26 August 2016

Native Plant Society Events

The Oklahoma Native Plant Society upcoming events -

August 27 - SW Chapter joint meeting  with OK Archeological Society
Bob Blasing will give a talk. The title is: "How Early Great Plains Tribes Used Seasonal Travel to Obtain Resources". The meeting is booked at the Museum of the Great Plains for Saturday August 27th, at 2:00 P.M. Refreshments will be provided.

September 1st - Central Chapter meeting at the OSU-OKC horticulture building at 7pm. Marilyn Stewart will give a talk on Weird and Wonderful Natives of Oklahoma. The owner of Wildthings Nursery, her full time + job and interest is in Oklahoma native plants. She is an expert in the field; her talk should be both informative and fun. Bring a friend and come join us.

September 11th - There will be a native grass outing/ field trip at the Martin Nature Park, 5000 W. Memorial, OKC on Sunday, September 11th at 2:30. Bill Bennett, a volunteer at Martin Park, has done these walks over the years. Fall is a great time to see the native grasses in bloom and seed; should be a great outing.

September 12 - The next formal meeting of the Northeast Chapter of ONPS will be Monday, September 12, 2016 at the Tulsa Garden Center, 2435 South Peoria Avenue at 6:30 in the basement. Our speaker will be Jay Pruett of The Nature Conservancy. Dessert will be served.

September 25 - Butterfly Garden Tour 
Take a tour of some notable native plant/butterfly gardens in OKC. Details to come, but save the date! Sunday September 25th, from 10 am to 3 pm, with Sunday October 2nd, same time, as the rain date. We selected this date to avoid the Zoo butterfly festival which is on the preceding day. Although the date is a Sunday, the tour is spread over a 5-hour period which will allow everyone to attend regardless of their Sunday schedule.

October 1 - Monarch in the Park, Blanchard, OK. Details to come.

October 7 - 9. ONPS Annual Meeting
The 2016 Annual meeting is hosted this year by the SW Chapter, and will be held at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge near Lawton, OK. Registration forms will be mailed out to all members.

Fabulous Wildflower Fridays
Join the Northeast Chapter for 
Fabulous Wildflower Fridays, every third Friday of each month at 5:30pm at Panera Bread at 41st Street and Hudson Avenue.  Contact Constance Murray for details.

22 August 2016

Rose of Sharon is Hibiscus syriacus

The native, cold-hardy Hibiscus shrubs are blooming now and are one of the highlights of late-summer gardens. The large, colorful, cup-shaped flowers shine in pinks, purples and white against the rest of the garden.

Full-sun is usually recommended though ours bloom reasonably well with a bit of afternoon shade. The ones in full-sun produce more flowers.

Cultivated Hibiscus shrubs bloom earlier in the summer and are worth pursuing for their varied flower colors and forms. They also produce very few seedlings when compared to the native plants.

 Shrubs in the Chiffon series of Hibiscus have a ruffled center set of petals. The Blue Chiffon in our garden makes me stop and stare every time it blooms. Others in the series include: Lavender, Pink, and White Chiffon.

Satin Hibiscus cultivars have flowers with dark red centers.  They come in Blue, Orchid, Violet and Ruffled varieties.

Another Hibiscus we love in our perennial bed is Sugar Tip which is a completely seedless shrub. The diminutive flowers look like pink carnations; the leaves are variegated cream and green.

All of the hybrids listed above are available from Proven Winners brand. If you click over to this link, you'll see the ones we love plus several others they market.

If you have room for a reliable, flowering, shrub, it would be hard to go wrong with any of these outstanding choices.




19 August 2016

Garden Tips for OK

Oklahoma State University's website has gardening tips month-by-month. Here's the link so you can click over to see them.

August tips include starting a fall vegetable garden, spraying fruit and nut trees, divide and replant spring-blooming perennial flowers, stop deadheading roses, etc.

Enjoy and check back to the site each month!

16 August 2016

Pollinator Plants for Late-Summer

It's August and our gardens are struggling to keep up with the heat. There are still several plants that we can add to the garden to benefit pollinators in late-summer and fall.

Flowering now for pollinators: milkweed, purple prairie clover, rattlesnake master, zinnias, coneflowers, sedum, goldenrod, Joe-Pye weed, compass plant, mints and others. Asters will be blooming soon, bringing dozens of pollinators at a time!

The Kerr Center's chart of wildflower blooming times helps identify plants we can add to the beds and hedge rows to keep food available for pollinators. Here's a link to the chart.

They include Maximillion sunflower in their list but it's a less likely garden plant than one for an open field or hedge row.

Keep your plants thriving by watering them in the early morning hours. Don't fertilize at this time of year since most plants are slowing down for dormancy and fertilizing pushes them to grow.








12 August 2016

Using Prairie to Restore Farm Land

The attitudes toward prairie plants has been changing gradually over the past decade.

When settlers arrived in the midwest a century ago, they removed wild plants and grasses in order to put in crops, thereby eliminating prairie.

Now there is recognition that it is a mistake to shun prairie plants and many farmers are putting patches of prairie back into their farming plans.

Research at Iowa State University points to the prairie plants' deep-roots that soak up polluting waste water, filter it and enrich the soil.

In an interview with the Washington Post, prairie guru,  Lisa Schulte Moore, said, "“The reason why we have the best soil, making it possible to have the world’s best food production, is prairie."

The article says, "Now Schulte Moore and a team of 50 researchers are pushing for a resurrection and spreading a message: Wild prairie could help the state’s agriculture industry. It could slow soil erosion that costs farmers more than a billion dollars per year in lost yield and lower water pollution from fertilizers and chemicals — pollution that triggered a lawsuit by Des Moines against three farm counties upstream."

Prairie serves as habitat for hundreds of species. Its milkweed feeds monarch butterflies, which make an epic migration through the United States from Mexico to Canada every year. Monarch populations have dropped dramatically because of insecticides and loss of habitat.

Providing wildlife habitat for birds and animals on the decline is one of the driving forces behind a program called STRIPS — Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips. Smith said he planted his prairie two years ago because he strongly believed in that philosophy."

Erosion can also be slowed. "The state’s soil is eroding at an alarming rate. Topsoil was an average of 14 inches deep statewide in the mid-1800s; now it’s about six, Iowa State researcher Rick Cruse estimated in studies."

Iowa farmers lose about $40 per acre to soil erosion in a state where more than 85 percent of the land is covered by crops. “If you look at those figures and the amount of corn acres in Iowa, you quickly surpass a billion dollars of annual lost revenue,” Cruse said. Nearly a third of topsoil is lost in ephemeral gullies, swaths carved into farms by heavy rain. Since most prairie plants are perennial, they physically stabilize the soil most of the year."

Click over to this link to read the entire article.


08 August 2016

Little Bluestem is Schizachyrium scoparium

Little Bluestem grass is one native plant that still looks good in the August garden. 

Hardy in zone 2 to 9. Prefers full sun but will tolerate afternoon shade. 
Little Bluestem - fall

Stems are copper colors in the fall. Skippers raise their young on the plants and birds eat the seeds in the winter. 

Prune in the spring

Benjamin Vogt says about Little Bluestem, "Grasses flower too, and mixing grasses with perennial flowers provides good habitat for wildlife and creates healthier gardens that require less maintenance. Little bluestem starts sporting its glittery seeds in August, which can last through most of the winter. It’s drought-tolerant and reaches 3 to 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide."

Heather Holm points out, "It thrives in poor soil and provides food and shelter for wildlife." ... "This charming grass does not lack admirable attributes; beyond the fantastic foliage color and compact, upright form, it also provides food and shelter for wildlife. The foliage of little bluestem is consumed by the caterpillars of many skipper butterflies, and birds feed on the seeds throughout the winter. Take pleasure in the fact that when you plant little bluestem, you are providing a valuable plant for wildlife and at the same time getting a graceful native grass that is easy to care for."

"This native grass is one of the shorter prairie grasses, reaching heights of approximately 3 feet. Its upright, linear form and graceful foliage make it suitable for any formal or informal naturalized planting. For the best effect, mass many plants together to highlight the foliage color and form. Little bluestem rarely flops, and can therefore be sited next to delicate flowering perennials."


05 August 2016

Trees Share Information in the Forest

Treehugger.com has an interesting article about how trees talk to each other, recognize their own offspring and communicate their own distress. Here's the link to the entire piece with an 18-minute TED talk on the topic by forest ecologist Suzanne Simard.

In fact, they form their own ancient internet. "While it's not news that a variety of communication happens between non-human elements of the natural world, the idea of mycelia (the main body of fungi, as opposed to the more well-known fruiting bodies - mushrooms) acting as a sort of old-school planetary internet is still a fairly recent one, and may serve as a spore of a new breed of forestry, ecology, land management"

"A recent talk at TEDSummit 2016 by forest ecologist Suzanne Simard seems to put the lie to the idea that a forest is merely a collection of trees that can be thought of as fully independent entities, standing alone even while surrounded by other trees and vegetation. As Simard, who has put in about three decades of research work into Canada's forests, puts it, "A forest is much more than what you see."

Simard said, "While it's not news that a variety of communication happens between non-human elements of the natural world, the idea of mycelia (the main body of fungi, as opposed to the more well-known fruiting bodies - mushrooms) acting as a sort of old-school planetary internet is still a fairly recent one, and may serve as a spore of a new breed of forestry, ecology, land management."

Paul Stamets famously posited that "mycelia are Earth's natural Internet," and a variety of research has borne out that concept, but like many things we can't see an obvious connection between, most of us tend to ignore the micro in favor of the macro. And when it comes to conservation and natural resources, our systems may be falling prey to the lure of reductionist thinking, with a tree being considered merely a commodity in the forest, which can be replaced simply by planting another tree. In fact, many reforestation efforts are considered successful when a large number of trees are replanted in areas where clearcutting has rendered large tracts of land treeless, even if those replanted trees are essentially turning a once diverse forest into a monocropped 'farm' of trees."
A recent talk at TEDSummit 2016 by forest ecologist Suzanne Simard seems to put the lie to the idea that a forest is merely a collection of trees that can be thought of as fully independent entities, standing alone even while surrounded by other trees and vegetation. As Simard, who has put in about three decades of research work into Canada's forests, puts it, "A forest is much more than what you see."
"Now, we know we all favor our own children, and I wondered, could Douglas fir recognize its own kin, like mama grizzly and her cub? So we set about an experiment, and we grew mother trees with kin and stranger's seedlings. And it turns out they do recognize their kin. Mother trees colonize their kin with bigger mycorrhizal networks. They send them more carbon below ground. They even reduce their own root competition to make elbow room for their kids. When mother trees are injured or dying, they also send messages of wisdom on to the next generation of seedlings. So we've used isotope tracing to trace carbon moving from an injured mother tree down her trunk into the mycorrhizal network and into her neighboring seedlings, not only carbon but also defense signals. And these two compounds have increased the resistance of those seedlings to future stresses. So trees talk." 

So, the next time you are out among the trees see if you can spot the offspring of nearby trees and see how they accommodate each others' needs.

02 August 2016

Compost Makes the Difference!

In California, where agriculture is still a key industry, restoring pollinator habitat along the highways is a large project that is underway.

From the ASLA website, "In California, officials are now pioneering new methods to boost the health of the honeybees and butterflies, according to a recent Congressional hearing in Washington, D.C. To reiterate the importance of these efforts, Congressman Jeff Denham, who is also an almond farmer, said at the briefing: “making sure we have healthy pollinators is critical to a state like California.”

Here's how they are doing getting their innovative project going with compost and native grass sod -

Keith Robinson, ASLA, principal of the landscape architecture program at the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). The purview of Robinson and the 240 landscape architects he leads is roadsides. Their primary job is to control erosion. But Robinson and his team have seized on that mandate to boost the health of pollinators along California’s 250,000 acres of highway roadside.
Robinson said it all starts with the soil. “We are prioritizing the improvement of soil quality on every single project. We want to make sure that soil sustains native plants and creates favorable conditions that encourage pollinator plants to not only to grow but thrive.”
Robinson’s team began this effort by performing studies on the optimal amount of compost that can be included in the soil. Compost “gets things moving along, and then the natural process takes over.” The right amount of compost allows native species to out-compete non-natives, foregoing the need for many herbicides that might negatively impact pollinators. Robinson’s team realized they could use Caltrans’ often-idle snow blowers to spread compost.
Another innovative step taken by Robinson’s team was the development of native grass sod, or pre-packaged grass carpet. “With native grass, the thinking was you can’t cut the roots and expect the plant to grow. But we’ve proved that it works.” Native grasses not only help erosion control, they encourage pollinators. “If you compare this solution to what we used to do, which was put straw down on top of compacted soil and hope for the best, you can see we’re moving down a path towards natural solutions,” Robinson said.
In addition to these steps, Caltrans ramped up planting pollinator-friendly plant species along highways."


30 July 2016

Low Maintenance Trending with Sustainable

The American Society of Landscape Architecture reports that the trend in gardening is toward sustainable, low-maintenance gardens that are easier on the environment and the gardeners themselves. 

All of these ideas favored by survey respondents make sense and many should be on the top of of our lists.

Here are the top ten project types with the expected highest consumer demand:

  • Native plants (85 percent)
  • Native/adapted drought-tolerant plants (83 percent)
  • Food/vegetable gardens (79 percent)
  • Fire pits/fireplaces (78 percent)
  • Low-maintenance landscapes (78 percent)
  • Permeable paving (77 percent)
  • Drip/water-efficient irrigation (74 percent)
  • Rain gardens (74 percent)
  • Lighting (72 percent)
  • Rainwater/graywater harvesting (71 percent)

“Consumers care about designed landscapes that are attractive, easy to take care of and eco-friendly,” says Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA, executive vice president and CEO of ASLA. “The survey shows that homeowners increasingly see opportunities to improve the environment right in their own backyard.

26 July 2016

July Issue Avant Gardener

The July issue of Avant Gardener is loaded with interesting articles.
Topics include: Healthy eating, keeping chickens near a vegetable garden, natural swimming pools, cottage gardening, England's historic gardens, apps to help you identify plants, and much more.

Avant Gardener is available by subscription and I'm providing this month's copy for you so you can see if you'd like to subscribe.

Here's the link - July 2016 Avant Gardener