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?


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