Saturday, May 27, 2017

Banshee & the Brown Thrasher

Visualize this, my friends.  You are strolling through your garden on a warm spring evening, calm breezes and quiet murmurs from the growing grasses, harsh sunlight making harsh shadows and long shapes on the ground, squinting your eyes against the glare of the setting fire as you stop to admire the delicate beauty of a shy new blossom.  Blushing, it peeks from within a shadow, luring you closer for a moment of admiration and lustful indulgence.

Suddenly, an explosion occurs from inches away, a brown blur bursting from within the branches, startling you into instant flight, survival and safety foremost in fright.

All this, and more, I experienced when I stopped to admire 'Banshee', a Damask shrub rose traced back to 1773 by some sources, but listed as 1923 in Modern Roses 12.  My particular specimen came via a purchase from Hartwood Roses a number of years ago.  Once believed to be an older Gallica, she is now thought on helpmefind/roses to be a turbinata known under a variety of other names.  'Banshee' is, in fact, known as "The Great Impersonator" among roses.   'Banshee' is a 7 foot tall shrub for me, nearly as wide, with long lax stems and few or no thorns.  She is extremely healthy and completely cane-hardy in my climate, strongly and sweetly scented, with loosely arranged double (17-25 petals) white blooms blushed strongly with pink.  She blooms once a year over a long period of spring, and although most sources suggest that she balls up in wet weather, I haven't noticed her do that nearly as badly as 'Maiden's Blush' does in my garden.  Since the "balling" seems to be mentioned so ubiquitously, could it be that I've got an impersonator of 'Banshee' here?

The aforementioned "brown blur" was a Brown Thrasher, Toxostoma rufum, presumably a female of the species.  Once my heart rate slowed down from the adrenaline rush, I looked closer and found that I had disturbed her incubating a clutch of  five pale blue-speckled brown eggs in a delightful, but rough, little nest of twigs.

Brown Thrasher's are abundant east of the Rockies, and I'm pleased to make the acquaintance of this otherwise nondescript little bird of my prairie.  They are said to have the largest song repertoire of all birds, over 1000 different types of song, but since I have never taken the time to learn bird identification by song (except for the "Bob White" of quail), I don't know how many of the early morning choir outside my bedroom windows may be Brown Thrasher's, but I suspect they may represent a large portion of the chorus.  An omnivore, it will evidently eat anything and it is fiercely territorial around nests, even attacking humans.  I'll give this nest a wide berth in the next few weeks since I don't want to initiate a mini-replay of Hitchcock's 1963 The Birds here in Kansas, even less with myself in the starring role of frantically-pecked-to-death human.

That's life in my Kansas garden today, a rose that might-or-might-not be 'Banshee', harboring a perfect little potential family of avian Von Trapp's.  And lots of sunshine and, finally, more normal summer temperatures than the recent and long cool spring.  If you need me, I'll be in the garden.


  1. A few weeks ago I started noticing that every time I went out into the courtyard a bird darted across towards me. It turns out it had built a nest in my compost pile that I had been meaning to turn for a couple of months now. I think it was a starling, but I also think it moved on, because I have mowed right next to it without being attacked!

  2. I am very glad that your Banshee has matured into such a fine plant! Mine, from which yours was propagated, is the largest that I have ever seen and the flowers rarely ball. Good to hear that yours equals mine in size and in quality of bloom. It's a wonderful rose that more people should know about. Thank you for putting it out there for all to admire.

    1. I'm glad this Banshee doesn't ball up. In fact, we've had a pretty wet spring and it didn't ball at all. Thanks again, Connie.


Thank you for your interest in my blog. I like to meet friends via my blog, so I try to respond if you comment from a valid email address rather than the anonymous And thanks again for reading!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...