Monday, November 27, 2023

White Now, Not Brown

ProfessorRoush's last post was about how brown the prairie has turned and now (with extreme misgiving), how sorry I am for posting that!   Because yesterday morning, it started to snow.

And snow and more snow came falling from the heavens, blanketing the yard and wiping out the uglies. 

And this morning, 5 inches later, you can see the results for itself, a bumpy thick covering of snow over the backyard, turning a drab landscape into a jeweled foreground for sunrise.   I shouldn't complain, but since snow means cold and shoveling and a general mess of the cars and garages, I find that I actually prefer the drab brown of fall to the icy breath of winter, even if I momentarily forgot while wallowing in my loss of gardening time.

Except for what snow does for the house.   My brick eyesore on the prairie now looks like a scene out of a Norman Rockwell scene in the snow, don't you agree?

And at night, better yet!   I took this one returning home from the pre-game function for the Kansas State-Iowa State game last night; a game played in the snow as some people (not me) think football is meant to be played.   I'm doubly pleased, both because I held the phone steady enough for almost no blurring on this 3-second exposure (it was much darker out than this photo shows), and because the Christmas Tree that we just put up yesterday is visible in the window.

We may have snow, but all seems right in the world this weekend.  I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving holiday and is looking forward to Christmas!

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Brown Out There

Geez, Louise, our fall color sure went away quickly.   It was looking at least a little fall-ish out there a week ago, oranges and russets and reds and yellows and browns everywhere, and now it's gone.   Fade to brown, fade to drab, goodbye leaves.   The weather doesn't show it as it's beautiful and sunny everywhere and still days where it hits 70ºF, but that last cold spell hit the trees hard. 

I'm still encouraged on some warm mornings by the occasional fogs, though.   We had one this week and it set the colors back in place.  Except for this little redbud volunteer off my back patio.   It has given up its leaves but it is holding on hard to those proliferate brown seed pods.   I'll have a bumper crop of redbuds next spring!

On my drive to work, I was struck by the wispy clouds on the east side of town.   This picture may not do it justice, but it was surreal in real life, a landscape draped in the middle of the sky.

I did notice, outside on this foggy morning, that my bald cypress looked particularly drab and around it, the warm morning looks somehow more like winter.   It normally has a little more golden color, but not this year.   Just yesterday, driving, I was listening to a Saturday morning garden show that comes from Topeka and the host was lamenting the lack of fall color in Kansas this year and whining about how fast the leaves came down.   He blamed it on the drought we've had in the summer and fall, and on the quick cold snap of a week ago.   I blame it on Kansas.

Not so bad, it is though, when the fog hides the greater world away and leaves me with a nice, sheltered, view of my garden.   And a warm feeling that it was a good year.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

For the Children

Oh, you thought ProfessorRoush had forgotten about it, my semi-annual rant against STATOMIC, the Seasonal Tyrannical Attempt To Obliterate My Internal Clock?  Well, in vain you hoped, and I tried, I really did, to ignore my feelings and not bore you with my oft-repeated rants and grumblings.   And then came yesterday morning.

It was a beautiful brightly sunny Monday morning yesterday, when, under governmentally-mandated biannual fiat, I awoke once again at an ungodly hour, forcing myself to fitfully wait until the un-Daylight-Savings-time moment came to actually get out of bed and go downstairs and exercise.   Sleep-deprived, of course, even though I fell asleep Sunday night at 9 p.m., the usual diurnal bedtime of my internal clock if not now that of my bedside clock.  Properly limbered up after biking (or, as it is now called "spinning"), shaved, showered, dressed and fed, I went forward into the blinding sunlight to face anew the increased risks of heart attack, stroke, and vehicular accident that kills extra hundreds of Americans in the week after each first Sunday of November.

It's the Children that I worry for most on these time change weeks, the collective, capitalized and cherished Children, who, walking to school, must risk a brush with eternity and my Jeep each day as, stricken by the morning sun, I drive oh-so-carefully to work.   You see, my drive to work in the mornings is directly to the east, near the walking paths to school, and in the evening directly to the west, so I'm treated by the time change to not two such periods yearly, but four, doubling up with a sun who just last week wasn't quite awake when I went to work but now blares again into my face for a few more weeks.  I'll do it all over again in reverse next Spring.    And each time the time changes, the Children are at risk.

Red Hawthorn (Crataegus crusgalli)

And I also worry for the decrepit but hardy crew of morning joggers who poorly choose my gravel road as their path these days.   Just around the bend, I come over a hill and then stare straight into the sun for a few moments.   One day, someday, it's inevitable that I'll bounce a runner off into the grass alongside the road, no matter how carefully I drive, a dull thud and an "oomphf" heard from an unseen obstacle who shouldn't even be there.   I shouldn't be there either but for the arbitrary and senseless control exerted by our witless governments on our every waking moment.

Is there no courageous leader, no champion of legislative processes, who will take on the challenge of ending this insanity?   Who will protect the innocent Children and marathoners from doom by vehicular homicide?  Who will leave my biorhythms and cardiac rhythms untouched and unlegislated so that I don't die on a Monday morning right after the change from Daylight Savings?   I despair, despondent that my tombstone will read "he died on Monday after Sunday" and no one will understand, someday, some future day, in a more sane time when hopefully this madness ends.   Please end it, for the Children if not for me.

(These pictures, of course, have nothing to do with the Time Change, they're just more garden pornography that I wanted to share from my trip to the Amarillo Botanical Gardens.)  

Cranes are good luck!

I love a banana in flower!

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Amarillo Botanical Garden

(warning, picture heavy).  ProfessorRoush was away this week at a conference in Amarillo, Texas, a delightful excursion to nowhere in particular, but a nice city, as they say, to visit.   The area was clean and the weather pleasant and the north Texans were laid-back and welcoming.  Would recommend 10/10 (as my Gen Z students would say) if you find yourself in the area.   

The hosts for my travels scheduled a afternoon side excursion for my group to the Amarillo Botanical Gardens, a cooperative municipal venture created by and supported by the local garden clubs (who "set out to prove gardening was possible in the challenging high plains of Texas") and located since 1968 in the Medical Center Park.   I could hardly have planned for a better side-trip for myself and in the course of just a couple of hours took over 60 pictures with my trusty iPhone, a few of which I'll share here.   This one was taken inside the Mary E. Bivens Tropical Conservatory and the Ringed Teal ducks at the bottom of the waterfall were real.   Since these ducks are native to South America, I presume they are captive within the conservatory.

The vistas of the garden were clean and open, with focal points throughout the many separately-themed gardens.   Here, near the entrance, is a broader view from the Franklin Butterfly Garden looking towards the Dusty McGuire Japanese Garden.  

I also thought the view down this isle, towards a very large butterfly mosaic, was quite nice, and the mosaic is a spectacular garden feature.

As per my pattern, I took pictures of almost every statue, but I did not plan for the accidental optical illusion from my lens catching the "heavenly" light rays on this frog. It stands, in real life, almost 7 feet tall.  The bronze plaque at his feet reads "MELODIUS TOADIUS"

Another massive statue in the Gardens was this clay/stone large rabbit just outside the ABG's Harrington Gallery.  This handmade creation was a good 6 feet tall and long.

I did notice, and strongly-approved, of the use of pumpkins and gourds throughout the ABG, placed everywhere in abundance to brighten up and "autumnize" other focal points like the rabbit above and even mundane objects such as this bird bath and the bronze garden bench below. 

Of course, placed in the Panhandle, cold hardy cacti and succulents were flourishing in the Britt High Desert garden, impervious to the blinding sunlight and freezing winds common to the area.  I thought Amarillo was in a low-lying area, but I was surprised to discover that the city itself is at an altitude of 3662 feet.

The Attebury Amphitheater is a nice use of space in the gardens, a place where music and yoga and other activities occur regularly.   My group had a short meditation training there, a not unpleasant break in my usual frantic pace.

The whole of the Amarillo Botanical Gardens is a restful place and full of nice easy to navigate pathways and interesting focal points.  

All in all, as I previously stated, don't forget to make the Amarillo Botanical Gardens a stop if you're ever in the Texas Panhandle.  The hard-fought efforts of generations of Amarillo gardeners should be recognized and appreciated by the suffering gardeners of the greater world!

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Too Soon to Bloom

"Dear Christmas Cacti, ProfessorRoush is not in the habit of complaining about flowers, but you have jumped the gun, premature in your pretentiousness, too fast in your florescence.  I understand that Walmart may have out their Christmas merchandise in full display, but it is not even Hallow's Eve and yet here you are."   Of course, I should remember that these epiphytic and lithophytic plants are native to Brazil, at coastal half-mile altitudes, where they are known as Flor de Maio (May flower), and their flowering is triggered by the onset of cooler air and dwindling sunlight.  

Imagine my surprise yesterday to see that most of our Christmas cactuses (cacti seems so abrupt as a plural) were blooming, some in full display, others just starting, and half still dormant, but all contributing to a sudden explosion of color in the sunroom.  I hadn't been watching closely and they snuck the buds in without my noticing.  Schlumbergera in the sunroom seems like poor environmental placement, but these are behind opaque blinds that shield them from the summer Kansas sun.  

I neglect these for the most part, watering every other week or every week as I remember them, turning the pots occasionally so they grow symmetrically.   They are one of those plants that respond, evidently, to inattention, because most of these specimens are pot-bound and always on the verge of a little too dry.  Oh, if every other living thing was so easy to care for!  I can only feed the heck out of these and hope they bloom in cycles as they did last year, colorful from Thanksgiving to Easter, before they peter out and rest for the summer.

I've been, as you know, collecting colors as rapidly as the breeders frantically develop them, and although the classically-marketed Zygocactus was bright red (for CHRISTMAS), their palette range over the past few years has been greatly expanded.  I used to have a red and white striped one as well, but I don't know if it's just currently reluctant to bloom or if I lost it in the great house freeze of 2004 (or whenever it was).  

I like the new colors, truth be told, as much as the old classic red or white.   I feel the vivid fuchsia at the top is just to die for, and the orange of paragraph #4 is one of the most unusual. The salmon to the right is a subtle hue, and the soft yellow variety below is much more rich-colored in person.   Notice that I've long lost the variety names, if they ever existed, and merely describe them as the welcome color they are for the dreary months of winter.   Here in the sunroom, I can look out windows at the dreary dying garden beyond and my eyes carry this color outdoors into the landscape.

One wonderful part of gardening and blogging is that I'm always learning something and today I've learned that the Schlumbergera are divided into two main groups, the earlier-blooming Truncata, with pointed teeth,  horizontal stems and flowers and yellow pollen, and the later-blooming Buckleyi, with more rounded teeth, flowers that hang down, and pink pollen.  I appear to have primarily Truncata, since the pollen of all currently-blooming seems to be yellow and the flowers are all hanging down, and leaf shapes on the 7 plants not yet blooming seem similar to those that are.  I'll have to search for the Buckleyi, now knowing there is a difference. 

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Accepting Miracles

The title is the subject for ProfessorRoush today, a meme on my mind for all this past week.   My week of miracles started a week ago on a warm Saturday as I was engaged in lots of late Fall work in the yard, mowing, trimming, bushhogging, putting up hoses, and fully engaged in the activities I lump into "Fall cleanup."  My first glimpse of the miracles to come was this late crocus, Colchicum autumnale, a single, annually reoccurring survivor of the few toxic bulbs of the species that I planted years ago and long forgot.   Old age and fading memories sometimes provide unexpected benefits to old gardeners beyond our creaky knees and grumpy exteriors. 

And then, the same day, sitting down outside with Mrs. ProfessorRoush while we chatted with our grandsons, I spied this little sprig of life, a baby juniper bravely growing in the middle of a clump of River Birch, shaded from the sunlight it so desperately wants but also kept moistened and protected in the embrace of the birch.   Can't see the miracle for the tree?   Look closer!

If I left it here, to grow in the rotting organic debris gathered in the birch clump center, will it survive?   Choke out the birch?   Wither eventually, starved for light?   The young scientist in my mind still wants to know so I'm going to leave it growing here in the true sense of "letting nature take its course" while I observe.   A good gardener should always know when to accept miracles when miracles appear.

The sun and earth also conspired in the parade of miracles this week to give me these views of home and prairie as I came home late Tuesday.   Sometimes the light on this corner of the globe overwhelms me, although perhaps poorly captured in these photographs, as it did on this day.   The right angle, the right moment, and the grasses and trees and house were all shining left and right of me as I opened the mailbox and I just couldn't let the miracle moment go uncaptured.

Thursday, another miracle presented to Mrs. ProfessorRoush and I as we came home from supper, a moment of marriage so like many others until we pulled onto the garage pad and I noticed this unexpected bit of Spring transported to Fall, a blooming sprig of common lilac, isolated and alone among a dry and beaten hedge, but full of fragrance and hope for the next Spring to come.  I robbed the bees by taking it indoors where, for a few days, I could smell lilac before it faded into time again.

And was Saturday again, a Saturday like so many others but as welcome as rain on the prairie after a summer of drought.   My Saturdays are miracles every week, miracles brought by a dog wanting only love and a little game of frisbee to break up its long days of napping.  Bella has lots of gray now on her muzzle but her soul is still that of a puppy and her love waits only for me.   I'm convinced this dog counts the days of the week, knowing when it is Saturday and our weekly drive to McDonald's occurs and that I'll stay home and play instead of disappearing until darkness.   This last miracle, Bella in my life, is one I treasure every day, a daily reminder of all the beauty and love and happiness that the world can hold.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

A Walk Down The Road with Bella

Tall Goldenrod
(warning:  picture and link heavy)  Every once in a while, ProfessorRoush decides that Bella needs to lose a little weight and we embark on a program to walk nightly down the paved area of the road, about 1.25 miles total in a down-and-back walk.  This week, as we walked, Bella was willing to impatiently wait as I snapped photos of any blooming flowers along the roadside.

So consider this a short tour of the ditches alongside the road.  Of course, this time of year, Goldenrod is everywhere.  My plant identification is suspect as always, especially here given the number of native Goldenrods, but I believe the photos above and left are of Tall Goldenrod, Solidago altissima, although it could be Canadian Goldenrod, the former being a subspecies of the latter.

Snow-On-The-Mountain, Euphorbia marginata, is nearing the end of its bloom cycle, and not nearly as prominent in the landscape as previously this season.

Of course, Blue Sage, or Salvia azurea, one of my favorite wildflowers, is blooming everywhere now.  I thought this specimen looks a bit more faded then most.  It is also known as Pitcher's Sage, in honor of Dr. Zina Pitcher, a US Army surgeon and botanist.

Sunflowers, the state flower of Kansas, are still represented by the Common Sunflower,
Heliathus annuus
.   I'm not anywhere near certain of the species name for this specimen, and I wouldn't have a clue at all without the marvelous website.

There is a lot of White Sage, Artemsia ludoviciana. on the walk, everywhere in the adjacent prairie, its hairy-gray leaves befitting a plant adapted to drought and grazing.

Another white flowering plant,
Brickellia eupatoriopiodes, or False Boneset, is likewise a very frequent visitor to these hills, blooming in the worst of drought and leaving behind an interesting winter skeleton.  It's taproot is said to reach 16 feet in depth when necessary.

Nearly last, but certainly not least, clumps of the the most "garden-worthy" of the prairie plants, Dotted Gayfeather, Liatris punctata, "dots" the prairie with low light purple spires.  Butterflies love this plant, and often are above it in a swarm.     

Wax Goldenweed
A new Plant ID for me was Wax Goldenweed. Grindelia papposa, or at least I think that's what it is.  The plant is in the Sunflower family and is an annual named for David Hieronymus Grindel (1777-1836) a German botanist.  Livestock reportedly don't like it and I'll have to watch for it in the pastures to see if they avoid it.

And that is a walk down my late-September road everyone.   Not as literary-worthy as Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, but its none-the-less my own little "Walk Down the Road with Bella."


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...