Friday, August 1, 2014

Pretty Prairie Lass

One of last year's additions to my garden was this pretty pink-toned shrub rose named 'Prairie Lass'.  I have two bushes of this rarely grown Griffith Buck rose and I've been waiting for them to get tall enough and old enough for me to form some opinion.

'Prairie Lass' is a 1978 introduction that I obtained from Heirloom Roses in 2013.  This double (25-30 petals) rose blooms in clusters that open bright pink with darker stipples and then fade to very light pink.  Flowers open fully to form a flat to slightly cupped final form and they stay on the bush a long time as they age. 'Prairie Lass' doesn't seem to be a continuous bloomer, but rather reblooms in moderately profuse flushes over the summer.  The picture at the left, taken July 27th, is the third full bloom of this summer and it is nearly as full as the first on these two young bushes.  There are other times these bushes have been without a single bloom.  The individual blooms are small, about 2.5 to 3 inches in diameter here.

I would rate the fragrance of 'Prairie Lass' as slight to moderate.  The bush is quite healthy, with no yellowing or leaf drop from fungus now in the fourth month of warm weather.  I found 'Prairie Lass' to have few thorns.  Internet sources say that it may reach 5 feet tall in time.  Unlike many of my roses, there was no dieback at all of 'Prairie Lass' last year in our harsh winter.

So, should you grow 'Prairie Lass'?   It seems to be a nice rose and bush and is healthy enough to keep a place for it in a collection of Buck roses.  But I don't think it is a rose that will ever make a garden visitor gasp in surprise.  Nor will anyone likely become ecstatic over the fragrance or the individual blooms of this rose.  In the end, my recommendation would be to seek it out if you're a Buck rose nut (like me), but otherwise don't put extra time into a search for this rose.   And, as Mrs. ProfessorRoush would point out, it is just one more pink rose among thousands.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Earth Laughs in...Milkweeds?

Almost every gardener has surely read or heard the famous quote of Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Earth laughs in flowers," lifted from his 1847 poem Hamatreya.   Most of us equate this line with a calm and loving Mother Earth, gently expressing her warmth and love.  Within the context of the poem, however, the Earth is laughing at the silliness of man, who believes he is master and owner of the Earth, but who will nonetheless end up beneath the earth, pushing up daisies.  Whatever his good qualities were, Emerson was also a cynical old fart.

The tallgrass prairie laughs at me, I suppose, also in flowers, but they are the flowers of milkweeds.  This area of my pasture (see, there I go, believing I'm the owner instead of a temporary part of the scenery) is the area we used in construction of the barn, first to pile all the dirt from the excavation, and later scraped clean again as the dirt was used to fill in around the foundation.  Somewhere, deep in the soil of the prairie, an infinite number of milkweed seeds must be waiting, biding time until the stubborn grasses give ground.  
This milkweed is Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, a member of the Dogbane family and poisonous and inedible as forage.  I've always viewed it as a two-foot-tall weed in my pasture, tolerated by me because of its usefulness to monarch butterflies, but it does have some other positives.  A couple of years back I found it was growing in the K-State Native Plant Garden and didn't recognize the magnificent five foot tall, very fragrant plants.  I was embarrassed when the director told me what it was.  Seriously, a mass of Common Milkweed has the same affect as an Oriental lily on the air in its vicinity, but the milkweed fragrance is far sweeter and somehow less smothering.  I've also learned to my surprise that Asclepias syriaca is a perennial.  If I'm going to be laughed at anyway, I need to allow a few of them to grow in MY garden.  I might as well make them feel welcome if they're going to be lurking around anyway.

I hope Ralph Waldo Emerson (why do we always use his middle many other famous Ralph Emerson's are there anyway?) doesn't mind me calling the garden, "MY garden."  I may be borrowing the soil and sunlight and rainfall and the air, but I maintain nonetheless that the garden is mine.  I arranged it, I defend it against all marauders floral or faunal, and when I go beneath it, it will soon also cease to exist.  For a while, I suppose, to become a milkweed patch, but eventually the milkweed will lose too.  This is the prairie, and on the prairie, the grasses always win.   

Monday, July 28, 2014

Fifty-Two Loaves

Okay, okay, this blog entry is not about flowers or birds or the Kansas prairie.  Mea culpa.  It's not even about gardening, in a strict sense.  But it is about a book whose author, William Alexander, previously wrote about gardening in the form of a bestseller that many of you will know;  The $64 Tomato.   When I saw 52 Loaves on display two weeks ago at a Half-Price Books store, I recognized the author and snatched it for my garden book collection.

52 Loaves is an engaging story about a year spent in search of the "perfect loaf" of bread.  Alexander becomes intrigued by the process of making bread and he resolves to make one loaf every week until he achieves a perfect loaf.  The book is three parallel tales woven into one wonderful read.  First, he weaves a lively tale of the history of bread-making, the connection of particular breads to their cultures, and his travels and efforts to improve his doughy attempts.  Second, there is a shining lesson here of the development of an obsession, an all-engaging search that sets aside (at times) marriage, family, work, and play in the pursuit of goal.  Last, there is a humorous story through the book of life and family living under an obsession.  The choice of attention to bread over a chance of marital intimacy, for example.  The celebrated escape from Sunday church for the excuse of needing to be present for the bread-making process.  The family's weekly critical assessments of the loaves.

The tale concludes with Williams's short experience in a 1300 year old French monastery, where he brings his expertise, his levain (a bread starter) and the on site process of bread-making back to the monks.  Just his priceless description of trying to bring levain through the TSA from America to Europe is worth the price of the book.  I've leave you to discover what hair conditioner has to do with the story.

ProfessorRoush is no stranger to obsession, and, as a lifelong bread aficionado, 52 Loaves started my own.  I spent the last four days making my own local levain from the yeast clinging to grape skins in my garden.  And right now, while I write, I am waiting for my first loaf of peasant bread (page 328) to rise.  Nirvana awaits me, a few short hours hence.

(Update:  My boule was flat.  But delicious.  Must make stiffer dough next time or at least knead it more.)


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