30 June 2016

Pollinators and the Native Plants You Should Grow for Them

The Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture in Poteau OK, has provided an online library for us to learn about which native plants are best for providing nectar and caterpillar food for our native pollinators.

Here's a link that will take you directly to their resources and other helpful information.
http://kerrcenter.com/conservation/native-plants-pollinators/native-plant-pollinator-publications/

If that interests you and you want more, go to their main site and look at the hundreds of free resources they offer to the public.
http://kerrcenter.com/

We have taken a couple of their workshops and found them to be worthwhile for our gardening needs.

26 June 2016

Zika Virus, Mosquitoes and Oklahoma Gardeners

Since we are all worried about the Zika Virus and avoiding contact with the mosquitoes that carry it, here's some advice about preventing the larvae from thriving in your garden.

"Listed below are some recommendations from the American Mosquito Control Association (www.mosquito.org): 1. Irrigate lawns and gardens carefully to prevent water from standing for several days. 2. Clean debris from rain gutters and remove any standing water under or around structures, or on flat roofs. Check around faucets and air conditioner units and repair leaks or eliminate puddles that remain for several days. 3. Destroy or dispose of tin cans, old tires, buckets, unused plastic swimming pools or other containers that collect and hold water. Do not allow water to accumulate in the saucers of flowerpots, cemetery urns or in pet dishes for more than 2 days."

Here's the complete article on the mosquitoes from Oklahoma State University - http://entoplp.okstate.edu/pddl/2016/PA15-24.pdf

23 June 2016

Queen Anne's Lace is Daucus Carota

Our garden was over run with Queen Anne's Lace, Daucus Carota, this spring and was just summarily removed.

In the past we've intentionally grown Black Knight Ammi and this year the huge mess of Daucus Carota included some of that variety but mostly was the white 8-foot tall stuff you see growing in ditches and open fields.

When the flower begins to go to seed, the heads curl up, forming a
bird's nest shape so that's where that nickname came from.

As its name implies the root is the shape of the carrot we eat though it is inedible.

No one is precisely sure which Queen Anne the other name comes from or exactly how she came to be associated with the plant.

Queen Anne's Lace flowers make beautiful cut flowers and a local flower vendor cut ours for a couple of weeks for her bouquets before we took it out. If you enjoy crafts, you can put the stems in food coloring water and make the flowers into a variety of bouquet colors.

It is a beautiful weed but can take over a flower bed in a New York minute if you aren't vigilent. We weren't and it was quite a task to get it backed off.




20 June 2016

Hydrangea Annabelle is an American Native

The Hydrangea arborescens Annabelle, with the big, gorgeous mophead flowers is an American native plant. Who knew? Annabelle is probably the oldest and best-known Hydrangea grown in our gardens.

It was discovered in 1910 by Harriet Kirkpatrick while she was out horseback riding near her home town of Anna Illinois. She and her sister Amy collected a piece of the shrub and began growing it in their garden.

At the time, it became a passalong plant, with pieces of the green wood given to fellow gardeners to propagate for their home gardens.

The plantsman Joseph McDaniel decided to get Annabelle the recognition it deserved and in 1960 he registered the name and succeeded in getting it into the plant trade.

Hydrangea arborescens is native to the U.S. from New York to FL and LA and west to Iowa and Illinois. Now we know why they grow so well here! Because they are American natives.


16 June 2016

Hydrangea Shrubs Flower all Summer

Hydrangea shrubs began blooming a month ago and, depending on the variety, will be in bloom through the fall. It is possible to have a collection of Hydrangeas and have some in bloom from May to September. 


n addition to flowers, some Hydrangeas are known for the beauty of their bark when the leaves fall in the winter.

Hydrangeas are popular for planting around the foundation of a home since they thrive with a little protection from out hot summer sun. 

Traditionally, they are located on the north side of a structure but can also be planted as a shrub row or as a specimen plant.

The flower colors are dependent on the color they were bred to show plus the amount of aluminum ions in the soil. Acidic soils with a pH greater than 6.0 cause pink flowers. White flowering shrubs are not impacted by the type of soil.

Generally speaking, Hydrangeas are carefree. They benefit from being watered during periods of drought but rarely have disease or insect problems.  Powdery mildew, rust, leaf spot and slugs have been reported though our shrubs have never had these problems.

Many Hydrangeas begin to bloom in May and continue to re-bloom as the flowers are removed for drying or for floral arrangements.  If you keep in mind the simple rule of pruning the shrubs after they bloom you don’t have to know much about the complications of whether they bloom on this year’s growth (called new wood) or last year’s growth (bloom on old wood).

If you buy a shrub in a pot, dig a hold wider than the pot and as deep but no deeper.  Carefully remove the plant from the pot by laying the pot on its side and pressing the entire surface to loosen the root ball.

Loosen the roots and place the plant in the prepared hole. Water it well. Put 2 or 3 inches of mulch on the soil around the roots, then pull the mulch 6-inches away from the stems so there is no point of contact where insects can nest and cause damage to the stems.

Fertilize Hydrangea shrubs in the early spring just as they are leafing out. Otherwise, just water and enjoy the flower show. Newly planted shrubs will not have as many flowers as mature ones.

One of the newest Hydrangeas on the markets is called Let’s Dance Diva! This one is a lacecap variety of Hydrangea macrophylla. Lacecap means that each flower head has a cluster of flowers in the center with lacy, smaller flowers around the outer edge. The flowers themselves are pink-purple.

If you are interested in purple flowers there are several varieties to choose from. Let’s Dance 
Rhapsody Blue is another re-blooming type but this one has mophead, or large round ball shaped flowers that can be picked and hung upside down to dry for arrangements. Prune after the early summer bloom. They mature at 2 to 3 feet tall and wide.

For pink flowers, Gatsby Pink Oakleaf Hydrangea is a good choice. Oakleaf Hydrangeas are Hydrangea quercifolia and should not be pruned at all. Oakleaf Hydrangeas are taller, maturing at 6 to 8 feet tall.

Annabelle is a standard variety, Hydrangea arborescens that cannot be beat for large, white, mophead flowers. This variety remains compact, with tightly formed flowers ideal for drying. When fully grown the shrubs are 4 or 5 feet tall and wide.

Hydrangea paniculata comes in many colors. The Flower heads are long cylinders of tiny blooms. The Unique variety has cream colored flowers and is easy to grow. It blooms late summer to early autumn.


Shop for Hydrangeas and you’ll find one to suit your needs.

15 June 2016

Gardening in Summer

We are spending a few hours every day in the garden, working to catch up with what the rains brought us!

Weeds, seedlings of plants that we love in small doses, spring bulb foliage, and general cleanup are the order of the day.

Each morning when the sun comes up around 6:00 we head out, well sprayed against insects, armed with gloves and waterproof shoes. Clippers, shovels,  loppers and large refuse cans accompany us each place we work.

The two of us slog for a few hours before the heat gets to us and every day we make progress.

As we go, we are streamlining our garden beds. We've found that we overplanted some places and tha Mother Nature overplanted for us in other places.

For example, the native, coral honeysuckle vine ... every place the vine touched on the soil a new plant formed. It took half the morning just to prune back that one mini-monster.

We've also found that some things we put in have become too large for their space and will have to be pruned back hard and then maybe removed. The snowball bush is an example there. This year it doubled in size it seems and now we are deciding whether to bring it down to size or remove it.

Each spring and summer this happens. The garden speaks to us differently than last year and we discover its new form and shape for the year ahead.

08 June 2016

Crocosmia is Blooming Now

Very few people grow this beautiful little bulb and I can't imagine why not. It's mid-June and the heat it on and here they come to grace the garden with the sweetest flowers. 


They are related to gladiolas and resemble their structure. I use them in bouquets in the house and they last a week.

Their only downside is that they spread like crazy so you have to keep them thinned out in order to get flowers. I have several places in the garden where they have been allowed to do their thing and the more crowded the bulbs become the fewer flowers

I've found that the ideal blooming clump is no more than a dozen or so bulbs.

If you are ready for something delicate and cheerful, add a few bulbs to a mostly sunny spot.
Diseases and insects leave them alone completely in our garden.





02 June 2016

New book with upcycling ideas for your garden

"Gardening on a Shoestring: 100 Fun Upcycled Garden Projects" by Alex Mitchell is a new book of fun ideas for inexpensive projects for the handy.

Alex Mitchell has collected lots of ways to engage the whole family in beautifying both yard and garden at your house.

Cool Springs Press just released this new volume.  It is 160 pages in a paperback format. 184 color photos with detailed instructions for each project.

The list price is $20 and online it sells for $17.



29 May 2016

Black Ammi, Queen Annes Lace and Hemlock

The weeds have thoroughly mixed themselves in with the flower gardens this year.

Here's a bouquet in our living room made up of Black Ammi, Queen Anne's Lace (ammi), and Hemlock.

Not every bouquet has to be made of hybrid flowers.

25 May 2016

Grow Native - Bringing Natural Beauty to Your Garden by Lynn Steiner

Grow Native
Cool Springs Press
It may seem as though there have been enough books published about growing native plants to satisfy our need. Then, along comes this new one from Lynn Steiner that fulfills a unique niche: The author is a garden writer from the upper Midwest who writes for the gardeners outside the west coast, southern US and other regions.

If you don't know why that matters so much you haven't tried to follow the guidelines of writers in zone 8, 9 and 10 who have sandy soil and temperate evenings. This book helps out the rest of us.

Steiner grows a native garden in Minnesota that is filled with prairie flowers, ferns, grasses, ground covers, shrubs and vines. The best selections are set out in charts for easy reference.

Our garden was recently described as contained chaos and it probably is. We grow for wildlife more than for structure and form so we have lots of wildlife from turtles and toads to birds and yes, even squirrels are welcome.

The book is a little over 200 pages in a softback that is easy to carry around to coffee shop and garden center. $25 list and $20 online. Cool Springs Press, www.QuartoKnows.com http://www.quartoknows.com/


The pages have information about butterflies and how to attract them, how to start a garden, plants that lend themselves to sculptural pruning, garden problems and how to overcome them, plus dozens of plants to consider for your native and wildlife attracting garden beds.

Pick up a copy for yourself or a new gardener. The basics are all here plus tidbits of information that will increase your understanding and success rate.