Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Silent Muse

Rosa 'Belinda's Dream'
When the writer's muse grows silent,
When dams bar long the stream of words,
the wisp of thought, the lilting voice,
the lure of prose and syntax choice,
What then stirs the pen to motion?
What then moves the soul to sing?

There are times when dreams fall mute,
There are times when plans unborn, 
endless paper, stark and vacant,
endless hours, waste so blatant,
How to start the torrent flowing?
How to keep the river running?

One starts searching deep inside,
One feels urging, surging meme,
and boosts it over dikes and walls,
and nurtures it through storms and squalls,
Why relentless moves the id?
Why the need, the itch to birth?

I must seek within the canyons,
I must listen to the voices,
look for sparks to strike the passion,
look for mood and there to fashion, 
Where and when and what to spew?
Where and how and why the word?

ProfessorRoush is working past a little writer's block tonight, hoping that a different pattern will stir up a few ideas from the depths of psyche.  The primary rule of breaking writer's block is to start writing.  Obviously, tonight that resulted in a poem with an odd cadence and rhyming sequence, during which I had a little fun with the What, Where, When, Why and How's of journalistic dogma.  Hopefully, a new week and cooler Fall nights will bring inspiration and release.  Meanwhile, a mildly misshapen 'Belinda's Dream' fits my mood, I think, pretty well. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Prairie Valor

'Prairie Valor'
Dr. Griffith Buck chose some fabulous descriptive names for his roses, but I think he outdid himself while bestowing an identity on one of his later creations, the deep red rose 'Prairie Valor'.  The Iowa State Buck website only describes 'Prairie Valor' as a medium red shrub rose, of the color Indian lake (RHSCC 59B).  I don't know what that really means, but the 59B group comprises those hues that are near ruby-red and "ruby red" fits the rose really well.  Most importantly, this rose touches something that most roses don't.   'Prairie Valor' elicits, at least in me, a visceral response whose presence I find hard to explain.  My first bloom from this rose evoked a deep down, gut-moving feeling of awe, and the feeling reoccurs each time a new bloom opens.  What I believe Dr. Buck felt in this rose was exactly that; the sense of bravery transmitted by the presence of purple undertones among the ruby shades.   'Prairie Valor' hides a Knight's heart beneath its velvet petals.

'Prairie Valor' was introduced in 1984 and bears those ruby red blooms as large (4.5") fully double flowers, often in clusters.  The first photo here, above at right, best reproduces the true color tones of this rose as I perceive them.  Each petal develops a whiter edge as it ages and  flowers repeat consistently in flushes over the summer.  In addition to the rare color, the fragrance of Prairie Valor also sets it apart from many other roses in my garden.  'Prairie Valor' has a deep, musky, almost masculine fragrance that buries itself deep in your nostrils.  I've written tongue-in-cheek about the gender of different roses, but I'm not joking when I say that 'Prairie Valor' can only be male, from its color and presentation, to its scent.

The bush is moderately healthy, about 4 foot tall and 3 foot wide in typical Hybrid-Tea gangly form, and this year, the first in my garden, it developed mild blackspot.  I would guess that only about 25% of the leaves have been affected thus far, however, and it continues to bloom freely.  I do not know yet how winter hardy it will prove, but I did see an Internet note from Appalachia that suggested that winter damage is possible.  I also saw a note that said the cultivar is a blackspot magnet in North Carolina.  Who can say?  Time in the guise of a couple of full years of growth will tell me what I need to know.

Somewhere, deep down inside, I know that 'Prairie Valor' is probably not the healthiest of the Griffith Buck roses, but I already know that I'm going to give it a little extra attention in my garden.  I'm willing to trade off a little additional care, on occasion, for any bloom that stirs my blood like 'Prairie Valor', however much a hands-off rosarian I strive to be.  I know, deep inside, that it must advantage any garden of this world, however fertile the soil and mild the climate in which it is based, to bear the soul of a medieval Knight in its heart.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Rooting for Grootendorsts

'F. J. Grootendorst'
In normal times I respect and listen to Suzy Verrier on all things Rugosa.  After all, how can the author of Rosa Rugosa and Rosa Gallica possibly be mistaken?  Of the Grootendorst roses, however, she writes:  "I feel little to admire in these shrubs which are peculiarly not rose-like.  The growth is ungraceful..crowded blossoms do not have any particular beauty...all tend to attract pests and lack the disease resistance of most rugosas.....MIGHT BE DESCRIBED AS SOULLESS."

'F. J. Grootendorst' and 'Alchymist'
The past two summers in Kansas, however, have not been normal times.  In my garden during a fine Fall weekend, my three Grootendorsts were providing more than their share of color, perhaps out-classed only by an ambitious 'Earth Song' which seems to be blooming like it was a baseball player on steroids.  I grow the original red  'F. J. Grootendorst', pictured above in the closeup and blooming with 'Alchymist' to the left.  I also grow two of its sports, 'Pink Grootendorst', introduced by the same nursery in 1923 and pictured below at the right in my garden in 2008, and I grow 'Grootendorst Supreme', a deeper red sport introduced in 1936 but just planted into my garden this Summer as an own-root plant from Menard's.  There is a white sport of Pink Grootendorst as well, introduced by Paul Eddy in 1962, that I haven't yet purchased or grown.

'Pink Grootendorst'
The original 'F. J. Grootendorst' was reportedly introduced by F. J. Grootendorst and Sons in 1918, and bred by De Goey in the Netherlands as a cross between R. rugosa rubra and 'Madame Norbert Levavasseur'.  There is some controversy over the provenance of the rose, however, as Robert Osborne suggests, and repeats in his Hardy Roses book, that Dr. Frank L. Skinner may have been the real breeder the rose.  Dr. Skinner sent two packets of a seedling from the same cross, R. Rugosa X 'Madame Norbert Lavavasseur', to two separate locations, one of which never arrived at its intended destination, and then fifteen years later he saw the identical rose introduced from Holland.  Oh the intrigue hidden beneath the simple surface of a rose! 

The Grootendorst sports are all small-blossomed, very double, cluster-flowered roses, with an unusual petal shape that I refer to as "fringed".  These are shrub-type roses with small rugose foliage, in the 5X5' range of size here in Kansas.  The rose doesn't form hips, nor do the blossoms have any perceptible scent.  Yes, these are atypical roses, but unlike Ms. Verrier, I would have rated their disease resistance as outstanding in my garden, and if they do possess a soul, it is one reflected by any number of hardy prairie plants.  Certainly, I welcome both their profuse blooms, drought resistance, and their hardiness in my garden. 

Rosa Rugosa by Suzy Verrier

Times change and classic roses go in and out of style and favor.  All I can suggest for those who are intrigued by the Grootendorst roses is to try them and evaluate their performance in your own garden.  Suzy Verrier seems to be moderating her previous stance, since her North Creek Farm nursery currently sells 'Grootendorst Supreme' and 'White Grootendorst'.  Of the former, she comments that "Old prejudices aside, someone gave me one of these and I must admit Supreme has bloomed itself silly, been extra healthy, and I do like the bright deep saturated crimson-pink color in the garden."  My compliments to Ms. Verrier.  I've always felt that a true expert must be willing, at times, to change their opinions if new evidence seems pertinent.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Gardens of Caligula

This week my garden has been transformed into a den of inequity.

A couple of days past, I was peacefully walking through my garden, virtuous and wholesomely thinking only of the graceful lines of mature ornamental grasses and cherubic cement angels.  Suddenly, I stumbled across a garden orgy sufficient to satisfy Caligula.  Fornication!  Out in the open and here among the flowers!  What kind of brothel am I running?

I have a line of 'Matrona' sedum lining one of my beds, and on the flowers of those sedums were a writhing, panting mass of  Goldenrod Soldier Beetles (Chauliognathus pensylvanicus), most of them in flagrante delicto and completely unaware of my voyeurism.  I had an immediate flashback to a time over a decade ago when I was in Vancouver, Canada at a teaching seminar, exploring the famous Wreck Beach on my spare time, only to find out that the Wreck Beach was famous primarily for its clothing-optional section.  At least the insects on my 'Matrona' weren't playing nude volleyball, an image still seared on my eyeballs now some 15 years later.  One internet source noted that the insects mate "for extended periods on the flowers" although "the reason for their lengthy mating period is not certain."  The source did note that females in the act of mating are less likely to be disturbed by wasps than single females.  To that observation, I say "duh", because by my careful observation, what I presume is the male partner is always on top, his back exposed to the wasp, while the female hides protected underneath.

If these beetles were looking for goldenrod, their favorite food source, to homestead on, they are a little early in my garden, for most of the goldenrod hasn't bloomed yet.  Perhaps they are just getting the essential act of procreation out of the way before gorging themselves and fattening for winter, not unlike other species that periodically visit my garden. More likely, they are just the insect equivalent of pubescent humans, driven into ill-considered acts by overactive glands. The next thing you know, they'll be riding giant insect roller coasters just to impress pretty girls (ask me about that story sometime...). 

Goldenrod Soldier Beetles, also known as Pennsylvania leatherwings, are believed to be completely harmless to the flowers and in fact may participate in pollination.  Their larvae are also predators of aphids and other soft-bellied insects.  Several sources tell me the adult beetles secrete an anti-feedant, Z-dihydromatricaria acid, from 9 gland pairs on their abdomens, a defensive move to keep predatory jumping spiders away.   Their presence in this bed of my roses is thus a positive occurrence and instead of being shocked, I should welcome and encourage all the intercourse that they want to have.  I have concluded, therefore, that my best action is to allow them to continue their wanton behavior, averting my eyes from details of the promiscuous activity all around me with the tolerance of a saint among sinners.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Thoughts From The Abyss

Wednesday morning I walked through my garden with trepidation, fearful that at any minute I would slip and fall into one of the drought-created crevasses that lurked everywhere, sometimes obscured by a tuft of bluestem grasses, often hidden by a thin bridge of grass mulch.  These clay canyons, pictured here and just below to the left, are deep, Grand Canyon-style deep, perhaps opening all the way to the bedrock below.  Last weekend I chose to water a few of the less-established roses and I poured water from the hose into one of these caverns for over 2 minutes and never filled it up.  Finally, I gave up and moved on, fearful that the water was just gushing through the Earth to China, where the accumulation of all the moisture might make the Earth lopsided and spin us out of orbit.

I can't fathom how so many of my plants survive, roots anchored into parched soil like this.  If I would slip an endoscope into these cracks, would I see bare roots spanning the abyss like a primeval bridge, or would I see broken roots, snapped off under the tensile strains as the soil dried and shrank?  Are there entire new desert ecosystems growing deep inside the chasms, xeriscopic fungi gardened by thirsty insects with hardened chitin shields?  However the manner in which the soil splits and cracks, the survival of most of my plants right now stands as a testament to the natural selection pressures over the past 12 years in this garden.  It also illustrates just how drought-tolerant established roses can be.  If you want flowers in Kansas, grow roses.

This morning, Thursday morning, there is a mist in the air and the 0.9 inches of rain that fell last night (the first moisture in over a month of hot days) has begun to erase the fissures.  Taken at the exact same spot as the first photo above, you can see in the photo at the right that the edges of the canyons are eroding, and that the soil, although not nearly wet enough to be classified as moist, at least appears softer.  Always the cautious gardener, however, ProfessorRoush stayed away from the rims of the abyss because he knows that the now unstable edges might crumble beneath his feet, sweeping me down into the depths.  I fear that Mrs. ProfessorRoush would just never accept that explanation of why I was calling collect from Canton, China.  

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Quiet, Demure, and Uninspiring

I've kept mum (pun intended) for quite a while about 'Quietness', one of the "post-Griffith-Buck" introduced roses that were reportedly bred by Griffith Buck, and I suppose I should finally say something about it.  It's not that I haven't noticed the rose in my garden or watched its every bloom develop and open, my silence simply stems from a lack of enthusiasm.  I just don't know yet how I feel about 'Quietness'.  I can tell you that I'm not stark raving mad, avid, or agog about it at the present time.  Perhaps all the Internet hype about this rose had me expecting more. 

'Quietness' was introduced in 2003 by Roses Unlimited, and she quickly gained acclaim as a show rose and garden performer.  I have to agree that Quietness' is a good rose and that she is a good cutting rose for the house.  She is the light blush pink of a new baby's cheeks and very full of petals, a double rose of some 40+petals that is also blessed with a strong perfume.  I don't know the proper term for the petal shape, but I would call it a "bi-lobed" petal, with almost, but not quite, a fringed rim.   The blooms start out in classic Hybrid Tea form, open full, and are quite large, almost 4" inches in diameter.  Blooms are often, as pictured here, borne in clusters and may be seen in several stages on a cluster.  All these are carried on a healthy bush more Hybrid Tea-form to me than shrublike.  Leaves are moderately resistant to blackspot for me, with <25% loss this year for me (as always, without spray).  This rose grows tall, 4-5 feet, but is not terribly wide in my garden at present.  Overall, I'd say she is lighter pink, slightly smaller, and more double-flowered, but otherwise resembles 'Queen Elizabeth'.  Is that an endorsement or a slight?

Esteemed rosarian Paul Zimmerman, writing from South Carolina, raves about 'Quietness', saying she is the easiest keeper in the garden of one of his friends, and "If you are looking for a stunning, soft pink, non stop blooming, smell-o-rama experience, than Quietness is the rose for you."  In an even more impressive endorsement, Peggy Rockerfeller Rose Garden curator Peter Kukielski  and his staff at the New York Botanical Gardens rated 845 roses for 3 years for hardiness and disease resistance and the winner was 'Quietness'(!), just ahead of 'Home Run' and 27 spots ahead of 'Knock Out'!   So perhaps, my specimen just isn't quite old enough to shine yet, or perhaps 'Quietness' does better in other climates such as the Atlantic seaboard, than it does in the MidWest.  If the latter is true and she performed adequately but not spectacularly in Dr. Buck's Iowa State proving grounds, that could explain why Dr. Buck didn't release the rose during his lifetime.  Right now, based on my experience this year growing a number of young Griffith Buck roses and as I noted earlier, I'd have given the best-newcomer nod to 'Chorale', another light pink, and for me, more rapidly repeating, Buck rose.

Update 09/27/2013;  Okay, I take some of it back.  Looking at 'Quietness' again, I realize that I overestimated its blackspot and that it actually has practically none and has retained all its foliage while 'Chorale' has lost about half its foliage.  I stand by the observation that 'Chorale' repeats its bloom faster.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Griffith Buck Rose Chart

I'm sorry, I am aware that this is a somewhat unusual post for Garden Musings, and it completely lacks any attempt at literacy or style, but I'm too excited to show you something.  I spent most of yesterday working on a talk I have to give in late September at the annual Extension Master Gardener state continuing education conference, and I put together a handout listing the Griffith Buck roses that I'm pretty proud of:

The sample above is a small screen clip to show you the chart I made.  It lists what I think are all the roses (99?) bred by Griffith Buck and introduced to commerce either prior to or after his death.  As many rosarians know, there are a couple of Buck roses that were introduced over the decade following his passing,and then approximately 8 more, collected from his friends, were introduced in 2010 by Chamblee Rose Nursery of Tyler, Texas.  To create the chart, I pulled together information from several web sources, my own experience, and, most prominently, an old xeroxed description of cultivars that is of unknown provenance and dates back at least to 1987.  Even so, there are still some gaps in info.  In case you are wondering, the "grey" background items are Buck roses that I've never seen or grown.  The "white" are roses I currently have in my garden, although many aren't mature yet.

UPDATE:  I was able to add the table to page 3 here on this blog.  It doesn't format as perfectly as my Word document pictured above, but at least I can keep it updated better than a jpg file on Photobucket.  It provides the pictured information such as color, height, etc on each one, as well as my best estimate of blackspot resistance in my mid-continental climate. The legend for the chart is at the bottom.  I hope everyone finds it useful and I plan to update it as I receive more information.Enjoy!
I left this paragraph from the original post in case you want to download the original table jpg's, but this info will not be updated:    Since I thought that this information might be useful to others, I've posted page 1 of the list here, on Photobucket, and page 2 of the list here.  Once opened, if you click on them again, they will be less fuzzy.   I think these will print out fine although the small subscripts get a little lost, but I couldn't figure out how to post a PDF to either here or Photobucket.  If anyone else has a better idea, please let me know.   The chart is two pages.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Yes, I'm Ready

On first read, I disagreed with Meghan Shinn, opining in this month's Horticulture Magazine that it was time for the gardening season to end.  The young and beautiful Ms. Shinn said she was tired of it all and that the garden had run its course.  I disagreed initially because I wasn't sure I was ready yet for the end of the roses, for the finish line of the grasses and asters.

But Meghan's editorial did come during a week of 100+ temperatures here in Kansas.  And the drought is back in full force and I'm beginning to think about carrying water to young plants and I just don't want to do it.  I'm not young and energetic like the fresh-faced Ms. Shinn, I'm old and achy, tired of summer and tired of weeds and tired of endless cantaloupe that need picking.

Well, maybe I'm not quite that washed up, but as I mowed yesterday, I did decide that I should welcome the wisdom of Horticulture's current editor, not question it.  Perhaps it was dusty, drought-stressed grass, unmowed for two weeks and sprouting unsightly seedheads as the single lure for me to the mower.  Perchance it was the sight of yet another rain cloud passing around me to the North, my dessicated and weary soul fruitlessly begging for relief.  Maybe it was the incredible harvest of crabgrass thumbing its nose at me from the edges of all my garden beds.  Perhaps it was the skinny, unattractive legs of some of the less-blackspot-resistant members of the rose troupe that were spoiling my mood.  The hordes of grasshoppers didn't help, hopping madly on me in the thousands as I mowed, and their efforts to advance my discomfort were aided by biting flies and large nearly-invisible spider webs.  Maybe it was just the heat.

My garden is still attractive, I think, although it has morphed into a white garden and I'm not that fond of monochromatic gardens.  As you can see from the picture above, and see better if you click on the picture, the overall garden is dominated by the white panicled Hydrangea to the left and the tall central column of white Sweet Autumn Clematis, and the Boltonia sp. blob amid the ornamental grass bed and the several white or near white Hibiscus syriacus scattered around the beds.  Add in a few tall white-edged "Snow-in-Summer" milkweeds that I purposely allowed to survive, the remnant blooms of a white 'Navaho' crapemyrtle, and a few pale pinks of various roses like 'Freckles' and 'Amiga Mia', and there's entirely too much white drowning out the more colored roses and Rose of Sharon.  Even my 'Sally Holmes', normally a decrepit specimen that I somehow allow to keep photosynthesizing against my better judgment, has decided to add an unusual number of blossoms to the mix.

After reflection, I think Ms. Shinn is right.  I'm not built for a California or Hawaii climate, with year round weeds and flowers.  I'm a child of the four-seasoned Midwest, always ready to move along with the flow of the seasons.  I'm ready for the first frosts to bring on the end of mowing the relentless prairie grass.  I'm ready for the leaves to turn and drop, ready for the rush to gather the last perfect roses before they are covered by snow.  I'm ready again to dream of those first tender green sprouts of Spring, the world borne anew and damp and fresh.



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