Saturday, August 1, 2015

Orangeish is the New Red

'Maria Stern'
I suppose that those who come here for the roses have been bored to tears over the last few weeks at all the daylily posts.  To some degree, ProfessorRoush agrees with you.  Daylilies are okay, I don't want to make their aficionados mad at me, but daylilies themselves get tired of hanging around for more than a day, and they come at the wrong time of the year, in the hot summer when I don't want to get out among them.  If they bloomed at a more civil time of year, say early Spring or in the cool of Autumn, I'd appreciate them even more than I already do.

But, the truth is, that the roses haven't done well enough for me to introduce new rose after new rose on the blog this year.  My new little ones have stayed little and struggled in swampy clay with all the early rain, and older roses have generally also not elicited any excitement from me.  I've lost several to Rose Rosette again, and I'm tired of watching healthy roses get too many thorns and witches broom and then start to fade.  As a consequence, I've taken a bit of a break in rose enthusiasm lately, letting the petals, as it were, fall as they may.

'Gentle Persuasion'
I'll try to keep your sap flowing, however, by showing you a few wonders that are managing to bring me fleeting joy even in the midst of my angst.  I lost one bush of 'Maria Stern' (above right) this year, but the older bush keeps struggling on, sending up a cane and bud here or there to keep me hopeful.  'Maria Stern' is just not a vigorous rose for me here on the prairie, but at least it hasn't choked on the dust of summer.  I love the color of the blooms and can't give up on it, however

Above, left, is my second start of 'Gentle Persuasion', and at least this one seems to be holding its own.  'Gentle Persuasion' is a yellow blend shrub rose introduced by Dr. Buck in 1984.  It glows both yellow and pink in my garden, and reblooms reliably, and it does seem to have gotten some disease resistance from its 'Carefree Beauty' parent.  I'm thankful for that because the other parent, 'Oregold' never did well in my garden and I gave up on it.  Right now, that's about the extent of anything I can say about 'Gentle Persuasion', however, except to add that those gorgeous blossoms have plenty of charm.

'Sunbonnet Sue'
I'm most hopeful this year for 'Sunbonnet Sue', another addition this year to my garden from the legacy of Griffith Buck.  I'm actually quite thrilled, so far, with this rose, for form, for strong fragrance, and for the gentle shading of deeper color at the center to lighter pinks and yellows at the edges.  It seems to have a little more staying power of blossom form than many Buck roses, holding that shape over several days before finally looking frazzled.  Also introduced in 1984, 'Sunbonnet Sue' is an entirely different cross than 'Gentle Persuasion', the former a cross of 'Gold Dot' and 'Malaguena', and I'm not certain yet of its disease resistance or vigor.  Time will tell.

As far as the blog title today goes, of course, it's a takeoff from the current hit show Orange is the New Black, about which I'm just as happy to attest that I've never watched.  ProfessorRoush is pretty good about keeping away from most time-killing television series, although on the other hand I'm a sucker for good movies.  Since there are no black roses, however, just really dark red and purple roses, I had to really stretch to get the "orange" in, didn't I?  Similarly is a stretch to lump the pink and yellow blend of 'Sunbonnet Sue' into the rare realm of orange roses, but I view the scope of my literary license as a broad one. So 'Sue' me.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

A-Hoya There!

Flowers occasionally pop up in the most surprising places, sometimes in places where we should expect them, but where we least expect them.  Indulge me, for a moment, and imagine that you have had a nice foliage plant in your office for eight or ten years, a plant that struggles to gain sunshine and one that you occasionally overwater or underwater to the brink of death.  Imagine that it occasionally puts out a new shoot, but otherwise grows extremely slowly, fighting for every inch of its precarious life.  Now imagine your astonishment when you are on the phone one day, engaged in a quite boring conversation, and you look over and see this strange, alien thing hanging from your office plant.

I found myself in that exact scenario last week, when I saw the really strange looking structure shown above as it appeared hanging off my Hoya carnosa plant last week.  Hoya carnosa, also known as the Wax Plant, is about the only plant that can survive my fluorescent prison confines with me, and I actually grow two of them in my office for the dual purposes of extending my Seventies back-to-nature office decor and of advertising my gardening prowess in that most unlikely of places.

I wasn't aware that this plant would flower, but if I had known one of its alternate aliases, Porcelainflower, then my surprise might have been muted.   Hoya carnosa does flower infrequently, and these perennial structures are known as spurs.  Spurs, I'm told, should not be damaged because the plant will flower annually from this same spur and the spur and resulting flowers will get longer as it gets older.  Thick-petaled, waxy flowers on my single spur opened eight days after I first noticed the buds (see the photo below), and they are a fabulous star-within-a-star-shape and scented with, I swear to Mother Nature, the scent of delicious chocolate.  Native to east Asia and Australia, H. carnosa  is able to adapt to bright light, but it can tolerate much lower levels as an indoor plant.  It is said to be an excellent remover of pollutants in the indoor environment, and I can surely use all the clear air at work that I can obtain.

I believe that my Hoya is H. carnosa variegata, a variety with white-edged leaves.  I was surprised all over again today when I googled the plant and found the variety of cultivars that are available.  Like nearly everything else on this earth, Hoyas have their own afficionados, and I ran across a website run by someone named Christina that will open your eyes on the Hoyas.  Now, unfortunately, I've fallen down the rabbit hole and I've got to look for some of the other cultivars that I've seen described during my search.  There is always a new twist awaiting a plant collector prone to passions.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Blue Flowering Grass?

Common Dayflower
Sometimes Nature, herself, smacks us on the forehead with the creation of a little unsolicited garden plant combination that draws our immediate attention.  I had just that sort of mental face-slap as I strode into the veterinary college within the last hour, noticing these pretty blue flowers waving among a ornamental grass clump to the left of the entrance.  My semi-aware brain immediately snapped into frantic overdrive.  Blue flowers?  Ornamental grass?  What new cultivar was this?

A closer look revealed the beast lurking within the beauty.  The ornamental grass clump is a Panicum cultivar, probably something like 'Cheyenne Sky' or 'Shenandoah', beginning to turn red on the tips here in late July.  I grow several at home, and every Fall I enjoy the soft spikelets atop the stiffly erect blades of the grass.  Here, in front of the limestone building, this blue-green cultivar stands out in nice contrast, although it doesn't create quite as lively a scene as it does in my constantly wind-swept garden. 

An Unholy Combination
The flowers, of course, are those of the Common Dayflower, Commelina communis, a thug that I've mentioned before and wrote about in my book, but never really discussed here.  It is quite a beautiful flower, really.   The gorgeous dual sky-blue petals soar above the bright yellow staminodes, while the less conspicuous anticous fertile stamens hover over the single, smaller, obscured white petal.  Harmless in appearance, the plant is actually one of the most invasive plants I've ever known, a fearless Asian invader bent on world domination and more ruthless than any human barbarian horde.  I obtained a single clump early in my gardening career from a friend fiend who grew them beneath a shade tree.  Released into the unrelenting sunshine of my Kansas garden, I quickly found that it spread ruthlessly, impervious to glycosphate. 2,4-D, and everything else I've thrown at it.  I've tried to burn it out, starve it, and stomp it to death.  In its native environment, it grows primarily in moist soils, but here it has laughed equally at droughts, heat, drowning and frigid winter temperatures.  I haven't let a single plant flower in my garden for 15 years now, and still it persists, defying my best efforts at Dayflower genocide.  My sole hope is that somewhere, hidden in a small laboratory, a mad scientist is working on a small nuclear bomb suitable for garden-size applications. 

No matter how beautiful this combination seems, consider this a forewarning that you would have to be crazy to try it in your own garden.  Of course, I'm overlooking the fragile sanity level of most avid gardeners.  Anything to outdo the neighbors, right?  Several of you already have mentally placed this combination into your gardens, perhaps along the garden paths where it can be experienced at close quarters, perhaps just around that specimen bush, where it will surprise and delight a visitor?  Don't.  I'm telling you, just don't.  God only knows how many years, State workers and tax dollars it will take to eliminate the Common Dayflower from this one clump of ornamental grass.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Beautiful Edgings

'Beautiful Edgings'
I'm not leaving the daylily world behind me this year without a "shoutout" (to use vernacular from my students) for my favorite daylily.  This delicate creature is 'Beautiful Edgings', and I know that she's not flashy and that she doesn't have the biggest blossoms, or the brightest coloring, or the most rain resistant petals, but she still is my favorite.  Please allow me to explain.
'Beautiful Edgings' is a midseason "reblooming" daylily hybridized by Copenhaver and introduced in 1989.  She is officially described as cream-edged rose with a green throat, but I find that after colder night temperatures she has strong yellow tones like those at the left.  A 'Best of Friends' seedling, she stands around 30 inches tall in my garden and bears flowers that are around 5 inches in diameter.   She has received a number of awards including the Stout Silver Medal Runner-up in 2006 (missing the award by 7 votes), the 2006 Lenington All-American Award, the 2002 President's Cup, the Award of Merit in 2002, and the 1999 Honorable Mention List.

  My original plant was in the front bed, on the northwest side of the house, and she was fortuitously planted near where I walk every day.  Once I accepted how fabulous she is, I divided her again and again and I now have 5 or 6 clumps spread around the area.  This time of year, when she is blooming, I make sure to observe her every morning as I walk the dog, and I occasionally refresh my memory of her delicate fragrance.  Fragrance is rare enough in daylilies, and 'Beautiful Edgings' has one of the best in my garden.

I've never been able to fully understand the term "reblooming" as it applies to daylilies.  Certainly, I can understand "reblooming" in relationship to my detested 'Stella de Oro', continually blooming for months, and I have a couple of daylilies that bloom now and then will put out a token bloom or two in the fall.  Many other daylilies, however, display what seems just to be an extended bloom period, and for those, my "anti-marketing hackles" are raised.  How much is real reblooming and how much is hype to capture gardeners who look for "reblooming" on the label?

Regardless, while 'Beautiful Edging' is one that only has an extended period of bloom, I'm glad to great her each morning as long as she will stay, each morning that I'm awaken by the intrepid Bella whining to alert me to her urinary bladder discomfort.  I'll eagerly crawl out of bed and perform an unpleasant task to experience such beauty.


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