Monday, August 24, 2015

Heliopsis Summer Nights

At long last, a Heliantheae that I can live with.  I once thought that Helianthus maximilliana was the answer to my drought-stricken, Kansas sunflower-like dreams, and I sought them out wherever I ventured.  I've grown, and still grow Helianthus maximilliana 'Lemon Yellow' and 'Santa Fe', but they tend to out-compete anything in their vicinity, smothering less aggressive plants.  I keep eliminating clumps and moving them elsewhere.  One of my latest attempts to use them in the garden was to create an ornamental grass + H. maximilliana bed, in the mistaken notion that the ornamental grass clumps could hold their own amongst the H. maximilliana.  Boy, was I ever wrong.

Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Summer Nights’, in contrast, is a much better-behaved garden guest, lending its dark green foliage as backdrop in the early summer, and then livening up the action in Autumn with bright yellow daisy faces and maroon stems.   My 'Summer Nights' seems to be pest-free and at maturity stands about 3 foot tall and 3 feet around.  It is a good perennial for a medium-sized border, and it is creating a good display with the ornamental grasses behind it.  It slouches a little but doesn't spread, a model of grace and good intentions.

If only they had named it something besides the unfortunate 'Summer Nights'.  Every time I look at it, I'm reminded of the song "Summer Nights", from the movie Grease, which leads my hyperactive mind to the vocalists of the song, Olivia Newton John and John Travolta.  I can agree, like other boys who were teenagers in the '70's, that Olivia Newton John has a certain appeal, but I've never been a John Travolta fan.  So I see the plant and I end up with John Travolta singing in my head for a few hours, over and over.  Thus, I always am impressed at first glance by this plant but walk away with a slightly sour expression that the plant doesn't deserve.  "Summer dreams, ripped at the seams, but oh, those 'Summer Nights'!"  

Friday, August 21, 2015

Cantaloupe Planting with Benefits

This blog entry is absolutely not about what you think it is.  Well, okay, it may be about what you think it is, but as a blog with G-rated intentions and only mildly titillating innuendo, whatever you read into it is your own doing.  Freudians should stop here and look elsewhere for entertainment. Contemplative philosophers may pause and ponder the cantaloupe photo.  I'll come back to it later.

Everyone is familiar with the late-Generation-X concept of "friends with benefits," correct?  In full disclosure, ProfessorRoush. an old and simple gardener, has no personal knowledge of the practice, which was invented far after my college years when I was long captured in the caring embrace of Mrs. ProfessorRoush.  I may strain occasionally under her tightly wound Victorian petals, I may stare open-mouthed at the voluptuous displays of a 'Madame Hardy' or a 'Maiden's Blush', but any benefits derived from such floral distractions are strictly limited to home gardening.

I do, however, practice "cantaloupe planting with benefits," a concept that I have perfected and can enthusiastically recommend to other older male gardeners.  Cantaloupes, which I consider malodorous and disgusting fruits, grow effortlessly here in Kansas, requiring little more than a few early rains to establish them, protection from box turtles, and hot August days to mature them.  They spread and proliferate with spheroidal abandon, first green and silent, then golden and lethal.  The odor of a fully ripe muskmelon has been known to drive me out of a room.  You may wonder, then, why I grow them every year and give them more than their fair share of my garden efforts?

Simply stated, Mrs. ProfessorRoush loves them.  She joyfully reaps the annual results of my labor, gorging for days and weeks solely on the shimmering stinking flesh and sugary essence.  And over the years, I've discovered that such spousal satiation enhances the possibility of future companionable benefits that are more useful to an older gardener. You all know what I'm talking about.  Appetizing meals. Clean bedsheets.  Offers to rake the sidewalks.  Other rare perks.  Call it what you like, muskmelon mania or muskmelon mind-melting, but don't mock the power of the melon. Follow my lead, boys, plant a few muskmelons for your cantaloupe-crazed spouse and the benefits extend far beyond what you can get from friends.  

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Rapture of Spain

'Spanish Rhapsody'
Don't you often find that the outer "dress" may not be up to societal expectations, but nonetheless the prettiest lass often lurks beneath the burlap and ashes instead of the velvet and lace?   Isn't that what our folklore and fables tell us?  Well, it's true that 'Spanish Rhapsody' is more plain-clothed than the glossy dark green accoutrement of 'Butterfly Magic', but the matte and lighter green leaves of 'Spanish Rhapsody' are just as healthy as the latter.   And, in the "there-is-no-accounting-for-taste" department,  I'm personally more partial to the individual flower of 'Spanish Rhapsody' than that of 'Butterfly Magic'.  I'd like to say that I try to look beyond the garments at the beauty within, but in this case I guess I'm looking at the beauty above the garb.  The superficial ProfessorRoush.

'Spanish Rhapsody' is a pink blend Shrub rose introduced by Griffith Buck in 1984.  To continue the comparison with 'Butterfly Magic', I'd have to note that the single-stemmed blossoms of 'Spanish Rhapsody' should be fuller, double-cupped, as it were, with 17-25 petals, but she is currently semi-double for me.  Perhaps those blossoms will swell as the plant ages?  The blooms open up quickly to a flatter, loosely displayed form.  She is one of the stippled roses from Dr. Buck, and her colors are a wondrous blend of light red wine, light pink, and yellow, a truly unique rose.  I don't know what it means, but the pistils seem overly large in the bloom of this rose.  Am I perhaps imagining traits that don't exist?   I am sure that 'Spanish Rhapsody' smells better that 'Butterfly Magic', a moderate fruity rose fragrance.  She repeats, but my young bush does not bloom as freely or rebloom as rapidly as 'Butterfly Magic'.

I've only grown 'Spanish Rhapsody' this season, so I can't speak to her winter stamina, but I can say that she is another healthy Buck rose with good blackspot resistance in my garden.  My 3 month old plant is only a foot tall and about 1.5'  around this summer, a little more rotund than tall.  She is listed as a 1976 cross of 'Gingersnap' and 'Sevilliana', and since I'm not familiar with either of the latter roses, I haven't much to add there either.

If, like me, you find a buxom and decorated blossom more comely, then give 'Spanish Rhapsody' a try.  She's not as shiny in the garden, but she has her own charms.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Healthy Butterfly Magic

S'il vous plaît permettez-moi de vous présenter 'Butterfly Magic' me.....Please allow me to introduce you to 'Butterfly Magic', a Griffith Buck rose introduced by Chamblee's Rose Nursery in 2010.  As many are aware, there are 10 "posthumous" Griffith Buck roses which were originally given to friends and later introduced after Dr. Buck's death in 1991.  Their parentage is often unknown, but if they survived in the gardens of friends, as some of them did for years before commercial introduction, we can probably assume that they're pretty disease resistant.

And 'Butterfly Magic' is certainly disease resistant.  Look at that beautiful glossy foliage, here, in August, with no spray whatsoever in a wetter-than-average Kansas summer.  There isn't a spot of blackspot or an insect-damaged leaf on the bush that I can see.  This is the second year for 'Butterfly Magic' in my garden and she hasn't reached her full growth yet, but she was cane hardy here last winter as a tiny rose-tot, and she has grown as much as any rose this year.  I have a 2 year old start of 'Quietness' in the bed next to her, and although I view 'Quietness' as one of Buck's healthier and more vigorous roses, my 'Butterfly Magic' has been growing just as well next to it, and is just as healthy.  It just seems to be a tough year for the roses, with the extra rain and late spring.

'Butterfly Magic' opens up with moderately large 4 inch diameter salmon pink blooms with yellow centers.  The blooms are semi-double, with 12-16 petals, open flat, and have only a very light fragrance to my nose.  They bloom in broad clusters and fade from their homogeneous salmon to a light pink or white, often mottled with spots from moisture.  The yellow stamens and pistils provide wonderful contrast in the new bloom, but fade to brown as the flowers age.  According to Heirloom Roses, the mature size will be 4' X 4', but mine, in its second full season, is only about 2' X 2'.  There is very little available on the Internet or in my rose-themed books about 'Butterfly Magic', and she is not registered or listed in Modern Roses 12, so this is the best I can give you right now.  Chamblee's doesn't list it on their website any longer and the only current source I know of is Heirloom Roses.

 And, no, I don't speak French, but Google Translate is a marvelous thing.  Given the pace of technology, I assume we're only a few years away from a Star Trek-like Universal Translator.  What a marvelous world we live in.


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