Sunday, December 30, 2012

Hog Heaven

During my scavenging trip to the home farm, one of the garden items that I was going to bring back by hook or crook was the large ball pictured at the right.  And now you're wondering, "what the heck is that thing?"  And some of you are wondering, "how do I find one of those for my own garden?"

This, my friends, is a hog oiler.  As you can see in the picture below, it even says it's a hog oiler.  Long ago, when people bought their bacon "on the hoof" rather than in vacuum-packed sanitary packages at the grocery, a local farmer was raising those pigs and most of those local farms had a hog oiler.  You poured oil into the base of the oiler (plain old motor oil as I remember, in those halcyon days when we didn't realize that oil was toxic) and then the pigs rubbed against it to coat their skin with oil.  Evidently pigs liked that.  Oiling the hogs was supposed to keep the lice and other critters down on those free-range hogs, although its efficacy was questionable.  Mostly, we got only oily hogs and oily hog pens from hog oilers.

Our hog oiler was used on our farm until the late 1960's, after which it was retired along with the last pig and set to rust in a barn for 30 years.  It's a very heavy cast iron model, evidently rare today because many of the cast iron ones were gathered up in WWII for scrap metal.  If you want one, I understand they're quite pricey these days.  My father resurrected it for his garden about 10 years ago, painting it black, but after a few years it went back to the barn to partially rust.  When I got it 10 days ago, it merely looked like a neglected black ball.

I'd had my eye on this oiler for ages, sometimes lusting at the thought of putting it into my garden.  I've avoided the glazing/reflecting ball cliche in my garden all these years because I can't stand the things, but this hog oiler is going to grace the center of my daylily bed as soon as I find a large enough pedestal to elevate it a bit.  I've painted the ball silver, as you can see, hoping that it may reflect a little color and light in the Kansas sun, but if I tire of the shininess, I can always spray it back to matte black.  Or let it rust.  Rust would be perfect.  I'd be as happy as a pig in, well, oil, if my hog oiler would rust all at once.   I've got a shiver running right up my spine as I think of a big rusty ball as a centerpiece to my garden.  God knows why, but you feel it too, don't you?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Miracle Reed or Malignant Weed?

From the Weather Channel, of all places, I recently learned that I've been growing the next great energy fad, completely unaware for the past 10 years of the potential gold I could be harvesting from my landscape.  I'm referring, of course, to the recent spate of news reports which herald the enormous biomass production capacity of Arundo donax. Evidently, some biofuel investors in North Carolina have discovered that Arundo can produce up to 20 dry tons of foliage/acre, far ahead of its closest competitor, and they plan to join with Chemtex International to build a production plant for synthetic fuels made from the grass. 

Gardeners who aren't into Latin may not recognize the name Arundo donax, but I assure you that all of you would recognize it by the common name, 'Giant Reed' grass.  I've grown the variegated form of this grass for the past decade as a better-adapted substitute than pampas grass to camouflage our septic tank from view.  In Kansas, it grows approximately 10 feet tall each year with absolutely no care or extra watering, and it maintains a decent appearance until late in the Fall.  My feelings have run both hot and cold for Arundo as long as I've grown it.  I admire the easy-care maintenance of the grass because it requires only cutting it back to the ground each spring; no extra water, no fertilizer, no shaping.  It stands up to the strongest summer storms.  On the other hand, even the variegated form is so uninspiring that I've never taken a picture of it.  Ever.  I can't even show you a picture of it as it appears right now because I've already cut it to the ground for the winter.  It is planted on the far edge of my garden so it doesn't even appear in the background of garden pictures.  The picture above, cropped and blown up, is from a wider view of my back garden and it at least gives you an idea of the clump of Arundo in my garden, separated from the rest of the garden by a good margin.  This far away, you can't even see the variegation, just the tall, maize-like nature of the plant.  Arundo just sits there each summer, a tall blob in my landscape, too stiff in the wind to provide any interest or motion to the garden, uninspiring in flower, and dull brown in winter.  Who would think that it had any real value as a production plant?

The danger to the ecosystem, of course, is that Arundo donax has naturalized in 25 states and it is considered a noxious weed in California and Texas where millions of dollars have been spent trying to control it.  Are you surprised that a plant that grows so large so easily might become a bully to some poor little Monarda? Some experts fear that Giant Reed could become the next kudsu, out-competing native flora in a apocalyptic expansion.  My only contribution to the discussion is that my clump has not yet escaped the confines I've given it in my garden, nor have I seen it crop up in the native pasture.  Seeds are supposed to be sterile, but it can spread from every node of a green plant if it gets broken off.  I suspect the danger for spread would be far greater in areas where grazing animals trample it and help to spread it.

Some of you will want to try Giant Reed in your landscape, and if you do, I've got plenty of starts that are guaranteed to grow, so just come on by.  I can't, however, provide you a decent  picture of the plant until next fall, when I'll try to keep a mental note to specifically photograph the plant.  Until then, take my word for it, it will never be the star of your garden although it may someday fill the gas tank of your car.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Spring at Christmas

"Oh, the weather outside is frightful....Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow."

Merry Christmas, everyone.  The temperature here in Manhattan Kansas is a balmy 18°F and the wind is blowing at 12 mph straight from the north (and gusting to 21 mph), feeding the rain and snow storms down in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.  We've got a few snow splotches left on the ground from the storm last Thursday, but I could stand a little more if the 35% chance for flurries actually arrives.  Say what you will about the cliche, there's always something special about a White Christmas.

Inside, ProfessorRoush is all warm and toasty from my morning walk and Mrs. ProfessorRoush, her diminutive clone, and the HellDog are all snug in their beds.  I'm fully in Christmas cheer here because, before my walk, I checked on several rose cuttings that I started inside about 10 days ago and low and behold, they are starting to leaf out, all secure in their winter greenhouses in a sunny window.  The picture you see is of 'Charlotte Brownell', secure in her infant crib, one of four roses that I started using the method recommended by Connie of Hartwood Roses in a post on her blog.  I tried it once last summer and it worked great.  It looks like it will be four for four this time, in the middle of winter, spring come early to this barren Kansas prairie.  Follow me, have yourself a merry little Christmas and let your heart be Light.

I chose to propagate both 'Griff's Red' and 'Wild Ginger' because my plants of those varieties aren't very robust, placed with their southern backs against a row of viburnums who are overshadowing and just plain outcompeting them.  I thought I should give them a trial out in the sun, where they can find more water and light to grow.  I also started 'Freckles' again simply because I love her and I'd like to make some gifts of her to the KSU rose garden and among other friends (with a second goal of spreading her around to protect her survival from the coming Japanese Beetle horde).

And 'Charlotte Brownell'?  I chose her simply because she is so beautiful.  My sole plant is a $3.00 bagged rose, grafted to an unknown rootstock and full of mosaic virus, but she still finds the strength to put out blossom after blossom.  Virus or no virus, I'm wanting to see how tough this old girl is on her own feet.  I'm taking a dangerous chance, though.  If those creamy blossoms get any larger, I might faint dead away and Charlotte will be fighting off suitors and in danger of being carried off in the night by gardening thieves.  And then 'David Thompson', 'William Baffin', and 'Cardinal de Richelieu' will want to rescue her and that will might set off a war that could annihilate my garden.  Oh, the chances one takes for love.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Hoe Hoe Hoe

ProfessorRoush just returned home with a vast number of new gardening implements and ornaments purloined from the home farm in Indiana, which, as I've noted before, my parents are selling.  Among other items from my father's vast tool collection, I present to you the half-dozen hoes I brought home.  I could use some help identifying some of them, if you know about them.  Maybe my hoe-collecting friend Carol, of May Dreams Garden, can help out.
Pictured from left to right, they are: a common garden hoe, a Razor collinear hoe, a Dutch-type or push hoe, a Ho-Mi (Korean) hoe, an unknown monstrosity, and my grandfather's "tomato-planting hoe". 

I haven't a clue what type of hoe #5 is.  It has no markings to aid identification.  It could be even be something other than a hoe (a gravel-spreading instrument?), and it is fairly heavy, but the curved edge opposite the triangular tines is beveled and quite sharp.  I've spent several hours searching the Internet for it, including pages and pages of garden hoes, but I can't match it.  And please, be careful searching the Internet for "garden hoe".   The term brings back a much broader set of images than you would expect.  You might be surprised by the items and pictures you find, the most benign of which was the Dirty Garden Hoe coffee mug I ran across and the Gale Borger mystery "Death of a Garden Hoe" (about the murder of a prostitute and a missing garden hoe, of course).  Researching various garden hoes, however, is always rewarding.  I had forgotten, for instance, that collinear hoes are "thumbs-up" hoes, to be used in a pull-scrape motion rather than hacking at the ground.

I'm most intrigued to test the Ho-Mi Korean hoe, although I have no idea where my father came by it. The name translates to "little ground spear" in Korean and the tool was first made in Korea during the Bronze Age.  Jeff Taylor recommended it's use in his book, Tools of the Earth.  It is light and seems similar to a Warren hoe, my favorite planting tool, but also seems to combine the best features of a Warren and a Collinear hoe.  I'm already planning to try it out as soon as the ground thaws here. Five thousand years of use is about as time-tested as anyone could want, but I'll put in my two cents as well.

The award for sentimental value, of course, goes to the heirloom tomato-planting hoe.  If you look at the picture of it closely, you'll see a narrowed, darkened area near the midsection, the result of years of hard use and calloused hands.  Modern ergonomic designers could take a lesson from this hoe.  When I grasp the hoe at that spot, it balances perfectly and seems to snuggle into my hand, transmitting in an instant the infinite toil and sweat this hoe has shared with my ancestors.  I'll also use it this Spring, planting my tomatoes with it and carrying on a tradition embedded deep in my genes.

I already had a number of hoes, so this collection adds to my own swan-neck hoe, half-moon hoe, Warren hoe, and Nejiri gama hoe.  The new hoes will take a little work over the next week; they all need sharpening and rust protection, and their handles need a good coat of linseed oil.  My father and I share the gardening gene, but only I hold my maternal grandfather's respect for care of my tools.  At the home farm, I left behind the scuffle hoe (which I used as a young boy and have an intense hatred of) and our venerable two-pronged hoe that my father plans to keep in use at his new home.  And stay tuned for blogs about other items I brought back.  My trip to Indiana was primarily to retrieve a grandfather clock, but I think my garden benefited the most from the trip.  In the meantime, ProfessorRoush wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Garden Hoeing.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

One Last Sunrise, One Last Rose

If the Doomsday Prepper interpretations of the Mayan Long Count Calendar are right, this blog will be the last I post, the last electronic series of 0's and 1's that reach the ether from my winter-dessicated corpus. 

To the multi-dimensional creatures, or clattering insects or slimy green aliens who are reading this, I tried, I really tried, to grow a decent garden here in the mid-Continental region currently known as Kansas.  I primarily grew roses because of my love for them and because roses have a natural affinity for this gardener-grinding area.  If this struggling prairie has returned to its former state as the bottom of an inland sea, or if it is now a part of a towering mountaintop, it could scarcely be harder now to grow a healthy plant than it was in my time, so I wish you the best of luck.  If, on the other hand, the Earth's poles shift just enough so that Kansas is where Texas used to be, and this area is now a more temperate, rain-glutted paradise, then a pox on you and your beautiful Tea and Noisette roses.

Myself, I'm not too concerned about tomorrow's sunrise.  I'm a results-oriented guy and the Mayan's didn't predict their own demise in the middle of a piktun, so I grade their track record as pretty dismal.  Anything short of the Yellowstone Caldera blowing up tomorrow is survivable.  A nice solar storm that puts us back to the Dark Ages would be good for the planet, if perhaps not for mankind.  On a more minor scale, if the magnetic poles reverse, but nothing else happens, then I may live the rest of my life directionally disoriented, but the crops will still grow and at age 53, I'm a simple guy.  Leave me food, fun, and females and I can pretty well muddle through the remainder of my days. 

If I'm wrong, however, and the sun doesn't rise tomorrow for me, or for anyone else, I leave you with this rose, 'Madame Hardy', the greatest creation of Gardening Man, in my humble soon-former opinion.  If 'Madame Hardy' is the sole measure of mankind's existence, then I depart satisfied and reverential before her unmatched beauty. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Garden Book OCD

In hopes that no one will mind, I thought I'd take a minor break from "real" gardening to tell you what my obsessive-compulsive "Mr. Hyde" personality has been doing off and on for a few days.  During a search for iPhone barcode inventory applications, I came across a nifty little app called Home Library, by a programmer named Shahab Farooqui, who appears to be based in Australia. 

Occasionally, during my perusal of second-hand book stores for gardening texts, I have purchased a duplicate of a garden book that I already have, usually a newer or foreign edition of the text I have.  It's more than a little aggravating, because although I remember most of my books, especially the ones that I've read cover to cover, there are those that slip from aging memory or that I can't remember if it looks familiar because I've seen it before in a bookstore or because I've seen it on my own shelf.  I also occasionally wonder how much money I've wasted during my life on books and I'm quite sure that many other gardeners share my guilty feelings in that regard.

Well, Home Library is quickly solving both those problems for me.  It scans the barcodes on the book, automatically searches the Internet for it, and adds the book to an inventory that includes a picture of the book cover, title, author, description and estimated replacement cost.  In about 2 hours, I've catalogued 5 shelves of gardening books, with 6 or 7 more shelves to go.  Sometimes, it can't find the book by barcode and I have to search the title, but that takes only a little longer and seems to be about 10% of my books, mostly the older ones.  Right now I'm at 187 gardening books and let's just say that before I'm done, the estimated replacement total is likely going to match that of a nice Hybrid car.

Home Library has some great features, such as letting you keep track of loaned books, and allowing a search by author, title, collection, subject or lendee's.  You can rate your books or summarize them.  You can export and share your library online or via email to an Excel compatible database.  If you have some older books, without bar codes, there is a manual entry function that allows you to enter the title and/or author, and the Internet search function will invariably pop up the book..  The app also categorizes far more than books;  it has built in categories for music, movies, games, and "other stuff". 

I thought I should share because others of an inventory control freak nature might want to try out the app.  Please note that I have absolutely no connection to Mr. Farooqui nor financial interest in the Iphone app.  It's just working for me and it's working better than a major competitor, SmartBook, which I also tried.  Yes, inventory of a home library may be a little nutty, but hey, anyone who tries to garden in Kansas has to be a little nutty right from the start. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Zombie Gardening

As near as I can tell, the gardening industry has overlooked a vast area of marketing that has the potential to start a new gardening revolution among young folk and thus to grow a new generation of gardeners in this country.  Following in the footsteps of a current wildly successful television series, The Walking Dead, and alongside the frantic marketing spin offs such as the Airsoft semiautomatic plinker pictured here, ProfessorRoush thinks that some creative gardener needs to spin off some zombie-related gardening programs and paraphernalia to enrich our gardening experiences.  That should be me, so that I could make a zombie-related fortune and hire other people to do my digging, but it could also be you as well.  Just cut me in for some of the profit from the idea, okay? 

If you do a simple Google search on the words "zombie" and "gardening", you get some nice links to a zombiefied garden gnome named "Gnombie" ($224.99), and a resin zombie garden sculpture that resembles a corpse crawling out of the ground from ($69.99).  You also are referred to several links that will enlighten you on kitchen scraps that will regrow in your vegetable garden (celery, avocados and pineapples. among others).  All-in-all, I suppose those are all nice products and suggestions, but they're just scratching the surface of what I'm proposing.

I'm thinking of a line of Zombie Pesticides, with nice green fluorescent labels, that will paralyze Japanese Beetles so they don't squirm when you pick them up and squish them, or a Zombie Insect Spray that will cause your hornworms to blunder blindly about your tomato plants without damaging them.  I'm thinking about a group of specialized gardening implements, for instance a Zombie Repelling Hoe with a spike opposite the hoe blade so that it can be used for defense if you're attacked in the garden by zombies (or by city administrators, often difficult to distinguish from zombies, who demand that you rip up your front vegetable garden).   I envision a Zombie Compost  Fork with an ergonomic handle designed to decrease arm fatigue whether you are tossing compost or zombies.  I myself would surely purchase a Zombie Water Cannon with a sensor primed to shoot when large moving bodies such as zombie deer cross the path (I think this product may already exist, but it is missing the added zombie marketing power).

We need a garden prophet creating videos and pamphlets about plants that will fortify your grounds against zombie invasions (a nice hedge of Rosa eglanteria might suffice), or plants that will recover quickly from trampling damage caused by hordes of aimlessly rambling zombies (they would also be useful for gardens frequented by neighborhood children).  We need a writer proposing designs for garden "rooms" where we could escape and hide from zombies (or nongardening spouses).  We need Scott's to quit poisoning the environment and fund the breeding of a Zombie Grass that would stay neat and green without mowing or watering.

I suppose the latter suggestion is a little too fantastic to hope for, but any or all of the others should take the gardening world by storm and bring a few of the television-addled zombies out there back into the garden.  If some editor out there wants to put together a Zombie Garden Manual, count me in for a chapter on roses.  Is anyone out there interested in a very dark red, extremely thorny rose called 'Zombie Lover?'   Even better, it could be alternately marketed as 'Zombie Knockout'.  That will, based on my previous experience, really draw in the zombie gardening multitudes.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Crape Charisma

'Centennial Spirit'
The increased number of warmer and dryer winters in Kansas, to say nothing of the hellishly hot and arid summers, is forcing a similar slow adaptation of the gardener to the flaming reality of climate change.  From a glass-half-full perspective, it also offers some previously underperforming plants a chance to shine, a brief time of their own in the spotlight.  In my garden, it is the crape myrtles that are beginning to steal the harsh spotlight of late summer.

Fifteen years ago, I tried and lost a few crape myrtles, placed here seemingly north of their native ranges.  They would grow and look nice for a summer, and then even when they survived a winter, they struggled during the subsequent growing season and then expired the next.  Even when I attempted a more hardy variety, like the National Arboretum release 'Tonto', it froze back to the ground each winter and returned in spring as a short bush.  In contrast, over the last five years, every Lagerstroemia I've put into the ground has seemingly flourished, sometimes emerging through the winter whole, sometimes with a little die-back, but always healthy.  The big summer advantage of crape myrtles, as any good sweet-talking southern belle could tell you, is that the dainty flowers don't crinkle in dryness or fade in heat, they just bloom on and on.

'Centennial Spirit'
Lagerstroemia indica ‘Centennial Spirit’, pictured above and left, remains my favorite of the bunch for its shocking red flowers and reddish-orange fall foliage.   In early August, every eye in my garden is drawn to the bright crimson and bodies tend to stray in that direction unbidden by conscious mind but controlled by happy feet.  Take a close look at the picture to the left. This past August, in the worst of the drought, even the daylily at the foot of this bush was having a tough time of it, shedding leaves and conserving its resources, but 'Centennial Spirit' is lush and bountiful, laughing at the worst of the heat.

Lagerstroemia 'Natchez' is a variety that is quickly growing on me.  This perfectly white specimen was planted 2 summers back as a one gallon plant purchased at summer's end for $2.  Despite the poor nutritional start to its young life, it has bounced back, with no winter die-back for two years, and it threatens to overshadow the witch hazel that growing nearby.  The summer centerpiece of this bed of daylilies, it seems to shine like a queen over its subjects, poor peasants at its feet.

I grow other crapes of course.  I've previously mentioned dwarf 'Cheery Dazzle' and 'Tonto', and both have their places in my garden,   I even grow an unknown variety or two, like the lavender variety pictured at the left.  This one was a purloined clone of a specimen displaced for road work, and I think it is probably the common variety 'Royalty'.   Its exact identity may never be known, but it is rapidly growing on me, like my other crapes, as the summers become longer and hotter and winter disappears into memory. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Missing Hart

My game camera has recently confirmed a phenomena hitherto known to me only from warnings by traffic authorities.  We've all heard that the rate of car to deer collisions increase during the Fall rutting season on roads and highways.  I've got new evidence that deer to garden visits also increase in November.  In like fashion, plant damage from deer subsequently seems to increase by at least a factor of 10 during the same period.  I am gravely worried about the 'Conrad Ferdinand Meyer' in front of the doe at the left, because she seems to visit it over and over again, night after night.

I had previously captured only three visits of solitary deer to my garden up from April through early November.  In the most recent few weeks, however, it seems that the local large furry rats have been scheduling extra time to pose for portraits.  I've now counted 8 separating visits of deer to my garden over a 20 day period, at least two of them lasting more than an hour.  They come morning and night, most often about an hour before dawn or around three hours after sunset.  And the nibbling little fiends aren't coming alone anymore, they're bringing company.  Or at least they're bringing relatives.  This little mama at the right seems to be dragging her offspring around behind her, taking advantage of a two-for-one special feast in my rose garden.

I've also captured my resident rabbit, a fox, and a coyote on their nightly rounds.  The little rabbit sitting in the middle of this bed had better hope that the thorns of the surrounding bushes provide it some protection, because it is now playing in a dark and dangerous land, away from home long after the carnivores come out to roam in search of just such tender morsels of flesh.  This particular rabbit has been around all year, but I fear that it is unlikely to see Spring unless it modifies its schedule immediately.

The most garden-damaging culprit, however, has so far escaped my game camera, but it has not gone unnoticed.  This weekend, I found damage on the trunks of three widely separated trees in the garden; damage that can only be created by the rubbing of tender velvet antlers on the trees in preparation for combat.    Somewhere in my neighborhood, the father or uncle of the yearling fawn above has rejoined the herd, hoping for a repeat of last Winter's fleeting pleasure.  This little family has been missing its Hart, but I predict a sibling for junior will soon be in the works.  Just what I need, a population explosion among the browsers. 

When they attack my prized Sycamore, I view it as neither cute nor endearing, but as a declaration of war.  Perhaps, in similar fashion to this YouTube video that I have linked for your listening pleasure, I can just move the "deer crossing" signs to a neighbor's yard and the vermin will shift their migratory pattern and leave my garden alone.  Or perhaps not.  My other annual anti-deer measures, including the placement of chicken wire around the tree trunks and the furtive scattering of pungent repellent, are now in effect.  In fact, after realizing that the caller to the radio show in the aforementioned video probably also votes in important national elections, I feel the need to go create more deer repellent right now.  This is your benevolent naturalist, ProfessorRoush, signing off.  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Memory Keepers

I don't know where the phrase "a picture is worth a thousand words" originated, but sometimes even a picture is inadequate to plumb the depths of thought and emotion induced by the simplest of stimuli.  Take, for example, the still life in brown pictured at the right.  An unknowing, unaware observer might recognize the presence of a little loose soil, a number of brown vegetable-origin structures, and the background of brown prairie grass, trimmed short in the late days of Fall.  A very astute observer might recognize the brown tubular structures as roots, and perhaps the most knowledgeable and experienced gardeners, looking closely, might discern some bud eyes peeking from the crowns of those roots.

I can confirm, for the curious, that these are peony roots, ready to be transplanted.   These roots are divisions that I purloined at Thanksgiving from my boyhood home, healthy survivors who were growing in good Indiana soil long before I drew first breath.   There are 5 different peony starts here from a row of peonies that always separated orchard from vegetable garden, large clumps that sagged with each rainfall and became obstacles to be mowed around during the verdant summer and then to be mowed off short at the start of Fall.  You can see, in the closeup at the left, plump buds biding frigid Winter, waiting to clone and grow again in my Kansas garden.

They are, at once, both unique peonies and common peonies, unremarkable to the average gardener, but precious everafter to me.  They are common because I suspect that the varieties are just the same tired pink and white and red peonies that our grandparents grew and that probably sell for $3.95 per 3 clumps now each Spring at Walmart.   Odds are that one is 'Festiva Maxima', and another 'Sarah Bernhardt',  and it is likely that I already grow all or most of these, purchased at local nurseries.  They are exceptional, however, these 5 peonies, because they are now weighted down with childhood memories and ghostly fields stretching as far as a boy could roam.  They bear this heavy load because this year, after 50 years of living in one place, my parents are selling the home farm.  I have only the opportunity to start them here, these keepers of memory, so they can whisper to me of family picnics in the Spring, and sweet corn grown tall in Summer, and of the peaches and apples that fell from the nearby orchard trees, destined only to rot and fertilize these roots.

 In my garden, these will be the heirlooms of my boyhood, these few ancient peonies planted by those who lived before me, to live on long after me.  They will rub shoulders with sedums and columbines from my grandmother and with trees planted by my children.  They will carry for me my memories of another place and another time, simple and carefree, when the world was new and every tree a mountain to be climbed.  I planted them here now, sprinkled them with the remnants of the good soil that nurtured them, and watered them in so they'll grow and outlast me here, transplanted with me to foreign soil.  Memory keepers of a far away place and time.

And you thought it was just a picture of a few brown roots and dirt.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Blushing Hawkeye

I realized, today, that not only have I been busy this week and not posted at all, it has also been a few weeks since I waxed poetic about a rose.  In fact, Spring had better come fast because I may be running out of roses about which to wax.  Not.  Regardless, a quick check of my photo collection served to remind me that I have neglected one of the best of Dr. Griffith Buck's roses; the beautiful and sumptuous 'Hawkeye Belle'.

'Hawkeye Belle' is a pink blend shrub rose bred by Dr. Buck and introduced in 1975.  It is officially a medium pink, but in fact, I think 'Hawkeye Belle' is the perfect shade of pink; not too brazen, not too blue, and not too white.  This is a pink (RHSCC 159D according to Dr. Buck) that goes with any other rose you want arrange it with and the centers tend to age deeper pink than the outer petals.  Describing 'Hawkeye Bell' as a shrub rose is placing a label on it that is too awkward for the reality.  The flowers are not the haphazard mishmash of Modern Shrub roses, they are more Hybrid Tea in character, albeit a very double Hybrid Tea four-inch diameter bloom with 38-45 petals.  Flowers are moderately fragrant   The bush is also more like a Hybrid Tea in form, standing about 4 foot tall and 3 foot around in my garden at maturity.  Canes are stiff, thick, and healthy, more resistant than many of my roses to the Kansas winds that try to break them off. The foliage is dark green and shiny, moderately resistant to blackspot, and new foliage is tinted red.  I think I noted in an earlier post that about 10% of the foliage succumbs to blackspot during an average summer here.

I always think of 'Hawkeye Belle' as royalty, descended as she is from a seedling of 'Queen Elizabeth' X 'Pizzicato', crossed with pink shrub 'Prairie Princess'.   Since 'Pizzicato' was also a pink shrub, it is no wonder that 'Hawkeye Belle' is the epitome of dainty pink, able to mix with common folk as well as with more refined roses.  This is a rose that I often bring inside, extending her domain from the harsh burning garden to shaded home where she is better appreciated.  She does well outside, though, continuing to bloom through the hottest stretches of summer and braving the best that my now Zone 6A climate can offer.  A commenter on indicated that, unlike most roses bred for the Midwest, 'Hawkeye Belle' is also "exquisite" and disease resistant in California.  Only in the wettest Spring does she acknowledge the weather, balling up a bit when it is wet and chilly.   'Hawkeye Belle' is hardier to colder climates in mine;  she was labeled a Rose of the Month in June 2006 by the Twin Cities Rose Club
For my Kansas garden, 'Hawkeye Belle' has always been a dependable performer.  I have two bushes, one that survived from my first days out of the city and another that I planted later into my more formal rose bed as a cutting from the first.  i hope she does as well in your garden as she has in mine. 


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