Showing posts from July, 2013

A Few Fun Snaps from our back yard this week

Black Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar on Rue
Moon Carrot flowers - seeds were started Dec 2010 Check out the seedlings at

Hummingbird Feeders from Perky-Pet

Perky-Pet sent us another hummingbird feeder to try so we put it above the pineapple sage where the humingbirds hang out.
We saw them at Sam's Club in Tulsa today for the same $19.95 they cost on the PerkyPet website. This one is a pretty, square, antique-looking glass bottle with  little copper flowers for the feeding holes.

It's a nice addition to the flower bed!

Giant Iron Weed is Vernonia altissima gigantea

The Giant Ironweed is blooming for the first time since it was planted a few years ago. The two year drought and record heat interfered with it becoming successful before this.

I confess that I bought the starts at a plant sale someplace because I love its name. Iron Weed! Indeed, who could resist?

Ironweed loves sun and grows in zones 5 to 9 according to one source, Plant Delights Nursery.

There are 1,000 Vernonia species. Vernonia was named for English botanist William Vernon.

Since it can become invasive in farm fields there has been an effort to kill it out with herbicides. The result is that Ironweed has become endangered in some states such as New York. If you decide to plant it as part of your wildscape, keep an eye on the ground for seedlings in the spring and pull them out.

The leaves taste bitter so deer leave them alone but long tongued bees, butterflies, bumblebees, miner bees, leaf cutting bees love the flowers. Tiger Moth caterpillars eat the leaves.
According to P…

New Viburnums Glitter and Glow

Viburnums are work-horses in residential landscapes. They come in all sizes; many have white, cream or pink flowers in the spring followed by fall berries, and autumn leaf color that ranges from gold to red and purple. Viburnums are insect and disease resistant, making them low-maintenance.
Out of the 150 species most are USDA cold hardy in zones 4 to 9. There are selections for wet or dry, shade or sun.
Dwarf Viburnum opulus nanum matures at 2-feet tall without flowers or fruit – ideal for foundation plantings. Its full size parent, European cranberry bush, grows to 8 or 10 feet.
Viburnum opulus variety Roseum, European Snowball Viburnum, grows to 10-feet tall and has red leaves in the fall.
Evergreen and semi-evergreen varieties include: Leatherleaf Viburnum rhytidophyllum (cream flowers) and Viburnum Pragense (pink flowers). V. rhytidophyllum thrives in heavy shade. Semi-evergreen means that they will hold their leaves until temperatures dip below 10-degrees F.
For the shrub row or a s…

A Compost Mandate

Compost could be an answer to the coming food shortage. This incredibly insightful and informative Gary Paul Nabhan piece in yesterday's New York Times explains how -[]

"One strategy would be to promote the use of locally produced compost to increase the moisture-holding capacity of fields, orchards and vineyards. In addition to locking carbon in the soil, composting buffers crop roots from heat and drought while increasing forage and food-crop yields.

By simply increasing organic matter in their fields from 1 percent to 5 percent, farmers can increase water storage in the root zones from 33 pounds per cubic meter to 195 pounds.

And we have a great source of compostable waste: cities. Since much of the green waste in this country is now simply generating methane emissions from landfills, cities should be mandated to transition to green-waste sorting and composting, which could then be distri…

Manfreda virginica is False Aloe or Rattlesnake Master and Agave virginica

To be able to grow an Aloe outside in zone 7, it has to be unique and this one certainly is. The flowers are green and bloom atop a 4 to 6 foot tall stem that rockets up, up, up.

Full sun to part shade and dry to moist, well-drained average soil will keep this unique Aloe happy all the way down to zone 5. They are most often found on rocky glades and in open woods in their native surroundings, especially Arkansas.

The stem emerges from a rosette of fleshy leaves that are 8 or more inches long and 2-inches wide. On ours the leaves have red flecks.

Several yellow-green flowers bloom on the top of the stalk and they are followed by fruit/seed capsules.

 Their native range is FL to TX, NC, WVa, OH, IN, IL, and MO.

No insect or disease problems.
EasyLiving Wildflowers has the seeds but I bought ours as plants. Bustani Plant Farm in central OK has them available.
Illinois Wildflowers say they are mostly pollinated by Sphinx moths and Noctuid moths that suck nectar from the flowers.

Hydrangea quercifolia 'Sikes Dwarf' Native Hydrangea

The Morton Arboretum recommends native Sikes Dwarf Hydrangea for smaller gardens. I would add also for cozy corners or shady nooks of a large garden. The Sikes Dwarf grows about 2 feet tall and wide at maturity and will survive zone 5 winters.
In addition to the other reasons we love native plants, this baby is disease and insect free.

They will thrive in moist, slightly acidic, well-drained soil. As with all these shade lovers, mulch really helps them survive our summers.

You may have to protect it a bit since it flowers on old wood and the flower buds can be damaged in extreme cold.

Prune after bloom like most hydrangeas.
As you can see, the flowers are more open than many. Digging Dog Nursery says, "We have Sarah Sikes to thank for this new low growing Oak Leaf Hydrangea. Hailing from Alabama, it’s half the size of most quercifolias, rendering it a mainstay in the smaller garden. Lobed and closely spaced, the handsome broad foliage shows off abundant ivory-colored conical …

Anthemis for every garden

There are over 100 varieties of Anthemis, and, although gardeners may be unaware of them, they probably have them growing someplace. The tiny, wild variety hugs the ground in the summer and the tall, perennial varieties grow into shrubs. Commonly, they are called Chamomile.
Though some are perennials (return from roots) and others are annuals (planted from seed) they are easily started from seed or cuttings. They are rarely bothered by disease but are often covered with pollinating insects.
Their name Chamomile comes from Greek words chamos and milos, meaning a low-growing shrub that smells like apples.The varieties used as medicine are English (Anthemis nobilis) and German (Matricaria chamomilla, also called M. recutita ). Dried Anthemis flowers are used for tea, potpourri, flower arrangements, shampoo, cosmetics, etc.
Anthemis tinctoria, Golden Chamomile, is often packaged in seed collections for wildflower gardens, pollinator beds and bee-friendly gardening projects. It is native in A…

Crocosmia are coppertips, falling stars or montbretia

Crocosmias are native to South Africa but do wonderfully well here in Northeast Oklahoma anyway. They bloom their little heads off and make babies by the dozens each year, making it possible to move them around the garden to almost every bed except the deepest shade.

 The corms are planted in the fall and often bloom the following spring. They can be started from seeds. (Plant in seed trays, about 1/4" deep, in seed starting soil and plant out in the spring.

They do have to be divided every few years since they become so thick - they are related to that every multiplying-iris after all. Also related to gladiolus. Give them lots of sun and some water for best blooming on stems that are about 2-feet tall or less. They do not make good cut flowers as they fade and fall apart quickly after cutting. Cold hardy in zones 6 to 10, they couldn't be any easier to grow. Plant Delights catalog says, "Crocosmia species were first hybridized in the 1870's at the Lemoine nursery…

Egyptian Walking Onions

Egyptian Walking Onions, Allium cepa, are an easy to grow, delicious, kitchen ingredient as well as an eye-catching garden specimen. Onions are bi-annuals, meaning that they grow leaves the first year and flowers, sets, or fruit the second year.

Bulb onions have been used as food and medicine since 5000 BC. Like garlic, leeks, chives and scallions, they are members of the lily family.
No one knows why this particular onion is named Egyptian. Ancient Egyptians thought that the shape and concentric rings of onions meant they were holy and they were used as currency to pay the workers who built the pyramids. Many pharaohs were buried with onions and small onions were found in the eye sockets of King Ramses IV’s mummy.
 All onions we think of as bulb onions are called Allium cepa. This particular onion does not have a typical flower head but makes small onions on the top instead.
The stalks are 2 to 3 feet tall at maturity and the plants are hardy in zones 5 to 11. Wherever they are originall…

Perky-Pet Lighthouse Finch Feeder

No/No Solar Lighthouse Finch Feeder has solar cell in the top area of the feeder that powers an LED light to create a night time glow.  We hung it where we can see it clearly at dusk and dawn. How cool is that? Most important is that the birds like it and since it's as cute as it can be you can have it hanging out in the yard where it's visible. This one has an all-over metal mesh construction that stands up to squirrels - a big issue where we live. Have not seen a single squirrel on it in the week it has been up.  No/No Solar Lighthouse Finch Feeder is 14 inches tall and
 holds 1.5-pound nyger seed.

No cleaning required, hanging handle attached. Check it out - around $30.

Here's the Perky-Pet website where you can get more information.

Wingstem is Verbesina alternifolia flowering native for the landscape

Sometimes called Yellow Iron Weed, Wingstem is an American native perennial plant for butterflies and wildlife. They grow 5 feet tall with a central, winged stem. Crownbeard is another common name.

I'd show you a photo of ours but I just put two of them in the ground today and they aren't much to look at yet. They were purchased from MaryAnn King at Pine Ridge Gardens Nursery in Arkansas. According to one provider, Nodding Onion Gardens in Ohio, each plant will grow 6 to 8 feet tall in zones 5 through 9.

They want full sun to part shade so they were a perfect addition to the end of one of the perennial beds that needed a few more substantial plants in it.

Ill Wildflowers also says "The flowers are visited primarily by long-tongued bees, especially bumblebees. Some short-tongued bees, butterflies, and skippers also visit the flowers; the long tubes of the disk florets make the nectar inaccessible to many insects with shorter tongues, such as flies and wasps.

The cater…

Spicebush for spicebush swallowtail babies to grow on

Lindera Benzoin, Spicebush, has many uses in the garden, not the least of which is providing a place for spicebush swallowtail butterflies to raise babies. The shrubs in our garden are about 10 feet tall and wide. They are native laurels that spread by roots to make colonies. The spicebush name comes from the spicy fragrance of the twigs when crushed.

The leaves are bright green as you can see. The early spring flowers are tiny and the red winter berries persist throughout most of the winter after the leaves fall. The berries are also spicy flavored and are used in cooking (

Pioneers and Native Americans used parts the plant for a variety of ailments.

From PA State "Human use of spicebush includes the brewing of teas from the crushed, dried leaves and the grinding of the dried berries into a meat seasoning spice. The teas are said to have a range of medicinal properties that include relief of fatigue, pain, arthritis,…

Botanica - Wichita's Botanical Gardens in the heart of the city

Botanica: Wichita Botanical Gardens 701 Amidon St Wichita KS
Open year round 9 to 5, Mon to Sat and Sunday 1 to 5
Information 316-264-0448
Free parking. $5 to $7 fee to enter.

The botanical garden in the heart of Wichita KS, called Botanica, is over 17-acres of gardens traced with walking paths, sculptures, ponds, fountains and flowers.

Though they are open all year, the flower season begins in the spring with 54,000 tulips and 110,000 daffodils and ends with the fall colors in Oct.
With 26-themed gardens, there is something to please everyone. The Cissy Wise Wildflower Meadow is filled with flowers, grasses and shrubs typical of a prairie including Coneflowers, Asters, Gayfeather and Penstemons.
The Frank Smith Woodland Garden in the Woodland Walk has places to sit and enjoy the waterfall and pool. The Butterfly Garden has been planted with flowers to attract native and migratory butterflies and a shallow puddle fountain is in place for them, too. Botanica’s landscape supervisor Pat McKerna…