Friday, December 21, 2012

Yuletide Work in the Daylily Database

Fierce winds and horizontal snow defined yesterday and gave what I hope is the promise of some real winter cold in the offing.  There's not even enough snow on the ground to hide the grass, but the wind chill is something else.  I want to see truly dead foliage on all the daylilies, no exceptions and no excuses.

I've begun the work of continuous running through of my photo-enriched database to try to come to grips with a game plan for the pollen-dabbing in the summer.  The down side of having too many keepers is that each one expects me to imagine a couple of smart crosses to improve the turkey, or latent babe, as the case may be.

Here's what my database screen looks like.  I built it with FilemakerPro a few years ago.  It has three places for pictures and two windows where I can write the pollens I want to bring to a daylily and the daylilies I want to take this one's pollen to.  This seedling 07-153 on some days is white with a blue eye, and the plant is Dormant, but not pod-fertile, so I'm about to erase the names of pollens I want to bring to this one.  I want to use this a lot, so I'm going to consider carefully the crosses that might yield tall, large flowers with clear backgrounds and blue patterned eyes.

This coming year has to be one of heavy purging after serious early evening evaluation.  I can become too easily encouraged by pictures I take before 8 am, before a day of sun has revealed flaws in substance and color.

I got a good handle on plant habit, rapidity of increase, and hardiness last March when I ventured to confirm the foliage classification of my whole collection as well as my keepers.  I need to do another check of plant vigor before the foliage is up in 2013 because everything has been in place undisturbed since May of 2011.  Anything that seemed a slacker last spring had better show better growth three months from now, or show cause why it should not receive a disposal flag.  Here's one I know I must discard:

It's one of several beautiful keepers from SHERRY LANE CARR X SASSY SALLY.  All the flowers in the cross are "melon blends" with quasi-oatmeal tones.  All have nice yellow ruffles, green throats, and plant vigor.  All are too short to care about, and none have the good scape I hoped would come from SHERRY LANE CARR.  I could make more crosses to try to improve these in the next generation, but I could do as well or better by starting over again with different parents.  In fact, I have much better yellows and blends from other crosses already made.  

This cross was an attempt to do better than either parent, but only the flowers of the kids are interesting.  Their presentation is a disappointment.  I've got to dig these keepers out and work on something else.

Now I'll show a few keepers I will keep working with.  This lovely flower is a result of using WYOMING WILDFIRE to correct the opening flaw of MAPLE HUES.  I did correct that flaw, and I got a dandy flower, but the scape is shorter than either parent and the flower is extremely reluctant to set a pod.

I'm going to take this pollen to my collection of orange flowers with red centers and edges.

Here's another I like, and will take here and there to see what will come of it.

This is the result of trying to improve a favorite seedling (BEST KEPT SECRET X ROSE IMPACT) by crossing it with GREAT WHITE.  My favorite seedling very often imparts its form, as it did here.  GREAT WHITE gave this seedling a well-branched scape.  But I want to see more height, and want to overcome this flower's habit of beginning to decay in mid-afternoon, and I want to see fewer flowers open at once.  I've got a nice keeper from attempting those reforms through a cross with SHANTIH.  Now I want to cross this one with some others and see if I can retain the clear rose pink coloration.

There are several things I do not want to work on, much less achieve.  Among them is an increase in the already Rococo look of attention-grabbing yellow edges on convoluted petal surfaces.  I know, I know, some people like that's well beyond the metaphor of "full-figured" and even "Overfull-figured."  Metaphors engaging the mind in memories of skin mag models and soft porn are avoidable, but not very, as we're conditioned to spicing our talk of flowers with words like "mighty," "husky," "feminine," and "voluptuous."  And, may I add, without a libido, where would we be?

So, these somewhat excessive flowers exist, and I am a garden judge, and my job is not to criticize the taste of such creations but to take them for what they are and find the ways to discern merit and demerit.

One other thing I am not working on is "fringe."  But this seedling came along a couple of years ago, and I saved it to see if I could make anything good happen with it.  I call it my "Shaggy Dog."

The cross is HEARTBEAT OF HEAVEN X ((BUTTER CREAM X VICTORIAN LACE) X J. T. DAVIS).  The pollen parent was a craggy-edged cream seedling with a big flower and lousy substance.  I knew I would have to compost it, but thought I'd see if anything good might come of it anyway.  The smoothly-ruffled edge of HEARTBEAT OF HEAVEN came though with rough, shaggy stuff in this mongrel.  The color is poor, the substance is poor, the scape is poor, and it won't set pods.  I believe the odds are against generating success from such a monster, but God gave it to me and I have to see what it will do.

I'm still a disciple of Oscie Whatley.  I like size, vibrant color, and a great healthy plant.  Unlike Oscie, I like patterns and want to fool with them.  But I can't fool with all of them in my keeper bed, so I'm going to have to cull and "add value by subtracting."  Wish me luck.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Salad Days at Hidden Lake

It's early December and I'm thinking of an early December in 1995, the year I came to St. Louis.  The afternoon had been mild and I'd driven over to Edwardsville to visit my cousin, Marge St. Pierre.  A cold front blew in while I was there and I used the heater and defroster in my car on the half-hour drive back to St. Louis.  The temperature fell through the floor after I parked the toasty-warm car, and the next morning I found my windshield had a big crack across it.

We are having no such December here, not yet, though I hope we do.  Indian Summer is supposed to happen in October.  We've had it in the past week.  We've had enough nights in the low twenties to kill most of the daylily foliage, but we've had enough warm days around seventy to make some of those plants put up new leaves.

Yesterday I thought I'd document our salad garden, Kathy's prime accomplishment of the fall, but I got sidetracked by the geese who had been sampling the grass by the lake shore.  As soon as I walked out with my camera, they took to the lake.

The big white ducks out there were Easter presents from our neighbor to his wife.  For a while they acted like they thought they could keep the lake to themselves, but now the visiting team outnumbers the home team by a lot and they've all made friends.

The raised veggie beds have been more fun for Kathy and more good eating for both of us than we imagined.

She planted three of the beds with cool weather crops just to try out her planting methods and ideas. The green beans were the first to die from frost and we never ate them.  The peas were arrested in their development, and we didn't eat any of them, either.

However...there are gallon bags of greens in the refrigerator, and we've been eating off them for the past three weeks.

Kathy tried several varieties of lettuce, spinach, arugula, radishes, etc.  They're planted in dense areas of the bed, which is narrow for easy weeding and harvesting without stepping on the dirt.

I held the camera at a wonky angle to get this picture.  I hope it doesn't make you dizzy!  The colors and forms of these edibles are a wonder to me.

I had not thought we would have a hard time keeping up with the yield of such small beds, but you can see here that Nature likes to provide a bounty when the weather favors growth.  Color!  Form!  Texture!  Taste!

Kathy makes a salad of these greens with some chopped radishes, chopped celery, and store-bought hearts-of-palm, and we dress the greens with a balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing into which I place four masked cloves of garlic and about a tablespoon of country style Dijon mustard.

Bon apetit!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Christmas Music From Hell

Is there really a "hell?"  If so, is it under where we stand or right here?  Is it reserved for after we die, those of us who deserve eternal torture, or is it served up to us, unawares, during the span of our unsuspecting, innocent lives?

I am an innocent man, goes the song.  Well, really, I am!

But yesterday I was subjected to a unique form of hell as I walked into an establishment that was providing continuous background music of the Christmas variety.  For me, if not for you, Reader, HELL is having to overhear a recording of Wayne Newton's Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree.

You may adore Wayne Newton for all I know.  I don't really care.  It's not your hell but mine that I describe here.

Hell has rooms!  It's not a single place of flame, stadium nachos, stale cookies, or roadkillburgers.  If the first room features inescapable Wayne Newton, the second is a gallery of Johnny Mathis singing Sleigh Ride for all eternity, with a larynx so high and tight that the listener suffers sympathetic strangulation, though not enough to lose consciousness.

Bob Dylan's Christmas from the Heart CD is too awful for Hell.  It doesn't serve the purpose of eternal torture.  If I had to listen to any track all the way through I would be dead before the end, even if I were dead already.  I am a Bob Dylan fan, but with exceptions.

Jingle Bell Rock is well-suited to hell, and I expect to hear it many times in the coming weeks.  I don't think I'll hear Gene Autry sing "Here comes Santy Claus" very much, and it's so bad it's acceptable.  Elvis's Blue Christmas is not hellish at all but is a piece of family history around here.  I discovered the meaning of "going ballistic" long before that was a trite expression when I proposed that my father give me the Elvis Christmas Album for Christmas.

There are innumerable recordings that never should have been made for Christmas, but they are sometimes just so bad they engender laughter, which has no place in Hell.  I think of the spectacular bungle that is an arrangement of "Lo how a rose ere blooming" for Sting.  His constricted, constipational delivery makes me wince with laugh-loathing.

And yet he sounds sincere, and I have to remember that someone loves Sting, somewhere, if not for his singing.  I just had to interrupt that CD.  Painful, but not torture.

I am unaware of a Guns 'n' Roses Christmas Album or a Blessed Holidays With the Doors album or any recording by the Al Qaida Children's Peace Choir.  If these exist, they may be contenders for my personal Hell.  Until I learn of more bad music there will be Andy Williams hugging the life out of me with It's the most wonderful time of the year.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A New Front Door

Our fall project began modestly, as all epics do, with the simple phrase, "we have to replace this %^&#$ door."  The front door, you see, was not easily locked, once you got it open for the FexEx man or the insurance salesman, the young helper, or the scout.  You had to lift mightily on the door handle to make the deadbolt seat properly.  Opening the companion door required a hammer and screwdriver to force a vertical deadbolt up, and the same tools to force it down again when you wanted to close the door.

As long as we were going to replace the door, it was reasoned here, we should also correct the front stoop and the slanted step leading to it.  Here's what the stoop looked like on one of our inspection tours before we took possession of the house in 2010.

You can see the cement work left a lot to be desired,  and you can make out the oval door glass that seemed to belong to a house of some other style.

Kathy designed a set of two broad landings to replace the one slanted step.  The landings would be flanked by low block walls to provide visual balance to the new sense of mass leading to the front entrance.  The work began in the last week of September.  I've covered the early stages in previous blogs.  I'm going to pick up the story on November 15 and show the final week of the project.

The picture below shows the new facing board supporting the door frame.

The old facing board had been eaten away by termites long before we bought the house.  The previous owners had subscribed to a pest control program and had replaced a two-by-four beneath the floor joists behind this facing board.  Our house inspector had noted the two-by-four and the evidence of termite damage during a look at the basement.  At that time it wasn't possible to see the damage to the facing board.  Once the Branco team exposed it, we could see light through that board from the basement.

The ends of the floor joists had been chewed as well, so the builders had to create a load-bearing wall to support the end of the joists.  The old door had been a devil to close because the structure beneath it had sagged.  Here's Tim Yankow finishing the attachments of the new load-bearing structure.

Naturally, we didn't imagine what we'd get into as soon as we dismantled the old door, but this has been our "house story" from before we moved in.

Steve Brandt worked on making a perfectly square new frame to receive the new door.  What you see in the picture below is the new opening as well as work to restore the columns on either side of the door and to add electrical boxes to serve the new outside lights.

With a little time to spare that day, Steve and Tim started work on sloping the ground away from the new wall.

November 16

Steve continued finish work on the support structure for the new door frame.  He pieced in cement board, covered it with a piece of brown composite deck board to match the color of the new door frame, and installed flashing to assure that the new support structure would shed water.

November 17-18

Steve took advantage of great weekend weather to install the new LED lights along the walkway and following the curve of the far garden.

You can see how the far garden's curve meets the long walkway.  In poetry, the two-syllable combination named a trochee is indicated by a long horizontal stroke followed by a curved stroke.  The word "baby" is a trochee.  When you look at this long walkway followed by a curve you're not just witnessing "poetry in landscaping," you're witnessing a work of homage to our previous home in University City.  The bay window of the kitchen provided the "unstressed syllable" to the right of the straight line of the dining room wall.  I used that image to design the gardens in back yard at that house.  Here's Steve looking suitably unstressed as he connects wiring in the unstressed part of the landscape trochee.

The lights are following the curve of that bed, a curve which won't be visible until we cover some of the dirt in the foreground with new sod.

November 19

After laying base material and covering it with sand, Steve began to lay pavers on the landing.

He used the same pavers and the same pattern he followed a year ago when he built our patio below the new deck.  Tim operated a stone-cutting saw to cut pavers to fit at the edges.  The cut below is one of my favorite pieces in the landing.

Steve knew this pattern well enough to get the job done fast. In just a few hours, his part was finished.

Steve's father Carl then fitted the new pieces of cedar to complete the columns on either side of the front door.

November 20

Steve arrived with six yards of topsoil in his trailer and spent part of the morning establishing the new slanted grade for the lawn in front of the landings and walkway.  The front yard is full of low areas that drain poorly after rain showers.  We wanted to keep the storm water out in the middle of the yard.

Once the topsoil was laid down, Tim worked on smoothing it out while Steve and Carl removed the old door frame and the famous oval windows.

Then came a fateful moment: bringing the new door frame from the laundry room, where it had been painted and varnished, to its point of attachment.

They brought it outside and then eased it into place...

And when it didn't fit perfectly, Steve shaved microns of wood from the bottom of the supporting wood to achieve a remarkable, snug fit!

You can tell he's a happy man as the sun goes down.

At this point he didn't know that he had another hour's work ahead of him.  When he put the door on the hinges he discovered that the factory carpenters had positioned the opening for the tongue of the doorknob a fraction of an inch too high, so the door wouldn't click into place.  I bit of tweaking with a utility knife and chisel resulted in another perfect fit, leaving one more day's work to finish off the framing inside the house and clean up the construction site.

November 21

I had called Daniel's Farm and Nursery yesterday as soon as Steve finished putting down the topsoil. I gave them an estimate of the area to be sodded and Daniel called the turf farm in time to assure a delivery of three pallets of sod first thing.  Last night a fog moved in while I was at chorus rehearsal. Getting from the city out to the Missouri River was no problem at all, but as I approached the river valley I saw the heaviest fog I've seen in sixteen years.  The fog was still hanging around at nine in the morning when Daniel's crew arrived with the sod.

They started at the "unstressed syllable" and defined the curve of the garden and then worked down the walkway.

With five helpers, he made quick work of the job.

Then it's break out the hose and tamp down the edges.

Around eleven, the fog burned off.

The garage had served as a staging area for lumber, saws, and assorted equipment.

Carl spent the morning finishing the trim pieces in front.

Steve worked on trim for the inside.

He started his cleanup around 4 on the day before Thanksgiving while Carl and Tim policed the outdoor area and packed their trucks with equipment and tools.  Steve put the pictures back up on the walls and I rolled out the carpets and took this last picture of the finished door.

And it opens and closes with an ease you wouldn't believe!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Daylilies in Autumn

Today there is the red of Burning Bushes to enjoy and the last taste of mild weather before the quietude of Thanksgiving and the shift from outdoor work to gym work.  In the foreground is a section of what may be my future daylily registrations.  They are lined out as if I'm serious about them.  At this stage of the evaluation process, the ones that don't make a case for themselves are dug out to make room for the next class of contenders. Notice the dark green rows of plants on the far right, and the brownish plants next to them.

Now let's examine those unsightly brown plants.

The yellow color you see is the natural "autumn" of a daylily that is going into dormancy, but the "paper bag" color is what's left of the leaves that were invaded by daylily rust in mid-September.  Rust broke out in a bed about twelve feet away on a couple of seedlings that arrived from the Deep South in April.  The seedlings arrived with rust within the leaves, though none was visible.

An outbreak of rust spores on the surface of the leaves only happens when the leaves are wet and the temperature is in the seventies.  We didn't have those conditions until September, so there was no visible rust.  Once it breaks out, the spores are carried on the wind or on the coats of passing animals or the clothing of gardeners.

Daylily rust lives only in the green leaves of the plant.  When the single-digit temperatures of winter kill the foliage down to the ground, the rust dies with it.

I'd have to admit that the seedling above shows "high susceptibility" to rust and that nothing much good can come from saving it for further evaluation, so I'll dig it out this weekend.

It is amazing to me that the rust spread into this "futures" bed but did not make much headway.  The photo below shows the rows of plants that were closer to the source of the rust outbreak.

 You would think that if wind carried the spores into the heavily affected rows, the spores surely would have landed on these "clean" plants.  The lack of yellow in these leaves indicates that the foliage is of the "evergreen" type, and I know from experience with this seedling that it's quite hardy in our winters.  The foliage has withstood a couple of below-30 freezes at this point, and I expect it will take several hours in the low twenties to really make these plants collapse for the winter.  I love seeing plants this healthy in mid-November!

I hesitate to say that I have a bed that is mostly "resistant" to rust.  All I can say about this row of plants is that I have not yet seen them affected by a rust outbreak in the same bed.

Here's a look at the sort of "plant habit" I like.  This is a small clump of my SYMPHONY CHORUS lined out for sale.

I see three husky fans growing at slightly different angles, the foliage looking quite healthy and evergreen.  This has proven hardy and vigorous, with blossom presentation that makes a clump something dazzling.

Next to it is a very tough evergreen, MOM'S MIRTH.  It survived a December transplant in an emergency about ten years ago, when it was a new seedling under evaluation.

Again, I notice the vibrant appearance of these big fans coming up in several planes from the center point of the clump.  MOM'S MIRTH generally looks as if it is springing to life.

This final picture of is a showy greenish-yellow seedling from OMOMUKI X (BRAZILIAN EMERALD X VICTORIAN LACE).

The yellow shows it's going into dormancy, but the interest is the number of fans.  This was lined out as double fans in 2011, and this little clump needs to be divided and lined out again after just two seasons of growth.  I know this is a nice landscaping plant when planted in a mass, as that's what things look like in a line-out bed with short rows.  I also know this makes tall scapes with nice branching and lots of pods when breeding with it.

With temperatures holding mild through Sunday, Kathy and I will plant spring bulbs this weekend and pick the salad vegetables that have grown to eating size!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Late October at Hidden Lake

Where did October go?  What happened to all those mild days to finish the weeding?  So much happened since I took this picture on October 9.  I had been staining the floorboards of our deck, but I don't think I was photographing stain, at least I hope not!

Well, maybe I was glad to finish that job.  I think I noticed the "retirement" wind chimes and the look of the near structure compared with the distant structure, and the sharp angle in the lawn compared with the angles at the deck.  This whole image is about design, he said, in a self-congratulatory way.

On that day Steve and Tim finished the wall of the new first landing down from the front entrance.

We're using the same kind of block that was here in the wall around our car-park area when we moved in two years ago.  We also used that block to frame Kathy's vegetable gardens.

You can see the rich plum purple colors of the Ash leaves on the left.  I love the different colors on that tree when the leaves turn.  Some of the leaves are the color of plum fruit, a tangy orange yellow blend.

That's the view of advancing color change three days later on the 12th.  The upright bush in the foreground is a lime barberry showing its autumn colors.  Also in that bed are two of the twenty mums we bought from Daniel's Farm and Nursery for our berms.  We lost a couple of plants in this car park area and filled in with mums because we need fall color.  We're getting rebloom on the compact Shasta Daisies that Kathy planted in April.

Nearby, I noticed how the leaves of our new oakleaf Hydrangea have turned from light green to rich purple.  We have never grown this kind of Hydrangea before and have been delighted with it.

We've been thinking this year about how plants frame each other or frame features of the house.  The dock down there is slated for replacement in 2013.  We don't have a boat to launch, but like the look of a dock there.  It leads the eye out onto the water and the squadrons of ducks on patrol.

The outline of my new "keeper bed" for daylily seedlings is well-marked with a Roundup line of killed grass.  I'll kill the grass inside the outline in April and then will move my keepers to this less-sloped area.

My last picture of the day captured the completion of the wall of the second landing down from the front door.  The next phase is to fill in and lay pavers, the same kind we used for the patio in back.

On the 16th Steve and Tim finished that big area in the foreground and Lola came out to see how well she liked it.

They're back outside this morning fitting in small pieces and starting the next level.  The new door was delivered yesterday, too.  In another ten days the whole front of the house will have an appearance that we think will balance the unusual length of the house's "footprint."