Tuesday, April 15, 2014


This is what a night low of 25ºF does to a beautiful magnolia flower. The only casualties seem to be this magnolia and one other, an apple tree full of open blossoms, and the daffodils that were blooming.  Thankfully, everything else, including the baby roses made it with minor or no damage.  Until next time.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Stellar Magnolia

Magnolia stellata 'Royal Star'
Despite the lack of much rain, there is a bright spot in my garden.  I've mentioned it before, but a nine year old Magnolia stellata is once again the center of attention in my garden...or at least it was yesterday.  A "center stage" performance, even though it is positioned in the wings of the garden, east of my peony bed.

My M. stellata is a cultivar named 'Royal Star', according to the label.  Those wonderful waxy white blossoms began opening a week ago and seem to be peaking today.  I believe this year's performance is the best of its short lifetime in my garden, and perhaps because it is reaching towards the heights promised at maturity.  My 'Royal Star' is about 5 feet high and 3 feet in diameter, a bit below its advertised 10'X8' maturity, but still a respectable size to make an impact.  She's reportedly hardy to Zone 3B, and I've never worried about her health, only about whether a late spring freeze would shorten the life of these blossoms.

M stellata's best input to my garden is undoubtedly sensory.  During these showy days, a unique fragrance wafts across the garden.  Although I'm not a "fragrance expert", I'd describe this one as dense or heavy, warm, moist and musky, a suiting aroma for a genus that first made sugar from sunlight in company with the dinosaurs.  If I were to make a dinosaur park, a playground reminiscent of Crichton's The Lost World, I'd surely fill it with magnolias from edge to edge.  Those thick heavy petals also echo the mists of time and the presence of swamps and humid breezes and dark jungles. Creamy white at first glance, if one looks closely at a flower, one also sees a slight pink blush when the flower first opens, as if it were embarrassed to be caught in such an immodest display.  Born new into a world when asexual means of plant reproduction were old and unfashionable, and pollen and stigmas and flower sex were new and "hot", magnolias exude sex, from the heavy musk of their fragrance to their brazen display of desire.  "Come up and fertilize me sometime," says this early Mae West.

So, if there's a plus side to not yet having spring rains, its that M. stellata is blooming in peace, petals unstained, perfect and beckoning in the sunlight.  It is a sad thing to think that I'd trade all this beauty for a measly inch of warm spring rain.

Update:  I wrote this before things turned bad yesterday.  This morning my 'Royal Star' is almost stripped clean by last night's wind.  Plus it's below freezing out there.  A fleeting moment of beauty followed by bare nothing.  I'll bet the dinosaurs went out the same way.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Thor Kind of Night.

ProfessorRoush is angry today.  Lightning bolt throwing angry.

We need rain here in the Flint Hills. Lots of rain.  As a result, I've been waiting all week for the predicted rain this Saturday and Sunday.

Last night, we saw this thundercloud form just to our west.  Mrs. ProfessorRoush was excited for me and for the garden.

I watched it, however, with a sinking heart.  Because I saw this pattern all last year.  And I knew this cloud was going to move north and west of us.

And it did.  Oh, we had a wonderful lightning show.  My iLightningcam app triggered off 220 pictures in under 5 minutes. Click on the pictures if you want to see more detail.

I was happy to get the pictures, however, I had to quit because the cats kept rubbing around my legs.  Standing in a lightning storm with cats rubbing their fur all over your legs is probably not a good idea.  Think static electricity.

Not a drop to drink here though.  Another storm also came and went to the south and east of Manhattan.  Nothing.  We've got a 60% chance here today, but nada currently visible on radar.

We'll see.  It's going to get cold here again tomorrow.  There's a predicted low of 27ºF here Tuesday morning.  Maybe it'll snow.  Does anyone else see a sneering face in the middle of this cloud pictured at right?  Cause I totally think it's laughing at me.

Excuse me now, I need to go cover a few baby roses.  And throw some more lightning bolts around.  Stupid weather.

Update 2:46 p.m.;  Got 0.3 inches rain at noon, but the predicted high today was 72ºF.  It only reached 52ºF an hour ago and is back to 50 already with a stiff north wind.   Yesterday, remember we had a high of 86ºF   Predicted low tonight has gone from 38ºF to 32ºF a...a 54 degree swing in a little over 24 hours. And snow is now predicted after midnight.  Tuesday morning's low is now predicted to be 23ºF.  That would be a catastrophe to just about everything...lilacs, roses, magnolias, etc.   Maybe I can mow it all off and just have lawn.....


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