Friday, June 14, 2019

Timeous Turtle Trek

"Arf, Arf, Arf;" the neighbors dog, Huck, was barking incessantly last night as I traipsed around the garden, trimming dead canes off a rose here, transplanting a rose or two there, and watering seedling, just-purchased roses.  Eventually, Bella and I sought him out, curious as to what he had found on the prairie, 20 feet off of my neighbor's driveway.  I was betting snake, but as it turned out, I was quite wrong.  The dog had found a large turtle, probably a quarter mile west and above our pond, heading straight as an arrow towards my neighbors pond, across the blacktop driveway and another quarter mile down the next draw.




This seemingly ancient creature is a
Snapping turtle, Chelydra serpentina, identified by its long tail and ridged shell.  Yesterday evening, that turtle's tail was as expressive as any dog's, flipping angrily whenever Huck got too close.  Hunkered down for the photo here, he just wanted to be left alone on his journey, presumably in search of more abundant food or agreeable mate or both.  As always, when I run across such creatures, I do a little reading, and found out from Wiki that the folklore about snapping turtles biting off fingers and toes is just a myth, with no confirmed cases.  Although they can certainly apply a painful bite, and while you shouldn't pick one up by the shell because their necks can stretch completely around their armor, they actually have less bite force than a human.  They often live 20-25 years, with a maximum reported age of 38 years, so I wonder what the chances are of this being the same just-hatched turtle that my daughter found during a 2014 burn?  Probably not a likely coincidence but it's fun to think about it.

Up until the turtle, it was a peaceful evening in the garden.  I had spent some time admiring the first blooms of some dark red Asiatic lilies (photo at the top) that I planted as summertime filler among the viburnum bed.  There used to be other colors and varieties planted in the bed, but the only long term survivors seem to be deep red.  Not that I'm complaining, because I swoon over that dark rich color against the green of rose and viburnum foliage.


I have and encourage other fillers in these beds, but I count on serendipity and Mother Gaia to supply the most important.  Everywhere that the Butterfly Milkweed,  Asclepias tuberosa, (left, above) decides to show up as a "weed," I let it remain in all its orange glory.  In a similar fashion, I'll allow any Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) (right) to grow unmolested in any bed.  The fantastic fragrance of these wildflowers, especially the Common Milkweed, are an early gift to me, and their value as a food source for caterpillars and butterflies make them all keepers in my gentle garden.

Turtles and milkweed were the sendoff last night for me to seek satisfied slumber with dreams of butterflies and blooms.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Pink-Maybe-Alba

Mystery free rose
ProfessorRoush has been waiting patiently for several years to identify a rose that has struggled in my garden; trampled by deer, dehydrated by drought, and encroached upon by neighboring plants (including an overbearing 'Applejack' in the vicinity), it has nonetheless survived.  Before this year, this year of over-rain, she has never bloomed, growing slowly from a seedling that I protected to the current bush, about 2.5 feet tall and as wide.  Now, I ask you, what is she?

I've looked at my obviously lousy records for clues to her provenance, and there have been several roses planted in this area, mail-order rooted cuttings, in the past 10 years.  Some grew well for a season or two and then faded, or succumbed to RRD.  For instance, 'Amiga Mia' was to the left and forefront of this plant in the bed, and I well remember "my friend" and her loss to RRD.  I had hopes that this was the Buck rose 'Countryman', but now, upon seeing the first blooms, I can now eliminate that rose, a much deeper pink than my current demure blushing bush.   Similarly, 'Frontier Twirl', 'Aunt Honey', and 'Enchanted Autumn' have been in this general vicinity, do not match this rose in bloom or behavior, and all have moved on to another higher gardening dimension.

Because this rose has never bloomed before, I have concluded that it must be a non-remonant rose, since I haven't seen her try to bloom before, likely an Old Garden Rose, perhaps an Alba or even a very shy Bourbon?  The foliage, closely examined, is moderately shiny and glossy, not like a Damask or Gallica, and it is reasonably healthy, with little or no blackspot despite all the rain.  The blooms are very double, light pink, fading to cream on the outside, and they almost recurve with a button eye.  Thorns are sparse, small, and curved down on the stem. The round buds did brown up and deform like 'Maiden's Blush' often does in my garden in a wet year.  The fragrance is strong and sweet with no tea overtones .

Sadly, I think the solution to this particular mystery lies in a rose band I planted in 2011, obtained as a "free rose" from Rogue Valley Roses.  RVR used to provide a free extra rose or two with their orders, depending on the size of an order, unsaleable roses that they had mislabeled or managed to lose the label or overstocked roses they had on hand.  Usually they would pick a rose for you that would survive well in that customer's particular hardiness zone.  My notes show that my free rose that year was planted in this area, and although 8 years seems a long time to have this struggle in my garden, I really can't remember how long this particular plant has been here. So, if it was my "free rose," I probably never will know exactly who this rose is.

Still, it has a beautiful bloom, relatively healthy foliage, and seems to be resistant to RRD, so I'm hardly in a position to really care about calling it by its given name.  I'll just christen it "Pink-maybe-Alba" and enjoy the show when I can.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Numbing Nutsedge Nightmare

Sometimes, a little gardening knowledge is a burden too difficult for the gardener's soul to bear.  We see things that others don't, the subtle hues that don't belong, the texture that doesn't blend, and it tears at us, ripping away the mantle of civil society and bearing the dark soil within.  We try to seek justice, try to shift the weight of wisdom off our shoulders, but find no relief.  Such it was with ProfessorRoush this past week.


Every day, as I come to work, I pass the simple bed pictured above along the sidewalk, a few short yards to the left of the entrance.  On May 30th, I noted with some amusement the overgrowth of yellow nutsedge in the bed (circled in red) among the struggling daylilies (circled in blue), and brought it to the attention of the individuals who oversee the care of the bed, passing along both my identification, my recommendations for a nutsedge-specific herbicide, and my general angst at discovering this unholy mess outside my workplace.

 Today, I noticed that the bed had been sprayed (see the photo directly below) and that all the plants were dying, nutsedge and innocent daylily alike.  Obviously this area was sprayed with glyphosate or some other non-selective herbicide.  While my call to arms had been heeded, my renowned advice had not.


While cogitating this distressing development, reeling and staggering from the renewed load placed upon my shoulders, I meandered to the beds on the right side of the entrance, and realized to my horror that these beds were no better, in fact far worse, than the original abomination was.  Preserving them for prosperity, I present them here for you to ponder:

Bed portion 1; Containing a world-beating crop of yellow nutsedge (circled in red in the foreground), with some barely surviving ornamental grass in the back (circled in blue).  I think this grass was originally Panicum 'Cheyenne Sky' or something similar.












Bed portion 2: A really not-delightful mix of more original ornamental grass (blue circles), crowded into the margin by what I think is a wild tri-lobed sumac (orange circle), and more yellow nutsedge (red circles).







Bed portion 3:  A miserable grouping of ornamental grass (blue circles), common dayflower (yellow circles) and yellow nutsedge (red circle).  The common dayflower, as you know from my previous rants thereof, is a virtually indestructible weed in this region.






I shall suffer on here, sickened by the senselessness of the slaughter I've seen, but not in silence, nay, I have again unleashed the furies of  unsolicited advice on the herbicidal unwashed.  Unrequited, I may soon have to resort to guerrilla gardening in the shadows of night, spray bottle and trowel in hand, a furtive figure following a path to futile madness.   

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Purple Wow Factor

'Orpheline de Julliet'
I think this blog is far past due for a rose update, don't you agree?  Old Garden Roses are nearly always beautiful and generally healthy little floral critters, but even these time-selected varieties seldom bring me to my knees with awe.  This particular new rose in my garden, however, 'Orpheline de Julliet’, is certainly making me sway on my feet if only just a little.

I planted 'Orpheline de Julliet' in 2017, a small band without much substance at the time, but a lot of promise.  She survived the drought of last year, growing a little but not spectacularly.  This year she has grown to approximately 2 feet tall and wide, and is finally giving me a show that I hope will only grow over the years as she reaches her advertised mature height of 6 feet tall.

'Orpheline de Julliet', whom I'll nickname "Orphie" here, is a Gallica rose of unknown heritage.  Some sources trace her to William Paul's The Rose Garden published in 1848, while others claim she was listed in Vibert's catalog in 1836 and give her a pre-1836 birthdate.  According to Brent Dickinson, the name translates to "July (female) Orphan," so named because she often blooms later than most once-blooming roses, an orphan at the end of the rose season.  Here, in Kansas, I wouldn't call her particularly late, as she is blooming along with 'Madame Hardy' and right at the tail of the main rose bloom in my garden.  Officially, helpmefindrose.com lists her as "crimson and red", with a strong fragrance, full quartered bloom form, once-blooming, and with a Zone 4 cold tolerance.

'Tuscany Superb'
The lure of Orphie, however, is in those deep crimson blooms.  I've seldom seen a rose with such deep color, similar to 'Tuscany Superb' but with more full flowers and even deeper tones.  My 'Tuscany Superb', seen at right, struggles in the garden, while Orphie is drawing my attention right from the starting gate and is much healthier and more robust. Set off against a light green matte foliage, the blooms fairly pop from the bush across the garden, don't they?  Yes, 'Orpheline de Julliet' will be a keeper in my garden, with proven survival power and the ability to make Mrs. ProfessorRoush gasp as she comes round to her corner.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Old Friends and New

'Topaz Jewel', risen from the muck
While ProfessorRoush's exterior surfaces are a bit "dampened" by all the rain we've been getting, he was still overjoyed today to see the little bit of "sunshine" to the right, re-entering his garden on a cloudy day after so many years of absence.  This is 'Topaz Jewel', planted in 2009, a nice rose in a lousy spot. Blasted by winter, forage for Japanese beetles, she has survived all that and risen again.  She has not bloomed in my garden for the past two years, and in 2017, in fact, I wrote her off as extinct when I found nothing but a dry corpse of stems in her stead.  Then, last year, among the weeds and the Rosa Mundi that I let spread a little too much in this area during my drought-garden ennui, there was some rose foliage here that looked slightly different than R. mundi, a little lighter green, and a little rougher leaf texture.  This spring there was a start of a stronger growth, now more visibly rugose, and I've been holding my breath for months as this bud grew and grew and matured during the rain until two days ago, the sepals began to spread and showed this brilliant yellow hue, confirming that 'Topaz Jewel' had survived against all odds.  In the midst of all the death from Rose Rosette Disease in my garden, one small bit of rugosa resistance is all I really need to lift me as high as the storm clouds around central Kansas.

In fact, my entire rose garden area is a swamp, a clay-based water basin of pure ooze.  It is placed on a slight slope behind the house, but still, this morning, after an inch of rain Saturday and another 3/4's inch last night, you can see the water standing next to this bed right in front of 'Topaz Jewel' in the photo to the left.  I planted a couple of new roses yesterday in a bed near here, slipping and sliding them into their designated spots, and found that if you dig a hole 6 inches deep anywhere in these garden beds, it will fill instantly with water.  I will probably have nightmares tonight of all the rose roots screaming for oxygen in the yard while I helplessly listen to the storms forecast to visit once again.  'Topaz Jewel' and her immediate neighbors are at least in a raised berm, probably their only salvation at present.


New roses are beginning to bloom this year, however, to fill in the gaps from RRD and to keep my hopes "afloat."  The striped rose pictured at the right, in keeping with my switch to RRD-resistant Hybrid Rugosas and Old Garden Roses, was planted just last year, and today was the first bloom in my garden of Mr. 'Georges Vibert'.  Mr. Vibert, or Georges as I will affectionately call him, is an 1853 Gallica bred by M. Robert of France.  You all know my weakness for striped roses, and this one seemed like an obvious choice to fill in a gap in both my garden beds and in my soul.  I'm hopeful for Georges continued health and vitality in my garden, especially since helpmefind/roses states that the Montreal Botanical Garden rated it as one of it's most disease resistant roses in 1998.

I should finish by apologizing for being unable to resist the water-referencing puns I've "sprinkled" through this entry.  Puns, though painful to the reader, are often, in my opinion, just one manifestation of a tormented writing soul, or, more specifically in my case, one "drowning" in an unusually wet season.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

What the Bleep is This?

So, God, I guess you decided that sending me Rose Rosette Disease and wiping out all my modern roses wasn't enough of a trial for me, huh?  A devastating hail wasn't enough?  You didn't remember that your previous gift of Japanese Beetles was surely enough of a plague to throw at me?  You had to find some new pestilence to give me a new challenge?

I was peacefully inspecting the roses on Friday night during a break in the continual storms of the past week, when the skeletonized leaves of the photo above caught my eye.  Gads, I thought, what is this?  Luckily for me, I've been around the rose block, so to speak, and knew immediately what I was looking at; Endelomyia aethiops, better known as the Roseslug.  Or, in it's adult form, a sawfly.   And, as I looked closer, these were on almost every non-Hybrid Rugosa rose in my garden; in other words, on almost all the old garden roses and other hybrids that survived my RRD epidemic.  I've seen them before at the K-State Gardens and in other rose gardens, but rarely in mine and never on some many roses at once.

Of course, I'm not an expert at insect larvae identification, and it could be that these are Allantus cinctus, the Curled Rose Sawfly, or perhaps Cladius difformis, the Bristly Rose Slug.  Still, "my" larvae do not have bristles, nor do they curl up when disturbed, so I'm going to maintain these are Endelomyia aethiops.  Even though I don't really care about the actual identification other than the scientific curiosity of the thing.  I simply want them dead.  I want all of them dead.
Internet sources suggested they can be controlled by handpicking.  Sure, you bet, I'm going to handpick these off of all the dozens of roses out there in the garden. Not!  I also read that they can be removed by spraying with water since they can't climb back onto the plant after they have been dislodged.  And yes, insecticidal soap and horticultural oils are also effective treatments.

Geminy, what a bunch of W.E.E. wimps these internet insect gurus are!  I don't want to just inconvenience these slugs, I want to nuke them off the planet!  I agree with the suggestion of Sigourney Weaver's character (Lt. Ripley) in Aliens; another story about a rapidly breeding destructive set of insects.  "Nuke them from orbit," Ripley said, "it's the only way to be sure."  So I went for the big guns.   Because some of these roses also had a little early blackspot after all the rain, I dusted off my trusty bottle of Ortho 3-in-1 insecticide-fungicide-miticide and went nuclear on these helpless larvae.  You can see the dampness of the spray on the leaves of the second photo.
  
I won't try to defend my actions, except to firmly avow that I carefully followed the label directions. On the contrary, I admit that I enjoyed every second of this momentary lapse from my best attempts to garden organically.  Heck, what good is science anyway, if we can't use it?

Monday, May 13, 2019

Prairie Moon Rising

ProfessorRoush was forced into the mundane chores of garden these past two days on the prairie.  Rapidly growing grass and weeds meant that I spent most of Saturday's 'free time' mowing the lawn and trimming, and most of Sunday's "free time" weeding and planting.  I planted 22 garden pepper plants and 17 tomatoes.  And I also replaced the watermelon and cantaloupe that I planted and previously mentioned in the Showing the Crazy blog entry.  Not surprisingly, the first two didn't make it.  This time I planted 'Sugar Baby' watermelon, 'Ambrosia' and 'Athena' cantaloupes. 

Remember the song "Bad Moon Rising" by Creedance Clearwater Revival?  Lyrics that include "I hear hurricanes a-blowing.  I know the end is coming soon.  I hear the rivers over flowing...There's a bad moon on the rise."  Well, my 'Prairie Moon' peony is rising (upper left), and it's not a bad moon, even though the rain around here has the ground saturated and some folk in town have water in basements again.  'Prairie Moon' is just a beauty, pure white blooms as big as your outstretched hand and healthy bright green smooth foliage.  What's that you say?  The foliage isn't smooth?  Yeah, that's a volunteer hollyhock in front of the peony that I didn't have the heart to root out.  As long as it doesn't smother 'Prairie Moon', I'll let the hollyhock bloom and then grub it out later.   

Speaking of tomato planting, I had the bright idea to plant Mrs. ProfessorRoush's favorite grape-sized tomatoes in the large pots on the back (south) patio this year.   They'll get major sun there if they can stand the heat.  I was hand-digging a hole in the potting soil and the little gray tree frog pictured at the left about gave me a heart-attack, sitting as still as a postage stamp on the edge of the pot.  I almost put my hand right on him!   Here they come again, those sneaky peeping frogs, watching my every move.  Creeps me out, I tell you.

Bella is in the garden with me most days right now, protecting me and making sure the Texas Longhorns don't cross the barbed wire fence.  There is something that just feels right about longhorns on the prairie, isn't there?  Well, may not right to Bella, who seems a little disturbed by these big dumb things in her pasture.



Saturday, May 11, 2019

Perplexing Puzzler

ProfessorRoush is not sure what was unique about last winter, but there was a disturbing desertion from the garden this spring, a vexing vacancy of one of my most annually-anticipated arrivals.  Sadly, my 'Mohawk' viburnum did not bloom, nay, it did not even bother to leaf out.  Normally, this corner is one of my favorite early spots in the garden, but not this year.

All the other viburnums in my garden, 'Juddii' (see pictured on the lower left), 'Opulus', 'V. burkwoodii, V. carlesii, 'Roseum',  all these leafed out on schedule, fragrant and full.  But not 'Mohawk'.  Even now, after 'Juddii' has faded and dropped its blooms, settling in for a season of quiet growth, 'Mohawk' remains leafless, a mere twiggy skeleton, conspicuous in its absence.

Viburnum 'Juddii'
But I'm just scratching the surface of this mystery.  Literally, as I scratch the surface gray bark of 'Mohawk',  the inner bark is still green, all the way to its tips.  Will it yet undergo reincarnation?  Can I hope to see it leaf out and live on into next year?  What caused this lack of spring season rebirth?  Was it the extreme drought of last summer?  The subsequent wet fall and winter, drowning in the roots grown deep to keep it alive? Did a late freeze catch it just at its most vulnerable time, leaf and flower buds on the cusp of expansion, only to be frozen in time?

I'm actually leaning toward the latter theory based on the supporting evidence that almost all of my Rose Of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) are also either very slow to leaf this year or partially dead or both.  Several of those have yet to do anything, while a few are leafing out slowly and carefully, as if they were expecting cold weather yet.  These too, are still green beneath their outer bark.  To have a whole genus caught out and damaged by weather doesn't surprise me as much as a single cultivar of a genus, early bloomer though 'Mohawk' may be in relation to its relatives.

Any theories or advice out there among yee gardening Sherlock's of the internet?   Grub out 'Mohawk' and replace it (since I love it too much to do permanently without), facing the inevitable, or hope for self-rejuvenation and a gentle summer?


Sunday, May 5, 2019

Lilacs, Plantings, and Peonies

Oh, it's been an eventful weekend here on ProfessorRoush's home place.  Work, work, work, sunup to sundown, soreness to sunburn.  I'm catching up rapidly on the chores, trying to do the massive and minor garden chores alike before it gets too warm to enjoy.








But first, I must announce a tie this year for "First Rose to Bloom".  'Marie Bugnet' (at left) is struggling in my garden, down to a single stem that I'm going to try to layer and root before it goes, but she still managed to sneak in her perennial virginal white claim to "first bloom."  She was given a run for her money, however, by 'Fru Dagmar Hastrup' (above), who managed not one, but two of these delicate pink blooms to greet the sun on the same day.  The final decision was left to the judge, however, like this year's Kentucky Derby, and I've awarded First Bloom to Marie B. again, handicapped as she is by the meager foliage beneath her.


In the meantime, I've got a massive list of accomplishments this weekend.  1) I finished all the bark mulching and weeding of the beds around the house, which involved a total of around 45 bags of mulch in this round. 2) I purchased and planted 13 daylily starts sold yesterday morning at the Farmer's Market by the Flint Hills Daylily Society.  3) I painted our eyesore of a mailbox, much to Mrs. ProfessorRoush's chagrin, since she will have to find something else to express displeasure over.  4) I painted the pasture gate, which was starting to show rust through the previous 20-year-old paint.  5) I opened up 20 or so bales of straw and mulched several lower beds. 6) I planted the gladiola corms you see at the right; a row of multi-color and a row of bright reds to serve as cut flowers later in the season.  7) I weeded the strawberries, onions, peas, and potatoes.  8) I repotted the indoor Christmas Cacti and Easter Lilies. 9) I pruned back several crape myrtles. 10) I mowed the front and back yards. 11) I planted several small shrubs into empty spots.  12) I put Gerbena Daisies into the pots near the garage. 13) I planted two Miscanthus sinensis ‘Purpurescens’ into two large landscape pots. 14) I filled the bird feeders. 15) I tidied up the garage. 16) I made two trips to box stores to purchase various and sundry needed gardening items including mulch and potting soil. 17) I repaired the vents on the septic bed. 18) I did approximately a seemingly infinite number of "Honey-do" chores for Mrs. ProfessorRoush. 19) Whew...I've forgotten what else. What a weekend!

In other news, I'm very pleased this year with the look of the front landscaping.  Even without blooms at present, there's a fair bit of foliage color visible as you can see at the left, looking from the west to the east across the front.  Ninebark 'Amber Jubilee', Japanese Maple 'Emperor 1', Forsythia 'Golden Tines', Lilac 'Scent and Sensibility', variegated euonymuses (euonymi?)  'Moonshadow' and 'Emerald Gaiety' and many others give some pleasant texture to all the green around them. 







'Scent and Sensibility' dwarf lilac
Speaking of Lilac 'Scent and Sensibility', I'm very happy with this well-behaved addition to the front garden.  Standing at 4 years old and a mature height of 2.5 feet and width of 3.5 feet, 'Scent and Sensibility' is marketed as a "dwarf" lilac and is just coming into major bloom as the Syringa vulgaris types fade out, the former's sweet scent permeating the entire front garden at just the right moment.  I'm very pleased that this 2015 addition to my garden is making her own mark in the landscape.


Last, but not least, in other blooms, my Paeonia suffruticosa Tree Peony continues to survive, a miracle here on the prairie.  Yesterday it had this single yellow bloom and in today's sunshine, it opened up two more.  I mulched around it carefully this weekend, cognizant that last year a garter snake surprised me by peering out of its leaves, just as I was taking a closeup photo of a bloom.  I'm pretty sure the same snake is back, as a couple of branches rustled around when I came close this time as well.  Such a nice peony and I can't enjoy it up close again.  Drat.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Skinking around

My fears were misplaced but not entirely misdirected.  Last Saturday, ProfessorRoush set out to move 26-or-so landscaping concrete blocks that surround his trees and protect them from too-close-string-trimmers and fire-bug neighbors.  Specifically, the blocks of interest were around a Black Gum tree that HAD been damaged by a prairie fire and around a Sugar Maple that was snapped in half during a storm last year, and I wanted to move them to be around two still-living trees which were without even that inadequate means of protection.  Knowing that the blocks had been in place for several years and had likely become the adopted home of a prairie snake or two, I was carefully flipping them over one-by-one, constantly poised to take flight in the event of a slithering serpent.

By approximately block #13 or so, I had become complacent, having encountered only some ant nests and the occasional beetle.  Just as I relaxed, of course, lifting block #15 casually and with no trepidation at all, the slinking skink pictured at the top came flying past my pant legs, causing me to fling the block isideways while briskly backpedaling from the area. 

This is, of course, a Northern Prairie Skink, Eumeces septentrionalis.  I identified it from the from the marvelous text, Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas, by Joseph T. Collins.  I've seen them here before, but not in the numbers that I encountered last Saturday when I found that blocks #15-26 covered a colony of a minimum five adult skinks, some of which just tried to burrow deeper as I disturbed their chilly environs (as you can see by the tail visible in the picture at right.  They are carnivorous reptiles, not amphibians as I originally thought them to be, eating insects and spiders and small lizards as their normal diet. Despite my initial panic when they appear, I always go out of my way to leave them as undisturbed as possible so they can continue to compete in their ecological niche.  After all, a skink in the stones beats a snake in the grass anytime, in my opinion.   God knows, I've got enough of the latter around.     

My Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas is the 1993 third edition, published through funds from the Chickadee Checkoff, a special contribution we can make on our Kansas tax returns that is directed to natural resources in the state.  The text may be authored by Mr. Collins of the Natural History Museum in Lawrence, Kansas, but the wonderful color photographs, a change in the 3rd edition from the previous black and white editions, were contributed by Suzanne L. Collins, she likely an enlisted and long-suffering spouse much like the delightful Mrs. ProfessorRoush is for me.  Where, I ask you, would science sometimes be without a more-or-less-willing spouse content to carry a camera and go through heck and back alongside the focused fool leading the expeditions?


Saturday, April 27, 2019

I Just Love Spring!

There is nothing quite like the satisfaction of a gentle, lamb-like spring easing into summer.  The world reborn, brown changed into green, rainbows all over the landscape.  Crocus yielding to forsythia bowing to redbud and magnolias, ceding to viburnums.  Peonies budding up to be the next star in the garden beds.  The feel of warm sunshine on skin, the smell of damp earth stirred by fingers, the cold undulations of disturbed earthworms in turned soil.  Sore muscles unused from winter, aching rough hands, and a tired gardener each night.  Yes, there is nothing like a good spring.

Spring continues here in full force, best evidenced by the fantastic bloom this year of our purple wisteria, a mere generic Wisteria sinensis, but a pleasant surprise for Mrs. ProfessorRoush when she discovered it.  She told ProfessorRoush she liked the fragrance of his yellow wisteria more, causing some confusion on his part since he doesn't have any yellow wisteria and had never heard of the existence of  yellow wisteria.  As it turned out, Mrs. ProfessorRoush was confusing the name "wisteria" with "forsythia," further confusing ProfessorRoush because he doesn't remember his forsythia having much fragrance.  Ah, the perplexities of long marriages of dissimilar interests.

Still further confusion ensued later, when intrigued, I decided to search the internet for yellow wisteria.  There are fabulous pictures everywhere on the internet of bright yellow pendulous blooms labeled Yellow Chinese Wisteria (which I want lusted for instantly), and offers for seed from any number of irreputable sources, but no descriptions of yellow wisteria from either more scientific sources or offers of grown plants by reputable nursery wholesalers.  Wisteria, I maintain, likely only comes in white, lavenders and blues, and offers to purchase seed for the mystical yellow forsythia are likely hoaxes, but I'm happy to be educated if I'm wrong.

I've stayed busy in the garden this week.  One major project for me this year is to mulch many of the beds with straw.  For years, I have mulched most of my larger garden with lawn clippings, but because of all the dust I raised last summer during mowing, which continued into the first mowing this year, I think this year the lawn needs the clippings more than the garden beds.  Maybe a year's worth of thatch will begin to restore my prairie.  Besides, don't the lilacs look happy at the anticipation of far more moisture conservation and cooler soils from me than they've know in the past?  I think so.  That 4 inches of packed straw will eliminate any weeding this year and maybe the next in this bed. One bed down, six to go. 

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Showing the Crazy

 ProfessorRoush has missed posting a couple times this week.  I have not been entirely idle in the garden but there didn't seem like there was much to tell.  Some early henbit needed mowing, so the lawn mower was fired up and the mulching plug put in.  I loaded up the trailer and brought home 16 bales of straw to use as garden mulch.  That seems like a lot, but there will be a lot more this year since I'm mulching everything with straw and putting the lawn clippings on the dusty lawn.  And I noticed my Paeonia tenuifolia is blooming and snagged the bumble picture at the upper right.  Notice how full his pollen basket is and yet, he continues to harvest the bountiful yellow pollen in a bee-frenzied fit of gluttony.

Yesterday, I also did the craziest thing I've done in the garden in ages.  While purchasing the straw at a local garden center, I couldn't resist the swan call of these two plants, a Crimson Sweet Watermelon, photo at left, and the Ball 2076 muskmelon pictured below.

 Normally, I plant these from seed sometime in June, but they begged me incessantly to take them home.  I checked the 10 day forecast, saw no nighttime temperatures below 42ºF, and so decided that this year, if by some miracle they survived, I might be able to beat the local markets for homegrown melons and thus not be too late to gain Mrs. ProfessorRoush's admiration and gratitude.  Previously, by the time my seed grown melons are ripe, she has already bought several at the local markets and is sick of them, leaving me dejected and without praise.

Some of the straw went to mulch the garden all around the melons; at least the ground around them will stay nice and moist and cool all summer and I'll be able to avoid weeding among the vines.  If I'm lucky, the straw will also make it harder for the rabbits to find these melons.






Early bloomers continue to pop up everywhere in the garden since the frost has stayed away for a week or more.  My Red Peach is a bright beacon in the back of the garden, a standout in the evening sun.  Alas, last year in a storm, I lost the red peach tree in front of the house, pictured in the link, but this one is doing just fine.

And, to my surprise, I noticed this iris blooming (here, right and below, left) yesterday.  I have it planted in a corner of the vegetable garden, an experiment from when we just moved to the prairie which I never got around to  transplanting into a perennial bed.  I don't know it's name, but here it is, in a hurry to be the first, several weeks ahead of my other iris.








Viburnums are blooming too; at least some of them, but that's another story for a later time.  Check back here soon and I'll tell you that tale just as soon as I solve the mystery of why some are MIA.


Sunday, April 14, 2019

Burned the Cold Away

Sunday morning, bright, sunny, and my Iris tectorum variegata is a standout in the garden.  I just love the way these green and yellow leaves catch and amplify the sunlight in the early spring.  Every year, I divide and spread this iris across my garden, now 10 clumps from the original one.  It's one of the few plants that I grow specifically for the joy of the foliage rather than the flowers.  Although the flowers of I. tectorum are nothing to sneeze at since they are plenty fragrant as well!



My neighbors and I burned our little spot of prairie yesterday.  The burn went well, a decent wind for headfires but under control when we were careful, and there were no mishaps like last year when my neighbor burned out one of my small apple trees.   It was the second really cold morning (approximately 32ºF) of the week and as there are no other mornings in the immediate forecast that cold, I think we can truthfully say we burned away the last of winter, in many, many ways.   The ground, now black and foreboding, will quickly warm and in two weeks it will be a carpeted vision of Eden. Thankfully, no more frost is in the immediate forecast because I had three gallon-size roses come in last week for planting and I've got several more coming this week.  Yesterday, I planted "La Ville de Bruxelles', 'Park Wilhelmshone', and 'Rosalina', a damask, modern gallica, and Hybrid Rugosa respectively, and then covered all three plants with glass cloches which I will remove in the mornings of next week when we have 80º highs predicted.


At last, Mrs. ProfessorRoush's favorite tree is blooming, the redbud outside the kitchen and laundry room.  I always think of redbuds as the real start of the garden year, this major landscape tree associated in my mind with so many other garden chores (the start of asparagus, the timing of crabgrass preventer, etc).  Pictured here with 'Annabelle' lilac, also just beginning to bloom, the redbud is as late as I've noted before, on a par with 2005 and 2006 for bloom time.  Our late spring continues on the Kansas prairie. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Wish Granted

ProfessorRoush got his wish today.  At the close of my last blog entry, I said that I only hoped that the 'Ann' Magnolia would stop being shy and would bloom with the forsythia.  Two very warm days later, here it is, dark magenta and screaming yellow, together at last.











'Ann' 4/10/2019
Both 'Ann' (a luscious and inviting bloom pictured at left), and 'Jane' (pictured below on the right) are Magnolia stellata x M. liliflora hybrids in the "Little Girls" series that were released by the U.S. National Arboretum.   Dr. Francis de Vos began the program and it was followed up by Dr. William Kosar, with a total of 8 hybrids ultimately released. I've written about 'Jane' here before, but not 'Ann.'






'Jane'
'Jane' 4/10/2019
 'Ann' is the younger of the two siblings in my garden, beginning her 6th season, and she should eventually reach 8 feet tall and wide if I can keep the deer off of her.  'Jane' is the more mature and taller specimen, already 11 years old and closing in on 10 feet tall.  She is opening her more demure pink and cream blooms a little later this year than her sister, with about 1/6th of her blossoms beginning to open at present while over half of 'Ann' is already showing.  Since both are blooming well this year in the garden, along with Magnolia stellata 'Royal Star', I had the welcome opportunity to compare their fragrance. 'Royal Star' is clearly the winner there, very musky and damp, throwing a hint of Cretaceous jungle into the Kansas winds that I can smell for tens of yards downwind.  'Jane' is no slouch however, with a more refined light and almost lemony scent that also carries in the breeze.  'Ann' however, is a disappointment in that regard, only the very lightest fragrance detectable occasionally when my nose is buried right next to her....deepest parts.

There's a cold front coming here soon, though, with 30ºF predicted two nights away, so I hope it doesn't damage the rest of these life-brightening blooms.  In other news, I was able to put about 4 good hours into garden yesterday evening. in short sleeves and 75ºF weather, and I cleaned off my entire front landscaping bed, cleared, readied, weeded and fertilized for the season to come.  I'd have gotten the back bed done tonight, but I chose instead to go morel hunting.  No joy on that end for this gardener, however.





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