Friday, December 23, 2022

Storm of a Lifetime (Not)

Although all the national media is calling the recent storm "The Storm of a Lifetime" or "The Storm of the Century", it is, in ProfessorRoush's experience, not even close, not even perhaps in the top 10 for such platitudes.   Perhaps I'm just jaded and old and tired of the over-copied refrain of panic the media attempts to produce every morning.   NBC's Today Show seems to have "special editions" every day now, and I'm sick of hearing about the nonexistent "Tripledemic" and good Lord, how much I miss the eternally cheery Robin Meade on Headline News.

But, moving along my digression, I personally remember two storms that hit Purdue University my freshman and sophomore years, heavier snowstorms than this which were accompanied by -50ºF wind chills, massive drifts and the first class cancellations Purdue had seen in 50 years.  And snowstorms in Ohio in '83 and '84 when I was a large animal dairy practitioner that closed roads for days and made me worry I would not make it home from a call; or not recover feeling in my frozen toes after a long day of work.  And half-inch-thick ice storms that destroyed trees and hail storms that flattened my garden.  So, as you can see from these pictures yesterday, a pittance of snow, an icy glaze to the blacktop, and -30ºF wind chills aren't nearly enough to be classified as once-in-a-lifetime.   Yes, they're dangerous, but they're certainly not unprecedented in human history.

Not much happening in the garden, these days, of a plantsman's interest, although life still abounds through the winter.  Checking the game cameras, I was pleased to see this handsome fellow along with several does in other pictures.  They don't seem to be coming as frequently as other years, nor have they caused much in the way of damage.

I was less pleased to see this picture, but at least this skunk was out and about in its normal nocturnal pattern instead of rabidly running around in daylight.  That being said, I'm glad it only appeared once in a season's pictures, numbering in the thousands since the summer.

There also seem to be increased numbers of coyotes frequenting the yard recently, even taking a leisurely rest here and there within gaze of the camera.   These two demonstrate the fact that they are aware of the camera, however, their somewhat creepy eyes staring directly at it and retinas reflecting the infrared light.   I've seen them occasionally out in the daylight, most often at dusk, and I do worry about them because they look a little mangy and thin, even for coyotes.   My concern ends, however, each morning and evening as I let Bella out the door and look closely over the edges of the yard, ever vigilant for her safety.

Well, with that all said, I leave you, this year, with "Merry Christmas!" and wishes for a blessed coming new year for everyone!  I'll be back here in January, always hopeful for a perfect garden and gardening year.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Winter Haze

Winter.  Frost and fog outside.  Warmth and fire inside.  The calendar and the movement of the planets falsely claim the season is fall, but ProfessorRoush says it's winter.

Winter.   What is it good for? Pictures, perhaps, like the one above, the sun captured, weakened by distance and the inclination of this orb, unable to penetrate the haze of humid air the night has frozen into submission.   No breeze, not a creature stirring here, all waiting for the sun to penetrate and soften the icy knives of frost.  

Or pictures, perhaps of happier thoughts and colorful moments, the annual home Christmas tree shining glorious even in the morning light.   Mrs. ProfessorRoush and I decided this year to leave the tree unburdened by ornaments, the plain lights a symbol, perhaps, of our innate desire for simple quiet and peaceful stars, a holiday of joy and rest.  We've left off the hundred collected ornaments, some homemade, others a treasured gift or purchase.  It may be a fake tree of metal and plastic, but it serves the purpose, lit each night in the front window as a beacon to faraway children and friends; "Here is home."

Odd?  Or not, perhaps, for a gardener to prefer artificial trappings for Christmas rather than a collected and distantly transported tree.  This year I won the annual tug-of-war between Mrs. ProfessorRoush, who prefers the dying, pine-scented, needle-dropping "natural" tree, and myself, who prefers my negative environmental impact displayed through the manufacture of plastic and LED's.  This tree may be phony, it may be fabricated, but at least it isn't singing the song of death in the house as it slowly dries and dies, snatched from a forest of others to perish alone.

Ten o'clock, and the sun seems to be losing the battle against winter today, rather than gaining.  The predicted high for today has already been cut by 4ºF and I fear it will soon cede more to the fog.  My planned trek to clean out bluebird houses may have to wait, wait for a warmer day and a braver caretaker.   I feel the weight of responsibility for my bluebird trail, but not at the expense of stiff fingers and frostbit toes.  There is time enough to wait on the sun to lead me out, to beckon me from a clear horizon and warm the air.   Time enough for winter to come and be gone, away like the fog and the frost, if the sun gets its way.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Christmas Conspiracies

While ProfessorRoush is usually a reasoned and contemplative individual (please pay no attention to Mrs. ProfessorRoush's cackling in the background), I am not ashamed to admit that the occasional attractive conspiracy theory does obtain some small foothold of territory in my mental processes.  In contrast, however, to those crackpots who insist that there was never a moon landing or those who maintain that the earth is flat, despite all the growing evidence against either view, I feel compelled to reveal, here for the first time, a real, personally documented, grand conspiracy. 

I'm positive that all of you, all gardeners and shoppers, all homeowners and plantspeople, have been experiencing a great sense of unease as Thanksgiving approached and local store aisles filled with holiday decorations and unwanted unnecessities, yet you've all likely been unable to pinpoint the cause of your disquiet.  I'll admit that I shared that underlying apprehension with you, until suddenly a great revelation appeared to me last week and, to my eternal shock I became aware, you might say "woke", that one of the great mysteries of civilization had been developing right in front of my eyes; a mystery I shall now reveal.

WHERE THE HECK ARE ALL THE CHRISTMAS CACTUSES THIS YEAR?   Normally, by this time, every checkout aisle and every floral display area would be filled with wilting but blooming $6-$9 pots of colorful red and white and pink and fuchsia Christmas cacti raised especially to capture your whimsy and your excess cash during your vulnerable moments of holiday shopping.  This year, there are none available, not one anywhere near Manhattan Kansas, a fact which I confirmed by personally visiting every big box store, grocery store, and hardware store in the area this week.  

I started out on this conspiracy track innocently, merely wanting to see if a new color or variety was available to add to my collection and brighten Mrs. ProfessorRoush's windows, yet the absence of the cacti became more evident with every store I searched.  Querying the internet for an explanation has been similarly unsatisfactory.  There have been no media reports of mass destruction of Christmas Cactus nursery facilities, nor scientific papers on sudden mutations of fungal wilt that threaten the extinction of the cacti group.  Asking Google the simple question "Where have the Christmas cacti gone?" is rewarded only by 10,591,251 occurrences inanely explaining how to make a cactus bloom, and it undoubtedly results in one's name being added to some secret list somewhere as well as causing your mail and social media feed to fill up with hundreds of ads for plant sales and fertilizer.  

We will call it the Great Missing Christmas Cactus Conspiracy of 2022, or "CCC-22", and later generations will remember this blog entry as the initiation of the movement alerting the world to their loss.  It is a fact that Government officials are completely silent on the issue and appear to be taking no action to investigate the mystery.  This is surely an occasion for Congressional inquires and appointment of special prosecutors if ever there were, don't you agree?  The President, Dr. Fauci, or at least the Illuminati must be behind the disappearance.  No, wait, it's COVID-19, isn't it?   SARS-CoV-2 was not developed to destroy democratic societies, save Medicare, and unleash the New World Order, nay, the ultimate goal by some powerful fiendish billionaire Christmas-cactus-hater was for the virus to wipe out annual production and commerce in Christmas cacti, wasn't it?

If you don't hear from me again, you'll know I touched a nerve somewhere.   Wake up, everyone, before it's too late to save the cacti!  Write your Congresspersons, call your Senators, and let's make our Christmas-cactus-loving-voices heard!

Sunday, November 13, 2022

November Notes

Dr. and Mrs. ProfessorRoush set out on a quick run for tacos and Crumbl Cookies® last night, a quest for the perfect Saturday night snack combination.  Well, that, and Mrs. ProfessorRoush has developed an addiction for the aforementioned establishment's iced sugar cookies and we needed to lay in a reserve stash in case she developed a craving when they're closed on Sunday.   Happy wife, happy life and all that.  Anyway, we had no more pulled out of the driveway than we saw a beautiful stag and doe framed in perfect sunlight in the neighbor's front yard.

Unfortunately we missed the chance for an equally perfect photo of the pair, but on our return home a mere 45 minutes later, I spotted this lurker hanging just around the back corner of the neighbor's house.  In the way of deer, he was probably just waiting to see if he could hang around until the cover of darkness when he would happily nibble away on the neighbor's landscaping, so I foiled him by driving down a side lane and spooking him.  Not before, however, I captured these images in the closing light of day, through the dirty windshield, but still not a bad picture.  He's beautiful and I hope his proximity to town allows him to escape the hunting season since most folks around here don't shoot into the random horizon for fear of hitting a house.  Most folks, anyway.

I've got a busy week ahead, so I'm not making it a long post today.   I've got to spend some of today preparing for a Johnson County Master Gardener presentation about Rugosa and Old Garden Roses.  Since they're all that Rose Rosette disease has left me, you can bet that I'm going to touch on that hell-borne scourge as well.  Happily, I was in Kansas City a few weeks back and, in a large outdoor mall, captured this image (below) of three 'Knockout' roses in their landscaping, right, so-to-speak, in my audiences' back yard.   Most of the 'Knockout' roses on display there were exhibiting signs of RRD, so I think this picture will drive home my point about growing and breeding RRD resistant roses.

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Seasonal Shifts

'Morden Sunrise'
Yes, friends, it's that time again.  That cursed time of time change, Daylight Savings to Standard, welcome to the world of waking at 5:00 a.m. while your body thinks it's 6:00.  That world.  ProfessorRoush wishes a face-melting pox on all the mealy-mouthed politicians who promised that last year was the last time they would confuse our biorhythms and increase our statistical chances of heart attacks and car accidents in the next week. Oh, wait, another promise from the same people who promised us 2 weeks would "flatten the curve" and save us all from COVID?  More's the fool, me.

My garden has seasonally shifted color and mood as well.   Two weeks have taken me from the last two roses pictured here on October 17th, to completely bare trees and the tans and umbers of autumn.   It seemed like it was overnight, one sudden drop into the mid-20ºF ranges and the world died, trees suddenly bereft of leaves who seemed to have come to their senses and dropped en masse, morphing their supporting structures from clumps to skeletons before I could prepare to mourn the change.  I'll bet the spider on this 'Heritage' was just as dismayed as I am.


'October Glory'
However beautiful the maple, it's a hard moment for a gardener to go from the sunny tones of 'Morden Sunrise' to the purple-red of 'October Glory' without warning.  This red maple is the only colorful tree still holding leaves, the strutting rooster among a few oaks clinging to leaves the shade of mud and dust.  I can turn from the computer and see it out the window, there in full sun, a beacon calling from my yard to the horizon.

Euonymous alata
The only match for the maple is my burning bush, Euonymous alata, who finally, after all these years, is reaching the potential that I saw for it.  This bush has been in its spot for two decades but never before this colorful, usually stripped of its leaves by winds and rodents before I can notice it.  It beckons me further into the back yard, calling me to its side, where the subtle oranges and yellows of the viburnum beside it on the right promises more subtle pleasures.

I'm resigned to winter, waiting for the first snowfall, already tired of the lack of life in the garden.  And yet this morning I planted hope, hope in the form of these bulbs and corms, small patches of color to march with Spring as it returns.  These crocus and puschkinia are now planted on either side of the driveway entrance, where they'll be noticed if the prairie winds don't pulverize their petals before they can appear.  It's an act of faith, this planting, for I planted a like number of crocus in the same spot last year, only to see just a few poor specimens survive to bloom.  Perhaps the waxy puschkinia will do better is the heartless prairie winter.   My garden, an experiment in patience, continues.....      

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Garden Gone

Friends, ProfessorRoush apologizes that he has been gone from the garden and this blog for so very long.  There is no grandiose excuse, no mealy-mouthed explanation for it, so I'll spare you the diatribe.  The facts are that September came, the drought deepened, and my garden and I stopped interacting.  Until yesterday, I hadn't mowed the entire garden for at least 5 weeks since it wasn't growing at all, a long stretch broken only by occasional swipes around the driveway and roadsides where the ground gets extra runoff, and I'd been waiting for the first frost to finish things off.   Finally, last week, we got that first frost in spades as we hit 22º on our first night below freezing since...well, since I can't remember last spring.

Yesterday, as a result, was a massive day to catch up with my garden and I did it all;  mowing the occasional spikes of grass that disturbed the otherwise smooth lawn, bush-hogging the taller prairie grass that I allow to grow as "rain gardens" in the summer, trimming, draining hoses, and just generally making everything look "in ordnung."  I'll miss the reddish hues of the tall prairie grass if we ever get rain, but it was browning quickly this year and I don't like to give the pack rats and mice any more room to thrive near the house during the winter then I have to.   I just finished repairing 3 downspouts where pack-rats had chewed through the nonmetal drain pipes and I don't need any more.

I was intrigued yesterday by the contrast between the 9/11/2022 photos (above) that I took of a clump of native dotted gayfeather (Liatris punctata) in the back and its appearance yesterday (right and below left), now mature and ready to spread seed through the garden.  I would have mowed this whole area earlier, in fact, but I held off just to let this clump mature, because I want it all through the backyard grass.  Nothing attracts butterflies like gayfeather, so you can just consider this my gift to future generations with colorful wings.  I'm hoping the whirling blades of the bush-hog spread it over the entire area and covered it with grass mulch for best germination.

Dotted gayfeather, appropriately for Kansas, is a member of the Sunflower family.   Drought-tolerant, its tap root can reach down 15 feet for water, and it doesn't transplant well as a result.  You have to cultivate it where you find it, wherever God and the winds decide to plant it.  It is flavorful to cattle, so I don't see it bloom in my pastures, just in the protected areas fenced away and allowed to flourish.  And roadsides in areas that aren't mowed by the road crews.

Other than these ramblings, my fall has been a kaleidoscope of spectacular sunrises and sunsets.  I've taken a number of pictures of shining examples of both over the past month, always intending to share them on the blog but never quite sitting down to it.   So I'll leave you, today, with my back yard this morning at sunrise, yellows and tans and browns and russets all blending into the horizon, and all neat and clean from yesterday's mowing.  While several trees are already bare, you can see the yellow cottonwood stand out tall and, to its left, a shorter red oak beginning to brighten up the view.  Soon enough, it will all be white, so I'm going to covet the colors as long as I can.

Friday, September 2, 2022

Fine Firmament

 ProfessorRoush is going to make an unusual post this evening.   A post nearly without words.

On August 29th, I noticed the light change in the windows at sunset and sensed a special moment rushing into my life.   I'll let the firmament of my western and northern views speak entirely for itself through completely unedited pictures and time-lapse movies.  I took all these over a 10 minute span with my iPhone as the sun set in the west and the wind roiled the clouds.   Click on the movies (the last 4).   Make them full screen.  Don't forget to breath; I don't want anyone passing out from the sheer beauty.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

My Blue Heaven

Gardening is, alas, a long series of regrets, hopes dashed, and dreams dimmed.   ProfessorRoush, for instance, remains Meconopsis-less, the Kansas climate rendering him completely unable to grow the Himalayan Blue Poppy (Meconopis betonicifolia) he has desired for so long.  My shriveled soul aching only for a blue flower to match the blue sky, of Kansas, I am forever blocked by 100ºF days and arid surroundings from Meconopsis.

There is, however, Morning Glory to partially fill the void, in this case what are possibly now-wild offspring of a 'Heavenly Blue' (Ipomoea tricolor) I once planted, or it may be the Kansas native Ipomoea hederacea who snuck in as a pretender among the seedlings. I kind of lean towards the native species as the actual imposter here, but perhaps solely because I've been watching too much 'Homeland' on Netflix and have spies on my brain.  It's a little garden intrigue that keeps my interest alive in the waning days of summer and I don't wish to spoil it by resorting to botanical identification.  And so I cultivate the mystery alongside the rest of the garden.

Whatever it's true identity, however, these blue blossoms are otherworldly in the early morning, shining from the shade (here at right) and much less audacious in the bright sunlight (below left).   The sky-blue color does match the Kansas sky and it evokes the calm id, the quiet soul of the poet.  All the while draping itself over every other living thing in sight.  At times, it seems tempting to stand still for a moment, and the gardener himself may disappear, finally part of the garden rather than its master.  Watching the hummingbirds visit these flowers, I wonder if I, just once, could become the visited, if only a prop for the interplay of bird and bloom.  

 I know I shouldn't let this vining villain proliferate freely among the daylilies and roses, but here and there, I stay my weeding, allowing small seedlings to become smothering carpets, to smooth the garden structure into an untextured vista of green and blue. The daylilies don't seem to mind, exhausted as they are from their July rush to bloom, and the roses regardless return each spring.  Morning Glory needs no water, it demands no care, it asks only to be allowed to grow wantonly without interference or intervention.   And each August I indulge that request, letting sun and earth bring forth blue, and harvest pleasure in the process.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Waiting for the Grass to Dry

Hemerocallis 'Blue Racer'
This morning, as often happens during the seasons of warm days and cool nights, I'm waiting for the dew to dry from the grass so that I can poorly attempt mowing.  Poorly attempt, I say, because the lawn has barely grown, only a few aggressive weeds sticking their heads above the carpet, and the border edges of the lawn forming seed heads, encouraged by the greater runoff of waste water from the driveway.  I intend only to swing the mower around the edges, leaving the weeds alone until the cooler and wetter days of fall reawakens more general growth. 

Hemerocallis 'Cosmic Struggle'
This day, a beautiful day is promised, coming from a low of 61ºF last night to a temperate high of 85º forecast.  I certainly find no fault with that, beckoned outside by sunlight and calm winds, chased from the indoor shadows by duty and commitment.  Lawn work for ProfessorRoush is a self-imposed obligation to be civil, to join in the continental-wide community of mown yards and tasteful homes.  My lawn is reluctantly mown, its owner a slave to convention and sometimes resentful of it.  The haphazard and naturally-grown flower beds of my garden are for me, a better representation of the inner self, the solitary and less-restrained id.

Hemerocallis 'Rocket Blast'
This week, the colors of the hills and grasses are changing fast; drier, yellower, heading towards their autumn tones and hinting of cooler days to come.   Vegetative growth slows while the frantic formation of fruits feverishly continues and accelerates.  The imperative to complete procreation, to ensure the passage of genes is upon every living thing, the products of sunlight and rain passed to the next generation as darkness falls.

This season, I enjoyed the days of daylilies, the hot colors of summer exploding into view, but as I've often found before, the season's favorites were defined by a certain hue, a new appreciation for some daylily palettes that I've overlooked before.   It seemed this year to be the "wines", the purple-reds, who replaced my previous fascinations with the oranges of last year, or the yellows of the year before, or the reds of three years past.   With some exceptions made, of course, for the occasional fiery orange or pastel perfect bloom whose beauty can't be so easily overlooked in any year.

This year, my garden and I have been easy friends, neither too demanding of the other, the garden accepting the little care I chose to provide and I happy with its parade of beauty, the sequence and progression of growth and species.  A balance and agreement made, I hope, for the future, of societal expectations ignored, and personal wishes granted.   My garden is not Eden, and far from perfect, but it returns the time I give it and I appreciate the gifts it gives me. 
This life, I'm content with, happy each morning and grateful each night for the day and daylilies that have graced me.  It's enough to welcome the rains as they come, to feel the warm sunlight on my skin, to accept love from outside, and to provide care in return. It's enough to see life flourish, from me, around me and within me, as the years go past.   It's enough to be part of it all, a cog in the wheel or a puppeteer of the play, it matters not, it's enough just to be here, present in the day.    

Saturday, August 13, 2022


ProfessorRoush woke up to a quandary this morning, a perplexing puzzle presented to him by the morning sunlight.  To wit, the question was whether he should pull the white-headed weed photographed to the right, or should he leave it be in its self-chosen spot, a fine display of green and white contrasts in the hot summer garden?  There is rarely enough color in a summer garden in Kansas and this single, debatably undesired plant (marked in the picture below by the arrow) is the most noticeable plant in the garden this morning, at least from my bedroom window.  Oh sure, there are a few spots of Russian sage around and a panicle hydrangea or three hanging out in the background, but nothing else so clean and white as this Euphorbia marginata, also known as Snow-On-The-Mountain, although I tend to refer to it as "Snow-In-Summer" before I think and correct myself.

What makes a plant a weed?   Some would say a weed is any plant that is in a place where we don't want it.   Others berate the character, the less-cultured characteristics of the plant or flower.  Always the gentleman, Emerson defined a weed as a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.  Well, I've discovered the virtues of Euphorbia marginata.   It grows practically on every broken piece of ground in the area, and I've often pulled it before, especially when it was smothering or obscuring a plant that I wanted.   However, in certain places, like this spot where I have nothing else growing at present, I  practice tolerance and acceptance, as I've written before, and I will continue to do so in the future.   Snow-On-The Mountain has virtues, and virtues plenty.

Obviously adapted to my climate and thriving in the hottest and driest portions of summer, welcoming E. marginata into my garden is the very definition of minimal gardening.   It's large enough to make a vivid garden display even in a large garden (the books say 12"-40" tall but most here reach 4 feet and sometimes 5 feet).   It's compact, doesn't spread by sucker, well-mannered for its neighbors, flowers for months and it is beautiful in appearance.  Drought-tolerant, insect-free, disease-free and able to stand up to Kansas winds; exactly what else could I ask of it?   Snow-On-The-Mountain is also easy to pull where it's not wanted, the entire root coming up from any ground that isn't so dry as to actually form concrete.

Okay, I will admit that its milky latex-like sap can cause skin irritation in people with less thick hide than mine, but the only irritation I get is the agitation I experience trying to wipe it off my hands onto my jeans.  Cattle won't graze it because of its bitter taste, and it can be poisonous to them when dried as hay, but I have few cattle wandering my garden and, most importantly, deer won't eat this bitter plant either so it's one less plant I have to worry about when the furry rats raid my garden.   It's not edible, its sap may be carcinogenic, and its medicinal uses are few.   Historically it was crushed and made into a liniment and used as an astringent, and to treat leucorrhoea, which involves putting the liniment somewhere that would seem more likely to cause discomfort than healing wouldn't it?  

I'm not personally expecting a bout of leucorrhoea, but since I should always be prepared (even if I wasn't a Boy Scout), and the plant's presence and it's sap doesn't bother me and the deer won't bother it, I'm resolved to leave this clump right where it started, an affirmation of the value of native plants and a positive sign of my evolution as a gardener.   I'll still pull it from my strawberry patch, however!  

Monday, August 8, 2022

Please Don't Eat the Pretty Things

Sorry everyone, ProfessorRoush has been absent from the blog a couple of weeks.  I was deserted by Mrs. ProfessorRoush for the first week after she made some weak excuse about needing to hold grandchildren and then promptly left Bella and I to fend for ourselves.  Last week, missing both her cooking and mere presence, and tired of Bella moping around the house, I tracked Mrs. PR down in the wilds of Alaska, spent a few brief days myself holding the grandchildren while being sick alongside everyone else in the family, and then I dragged her back to Kansas.   

No, we didn't get COVID during 19 hours of travel getting there and another 23 hours returning (and yes, all of us tested negative for the virus), but we did catch what seemed to be a plain old common cold from our germ-growing grandchildren, the traditional route to pneumonia and demise for old folks.  Such is the cycle of life, but my little microbe-factory descendants didn't count on grandpa having a robust immune system bolstered by plenty of sunlight and clean living and I survived to garden again.  

Unfortunately, we spent most of our time in the Alaskan territory either in airplanes or cuddling indoors, my journeys outside limited to one short hike, during which we came across the showy specimen of Amanita muscaria pictured at top, delicious in appearance and full of hallucinogens and toxins too numerous to name.   Potentially deadly but beautiful, the internet tells me that this species is likely safe to nibble on if I wanted a different type of trip, but I'm not tempted in the slightest.  Near the Amanita, I was able to capture the more typical Alaskan lakeshore scene above, just to prove to naysayers that I was certainly out of Kansas.   I was, in fact, hiking in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, on a short trail near the visitor's center. 

In another brief venture outside the plague house, I was quite happy to find a neglected Rugosa growing by the front steps, pictured above, here, and below, undoubtedly 'Scabrosa' and if it wasn't that variety, it's surely a Rugosa worthy of cultivation.  Those deep magenta single blooms are nearly the size of my hand and look at all the healthy deep-green foliage!  Here near a coastline, in cool temperatures, nearly daily rain, and partial shade and a USDA 4A climate, this rose is completely defiant to the elements.   Hardy is as hardy does, or so an Alaskan Forest Gump might say.

Not even the weird insects crawling all over this bloom seem to disturb it, merely, seemingly, just present to carry pollen from flower to flower.  Drawn here, certainly, by the heavy scent of this rugosa or by the enticing color, they are a bit disturbing at first encounter, somewhat revolting to find amid the golden stamens, but they are likely harmless sycophants of the glorious flower.   Heck, I don't blame them a bit for I'm a Rugosa syncophant as well and one that could, shrunk down to the right size, easily get lost in the majesty of a cluster of these blooms.

We returned yesterday, my reluctant empty-armed bride and I, transported from the 60's of Alaska to a 101ºF day of early August in Kansas and, arriving home, were immediately greeted by this spectacular clump of Naked Ladies Surprise Lilies right out front in their full bare-stemmed glory.   It was so hot that I was afraid that Mrs. ProfessorRoush might want to join in their carefree display so I ushered her into the house before she created any kind of neighborhood gossip.  Anyway, now you know what I've been doing these past two weeks, busy from sunup to sundown, from sneezes and sniffles to nose-wipes to naked ladies.   It's been a good two weeks here in my world.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Beatles Out, Bumbles In

'Snow Pavement'
As ProfessorRoush toured the garden this morning, in the cool beginning of another scorching day, his heart was lightened and his spirits were raised, for the Japanese Beetles were gone.  Gone entirely, without a remnant beetle or frass pile to be found.  I wish that I could claim victory was due to my spraying efforts two weeks back, but even one day post-spray the beetles were everywhere, bulbous and fornicating among the flowers.  I suspect that it's simply the cycle of seasons, the vile creatures have bred and laid eggs and are now gone until July of next year.  

'Foxi Pavement'
In their place, in seeming celebration of their lack of competitors, were bumblebees, healthy and fat and carrying loaded pollen sacks everywhere I looked.   Some of the rugosas, relieved of their beetle battles, were beginning to bloom again, scruffy, crinkled Rugosa blooms to be sure, but beetle-less blooms none-the-less.

'Foxi Pavement'
The bumblebees were on nearly every blossom of  'Snow Pavement' (above, right) and 'Foxi Pavement', above (left) and 'Dwarf Pavement' (below left).   Sometimes they frenetically fought over the blossoms, two or even three bumblebees colliding in their corybantic search for pollen (right).  

'Dwarf Pavement'
This moment, this smidgeon of summer, is why you need to grow the Pavement series rugosas.  Never mind that 'Dwarf Pavement' spreads like it is hellbent on world domination.   Never mind that the blooms of many Rugosa Hybrids wrinkle and fade quickly in the hot sun.   Pavement roses are here now, blooming now while little else dares, present in the moment, while even the daylilies are waning in their defiance of summer's peak.   They're providing food and color and fragrance as the rest of the world wilts without moisture.  Three bumblebee's in the photo at the left all give a "thumb's up" to Rugosas in summer!

'Snow Pavement'
Look at that healthy foliage around the delicate blooms of 'Snow Pavement' (right).  I don't spray for rust or blackspot or mildew, but those rough leaves are spotless and eternal.  They're not chewed to shreds, and the rose slugs and leaf cutters leave them alone.   They just sit out there in the garden, in the middle of 100ºF temps and without moisture for the past month, blooming away for the bees and for me.  They may not be fussy Hybrid Teas, shy and elusive in endless virginal glory, and they may not be Bourbons, spilling over with exquisite fragrance and grace, but they are perfect and beautiful and I welcome their languid lascivious display and their 2nd and 3rd and 4th bloom cycles each and every summer.  Don't you feel the same?


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