Sunday, June 30, 2019

Thoughtful Rest

OA lily hybrid 'Kaveri'
ProfessorRoush is almost there; nearly to the autopilot period of the summer garden, the period of the summer where the grass barely needs mowing, the weeds are under control, and the primary chores are behind him.  Time to rest and enjoy the garden, perhaps not to read in the garden shade along with these bright lilies, but at least to slow down and enjoy what he can.  Before fall arrives in haste, before finishing the rose dead cane removals, weather-protecting the patio, staining the gazebo, re-blacktopping the blacktop, and the thousand other things that I think of when I'm in the garden, I must take time to enjoy it's life, the life of my garden.  Besides, keeping it all running smoothly can be chore enough.  Yesterday, the lawn mower quit 20 minutes before I was ready to finish.  I was far too hot and tired during my 7th hour in the garden when the temperatures hovered between 95º and 100º to care to work on it yesterday, but I got up this morning and revived the lawn mower, a major victory by this gardener of no mechanical skill.  Sometimes, even a blind squirrel finds a nut, as the old saying goes.

'Fru Dagmar Hastrup
I need to enjoy my garden alongside the bees, who are certainly enjoying the second bloom of 'Fru Dagmar Hastrup'.  This one and his friends were going crazy spinning around the many fresh blooms.  Lots of blooms, lots of hips, healthy foliage, and not a single Japanese Beetle yet to be seen. 'Fru Dagmar' is having a moment, and it's a moment not to be ignored.

'Fru Dagmar Hastrup' second bloom
 Despite all my complaining about rose rosette disease and its devastation of my garden, I'm beginning to see the other, brighter side of the post-RRD schism.  The young rugosas and old garden roses are coming along and there are now small shrubs in many places where there were bare spots last summer and fall.  And the older, more mature rugosas, like 'Fru Dagmar Hastrup', are picking up the slack, providing me some needed bloom and food for the bees.  I'll soon be blogging about new roses again, new roses to my aging garden.

'Fru Dagmar Hastrup' hip
'Fru Dagmar Hastrup' is also going to provide a second later season of pleasure for me, these big plump hips from the first bloom just starting to turn and covering the plant alongside the newer blooms.  Their shear mass, the size of a plum or large grape, is only rivaled in my garden by the bodacious hips of 'Foxi Pavement' , pictured below.  I like big hips and I cannot lie. I'm interested to see which hips are more red as we progress towards fall, and which hips stay so prominent and full.
'Foxi Pavement' hip

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Hitchhikers and Heartthrobs

Most gardeners, ProfessorRoush included, labor under the delusion that we choose our plants, the plants we value enough to care for, but, truth be told, it is often the plants that choose us.  My list of the plants that co-inhabit our garden with me contains three main subcategories; the very, very, very long list of plants that I purchased that have subsequently perished from the prairie, the surprisingly short list plants I purchased that still survive in the garden, and the unintentionally long list of plants that chose my garden as adequate shelter for their own purposes.  I've spoken before of the native plants, like Asclepias tuberosa, or the Salvia azurea that I allow to grow as they desire in any bed of the garden.  I've also written about some plants that insist on growing everywhere here, such as Ambrosia artemisiifolia, despite my constant efforts to eliminate them.

There is a fourth category, however of gardening troubles that we purchase, sometimes intentionally and sometimes by accident, and come to regret.  Such an accidental hitchhiker in my garden is illustrated by what I think is a type of hops vine pictured above, photo taken just today.  This vine has been a constant nuisance in this one spot in my garden for the twenty years we've lived here.  About every two weeks, I have to search out and destroy the many sprouts of this fast-growing vine, lest it overwhelm every other plant in the area.  I've never grown it intentionally, but I can trace its arrival to a load of "good" soil that we had brought in to provide a decent border around the stamped concrete patio in the back when we built the house.  Interestingly there were 3 actual truck loads delivered to form this border, but the only area that grows the presumed hops vine was from a single truckload.  If asked, I can attest that the seeds of these vines survive and germinate at least 20 years after being deposited.  The only remaining question is whether the hops seeds will ever cease to germinate or whether I leave this Earth first and am beyond caring about it.

Aralia cordata, K-State Gardens
I suppose, when pressed, I'd have to admit to a fifth category of garden plants; those plants that we covet and have never grown.  I've been admiring this Japanese Spikenard, Aralia cordata, for several years.  Pictured as it grows in the K-State Gardens (beneath the shade of the American Elm), it glows like a lighthouse beacon.  I keep waiting, secretly hoping, to find the flaw in this plant, the insect damaged foliage that it has never displayed, the fungal disease which it doesn't seem to get, but it just thrives there, short and pretty, as I leer and drool over its perfect form.  I know that I want it, deep in my gardening soul.  I also know that it would die almost instantly here in my shadeless garden, blasted by the Kansas July sun into dry tinder.  Just another heartthrob plant that I can never grow.

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


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.   


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...