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?

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Pears Ahoy!

One secret of ProfessorRoush's garden is that there is an orchard, a decrepit excuse for an orchard anyway, that I'm not very proud of and don't discuss much.  I started it early after we built the house and placed it just below the crest of a south- and east-facing hillside, sloping down to a "draw" in hopes of sparing it from late freezes and the worst winds.   That plan would have worked pretty well, except that this is Kansas and I neglected to plan for the myriad of other threats they would face.  Since establishment, they've faced fire and freeze and drought and deer and what remains today is a pitiful remnant of the original dozen trees planted and a few replacements that followed.  My education in orchard farming has been "fruitless" and nonproductive, and today I have perhaps 3 healthy mature trees, one or two dwarf survivors, and a bunch of always-on-their-last-legs sticks that keep a leaf or two to tease me. 

It's not my fault, I promise.  My pyromaniac neighbors are responsible for the demise of several promising saplings. Despite protection within stone circles of bare earth, several near the boundary fence lines were regularly scorched by the annual prairie burns and simply gave up their efforts to survive.  Rutting deer have killed several by scarring the trunks during antler growth.  Of 4 apple trees, two were lost to fire and, although I have a love for 'Jonathan' apples in pies, the cedar rust here annually consumes my 'Jonathan', preventative spray or none.  The 4th apple tree, a 'Honeycrisp', has never borne fruit and I don't know why.  I've also learned that peaches of any kind are impossible here, the blooms destroyed by frosts every year, bearing any fruit at all only one year in five.  And that 5th year will be the one in which I neglected to spray them for peach leaf curl and worms.  Worst of all, perhaps, I completely underestimated the competition for water and nutrients from the prairie native grass, even when I kept it mowed beneath the trees.  Consequently, I gave up maintenance of the orchard and any spraying routine several years ago.

Imagine my surprise, then when I mowed around the remaining trees last week and found this 19-year-old 'Bartlett' pear (Pyrus communis) was loaded with fruit, the first time ever since it was planted in 2003.  I don't know why it's never had fruit, although I will admit I planted another pear in 2011 that, although it struggles, might have actually just bloomed and cross-pollinated with my 'Bartlett for the first time.   Here they are, regardless, healthy and growing, and completely organic since I haven't sprayed so much as dormant oil here for years. 

I'm going to monitor the heck out of these until harvest now, because I do like an occasional ripe pear, although I'm sure I'm setting myself up for frustration again.   If they survive the Japanese beetles which are munching nearby on the grape vines, and if the raccoons don't come in and eat them all before I realize they're ripe, and if the birds and worms don't ruin them, maybe, just maybe, I might have a tasty bite of pear this year before winter sets in.  Hope springs eternally from a gardener's heart.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Later. Let's Play Global Thermonuclear War...

Those who are of ProfessorRoush's era will recognize the quote represented by the title of this blog entry, and some may even hear it in the voice of Matthew Broderick, overriding the computer pleading, "How about a nice game of chess?"   Broderick, in 1983's War Games, ends up regretting his choice as the runaway computer tries to set WWIII into real motion.  The Japanese Beetles currently invading my garden are going to regret their attack as well.

'Marie Bugnet'
Despite my calm surrender of last year, I am not nearly so complacent this year as I confront the onslaught of the Japanese Beetle Hordes.   I first detected them on Monday, 7/4/2022, 4 small males, happily resting among 'Blanc Double de Coubert', my early warning detector.   Those first spies were tried and summarily executed by crushing, momentary satisfaction in a minor tactical skirmish.   Then, Wednesday night, there were more, a dozen enemy combatants on 'Blanc' and on 'Fru Dagmar Hastrup', a second front opened despite my earlier victory.

'Hope for Humanity'
I resolved, given the hot weather and my workload, to spray the first thing Saturday, a perceived opportunity to head off the main battle, but as I prepared my defenses yesterday these beasts stepped completely over the line.   They were on every rose when I went to reconnoiter.  They were on semi-doubles, doubles, and even singles like the Kordes hybrid of 'Rosalina'.  Past years, they've been attracted to 'Blanc', 'Fru Dagmar', maybe 'Martin Frobisher' or 'Morden Blush' in overflow, but they've left the reds alone.  This year they were on reds, pinks, and even my beloved 'Marie Bugnet.'  Is there 'Hope for Humanity' when they attack such a peacefully-named red rose?   Regardless, beetles fornicating on the virginal white blooms of  'Marie Bugnet' is a step beyond what I can abide.  Forget the calm internet recommendations for knocking them into a bucket of soapy water or for hand-picking them and crushing them.   Forget the controversary over the question of whether Beetle traps kill or simply attract more to your garden.   

'Blanc' with 10 beetles
All that changes when you look at this picture of 'Blanc Double de Coubert'.   How many beetles are visible in this small area.   I'll give you a's ten.   Ten individuals, with several in fornication mode.

If it is war they want, then war they shall have.  I'm going completely nuclear in my garden.  Yesterday I drenched everything in Ortho Rose Spray, labeled for beetles and all manner of creepy creatures.  You can see it in the pictures, all these beetles individually soaking in the insecticide.  Last night, they still squirmed and moved, leading me to doubt the efficacy of Ortho spray.   

'Linda Campbell'
During my afternoon reconnaissance, I expect the battle temporarily won, but I have little real hope of going out to find the beetles gone.  If yesterday's spray isn't effective, I'll be making the rounds of box stores today.   Perhaps something less-pyrethriny, my pretties?  Something less gentle, something more lethal?   You can't win a war by being nice.

Yes, there will be innocent casualties.  The bumbles in my back yard had better stay away from the roses, or they'll be swept up in friendly fire.   This fat bombardier on 'Raspberry Rugostar' was minding his own business, but less than 4 inches from this guy a beetle feasted on another bloom.  Must I chose a Silent Spring over a summer smothered in beetle frass?  It seems the answer is "yes."  Victory is by no means certain, but defeat and capitulation are no longer viable choices.

Sunday, July 3, 2022

1004 Mortal Moments

'Cosmic Struggle' early morning
ProfessorRoush had grandiose plans, a year back, to celebrate the 1000th published entry of this blog as he recognized the landmark nearing.  I had such hopes of a deep, thought-provoking masterpiece, complete with photographs of unblemished and vividly-colored blooms and prose fit to stir awe and envy in all its readers.  I resolved carefully to watch, to remain vigilant as the day approached, to portend and celebrate its long-awaited moment.

'Space Coast Color Scheme'
This week, I realized that I had missed it, that 1000th entry, which actually occurred on May 22nd last, the milestone sneaking past in yet another banal description of yet another badly-needed rain brought by yet another terrifying summer storm front.  I not only overlooked the occasion once, nor twice, but 3 times, like Peter denying acquaintance of the Savior, the post today sneaking in as my 1004th, according to Blogger's count.  Caught up in life, caught up in the garden, I lost sight of the broader vision, missed the passage of time and the momentary significance of yet another blog entry.

'Marie Bugnet'
How do I now make up for it, that lost opportunity, the special occasion gone uncelebrated?   I thought long and hard on it since I realized the oversight.  Do I photograph the perfect rose for you, perhaps the virginally-perfect 'Marie Bugnet' to the right of these words?   She is, after all, one of my all-time favorites, the first to greet my hungry eyes most springs, tirelessly blooming the rest of the summer over perfect foliage.  

'Amethyst Art'
Should it instead be a new daylily addition to my garden, heavily-anticipated and fulfilling it's promise, such as the thick-petaled 'Cosmic Struggle' at the top of this entry, or the striking 'Space Coast Color Scheme' to the left of the second paragraph here?   Or the older, yet still splendid, 'Amethyst Art' shown to the right, chosen out of its many, many cousins for its timeless beauty and productivity?   'Cosmic Struggle' is newer to the world and simply striking, as shown above at the morning's call, but these same blooms at the end of the day lack the grandeur of the morning (below).  'Space Coast Color Scheme' has been tremendously prolific this year, a sight to behold, but no matter how bonny the mass, her individual blooms are orange and yellow, the most common of daylily colors.  

'Cardinal de Richelieu'
Should I overwhelm  your senses with the sumptuous purple tones of 'Cardinal de Richelieu', blooming at the time of the 1000th blog? Or should I instead tempt you with a rose new to my garden, yet undescribed here in these pages but healthy in my garden?  Decisions, decisions, so difficult to make and so impactful once made.

Bull Thistle
Wait, would another blog about a native prairie plant interest you?   I've been lately concerned with the Bull Thistles in my pasture, the aptly latin-named Cirsium vulgare.   Another member of the Sunflower Family, it's a noxious weed on the prairie, not, unfortunately a forb to celebrate but one to ruthlessly cut down and eliminate.  It is so hated that folklore has it that merely chopping it down at this stage is not enough as it will still develop viable seed in the pods.  I'm skeptical of that story after looking at the dry remains of mine after 3 days in the prairie heat.  My maternal grandfather always said to chop it down on June 23rd and over time it will disappear from the pasture.  I'll stand by that, having witnessed the effect of the procedure on an entire pasture full of Bull Thistles in my Indiana youth. 

Perhaps, as a 1000th entry should be, I should present here a grand summation of the garden, a broader picture of life here on the Kansas Flint Hills?   My current view from my bedroom window, greeting me cheerfully and colorfully each and every morning when I assess the weather (left)?   Or a vista of the rear garden, daylilies in the back patio bed in the fore, the blue mists of Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Filigran’) and white of Hydrangea paniculata ‘QuickFire’ in the midphoto, and the color of daylilies in the rear (below)?  Things bloom in the garden, and my attention follows the blooms as randomly as I weed or keep track of the number of blog posts.   But these photographs were taken as I began this blog, another captured moment in time.

'Cosmic Struggle' late-day
In reaching this paragraph, I have by now realized, of course, that the occasion is past, lost to time and inattention, never to be relived or revered.   The next milestones, at 5000 or 10000 entries, are so far into the future that I can only faintly hope to still be able to write and garden and reach them, the first 1000 taking nearly 12 years to form.  Even 5000 new thoughts are difficult to conceive of, and who would still be reading them if they weren't each new and interesting?  Perhaps I should think in terms of years, blog birthdays, and celebrate instead 15 years or 20 years or 25 years of thoughts and blogs.  July 28th, 2022 for instance, will mark 12 years of blogging.  And yet it seems such an evasion, an excuse, a compromise of virtue to accept  such an altered goalpost as won.  Like 'Cosmic Struggle' (right) losing its cosmic struggle at the day's end, I  give you here a mere shadow of what could have been.   We will all just have to be content with celebrating this, my 1004th blog entry, and each to follow. 

Saturday, June 25, 2022

2022 EMG Manhattan Garden Tour

Today, June 25, 2022, was the Extension Master Gardener tour in Manhattan.  Yours' truly, as usual, was the unofficial photographer for the group, so I spent the morning taking 814 photos in 4 hours, and 720+ turned out to be pretty useable.  I'm pretty proud of the fact that despite the heavy daylily bloom today (and at least one of the 7 gardens on tour claimed to have 800 cultivars), I only took around a dozen closeups of daylilies.  Of the other photos, I've selected my favorite dozen for you to view, my selection based on what I viewed as the most "artistic" photos. Without further ado, enjoy.   Click on the photos if you want to see them full size.

The light this morning was fantastic.

I thought this was the best daylily picture that I took.  It's not the prettiest or most unusual, but I liked the way the leaf draped across the blossom.

One of the gardeners is doing a great job recreating a prairie meadow planting.

At the same garden as the prairie above, lived this good girl.

Sometimes, a little woodland serenity goes a long way in a garden photo.

I don't know who Rex and Bogie were, but this homeowner loved them very much.

I'm calling this one "Stairway to Heaven".   That blue Kansas sky just kills me.

Oh, the colors here are just fabulous!

Had a serendipitous moment with this butterfly.

Again, Color!

Is it an entrance or an exit?   Only the homeowner knows!

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Mowing Day

It is hot as Hades here in Kansas and ProfessorRoush chose to mow early today before the sun could sear my socks off my feet.   Mowing always brings forth mixed feelings for me.  I hate to mow, to know that I must aimlessly drive in short circles all over my landscape on a weekly basis, but at the same time, I love the neat clean appearance of the house and yard after mowing, and it gives me a chance to assess the health of the garden and it's floral population.

Take my hollyhocks, for instance.  I primarily notice these as I mow, since they're right near the edge where I start in.  This group, on a southeast corner of the back patio, is completely self-seeded, now several generations removed from a Alcea rosea 'Nigra' that I planted in the area over a decade back.  They have reverted to a palate ranging from pinks (as pictured above) to blood reds (as illustrated below), but they're dependable bridges from the first bloom of the roses into daylily season.  

Hollyhocks in Kansas need only a little disturbed soil or mulch to self-seed, and they seldom need care.   Some develop a little rust from time to time, but not normally enough that I need to spray them.   And those clumps pictured above withstood the EF2 tornado, or at least the 100 mph straight line winds, that came through Manhattan on June 11th, 2022.   I can assure you, as I was looking out the basement window at the time, that these were bent to the ground for some time as the storm passed.   The tornado actually touched down on the east side of town, damaging a few houses there, but the path of the worst storm damage to trees and electric lines seemed to go right through our house in a straight line to the area of damage.   Thankfully there was no loss of life, and I, for once, didn't even lose a shingle.

I saw today, as well, that the Knautia macedonia is out of control in my front boarder.   Pretty up close, but too small and dark-red to be impactful from a distance, they are so successful here that they tend to choke out smaller plants if I don't watch and remove them.   As a no-maintenance plant, however, I have no complaints regarding Knautia.

Mowing also forces me towards  some new vistas of my yard, making me see from angles that I wouldn't normally walk or chose to photograph.  This last photograph doesn't do justice to just how deep the shades of green were across the back yard today.   I don't know whether it is the i-Phone not picking up the depths of the green tones, or if it was the photographer not choosing the correct exposure, but I apologize for not helping you to live in the moment with me.

I guess you'll just have to take my word for how good this looked today.   However, for those who can't, I am taking names, first-come, first-served, for those who wish to experience mowing here on the Flint Hills.   Just let me know what Saturday or Sunday you want to be here between now and October.   I'll be happy to accommodate you.

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Rosa Emily Carr

'Emily Carr'

Please allow me, in the midst of the late May flush of roses, to begin in the next blog entry or three to introduce you to a few "new" friends.   New, at least, to me, nearly new to my garden, survivors of at least one winter without protection and survivors of my general lack of proper garden attention.

This week, I bring you 'Emily Carr', a refined Canadian lady that I was introduced to in 2019.  She was, at that time, only 12 years past her debutante ball, for 'Emily Carr' was debuted to the world in 2007 (another less-reliable source says 2005) as one of the later introductions of AgCanada.  Bred by Lynn Callicott in 1982, she is a member of the AgCanada 'Canadian Artist Series', the only member of that series that I believe I grow.   Her namesake (12/13/1871 -3/2/1945) was a Canadian Post-Impressionist artist and writer of British Columbia who was inspired by the Northwest Indigenous peoples and the British Columbia landscape.

'Emily Carr', as you can easily see, is a semi-double, bright red bloomer of medium stature and glossy, healthy foliage.   At maturity, she is supposed to become 4 foot tall, although my 3 year old specimen is only 3 feet at present and a pair of posts on Houzz suggest that she goes over 5 1/2 feet in some instances.   She struggled her first two years in my garden, an uncertain survivor of the triple plagues of cold, drought, and deer, but this year she popped up strong and solid, a striking arterial-blood-red scream against the pale pink tones of 'Blush Alba' behind her.   According to helpmefindroses, she is a direct descendant of 'Morden Cardinette' and 'Cuthbert Grant'.   I tried and lost the former, but 'Cuthbert' is a solid, healthy rose for me, slowly ending his own first bloom flush in his 22nd year.  Father to daughter, those deep red genes held strong.

'Emily Carr' is supposed to repeat reliably in flushes, but as she didn't have much of a bloom over her struggling years, I'll have to see what she can do for me this year.   At least she seems to be rose rosette immune, having survived the onslaught of virus in my garden even during her struggles.   I sadly can't detect much in the way of fragrance from her, a disappointment since I've always thought 'Cuthbert Grant' had a decent fragrance here in my garden and he, himself, was a descendant of fragrance legend 'Crimson Glory.'   It's a pity that fragrance can be lost in so few generations if breeders don't pay attention.

One never knows where research on a given subject will lead in these days of Internet bounty.   In this case, my searches for 'Emily Carr' led me down a rabbit hole to the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre and it's "49th Parallel Collection of Roses."   And now I'm left wondering what 'Chinook Sunrise' would look like and how it would perform in Kansas.  A little late to obtain this year, but maybe next year I can find her.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Storm Smiles

The weather gods finally opened the spigot and ProfessorRoush's garden got some badly needed rain.   Not from the storm pictured here, a quick downpour that came in last week and left only about 1/2 inch and some pea-sized hail.  No, it was from another, the middle of last week, that left 3 inches in all my gauges.  Three beautiful inches of rain.

But this earlier storm was gorgeous, coming in quickly from the west, while the setting sun kept it all illuminated for the camera.   See how the dark sky highlights the mix of the prairie remnants from last year's growth and the patchy newer growth in the distant hills?   Last week the grass of my front yard still struggled to turn green.  Today, after a small rain and then a deep soaking, it's as green as emeralds.

While these storms can also bring trouble, and the time-lapse here might make many uneasy, they only bring me calm and a sense of wonder at the power behind it all, the power building at my very doorstep and passing me by, God and the Grim Reaper together at once, mysterious and yet always nearby.

I feel the danger nearby, and yet my peace is generated by the sure knowledge that life comes with the storms.  Four days later, yesterday, and my garden was this, roses coming into bloom and, at last, the full rebirth of another gardening year.  No dribbles of a bulb here or a wind-damaged lilac there, I now relish the full gifts of a garden.

Here and above, Canadian rose 'George Vancouver' is in the foreground, sprawling over the nearby bench.   Please excuse the weeds you see there at his feet; I sprayed them yesterday, the only way to kill the rapidly spreading ambrosia.   Behind George, bright red 'Survivor' blooms, and then 'Polareis', a hint of pink in her blooms, and then, in the rear, bright white 'Blanc Double De Coubert', ready to begin to make her hips and start another crop of blooms to feed the hungry bees.   
So fear not the storms, I beg you, for the storms bring color and glory to the garden.  Storms make me smile, smile as wide as a mile, a grin to wrinkle my chin.  If I were only a dog, I'd be wagging my tail happy for the world to see.


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