the seed whisperer

Hello everyone; once again, it is I, Chess the purebred border collie, here to provide with posts which are both informative and delightful. You may remember me from such posts as “One Thing Follows Another” and “As Above, So Below”.

Here I am in a characteristic pose, on this dark and chilly day.

102901I made the guy I live with get up at 5:40 this morning because I wanted my breakfast. It was still dark, and so, probably just to spite me, he made me wait until it got lighter (I wouldn’t say that the sun came up) before we went on our walk. So to spite him I made it into a really long walk, on a dark, drizzly morning, and his shoes got soaking wet.

He was happy that I’ve been feeling so chipper (I even wanted to chase the min pin who walks in the field, this afternoon), but not so happy that his shoes got all wet, and after a while he went out in the car and I stayed at home. This was ostensibly to go get me some more biscuits, which I need a lot of, but he had an ulterior motive, which I’ll expose right now.

The guy I live with went to a nameless garden at an undisclosed location in order to swipe some seed. He didn’t tell me if he employed a fake accent and wore a disguise but I wouldn’t be surprised. My mommy thought this was all completely ridiculous and she would just brazenly swipe seed without a care in the world, but he doesn’t have her around any more to tell him that fake accents and disguises really aren’t necessary, because hardly anyone cares.


102914That’s the guy I live with’s (aka Mister X’s) finger there. Driving away from the garden, he was certain that a black SUV was tailing him, and he was about to take evasive action when the SUV passed him and turned out to be green.

Well, here’s the informative part. (You can just skip this if you want.)

This is Vernonia larseniae. It was originally named as Vernonia lindheimeri var. leucophylla by Esther Louise Larsen, “collected along the Sanderson-Sheffield Road, twelve miles from Sanderson, Terrell County, July 19, 1921” in Texas. It was later renamed for her, as V. larseniae, in 1978.

The guy I live with even went so far as to email the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to get the name spelled right because it was spelled “larsenii”, which is male. As you can see, they fixed it today.

So then, he did some more Googling, and Sanderson, Texas, is USDA Zone 8b. Vernonia, the guy I live with says, has a reputation for difficult-to-germinate seed, and he wondered why a plant growing in Zone 8b might need cold treatment like some of the online stuff suggests. He’s still wondering. (He also wonders why this zone 8b plant is hardy here and most other zone 8b plants aren’t.)

For someone who just germinated some manzanita seed after chipping it and five months stratification in the refrigerator, he certainly seems to have patience. At least for seeds, anyway.

Whew, huh. To make up for this, here are some pictures of the garden the guy I live with took about 6:30 this morning. Things have changed since the last time he took pictures.


You can see where my buddy Slipper gnawed the 4×4 when he got excited, like he was a giant, nefarious rodent. The star is still leaning after I pointed it out the last time.


This is Abies lasiocarpa ‘Arizonica Compacta’, or some such thing.


He took the tree wrap off the Russian hawthorn.


He put up a bird feeder, which you can see behind the hanging solar lantern, and Earl jumped up there and knocked all the seed out of the feeder. The guy I live with was pretty ticked off, and took down the feeder. He’ll put it up tomorrow in “a place where squirrels can’t get to it”, wherever that might be.


The spindle tree, Euonymus europaea, has turned dark red in the last couple of days.




The enclosure, with the Big Metal Chicken. The bright red is Cotoneaster horizontalis.


Crataegus douglasii lighting up the “way back” garden.


Then looking back toward the house, on the path by the North Border. If you look extra closely you can see the new arbor the guy I live with is building, almost out in the front yard, behind the one my mommy built. Hers will be sturdier, I’m sure.


What else? Well, it’s almost Halloween, which was my mommy’s favorite holiday after Christmas. She would sit downstairs with the two of us, me and my buddy Slipper, while the guy I live with gave out candy at the front door, and we barked a lot. This year he bought a bunch of candy and, um, had to go get more on his trip out this morning.

I guess I’ll go now. I hope you enjoyed at least part of this.

Until next time, then.

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26 Responses to the seed whisperer

  1. Crataegus douglasii flames in your garden, Chess, which place shows with assertive character in this autumn season. And an assertive character is what you would be if given a chance to chase the min pin.
    How Vernonia larseniae got its ultimate name is one sweet story, enough to make one believe in the genuine niceness and kindness of garden folk, even if some are inclined to a bit of larceny now and again.
    I wish you forbearance, Chess, in tomorrow’s surge and siege of candy-seekers. They’re not min pins, after all.

    • paridevita says:

      Min pins can be scary. They’re little.
      Larceny, very funny. Oh ha ha. Though, the guy I live with would point out that candy night is two nights away. How many Kit Kats can he consume before then?

      Maybe a big pin story is in order. My mommy had a doberman when she was little, and sometimes before she talked the guy I live with into getting purebred border collies from working parents, she talked about getting a doberman. “Only”, the guy I live with would say, “if we could name it Obermann.” You know, after the novel by Senancour and the piano piece by Liszt. She was against it. Lucky I didn’t get named Ollie, huh.
      Anyway, one time, when the guy I live with was working in telephone repair, he got a repair ticket which said “call homeowner before going to house”, which he did, and met the homeowner at the house. The guy I live with asked the homeowner why he had to call, out of curiosity, and the homeowner said there was a trained killer doberman in the house, and the guy I live with suggested the trained killer doberman might spend some time in the back yard, with the back door closed, while he worked.
      So the guy I live with fixed the phone in the living room, and was calling in to the dispatcher (which incidentally is how he met my mommy, since she filled in as a dispatcher from time to time, kind of like I fill in for the guy I live with, and he got set up on a blind date that way. love at first sight, etc.), when all of a sudden the back door bursts open and in races the biggest trained killer doberman the guy I live with ever saw. “Like a horse”, he said later. He envisioned headlines, “Phone man done in by trained killer doberman” as the giant dog approached him.
      The doberman walked right up to the guy I live with and gave him a great big wet kiss right on the lips.
      Completely true story.

      • Fisher, the Wonder Dog says:

        If one must encounter a Trained Killer Doberman, best it be one who is also a Good Judge of Character. But a bit wet kiss right on the lips? Oh, please! Where is the dignity?

      • paridevita says:

        No dignity at all. The guy I live with often gets kisses, and sometimes a burp right in the face. As a lagniappe.

  2. pamit says:

    Dobermans I have known: a farm-dog Doberman, evil-looking but just a big lapdog. Liked to eat calf poop, as all the farm dogs did; ultimately died after being kicked in the head by a Percheron. I have forgotten his name but the memory lingers.

    • paridevita says:

      My grandpa Flurry, during his herding trial, picked up some sheep poop, but the woman with the whistle said to save that for later. So he put it down, and herded the sheep, an animal he’d never seen before. Got a blue ribbon despite the poop.

  3. melanie says:

    Beautiful pictures of the garden, Bob. You should take the same shots today to show how beatiful it is with the sunshine.

  4. Deborah S. Farrell says:

    Is that a Carruth hanging on the post in your mommy’s corner? We sold a lot of Carruth’s stuff at the first bird store I worked out. I have a small one (of a mouse reading) here on my desk.

    I showed my husband the photo of that area in the earlier post & he thought it looked a lot like our garden in Flint, too. Then I pulled out my photos of that garden (which was back before I had a digital camera), which I’ve stored in a box. Looking at the photos made me nostalgic & sort of homesick, but I liked looking at how that garden changed over time, so one of my winter projects will be putting them into an album. Change and forgetting, memory and time.

    Also, all this talk of favorite garden books in earlier posts made me think of the only garden book that I’ve read more than once. Thinking about it made me want to read it again. But I couldn’t remember the title. Or the author’s name — I knew she was an editor of some magazine, but it’s pretty hard to google that vague info and find anything, so I took the old-fashioned tack and stood in front of my bookshelf of garden books and stared. It only took about 20 min. of staring and pulling out books that might be the one before I found it. I laughed when I saw the title because it fit so perfectly with my Contemporary Hedonism approach: “Paths of Desire” by Dominique Browning. No wonder I like it.

    • paridevita says:

      Could be a Carruth. There are a couple in the “enclosure”. She planted most of the stuff, or, really, made me plant it. Golden hops, sumac, etc.
      It’s the only part of the garden that gets regular (weekly) irrigation.

      • melanie says:

        What little garden I had this year got so much rain, we didn’t need to water at all. Which is a Good Thing, being on a well and all.

      • paridevita says:

        Rain is nice. Up to a point, as people up north will agree.

      • Deborah S. Farrell says:

        It was on the news this morning that with last night’s rain, we here in the Louisville, KY area have set a new record for the amount of rain in Oct. (there was a 7″ rain early in the month). I only water newly planted plants (by hand, with a gallon milk jug) and the few annuals I can’t resist planting in pots every year. Other than that, it’s tough love: they’re on their own. Except last year, when it was soooo droughty. Then I did water a few of my favorites. I lost surprisingly few plants (mostly milkweed).

      • paridevita says:

        This time of year is excellent for planting. Cool nights, the occasional snow, etc.
        But the evapotranspiration rate in climates with low humidity and intense sunlight is very high.

  5. melanie says:

    I live in the foothils west of Bob at 8200ft. I plant the only thing I can grow up there: Penstemon and Delphinium. I picked up a couple of promising high altitude perennials this summer and am hoping for the best.

    • paridevita says:

      Except for 500,000 alpine plants …..there are whole societies devoted to growing them. The Alpine Garden Society (a person can’t really claim to be a serious rock gardener if they’re not a member of the AGS), the North American Rock Garden Society, the Scottish Rock Garden club, etc.
      The Betty Ford Alpine Garden in Vail shows what can be done, as well as the Interpretative Rock Garden on Mount Goliath.

  6. melanie says:

    That would be “foothills”. 🙂

  7. petabunn says:

    6:30 is obviously a great time to take garden photos as everything looks so crisp and fresh making the colours stand out, your guy certainly is being paid off for the effort he is putting into your garden. Love your characteristic pose today Chess.

    • paridevita says:

      6:30 in the morning, according to the guy I live with, is about two hours too early, but I have renewed energy thanks to the goofballs. (The guy I live with says it should be the opposite.)
      I lie around a lot, because that’s the real purpose of life.

  8. Knicky Twigs says:

    I have to agree with petabunn. Everything looks crisp and fresh. Your fall garden is lovely.

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