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.


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