Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Bombus-ed BeeBalm

ProfessorRoush was "beeing" busy in search of bees this weekend.  After my last post, when I included a photograph showing a bumblebee on an 'Applejack' blossom, it occurred to me that although I have seen plenty of "bumblebees" around the yard this year, I haven't seen a single honeybee.  Nor could I find one this past Sunday as I specifically searched for them, albeit on a cloudy day with occasional sprinkles in the air.

Honeybees should surely be visiting nearby, because Monarda fistulosa, otherwise known as Wild Bergamot, is blooming all over the prairie.  I've written before of my garden Monardas, and the native prairie species lives up to its common name, "Beebalm," but the balm exuded by Monarda only seems to be attracting the American Bumblebee (Bombus pensylvanicus) this year.

Monarda fistulosa with Bombus pensylvanicus
Bombus pensylvanicus (Bombus, what a neat name for the ungainly genus comprising bumblebees!) was once the most prevalent bumblebee in the United States, but Wikipedia notes that it is recently declining in population.  Nationally, that may be true, but they seem to be as prevalent as ever in Kansas.  I'm not an insect expert by any means, but there are two species of bumblebees found in Kansas and I believe they're different enough that I've got this one correct.  Mostly black abdomen.  Check.  Black stripe behind wings.  Check, Check.  Certainly they were everywhere on my patch of native prairie today, feasting on the Wild Bergamot and the Asclepias tuberosa that is blooming everywhere.  The Monarda is such an ungainly, unkempt flower, that I think it matches the non-aerodynamic bumblebee.

'Jacob Cline' Monarda and Knautia macedonia
I haven't jumped onto the "glyphosate will destroy the world" train since the science says otherwise, and those of you who read this blog regularly know that I do believe in climate change but that I remain unconvinced that Man is primarily responsible for it (given the sure and certain evidence that it really was a lot warmer in 10000 B.C. than it is now and we just weren't around in enough numbers then to get the blame for it).   That all being said, I do worry a lot about the declining bee populations and I think Man probably has a lot to do with that one.  Whether it is disease or pesticide or habitat destruction, I have no idea, but on my little patch of prairie, I can tell you that the native Monarda clumps usually have a visiting bee, while the 'Jacob Cline' Monarda in my front landscaping hasn't a bee, bumble- or honey- in sight, everytime I've checked.  It seems that my preference for bright red flowers, and my happiness with the tough nature of the nearby Knautia macedonia, isn't shared by the bumblebees in my environment.  Perhaps I should turn over a new leaf...er...uh...flower, and encourage the Wild Bergamot to spread from the prairie to my landscaping.  When visitors complain about the insipid colors, I'll tell them simply that it looks delicious when viewed through a bee's eyes instead of those in a falsely-discriminating human.          

Friday, June 23, 2017


Applejack w/ bumblebee
I'm going to describe a rose today, one that has always left me with mixed feelings.  The bumblebee sitting deep in this blossom, however, does not seem to share my ambivalence, so perhaps it is time to give this rose its proper credit and decide that it has a place in my garden.

'Applejack' was one of the first releases of Dr. Griffith Buck, bred before 1962 and introduced by the Iowa Agricultural Experiment Station in 1973.  Although Heirloom Roses nursery describes it as one of Dr. Buck's most popular roses, I fail to understand why.  It is also disconcerting that Heirloom's current online photo of Applejack is not Applejack. 

Applejack grows in my garden as a large, lax bush, with 6-8 foot long canes that drape over neighboring plants, so I can't recommend it in a small garden.  In fact, I've moved it several times myself, although I now actually have two large specimens, the second formed by regrowth from roots left behind at the last move.  And common descriptions of its blossoms, as "large 4-inch semidouble rose-pink blooms with crimson streaks" doesn't really match what I see here in Kansas.  Yes, the first blooms of the season are semi-double and have some mild streaks, but later blooms are 5-petaled and lose their streaks to the summer sun.     

Applejack individual blossoms
Another discrepancy between what I see and what some sources describe is the bloom period of this rose.  Helpmefind/rose.com describes this rose as "blooming in flushes throughout the season," and Peter Beales says it is "very free-flowering."  Iowa State, presumably from Dr. Buck himself, described the rose as "intermittent flowering from late May to killing frost." I find that Applejack has an extremely long first bloom season (now going over 6 weeks), but I rarely have seen bloom later in the season.  And, in fact, many of the member comments about this rose on Helpmefind.com also suggest that they don't see any rebloom.  Is this rose just that variable in bloom depending on its climate or is the great, late Mr. Beales wrong about this one?  I believe that Rogue Valley Roses has it right, describing it as a first bloom of a month or more, "sometimes followed by autumn flowers."  (07/04/2017 addendum;  Well, I was wrong.  My two specimens are fully grown and both have had blooms almost continuously since early May, albeit sparse at best, but they're still there.  I guess this rose does bloom throughout the season, at least once it reaches a mature span.  The photo at the bottom is a photo of one of the bushes on 7/04/2017).

Given my current RRD issues, and the extremes of Kansas weather, I really should make myself focus on the positives of this rose.  It does indeed have a really long first bloom season, and it is extremely hardy here in Kansas and drought-resistant as well. A tough rose, I've never seen blackspot affect it, and so far, the Rose Rosette Disease has left both of my specimens unscathed.  The offspring of 'Goldbusch' and a cross of 'Josef Rothmund' X Rosa laxa, its genes are now spread throughout several lines of roses, chosen for procreation because of its extreme hardiness and disease resistance.  And, really, if the bees like it, so should I.  

And, of course, I haven't touched on the most redeeming feature of Applejack.  'Goldbusch' and 'Josef Rothmund' are both sweetbrier hybrids (R. rubiginosa), and they have passed on the sweetbrier-scented foliage to Applejack.  Walk around this rose on a rainy day, and if you don't melt from the rain yourself, you'll find the scent of green apples everywhere in its vicinity.  Despite this, however, Applejack is always planted on shaky ground in my garden.  Perhaps if I quit moving it, it will settle in and bloom more to its billing.  Or perhaps it would repeat bloom if I was mentally disturbed enough to actually want to deadhead this rose as it blooms.  I should give it more of a chance.

2017-07-04 bloom

Monday, June 19, 2017

Decluttered Deliverance

paeonia 'Buckeye Belle' 
On a whim, in a bookstore last winter and presumably with a Christmas gift card to burn, one of the books I purchased was Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  I've read several such books by several different authors because ProfessorRoush occasionally goes on a "declutter" spree, casting away debris like a sinking hot air balloon that is trying to stay aloft.

It occurred to me, reading Ms. Kondo and in my winter mood of being angry at the garden's performance and its Rose Rosette Disease epidemic, that "tidying up" could be applied to my garden.  Take, for example, the primary question Ms. Kondo wants all of us to ask ourselves for every possession; Does it bring you joy?  "Lift or touch each thing," she asks of us, "and ask if it sparks joy."

'Buckeye Belle' at upper right, did bring me joy this spring, more than I could imagine, its smoldering dark red blossoms luring me again and again to that corner of the garden.  She's a keeper in my garden and I would make sure she is in my next garden.  Not so much, for instance, 'Folksinger', RRD-infected, and never among my favorite roses.  So, this spring, I really didn't mind at all when I shovel-pruned 'Folksinger' during a massacre of RRD-infected plants.  Magnolia 'Yellow Bird' brings me joy.  Overgrown 'Rosenstadt Zweibrucken' does not.

The "KonMarie Method" also recommends that we declutter by category, not by area.  I followed this advice to the best of my ability, but I've also strayed
at times.  Early on this year, I did  "tidy" by category, removing first the roses that were infected with RRD, and then other plants that were simply in the wrong place, or that I simply didn't like.   My most recent efforts, at pruning roses, weeding, and general gardening chores, have all been by area, however.  This week the large daylily bed was weeded again, and the strawberry patch was tidied.  Next week, I've got my sights set on my "viburnum bed."

"Let go of the what if's and somedays."  This admonition  by Ms. Kondo is both easy and hard.  Plants that require a constant effort or struggle to keep alive, the "what ifs," are relatively easy to eliminate because they remove themselves from the garden. But  I'm tired and frustrated with plants that don't perform in my garden and I'm now quicker to remove those that don't.  And I've wacked back a number of overgrown plants this year. I had already started this practice last fall long before Ms, Kondo arrived in my psyche, removing some large overgrown junipers from my front landscaping.  I've felt better, more joyful, looking at that spot every day this spring.  In broader terms, though, I have trouble removing "somedays."  I don't often throw out old tools, boxes, and other paraphernalia because I've learned, as a husband and father, that life recycles our needs for many things and I don't like buying things twice, or worse, three times over.

"Respect my remaining stuff."  As it applies to plants, I need to spend more time embracing plants that do well here in Kansas.  Daylilies, hollyhocks, irises, viburnum, peonies, all are valuable and they should be divided and spread around my garden.  I've resolved to mark my favorite daylilies and divide them every year, until they're everywhere in my garden.  I vow to allow every native Asclepias tuberosa and Black-eyed Susan that volunteers in my garden to remain.  Who could possibly not respect a Black-eyed Susan that seeds itself in random areas, never needs water, and brightens up the summer border?

But if it's a thug, I promise, out it goes.  This spring, I've removed every clump I have of Helianthus maximilliana.  Some of you may remember a previous post I wrote that extolled their virtues, but time has taught me better.  'Lemon Yellow' and 'Santa Fe' turned out to be monsters, towering over and shading out everything around them, and self-seeding everywhere in the garden.   They're beautiful and they bloom like crazy in late fall, but if I let them go for 5 years, they would completely take over my garden and head for the horizon.  I've been pulling up seedlings everywhere last year and this year. far from the original two clumps I planted.  They will even self-seed in the native prairie grass and survive there, with all the potential of becoming noxious weeds.  So I will smite them down with great vengeance and furious anger, and declutter and deliver my garden from their zealous growth.  And truthfully, all the smiting about this spring brings me satisfaction, circling me back to Ms. Kondo's prime directive.  Yes, Ms. Kondo, it brings me joy.  

Friday, June 16, 2017

29th Annual Manhattan Area Garden Tour

The 29th Annual Manhattan Area Garden Tour occurred last Sunday and continued to be successful despite the mid-90's temperatures, blast furnace winds and scorching sunshine.  As in the recent past, ProfessorRoush was the unofficial photographer for the event, but this year he also designated himself as host for the post-Tour awards show.   Stay with me, I promise you, this is one show where the winners will stay on topic and not veer off into political rants nor personal advertisement.  And remember to click on the pictures to see them in their full glory.

So, without further ado, the envelopes please:

For Best Assembly of Cute Birdhouses as Ornamentation, the award goes to this shady group of avian condominiums.  The quality of this neighborhood seems to be first-rate construction but the neighborhood is overbuilt and lacking tenants.

For the Best Demonstration of Proper Birdbath Setup to Benefit Both Birds and Butterflies, this cobalt and river stone combination takes First Place.  You DO place rocks in your birdbaths so fluttery winged things have a place to land and sip, don't you?

 Best Individual Floral Bloom is hereby awarded to this perfect pink Asiatic lily, standing strong and cool despite the scorching sun.

The Most Whimsical Frog in Water was awarded as a tie this year because the judge had a hard time choosing between this dancing frog placed in a running water feature, or the acrobatic frog below it that appears to be doing yoga in a birdbath.  Neither co-winner really seems to care who won, as long as they can stay shady and cool.

For Best Use of Multiple Elements and Textures in a Single Frame, this beautiful vista drew oohs and aahs from the texturally aware.  Water, birdbath, rock, hosta, grass, daylily, evergreen, and deciduous shrub, all are visible in a single glance. 

 Speaking of birdbaths, Best Use of Small Artificial Ornaments to Compliment a Birdbath is given to this composition of ceramic mushrooms and a simple birdbath in a sea of ivy.  I thought the variegated liriope added a nice touch to this green expanse.

The award for Cutest Faux Window and Shutters was enthusiastically given for this bright composition against the weathered fence.  The bright red gathers the eye from across the room.

Best Kniphofia Appearing Alone in a Picture went to the mildly aging specimen on the right, while the Most Serene Almost- Natural-looking Birdbath award was captured by the serene and cool specimen depicted on the left photo.  The esteemed photographer seemed to have a "thing" for birdbaths on Sunday, didn't he?
The Most Restful Photo was easily claimed by this shaded hammock placed for an exclusive nap in full view of the garden.  Even I might be able to rest here and forget about the weeding that needs done.

Most Fabulous Placement of a Nude Statue in the Garden was taken home by this small statue which stood in front of an enticing outdoor shower enclosure.  All the tour visitors seemed to both admire the spacious shower and the fact that it was audaciously placed in a small backyard of a close neighborhood.  I expect that a plethora of such showers will spring up shortly in Manhattan, simultaneously increasing the cleanliness of local nature lovers and  opportunities for local voyeurs.
The immodest photographer gave himself the award for Best Composed, Framed, Uncropped, and Unedited Photograph for this simple capture of an enticing pathway through the woods behind one garden.  You just want to walk down the hill and then come back to rest in the garden chair, don't you?   I'm not sure what expert garden photographers would think, but I'm very pleased with the photo.  Well except for the errant branch nearby on the right.
I'm afraid I was captured by the gentle contrast of the Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) and butter- yellow lilies in this view.  Despite the harsh sunlight on the left side of the photo, it was awarded Best Photographic Floral Arrangement for the day.
The judge agreed with himself that Most Restful Concrete Frog Laying on Concrete should go to this lazy specimen for his unabashed repose.  I'm told he likes this position so much that he never seems to move.

I think I've covered most of the highlights of the 2017 EMG Manhattan Area Garden Tour, except of course for the many attendees who are not pictured because I don't want to run afoul of not getting their permission to show faces in public photos.  And I don't want to add to the NSA/FBI database of facial recognition software.  None of the ornaments or floral elements illustrated in this post, BTW, objected to having their picture taken or displayed here.  I'll finish the tour now with this very wise and accurate plaque having the last, and very appropriate, words.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Gone to Pot

Cannabis sativa.  Weed. Pot. Indian Hemp.  Mary Jane, buds, hippie lettuce, skunk weed, wacky tobaccy, combustible herbage.  Marijuana.  Completely to my surprise, as I was leaving work last week and noticed, in the parking lot island in front of my Jeep, this foot-tall, suspicious specimen with 7-fingered leaves and a weedy disposition.  On the grounds of Kansas State University and in full view.  I looked furtively around for federal or local surveillance and, finding none, snapped a quick blurry picture as proof.

Hey, I'm a gardener.  I notice plants.  I've been known to pull over on major highways and come to a full stop just to identify or photograph a particular flowering plant on the roadside.  You're looking at the far off scenery?  At the sunset or architecture or road signs?  I'm looking for unusual plant form or flashes of color, or interesting foliage.  I'm surveying habitat, speculating on species, and scrutinizing clumps that catch my eye.  The only hobbyists in the running for Voted Most Eccentric have to be gardeners or birders.  And I'm a little of both.

So I could hardly miss this plant, as it waved its lanceolate and toothed leaves and begged for attention.   Given its height, I might have noticed it sooner if I had parked in the nearby spot in the past week.  But there it was now, in plain view.  Not that I should have been surprised.  Hemp is, after all, naturalized in Kansas.  This Asian native was brought to the Great Plains in the 1880's.    Assuming the best intentions of our ancestors, it was presumably introduced for hemp fiber and used in production of rope, nets, and paper.  All that dancing around campfires was probably just coincidental.    

 I've never seen it in my own garden, likely because the disturbed areas of ground here were native prairie only a few relative years ago and doesn't contain seed.  Its presence in the Vet School parking lot could be due to avian-aided spread from wilder environments, or because some unburned herbage containing seeds was dropped nearby, or because it was intentionally planted in anticipation of a fall break period between classes.   The local police sit  next to this island frequently during the day, but I assume their motivation must be to utilize the afternoon shade of the tree in this island, not to protect their growing stash.

Anyway, there it is.  Or was.  You needn't find a sudden excuse to visit the Vet School.   The K-State groundskeepers had pulled it up by the next morning when I came back for a better picture.  All I found was a single partial leaf trampled to shreds near where bounty had been.  All that's left is the mystery of whether it was wild or a cultivated, fast-growning strain.   And who has the remnants of the plant and what they've done with it.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Mossy Barbara Oliva

Barbara Oliva
I'd like to introduce you to 'Barbara Oliva', or at least to the rose namesake of a reportedly lovely lady.  'Barbara Oliva', or 'ARDoliva' as she is registered, is a Moss rose bred by Paul Barden in 2004 and introduced in 2005.  This is her second year in my garden and I have pretty high hopes for her.

'Barbara Oliva is a very double (70-120 petals), mauve or carmine pink rose with lighter reverse on her petals.  She has an intense old garden fragrance and those mossy buds open to quartered flowers that are around 3 inches in diameter in my garden.   Once blooming in early summer, the young bush was fairly prolific for me this year, with an exceptionally long bloom period,  The flowers tend to remain on the bush for long periods compared to many roses, and hold their shape and form well over several days, displaying a button-eye when fully open.

She is short, at present, around 2.5 feet tall and gangly with long lanky stems.  I expect that this is just an awkward teenage thing because she will get taller, reportedly 3-6 feet tall and wide at maturity, and those lanky stems become "arching" at maturity.   I don't know if I want her to reach 6 feet, but I do hope she fills in a bit.  The medium green foliage is matte and the leaves are relatively small.  'Barbara Oliva' was cane hardy here in Kansas in a tough year and she is reported to be hardy to zone 4B in her entry at helpmefind.com.

'Barbara Oliva' was named after a retired teacher and California rosarian who, in her spare time, cared for a nearby cemetery and planted hundreds of old garden roses in it.  Mrs. Oliva died in 2015 and her obituary and a description of her rose legacy can be found in The Sacramento Bee.  Paul Barden reported that 'Barbara Oliva' arose from a open-pollinated seed of an unidentified, once-blooming pink Moss rose he once encountered.  In my opinion, she's a pretty good old gal for a seedling from a random cross.  Thank you, Paul, for another great rose for the world.

Monday, June 5, 2017

When Momma Ain't Happy...

Brown Thrasher on nest
...ain't nobody happy!  That's the way it is, isn't it?  Humans, birds, beagles, it's all the same.  At home, Mom rules the roost.

While out working outside on Sunday, I checked the Brown Thrasher nest and was able to photograph Mrs. Thrasher while she stared at me with a gimlet eye.  Correction, Mrs. Thrasher HAD a gimlet eye, since the definition of "gimlet eye" is "an eye with a piercing stare" and so my statement that she "stared at me with a gimlet eye" has some built-in redundancy.  Obviously I don't mind digressing, but I'd rather not be redundant.  But look closely at the photo.  Isn't that the very picture of a "gimlet eye?"  I can see "fight or flight" reflected in that dark pupil and yellow iris.

Brown Thrasher chick
At one point, Mrs. Thrasher left the nest and moved into a viburnum in the next border, so I took advantage of the moment to take a picture of a newly hatched chick in the nest.  I first saw it yesterday, so this little guy is less than 2 days old.  And hungry.  Remember when I mentioned that Brown Thrasher's are known to be territorial about their nests?  Well, Mrs. Thrasher was not happy when I moved toward the nest in her absence.  I heard various nervous clucks in the viburnum behind me as I leaned in for the shot and then suddenly Mrs. Thrasher was just across from me in my 'Banshee' rose bush, ready to defend the nest if I got any closer.  I didn't hang around to see if I could get a better picture.

Chapeau de Napoleon
I have declared ProfessorRoush's garden back under some semblance of control after my neglect of the last year and the hard winter.  While not in "garden tour" shape, it's at least not completely embarrassing if someone drops by.  I have a lot of old roses to trim back yet, and some projects to do, but drastic weed safaris have brought the weeds under control, particularly in the soon-to-bloom daylily beds.  I have trimmed back the roses that were severely damaged so a random stranger would conclude that the garden is not totally abandoned, but there are  still some roses with bare tips that will need to be trimmed after blooming.  The picture at the left is the last remaining bloom of 'Chapeau de Napoleon' which I brought in for Mrs. ProfessorRoush to enjoy.

Speaking of unhappy females, my dear Bella has taken to hiding in the house as I come in from outside on the weekends when I'm home working.  We first noticed it last year and we finally realized that she had connected her every-other-week baths, which she doesn't like but tolerates, to me coming in from working outside.   I often take the opportunity to bathe her while I'm sweaty and dirty and before I clean up myself, and Bella recognized it faster than Mrs. ProfessorRoush and I realized why she was hiding when we looked for her at bath time.  Pretty darned smart, that dog.  In this picture, she's simply exhausted from following me around in the hot sunshine of Kansas.  You know she's pooped when she's too tired to even try to play Frisbee!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Peace Lily

I almost passed by, on a gentle evening or so past, this small vignette but I paused, paused to look further and experience the quiet grace of my garden.  Struck by the beauty, captured by the color, entranced by the play of light on textured leaf, I seized the moment, and in doing ceased purpose and goals, carpe diem.

"Enjoy the moment," the ancients advised.  Pluck the day and live it.  I do little enough of that in my garden, forgetting in the bustle and work of gardening to find the purpose of the garden, its raison d'être.  Does the garden exist for my pleasure or as my master?

Through the work week, I plan for the weekend.  "When can I mow the lawn again?"  "That daylily bed needs weeding."  "I should start the squash indoors on Saturday." "I need to find something to plant in that empty spot." "I need to water the tomatoes."  As if the function of the garden was to fill the empty space of Saturday and Sunday, to keep boredom at bay, to parry purposelessness.  So I speed into Saturday, scurry and scuttle through Sunday, yet secretly yearning for calm.

If I were asked, "What single experience or desire is shared among all gardeners?" the answer would lie in this photo, this first Asiatic lily of the year, this day shining from the darkness.  It is not the pure white peace lily of lore, but it is peaceful nonetheless.  Shaded by a large viburnum and tall Rugosa, struggling for light and moisture, yet protected from the glaring sun, its dark red, regal presence stands scribe to life's glories, testament to Earth's treasures.  I paused to its purpose, a reminder to seek the silence and solace in the quiet places of the garden.   I listened to its lesson, to recharge from the energy found in dark bower, in dappled shade, and green shelter.  I came away refreshed with new purpose, to remember always that the garden exists to pleasure the gardener, not to enslave him, To free him and feed his spirit, not to fatigue him.  To nourish the soul that yearns only for beauty and peace.


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