, on some basic level, that an attempt to garden at all must inevitably result in some effects on the environment.  I can't give Mrs. ProfessorRoush a rose garden, for instance, without displacing the native prairie grasses that would otherwise outcompete the roses.  I can't plant a tree on the prairie without shading out some of those same grasses.  I can choose a Miscanthus sp., or select among the excellent cultivars of Panicum, but the first is not native here and the second may not drawn the same insects, or the same birds to its seeds, or provide the same benefits to the soil as the native forms.  As noted by Michael Pollan in the classic essays of Second Nature, ornamental gardening means finding "a middle ground between the two positions of domination of a piece of ground or acquiescence to the natural conditions of the area."

I have drawn the line against nonintervention this weekend while worrying about my trees.  I'm quite pleased, these days, with the growth of several maples and oaks and cottonwoods that I have planted, and I'm quite distressed to see them turn silver leaves to the sky and begin to die.  Go away, Charles Darwin, and stop whispering in my ear.   I cannot stand by and let the pressures of Natural Selection, represented by this extreme and unusual drought, dictate which trees survive in my garden.  I cannot coexist here with a garden of Red Cedars and Osage Orange.  I need my Sweet Gum, my Black Gum, and my 'Patriot' Elm to create the illusion that I have some control over my garden.  I need them to linger here after I'm gone, keeping my presence after the end of days.

So I'm watering the trees today, deeply and individually, with a sprinkler that will cover most of the root extent.  I'm watering them in order of my love for them; my daughter's accidental Silver Maple first, next the native Cottonwood (pictured here) ravished first by ice storms and then drought, the 'October Glory' Red Maple that I hold dear in the Fall was third, and so on to the others.  My apologies to the Flint Hills aquifer, but I'd like someday to see a tree here large enough to support a squirrel or two, maybe to serve as a perch for a hungry owl, and perhaps to provide a little shade to rest from the Kansas sun.  As I water, however, I see that the backlit spray of water just looks like another clump of grass on the prairie, a quiet reminder to me of what God really intends to be grown here.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sedum Smorgasbord Served

ProfessorRoush, why do you grow sedums as an edging plant?

Because, my Dear, they are drought-resistant and make nice tidy foliage clumps and they have disease free foliage and they bloom brightest and best after the roses are tired and also because the deer leave them alone.

But ProfessorRoush, why then have you clipped off the blooms on all your sedums this late in the season?

Because, as you so often make me aware, Mrs. ProfessorRoush, I was wrong.  Again.  I didn't clip them, the deer ate them.  The deer love them.  Indeed, if you search the Internet or books, there will be any number of websites that list sedum as a deer-resistant plant (including a pamphlet from a local gardening store that I based my decision on), but many of those were written by evil gnomes and are dead wrong.  As usual, I should have looked to the Universities of this fine land for definitive information.  Rutger's University has a very well laid-out webpage that lists sedum as "occasionally severely damaged."  North Carolina State Extension has a nice pamphlet as well, listing them as "occasionally damaged".   As a Extension Master Gardener, I should have known better than to trust a non-research-based source.  I am expecting a hit squad of Mossy Oak®-camouflaged EMG's to show up at my door at any minute, demanding my trowel, Felco's and my EMG name badge.

I don't wish to be full of sour grapes, but what the heck kind of a term is "deer-resistant" anyway?   I understand the evolutionary advantages for Lamb's Ear, for example, to have developed a fuzzy surface that is distasteful to deer, but the plants don't really resist the deer, the deer just resist eating certain plants. Until, in the midst of a drought, they're hungry.  After that, Watch Out, Nellie, because the stupid large furry rats won't even leave the junipers alone. 

Lesson learned.  By edging a nice rose bed with 'Matrona' (Sedum telephinum) divisions, I have merely set out a smorgasbord of sweetly-flavored succulents during a drought.  HEY THERE!  DEER!  LOOK OVER HERE!  Don't bother with all that tall dry grass, come get these velvet-lip-wetting candy treats I've set out for you.  And please, nibble on the roses on your way through, pretty please?   To quote Charlie Brown, "Good Grief!"

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

See, This Is Why...

This is why I encourage the growth of the Prickly Poppy (Argemone polyanthemos) in my garden. Yes, the so-called "Prickly Poppy" or "Crested PricklyPoppy" is an invading weed in dry, barren soil, but it certainly catches the eye.  Look at those white petals, the cleanest perfect white ever created, and made out of the finest parchment.  Experience the cloud of yellow stamens floating above the petals like the center of the sun.  Notice the purple cross (stigma) at the center of the bloom, a royal receptacle waiting to collect the golden pollen.  And look at the attendant honeybees in the pictures on this page.  In that overall shot of the whole plant, every single open bloom has a bee in it.  Count them.  Imagine a garden bed full of white poppies and honeybees.

On the recent day that I took them, just past the worst heat of the hottest summer on record, nothing else was blooming in such perfect form in my garden.  Nothing else was even close. There were a few decrepit drought survivors trying to bloom, but they played second fiddle to this beauty.  I know that I've written a tribute to this plant before, but witness again an opportunistic plant  that deserves more than to be called "just another weed."

Perfect blooms in the heat of summer? Healthy blueish foliage during a drought? No pests? Nectar source for bees?  Xeriscape worthy?  Someone (maybe me?) should spend half a lifetime in a worthwhile manner trying to breed these weeds into a decent and refined garden plant.  If this plant lost a few prickles and maybe gained some foliage density, gardeners would fall all over themselves trying to buy it.  Imagine the possibilities if it could be developed with some color variety or variegated foliage.  Why, it might even make the cover of Fine Gardening.  Now that would be something.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Catalonian

'El Catala'
The beautiful, albeit slightly heat-singed, bi-colored rose pictured at the left is the Griffith Buck rose 'El Catala', a tribute to the great Catalan rose breeder Pedro Dot (or Pere Dot i Martinez as he was known in Catalan).  The Catalonians are an ethnic group in northern Spain (including Barcelona) with their own distinct language. As a high school student, Griffith Buck was assigned by a Spanish teacher to find a pen pal from Spain.  Senor Dot became that transAtlantic correspondent, taking the time to befriend the budding rosarian in a mentoring relationship that forged a lifetime interest and friendship, although the actual letters were written by his niece, Maria Antonia.  Pedro Dot's roses are not widely distributed these days, but if you've seen any of them you would most likely have run across 'Nevada', a single white Hybrid Moyesii, or the Large-Flowered climber 'Madame Grégoire Staechelin', both bred in 1927.

Officially listed as a red-blend grandiflora, 'El Catala' was released in 1981.  The classic buds open slowly to reveal double 4 inch diameter blooms of rose-red to crimson-red on the face of the petals and very pale rose on the reverse.  The color seems to intensify in heat and sunlight.  Blooms are borne singly or in clusters up to 8 at a time and have a mild fragrance.  The bush, in its second summer in my garden, is small at present, only 2 feet tall and about 1.5 feet wide, and seems healthy but not very vigorous.  It has a slow repeat bloom, but I've seen no fungus or winter damage here during two seasons.  The seed parent was 'Wanderin' Wind', a Buck-bred pink shrub, and the pollen parent was a complex cross of a seeding of 'Dornroschen' and 'Peace' with 'Brasilia'.  It is the latter ancestor, a scarlet rose with a golden yellow reverse, that the unique coloring pattern of 'El Catala' seems to originate from.   

'El Catala'
I find the coloring to be quite similar to the 1980 William Warriner-bred eventual AARS winner 'Love', although 'Love' tends to be a little more crimson on the inside and a little more white on the outside of the petals than 'El Catala'.   I grow 'Love' here on the Kansas prairie as well as 'El Catala', and it is no contest that  'El Catala' is a much more healthy rose than 'Love', which struggles year to year to keep enough canes alive to reach a bloom-supporting size.  Although the summer heat seems to be doing its worst on the pictured 'El Catala' blooms, they hold their own the rest of the year, adding a nice and very different touch to the front of the rose garden.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Passed Along Pleasures

It's always a great joy when somebody gifts you a plant or when you can pass along a favorite plant to a friend.  Witness "Greggo's Sedum", a gift from Greggo when he visited my garden a few weeks back.  In the midst of drought, with everything fighting for survival, there could be no more useful gift than a succulent, even if it is one purloined from a distant garden during the travels of a friend. 

Greggo, as you can see, the sedum clippings survived, rooted, and are even getting ready to flower.  It's somewhat sad to be fearful about the drought resistance of a succulent, but I think I'll hold off planting it out into the garden for awhile until I'm sure it can survive the drought.  I don't want to risk this memory of friendship, any more than I would risk the divisions of sedums from my maternal grandmother that have grown for years in my garden.

Almost two decades ago, in the infancy of my gardening education, I came across a delightful book named Passalong Plants, authored by Steve Bender and Felder Rushing and published by the University of North Carolina Press in 1993.  As the title suggests, Passalong Plants is a descriptive collection of heirloom plants that are often gifted from gardener to gardener, mother to daughter or father to son in the gardens of the South. It's about old plants and old friends, varieties that aren't often found at nursery centers, but which can anchor a regional garden because they've survived the climate of time.  These beautiful plants are all described in, as the foreword by Allen Lacy states, "a distinctive voice, folksier and colloquial and playful."  If you can find a copy, it is one of the most delightful reads of "modern" gardening literature.  Along the way, amidst the humor and joy of gardening in the words, you'll learn about plants that need to be found for your own garden, about the delightful stories of their provenance and value to the gardeners who grow them, and you'll be reminded of all the wonderful plants you already have that represent friends and family in your own garden. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Broken Record

News reports have now made it official; July 2012 was the hottest July on record in North America.  I don't know about you, the broader audience that is reading this blog, but I expected that the record would be broken.  Certainly the heat and drought here in Kansas have exceeded my usual dismal expectations.  I've found myself taking numerous pictures of rain clouds and judging storm directions on radar to the detriment of the rest of my life, and I've been disappointed in most cases to see the rain veer away from Manhattan.  I can't count the times when I've actually seen actual rain falling down from a quarter mile distant vantage where I remained dry and sun-blasted.  Here, for example, is a photo of a storm that I took on my way into work on July 12th, missing Manhattan about a mile to the east:

Of greater interest to me is what all this means for the future and what it tells us about "global warming."  The previous record we broke in July here in Kansas was set in the Dust-bowl year of 1935.  So we have at least, with the reputed additional effects of global warming, broke a record set some 77 years ago before anyone even dreamed of climate change.  Temperature records in the US have only been kept since 1885, a mere 50 years earlier than the 1935 records.  How can we possibly say that this July was the hottest EVER?  The hottest on record in the short range of human experience yes, but the hottest EVER?  And the "hot" records are being set here in North America.  The same newspaper edition that announced the hottest July ever contained a story about a rare snowfall in Johannesburg South Africa; a place where it snows only once every 20 years on average. 

Certainly, Kansas has had previous, and will have in the future, dry years and windy years and hot years and cold years.  Horticulture in Kansas will always try the patience of gardener and wife.  Isaac Goodnow, a co-founder of Kansas State University, moved to Kansas and reached the Manhattan area in April of 1855, long before official records of temperature and climate were recorded.  His diary from that year states "The nights are exceedingly windy and dusty", a statement that wouldn't shock anyone living here 157 years later.  He also noted that he "have had to spend much time almost everyday in encouraging the young men and keeping them from going home.” I, for one, can easily sympathize with that last entry for there are many times this summer when I've stood in my garden and been tempted to chuck it all and move to a better climate.

 In the meantime, the drought has been bad this summer, but I'm encouraged that the prairie looks approximately the same as it did early in June, as shown in the photo above.  We've had over 40 days of 100F+ degree temperatures and less than a total of 2 inches of rain in that entire period, but the prairie is holding its own, as most of my garden seems to as well.  My assessment of my garden, of course, is still limited by a brief examination at 5:30 a.m. while I run around frantically with watering cans, but I will take "holding its own" as a positive until I see September begin to usher back more temperate weather. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

John Franklin

The most prolific bloomer of the Ag-Canada roses, according to a 1992 Horticulture article by Ian Ogilvie and John Arnold, is the medium-red shrub rose 'John Franklin'.  Unfortunately, although Ogilvie and Arnold listed 'John  Franklin' as having medium resistance to blackspot, John Franklin is one of the worst of the Canadians for disease resistance in my Kansas garden.  I might see the advertised 14 weeks of bloom on him, but if I don't watch and spray this bush, 10 weeks of his bloom will be carried above bare-stems.
'John Franklin' is otherwise a really nice shrub rose, with clusters of semi-double flowers appearing in rapid succession.  This pink-rose-red tone is not my favorite color among roses, but if you like the color, you'll see a lot of it on this bush.  Bred by Dr. Felicitas Svejda in 1970, and introduced  by Ag Canada in 1979,  'John Franklin' is a well-mannered shrub rose of the Explorer Series that has matured at about 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide in my garden, a great big red ball without many thorns.  'John Franklin' is very hardy in northern gardens, but alongside the lack of disease resistance I must also note that I find little fragrance present in the blooms.  The seed parent is believed to be 'Lilli Marleen' and the pollen parent 'Red Pinocchio' X ('Joanna Hill' x Rosa spinosissima).
'John Franklin' is likely a great example of a rose whose blackspot resistance may vary depending on the exact endemic strain of the fungus in a garden and on regional environmental factors.  Ogilvie and Arnold listed 'John Franklin' alongside 'Champlain' as having medium resistance to blackspot, but I find 'Champlain' to be a far more superior rose in blackspot resistance, bloom time, color, and overall garden impact. states that 'John Franklin' is "very disease resistant," although one member of that site comments that he is prone to rust in California.  The red hue of this rose also seems to vary by location, with some pictures on the web appearing almost orange, and others near-crimson.

'John Franklin's explorer namesake was a Rear-Admiral of the British Navy who perished in 1846, along with his starving, lead-poisoned, cannabilistic crew and his icebound ships, during an attempt to chart the Northwest Passage.  In the case of 'John Franklin', the rose, I suspect that over the years horticulture may well imitate history and we won't see much of this rose except in those very cold Zone 3 and below areas, where anything that blooms is still welcome and blackspot doesn't grow well enough to bother roses.  And, of course, as global-warming continues, this rose is going to have less and less land to grow on, since it won't grow in the increasingly open seawater above the Arctic Circle and the Zones are moving ever-farther north.  Does it even snow in Canada anymore? 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Velcro Legumes

Sorry everyone, I was away from home for a little piece and didn't have the urge to write.  Or to garden in my brown, crinkly garden.  Frankly, given the extremely hot weather here and the glaring sunshine, I have pretty much cast the garden aside to survive or die on its own.  Before I left, a week ago, I did stand out most of the day in the 106F weather, watering everything in sight.  The plants seemed to appreciate it and it only took me two days to rehydrate myself.  I left the garden this past week to the good graces of Mrs. ProfessorRoush, who at least kept the watermelon and pumpkins alive.

But a quick walk outside today and I was reminded, by the pictured seeds clinging to my jeans, that life in the garden goes on.  Does anyone out there care to guess at the identity of the seeds pictured above?  I can harvest loads of them from now through Fall, sticking resolutely to my pants and socks as they do, just by walking out into the prairie.  They are seeds, and they look a little like ticks, don't they?  And they stick to you like ticks.  No amount of washing will get these things off my pants, they have to be hand-removed.  That's my job because Mrs. ProfessorRoush takes a dim view of my pants sharing this bounty with her undergarments in the family washer. 

Looks like a tick, but it's a seed?  This is either Desmodium illinoense (Illinois Tickclover) or Desmodium canadense (Canda Tickclover or Showy Tick-trefoil ).  Both are native wildflowers here in the Flint Hills, and both are members of the Fabaceae, otherwise known to normal people as members of the bean family.   D. illinois has a prominent banner, with a darker spot near the base as seen above left.  D. canadense is lighter on the top, more violet on the bottom  and lacks the banner, as pictured to the immediate right.  D. canadense  also stands a fuller with more leaves in my yard, while D. illinoense stays low and spreads out at the base.

The delicate flowers of these natives bloomed in late June and early July here, rising over the prairie grass on two-foot tall racemes to entice passing pollinators.   They grow in the driest spots in my garden, sustained by deep tap roots and leathery leaves, and they are native all over the hillsides.    The flowers turn quickly to seedpods that have fine hooked hairs that allow them to cling to clothing and fur.  Fascinating, isn't it?  A natural "Velcro" created and utilized by this genus for seed dispersal.  And a very effective one at that, since a well-covered pair of socks can take quite some time to "de-tick". 

So why, you might ask, do I allow these to grow when they pop up?  The beans, to my knowledge, aren't edible, and the flowers certainly aren't showy.  But I am aware that they are used in agriculture in several ways, both as a nitrogen-fixing groundcover and because they produce a number of insect repelling compounds collectively known as  antixenotic allomones.  I allow them to grow solely for their legumistic benefits to my garden soil and I make darned sure to cut off the stems as soon as they set seed.   Otherwise, I'm sure that I'd find my next round of weeding time doubled by the time it would take me to de-seed my clothes.


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