14 April 2010

Gerald Klingaman Speaking in Muskogee Thursday at Muskogee Garden Club

Dr. Gerald Klingaman, retired extension horticulturist from the University of Arkansas, will be talking on Spring in an Ozark Garden at Muskogee Garden Club this morning. Klingaman said he would talk about native plants as well as non-natives that work well in our gardens.

Some Arkansas natives have a counterpart in China that look similar and grow in the same kind of habitat, Klingaman said. It is more interesting to have variety, so you can plant both.


Native plants include many we grow but do not think of as natives. Consider Oakleaf Hydrangea, Carolina allspice, Virginia creeper, beautyberry, witch hazel, Virginia sweetspire, azalea, Viburnum and sweet bay magnolia.

Several years ago Klingaman gave us a tour of the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks in Fayetteville while it was under construction. Now he is the operations director.

In addition to public speaking on plants and his work with the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks, Klingaman writes for Learn2Grow, an online horticulture site and writes a weekly Plant of the Week column for Arkansas newspapers and the Extension website Plus he contributes a monthly column for the Arkansas Gardener magazine.

In an article on Arkansas Blue Star (Amsonia hubrichtii), Klingaman called this native perennial one of his favorites.

The milky sap that makes Amsonia toxic to livestock makes it a plant that deer avoid. It belongs to the dogbane plant family, along with Vinca and Periwinkle.

Arkansas Blue Star is a perennial that grows up to 3-feet tall with 4-foot wide branching. The characteristic blue, star shaped flowers arrive in late spring. The seedpods are cigar shaped. Willowy leaves, one-eighth inch wide and 3-inches long, fill in the space after the flowers fade.

It grows well in a rock garden where its fall gold color will brighten up the bed. Provide part shade, well-drained soil, and lots of compost.

In an article for the University of Arkansas Extension Service, Klingaman said several native plants have endured in his gardens at home.

Many of us have planted hybrid Heuchera in our shade gardens but there is also a native version called Arkansas alumroot (Heuchera villosa var. Arkansan), which blooms with white flowers from August until winter dormancy.

Arkansas alumroot is a small plant found in the Ozark Mountains. In a garden it will grow to 18-inches tall and 2-feet wide. After becoming established it is drought tolerant and easy to grow.

Fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus) is a small, spring blooming tree. Its other names include Old-man's beard and Grancy Gray-beard.

Old-man’s beard has snow white flowers in 6-inch long clusters. The multi-branched shrub or small tree grows about 6-inches a year to become 15 to 30 feet tall. They prefer well-drained soil that remains moist over the summer and bloom best in full sun.

Fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica) is another Arkansas native that grows beautifully in our area. If you have oak trees on your property you will have plenty of acid soil to make fragrant sumac grow to its full size of 6 to 8 feet. It is also a good selection for stabilizing the soil on a hillside since it suckers from the root and will spread.


Hercules Club, prickly ash, or toothache tree (Zanthoxylum clava-herculis) likes moist soil and full sun. It grows slowly to 20 feet with thorns similar to black locust trees. The citrus scented leaves are a foot long and have a leathery texture. Yellow, spring flowers are followed by green berries that ripen to a rusty red.

The name toothache tree comes from an alkaloid it contains, xanthoxylin, which was used in early dentistry.

Mary Ann King of Pine Ridge Gardens in Arkansas sells many of these plants.


Klingaman is a very interesting speaker and this promises to be a treat for everyone who can attend.

1 comment:

Ann Flower said...

Stunning picture of the flowers, will definitely make my day. Keep posting.