Wednesday, October 30, 2019

It's A Bit Early....

ProfessorRoush thinks so.  My outside thermometer thinks so.  Ding and Dong, the donkeys, thinks so.  And I'm darned sure these Fragaria think so.  We all agree that it is too darned early for snow in north-central Kansas.

These Burpee special, 'Berries Galore' strawberries (read it from the label) have graced three pots all summer long under the edge of Mrs. ProfessorRoush's favorite Redbud tree near the driveway, there always to provide me a few tasty treats as I wander in and out of the house.  I enjoy them and their slightly tart taste despite the effort I put out all summer to keep them watered and alive in the burning sun of this Western exposure.

But, today, October 30, 2019, here they are, feeling the chill of winter in their first light snowfall, weeks early for this area of Kansas.  In thirty years of living here, I can remember one snowfall on Halloween resulting in a very cold trick-or-treating effort with my young son in the mid-90's.  There were none before or since. 

Unfortunately, this will be the demise of these bright fushia-lipstick-pink blooms and the strawberries that would have developed from them.  This weekend, I'll bring these pots into the barn where they can have a little protection but remain dormant for the winter.  With a little luck, these berry plants will live to see another Spring for me. 

And never fear, in regards to our larger garden strawberry bed, my pride and joy, I put it to bed for the season under a light blanket of straw just this weekend.  Snug, happy, and deer-protected, I'm prepared for what I hope is a dynamite strawberry crop next May.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Last Blooms

'Morden Sunrise'
Puttering around yesterday, enjoying working outside on a perfect sunny fall day in a short-sleeve shirt, it suddenly dawned on ProfessorRoush that he was in the company of the last blooms of 2019, considering the cold front coming and 24ºF lows predicted in two days.  He felt it best to spare a few moments from cleaning the garage and covering the strawberries so that he could share these last few blossoms with you.  And fortunate it was, since the first bloom he could find was beautiful 'Morden Sunrise', awash in the golds and pinks of her fall colors.

More overtly bright and cheerful, this last Hollyhock greeted me as I turned the corner of the house.  Normally, this hollyhock is a bright pink, but fall seems to bring out her red tones, back-lit by the sun as she was.  I don't know what a Hollyhock was doing blooming this late in fall, but I was happy to see her waiting for my adoration.  She is completely filled out, too, not as beaten down by fickle weather as many other blooms.

'Comte de Chambord'
I was overjoyed to see this 'Comte de Chambord', a dependable repeating Portland that hasn't yet succumbed to Rose Rosette disease, but I was less happy, looking up how to spell her name, that all the internet sources show her as bright pink.  I've had her in the garden over 15 years, even blogged about her, and she does occasionally blush pink, but she never turns anywhere near the pink of her internet portraits.  Now, as I see her bleached completely white in the fall, have I been growing a mis-named rose all this time?  Rats. 

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the garden was to find 'AppleJack' with a single, scented bloom holding on for dear life.  This early Griffith Buck rose usually blooms only for 6 weeks or so during the main season, with seldom rebloom, but the wet year must have it working overtime to compete with the hollyhocks.  Regardless, both this beetle and I are happy to see it.

'David' phlox, or whatever my spreading white phlox is now, still blooms in several places but best here in a very protected spot between other shrubs.  Clean, pure, and white, it still is attracting pollinators even as it stares the coming winter right in the face.  Since snow is predicted tomorrow, I'll have to remember to revisit it to see if it blooms for a few moments in the snow as well.

'David Thompson'
It is my undesired, and unappreciated 'David Thompson' who is bringing home the prize.  As I've written previously, I've never really liked this rose, nor the prominent place I've given it, but I have to admit to its tenacity in the face of disapproval.  This Explorer series rose survives, and almost thrives, among neglect and disdain in my back border.  I've learned to keep if from suckering out of control by withholding fertilizer and water and love.   Today, however, those blooms are perfect and deeply colored, laughing at my lack of care and showing me who really deserves to be a part of this garden.

'George Vancouver'
Not last, but last pictured, Canadian rose 'George Vancouver' is attempting to keep a little bright red color alive to compete with the browning grasses and leaves.  I haven't grown 'George Vancouver' long or mentioned him on this blog, and he is still a small shrub, but he is going into its second winter for me and continues to show promise here on the prairie. 

Last, and not pictured, are a bunch of also-rans and almosts.  English rose 'Heritage' has a few bedraggled blossoms to sniff as you pass, and I've seen a really beaten lilac bloom here or there over the past couple of weeks.  I had some really nice reblooming irises show up last week, but I cut them all for the house before a recent frost could take them.   And the grasses, prairie and ornamental, blooming grasses everywhere I look.  I don't think grass blooms count, however, and those are a subject for another day.


Saturday, October 19, 2019

Guess Where I Was?

As the title of this post asks, look at the picture to the right and take a guess where ProfessorRoush spent the week.....and you, yes you there, don't peek down the screen until you've guessed.  Hint:  Obviously I wasn't doing much gardening this week, but I did spend some time in a beautiful conservatory.

Yes, to those who have been there and guessed correctly, I spent the week in Las Vegas.  Nevada. USA.  For work, not for play, but that doesn't mean that I completely holed up in the hotel.  In fact, I tend to hate the hotels, because in Vegas, they still allow smoking in the casinos, which I wouldn't step foot in but you have to walk through them to get around anywhere, even from your room to the cafe or outside.

I never go to Vegas, however, even to work, without walking around the sights and I always make sure to visit the Bellagio.  I didn't stay at the Bellagio this time, in fact I've never stayed there, but it's a short walk from where I did stay.  For those who haven't seen it, raise your right hand and repeat after me:  "I will never visit Vegas without seeing the Bellagio fountain show at night and the Bellagio Conservatory during the day."  The more colorful pictures on the page are from the current display at the Conservatory, and of course the night picture above is typical of the Bellagio fountain.

These displays change seasonably and are always full of real plants.  Obviously, the current display has a Subcontinent feel, wedding and all, and it didn't have the overabundant floral display that I've seen before, but it was fabulous nonetheless.  Many of the animals in the display moved, tails on the tigers twitching, ears on the elephants swatting, the monkey turning its head side to side and the peacocks making whatever sounds a peacock is supposed to make.

I especially loved this little cornucopia of pumpkins and fall grasses.  The color and details of the grouping were just perfect.

So were the details on this monkey, standing next to a wagon and the intricately charged pumpkin.  This perfect picturesque pumpkin.

A trio of foxes were romping around a "Green Man" tree, the tree occasionally speaking in a booming voice and Tiffany-style dragon flies floating over the scene.

I was also pleased to see, in the corner of the conservatory over the entrance to a restaurant, this prominently-displayed American flag.  It doesn't belong on the Indian Subcontinent, but it also didn't look at all out of place.  What can I say, I'm a sucker for a little patriotism in the middle of artful excess.  Remember, never go to Vegas without seeing the Bellagio Conservatory and the Bellagio fountain at night.  It's a sure recipe for magic.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Heads

My garden, especially this time of year, does what it can to add to the seasonal festivities.  At least, Mrs. ProfessorRoush thinks so, having recently referred to certain ProfessorRoush-approved features as "creepy."  I would like to take that as a compliment to the ambiance of my pre-Halloween garden, but I really think she means it in a seriously derogatory fashion.  Her tone and disapproving demeanor suggest that she doesn't like the harmless "heads" dispersed in my garden.  Yes, I'm sure it is the "heads" she disapproves of.  Before you go off creating fake news, I should make it crystal clear that SWBMB (She Who Butters My Bread) is not referring to ProfessorRoush, the gardener himself, as being creepy.  At least I don't think so.

In actual fact, Mrs. ProfessorRoush doesn't like my "heads" at all and never has.  There are several disembodied heads, you see, dispersed in the garden, popping up just when you aren't really looking for them.  Merely faces, really, they provide some companionship to me in the garden while watching over the safety of the tree peony or while they just simply keep a watchful eye on the scenery.  I don't see them as "creepy" at all, but I confess that I have a thing for them, these concrete or iron mute inhabitants of my garden.  I've gathered a few over the years, still far fewer than the concrete rabbits in my garden, but the heads are growing in number.

The Lurker, pictured above, is the most startling to discover, peering out beneath a variegated eunonymus through the iris leaves, keeping the corner of the garage and driveway under surveillance at all times.  He actually is "only" a face, a concrete pour into a plastic  mold I purchased for $5.00 at a bookstore in years past.  I made just this one Lurker, but I still have the mold.  Do you think Mrs. ProfessorRoush would regret her harsh condemnation if I made a few more, say twenty-five or fifty of them, and put all over the garden?

I am really quite fond of The Iron Maiden, a grape-cluster adorned goddess permanently attached to the brick of the east side of the house.  It is she, the unyielding cast iron visage, who protects my only tree peony, sheltered with it in a spot that receives only gentle morning sun and protected from both the north and west winds. Oh, the stories she could tell of the golden peony and its resident garter snake.

Evidence suggests, however, that Mrs. ProfessorRoush's disdain and loathing is most directed at this beautiful feminine pottery sculpture, the Goddess of the Stones.  A Hobby Lobby special purchase, I bought her a number of years ago on clearance for, as I recall, the grand sum of $2.  I will freely admit that at the time I expected her to last only a short season or two, believing her to be just a little fired clay figure that would chip and disintegrate under the first few freezes.  On the contrary, she has held both her striking lines and gentle cream complexion for nearly a decade, sitting undisturbed on the limestone landscaping corner at the southeast point of the house, impervious to wind, sun, and rain.  Mrs. ProfessorRoush has repeatedly referred to The Goddess in the most disparaging terms, and she refuses to acknowledge the simple symmetry of this most comely countenance. If I could bring one of the heads to life, I would choose The Goddess of the Stones for lively lunch conversation or other diversions.

Along with the satisfaction they bring this gardener, the "heads" have one more most redeeming feature in relation to Mrs. ProfessorRoush.  They have made her completely forget, and indeed perhaps almost accept, my Kon-Tiki head, the first and largest head of my garden.  When I purchased it, nearly 20 years ago, she thought it was the most stupid thing she had ever seen in a garden.  She mellowed as the 'Rugelda' rugosa rose thrived around it, and today she hardly mentions it and certainly not in the same  association with the other heads.  It has faded from its original artificial antique green shade, now weathered concrete, and the rose around it has perished and been replaced by other plants, but it remains in the same spot as ever, watchful for the return of the gods from the east.  Perhaps it is simply less threatening to her jealous bone than The Iron Maiden or The Goddess but it's hard to argue that Kon-Tiki is far less frightening to unexpectedly encounter than the Lurker.


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