Sunday, July 26, 2020

Storm A-Comin

The oncoming week of temperate weather conditions is wasting no time in arriving, with the temperature dropping from a 93ºF high two hours ago to a pleasant and breezy 85º at present.  And the sky to the west is providing that uneasy feeling best defined as "ominous."

It's Kansas in summertime, and I, for one, welcome the relief that this "cold front" is going to provide, as well as the rain to keep the prairie thriving down to those long roots deep down in the soil. 

Behold the panoramic majestic prairie in the calm before a storm:

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Be Shameless, Bee Red

'Midnight Marvel'
It's a red week here on Garden Musings, with several of ProfessorRoush's favorite bright red plants in full bloom at once.  I began the week stunned by the dinner plate size and brightness of Hibicus 'Midnight Marvel' as she came into full bloom.  This rose mallow is a toddler for me, the entire plant only two years old, but it reached three feet tall and wide for me this summer and it blooms every day with dozens of the most beautiful scarlet-red flowers I can imagine.

'Midnight Marvel'
Bloom, bloom, bloom, across the garden she's a beacon, a "come up and see me sometime" kind of gal.  All that red even spills over into the foliage, more burgundy than green, as if the red in this plant's veins couldn't be contained in the enormous flowers.  She is almost too red for a simple man to witness.

'Honeymoon Deep Red' foreground,
 'Midnight Marvel' background
'Honeymoon Deep Red'
'Midnight Marvel' has a similar but less attractive neighbor sharing her bed, one with equally-large blossoms on a more diminutive form, the frumpy Hibiscus moscheutos 'Ambizu', also known as 'Honeymoon Deep Red'.   These blossoms creep over the crimson line to slightly mauve and, because of that, I find her less attractive.  Alone, her lipstick mauve against the bright green foliage would be satisfactory, but, as you can see in the photo at the right, 'Honeymoon Deep Red' looks a little dumpy next to 'Midnight Marvel', just another poor sister to Cinderella at the Annual Ball.

'Centennial Spirit'
Simultaneous with 'Midnight Marvel', my favorite crape myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica ‘Centennial Spirit’, awakened in a nearby bed.   This morning, looking out my bedroom window, I was momentarily confused by its brightness and thought something new was blooming in the rose garden beyond it.  My sense of unease over something in the garden that didn't fit was compounded by the aftereffects of sleep and it took me a minute of staring to realize the "red" was nearer than the rose garden and, in fact, blazing forth in its expected space.

You don't need to listen to me spout the marvels of  ‘Centennial Spirit’, you need merely to follow the bees to see which red plant they prefer.  'Midnight Marvel', as bright and beautiful as she is, is a sterile wasteland for other life, while 'Centennial Spirit' buzzes with activity.  Bumblebees, smaller bees, and other insects are all over 'Centennial Spirit' in a frenzy, moving quickly from crinkled blossom to blossom, fighting each other to see who gets to the pollen first.  To the eye of Mother Nature, there is no contest for which is the better garden plant.  Look closely to the photograph at the right; see the "sweat bee" hovering nearby, waiting for the gluttonous bumblebee to move over?

I was caught up for a few minutes this morning, trying to capture some decent "bee on crape myrtle" still life photos.  Believe me, these weren't nearly so easy to get as my earlier pictures of bees on my roses.  On roses, bumblebees loiter, crawling over and over the pistils, collecting pollen from a wide area.  On this crape myrtle, it was almost like the plant was too "hot," the bees dropping onto a blossom briefly, but off again often before I could zoom in and focus.  At times like these, I'm thankful most of my photos these days are spontaneous and taken on a nimble iPhone; quick-to-focus and with a fast  "shutter" speed, almost, but not quite, able to freeze the motion of even a bee's wing.  But sometimes, just occasionally, and with lots of luck and patience, there comes a photograph worthy of framing.  Don't you agree?  I think I'll title this one Chub-bee in Red Lace.  Get it?

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Squealworthy Coneflower

You should have heard Mrs. ProfessorRoush squeal yesterday evening when she saw this picture!  We were watching those last few minutes of nightly news in bed, both browsing through our phones, when it became a contest of "who took the better picture of my hibicus" (I'll post those in an upcoming blog entry).   "Can I have it?" were the first words out of her mouth.  Mrs. ProfessorRoush is always wanting to steal pictures from Garden Musings to post on her Instagram account, even before I've posted them here in the blog.  Normally, I tell her she has to wait until I post then on the blog, trying to reserve that first glimpse for Garden Musings readers.  But it occurs to me now, far too late, that I should barter favors for pictures while her photo envy is aroused.

This very tall perennial stands about 6 feet tall for me and will bloom now to the end of August.  And I don't know what it is.  I suspect it is Rudbeckia laciniata, because it's the right size (about 6 feet tall and columnar) and the leaves look perfect and of course it appears to be a coneflower.  It is perhaps even the 'Autumn Sun' cultivar since that name stirs a few brain cells.  But I will never know, of course, since it doesn't show up on any of my maps.  How is it that I make a point to mark down every plant I bring into the garden beds and ten years later I have not a single clue of the real identity of this plant?  There is no Rudbeckia anywhere on the map of this garden bed and the only Rudbeckia sp. anywhere in the garden is R. hirta.  Frustration, thy name is plant identification.

Showy, dependable, insect-free, disease-free, drought-tolerant, non-invasive (in my garden), who really cares about its identify, the real question is "why haven't I ever divided it?"  I guess "Stupid is as stupid does," according to Forrest Gump.  I've had it in the garden at least 10 years, maybe 15.  I should have a hundred of these things by now, a complete landscape of 6 foot tall bright yellow towers.  Okay, maybe that would be overreacting a bit, but I could at least have a half-dozen around, given the scale of my back garden.  I will note that some internet sources say that this plant can spread through rhizomes but it has shown no sign of doing that in my dry clay soil.   Well, I vow to correct my failure to propagate it this year, no more waiting. says to divide it in the fall, so divide it, I shall.  Before it fades away and I forget about it again.  No reason to write a note to remind myself because I'd just lose it anyway.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Yuck! That's Enough!!!

As a veterinarian, ProfessorRoush tries mightily to love "all creatures great and small," taking his cues from James Herriot's classic memoir of that title, the latter borrowing his title from the lyrics of Charles Francis Alexander in the Anglican hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful.  And he (ProfessorRoush) usually does love all creatures great and small, even the serpents that hang around my landscaping.  Except Japanese Beetles.  And rose slugs.  And spider mites.  I don't see God's purpose for any of these creatures except to provide a plague to test the resolve of gardeners.  Maybe rose slugs were put on earth to feed birds, but Japanese Beetles aren't eaten by anything.  They just exist to eat flowers, and waddle in beetle poop while they fornicate and make more Japanese Beetles.   And spider mites are so small you can barely see them; what purpose is a plant-sucking mite?  Other mites, of the Phytoseiidae family, prey on spider mites, but why create a mite to just to feed another mite?  Oh, the theological cavern that I've just fallen into! 

But, ProfessorRoush digresses.  The Japanese Beetles came back right to central Kansas right on time in late June this year and I've been strolling around and smashing a few every evening for several weeks.  I even went so far as to spray insecticide on a few of their favorite roses while the roses were between bloom cycles just to see if it would quell their numbers, but as these roses, 'Blanc Double de Coubert' and 'Fru Dagmar Hastrup' among others, came back into bloom, they had just as many beetles lounging around in their blossoms as before.  So I've hand-picked and hand-picked, gleefully smashing a few beetles each night under my feet and feeling like Alexander the Great rolling over Asia.  Right up until I came across the disgusting spectacle in the photo above.  The rose is pink and delicate 'Foxi Pavement'.  Look closely and you'll see beetles fornicating on top of beetles that are fornicating.  Disgusting.

Hemerocallis 'Wisteria'
Please try not to let the scene you just witnessed cause any nightmares to disturb your slumber.  Or at least join ProfessorRoush in his efforts to avoid crawling into a corner and catatonically sucking his thumb to avoid the trauma of memory.  Here, maybe a picture of beautiful 'Wisteria' taken on the same evening will help.  Japanese Beetles don't seem to bother daylilies.  Or, perhaps you can take comfort from this morning's sky, a panorama I took at 6:00 a.m.  of the sky to the west and north of my front yard.  All things bright and beautiful, indeed.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Drooling over Daylilies

'Mulberry Frosted Edge'
ProfessorRoush was writing a clever post this morning, but, halfway through the piece, just stopped.  How can I wax philosophical when there are so many beautiful daylilies out there to post?

'Joan Derifield'
So, the other blog post can wait.  You'all just sit back and enjoy the modern daylilies.  Especially the full, deep red ones.

'Awfully Flashy'
 And when I say "modern," I mean at least not the plain old yellows and oranges and apricots.  Something with color.  Something 'Awfully Flashy'

'Vintage Wine'
I mean, of course, "within the last 25 years or so."  Vintage daylilies, like 'Vintage Wine'.

'Daring Dilemma'
Because I'm way too cheap and pretty is pretty.  I don't know how daring it is to buy local daylilies which are often mislabeled, but it was no dilemma to buy this one.

'Sonic Analogue'
I don't need to buy the newest and fanciest, even if they seem to be named after video game characters.

'BubbleGum Delicious'
At $100 (or more), some one else can be the first one to have them.  'Bubblegum Delicious' is quite delicious when in flower, isn't it?

'Juliana Lynn'
No, I"m happy to buy them from local enthusiasts, at $3.00 apiece.  'Julianna Lynn', nice to make your acquaintance.

'Tuscanilla Tiger'
Still, they're beautiful, don't you think?  Even the basic orange daylilies.  'Tuscanilla Tiger' is an old one in my garden.

'Big Rex'
Or the plain old, butter-yellows; Big Rex is 5" across each bloom.  And pure and beautiful, eye-catching across the garden.

'Timbercreek Ace'
And 'Timbercreek Ace' makes a great display, whether you're looking at the whole plant covered with potential, or each individual bloom.  Deep, dark and brooding, I'm always thankful to the client who gave him to me.

'Popcorn Pete'
But, really, how can one resist 'Popcorn Pete'?   This one is my favorite of the newest in my garden.  That royal purple front and the white/yellow edges are to die for.

'Slender Lady'
And the ladies, slender or not, are always beautiful.   I've had a thing going for spider daylilies recently.

I'll leave you drooling over daylilies while the Kansas sun sets behind a small storm front.  Which, of course, unfortunately didn't bring any rain to create more daylilies.

Saturday, July 4, 2020


ProfessorRoush doesn't have a nice, neat patriotic theme for you on this July 4th.  I suppose I could walk out the front door and grab a few pictures of the pure white phlox 'David', and the bright red 'Wave' petunias at the foot my of driveway, add a snapshot of a bit of Russian Sage or lavender from the other side of the house to approximate the blue, and then I could contrive a nice rousing image of a celebration of independence with those pictures, but my writer's muse just won't cooperate today.  The country's mood, and my mood, doesn't seem to be one of celebration this July Fourth, but of turmoil and division, uncertainty and strife.  Or maybe that's just me.
I'm thinking a lot about bees this year, and on this 4th day of July, for some subconscious reason that I can't yet name, I'm thinking of them again.  I"m photographing bees on flowers everywhere, I'm reveling in their presence in my garden, and I'm rejoicing in every little buzzing busy bee that I find, and I don't know why.  For whatever reason, bees are reaching my happy center this summer, spreading joy with wings and all their six legs.  Everywhere I look, there they are, crawling over the delicate petals and flying from each ripe blossom to the next. And every time I find a bee on a blossom, out comes my camera and a picture is born.

I'm always happy that there are bees in my garden, but this year their presence seems more special to me.  Have I somehow internalized my concern over their well-being, over the very-real threats to their survival?  Am I searching for saneness, for certainty and assurance that the world is not on the verge of collapse as it sometimes seems?  Does the world make more sense with bees in the picture?
Why, on the 4th of July, are bees my subject?  It's quite a stretch to connect bees to a patriotic holiday, notwithstanding the existence of the "Patriotic American Flag Honey Bee T-shirt" and its clever superimposition of a bee silhouette over an American flag.  And I must admit, I chuckled over another Amazon-sold T-shirt emblazoned with "All Hive Matters."  Bee-keepers are a society unto themselves, I guess.  But other than noting these shirts as possible surprise gifts for the beekeepers in my life, I can't consciously make a case for Patriotic bees. 
Perhaps, deep inside the quirky recesses of my id, bees DO represent normalcy.  Maybe I'm secretly craving this year a unified society where each has a role for the good of all.  The queen, the drone, and the worker, all working as one, in one direction, as one strong society.  Don't, I beg you, take that sentiment as any calling for communism or socialism.  ProfessorRoush tries to avoid political subjects on this blog and flowers only mix with politics when the flowers are in a politician's lapel hole.  Bees should matter, but I'm not going to say so, or wear a shirt that says so, because who knows who one might offend these days.  People aren't drones, and while many of us are worker bees and a few of us may be royalty, we have choice and we should exercise it and grow each to our greatest potentials.

Well, I'm far afield in my ramblings and rants on this day, Independence Day 2020.  You can just enjoy the bees, along with me, and forget all about the rest of this.  Or we can all gather a little pollen today, a little goodwill for all, and take it back to support our hives, working separately but together, all to survive from this year into the next.   God knows, if we don't learn to work together, we're going to get a little hungry this winter.          


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