Sunday, September 20, 2009

Solely Solidago Again (or Glowing Goldenrods, Part III)

At last we're getting to the goldenrods that are currently in bloom.

The classic one is Canada goldenrod, Solidago canadensis. It's big. It's bold. It's beautiful. It's...vigorous. In fact, lots of people don't like goldenrods because they assume that all goldenrods are going to act like Canada goldenrod, which likes to expand its territory by sending out horizontal rhizomes. Lots of horizontal rhizomes, from which come tall, vertical stems. One plant rapidly becomes a large clump of many plants. (There are some hybrid cultivars of this species available now, selected often for both smaller size and less invasive tendencies. They are gorgeous, well mannered, and they make excellent garden flowers.) Canada goldenrod can be wonderful in the wild, though, where large swathes of it create golden pockets along the roadsides and in the fields. Its glorious yellow blossoms seem to support an entire community of insects...but that's a good subject for another post.

Another goldenrod that is currently in bloom is stiff goldenrod, Solidago rigida. When both the common name and the scientific name agree on a characteristic (in this case, stiff or rigid), it's a sure bet that something about the plant will be obviously described by the characteristic mentioned. With stiff goldenrod, the stems are very upright, the flowers are fairly flat-topped, and the leaves are particularly stiff when you feel them. The whole plant screams rigid, in fact, especially when compared to a looser textured goldenrod like the elm-leaved goldenrod. Whether this seems like a Type A plant or not, it's showy, well-mannered, and fun to include in the flower garden. I have a few in the front flower bed, and one lone plant in the back five acres.

The last species I'd like to talk about in this post is Fireworks goldenrod, Solidago rugosa 'Fireworks'. Fireworks goldenrod is one of those plants that you can't forget if you've ever seen it in bloom. It works best in masses, I think, but it takes special placement to make it seem graceful, rather than overwhelming. This photo isn't from my yard, but I think the homeowner (a landscape architect) has used this plant particularly well, wrapping it around the base of a redbud on a slope where it seems to spiral upwards, leading you along the path and providing movement to the planting bed. Solidago rugosa, wrinkled leaf goldenrod, is actually not native to Kansas, but is native in Missouri and further east. Fireworks, however, seems quite at home in this area, both culturally and aesthetically.

Don't all of these gorgeous, sunshiny yellow blooms just lift your spirits? Goldenrod is a great plant!

Solely Solidago (or Glowing Goldenrod, Part II)

I warned you that I love goldenrod and would be posting more about it. Well, this is that dreaded post...because now is goldenrod season. In fact, had I waited much longer, goldenrod season would be officially over.

Actually, I've cheated you somewhat. One of the species I want to talk about is done blooming. It was the second goldenrod species to bloom in our yard this year, elm-leaved goldenrod (Solidago ulmifolia).

I'd guesstimate that this species stayed in bloom for about a month, beginning in mid August and finishing about a week ago. One nice thing about elm-leaved goldenrod is that it prefers at least part shade, making it a nice pop of color in sometimes dark areas of the garden. It's also very hardy and, so far at least, has had very good manners. I've not noticed any unwanted "children" springing up, nor have I seen evidence of the vigorous suckering that can make some goldenrods seem rather thuggish. I'd highly recommend planting this goldenrod, too.

The next goldenrod coming into bloom was in the natural areas. Missouri goldenrod, Solidago missouriensis, is a rather short goldenrod. It's one of the first to bloom in the prairie. While it will form colonies, they are quite open and not intrusive at all. My only beef with this guy is that its bloom season is too short for me, lasting just a couple weeks.

Due to Blogspot's dislike of my photo file sizes, I'll continue this subject in another post....

They HAD To Exist....And We Proved That They Do!

Prairiewolf and I actually found a mythical creature the other day...and I have a photo to prove it.

All our lives, we have found adult box turtles, but we've never found a baby. We knew they had to exist, but after over 100 years between us, we'd never seen one and they were taking on mythical status.

No more. Driving down Tyler Road last week, we both saw this tiny little silhouette at about the same time. Prairiewolf screeched to a halt and backed up. Sure enough, it was a tiny little box turtle determinedly crossing the road from a plowed field to a large mowed yard. Since neither habitat was optimum, we picked the little guy up and brought him home, photograhing him quite a bit, before releasing him out back.
I thought this photo of Ranger checking him out was fun because it shows the baby's size so clearly. Ranger, by the way, is quite small for a full grown male cat. (Sorry my exposure is so lousy. I seriously need to learn to use PhotoShop Elements more efficiently.)

I felt a little worried as I walked off, after releasing him. He was so small and there were so many big things that could hurt or kill him. At least we tried to increase his chances by bringing him to a location that isn't plowed and where habitat is plentiful.

Hopefully we'll see him again, well on his way to adulthood, one of these days!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Words Worth a Thousand Pictures

I'm reading William Least Heat-Moon's latest book, Roads to Quoz. Normally I wait until I finish a book before I do a "book review" here on the blog, but I'm enjoying his use of language so much that I have to share at least a few snippets here and now, when I'm barely one fourth of the way through the book. (I have a little bit of an excuse: it IS a long book, having 562 pages, not including the "Valedictories.")

Describing his English lit profs as he worked towards his "Phud," many years ago, at the ripe old age of about 30: "If any youthful moisture of soul remained in them, it had turned to mildew. The range of their dry-hearted, withered passions ran only from annoyance to worry, with every petty stage between and nothing beyond." (p. 163)

Descriptions from the Gulf Coast of Florida....

"The old cafe, its floors showing more relief than the surrounding land, had commensurately undulating wooden walls and ceiling,..." (p. 173)

"Sagging down like a line of wet laundry, old U.S. 98 followed the curve of the Gulf about as closely as a road could, the sound of the waves sometimes overcoming the hum and thrum of auto tires." (p. 176)

"The difference between the water on the roof and the humid air under it was distinguishable largely by the noise [of the hard rain coming down]." (p. 179)

A philosophical comment about memories from prior trips while traveling, "As dyspepsia is to a diner, so personal nostalgia is to the traveler." (p. 177)

And Heat-Moon's vocabulary! I rarely run across books where I have to look up words with any frequency at all - but I'm finding the need to keep a dictionary close by with this book. Not in a bad way, mind you, but rather in a "richness of the English language" sort of way. Without giving away the secret of which words I didn't know, here are a few that caught my attention in the same 3 short chapters from which I took my several quotes:

nimble conspectuses
piscatorial prophylaxis (describing mullet fish dip)
"third places"

Let me leave you with two more quotes. The first is describing the geography of Florida, and the second was the response of an oysterbar owner when asked if the humidity bothered him....

"While not hollow, Florida a few inches down is as porous as a weathered thighbone you might find in a High Plains pasture.... [Florida's] a piece of loosely stuck geology not so much affixed to the continent as merely anchored for the night." (p. 168)

" ' You know why little old ladies come here?' To find little old men? 'They come here to rehydrate their skins. Get one of them good and damp, and she can shuffle off ten years. Who wants to feel a dry sponge when he can have a damp one?' ...'Ever been to Arizona? Have you seen those old gals out there? The short ones turn into raisins and the big ones look like prunes. No Georgia Peaches in that desert.' " (p. 179-180)

On that colorful, if misogynistic, quote, I will end for now. I'm ready to get back to reading!