So …

… will it rain? While much of the prairie has been getting an overabundance of weather, out here in the middle of nowhere there has been virtually nothing. April showers this year amounted to .16 of an inch. It’s dry, and we need some real rain, not just a bit of drizzle. Yesterday the weatherman predicted a 100% chance of rain tonight, and I thought, yeah, right. He’s predicted heavy rain many times this year, but as the moment approaches the probability diminishes, the “thunderstorms possible after” time gets later and later, and ultimately that inch of rain becomes just a trace, or nothing.

Tonight, however, it looks like rain might actually fall. The chance of rain is at 90%, not the 60% or 40% that it would typically have been reduced to by this time. The arrival time has been postponed to after 3 a.m. and the amount expected is down to a quarter inch, which are not good signs, but nevertheless it looks like we might get enough moisture to make a difference.

Update, the morning after: We got about an inch of rain, starting shortly after midnight.

Despite the dryness the garden is doing well. Snapshots are below the fold.

Continue reading “So …”

A bit of color

Pulsatilla vulgaris “Rote Glocke”

Spring is definitely here, about three weeks early. The 16℉ late in March did surprisingly little damage, and most things are rapidly growing. Here are a few of the current highlights.

Unidentified species tulip
Unlabeled hardy geranium, probably a form of G. sanguineum


Grr. WordPress logged me out while I was assembling this post. Even though the “Howdy” message remained at the upper right, I couldn’t see the page preview. I had to relog using the login under the “Meta” heading on the weblog page to finish this post.

Historical-botanical footnote

Joseph Moore’s most recent post mentions the Iron Chancellor. That reminded me of a bit of horticultural history.

One rose I grew many years ago was a fine white hybrid perpetual called “Frau Karl Druschki.” That’s a bad enough name, but it could have been much worse. From an online discussion:

According to a reference, for some years from 1900 there was an annual competition for the best new seedling of German origin, to be named ‘Otto von Bismarck’. The rose described here is pink, from 1908. However there is an illustration dated 1900. Was that a different rose? (Or as a passing thought, a typo?)
1900 was the year that the rose eventually named ‘Frau Karl Druschki’ was entered in the competition….

… ‘Frau Karl Druschki’, at the time still unnamed, had participated in the original competition in 1900, but the judges found no rose to be good enough to be called ‘Otto von Bismarck’. So, Lambert named his rose FKD and commercialzed it and was out of the game. The original prize money of 1000 Marks was increased first to 2000, then to 3000, to no vail – nothing was good enough! Finally in 1906 Kiese’s rose made it. The irony is that FKD went on to become one of the hottest introductions of the early 20th century, while Kiese’s ‘Otto von Bismarck’ almost disappeared.

You can call the rose “Snow Queen” or “Schneekönigin” if you find “Frau Karl Druschki” too clunky.


Bonus foolishness: A note from the Modern Language Association’s annual meeting:

But amid the usual carnival of perversity there was one bijou we thought might interest our readers. No, it has nothing to do with, you know, literature. The denizens of the mla and indeed of the humanities departments of most of our universities wouldn’t countenance anything so retrograde. But how’s this, a session on “Vegetal Afterlives”?

“Advancing recent work in critical plant studies”—“critical plant studies”? alas, yes—“asking how plants offer vibrant models of resistance to environmental destruction through their persistent attempts to create a Plantocene, . . . panelists focus on the theme of vegetal resistance, considering how plants can offer models of resistance for human crises like systemic racism, unnatural disasters, and climate change.”


After a brutal January, it looks like we’re heading for an early spring. The daffodil above opened yesterday, unscathed by the 13℉ freeze Saturday morning. This is the second-earliest daffodil I’ve seen in Kansas. (The earliest bloomed February 17 fifteen years ago.) The forecast for the rest of the month looks like late March or early April. The weather may well double-cross me in March (it occasionally happens that the heaviest snow of a winter falls on March 20), but it’s probably time to clean up the garden and get it ready for this year’s experiments.

Update: The first Iris.

Red, again

The first of this year’s new orchids bloomed this week. It’s another red one; nice, but not what I was expecting. The dealer’s notes1 indicated that it would likely have flowers in the magenta-purple range, but while it does have a bluish cast in some light (but not in sunlight or with the on-camera flash), it looks red to me. The other new ones probably won’t bloom for a year or two. When they finally do, one should be white and the other spotted.

(As usual, when WordPress resizes pictures to fit the column width, it also makes the colors duller. Click on the picture to see it larger and with more accurate color.)

Update: as the flower ages, it becomes bluer. It now is on the border between magenta and purple, even in sunlight.

Just before the end

It’s snowing steadily now, and we may get six inches today if the weatherman can be trusted. During the next few nights temperatures are likely to descend into the teens. Fall is over (though, because this is Kansas, December may well be warm and dry). Despite the hard freezes earlier, a few plants were still blooming yesterday, including this salvia. At this time tomorrow, everything will be solid white.

Spotted toad

Here’s a formal portrait of the “toad lily,” Tricyrtis hirta. The flower is perhaps an inch and a half in diameter. It’s native to Japan and does not like hot sun. I’ve got mine in a spot where it gets shade almost all day, but the little bit of sun in the evening was sufficient to burn the tips of the leaves. In full shade with extra water during hot weather it’s easy to grow. While the flowers are perhaps more interesting than pretty, they do come at a time when nearly all the other perennials have finished for the year.

Notes on life offline

Some new neighbors have moved in the next street over.


Most of the plants I started this year are perennials which will take a year or two to reach blooming size. However, a number have flowered already. Currently, Helianthus mollis, the “ashy sunflower,” is putting on a good show. The plant has a more refined appearance than most sunflowers. According to what I’ve read it’s inclined to be rambunctious, so I’ve got it in the dry far corner of the yard where its aggressiveness will be a virtue.

Continue reading “Notes on life offline”

Vintage port

Congratulations to Robbo on fifteen years of The Port Stands at Your Elbow. You might want to put another bottle of fortified wine aside for November, when he will celebrate a full twenty years of blogging at TPSaYE and earlier at The LLama Butchers. A year ago I linked to a couple of his whimsical LLB pieces, well worth reading like most everything else at all his websites.

Congratulations to Robbo also with his success with the cup plant, Silphium perfoliatum, a nine-foot-plus relative of the sunflower. I’d like to grow it myself in the arid reaches of my backyard, but it prefers more water than I can conveniently give it.1