Sunday, April 25, 2021

Disaster Averted?

ProfessorRoush has a question mark on the title because I'm not entirely sure yet, but the 4 inches of wet snow last Monday seems to have hardly bothered the plants, and any real damage probably came in the next two nights with lows of 27ºF and a really hard frost one of those mornings.  A late snow does make some pretty pictures, however, even though I and this pink crabapple didn't appreciate it like we could have.

I know that you're wondering how all the plants fared, so I'll try to get right to that.  I'm actually pleasantly surprised that anything at all is left, as green and leafed out as things were, but almost everything came through with minimal damage.   Yes, it whacked the 'Ann' and 'Jane' Magnolias, but they were on their last moments anyway.   The variegated iris shown below has not even blinked, if anything, shining brighter today than ever.

I think a lot of the damage was limited by the heavy blanket of very wet snow insulating all the plants and then quickly melting off.   Fantastically quickly as a matter of fact.  The picture at the left was taken around 7:20 a.m. on the morning of 04/20/21.  The picture below of the exact same view was taken at 6:38 p.m. the same evening. 

Fernleaf Peony
Fernleaf under snow
And the plants recovered just as quickly.   The picture on the left is of the fernleaf peony and tulips covered by snow, and on the right, just a few nights later.   That fernleaf was blooming fully beneath the snow and it never looked back.  You can click on them if you want to see them larger.

And the lilacs, the lilacs that I was so worried about?  Well, here are the row of lilacs tonight, and the exact same bloom from 'Declaration that I showed you in the blog entry from 4/20.  I think the cold seems to have lightened the blooms a little bit, but they have retained their fragrance and held up remarkedly well.   Stepping on my garage pad tonight, in the middle of a brisk wind, is like stepping into a perfume factory.  

Last, but not least, I'm sure you're all wondering about my beloved 'Yellow Bird' Magnolia.   Before the snow, I thought it was going to give me the best show yet, the blooms just ready to peak on the exact day of the snow.  Well, I can't say it came through it unscathed, but I think it will survive to bloom another year.   The leaves that opened early are a bit frost-damaged, and the blooms are discolored up close (see below), but it seems to not be nearly so damaged as I feared.  And that, my friends, is my summary for the entire event; a near-heart-attack-inducing late spring snow that wasn't nearly so bad as I feared.   Thank you, God!
'Yellow Bird', today
'Yellow Bird', today.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Cardinals in Bloom

I took these out the kitchen window this morning at 7:15 a.m.   I know it's unusual for ProfessorRoush to shut up and lose the commentary, but this real set of lovebirds can speak for themselves.  There's nothing like an image of a male and female cardinal pair in a blooming redbud tree to start a day right.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021


'Yellow Bird' Magnolia
Spring almost happened.  So fleeting, crushed dreams in a few early morning hours. Redbuds, magnolias and lilacs in full bloom on 04/20/2021.   I'll post more later.  For now, the pictures will have to speak my devastation.

'Declaration' Lilac

The Maiden

Fringed Tulips


Saturday, April 17, 2021

I See You!

See, this is why ProfessorRoush can't have a nice, simple garden filled with perfect plants and idyllic moments.   Aside from minor problems like runaway fire, punishing winds, late snows, early freezes, deep winter cold, and searing summer sun, it is things like these that try my soul.  Do you see it?   Click on the picture to enlarge it and look again!

At roughly 6:45 a.m. this morning, after the lovely Bella had been outside, explored the premises, and "watered" the yard, and after I had eaten my morning cereal, I looked out the back window to assess the morning and saw this lovely rabbit still-frozen among the daylilies.  It must have seen me step up to the window because it didn't move in the minute it took me to retrieve my phone and compose the shot, nor did it move until after I stepped away.  Well, presumably it moved after I stepped away.  Maybe it's still sitting there for all I know.

This is probably the same lagomorph, or a member of a tribe of furry-pawed thumpers, that eat the first daylilies that come up each year, nipping anything green to the ground until the shear mass of spring foliage overwhelms their gluttony and stomach capacities.  And likely the same creature that nipped off the first sprouts of my beloved 'Yellow Dream' Orienpet lilies in front last week.  Nothing, it seems, is sacred from these monsters, except perhaps the sprouting peonies.  I don't know what it is about peonies, but the fauna in my garden, deer, rabbits and mice all, leave the peonies alone.  I would be grateful, but the invading horde probably is executing a demoralization campaign, allowing my hopes to raise and then be inevitably crushed by a late-May storm that flattens the peonies and my dreams in a single night.  Do other gardeners believe the native fauna and climate are both conspiring against them, or is it just paranoid little-old-me? 

I would arm myself with a suitably-scoped assault device or perhaps a Sherman tank and take these out, but speaking of weather collusion, there are bigger battles and disappointments on my horizon.  Currently, my lilacs and redbuds are blooming at full glory and beauty and the forecast two days away is for a low of 27ºF and snow.   



Monday, April 12, 2021

Burn Casualties

ProfessionRoush had a fine spring day for a nice neighborhood burn yesterday.   My neighbors and I marshalled our energy and the considerable mobile fire-fighting forces arrayed amongst them and set off on a dew-covered morning to clear the prairies of weeds and invading alien plants through the ritual spring burn.   With almost no wind, the dampness from the recent rains, and a beautiful sunny day awaiting us, we were blissfully at ease to hold a nice burn.

And then, everything changed.  I believe the first mistake was that the fires were going so well, ProfessorRoush's neighbor opened his first beer before we were on the downside of the day.   Early alcohol is always a bad harbinger of things to come.   And fairly early on, after all the tasks were assigned and the backfires started to protect the distant neighbors and greater Manhattan from our exuberance, we received a call from the county that burning had been banned for the day (after we earlier had permission for the burn).  A little too late for us, the forecasts had changed to show brisk winds later in the day.   

We had completely burned the perimeters and I had safely burned around my garden and moved on to help a neighbor by 11:00 a.m.   The last neighbor's 20 acres took us almost as long as the other 140, with extra care taken as the winds were rising and we had a horse barn and arena to protect.  And then I looked up about 2:00 p.m. to see smoke coming from my back yard.

Unbeknownst to me, a little fire had made it into the grass mulch near my grapevine lines earlier and a helpful neighbor had put it out.   But, a little prairie-burning tip here from an old guy here, if fire gets to your mulch, whether hay, grass or bark, there's no putting it out.  You have to isolate the area to bare ground and let it burn itself out.  Hidden beneath a dampened cover of mulch, that little spark festered and bided time until the wind rose.

And then it scooted across the mown back yard and made it across the close-mown grass into one of my rose beds mulched with straw.  It's the bed on the right in the picture at the top.  Thank Heaven's grace, it was only one because I told Mrs. ProfessorRoush that if it was all of them, I'd have bulldozed the backyard and been out of the gardening business.  I'm not ready or spiritually willing to start completely over again at this stage.

I'm not worried at all about the grass between the house and my lower beds.  I had been contemplating burning it anyway because it had been 4 or 5 years since the area last burnt.  In 2 weeks this area will be beautifully green and I'll post another picture then to show you.  The daylilies and perennials of the burnt bed will regenerate.  And a couple of roses in this bed had already died or were ill from Rose Rosette and needed cleaning up.    There is enough Puritan in ProfessorRoush's soul to place considerable faith in fighting evil by burning.  But I'll mourn a little bit for 'Banshee' and Marianne' and "Chateau de Napoleon' until and if they regenerate.   Time will tell and life goes on.   Maybe I'll learn a new cure for Rose Rosette disease if one of the sick roses regenerates in fine shape.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

And....I'm Caught Up.

Just like that, a perfect weekend of weather, and ProfessorRoush has caught up with spring.   There's always something magical about Easter weekend that brings the spring garden together.   Early or late, the plants seem to follow Easter's timing and so, evidently, does ProfessorRoush.  

Other than a few hours low of 25ºF one morning this week, spring has been a lamb this year, gradually warming up to today's 82ºF high and full sunshine, with few frosts or, even worse, late snows to set the plants back.  My Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata) bloomed perfectly this year, not set back once by the weather and I'm already missing its warm scent.   All of the bulbs are up and out, with daffodils at their peak and the beautiful blue Scilla siberica and blue and white Puschkinia scilloides pictured above and the grape hyacinths to the left have delighted me for a couple of weeks and are just beginning to fade.  Both the Scilla and Puschkinia self-seed and spread here, and I now have Scilla in most of the beds around the house after planting them in only two little spots.  Thankfully, Scilla is easily controlled here, an unusually well-behaved and hardy plant in my garden.   Most plants that thrive in Kansas are rampant thugs, seemingly surviving on an overwhelm-and-kill-the-neighbors' philosophy.

To catch up this weekend, I purchased, transported, and spread over 70 bags of mulch bark in front and back, cut down all the ornamental grasses, fertilized everything  already green including over 100 daylilies, put up new Purple Martin houses, mowed around some early fast-growing edges, cut down the decrepit last-years-thrip-stricken Emerald Gaiety euonymus and sprayed them so they could rejuvenate, removed a 3-year-old dying Japanese maple from the front, spread another dozen hay and straw bales as mulch, sprayed the columbines to prevent Phytomyza aquilegivora (leafminers), planted 50 new strawberry plants and set up the system to water them, and probably did a few smaller chores I can't even remember. 

The photos above and left are of my now cleaned and mulched back bed from two sides, spoiled only by the serpentine hose I used to wet down the mulch (high winds are forecast here for Tuesday.  The prairie is still brown, but you can see the life beginning in my garden beds.  Notice the daffodils blooming here and there, the clumps of daylilies frantically growing, and the peonies coming up?  I can hardly wait for this coming week.   Sometime in the next two days, I'll entertain you with pictures of my 'Ann' and 'Jane' Magnolias, both just coming fully into bloom, and maybe, just maybe, 'Yellow Bird' will show it's pretty face this week.   The several days of recently warm weather has the entire garden growing on steroids right now, with redbuds, lilacs, and tulips all starting to break bud out there as I write this.  My soul is on vibrate mode, excited for a so-far normal spring.  


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