Super duper

Steampunk dalek

Some years back, Hutchinson, Kansas declared itself to be Smallville, the hometown of Clark Kent. This was an excuse to launch the Smallville Comic Con, held most years around this time at the fairgrounds. I spent a couple hours there this morning taking pictures of people in eccentric clothing, plus the occasional dalek and other oddities. It may take a few days to go through them all. Here’s the first batch.

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Milk and beards

We had a few mild days with little wind between storms this week, so I made a trip out to the nature center to see what was happening there. The answer is, not much. It demonstrated once again that, of all the fifty states, Kansas likely has the lowest ratio of native plant species to total area. According to my guidebooks, what few interesting plants there are that grow in the state are concentrated in the eastern corners. Out here in the middle of flatland, there is very little to catch the eye. The milkweed and penstemon were the standouts.

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More yellow

One of this year’s experiments started blooming this week. Mentzelia lindleyi is a hardy annual from California that I seeded outside in early March, along with poppies and Phacelia1. The flowers are about two inches in diameter. They’re supposed to open in the evening and close in the morning, but these have done the opposite — not that I’m complaining. The plants are about a foot tall and probably will grow taller, though I doubt that they’ll reach the three feet that some sources claim. The leaves are long, thin and deeply lobed; they look skeletal, and the plant overall is scrawny. Should you grow it in your garden, I suggest giving it leafier companions.

Mentzelia is a genus of the Loasaceae, a family known for fine flowers and stinging hairs.2 Mentzelias don’t bite, but they do have barbed hairs that can cling to fabric and fur. The stems and leaves feel like sandpaper.

Mentzelia lindleyi is supposed to be heat- and drought-tolerant and bloom for two months3. Summer is nearly here. We’ll see how it does in Kansas.

Four months in four days

Thursday it was March outdoors, chilly, windy and wet. Yesterday it was a much milder April. Today it’s May, warm and breezy. Tomorrow, if the weatherman is right, will be a hot June day.

Despite the meteorological shenanigans, the plants in my garden continue to thrive. The first California poppy opened today. Phacelia campanularia, probably the most intensely blue flower one can easily grow in Kansas, has been blooming for a week now. There’s much more coming soon.

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The purple onion

The Allium christophii I found at Walmart last October are now blooming. The flower heads are supposed to get eight inches in diameter, but these look like they’ll max out at about five. They’ll be followed shortly by another variety of allium, and then peonies and an early lily. The phacelia, poppies and other annuals will start blooming shortly.

My lilac — something I haven’t been able to say since I was fourteen — put on a fine, fragrant show despite years of neglect.

When I lived in Wichita, I didn’t have a proper yard. There was a plot about the size of two postage stamps out front where I could grow a few things, plus a strip maybe eight inches wide along one side of the house. Now I have a quarter-acre lot. Mowing that much grass every week is tedious, but it’s worth it for the buffer zone between me and my neighbors (who are actually mostly nice people). The main garden south of the house alone gives me about four times as much room to work with as I had in Wichita. I’ve also established three small beds on the north and west sides. This year I’m relying on annuals for color, but over time the perennials I’m putting in will establish themselves and take over. In a few years, the gardens will need little maintenance beyond weeding, watering and occasional fertilizing.

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