Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Let There Be Columbines

Last night, letting the vivacious Bella out the front door for her evening attempt to apply liquid fertilizer to the buffalograss, I was taken by surprise to see a previously-barren corner turned green.  This particular corner of my front border is almost entirely shaded with the house and garage on the south and west sides, and it was previously occupied by a boxwood, whose massive overgrowth and cat pee stink every spring right outside the dining room finally induced me to eliminate it in April.  You can see the stump of the boxwood at the upper center of the picture below.

Earlier this summer, I had tried to replace the boxwood with a rather expensive willow, one which promptly got eaten by rabbits or pack rats or some other such ravenous rodent and then, encased in chicken wire (too little, too late) its fragile regrowth shriveled in the late June heat.  Resigned, I decided to wait until fall to try it again, and I promptly put this space out of sight and mind for the summer that has past.

But here, last night, I found that the dry sterile mulch had brought forth baby columbines!  "Behold," the Lord said "Let there be columbines, and there were and it was good."  Well, columbines and a couple of thistles, which might not be so good, but I can take care of that bristly interloper. And a common dayflower or two which will take a little more effort to eliminate.  I'm still grateful for the gift, however.  All that time that the boxwood grew and dominated the area, these seeds collected and hid in the mulch and waited until the day they could grab enough sunlight and nutrients to grow.   A miracle of three-lobed glory.

I'm thrilled to see the columbines.  You know that I'm partial to the self-sown blue and purple columbines that dot my front landscaping, and I can't wait to see what these bring next year. There is no chance whatsoever that I'm going to scratch these out.  Next year, I'm going to have a sea of columbines and the joy of a wave of blue to ride into a new gardening year.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Unsettled Skies

This morning, as I was walking from the bedroom to let Bella out, I glanced out the southern windows of the house, seeing dawn slowly bringing the landscape to life, and noticed that the tree branches were swaying.  Pleased that a predicted cool morning would also bring some cool air into the house, I opened the garage door, stepped out, and was greeted with this odd sight of a column of pink blessing the hills to my west amidst a gray sky.

I turned around to look at the rising sun and, of course, it was there shining as always, ready to wake the earth and all its inhabitants in Manhattan, Kansas.  The breeze, however, was still shifting and I could only conclude that a either completely unpredicted but likely gentle rainstorm was upon us from the northwest or that aliens were beaming up my neighbors in a pink column of happiness.

The answer of course, was available on my phone radar app, and just as I downloaded this image, the sky began to growl as well.  Not thunder, not visible lightning, but an audible low growl.  I sedately followed Bella as she bolted for the house from her morning mid-squat stance.  Bella is afraid of thunder, but rain is always welcome to me and I am ever pleased when I don't have to defend against an alien horde before I've had breakfast.

Unsettled skies have been the norm all summer, likely a metaphor for society's woes this year if I were only bright enough to connect it.  Unpredicted showers, winds that sweep across without a storm behind them, clouds come and gone without warning.  I really shouldn't complain because, thankfully, there has been enough rain to keep the grass growing all summer, it has never reached 100ºF in Manhattan yet this year, we haven't had a single tornado warning in the area all season, and fall is clearly on its way.

It unnerves me, however, after years of watching the local radar and weather patterns, to see the skies tossing about in disorder.  The other night, I watched two rainstorms as they split around us from about an hour to the north-west, one gentle moving to the east and south, the other, a nasty little blob of purple, moving forcefully south-west.  I commented to Mrs. ProfessorRoush that, in all these years, I had never seen that happen.  Storms don't move to the south and west here and I watched it with some trepidation until it was obvious it wasn't going to change direction.

I'm not unhappy, however, about the beautiful skies of this summer and I'm thankful for every morning to wake with the sunrise.  The panorama above is my view to the south three mornings ago, sun rising in the east, storm moving in from the west.  The panorama below is my north view just moments later, unsettled skies from the west moving back to the gentle protective light from the east.  Who couldn't feel comforted by skies like these?  Well....me.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Color Echoes and Garden Dramas

Basye's Purple Rose
While mowing yesterday, ProfessorRoush yesterday that he had accidentally and serendipitously planted a "color echo" side by side in the same bed, unrecognized until both bloomed at the same time.  Everyone who has spent time on my blog knows that I am a fan of trouble-free Basye's Purple Rose (top, right).  It's blooming sparsely but steadily right now, preparing, I hope, for a big fall show.

Buzz™ Velvet
Basye's Purple is in the foreground of the picture to the left.  Just across the bed, in the background of the photo, is its color twin, a dwarf butterfly bush that I planted in 2014.  This one is Buddleia davidii 'Buzz™ Velvet', a rich copy of Basye's deep magenta color if ever there was one.  'Velvet' is one of the series of Buzz™ buddleias hybridized by Planthaven Int’l, and he survives well in my garden, one of only two that have returned for more than 5 years running ('White Perfusion' is the other one).

Buzz™ Velvet may be a "butterfly bush," but it wasn't drawing any butterflies yesterday in my garden.  No, the butterflies were all running to the Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum) that sits near the feet of my 'Jane' magnolia.  I have a single specimen of Joe, and he's as coarse and weedy as his name suggests, but at least he's fragrant, and fragrant in a good way.  Dull pink is a charitable description of his complexion, but in contrast the fragrance is to die for.

Joe Pye Weed does, however, beckon insects from all over the garden, just as it did the Painted Lady butterfly I photographed on it, and it has a delicious, sweet and light fragrance for ProfessorRoush to enjoy as well.  Sometimes even a weedy plant has a few positive attributes.

Wheel Bug 
Like many gardening stories, however, this happy meeting of a fragrant plant and a beautiful butterfly is not without cautionary notes.  Just two feet in front of the butterfly, another of life's little dramas, was playing out on the Joe Pye Weed.  This Wheel Bug, Arilus cristatus, has grabbed itself a bumblebee for it's evening meal.  I've also written about Wheel Bugs, and this largest of the assassian bugs (Hemiptera) is a common predator in my garden, if a nonselective one.  Mr. Wheel Bug, can you please, in the future, leave the bumblebees alone and concentrate on Japanese Beetles and June bugs?  Or are they just too tough for you, you coward?


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