Thursday, December 25, 2014

I'm Dreaming....

...that Christmas was white this morning instead of the golden but ubiquitous brown of the
Kansas prairie in winter.  Our White Christmas came a week ago in the form of 5 inches of heavy wet snow that melted within a day of it's arrival.  However fleeting, it made for a glorious morning while it was present.  How I getting out onto the pristine earth after a snowfall; the feeling of solitude and rebirth in a hushed landscape.

The local winter drabness is mitigated when the dried remnants of Fall are reduced to abstract ornaments on a white canvas.  My front landscaping bed might abound with color and texture in early summer, but I would argue that there is no more visual interest at that time than seen in this photo from last week. Remnants of phlox and yellow twigs of euonymous and a golden vase of dried grass contrast exquisitely with the frozen green pot and dark green hollies.   The mad sniffing dog, Bella, can be seen at mid-right, one long soft ear flipped over her head while she tracks some small, helpless, and probably long-gone creature around the hollies and burning bushes.

Bella and I were happy about the snowfall, but, thank you Winter, that's enough.  Leave us now and bring Spring in your wake.  It's hard for a proud dog to track when most of the interesting scents are buried beneath new snow, and it is hard for the gardener to siphon energy from a frozen landscape.  Today, Christmas 2014, is bright and sunny here in Kansas, but not a creature or green leaf yet stirs from winter slumber.  And I in my jammies, and Mrs. ProfessorRoush cooking madly over the stove, will just have to wait, yet, through a long winter's nap.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

They're Inside the Perimeter!

In my ongoing series of skirmishes with the fluffy-tailed, cloven-hoofed denizens of my local prairie, ProfessorRoush must admit that some strategic and tactical setbacks have occurred recently.  To be more frank, in less carefully-chosen phrases, I'm losing the battles AND the war.

After my earlier discovery that the local antlered vermin had been feasting each night on my prized strawberry patch, I responded with efforts to fortify the electric fence and increase the nightly watch.  I recently discovered, however, that my trail camera surveillance system had been mysteriously rendered inoperative for the past month.  I've hypothesized that it might have been hacked, in like manner to the recent Sony incursion by the North Koreans.  I don't believe it is too far-fetched, based on current evidence, to imagine a command center of hacker white-tailed deer, sneering behind their computer scenes as they erase any digital evidence of their glutinous feasts and plan further raids.  Regardless of the exact cause of camera failure, I have no recent intelligence of the number and distribution of enemy forces who form nightly incursions into my garden.

Further, early today when I accompanied Bella on her morning duties, I saw, in the melting remains of yesterday's snowfall, evidence that the brazen venison-carriers are now venturing right up to the castle drawbridge.  The first picture, above, is evidence of a hoof print approximately 10 feet from the sidewalk in the front of the house.  The second picture, at left, shows a print mere inches from the front sidewalk, and illustrates that this enemy soldier is probably within range of sampling my infant Japanese maple.

That is suicide bomber range, folks.  I mean DefCon 1, Emergency Alert status, zombie herd is coming, range.   Strap a little C4 to these fleet garden terrorists and they could take out command post and gardener in a single strike.  What am I to do?  I'm afraid the fallout from nuclear strikes in the scrub brush of the draw where they sleep would drift back over home.  I would just cry havoc and release the dogs of war, but my personal "dog of war," Bella the beagle, is a great alarm system but a coward at heart, and that won't work either.  I need a new plan.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Basil Indicator

ProfessorRoush is, at times, an incredibly bad gardener of houseplants.  I am usually able to keep them alive, but, with the exception of an occasional Pothos sp., they don't often thrive under my care.  There is, for example, an infamous episode some years ago during a period when I had approximately 20 thriving orchids and 10 Christmas cacti, all of which would even occasionally bloom.  I adjusted the thermostat when we left for a Christmas vacation and we came home a week later to find that I'd accidentally shut the heat off and the house was hovering at 33ºF.  Not a single orchid survived the episode.  The Christmas cacti sulked for a bit, but eventually decided to give me a second chance. 

I restrict myself these days to Zygocactus and Pothos.  Occasional gifted houseplants and the annual poinsettias are held prisoner and then offered as sacrificial lambs to the houseplant gods to curry their favor in the direction of my Christmas cacti.  In place of the ceremonial altar and a flint knife, I have substituted benign neglect and the arid, desert-like humidity of the natural Kansas environment, watering only when I see signs of wilt.

That practice has not been kind to the mandarin orange and lemon tree that Mrs. ProfessorRoush insisted I add to our floral menagerie.  Both trees spend their summers outdoors on the porch, where it is moderately humid and I frequently forget to water them. They spend their winters indoors where the humidity is very low and I frequently forget to water them. 

Recently, I noticed that my fairly spindly orange tree was wilting at the top (above).  "Wait a minute," I thought, "orange leaves don't wilt; they yellow and fall off."  And indeed, on a closer look, I recognized there was a second stem in the pot; a spindly sun-starved basil that presumably was an offspring from one of our herbs, which also spend summers in pots on the back porch.  You can see the second stem better here at the left.

I'm certainly not going to root up this volunteer.  If a weed is just a plant in the wrong place, this "weed" is in the right place.  Mrs. Basil has done me a favor by going to seed and placing an offspring here in this pot to be nurtured.  The rest of the winter, I think I'll just watch the basil as an indicator for watering this pot and the lemon tree next to it.  Maybe both trees will now have a better chance to live to see another spring.  Besides, the basil smells so good.   

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Things My Dog Has Taught Me

1.  There should always be time for play.  In the midst of busy days and hectic lives, everyone should find an outlet for release; a doorway to rested minds and exercised bodies.  Bella greets me at the door every night with excitement, her entire body dancing and quivering at the simple joy of the moment.  She demands attention and love, but she has recognized that I subsequently need a few moments to step across the threshold, put down the mail and paper and winter coat, and kick my shoes off.  A minute later, however she'll be at my feet, holding her favorite ball, ready to play with free abandonment of the daily boredom.  If you need a refresher course to remember to live in the moment, watch your dog.

2.  There should also always be time for rest, and our days should align with the Earth's. After spending my early years with dogs who weren't allowed into the house, it is sometimes still astonishing to me that a dog, however well-loved, has become the driver for our household schedule.  Bella makes sure I'm awake early every morning with singular mournful howls of increasing intensity that we will not hear again for 24 hours.   Her "clock" however, is tuned to the sun and this alarm is progressively late as winter rolls on, and reverses as summer approaches.  At night, usually shortly after sunset and sometimes long before I'm ready, she picks up this pillow and then follows us with an expectant look, seemingly surprised that you're not as sleepy as she is.  The switch back from Daylight Savings Time throws her for a loop, and, like me, she still hasn't recovered.

3.  A good morning stretch followed by skin to skin contact is one of the most important pleasures of life and, deserved or not, we should all be able to find a good belly rub whenever we need it.  Every morning, no matter how long I let the howling go on, Bella stretches when I appear; luxurious stretches like she is coming out of a 20-year snooze and just being reborn into the world.  I envy those stretches, that simple re-acquaintment of the mind with the marvelous machinery of muscle and bone.  Afterward, she demands a good vigorous belly rub, simultaneously expressing grateful submission and a plea for a loving touch and warm embrace.  The skin to skin contact with another living being always puts us both in a better mood.  I am less successful in my own attempts to receive a belly rub, however.   I've attempted this insistent pose a few times myself before a sleepy and uncooperative Mrs. ProfessorRoush, and it never seems to work for me.

4.  True love is truly  best defined by the happiness of every moment spent with your love, and the lingering sadness of every moment apart.  My energetic and playful companion mopes when we spontaneously leave, lingering at the doorways until the garage door announces our return.  I find it intriguing that Bella knows the difference between the normal schedule of my leaving for work in the morning and the more spontaneous shopping or errand trips at unexpected times.  The former seems no more than an expected part of her day, while the latter is mourned as time stolen from a lover, precious moments noted by their absence.   As for the readers of this blog, I know I've been away for some time while the wheels of daily life have stolen my attentions, but I promise that the doorway will open a little more frequently and at least a few times each month, until the days grow longer again and sunlight and warmth wake up the garden to be my muse.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Rats in the Berry Patch

Yesterday morning as I was leaving for work, our new hyper-sensitive alarm system (Bella the half-Beagle), went into frantic alert mode.  Many times when that happens, I'm unable to determine the cause, but a quick glance down the line of her furry nose into the back yard directed me to the danger source.  The large furry rat pictured at the right was moving around my garden.

Mrs. ProfessorRoush directed me to run to get my camera to photograph the beautiful young maid, and so I did, only to return and find that the brazen hussy (I'm referring to the deer here, not Mrs. ProfessorRoush) was climbing through the currently unelectrified fence right before my camera lens (as seen at below left), and proceeding to sample my prized strawberry patch!   So much for deer jumping over fences and obstacles;  this doe was so well-fed and lazy that she thought she'd just push her way through.

My flash was going off automatically in the dim morning light for the first few photos, and it attracted the doe's attention (as seen in the first photo above), but did not deter it.  Casting aside my awe and joy at this unexpected appearance of Nature in favor of the survival of my luscious strawberry future, I sprinted outside to shout and wave my arms at the invader.

It was then I noticed that there were not one, but TWO does present, the second already in the middle of the vegetable garden, camouflaged against the grayed walls of my compost bins (as shown at the right).   With my luck, this one had already ate her fill of the strawberry plants.   Both deer initially stared at me with disdain, and then began to turn away when they finally realized that I wasn't going to shut up until they left.

Preferring the peace and quiet of the prairie to the loudly antic and frantic hominid, both deer slowly ambled towards the bottoms, taking their time and occasionally glancing back to see if I was gone and they could return to a quiet meal.   Shaking my fists and making "bang, bang" sounds didn't seem to hurry them up one bit, either.

Now, since Daylight Saving Time is gone, I've got to run home at lunch soon so I can fix and turn on the electric fence and perhaps leave a few little peanut butter treats hanging from the electric wire.  It's simply too bad that it is illegal for a gardener to hook up the electric fence directly to the household current isn't it?  Maybe just this once, for the sake of the strawberries?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Gruss an Aachen

Jane at Hoe Hoe Grow, a blog from Lincolnshire UK, has noted recently that her roses need to be told that it is October there, not June.  In contrast, the roses here in Kansas are winding down and hardening off right on time.  As we have edged closer to the first hard freeze, I've kept snipping blooms and bringing them indoors so that they continue to brighten our late October mornings, but I also leave a number of flowers to form hips and thus indicate that it's time to stop their heroic efforts to procreate.  I guess when you're too "old" to attract the bees, you should trade the dance floor for the couch and comforter.

One of my brave roses facing the coming cold weather with grace is 'Gruss an Aachen'.  She has slowed her bloom rate, but she is still foolishly full of lacy beauty and holding up well against the night chills.  'Gruss an Aachen' , which translates as "greetings to Aachen" is a 1909 Floribunda hybridized by L. Wilhelm Hinner and  introduced by Philipp Geduldig.  She is often said, in fact, to have been the first Floribunda rose, the leader of a new race, and some would argue that all the Floribundas that have appeared in her wake are just poor imitations.  David Austin has tried to claim her as the prototype for his English roses, but I think her delicate nature just doesn't fit with many of his massive creations.

I don't have another rose in my garden with quite the the same subtle shadings of yellow, cream, white, and pink as 'Gruss an Aachen', and I treasure her beauty nearly every summer morning.  Some say that those fully double, large blooms  will bleach out a bit under sunshine, but the photograph here, taken on August 20th in the midst of a Kansas heat, is evidence to the contrary.  She is only mildly fragrant, and doesn't form hips for me (perhaps because of her rumored triploid nature).  I can see her parentage ('Frau Karl Druschki' X 'Franz Deegen') in the coloration, but I grow 'Frau Karl Druschki' and the latter is much taller and her blooms are composed of thicker petals.

Unfortunately, I never know if this lovely mistress will return each Spring in my garden.  She is not a vigorous rose (never more than 2 feet tall for me) and seems to be only marginally hardy here in my 6A or 5B climate (the latter depending on the winter).   This is the third clone of 'Gruss an Aachen' that I've tried, but I have hopes that this one will return since she is on her own feet (my previous girls were grafted) and has already survived a tough recent winter.  'Gruss an Aachen' does get some blackspot here, but other than thinning out her lower leaves, she seems to put up with a little fungus quite well.  Between the blackspot and the weak necks that keep her blooms shyly presented, she is not a garden show horse for me, but she regularly graces the kitchen table, and she will continue to have a place in my garden as long as a few of those blooms make it inside.

Monday, October 20, 2014

California Ho!

ProfessorRoush took another long hiatus from blogging again this past week, but at least this time, I had a good reason (or think I had a good reason).  My annual ACVS (American College of Veterinary Surgeons) convention was in San Diego, so Mrs. ProfessorRoush accompanied me to that desert paradise and pretended that she was on a "San Diego Housewives" reality show for a few days.  We ate ourselves into discomfort and celebrated our 32nd wedding anniversary while there.

When Mrs. ProfessorRoush drags me to interesting and educational sights on such trips (such as the beach and the Old Coronado Hotel, I make every effort to listen with one ear and nod while I'm actually concentrating on the different climate and vegetation.  Often, I can't identify a "other-zonal" plant at all, as exemplified by the specimen at left.  I haven't a clue what this is, but I really hope that it will thrive in Kansas because if I ever see it, I'm going to grow it in my garden.

I frequently learn about new plants during these trips.   For example, the plant at left is a Dragon Tree (Dracaena Draco), a member of the asparagus family, which lives at the Hotel del Coronado on Coronado Island.  The plaque at its feet notes that the Dragon Tree at this Hotel was used in a backdrop in the 1958 Marilyn Monroe movie Some Like It Hot, so I spent some time imaging the eternal beauty of Ms. Monroe standing next to me under its shade.  Sadly, before I could take that fantasy very far, Mrs. ProfessorRoush dragged me away all too soon to see the stupid Pacific Ocean and the barren beach along it.  

I wasn't surprised at all to see the orange Birds of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) above, and I was able to recognize the long jasmine hedge at the left and spend some dreamy moments thinking about its fragrance in full bloom.  I was also pleased to learn that 'Fire Power' Nandina looks just as bad in Southern California there as it does in my own garden. 

The most perplexing moment of my trip, however was finding a number of daylilies in full bloom in various artificial landscapes.  Daylilies in Southern California?  Blooming in October?  How strange.  I didn't see a single 'Stella de Oro', but I did see this light yellow daylily and the purple daylily below.  I believe the latter to be "Little Purple Grapette' or something like it.  I really don't have a clue, but I would have bet that daylilies would bloom in March in Southern California and be long done by now.  Does anybody out there know about daylilies in Southern California?

All in all, a great trip, good lodging, good eats, good company, and good weather.  San Diego is a great place to visit, but I wouldn't want to grow daylilies there.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Heavenly Shadeberries

Friends, I generally strive to not be a braggart bore.  That is usually an easily-reached goal, because gardening in the Flint Hills doesn't allow me many opportunities for successful outcomes to brag about.  But I must, I simply must, take this opportunity to show you my $1000 strawberry patch.
Frequent readers are fully aware of my belief that on the seventh day, just before resting, God created strawberries to be the evolutionary apex of fruity perfection.  You also know that this past Spring, tired of my inability to oversummer and overwinter a decent stand of mature strawberry plants, I purchased and installed a 14'X24' shade house, as previously blogged, to protect my delicate young plants from the searing rays of the July and August Kansas sun.  I placed black plastic between rows at planting and laid down soaker hoses for watering.  Over the summer, I watered it about once a week, implanted the runners back into the rows, weeded incessantly and protected my pretties from man, insect, and beast.
The result of all that money and labor is shown here.  Even in the grower's Eden of my boyhood Indiana, I've never seen a patch of strawberries with so much promise.  I recently removed the shade cloth and put it up for the winter, both to protect the cloth and to allow the strawberries a little more October sunshine.   There are four varieties planted here, early and late, all June-bearers, laid out in rows that are two feet wide and two feet apart.  I would note that 'Earliglo' was the most vigorous, followed by 'Surecrop', 'Jewel', and 'Sparkle'. Now I get to spend all winter salivating over the promise of the red sweetness that will be mine next spring. 
I will, of course, also be worried all winter that I've jinxed myself by merely writing this bragging blog.  I'll cover them with straw in a month and pray to the Winter God that he doesn't make it too cold in January.  I'm going to leave the cover off until near harvest next year, and then I will place it on at the last moment so that I can savor the ripe strawberries in the shade (and perhaps keep the birds scared away).   If you need me next June, either day or night, look for me lounging peacefully amidst the colors and scents of heaven, stuffed to the gills with bursting red fruit.  I hope.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Wee Bit O' Wind

A week or so back, I was awakened at 2:00 a.m. by the rising wind outside my window and, seconds later, the patter of rain against the pane.  Knowing that we desperately needed the rain, I smiled, relaxed, and went promptly back to sleep.  
Okay, okay, that's an understatement at best, if not a complete misrepresentation of the incident.    If I am fully disclosing what happened, the wind suddenly began to howl, there was a thunderclap that sounded simultaneously with a lightning flash that seemed to strike right above the bedroom ceiling, and I instantaneously levitated two feet off the bed and vertically onto the floor.   The rain began to pour like the Second Flood, and the nearby lightning and thunder continued for two hours while I lay awake and fretted that the house would explode into flame at the next bolt.  We haven't seen a lightning storm like that in years.
There were no  storm warnings on the TV or radio or Internet for our area, and so I didn't think much more about it (except to be happy about the 1.9" rain) until I got into the garden this weekend.  There, I saw the true nature of what must have been a straight line gale or downburst during the storm.  My Purple Martin houses were leaning and the bird feeders were askew (picture above, left).  I also lost a portion of a trunk off the Smoke Tree as illustrated (at the top, right).  Worst of all, the wooden post that held up my 'American Pillar' rose snapped off at the base (photo at right).  Replacing it will be a difficult and painful task due to the nature of the prickles on this rose, so keep me in your prayers.
 On the bright side, I recently salvaged a piece of Baltic Brown granite from our kitchen island during a remodeling of the kitchen and I made it into a wind-proof garden bench which, despite its unprotected placement to the north side of the house, stood up well to the worst the storm threw at it.  I think it provides a really nice formal touch to this area.  The new bench also proves once again that gardening in Kansas is often a simple matter of over-engineering and weighty solutions.  So now all I have to do is apply that knowledge and create a cement post for the 'American Pillar' rose, anchored down about forty feet into the bedrock.   That shouldn't be too hard, should it? 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Yowsa Yard

I'm not the owner of the pictured house, nor am I the designer of the pictured front yard, but I'm fairly envious of the knowledge and commitment and creativity of owner.

I came across this house on a random trip around town while driving down a street that I may not ever have seen before.  Finding it is a testament to a friend's practice of purposely driving unusual routes from point A to point B on occasions when you're not in a hurry.  I was with the aforementioned friend and we took a detour for him to show me a small hidden park in Manhattan.   This house was a WBC (wow!-brake!-camera!) event; defined by a moment when you are stunned by a garden while driving, suddenly slam on the brakes, and take a photo out the window to document the vision of the gardener.

Here is everything we've been talking about in natural landscape;  a smaller, less-carbon-footprint house, a front yard of ornamental grass that needs mowing only once a year (composed primarily of what I think is Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster'), and a few native perennials to brighten up the edges (notice the remnants of the Black-eyed Susans to the lower right).  It seems to be right out of the recommendations of influential texts such as Sara Stein's Noah's Garden.   I didn't go creeping around the house, but there is likely only a very small back yard surrounded by some woody areas.  I took this photo knowing I'd blog about it, all the while hoping that the owner wasn't calling the police about the stalkers taking pictures from the road.  I disguised the location by eliminating the house number from the picture, so I hope the owner doesn't mind the anonymous publicity.  They'll get a visit soon enough, however, from the Garden Tour group with an eye towards being a host site of a future Tour.

I love this landscaping and this house (particularly since our empty-nest home seems suddenly too large), but I also know that I can't do this on the Flint Hills prairie that I live on.  This house is relatively safe in town, surrounded by miles of paved crossing roads, but imagine this yard and house out on the Kansas prairie (or in Southern California) with a grass fire moving towards it.  Yikes!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Gayfeather Guilt

Days later, the guilt of my actions still haunt me.

Last weekend, I was preparing to put up the bush-hog for the winter, having recently mowed down an invading army of sumac and volunteer cedars and other noxious weeds of the Kansas prairie.  Every winter I switch the bush-hog for the road grading blade (in preparation for the occasional rare snow), and every spring I switch it back in preparation for the fall pasture mowing, which I time after the milkweeds and other desirable wildflowers have dispersed seed.

This year, I was contemplating my nicely mowed pasture in contrast to the overgrown roadside of my neighbor across from it and I offered to mow his roadside before putting the mower away.  I mowed up, and down, concentrating carefully on the slanted sides to avoid tipping the tractor.  On the repeat center run, however, I stopped cold at the sight of this clump of gayfeather brightly accenting the White Sage around it.  I believe it  to be Dotted Gayfeather (Liatris punctata) due to its short stature and location on the dry prairie.  What a beautiful sight!

It was, as you can easily see, a magnet for yellow sulphur butterflies, probably Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice) butterflies to be exact, although I could easily be mistaken given my poor butterfly identification skills.   Immediately, I faced a dilemma.  Proceed ahead a few more feet and this perennial clump wouldn't be setting seed this year nor would other butterflies be able to stock up on energy from its nectar.  Mow around it, as I would do and have done in my own pasture, and risk having my neighbor think I was nuts.

I mowed on, a flippant choice at the time forced by self-image and social norms.  As the Knight of the Crusades said in the third Indiana Jones movie, however, I "chose poorly".  I've now faced a week of guilt over it, a sure sign from my conscience that I chose the wrong path.  I really hope these butterflies made it across the fence line to another fertile clump, another precious waystation on their winged journey.  My karma has taken a hit that will need some careful and conscious effort over the next few months to mend.  Excuse me while I go collect some gayfeather seed to start several other clumps in my pasture.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Daylily Confusion

I know that this non-posting spell has been my longest in quite some time, but I didn't know that I had disappeared long enough for it to be daylily season again.  What, it's merely 18 days since my last post?  Then this daylily, Hemerocallis 'String Music', is deeply confused, because it is blooming nicely here in late September, over a month since the last daylily ('Final Touch') of my season.

'Final Touch' bloomed at a normal time for that cultivar.  'String Music' is a bi-tone diploid hybridized in 1996 by Niswonger, and according to every source I can find, it is supposed to be an early midseason bloomer.   Translation:  'String Music' should have bloomed in early July here.  It's parents, 'Cisty' and 'Southern Charmer', are midseason-late and midseason bloomers respectively.  Ma and Pa Daylily are likely quite disappointed at their tardy offspring.

I, however, am not disappointed at all.  I'm pleased at the unexpected but stunning gift of a daylily blooming this late in the season (I'm purposely not considering, of course, the ugly and ubiquitous 'Stella de Oro' as worthy of notice, even though it still occasionally blooms).  I'm also impressed by the vibrant colors of 'String Music' on these almost-Fall days.  In her normal cycle, in July, the scorching temps and blazing sun bleach her out to a boring light pink.  Now, blessed by the cooler mornings, her perky colors drew my attention from across the garden, a "what the heck is that?" moment of excitement bestowed on a fading garden.

To be completely truthful, I should add that I did experience one disappointment on the same trip outside that presented 'String Music' to my heartstrings.  Our now not-quite-so-small dog Bella failed to alert me to the presence of this adolescent Great Plains Rat Snake (Pantherophis emoryi) laying in the crease of the 1st and second steps out the front door.   What use is a dog, if not to alert one to such imminent disaster.   I stepped right over this foot-long snake on my way to take Bella out to play, and only saw it upon turning around to see if the door had shut properly.  All in all, it seemed much to late to scream and jump up in the air, so I calmly recorded the incident on my phone to show Mrs. ProfessorRoush how badly her little precious had erred.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Sweet Smelling Surprise

I was mowing in the lower garden on Labor Day (a fitting activity for the day, but hardly a "holiday" from work for me), and as I rounded a corner I received a momentary sensation of being immersed in honey.  I didn't stop immediately, but on the second round, when I was struck again at the same corner with a sweet scent, I hit the brakes and looked around.   There, draping over ‘Double Red’ Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus), were these little white flowers that were not supposed to be there.  

These are, of course, a Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis paniculata or C. ternifolia, whatever it is now), which self-seeded itself somewhere next to this trellis and grew unnoticed until now.  This trellis is flanked on either end by two Wisteria vines, which provide both color and a great fragrance each Spring, but in September they're a bit less noticeable, merely serving as a green window to view farther parts of my garden.  The growth of the Wisteria on that end is so thick that I couldn't easily find the Clematis vine source.

The dilemma now, of course, is whether to leave the Clematis there or to move or destroy it.  C. paniculata seems to grow very well here in this climate, and if I leave it here, it may eventually strangle the Wisteria ('Amethyst Falls’) on that end, and the adjacent Rose of Sharon.  I have two other C. paniculata, so one could argue that I've got plenty of it in my garden, but on the other hand, I'm not sure you can ever have too much of that vanilla-scented vine in an otherwise dreary August garden.  'Amethyst Falls' is not nearly as scented in the Spring as the Wisteria sinensis on the other end of the trellis, but it does rebloom for me and it is more dependable in late freezes than the W. sinensis.   

Decisions, decisions.  Are there ever any end to them in the garden? Can I hope that the Wisteria will keep the Clematis in check, allowing each year only these few delightful sprigs of scent to pull me into the shade on a hot day?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Mossy Alfred

After my experience his summer with him, gardeners who worship the Old Garden Roses absolutely must give the old Moss rose 'Alfred de Dalmas' a place in their garden.  I purchased him on a whim this Spring and he's been the most pleasant surprise of my entire rose year.

'Alfred de Dalmas' is a Moss bred by Jean Laffay (Paul Barden says it was Portemer) in 1855.  The rose is a nice light pink in the way of the demure OGR's, a perfect shell pink in favorable weather.  The very double flower opens to a cupped form with a mildly disorganized center and it stays there for several days, often grouped in clusters.  Open flowers are a medium size, about 3.25 inches diameter, and I believe the rose has a pretty good, if moderate fragrance.  Like most of the Mosses, the sticky glandular organs coat the bud and stem, providing a little variety in the garden.  The foliage is incredibly healthy, even now, late in the season.  He should be a rose of short stature, staying under 4 feet tall at maturity.

The surprise for me though, was the frequent repeat of flowers on my young bush. 'Alfred de Dalmas' is supposed to have an "occasional repeat" in the season, but my bush has not been without at least a few flowers all summer.  Even in the heat, it bloomed on and was one of the few roses, modern or otherwise to keep going for me.  It's been a great pleasure to have that sweet old rose scent extended into August. and on to September, instead of my usual pattern of saying goodbye to those memory-evokers by the end of June.

Helpmefind/ notes that most 'Alfred de Dalmas' in commerce are actually 'Mousseline' (an 1881 Moss by Moreau and Robert).   The two roses look almost identical and authorities disagree whether they are different or the same rose.  Regardless, 'Autumn Damask' has to be lurking somewhere in the ancestry of this rose as the source for all that blooming.  'Alfred de Dalmas' has my vote as the best of the reblooming Moss roses, even outproducing pretty 'Salet' this year.

Sunday, August 24, 2014


'Podaras #2'
August, at least here in Kansas, should be renamed.  "Dog Month" might be a good choice.  Or "Browning Month".  Or just plain"The Garden is Tired" month.  Right now, as a heat spell lingers and everything green is in a life struggle to grow just a little more, my garden is certainly winding down, tired and old, unkempt and straggly.

Take, as an example, the Falso Indigo (Baptisia australis) 'Purple Smoke' below at the left.  Ignoring the fact that I've consciously tried to move or kill this particular clump three years running because it gets too large for the plants around it, I have to admit that it's a fabulous plant in May and early June, blue flowers towering above perfect blue-green foliage.  Now, it's a blackened, dried-up caricature of itself, seed pods blackened and brittle.  A good gardener would remove it now, condemned straight to a burning pile.  A bad gardener grumbles about it as he walks the dog, but puts off his seasonal cleaning and weeding until the temperature drops below 100ºF.

And the iris and daylilies all look terrible, suffering from heat and drought together, long past flowered youth.  The center of each clump tries to survive by stealing water and nutrients from their peripheral limbs, leaving the more visible outsides to dry and break. There are no signs of rebloom from the reblooming irises this year, no energy to spare for creating petal or ovary.

There are, to be sure, some bright spots in the garden.  My 'Sweet Marmalade Nectar Bush' Buddleia (otherwise known as 'Podaras #2') has decided to survive.  That's the picture at the top of this blog entry (surely I couldn't lead off with the decrepit Buddleia, could I?)  It was planted late in 2013 and the harsh winter almost did it in.  I didn't see a living sprout until late June and as some sparse gray-white foliage appeared, I've been pampering it with extra water and protection in the hope that it will gain strength and come back again in 2015.  I love the perfect foliage and bright orange flowers of this one and this morning I saw the only Monarch butterfly I've seen all year, feeding from this one bloom.

The sedums are also doing well of course, impervious to the drought and coming into their own season in the spotlight.  Autumn in the Flint Hills is a "Sedum Spectacular", in the words of auto salespeople.   Sedum 'Black Jack', backed up by Sedum 'Matrona', makes a quiet and gentle statement of survival here at the left, flower heads ready to bloom and feed the autumn insects.  I grow so many sedums here on the Flint Hills that I often forget there are roses in my garden, hidden and dormant as they are between the sedums and ornamental grasses.

I pray, this Sunday morning, that Fall comes soon to relieve the garden and gardener from our shared misery.  We're tired and both need to be put to bed for Winter.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How Could It Not?

How could a storm like this one, only a few miles from Manhattan, with enough wind and lightning to wake me up at 1:00 a.m., still not drop any rain on us?  I was sound asleep, but startled wide awake to howling wind and rattling screens.  Our bedroom was lit up by almost continuous lightning flashes. The entire line of storms was
coming straight at us, west to east, bearing down quickly.  Oh, Joy!

But I knew something was wrong.  There were no watches or warnings on the local TV channels; a bad omen because these days the weather people seem to panic at every drizzle. The lightning was abundant, but was what we oldtimers call "heat" lightning; flashes of lightning high in the atmosphere without any accompanying thunder to scare the children.  All this fury and force, probably creating rain that was evaporating before it could reach the ground.  Curses.

We've seen no rain from mid-June through August 9th, almost two entire months during our hottest time of year.  On the positive side, I hadn't mowed my yard since July 1st.  On the negative side, the roses are not very prolific right now and things are drying up before their time.  We did have a brief respite on the weekend of August 10th, with a total of 1.9 inches of rain over three days.  That momentarily filled in the cracks and resulted in me having to mow down the weeds in the grass on August 17th.  But we're already dry again and the next few days are forecast to hit the 100's.

Please be warned.  I promise you that the next time I see something like this on radar, day or night, I'm going to do everything possible to see that it rains.  I'll rush out to water the hopeless lawn, I'll spray the weeds with weedkiller, and I'll quickly have the car washed and then leave it out to be rained on.  Heck, if the clouds form nearby but I see them start to move, I'm going to run out naked and do a rain dance.  Surely it won't come to that, but desperate times call for drastic measures.  You might want to drive by my house with blinders on for a bit, just in case.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Buck Rose Tease

Allamand Ho

There are a number of Griffith Buck-bred roses that are less than a season old in my garden and  I don't have enough experience with them to post full descriptions yet.  I thought, however, here in the August doldrums, that I could introduce them to you as "coming attractions" for next year.

'Allamand Ho' is going to be an interesting rose.  Although I planted this rose in May, this is the first bloom I've seen and I never expected the mix of pink and pale yellow that it is showing me.  Later blooms have also been as pink-rimmed and pale as this one.   I could only find one previous picture of this rose on the web, which was a much brighter yellow with less pink than mine seems to have.  One fact I can already tell you about it is that flowers are very slow to open up.  The buds seemed to take forever to reveal themselves, similar to .Paloma Blanca'.  Dr. Buck named 'Allamand Ho' from a square dance term given him by a friend.  

'Sevilliana' is a 1976 introduction with some nice stippling on the petals.  It starts out with an a pink bud so bright it is almost red, and it opens very quickly with lots of golden stamens.  She seems similar to several other stippled Buck roses and I'm biding time to see what may separate her from the pack.  'Sevilliana' was named to commemorate the music and dancing of Seville, Spain.

The Magician
'The Magician' has been quite varied in the coloring of its semi-double flowers and I had high hopes for it as a unique specimen.   Unfortunately, it started showing some rose rosette symptoms early after planting and I cut it back to the ground a couple of weeks ago in an attempt to prevent losing the bush.  Sadly, I suspect I'm going to lose this bush and will have to start over.

'Countryman', although  a small bush, is loaded with flowers, prolific to the point of forgetting to grow in stature.  The flowers are a very bright pink and she is showing signs of being more fully double as later blooms have opened.  If you prefer your roses in bright pink, I believe 'Countryman' has the potential to be a show horse in the garden.

'Hermina' has a pretty bright pink blossom with edges tending towards a lighter, almost white rim.  The rose also has a white reverse and white center.  The flowers are on the small size for a Buck rose, however, about 2.5 inches diameter at present.  They seem to be borne in solitary form but there are many flowers on the bush right now.  I like the white centers but I wish the blooms were larger.


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