Sunday, May 21, 2023

Blush Hip

'Blush Hip'
Friends, ProfessorRoush had every intention of running another beauty pageant this week, perhaps one among red roses or irises or peonies, but I'm a bit addled by all the roses blooming and wanted to show you a surprise standout this year.  Most years I would keep her hidden in a closet, tending the stove or the boiler, but this year 'Blush Hip' is the debutante of the ball, Cinderella with her slipper.

'Blush Hip'
'Blush Hip' is an old Alba that's been growing and slowly dying in my garden for 20 years.  She's a small lass for me, never over 3 feet tall, and since she is sited next to a taller 'Therese Bugnet', she has always struggled for sunlight.   She has also been out-competed by an invasive Woolly Verbena (Verbena stricta) that grew up in her center and tried to smother her.  The verbena has roots that grow up to 12 feet down and it reaches 5 feet tall so it  competes for water and light and nutrients and I have a devil of a time exterminating it where it chooses to grow in the best of circumstances.   I pull it and pull it and it just comes back from those deep roots, and glyphosate or 2-4-D is not an option in the middle of a valued rose.  I wage a constant battle on behalf of this rose and last year I doubled my verbena-cidal efforts in an attempt to rejuvenate 'Blush Hip' and ensure her survival.

'Blush Hip'

Thankfully, it seems I'm winning at present because 'Blush Hip' has responded and bloomed its heart out this spring with only a small clump of verbena still hanging on.  'Blush Hip' deserves the victory, for she is a rare Old Garden Rose of unknown provenance.  She was known to exist before 1834, but introduced in Australia as 'Blush Hip' 1864.  Her flower is as described and as pictured, nicely double and light pink with a strong fragrance, but both and Peter Beales in his Classic Roses describes her as a 6-10 foot tall rose, so either I was sold a pig-in-a-poke or she simply doesn't like the Kansas environment.   She is reliably winter-hardy here and free of disease, so I'll take what I have, especially when she blooms like she is this year.   Despite her name, however, she doesn't form seed hips, just the "hips" or "buds" of flowers.   My Botanica's Pocket Roses, itself a misnamed 1007 page monstrosity that doesn't fit in any pocket, says that many rosarians describe her as the best of the Alba roses.   

I can't agree, however, with "many rosarians", if indeed 'Blush Hip' is what I have, for although the flowers are pretty, there's just something I'm not crazy about with the color of the "blush", the pink having a blueish tinge that leaves me cold.  Or maybe I just like my pink on the edges rather than in the center.  I much prefer the blooms of  her near neighbor, 'Leda', 3 doors down, another Alba blooming well this year, although I've also had my frustrations with 'Leda', truth be told.  Wait two minutes too long in bright sunlight and those ruby-edges fade to white and she's just a gangly white double rose.   Or catch her after a rain or a heavy dew and the edges of the petals are already browning and she inspires no love at all.  But, once in a moon, if you catch 'Leda' blooming just at the right moment, usually a newly-opened bud at mid-morning when its not yet too hot and it hasn't rained and you're very lucky, then she has no equal.   Like the jewel pictured here.   Beautiful, but one of only two or three on a bush with hundreds of faded blossoms present at the moment this was taken.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Beauty Pageants

'Marie Bugnet'
ProfessorRoush, at the beginning of a new gardening year, believes he has hit on a new theme that will at least temporarily increase his post frequency and simultaneously provide you with fitting flower pornography to fill your fancy.  As things bloom, I am simply going to run a series of beauty pageants of each grouping, leaving you to judge the winners for yourselves.  I'm optimistic that minstrels will indubitably hereafter sing songs of this season and look back on 2023 as, "The Year of the GardenMusings Beauty Pageants." 

'Marie Bugnet'
This week, as a start, we'll set aside any accusations of color bias and go with a simple "White Rugosa Pageant."   So, you get to look, you get to salivate, and you get to choose;  which one is the "Miss Gardening Universe" of the years' white Hybrid Rugosas?

'Blanc Double de Coubert'
First up this year is, as always, 'Marie Bugnet', she of shy nature and short form, blooming first for me in the annual garden race, nearly 2 weeks ago.  Marie struggles annually a bit, lacking vigor but persistent nonetheless, and I think she's doing better now that I'm pampering her with a little extra water and care each year.  She holds perfect white blooms without a spot of pink or brown on healthy foliage.  Is she your choice to win the double crown this year, the race to be the first to bloom AND the most beautiful?   Just look at that delicate center above, golden pistils held in perfect pristine order surrounded by stately stamens. 

'Blanc Double de Coubert'
Marie was followed quickly a week later by my 'Blanc Double de Coubert', a rather stocky gal of medium height, as round as she is tall.  Blanc has obviously bloomed out of her bloomers, as you can see from all the petals on the ground, although there are plenty of bountiful flowers left to fall.   Gertrude Jekyll, as I've noted before, thought Blanc was the whitest rose in existence and I won't quibble over that title when this rose is blessed by sunshine and heat as she blooms.  Sadly, a little rain and she turns from the purest virginal bride to the browned wilting and damaged unfortunate that fate decrees, turned out and soiled by the fickle weather of spring.  I'm a little biased, but isn't the pistil area in Blanc a little messier than Marie's?   And what a mess she leaves on the ground!

'Sir Thomas Lipton'
Tall and stately 'Sir Thomas Lipton' has recently joined the ball, the perfectly white blooms of the 123-year-old gentleman (introduced to commerce by Conard-Pyle in 1900) held higher than my head atop the lean and thorny canes.   I like Sir Thomas more than most rose aficionados seem to (particularly Suzanne Verrier who called him "ungraceful...with the nastiest thorns imaginable"), but I think he probably does better in my arid Zone 5 climate than elsewhere in the US.   As a gentleman, he perhaps shouldn't be part of the pageant, but I'll choose not, in this moment, to be sexist and deny him an equal chance for pageant glory.  After all, a rose is a rose and their flowers contain both male and female organs, whatever gendered moniker we chose to hang on them.

'Sir Thomas Lipton'
Those are your contestants for the week.   Hybrid Rugosa 'Polareis' has started a few meager blooms but the night chill keeps them more pink than white, so I'm leaving her out.  And some of the Pavement roses that are near-whites are blooming, but I'm holding them for inclusion in a Pavement Rose Pageant.  Of the three presented here, which is your choice, my gardening friend?  Will you stand against the opinions of well-known garden writers and go with 'Marie Bugnet'?  Disdain the Canadian-born and stick with 'Sir Thomas Lipton'?   Or follow the herd supporting the strumpet, 'Blanc Double de Coubert'? 

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Grand Opening

Come one, come all, to the 'Prairie Moon' Ball!
White and cream petals closed at each morning,
Exposed golden stamens are shining each noon.
Pistils and purpose are packed in the center,
Surrounded with silk and recalling the moon.
Bumbling bombers target the larder, 
The stored sun on tap each new day of the world.
My hopes and my dreams are caught in its glory,
The promise of love in its petals uncurled.

ProfessorRoush was perfectly pleased to see all these early peony buds survive three days of wind tightly wound and undamaged and was even more thrilled when they all opened together, virginal and coyly greeting the sun this first fine windless morning.  'Prairie Moon' was a whim purchase several years ago, a decision made based on a thought.  "Its named 'Prairie Moon' and was born in 1959, and here I am, ProfessorRoush, and I was born in 1959 and I live on the prairie."   I had to have it, don't you see, since each of us is sixty-three?

Often, this peony blooms sparingly and fall quickly, but oh, this year, those white blooms shine over the prairie like the glow of a lighthouse, drawing man and insect into adoration.  The bumblebees were all over this peony today, collecting precious pollen as fast as the plant can make it, the very air vibrating with their humming admiration of the blossoms.

The pictured peony above left and here at left, was captured around 7:20 a.m., the sun just risen and the peony still cold and closed.  Below, the midday sun has worked its magic, opening 10 or more smaller suns against the shiny, healthy green foliage. The harsher sun at 1:00 p.m. whitewashes the petals, chasing away the earlier blush and creams of their undersides.  Now open, the warmed pistils and warmed bumblebees compete for the pollen, the former fertilized, the latter loaded with food.  These blossoms will last until the rain predicted two days from now, moisture desperately needed and desired in our drought, but temporarily unwelcome to me as long as 'Prairie Moon' blooms.

There is nothing quite so joyful to me as this simple enormous peony; white as pure as a bleached cotton sheet, blooms as big as a hand, petals thick and impervious to the sun.  My impetuous purchase a decade and more hence has paid its value back in splendor a thousand times over, the debt forgiven anew each May when it briefly blooms the flowers of heaven inlaid with gold. 


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