Gardeners can support the natural food chain

Clark Shilling speaking at Muskogee Garden Club 9:30 am Oct 16
Kiwanis Senior Center 119 Spaulding DR
Information Susan Asquith 918-682-3688 Free and open to the public
Among gardeners andnature-lovers, there has been a gradual migration from a just-plant-something philosophy to a plant-something-useful philosophy over the past ten years or more. It’s not that raising roses and lilies is frowned upon, it’s more that we are being urged to add a few herbs or vegetables, shrubs that make berries or put in more environmentally friendly native plant varieties.

There is a free online course available at The author Carole Sevilla-Brown defined the Five Pillars of Ecosystem Gardening: Sustainable Gardening, Water Conservation, Plant More Native Plants, Build Soil Health, and Remove Invasive Plants.

Making the change is easy to do if it is done in small steps. For example, when a tree, shrub or vine dies or becomes too large for its location, it could be replaced with something more friendly to the environment such as a variety that requires no insect spray or less irrigation than the one that was there before.

The next stage of moving toward a sustainable garden is to put in plants for wildlife. Those steps include: Planting food for wildlife, making water available, planting shelter plants and making a safe space for wildlife to raise their young.

Clark and Connie Shilling of Owasso have built a wildlife-friendly garden at their home and will be speaking at Muskogee Garden Club on Oct 16 at 9:30 am. The club meets at the Kiwanis Senior Center, 119 Spaulding Drive.

Shilling and his wife have flowers in the front yard, a lawn for recreation and a fenced off wildlife area where they started planting wildlife food ten years ago.

Clark said his talk will be about the imperative of including native plants in our gardens and about what we as gardeners can do to help support native wildlife. 

Among the fruits that produce quickly for wildlife food, Shilling says that plums are a good choice. 

In particular, sand plums grow into thickets that make fruit in just a few years. And, they are self-fertile so gardeners can just buy any plants available.

Native Sand plums, Prunus angustifolia, known as Chickasaw plum, Cherokee plum and Sandhill plum, are available from Mail Order Natives, or 850-973-0585. They can also be grown from seed or from cuttings taken in the wild but it will take a couple of years longer to have mature plants. OSU Fact Sheet HLA6258 explains everything you need to know about Oklahoma native plums at

Sand plums need at least 6-hours of sun. At maturity they can reach 15 feet tall and wide. They have scaly, black bark with red branches. The flowers arrive between Feb and May, followed by the red plums that look like large cherries.

The Shillings also grow Muscadine grapes that they use for making beverages as well as sharing with wildlife.  He recommends Ison’s Nursery and Vineyards ( (800) 733-0324). The Ison’s Black Muscadine is self-fertile and one plant is enough for eating, even when the birds take some.

Other fruit that can be valuable to wildlife includes Elderberries  and blackberries.

Flowers can also play a part in sustainable gardening. Wine Cup, Callirhoe involucrate is fairly easy to grow in full sun. They form a deep taproot so they are very drought tolerant. The flowers are magenta-red.

Native to TX, OK and KS, Wine Cup, or Purple Poppy Mallow, is a trailing perennial with magenta, cup-shaped flowers. Seeds are available from Easy Wildflowers and container-grown plants are available from MO Wildflowers (

Come to garden club on Oct. 16 to get advice for growing a wildlife-friendly garden. The presentation will include information on native plants that add color and beauty to a garden but also serve as key links in a natural food chain.


Molly, Thanks so much for the shout-out for Ecosystem Gardening! Gardeners can make such a difference by creating welcoming habitat for wildlife in their gardens with native plants.

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