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' 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.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

A Good Day

Yesterday, ProfessorRoush had a bit of work to do, but that first good working day of spring was finally upon me, April 6, 2019.  It was initially forecast to rain in the late afternoon, so I reversed my usual spring starting point, the beds in front of the house, and instead I went for everything else. 

By the end of the day, I had cleaned out all the far beds in the back√, cut down all the ornamental grasses√, transplanted a bunch of rugosa rose suckers to fill in dead spots√,moved some daylilies being shaded by growing trees√. cut off the massive suckers from a purple smoke tree√, put up some of the peony hoops√, planted a purchased yellow twig dogwood√, sprayed the weeds in the buffalograss surrounding the house√, put down crabgrass preventer on the buffalograss areas√, planted some Oriental poppy seed√, fertilized and borer-proofed the lilacs√, put a new washer in a "Y" hose connector√, put up and filled bird feeders√ and visited the store for white paint (to put on the front gate to the pasture√.  I've probably forgotten some minor things.  All in all, one could say I had a pretty good day.

And then, it rained at 8:00 p.m.  Only about 3/4ths of an inch, but what perfect timing for the crabgrass preventer/lawn fertilizer!  I've never, ever, timed it better.

This year seems to be the perfect forsythia year.  I've never seen them look better here in Kansas, likely because it stayed cold until it was warm, and as their buds unfurled we had no rain, frosts, or, heaven forbid, snow to dampen their lively brightness.  They're also really late.  In the records I've kept for 15 years now, the latest timing of full forsythia bloom was March 28th (well, except for 2018, when we had no forsythia bloom here at all).  So we are at least a week later than my latest recorded full forsythia.   The closeup above is Forsythia 'Spring Glory', my brightest blooming forsythia.  The photo at the left is an unknown-named pair of forsythia planted three years ago.  If only the purple 'Ann' magnolia in the foreground would stop being shy and bloom with the forsythia!

Thursday, April 4, 2019

The World Needs More Pussy Willows

Beautiful day today here, high of 66ºF, bright and sunny.  I couldn't get outside and away from my day job to enjoy it, but certainly it looks a little more like spring each day.

I did take a moment tonight to visit my now-three-year-old Salix caprea ‘Curly Locks’, the white French Pussy Willow.  She is just coming into bloom and was summoning me from the house down to the garden as she reflected the golden waves of the evening sunshine.

My surprise tonight, though, was that upon drawing close to her, I realized that the Pussy Willow is a draw for what seems like every bee for miles.  If you click on the pictures, above and here to the right, you should see several either on a bloom or buzzing around the air.  A relative swarm, and much earlier in the year than I usually see any bees running around.

For that reason, and that reason alone, I must find and plant more Pussy Willows this year.  Given the current state of bee survival, anything I can do to find them quick spring nourishment is not only my pleasure, it's my duty for the garden.   I only have one Pussy Willow right now, but I now realize that I need more.  Lots more.

Salix caprea 'Curly Locks'

Monday, April 1, 2019

Taters and Ambrosia

Weather report:  High 60ºF.  Ground temperature 55ºF.  Mild north wind, mostly overcast.

When the wind is coming from the north blowing south, that's a north wind, right?  I've always been a little fuzzy on the exact meaning of a direction applied to wind.  Well, today, it was blowing from the north to the south and I'm going to refer to it as a north wind, right or wrong.

I got home from work around 7:00 p.m. today, took a few minutes to rustle up some mac and cheese for the starving Mrs. ProfessorRoush, and around 7:30 I made it out to the garden for the imperative activity of planting the seed potatoes and raking the straw off the strawberries.  Sixteen, well-scabbed, half-potatoes are now planted, hopefully happy in the cold and very wet earth.  This calendar day (April 1st) is the latest I've ever planted potatoes.  And, yes, I'm the proud owner of a few of those metal row stake/identifiers and I've painted them all wildflower blue like my garden benches.

I've also been chomping at the bit to uncover the strawberries.  With the next 10 day forecast free of low temperatures that might allow frost, I raked off the majority of the straw and deposited it as mulch in other parts of the garden.  The strawberries currently look great; green and happy beneath the straw.  Only in a few small places was the straw still moist from the recent rains, so it was likely the proper depth not to smother the wintering buds beneath it. Stay away frost, I can already taste those ripe warm strawberries!


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