Sunday, November 29, 2020

Parfumed Future

I neglected to show you one new rose in ProfessorRoush's garden this year, the Hybrid Rugosa 'Parfum de L'Hay' that I purchased as a baby early this spring.  It seems to have taken pretty well to its spot, so I have great hope for its survival this winter.  It bloomed sparingly this year, however, and my timing was never right to catch a bud coming into full bloom.  

So, you're stuck, at present, with the poor photograph here, just a tease of color and foliage to sustain you until next year, assuming its rugosa genes allow it to survive drought and cold and deer, and that it doesn't develop a case of rose rosette virus before it reaches maturity.   

'Rose à Parfum de l'Hay' is a 1901 introduction by Jules Gravereaux of France.  Even though this is a lousy photo, the bloom itself represents the mature color well, those double petals of carmine red displaying their lighter edges.  She has a strong fragrance and repeated two more times this year in my garden, albeit playing hide and seek with my camera and schedule.  Less mauve and more red than most of the rugosa hybrids, I would guess that she takes her fragrance and color from the 'Général Jacqueminot' grandparent on its mother's side, as it reminds me of that Hybrid Perpetual perhaps more than the pollen R. rugosa rubra parent.  My season-old plant is about 1.5 feet high and has three solid and prickly stems at present.  Before the cold weather moved it, 'Parfume de l'Hay's  foliage was matte medium green, only very mildly rugose, and free of blackspot.  

Suzy Verrier, in her Rosa Rugosa, noted that 'Rose à Parfum de l'Hay' is often confused with the more rugose and deeper colored  'Roseraie de l'Hay', but the appearance of my rose would leave me to believe that I received the right cultivar.  Both were introduced in the same year in France, and both were meant to honor the renowned rose garden in Val-de-Marne, created in 1899 by Gravereaux on the grounds of an Parisian commune dating back to the time of Charlemagne.   Peter Beales included it with the rugosas in his Classic Roses, but noted that its maternal R. damascena x 'Général Jacqueminot' parent confused the classification of the rose.  Me, I'm just happy she's in my garden, carrying the weight of history along with her blooms and giving me hope for her survival.  Now where, do you suppose, that I can find a 'Roseraie de l'Hay' to plant alongside my 'Parfum' next year?

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Carpe Beatitudo

 Surprise blooms, in my estimation, are the best blooms, one of those little moments of life where karma reaches out, taps us on the shoulder, and says "Here, fella, let me bring you a little cheer!"  Not that I particularly need cheering up today, but in the hectic midst of life, I will never turn down a chance for a laugh or to enjoy a sunny moment when they appear.    

Pictured here is, of course, this year's appearance of  Blc Lily Marie Almas 'Sun Bulb' Orange, a Cattleya hybrid that I purchased from Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in years past.  Although I was so inattentive that I didn't see the flower spikes growing, she is right on time, or perhaps just a little early this year.  Last year, I blogged that she gifted me with two flowers on December 1st, and here she is, reincarnated, with 4 flowers this year on November 22nd.  I feel a bit guilty, maybe a little unworthy, that she struggles so mightily each year to gift me such sudden joy, but I will certainly take delight from whence it comes in this lost COVID year.

Lost year.  I suspect that is how history is going to record 2020, and many of my contemporaries will agree.  Our pets have prospered with all the extra home attention, and I suspect that the private vegetable and flower gardens of the world may have been a little better tended and a little less weedy this year, but, for most people, it has been a year of tension and apprehension, fear and fretting.  It has not, for ProfessorRoush, been quite so frightful on that front however.  I've worried for friends and family, but not for myself; there's too much work to be done and I'm far too fatalistic to worry about my own health.  I take precautions, but with my colleagues, I have worked right through this whole mess, missing the crowds of students in hallways, but relishing those few contacts we still have. Arbeit macht Glück, in my case.

'Lily Marie Almas', will be just another chapter in my upcoming memoir, How To Remain Happy and Hopeful During the Apocalypse.  I have a secret, you see, a secret to staying happy, a chart for remaining cheerful, a recipe for rose-colored repose.  It's just this; enjoy the little things and shed the little stings.  From little bits of happiness, we can, each of us, build a great big house of joy to keep the world at bay, bricks of bliss against the gloom.   Said another way, the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune," as Shakespeare put it, are no match for the simple practice of welcoming and engaging with every happy moment, not "carpe diem," but rather "carpe beatitudo." Seize happiness my friends, whenever you can.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

My Menagerie

 Sometimes, I wonder what I'm running here on the prairie;  a garden or a zoo?  Just one of my game cameras took over a thousand "snaps" in the past two months.  I'll give you a brief sampling to show you the drama you're probably missing in your own garden, and in the spirit of true suspense, I'll save the most exciting until the last.

Of course, many of the pictures are of ProfessorRoush and deer; of the beautiful Bella sniffing the ground (upper right) and minding anything but her own business, and of the goofy neighbor's dog who uses my yard as a personal toilet (left) almost every day.

I seem to have gained a red squirrel here, frantically gathering pecans and acorns in my yard.  I've never had a squirrel live here before but he's somewhere out there because I had hundreds of pictures of him in this bunch.  I'll have to figure out which tree he's nesting in.

Birds are plentiful in the pictures, including this bluebird sweeping in for a landing and the red house finch, below, who is taking a break in the shade.  There are also pictures of other finches, meadowlarks, and sparrows temporarily on the ground here.

And the smaller wildlife is well represented.  I'll spare you the pictures of the mouse and the chipmunk and the rabbits and the raccoon who come in for candid closeups once in a while.

Nightlife?  Oh, there's plenty around.  It abounds, around, you might say.  I could do without this striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis), even if it is just passing through, and then there is this creature below skulking through the night, which I think is a gray fox (Urocyon
).  I saw him much better just this morning at dawn, crossing the yard heading for the hills to my west.  He's been in other views on both cameras periodically all summer.

You wouldn't think that a stationery camera snapping pictures based on motion would be good for anything but occasional still shots, and yet this one captured, at one point, the drama present in most  every garden.  I'll show you the full capture of these pictures, because the time stamps are important.  Here, at 12:13:24 pm on 10/02/2020, is my red squirrel, lower right corner, out playing in the grass as it has a hundred times before:

And then at 12:16:31, we see this hawk sweep in, a fraction of an inch from grabbing the squirrel that is diving for the goldenrod and safety at the edge of the bed.  Are we witnessing the fury of nature?

At 12:16:32, there's the hawk, sitting in the grass.  What does he have clutched in those talons?  Have I seen the last of my red squirrel? 

I only had to wait until the next picture; 12:19:49, and the red squirrel is back out again, doing it's squirrley-things.  I think I'd have waited a little longer, myself, to be sure the hawk was gone.

I apologize about the picture-heavy post, but it is the best glimpse of life out there in the garden that I can give you.  Please try not to spend the next week wondering, as I will, if the squirrel made it to winter and what else may be sneaking around out there in the garden.  

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Obsessive Compulsive Weeding

 There is no rest for the weary or the wicked here in Kansas.  We have had a solid freeze and everything is dry and brown.  Everything, that is, except for these thistles, who have germinated along my roadfront sometime after my last pass through with Roundup.  These thistles who are thriving despite the cool nights, frosts, and downright hard freezes.  I would love to know the exact identity of this thistle of steel, this defy-er of death, whether it be a Spiny Sowthistle (Sonchus asper), Tall Thistle (Cirsium altissimum), Wavy-Leaf Thistle (Cirsium undulatum) or some other thistley interloper, but I'm not about to wait to see it flower to help me identify it.  

I try to keep my roadsides free of weeds, a little obsessive-compulsive gardening that I blame on the majority German portion of my genetic pool.  You can see then, how these little green mounds along the road would vex me, laughing at me every morning on my way to work and giggling behind my Jeep as I return each evening.  If there is one bright side to the dreaded seasonal time-change, it's that I seldom come home in daylight anymore so I was spared the sight of these over the last week.  I was right, you know, in my 2017 post announcing my candidacy for the Presidency based on a campaign promise to abolish the time change.  Based on the results this week, I'd have swept the field in a landslide. 

I'll be spared the sight of these thistles for the winter now, because they are no more.  They may survive snow squalls and nights in the low 20's, but they can't survive this gardener.  This morning I chopped them off, sprayed the stems with 2-4-D, and watched them blow away in the blustery wind.  I suppose Euell Gibbons would claim they are edible and have suggested putting them in my salad, but I know better.  "Edible", in Euell's 1960's back-to-nature context,  does not mean they taste good, it means that you are unlikely to keel over with your face in your plate during dinner.

In the meantime, as you can see from the cloudy skies above my backyard, I'll spend today fighting the winds and hoping for glimpses of sunshine.  I've already mowed down the tall grasses in the back yard and I have hope that the amber and purple smoke trees can hold on to their colorful leaves just a few more weeks.  I might also drive into town and back a few times, just to revel in the clean roadsides and follow the corpses of thistles as they blow across the prairie grass.  What a great fall day here on the prairie!

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Houses on Halloween

It was way too pretty a sunny Saturday, yesterday, to spend indoors.  A long week and things that needed doing indoors were conniving to keep ProfessorRoush inside, but around 2:00 the call of the sunshine just grew too strong.  Surely, there must be something to do outside?

Ah, Bluebird house maintenance!  I'm a little early this year running my bluebird trail.  Normally, I'm doing this on a cold day in late November or early December, but I'll take the high 60's and sunshine anytime.  I skipped the bluebird trail last year entirely so it was doubly important that I get out there and clean house, so to speak, this year; clean house after house, after house and after house, twenty-four houses in all spread over my 20 acres and overlooking all the neighbors.  

I always start out loaded down with screwdrivers and wire and nails and wood screws and a hammer and wire cutters, because every year a house will need its roof repaired or the house need to be held tighter against a post.  I've learned, over the years, that paper wasps also like these boxes, some designs more than others (I think my newer house design had less paper wasps this year).  Bluebirds aren't harmed by the wasps but don't like to nest in houses with wasp nests, so I always carefully remove the wasp nests from every home.  I just read today that rubbing a bar of soap on the inner ceiling of the birdhouse will deter the wasps, so I'll have to try that next year. 

Some of my bluebird houses are getting quite old, showing gray weathered wood and splintered sides.  I believe I made the box above more than 10 years ago and from this closeup, you can see the patina and lichens it has accumulated, character and wisdom from the Kansas seasons.  It may look ancient and rundown, but it still housed a nest last year and that's what counts.  

Bluebirds aren't the most fantastic nest architects on the planet, a thin bed of grass is about all they place in the box, but it seems to do the trick.  I was really proud this year of the results of my NABS-approved Roush Bluebird Nestbox; twenty unmistakable bluebird nests, 20 nests in of 24 boxes, a personal best.  Or rather a personal best of my bluebird tenants.  I attribute the increased count to moving some of the boxes that previously attracted wrens to other areas away from the woods.  Two of the four remaining boxes had anemic nests that I didn't count, perhaps occupied a year ago, or perhaps there was trouble during the nest-building.  Who knows?  A snake reaching a box in the summer, a jilted male bluebird without a mate, or another bird attempting to move in.  Maybe next year, with the new porch and straightened shutters of my repairs, some poor lonely male bluebird will have a better chance to attract a mate.  Hope springs eternal in the rusty breast of a bluebird.

PS:  I found that the links to the Roush NABS-approved Bluebird Nestbox don't work in the original post as linked above, so I placed them on a separate page here in the blog.  Look at the top for the "Bluebird House/Presentations" tab!


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