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.  


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