11 November 2018

Pawpaw Trees Have Three Season Beauty

In the 1500s the large fruits of  Pawpaw trees fed Hernando DeSoto’s conquistadors during their expedition in the Mississippi Valley. A favorite food of American Indians at the time,  early settlers used the fruit to make jelly. The trees’ inner bark was used to make cloth and to string up fish.

Pawpaw trees have a wide native range from New York and Ontario to Iowa and Texas.  The trees mature at 10 to 20 feet tall and wide with a round, upright pyramid form that requires no shaping.

Pawpaws are cold hardy to zone 5 so they are quite happy in our zone 7 weather.  The pink flowers in the spring are very pretty and prolific. After pollination, yellow fruits form to ripen later in the summer and fall. The fruit is said to taste like bananas though ours is always eaten by wildlife long before we can harvest any.

The leaves are large, light green ovals that turn lime green and then pale yellow in the fall, adding to November color in the garden. 

Our first tree came from Stringer Nursery in Tulsa when they sold them for $10 apiece because volunteer trees were dug out of the owner’s back yard. In order to have more fruit we purchased a second variety from the Kentucky State University breeding program a few years ago (http://www.pawpaw.kysu.edu).

There are over 45 Pawpaw or Asimina triloba cultivars. Convis has 1-pound fruit, Davis has half-pound fruit, Overleese is a heavy producing variety, Sunflower is said to be self-fertile and Wells has fruit with green skin and orange flesh.

According to the University of Kentucky Horticulture Dept. more Pawpaw is being planted because of the beauty, the fruit and because the trees produce an organic insecticide as well as a potential cancer therapy.

Our first tree was planted to provide habitat for Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars.  If you can get fruit away from wildlife, they have vitamins A and C, protein, potassium, magnesium and unsaturated fats.

04 November 2018

Aster Tataricus Fall Beauty

Fall is for asters and they are popping up in lawns at 2-inches tall and in gardens topping out at 10 feet tall. In between there are dozens of other Aster heights to chose from when deciding which ones to plant. 

Aster Tataricus is large, with toothed leaves and hundreds of light blue flowers with yellow centers. This variety spreads, creating colonies and providing October-November nectar for hundreds of butterflies.

In a sunny location, a cluster of Aster Tataricus can have 20 Monarch butterflies at a time, swaying in the breeze on the Asters’ strong stems while sunbathing and collecting strength to continue their voyage south. 

For the most part the stems can stand without staking but when we have a big wind and rain storm they will fall over. Usually, we do not bother to stake them since the skippers, butterflies and bees cover the flower heads just as much.

Even though the flowers are only an inch wide, the large clusters are a beautiful addition to flower beds. 
Aster Tataricus is reliable in most soils and is cold hardy in zones 3 to 9.

As with most plants from Asia (Siberia to Japan) they have to be divided and thinned regularly. In China the roots are used in treatments for colds and infections.

Pruning Asters mid-spring can keep them compact, making them suitable for the middle of a bed. There is also a hybrid called Dwarf Tatarian Jindai that matures at 4 feet tall.

Tatarian Asters are herbaceous perennials, meaning that the roots and rhizomes live for many years but the plants disappear in the winter. When the leaves emerge in the spring they grow quickly and some garden writers say they look like a bed of Swiss Chard or tobacco because the leaves are so large.

Gardeners who grow Tatarian Asters usually have plants to share. Just ask for some roots so your garden will attract and feed migrating butterflies next November.

28 October 2018

Panolas are Hardier Pansies

The gardening tradition of planting Pansies in the fall got a fresh start with new and improved hybrids. Panolas are just one of the new Pansy hybrids that are now available.  Garden gurus crossed Violas with its tiny spring flowers and our beloved Pansy with its large, colorful blooms.

Nurseries are selling them as Panola, Matrix, Dynamite and Universal Plus. The new plants require no removing of the old flowers (dead heading) in order to keep them blooming. Plus, they have greater heat tolerance, sticking around to bloom when the temperatures get too warm for traditional Pansies.

Ours, in the photo, came from Riddle Plant Farm in Broken Arrow. They are also available through mail order nurseries such as Burpee (www.burpee.com).

Egemont Seed Company (www.Egmont seeds.co.nz), describes Panolas as having flowers larger than a Viola and smaller than a Pansy but with hundreds of flowers that will not be smashed by rain, hail or wind.

Compact Panolas are cold hardy in zones 6 to 8 and will bloom this fall and again in the spring, just like Pansies but without as much vulnerability. 

Plant them where they will receive part, not full, sun. they mature 8 inches tall and 10-inches wide.  A thin layer of compost or mulch will help them retain moisture.

Fertilize monthly. The nursery recommended blood meal as fertilizer because we have so many munching bunnies and blood meal is a natural rabbit repellant. Black pepper is also said to work.

Pansies’ name is from the French word pensee, meaning thought or remembrance. Shakespeare’s Ophelia said “There’s Pansies, that’s for thoughts.”

The familiar Johnny-jump-ups (Viola tricolor) that re-seed everywhere are actually a hybrid, too. There are hundreds of varieties thanks to plant breeders, Sakata Seeds and Ball Seed. Panolas were developed by California breeder Waller Genetics.

Look for compact plants and keep them moist after planting. The leaves and flowers are edible and are often used to decorate salads and cakes.

23 October 2018

Tithonia Torch Flower Mexican Sunflower

Husky and coarse with spectacularly gaudy flowers is how one garden reference describes Tithonia. Well, they are tall and open branched with stems as thick as a small tree, but oh, how the butterflies love those gaudy flowers. Every sunny hour of the day this month, assorted butterflies will be sitting on the flowers while swaying in the wind on Tithonia’s sturdy branches. 

Tithonia rotundifolia has a few common names: Torch Flower , Golden Flower of the Incas and Mexican Sunflower but the seed packets say Tithonia.  

Many of the nectar-providing flowers that are  blooming now are members of the Aster or Asteraceae plant family.  Tithonia is in the Sunflower tribe of the Aster family. Their native range goes from Central America, through Mexico and into the Southwestern US.

There are several varieties but T. rotundifolia or Torch is the only one that shows up in the flower seed racks in the spring.  It grows 6-feet tall and 3 feet wide by the end of the summer. The orange flowers are 2-inches across. Other varieties can be ordered online. 

Tithonia Arcadian Blend mixture contains seeds that grow into plants only 2 ½ feet tall and the flower colors are gold, orange and yellow. Aztec Sun is 4-feet tall with apricot flowers, Fiesta del Sol is 2 ½ feet tall and Goldfinger is 4-feet tall with deep orange flowers. Tithonias would make a good summer screening hedge.

Each fall our seeds are collected and spread out over a screen to dry and then stored in a bottle with a silica packet. In the spring they are planted in a well-drained, sunny location. They love heat so they will take their time coming up if the ground is cold. 

They want an average amount of water and can tolerate dry soil for a few days.  Removing spent flowers will help them re-bloom. For containers, use a large pot and place it in full sun.

14 October 2018

Clematis You Need - You Need Clematis

We have two Clematis vines in our garden that bloom reliably in May. A third one blooms every few years when it feels up to the task. 
Clematis Silver Moon in May

The 3,000 Clematis cultivars have varying flowering times, shapes, sizes, colors and growing habits. Colors range from white to red and purple. Vine lengths vary from 3 to 15 feet.

Most of us are familiar with spring blooming Clematis and look forward to hundreds of buds forming on our long-lived vines every year.  Most varieties need 6-hours of sun but want shaded roots in our area. Regular, deep, watering in soil that drains well will keep the roots healthy.

Single, double, bell, saucer, tulip and star shaped flowers are available. The vines needs support from a fence, trellis or nearby shrubs. Look for fungus and disease resistant varieties. 

Group 1, spring-blooming Clematis grow on last year‘s shoots in sheltered sun. Examples: Rebecca (large red), Josephine (mauve pink with  plum stripes), Blushing Bridesmaid (double pink), Corrine (white with pink stripe). 

Group 2 flowers late spring and early summer from side-shoots of last year’s growth. Examples: John Paul II (white with pink stripe), Burning Love (red, disease and wilt resistant), Sugar-Sweet Blue (periwinkle blue, scented, wilt-resistant) etc. 

Group 3 flowers on current year growth in summer and fall. Examples: Negritjanka (5-inch flowers, plum--purple),  Utopia (white flowers with magenta edges), and Texensis Radiance (violet-blue trumpet flowers).

Smaller flower, part-shade varieties are vigorous growers and happily vine their way through shrubs where they receive filtered light. Montana Rubens (pastel pink) buds on old wood so it needs no pruning.  

Clematis virginiana and Clematis terniflora paniculata burst into bloom here last month, covering trees and shrubs along roads and in parks with thousands of small white flowers. Virginiana is a non-invasive native; terniflora paniculata is invasive.

Clematis expert Dan Long of Brushwood Nursery (www.brushwoodnursery.com) is speaking at the Tulsa Garden Center, Oct. 18, at 6:30.  His topic is “Clematis You Need - You Need Clematis”.