Friday, December 24, 2021

Trellis Overboard!

 I'm sure a few of you caught the national news about the little blow that swept through Kansas and Nebraska on December 15th.  This was my radar picture at 5:35 p.m. as it was about peak, just about an hour after the storm ahead of it, the latter accompanied by a tornado warning for Manhattan.  I've seen a lot of radar pictures over my years in Manhattan, but that long very narrow rain front stretching from northern Oklahoma into South Dakota and the wind following it was unique.  And scary.

I'm also sure a few of you are wondering what this has to do with ProfessorRoush's garden?   There seemed, on the surface, to be little damage from the 70-80mph sustained winds both here at home and in Manhattan, primarily lots of small limbs down and lots of broken pieces of roof shingles laying around here and there.   But, when it warmed up a few days after the storm, when I got out and actually wandered around the garden, I saw that it had taken down my long-standing wisteria trellis.   I know this thing was old, but breaking off 4 six-inch treated posts that were cemented in the ground was not a trivial piece of damage.   Thankfully, I had already taken down the Purple Martin houses earlier this fall or they would have been in Missouri, or the Atlantic ocean.

I took this damage casually with a shrug of my shoulders, but already lamenting what will surely be an abbreviated wisteria showing this spring.   To disentangle this maze of vines will be impossible, so I'll be forced to merely chop the wisteria vines wherever they enter the trellis.  I'll undoubtedly end up with a 5-foot tall pair of wisteria's, and I'll have to decide about building another trellis.  This one was placed to be a "gateway" into or out of the back area of the garden and I've gotten used to its presence so I'll probably do something there.   And also the wisteria have to have something to grow on.   Normally, I'd put the cleanup off until spring, but since it is sunny and supposed to reach 65ºF this Christmas Eve afternoon, I can already hear it calling me.

Here is a picture of the trellis in its better days, already old in this 2019 blog post it came from, but certainly functional and beautiful in a light-lavender sort of way.   I thought the frame was unbreakable, but clearly I was flat-wind wrong.  The lattice-work was decaying when this picture was taken and I think I replaced it that year, but the posts, in cement, should not have broken down.  Or so I believed.

ProfessorRoush will have to up his engineering game for the next trellis.   I'm thinking maybe steel I-beams extending down into the bedrock might actually have a chance at standing longer than a decade?

Token poinsettia picture to wish everyone holiday cheer!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Jewels Outside & Within

 ProfessorRoush woke up to a thanks-filled morning after a cold night on the prairie covered the grass with a heavy frost, bejeweling it with ice for the sun to caress.   I know they may be difficult to see in the photograph below, but when I took the picture, the sun, already well above rising, was reflected in little starry points all over the grass, gleaming diamonds among the frosted chaff. The tans, umbers, ochers and reds of last season's grasses all provide a proper blasé background for the new jewels among it.

I awoke to the ice jewels outside and to the soul-filling contrast of all the colors in our decorated house, the reds and greens of Christmas within at odds with the blander world normal of the prairie outside.   I'm thankful for many jewels within the house as well, the carefully chosen emblems of the holiday artfully arranged by Mrs. ProfessorRoush.   This year, this fake poinsettia wreath magically popped up from somewhere into our living room near the TV, and it brings me joy daily with its cheery welcome from the wall.  

I found joy myself recently, and added it to the house, this wooden painted snowman purchased on a recent impulse at a hardware store.  There have been occasions in life, like this one, where I've seen something and inexplicably want to own it, instantly coveting some simple thing whose beauty may only be seen by me and overlooked by others.   I've lived long enough now to listen to these urges, these desires, which burn like fire if unfilled.   Times were, my will always strong, I resisted them, parsimonious to a fault, foolish in my frugalness, only to later rue and regret the lost chance.   Today, with more money available above the necessities and niceties of life, I often give in, collecting joyful things in a twisted version of Marie Kondo's question that she originally asked to help us simplify life, "Does it spark joy?"    Yes, this extravagant $25.00 snowman, added now to our mantle, brings me joy, even when I can't explain it.

And I feel joy and thankfulness also for the half-dozen Christmas cacti that adorn our south windows.   I've purchased them over the years and all have been in bloom recently, each a unique color, bright red, white, pink, fuchsia, yellow, and orange represented in their delicate and fleeting beauty.   The sun outside catches them in the morning, gloried like the fuchsia-touched blossom at the top of this blog, yet other jewels in my world.   Some mornings, mornings like this one, I can scarcely catch my breath at the beauty of the world, so many jewels that life gives us each day.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Sad Houses

 ProfessorRoush has had quite the week;  a week that seems to be continuing even as I write.  

It all started last Sunday.   My intention that day was to get a number of things done around home, but most of the afternoon got delayed when Mrs. ProfessorRoush's car got two flat tires, one of which disintegrated before we could get to an air pump.   But I did get out for my main goal and cleaned out all the bluebird boxes while the weather was good.   One bad surprise; this bluebird box with 3 sweet little light blue eggs present.   These weren't a new brood out of season, these were very light, dried out, old eggs that didn't make it to hatch.  I'm guessing Mama Bluebird had an accident and never returned to care for them.   So sad.  And my bluebird houses didn't seem to do as well this year.   Eight bluebird nests for over 20 boxes is way under normal.  

Even sadder, one of the first year DVM students was killed last weekend, hit by a vehicle after she witnessed a rollover accident and tried to help; a true Good Samaritan lost to the world.   I got the call of hospital personnel looking for emergency numbers for her parents shortly after I finished the Bluebird Trail.   There are some things that happen in this life that I can't explain or understand and never will.  What a loss to her family and to her classmates and to all the pets she would have helped.

Things were looking up today as we put the house back in order this morning after our kitchen and sunroom were painted.   Mrs. ProfessorRoush is in the kitchen making caramels as we speak and I'm anticipating running out into the sunshine soon on this warm, breezy afternoon.   But then, as I started to write, I got a text that a young child of the host of our work Christmas party started a fever this morning and tested COVID positive.   Our entire surgery service was there for three hours last night, huddled in a small kitchen together.  Lots of COVID boosters are about to get tested for efficacy!

So, if I'm gloomy today and not my usual positive gardening influence, I'd like to make a formal apology and leave you with this picture of the ProfessorRoush home abode from the far end of the pasture; a view of the dry and brown back garden and prairie and of the back of the house from a vantage that I seldom get to see.   Those hills are too much to walk regularly without the excuse to tend to the BlueBird Trail.  

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Bedding Down & Tidying Up

 ProfessorRoush accomplished several main fall chores last weekend and during the week. Last Sunday was a windy, but pleasant and sunny day which I took full advantage of in a fit of tidiness.  Of highest importance, I covered the strawberries with a nice thick bed of straw to protect those tender buds from any further frosts and freezes.   Last winter I neglected it as the bed was in poor condition anyway, but this year, with 50 new plants out, I thought a nice golden blanket was in order for the patch.  It looks so nice and cozy and protected now, don't you think?

I also bustled around the yard and ran the mower over some late invasive cool season grass and mulched up a few leaves in the process.   I do like a lawn with a nice even trim, don't you?   I also realized there were a couple of hoses that needed draining, the purple martin houses needed to be cleaned out and brought indoors, and my pack rat-bait stations near the house were empty.  All the usual and none too soon as, sometime between the strident warnings about new COVID variants and the apocalypse, the frantic media voices tell me that winter is coming.   Sure, except for the 70ºF temperatures predicted this week.   Those strawberry plants must think I'm nuts and just cut off their sunlight.

Also completed was the annual "over the rivers and through the woods" to our Indiana past trek of Thanksgiving, in our case the "over-the-river" being the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and the "through-the-woods" was of the forested Illinois and Indiana I-70 corridor.   A few days gone in a cloudy and colder Indiana landscape where it actually even rained one day, and Mrs. ProfessorRoush and I were never so glad as to come back Friday into this gorgeous sunset, occurring just as we made those last few miles through the Flint Hills to home.  Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home....err Kansas.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Suddenly Winter

How did I miss it?  Was I asleep, beginning hibernation at the onset of cold weather, plodding in stupor through the daily cycle of wake-eat-work-eat-sleep?  Was I distracted, preoccupied with the mundane tasks of life and inattentive to the greater world?  Is this how empires crumble, marriages collapse, and friendships end, with inobservance and insouciance?

Regardless, I realized with shock this week that Fall was past and Winter was suddenly present.  Perhaps it was the first recent chance to walk the garden in daylight on 11/18/21, the first time for the past week since nighttime now begins at 5:00 p.m. and I'm seldom home in daylight.  I only made it early on Thursday because I'd gotten my COVID booster the previous day and had run a fever and chills for the past 24 hours.  It will, by the way, be a cold day in hell or in winter before I get another COVID booster.  Why take an annual vaccine that certainly makes me sick every year to prevent the small chance I get sick? Three days later and I'm still not normally controlling my internal temperature when active. 

But I digress down the deep slope to COVID anger.   More pertinent to the subject of today, the leaves all dropped, seemingly overnight, from trees and shrubs galore.  I'm not ready, not prepared at all mentally and emotionally, for winter.  The granite bench in front of my River Birch no longer is hidden in shade by the protective limbs of the birch (above, top), and my 'Jane Magnolia' (left) is bare but for the fuzzy light green buds that I'll have to protect from the equally fuzzy lips of hungry deer.  Even the 'October Glory' maple of my last blog post has dropped a huge portion of its leaves, an unusual occurrence this early in winter.   All that remains of Fall in the garden are the still-shimmering shafts of the ornamental grasses.  The small clump of Miscanthus sinensis 'Malepartus', pictured below, remains a pleasing sight, catching the last rays of sun in a cooling world.

'Malepartus' is, however, a symbol of hope for me this winter.  I received him as a very small division given away by the K-State gardens last fall and in a single year of planting it is already a reasonably substantial garden presence.  Only time and winter will tell me if he can hold on to these silvery seedheads or whether they, too, will be quickly dispatched by the cruel onset of the first "polar express."  All I can do is wait now, and watch, and try to be present in the garden for its trials and triumphs.  I'm out there now, hurrying to spread new straw in the strawberry patch before the cold can dash my hopes for next spring's harvest.   A gardener never fully rests.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Sun, Clouds, and Glory

The changes in setting and mood according to ambient light sometimes astounds ProfessorRoush, particularly in relationship to photographs and camera settings.   Take, for instance, this 14 year old 'October Glory' (Acer rubrum) maple out to the left front of my driveway as I leave for work every morning.   On Veteran's Day this year, 11/11/2021, at 7:20 a.m., the sun was just rising up and 'October Glory' was, indeed, glorious in its observance of Veteran's Day this year.   I don't think I've ever seen this tree in better foliage and, as I leave for work, these mornings brighten my day and set me on a happy path through the weekly turmoil.   Thankfully, although the color diminishes somewhat over time, this tree holds its leaves through early winter.

On a cloudy day, however, the tree broods, begrudgingly showing only dusky purples against the brown prairie behind it, leaving my own mood murky and dark as I take that same morning path to work.   This picture, STDD or same-tree-different-day, 11/10/2021 and at the same time (7:20 a.m.), shows the dampening effects of clouds and winter.  The whole scene dulls my morning commute, leaving me dispirited and soul-worn to start the day.  I, for one, would much rather either leave in total darkness, as it was just last week before the annual "fall back" nonsense, than to leave to this sight on cloudy days.  Thank you again to our political so-called "leaders" for their misguided help in that regard.

The prairie is colored this year far better than most.   Always, in fall, we hear written or television media talking about expectations for fall color in various parts of the country, usually discussing the effects of moisture or warmth on sugar production, and often telling us that it isn't going to be an exceptional fall in the usual way of our depressing national media.   I have a friend, a former news-junky, who recently told me she had sworn off the news because it only reports stories that keep us riled up or upset about the state of the world.   So it seems and I cannot disagree.   But fall in Kansas has been exceptionally colorful this year and I'm thankful for whatever natural processes or the harvest gods that influence the beauty.   

Sunlight, however, helps always, and I'm thankful for the Kansas sun every day.  Searing in summer, spiritual in spring, fitful in fall, and warm in winter, this morning it streams in through all the windows of the house, warming the walls and making a home of house, a warm nest for a pleasant Sunday.  

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Keeps on Ticking...

"It takes a licking and keeps on ticking" used to be the advertising slogan for Timex watches during my youth. Maybe it still is for all I know, but I'm not sure Timex even still exists in this world of FitBit's, AppleWatch, and Garmin's.   The Timex watch of the rose world, however, has to be Canadian rose 'Champlain'.  Mine is still out there "running", blooming despite the recent frosts long after most of the garden has gone to rest.

What a red, right?  How much brighter, how much more glorious could a gardener ask for, especially now when the leaves are falling from the trees and winter keeps poking into fall.  I can see this clump from my bedroom window, 50 yards away from it, calling me into the garden on a Sunday morning.  It says "Cmon man, forget about the stupid time change this morning and write about me."   "Write about the fact that I have one of the most frequent bloom cycles of almost any rose, that I'm impervious to summer sun and winter alike."   "Write about one of the toughest and most floriferous roses of the garden."    

And I can't, I can't be mad this morning about the time change.  So much disruption of our diurnal rhythms and so much anger over political power wielded autocratically and irrationally just isn't worth the fight today when I'm staring at the happy face of 'Champlain'.  Oh don't get me wrong, I woke up at 4:00 a.m. instead of 5:00 a.m. because my soul didn't get the memo about changing rhythms, and I waited the same amount of time for the sun to rise after waking.  I just know now that I'll be driving in again with the rising sun in my eyes, endangering every walking or biking schoolchild for another month, and that I'll now be driving home in darkness every evening instead of having another hour of light to enjoy. 

But I won't be mad about the time change.  I can't waste the energy for Champlain's sake and also for the sake of this last bloom of beautiful 'Polareis', delicate and refined, pink tones betraying its dislike of cold mornings, embarrassment by the otherwise pure white petals.   Yes, I know, if you look closely there is a little damage on the petal ends, but she's still putting up a good brave fight to the end.  Another tough rose in my garden, hanging on to the last breath of summer.

Okay, yes, I'm mad as usual about the time change.  I'm mad that my chances for a heart attack are greatly increased this week and that automobile accidents will increase due to bureaucratic political whimsy.   As I've said before, a pox on the houses of every politician, Democrat or Republican, who doesn't repeal this nonsense and leave us on daylight savings time all year long.  As I vowed last spring, I'm staying on Daylight Savings.   If you want ProfessorRoush, you'll find him with his watch and computers set to EST, my new solution to the biennial B.S. imposed on us by our elected nonrepresentatives.  Stores and schedules will now just have to confirm to my time, ProfessorRoush Standard Time.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Autumn Cometh

Hi, Everyone!   I apologize for the long lapse in posting, but autumn has been moving along and the world is streaming past my eyes at the speed of life.   

Both Mrs. ProfessorRoush and I agree (for once) that this fall has been a colorful one in Kansas; despite the national media predicting poor autumn displays in the usual tourist spots, we've been fortunate here.   As you can see from the back yard, photographed above last Wednesday, the prairie grass has great color this year and the garden is settling in and ready for cold.   And the cold is coming this week, lows down to 30º, highs in the 50's.  We should finally see a fairly hard freeze to shut down the final growth mania.

I hope, however, that this Aster frikartii ‘Flora’s Delight’ somehow survives the frosts.  I don't believe I've mentioned it before, but it's been a garden stalwart since 2004.  I seldom pay this plant much positive attention until now, when it lights up a corner of my front bed to the right of the sidewalk.  I spend most of the spring ripping it out and keeping it within a 6 foot diameter area.  It's one of those plants which should come with a hazardous warning label, but most web sources about it only suggest that it makes a good "container" plant.   Oh, yes it does, because if it isn't in a container it makes a fairly tall invasive groundcover to about a foot high!  By July, however, it stops being a bother and I forget all about it.  

I forget about it until now when those soft lavender blue blooms highlight those bright yellow centers and catch my eye.  Aster frikartii is also attractive to bees and is probably one of their last source of nectar before winter.   This cold bumbler stood fairly still for the camera, not moving until I almost touched it.  And now I feel guilty because I should have let this aster spread and bloom more; for the bees, you see.

We finally, finally received a nice rain this week, about 3.6 inches total over a long night and day of rain, so I hope the garden will go into another Kansas winter well-hydrated and ready to rest.  

And I hope the garden stops the weird antics that fall sometimes brings.  I've been worried about the row of lilacs to the west of the driveway pad.  Several of them, primarily the older Syringa vulgaris, have leafed out some of those precious green buds after they dropped their summer leaves and a couple even bloomed, like this 'Nazecker' light blue lilac.  I won't minimize the sublime joys of smelling lilacs in October, but I also don't need to constantly feel like they've sacrificed their last for me.  I suppose the chance always exists that I won't be around to smell lilacs next spring, but I'm planning to be here when the snows melt and the lilacs bloom next April, the world right and everything in its own time, just as it should be.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Maximum Sunflower Power

 Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, dogs and bees, I give you the crowning glory of the Kansas fall prairie, the Maximilian Sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani).   On the prairie near me right now, one can see lots of yellow flowers blooming, foremost being the light-yellow green of the native goldenrods, but nothing outshines or is taller than the Maximilian sunflowers.   Standing out hundreds of feet away, each clump betrays the location of a site of disturbed earth, the sunflower a sure marker of soil chaos.   Bees and humans alike are drawn to it, the screaming color calling across the ocean of drying prairie grasses.

This clump came up near my burn pile.   There's a smaller group in the middle of the unmown area of the back yard (my so-called "rain garden"), but it is this plant at the back edge of the garden that begs for attention.  And, as you can see above, it got attention from this very busy bee photobombing the flower.  It also got attention from Mrs. ProfessorRoush, who posed with it for me, but I will not share the beauty of the former in this blog, Internet privacy and all being what it is.  I found it interesting that the sunflower and Mrs. ProfessorRoush are almost identical in height, 5 feet tall or so.

The bumblebee that attacked these members of the Aster family was fortuitous for my camera, arriving just as I moved in to photograph the flower closely.  In a month these flowers will be bountiful seedheads, full of energy and a good forage crop for livestock and deer.  

You can see here what I mean about the goldenrod.  I'm not good enough at quick identification to tell you if this is Prairie Goldenrod or Canada Goldenrod or another species, but this is as yellow as it gets and the brightness fades quickly like the plants in the background here.  

Between the bad press given to goldenrod, and the happy beaming face of the Maximilian Sunflower, I've got to choose the sunflower every time.   And so, it seems do the bees.  The only insect I've ever seen on goldenrod around here are the goldenrod soldier beetles.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Blue Draperies

The slothful side of ProfessorRoush unabashedly slithers up in late August each year.   As September slowly slides in, I tire of mowing and weeding and trimming, all too ready for the garden to frost over, to die away and let me rest.   It's now that the morning glories seize their chance, rampantly growing over everything in sight and transforming the garden into a blue oasis of heaven. 

In point of fact, I don't know if my ubiquitous morning glories are the 'Heavenly Blue' cultivar of the species or just the wild Kansas Ivy-Leafed Morning Glory (Ipomoea hederacea), but they are everywhere.  They invade quickly when I stop weeding in July, when I am weary of the gardening battle, and they take advantage of my weakness to drape every plant within reach.  And I let them, for I treasure that light sky blue shade above all hues in my garden.

I was struck recently by the combination of the morning glory with the Canadian rose 'Winnepeg Parks' (above), the surreal, otherworldly blue morning glory jarringly visible against the pink rose, clashing across the color wheel to a striking contrast.  'Winnepeg Parks' is a Parkland series Canadian, unfailing blackspot free in my climate and a reliable periodic bloomer.   Growing into another rose, chaste 'Morden Blush', Ipomoea blends much better, a companionly match of color for a calming scene.

Even the tired foliage of variegated euonymous 'Moonshadow' is improved by a little "morning glory."   This picture at the right, suitable for framed artwork against the right light blue wall, just pleased me to no end as I took it.  I missed capturing, however, the bees that were darting in and out of the blossoms, the bumblebees every bit as appreciative of the morning glory as I am.   In the early morning right now, two plants draw the bees;  morning glory and caryopteris; both blue and beautiful.   However early I join the garden, the bees are already there.

Two or three weeks after I took the first picture above, the morning glories and caryopteris are still going strong, now lending their gentle contrast to the tall sedums, neighbors by location, opposites of plant physiolgy.  You have to get up pretty early to catch the sky blue delicate blooms, as they close when the sun begins to shine with any vigor, but the tougher sedums that support them continue on each day, oblivious to the sun, "feeling the burn," as it were.  ProfessorRoush enjoys both lives, early to rise and walk, thriving in the sun, and resting at night in preparation to bloom yet another day. 

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Mrs. PR and the Bumblebees

Friends, ProfessorRoush failed you miserably today, too weak in a critical moment to do what really needed to be done.  I failed to capture and share with you the video of a lifetime, a sure bet to spread like a virus across the globe, making ProfessorRoush a household name in the process.  

My Sunday began in a completely innocent fashion with no clue of the drama to unfold.   As I was preparing to mow the lawn, Mrs. ProfessorRoush mentioned that she was going to slip down to pick any remaining tomatoes in the garden before she showered and began her day.   Ever the helpful and attentive husband, I followed her down to the garden, where we picked a few tomatoes, snared a few deliciously ripe blackberries from the thorny canes, and then ambled over to the grapes, which were past ripe, sweet and juicy, and needed picking.

Let me set the scene for you.  As it happened, Mrs. ProfessorRoush had ambled down to the garden in a mid-thigh length pink cotton nightgown and slippers, her tanned legs bare and well-toned, a beauty among the brambles.   She was picking grapes off one vine while I, ten feet away, was distracted from her heavenly presence in the garden by the discovery that bumblebees were feasting heavily on the grapes (see the photo above and to the left).  

I was contemplating that astounding new bit of knowledge and engrossed in photographing one of the bees eating the grapes when Mrs. ProfesssorRoush began to complain that the bees were bothering her; complaints that turned quickly to excited chatter and then hysteria as the bees decided that the exposed hair and flesh of Mrs. PR seemed to be even more delicious than the bountiful grapes all around.   Perhaps it was her hair spray, perhaps it was her perfume, or perhaps it was just the delicious sweetness that is Mrs. ProfessorRoush, but those bees were dead set on either driving her away from their sweet grapes, or feasting on her, or both.

Now picture this:  a frantic Mrs. ProfessorRoush running up the hill in a mid-thigh pink-nightgown, arms flailing madly, the bowl of tomatoes and grapes cast upon the ground, Bella trotting calmly behind her, wondering at last, I'm sure, if she was going to finally see her rival for my affections dethroned.

And there I was, phone in hand, with it already turned on in camera mode, and I was laughing so hard I could barely stand, let alone thinking clearly enough to capture a photo or a movie for the future entertainment of humankind.  In hindsight, I'm so disappointed in myself.   Perhaps I wouldn't have become famous for a video, but I'm sure the pink blur of Mrs. ProfessorRoush's backside running up the hill would have at least made the nightly national news.  And perhaps distracted and amused, for just a moment, an entire nation bored from the pandemic. 

So, there you have it.  Bumblebees eat ripe grapes, I presume for the sugar and cheap energy.  I had never heard or read of that before.  And I've spent the day outside doing chores and snapping other pictures, like the last two photos of the bees on the light blue caryopteris near the back steps.  I remain hopeful that by nightfall my laughter will have faded from Mrs. ProfessorRoush's memory and she'll unlock the doors.  Surely she'll be able to see the broader humor of the occasion by then, won't she? 

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Webs in the Mist

ProfessorRoush was surely not planning on this topic for a blog as he woke and schemed the day ahead, but opportunities arise and their urgency cannot, sometimes, be denied.  I woke early, more so to enjoy the predicted cool morning and was not disappointed.  So long, we've waited for the onset of cooler morning and the feel of fall and here it was, at last manifest and perfect, 61ºF as I rose.   Bella and I woke and stumbled out to a paradise dampened by recent ample rains and more.

I was caught and mesmerized by the industriousness represented in the spider's web above, this dew-bejeweled engineering marvel stretched between the stiff dead stems.  The web is tiny, no bigger than my hand, but yet perfectly designed to catch an unwary small insect.   Not so this nearby web pictured at left, a chaos of construction, haphazard strands of spider goo placed at random angles and spacings.   What meaning, I wonder, in the diversity?   Is one spider so more industrious, more meticulous in its intent and implementation, the other a mere slob, unconcerned for convention and fashion?   Was the second spider distracted from his chore or merely indifferent to the task at hand?  Or am I simply wrong, imposing my own judgments and ignorance on the task?  Is the second spider the genius, the creator of a chandelier of new artistry and evolution, its value unrecognized by the half-witted human?  Why does order seem more perfect than disorder, entropy aside?

Regardless, neither spider will be fed this morning, the morning dew defiling the web's purpose and unsticking the sticky strands, no harvest to pluck from the traps.  And both illustrate a new ecosystem in my front beds, an opportunity created from the tall brown stems of Knautia macedonica, an unforeseen profit of its profligacy and a monument to the natural order of nature.      

It is not only grass and plant heavy with dew this morning, the very air is saturated, the warm ground giving back the recent rains we've had to the cool air.   My back yard above, the photo facing south, and front yard below, the photo facing north, are both cloaked in fog, hidden from the world and blanketed with quiet.  The sun is up, but nearly invisible, shuttered by the mist, no wind to clear a path for it to reach us and the world another world away.   I give you a perfect moment of the beginning of fall weather here in the Flint Hills, brought to you by mist, dew, and the lens of my iPhone.  

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Red August

Here in the furnace of August, with the grass dry and crumbling beneath my step, my garden glows red in the hot sunshine, concentrating and sending back the searing rays towards the cloudless skies. While the garden bakes in the heat, some plants thrive and bloom, sneering back their indifference to the heat.  All seem to be either red or white and today, I'll feature the red.  Next week, perhaps the white.  Or another week.  White is always there in the garden, but seldom noticed, isn't it?

'Centennial Spirit'
Always 'Centennial Spirit', pictured above and at left, blooms this time of the year, a crape myrtle that returns reliably in my climate, every year nearly the brightest red in my climate.   Brighter in the sunlight, as in the photo above, this particular shrub has survived two fires this year, for it lives in the garden bed that was caught in this year's spring burn, literally rising from the ashes of April to shine brightly as always, blooming right on time.   I rely on such specimens at this time of year, regular beauties to distract from the general lack of bloom when the heat soars.   And 'Centennial Spirit' never disappoints me.  

I carefully wrote "nearly the brightest red" above because the Canadian rose 'Champlain' never allows itself to be outdone by a plant that only blooms in August.   'Champlain' is nearly always in bloom, a shorter shrub rose than most to be sure, but all the more prolific with its blooms despite its dwarf size.  'Champlain' is blooming its head off right now, defiant to the bleaching rays of the sun, bright red and healthy until it's petals drop.  I have two 'Champlain's now, both survivors of Rose Rosette and both blooming cheerfully every day through the summer.  This photo of 'Champlain' also made me realize that somewhere along the line, Apple must have improved their camera's handling of red tones.  I can't ask for a better red than this from my photos.

'Cherry Dazzle'
Other reds are out there in the garden, less red than 'Champlain' or 'Centennial Spirit' perhaps, but red never-the-less.  'Basye's Purple rose' has had a rough couple of years, losing large canes while gaining others, but its normal deep purple blooms take on a more red tinge in the heat, the yellow stamens struggling to stand in the low humidity.   And then there is another crape myrtle that draws attention from my bedroom window, the very short and red-of-another-mother 'Cherry Dazzle'.   Every year, I worry that it will return from the dry sticks that mark its presence in winter, yet every summer it puffs up and blooms  a more-near, slightly-pinker echo of the larger 'Centennial Spirit' down in the garden.
Basye's Purple Rose

'Midnight Marvel'
I'll leave you, envious no doubt of the red fires in my garden this fall, with this closeup of 'Midnight Marvel', a bright red hibiscus with burgundy foliage that is still blooming a month after it started.   The largest flower in my garden, 'Midnight Marvel' is often the size of a dinner-plate, drawing bees from acres away to feast on this stalk of pollen.  And drawing my eye from across the garden, a "stop sign" planted to make me stop and admire its scarlet beauty.


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