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.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bob White and the Bobettes

Northern Bobwhite male
The following is a special program brought to you uninterrupted by the grace of the Kansas Flint HIlls, rated "F" for "Fantastic".  Fair warning: Prepare yourself to fall in love.

I've had the great honor this past week to be allowed to watch a nightly reunion of a large brood of quail.  They have chosen, repeatedly, to mingle in my back bed less than 10 feet from the house as they settle for the night, right where I can enjoy and photograph them at my leisure through the windows.  I first noticed them last Friday evening as a large group pecking around the ground, and now to find them all that I have to do is look for Papa Quail, shown here to the right, who keeps a vigil on my trellis (the pink rose is 'Zephirine Drouhin') while his teenagers are running around nearby.

As you may know, the Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) is a New World quail (Odontophoridae) which is pretty common, but secretive, in my neck of the world.  I often hear the familiar call "Bob-White" in the early mornings, but I seldom see the birds.  This game bird is usually monogamous and a breeding pair normally has 12-16 eggs per clutch, parents leading the young birds to food for a couple of weeks after hatching until they can fly.  I have a hunch that this group (11 birds are visible in the picture to the left) came from a nest right in the clump of bushes behind them, and they are just about large enough to take off on their own.  I feel very privileged to witness this stage of their life cycle so close and personal.

As a short sample of what I've been seeing, I'll attempt to post the two movies below to share with you.  The first shows the same group as seen above, with their stilted random movements.  The second shows the group moving out in exploration.  If you can stop the movie at the very beginning of movie #2, there are 20 quail visible in the frame, not including Dad who was still sitting on the trellis above.  This was a very large brood!


Or, the better quality YouTube link to the 2nd video is here

Just as quickly as they appear, the adolescent quail just as rapidly disappear into the shrubs and camouflage of the mulch, leaving only Papa Quail to continue to watch for danger until all are safely hidden.  I haven't picked out Mama Quail yet, but I assume she's somewhere with the brood on the ground, clucking with displeasure if the babies stray.   If all human parents were this responsible, there would be a lot less teen mischief and gang violence in our world.

Sometimes, I feel so lucky to live on the prairie that I could just melt into a puddle of happiness.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Happy Surprises

Gardening is full of surprises.  Although I've just said it, I think most gardeners already know that.  I've been both pleasantly surprised and unpleasantly surprised,  however, by the notion that the longer I garden, the more surprises I get.

This "Surprise Lily", hidden behind a dwarf Alberta Spruce and in front of a struggling clematis, is an example of the mixed benefits of garden serendipity.  I love Surprise Lilies because they pop up and glow at a time of summer here when everything else looks tired and worn out.  I also enjoy the slightly naughty feeling that this old man gets from having "Naked Ladies," as they are sometimes called, randomly showing up in my garden.  I didn't get any titillating joy out of finding this clump, however, because I'm pretty sure that I never planted any bulbs here.  And I've never heard that they can self-seed and spread themselves around a garden, other than by lateral bulb-lets.  So that leaves me the choice of either accepting another bit of evidence that my memory is fading, or that I've witnessed a garden miracle of reproduction.  Because neither of these are likely explanations, I think I'm going to settle the mystery and tell others that a squirrel dug up some bulbs and transplanted them here, even though the nearest tree large enough to support a squirrel is over 1/2 mile away.   

I've also been surprised this summer by the performance of a pair of $5 misnamed roses purchased at Home Depot.  As I mentioned previously, I saw this striped rose mislabeled as 'Love' back in May on a "two for $10" sale, took a chance, and bought two.  Both bushes have settled in, are repeat blooming their heads off, and have no blackspot at all.  I don't know what they really are.  I initially thought they were two different striped cultivars, but now I think they are the same variety.  Their rebloom cycle is too rapid for any of the remonant old garden striped roses I've grown.  They're fragrant but not as tall nor as fragrant as 'Honorine de Brabant' and they are also shorter and more Floribunda-bush-form than my 'Ferdinand Pichard'.  Regardless, if they make it through winter unprotected, for $10, I've got two great garden roses that I will always enjoy.  Now there is a surprise without any reservations to spoil it.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Fifty Tools

Somewhere in my busy summer, I found time to read this recent tome, A History of the Garden in Fifty Tools, by Bill Laws.  I actually paid full price for this recent release (February, 2014), rather than my usual modus operandi of browsing the used book shops for garden reads.  I tend to like to read about gardening tools and their variations, and I was pretty excited to get hold of it.  

In A History of the Garden in Fifty Tools, Bill Laws covers the history of just about every garden tool you can imagine and some that you probably didn't know about. The history and information presented about each tool was interesting, and Laws covered the development of most of his chosen tools from the Stone Age to modern times. The tools are organized into 5 chapters, the flower garden, kitchen garden, orchard, lawn, and ornamental garden, which sometimes made me feel that some tools were a bit misplaced in order because I use some differently than Laws placed them.  I also have to admit that I was disappointed by the time I finished Fifty Tools.  I think my biggest issue is that the info was dryly presented and began to drag a bit for me a bit as I got used to the format.   I'll tell you this, I didn't count them, but by the time you finish the book, you'll think you've read about more than 50 tools.

I confess that I had built up a lot of anticipation for this book, and to give the author the benefit of doubt, perhaps the problem lies with me, rather than the reading material.   I just never got into it; reading page after page like it was material from a textbook, rather than a summer novel.  It's one of those books I finished, but I struggled to maintain interest, somewhat like I've done  in the past with long Stephan King novels.  By the time I'm too far in to quit, I'm thinking, "God, just let me get it over."  If you're just nuts on garden tools, you may like this book, but my suggestion first would be to read Tools of the Earth by Jeff Taylor and Rich Iwasaki.  I read the latter years ago and it is so good that I will probably read it again soon.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Conrad Ferdinand Meyer

If there were a rose that I would describe as a "mixed blessing", it would have to be  'Conrad Ferdinand Meyer', a 1897 cross by Dr. Franz Hermann Müller between seed parent 'Germanica' and a seeding from a cross of 'Gloire de Dijon' and 'Duc de Rohan'.  Classified as a Hybrid Rugosa because of the 'Germanica' parent, the popular 'CFM' is mentioned in almost every magazine article that lists Rugosas.  Still, having grown it myself for a number of years, I sometimes wonder at the sanity of those who grow it.  Perhaps the mental instability of its namesake, Swedish poet and historical novelist Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, has rubbed off on the rosarians who grow the rose.

'CFM' does have many positive attributes to separate it from other Hybrid Rugosas.  The double blooms and soft silvery pink color are more similar to a "modern" rose than other Rugosa hybrids; the latter often flattened, semi-double mauve-ish flowers in form.  The blooms are large (more than 4 inches in diameter in my garden), borne in small clusters, and repeat sporadically over the season.  'Conrad Ferdinand Meyer' is also very, very fragrant, even for a Rugosa.  The bush is cane-hardy in my garden, with only minimal tip dieback in the worst winters.  All of these, but especially the fragrance, are reasons why I grow this rose.  No one who sees this bush questions my sanity. 

But it has a number of negative attributes as well.  Blooms tend to ball up like the picture at the right, especially in cold weather.   The matte foliage is not as blackspot resistant as more "rugose"cultivars such as 'Blanc Double de Coubert' or 'Purple Pavement', and my 'CFM' will drop about 75% of its leaves in mid-summer if I don't monitor it.  In areas where rust is common in roses, 'CFM' is notoriously susceptible.  I also wouldn't call it a vigorous rose;  for years I grew it in the middle of native prairie and the nearby grass competed for enough moisture and nutrients to keep it spindly and on the constant verge of death. The thorns are sharp, flat out dangerous and guaranteed to draw blood if you are not careful (I suppose that's a positive if you plant it in front of the window of a teen-age daughter).  The bush is tall, stiff, and ungainly.  The 'CFM' in the Reinsch Rose Garden of Topeka grows over 8 feet tall and wide, magnifying the ugliness of the bush.  My specimen, even after I moved it to a more cultivated bed where it has less competition, has stayed around 5 feet tall and not as wide.   

I do have one final personal observation in favor of this rose.  We don't often see roses included in a list of "deer resistant" plants, but I'm here to testify that 'Conrad Ferdinand Meyer' can take a deer licking and keep on ticking.   You'll recall that Conrad Ferdinand Meyer seems to be the choice of deer that graze in my winter garden.  In the winters of 2012 and 2013, I lost count of the number of pictures my game camera took of deer sampling directly from the bush pictured above and at the left.  And yet they didn't seem to cause much damage on the rose that I could find.  Maybe deer are drawn to it, but the thorns ultimately fend off those velvety deer lips.  All I know is that year after year it looks and performs the same regardless of its dietary contributions to the browsing deer.  The first picture of the overall bush was from May of 2013 and the second from May, 2014, still standing tall after a really tough winter from both deer and weather.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Foggy Fancies

These ARE the prairie mornings I live for.  Cool summer mornings after warm summer days equal fog.  Fog equals serenity and quiet, protection from searing sun, and slow contemplative moments stolen from hectic days.  The sounds of the far off highway are stilled and construction on a nearby house has yet to recommence.  Bird still rest, happy to remain grounded rather than fly against the moist and heavy air.   I wander happily on mornings like this, isolated from the greater concerns of the world and listening to the smaller joys within, happy to live for a second in the moment.  On workdays a relentless clock stays tied to my mind, holding me back from complete release. These foggy starts are even better on weekends, when nothing is waiting or undone that can't be started later.

Mornings such as these, the prairie waits.  There is no sense of foreboding in the dense humid air, no haste to act.  There is only calm and peace, dew condensing on thirsty grass, upright purple Verbena matching the somber mood of the moment.  There is no hurry here, no rush to meet the end of summer.   The grasses will change slowly, alerted to Fall by onset of these cool nights, chameleons forming the rusty colors that will be September's prairie.  The forbs will form seed and droop to deposit future life into waiting earth.  Prairie fauna withdraw, each in their own way, hibernation or migration, death and rebirth, cocoon or burrow. 

Ding and Dong, the donkeys, did not violate the calm this morning with greeting brays, but walked over quietly to accept apple slices.   They are kind morning companions, solid and steadfast, content amidst the grasses and wind.  Dong was sleeping as I approached, stretched out on a bed of matted prairie grass, while Ding kept watch.  I wished for a moment that I were Donkey, surrounded by plenty and living in the sunshine and fresh air, no plans, needs met, worries unborn.  But the fog lifts, the demanding clock calls, and I cannot be Donkey for more than a moment, a fine stolen moment of ease.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Slithering Surprise

"Take out the garbage."  "Water the hydrangea." "Refill the bird feeders."  My mind was busy running down a list of things to get done as I walked out the garage door and down the steps at sunrise.  As I turned back around to fill the pail with birdseed, I noticed that I had walked right by this little guy, who was waiting in ambush just inside the door for his morning rodent.

 I'm proud to say that my self-restraint at sudden snake appearances has evidently reached a new level of control. This time, for perhaps the first time, I did not spontaneously levitate, shout, or run.  I merely said "Hi, little guy," took the iPhone photograph above, and walked back past him to get the good camera.

Seeing that Mrs. ProfessorRoush was awake and taking care of Bella, I told her to come out the garage door to see something "neat."  She followed me back outside, took one quick glance, and pivoted back inside so fast she left a scorch mark on the concrete, all while fixing me with a cold stare over her shoulder and telling me never to do that again.  It was an impressive bit of ballet.  Lesson learned; Mrs. ProfessorRoush requires morning coffee before she is ready to deal with snakes.

I took another few pictures, ignored the snake's impertinent and rude tongue gestures, and then gently swept this cute little Common Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) off the edge of the driveway into the lilacs.   I hope he's learned his lesson and catches his rodents outside in the rocks in the future, saving me from further marital discord or spousal displeasure.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Pretty Prairie Lass

One of last year's additions to my garden was this pretty pink-toned shrub rose named 'Prairie Lass'.  I have two bushes of this rarely grown Griffith Buck rose and I've been waiting for them to get tall enough and old enough for me to form some opinion.

'Prairie Lass' is a 1978 introduction that I obtained from Heirloom Roses in 2013.  This double (25-30 petals) rose blooms in clusters that open bright pink with darker stipples and then fade to very light pink.  Flowers open fully to form a flat to slightly cupped final form and they stay on the bush a long time as they age. 'Prairie Lass' doesn't seem to be a continuous bloomer, but rather reblooms in moderately profuse flushes over the summer.  The picture at the left, taken July 27th, is the third full bloom of this summer and it is nearly as full as the first on these two young bushes.  There are other times these bushes have been without a single bloom.  The individual blooms are small, about 2.5 to 3 inches in diameter here.

I would rate the fragrance of 'Prairie Lass' as slight to moderate.  The bush is quite healthy, with no yellowing or leaf drop from fungus now in the fourth month of warm weather.  I found 'Prairie Lass' to have few thorns.  Internet sources say that it may reach 5 feet tall in time.  Unlike many of my roses, there was no dieback at all of 'Prairie Lass' last year in our harsh winter.

So, should you grow 'Prairie Lass'?   It seems to be a nice rose and bush and is healthy enough to keep a place for it in a collection of Buck roses.  But I don't think it is a rose that will ever make a garden visitor gasp in surprise.  Nor will anyone likely become ecstatic over the fragrance or the individual blooms of this rose.  In the end, my recommendation would be to seek it out if you're a Buck rose nut (like me), but otherwise don't put extra time into a search for this rose.   And, as Mrs. ProfessorRoush would point out, it is just one more pink rose among thousands.


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