Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Post Autumnal Equinox Post....

"Pearly Mae", a Griffith Buck hybrid Rose
Alright, it's early Fall....but fall.I've been fighting it for a week or so, thinking that fall is WEEKS away, but no, it has happened. As a school child, the singing of the Cicada's was the aural signal that school was not far away. I actually like the rhythmic, pulsing sound the creatures make. One Summer a few years ago, three separate species came in to the world at the same was deafening! There was a small sort, that had red eyes, then a much larger one with glossy black beads, that sparkled in the light. I don't remember what our third denizen of the deep looked like- but it was loud. These insects have very specific maturation rates...seventeen year locusts (a misnomer-Cicada) and I think there is a twenty year one, spending all those years feeding on the juices of deciduous trees. Once and awhile, I'd be digging in the garden, and accidentally unearth the pupae in there ivory whiteness, legs splaying in a sloth like stroke. I never killed them, but carefully re in turned them to there earthly bed. I'm pretty sure our native people here, Osage and Shawnee Indians ate the hell out of them in season, a late summer bounty of protein and flavor-they are supposed to taste a bit like thanks. For the native people, school was not the enemy, but the onslaught of Winter was. I wonder if that was what the common thought was.."hmmm, Cicadas=Winter is near". There are these giant Cicada killer wasps that hatch out in sequence to the major Cicada emergence. These things are BIG. they catch the harmless Cicadas in flight, and then drag them into their nest holes, usually in a gravely or rocky area. The big bugs are stung, but not dead. The pregnant female wasp lays her eggs into the body cavity of the Cicada, so that when they hatch, they have live food to subsist on. I've never known anyone to get stung by these prehistorically large wasps, but they can do it! School has begun for all the kids now, and the Cicadas are on there way out...but you can still find there translucent shells, anchored on the bark of Maples and Oaks, Earth suits that have outlived there usefulness. My dad, Jack, would always sing the Irish ballad about the last Rose of Summer, just when the nights would start to get cool (now), I walked the gardens, looking to see what roses were indeed, the last ones. the winner this year was "Queen Bee", a Griffith Buck hybrid. I'm not a red rose fan (being a professional florist/designer) because they have been bred to the point of uselessness. if you didn't know, most red florist roses are bred for lasting quality, and stem length, not scent. this rose was bred for garden use, and maintains a lovely scent, as well as "some of the most beautiful stamens in rosedom"...not my quote. All griff's roses are super hardy, he bred the first "blue " rose, and all the silver to lavender /blue Roses have his breeding in their background. I recently received an amazing rose from a shipment of mixed cut varieties. It had a smoky green layer of gard petals, and the center was filled with pale lavender/bluish petals, with a strong tea fragrance. If you want a scented rose when ordering from a good florist, order lavender...almost always it will be highly scented. I took a few stems home with me, and after I'd enjoyed them a few days, attempted to root them. Miracle on top of miracle, they both rooted! Now I'll trial them, and see if they are hardy. One will go in to the greenhouse, the other will brave the cold and we'll see if it survives. I'm betting on survival,, because this new mystery Rose almost certainly has Griff's hardy blue in it's genes...well see.

My friend Jeff and I would wait for the first hard frost warning, the one that cuts everything down and ends the season? We would go to a large civic rose garden that shall remain nameless, and gather ARMLOADS of beautiful roses, all under the pre-frosty cover of night. We knew where all our favorite varieties were, so no need for anything more than Moonlight to guide us. Folklore, Mister Lincoln, Double Delight, Chrysler gorgeous. I always felt so rich, especially when we would drive by, and see all those blackened stems the next day, waiting for the compost pile. All week, I would treasure those flowers-filling vases in every room, savoring those last scents of Summer. What a great memory....say,when is that first hard frost warning...? Hope it waits till mid October, don't you Jeff?!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Year of Change

This past year, I have taken more risks in my life than ever before. I've tried to do things that you dream about, but would never do. I believe that, if we all followed our dreams, literally, the world would be in a totally different place. This can be a terrifying and daunting challenge, is a terrifying challenge. But the truth is, that we only have one life on this beautiful earth and we would be squandering the most amazing gift if we don't accept it, and go toward fear in an attempt to learn, share,and better ourselves. I have a lot of dreams and hopes. For one dream, I always have found solace and energy from reading amazing authors. One of my favorite authors is the incomparable Dan Hinkley. Dan has the golden touch...he takes the reader with him, sharing all the truths that a hard journey really is. My first correspondence with Dan was after I read an article by him in Horticulture magazine. I had been casually reading the magazine, not paying attention to the headings, just the prose. I was taken deep into the story, and thought to myself how much it felt like his writing. When done, I looked up to find that yes, indeed it was Dan. His style was so distinct-I didn't need the authors printed name to know it was him. I had to smile, and I decided to send him a thank you, via e-mail, for his inspirational work. This was several years ago, and I don't know what trip he was on, but he was exhausted from the journey, at some remote airport, waiting to come home. He responded with thanks and unbelievable grace...a true gentleman. I've never met him in person, I don't need to, because he shares so much in his writings. A dream had formed in my mind, that a collection trip with him, would be a journey of a lifetime. I ruminated on this for a long time, never allowing myself to see if it could actually happen. So yesterday, I took a risk, and contacted him with my epistle. I explained that I knew I wasn't qualified to make such a journey, but had decided to put it out in the world. In typical Dan behavior, he responded immediately to my out- there request. Never discouraging me, but the opposite-recounting his first major collection trip to South Korea, by himself, and the non glamorous school of hard knocks, that the trip was-but he did it, and the rest is history. In my opinion, he is a modern day Chinese Wilson, and we have all gained some of the most garden worthy plants from his gifted eye, formerly through the old Heron's wood nursery.I wish it was still what it was, but things always change, the only thing that does stay the same. I didn't feel let down, because I had at least tried to actualize that dream, and had gained some wonderful insights from a great author and plantsman. I'm taking some big career risks right now, and my plate is more than full, believe me on that one! I feel that this past year, has been the most amazing year for true growth in me. I had always wanted to write, but as we all know, the printed word is becoming rare, and the virtual word is taking it's place. In February, I took another risk, and began this blog, as a tool to learn how to express myself, and share some aspects of my farm and horticultural life. I'm not sure if any of you know that I'm a interior designer, a florist, a garden designer and I produce special events, but my degree is actually in jewelry design. This blog is my private self, what I like to do when I'm not doing all those other jobs. I am a natural designer, it comes easily for me,from a lifetime of exposure to cultures, and most of all from really learning to "SEE", and disseminating what is worthy and beautiful...because there is no right or wrong, but there is educated opinion, but it's still just opinion. I get real energy from the natural world, from putting my hands in to the earth, from observing all the life forms around me, and trying to learn each day. When I was eight years old, I joined the Orchid society, a very intimidating thing for a introverted child. My parents would drop me off for the meetings and pick me back up at a predetermined time. The members were less than encouraging in those days, and after some bad direction from some of the members, I began my own study of the Genus. I found so many amazing books on the subject, I was amazed! I should re join our local chapter, since all the old Gard have passed away. The new generation has an open, encouraging attitude, and I'm sure that the next eight year old little boy to walk in that scary door, will be cared for in a different way-our future plantspeople. The intergeneric Orchid at the top is a symbol of all my combined hopes this year, I'm going to continue to take scary risks, and hopefully, reap the rewards of following positive dreams. I hope all the readers heed my call to take a risk, look toward your fear and make a change in your life, go for what you truly desire-it's worth it, as are you.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Beyond Bounty

Elegant Trycirtis-Toad Lilies
Fall Blooming Cyclamen coum
Golden Orb Spider (her name is Agatha)
Spiranthes odorata, Fragrant Lady's Tresses
Monarch Caterpillar, almost ready...
Chris eye to eye with a fine Bass
Early Autumn Bouquet
Lilac Seed Ready to Gather

I can't believe the Summer is so close to an end, and her sister Autumn is taking her place. We gardeners in the Midwest, have had cooler climates and so much more rain than we're used to...good and bad. I'm trying to enjoy the good parts, and plan for a great spring.I took my ancient camera out this past weekend, and tried to gather as many fleeting glimpses of all the bounty that this year has brought.

My Bees have done well, I had to combine the feral Bee colony I captured, with the hive that was failing to thrive. The feral colony lost their Queen, and it was too late to buy another, as well as too late for a natural Queen to be raised. The experts tell me that you place a sheet of news paper between the colony's that you want to combine(stacked). By the time the Bees have eaten through the paper, the hormones have combined, and they unite.It seemed to have worked, so now I have two strong colony's, at least for now. I need to harvest my first honey from the strongest hive, the other one needs all the natural honey it can have, so it will survive the Winter. From my sample tastes, the honey is light gold clover honey, someday, I want to have varietal honey, by placing the mature colony's in a plant specific field, like Asclepias (milkweed)- the Bees will gather the glut of that nectar during the nectar flow for the milkweeds.Evidently, it's supposed to be very fragrant and delicious.

All the Syringa(Lilac) seed is ready to gather, I made many crosses this Spring, and I must label all the seed, then methodically remove the papery seed from their brown seed capsules. This takes HOURS, but it is pleasurable for me, kind of like a meditation. I will have fields of them someday, if the Green Ash borers don't kill them! For the most part, the healthier seedlings will survive the onslaught. The air is almost narcotic with lilac in season, now that's my kind of drug!

I've been bringing more flowers in to the house, just to enjoy the fleeting season even more. I usually have flowers on the kitchen window sill, maybe the bedside, and always something on the main table.

Very few of my "city" friends venture to my neck of the woods...literally. I know it's not convenient to come out here, but one of my best friends always takes the time to come and enjoy it with me. Chris is a Fisherman, and a catch and release one at that. I need to learn how to clean fish...the large pond has an abundance of Bass and Crappy, both good eating fish. We have the best time, cracking ourselves up over the most idiotic things, what else could you ask for?!

Lawrence Kansas is the home of Monarch Watch, a group dedicated to saving our precious Monarch butterfly. Besides all the wild Asclepias (milkweed), I've added more species to the mix. I spotted a plump Monarch Caterpillar on some Asclepias tuberosa, a joyful site! by the next day, they had gone off to create their amazing jade green and gold chrysalis, awaiting the journey to Mexico in a short time. We should all plant several kinds to offer food and habitat for these regal beauties.

I love all seasons, and I like living in an area that has distinct climate changes, and we have it all here! Autumnal blossoms seem all that more special, because their time is so short, almost like the Spring ephemerals.The Toad lilies(trycirtis) are so amazing, I want them all, but the voles always seem to terrorize the root zones, and cause havoc. The woodland Cyclamen coum are just emerging, the chocolate brown color of the leaf litter and the pale pink of the Cyclamen always makes me think of Neapolitan ice cream!

When I moved to the farm, I knew I would find Orchids one day, if I was patient. My father Jack, died September eleventh (yes, that day, that year) he had lived a long interesting life, and was loved by many. On the day of his funeral, I had gone outside to look about and drink my coffee. A gorgeous Orb spider web was stretched between two Apple trees, dotted with morning dew. I remembered a favorite poem, I think by Keats, and began to recite it " A spiders web be-decked with dew, holds beauty far more rare than any diamond necklace worn on throat of lady fair" (close anyway) As I recited this, I looked through the web, and in it's sight, was a lovely lady's tress orchid, right in front of me! I was grieving, but it gave me overwhelming joy to see this sight, and it almost felt like a tribute to my loving Dad. I've spotted them since, but that first sighting was like magic.

I visit Blotanical on a regular basis, and I've loved "meeting" many of you amazing garden Bloggers at Blotanical, thank you for your friendship! I never had looked at the AWARDS before today, I'd just skip to my know. Well, I looked this evening, for the first time, and was shocked to have been nominated six times...who knew! So, Who ever you are that nominated me, I'm so very flattered, really. If you like what I do, or try to do, please vote in these categories: Best United States Blog, Best Kansas Blog, Garden Blog of the Year, Newcomer Blog of the Year, Blog you'd Most Like an Invitation To Guest Post, and Blotanist of the Year...WOW! I wouldn't expect to win, there are so many wonderful and amazing blogs, but it's great to have been thought of and nominated, so thank you :)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Gloaming Of Summer

Lycoris chinensis
Sweet Girls....Evil Raccoons....Sad Day
Lobelia syphlictica alba
Late Summer Waterlily
Lycoris radiata pumilla
Lycoris sprengerii Blushed With Electric True Blue
One Contented Tree Frog
Wildflowers Going To Seed
Almost Weightless, What a Treasure

(click any of these images to enlarge)
A Mist Shrouded Orb Web
The days are getting shorter and shorter,Cool nights have spurred the late flowers into bloom. A cacophony of insects add an almost tropical sound tract to the garden. Spiders abound here at Hiddenfield Farm, all types of orb weavers patiently await their next flying meal. My resident Hummingbirds are battling it out with the first migraters from their Northers nesting grounds. Every morning, I wake to their tiny battle cries. The porch door, so ofter open, lured a beautiful female inside, I heard her flying up and down the window, trying to find a way out, so I scooped her up, and brought her outside to freedom. She made a plaintiff chirp, and then layed there, almost weightless, until I blew a Puff of air to give her a heads up that she was free once more.

In the wildflower area, the Gold Finches are relishing all the maturing seed heads, it has been a pleasure to watch so much life live in this colorful area. Butterfly's are EVERYWHERE, bees too, I'm going to harvest my first honey this fall, only about fifty pounds this season, but the hives seem really good...keep your fingers crossed! I walked by the wildflowers, and on a not so wild Zinnia, my eye caught the apple green of one of the resident tree frogs that I love so much!

In bloom this season are Turtleheads, (Chelonia), Toad lilies(Tricyrtis),Hardy Begonias(Begonia grandis)...(the only zone 5 Begonia, I believe), and the spectacular Lycoris from Asia.We have had so much moisture, that I think it caused some of these wonderful bulbs to skip a season, but I could still be "surprised"!

The Water Lilies are still putting on a show, and the rare white native Lobelia syphlictica is setting gobs of seed-curiously, few self sow, but the periwinkle/blue forms, grace the woods and marshy low areas.

On a sad note, my chicken coop was taken siege by Raccoons, leaving only one terrified hen, I can only imagine the terror felt by my good in peace! I'm going to electrify the blank out of the chicken yard, Raccoons are like evil monkeys, truly.

Matt Mattus put out his first prototype magazine for late Summer, so well done, stop by his Growing With Plants blog, and take a look. Each copy is published per order, and has a creative graphic quality I love, great job Matt! (Plant Society magazine)

I hope everyone a wonderful Labor Day, I won't be at work...but I need to catch up on so many garden chores, but that's not work to me!

Brian David Morley