26 April 2015

Native Plants of Oklahoma

Many states in the US have similar climates and similar native plants. As in many locations across the country, Oklahoma's native plants have paid no attention to the state borders invented by legislators and are identical or similar to those found in other locations.
The entire state is part of the drainage basin of the Mississippi River. In northeast OK, the types of plants that thrive are different from those that thrive in southeast, northwest and central parts of the state. Here the average annual rainfall has historically been 40-inches or more.
Elevation Map

The Muskogee/Tulsa area is just a few hundred feet above sea level.

Temperatures averages also vary widely across the state.

Naturally, our native plant varieties, frequency and bloom times also vary.

Yesterday a group of Oklahoma Native Plant Society members, friends and guests were invited by Pam and Randy Ledford to walk a slice of their beautiful property near Pawnee OK. Several knowledgeable members were there to help sort out which plants were which.

Two members were recording plant names of those we found and that the botanists on the walk were able to identify. ONPS has both indoor and outdoor outings that we have enjoyed. Two weeks ago we joined an outing at the Redbud Valley Nature Preserve north of Tulsa and learned about completely different plants in that watershed area.

In addition to Randy and Pam's knowledge, the ONPS president attended as well as other native plant lovers who know what they are looking at when they see it.

We also had the advantage of Ledford's Pawnee knowledge about the use of plants by tribal members. In addition, we had modern uses explained by a member of the Pawnee Nation who was on the tour.

We saw both blue and yellow baptesia, lead plant, native roughleaf dogwood, native persimmon trees, Osage orange trees, ironweed, various sedge, wild onion, prairie grasses, fleabane, prairie iris, blue-eyed grass, assorted oaks, hackberry trees, elms, male and female mulberry trees, nettle, lamb's quarters, spring beauty, false indigo, partridge pea, assorted clovers, wood sorrel, violet wood sorrel, wild geranium, sumac, poison ivy, possum haw, box elder, wild grape, pin-cushion cactus, prickly pear cactus, cornsalad, boneset, ragweed, yarrow, thistle, wild lettuce and others that I can't remember.

The Ledford's land is in the Tallgrass Paririe so their plants bloom at different times than ours in NE OK. Plus their drought has been much worse than ours this year. Their land is on a rocky hillside so the native cacti are quite happy there but drown here.

If you want to learn more, join ONPS, friend their Facebook page and come along. For more to read, click on http://pods.dasnr.okstate.edu/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-8062/E-993.pdf

24 April 2015

Free pollinator posters - at this link

PDFs of pollinator plants for various soil types are at

Click on the link to open. Click on PDF and print 8.5 by 11 for yourself, your classroom, your children, your grandchildren.

23 April 2015

Azaleas! Plant them this spring

April is Azalea season in our growing zone 7 with landscapes and parks in full bloom everywhere we go. The southern states had their full bloom season last month and Oregon will get to celebrate the beauty of Azaleas next month.

The big box stores, garden centers and nurseries are loaded with a wide variety of container-grown Azaleas for your garden and this is the ideal time to plant them. But with so many sizes, colors and varieties to choose among, making the right choices can be challenging. 
Encore re-blooming azaleas at Lowe's

While most of us look at color as our first criteria, there are other qualities to consider such as size at maturity, length of bloom time, and the ideal location to ensure long-lived beauty.

Azaleas are close cousins of Rhododendrons and many garden books, websites and catalogs still put them together in the same section so look for them there when doing your research for the perfect plants. They are so close, in fact that growing instructions are almost identical for both.

Most Rhododendrons and Azaleas grown here were originally from the Himalayan Mountains, western China and northern India. Only few are native to Japan, Europe and the U.S. As a result they thrive best in acidic soil that has good drainage but is kept consistently moist.

Local Azalea grower Ray Wright said that Karume hybrids from Japanese grow 4-to-6-feet tall and wide, and have 1-inch leaves. Girard hybrids are an improved cold-hardy variety. They have lustrous leaves, large flowers and hardiness to -15F (zone 5). The flower colors range from white to pink, red and deep orange.

Poukhanense is a Korean Azalea that slowly matures to 10-feet tall and wide with magenta flowers so if you wanted a bed of Azaleas, plant the tallest in the back and the moderate sized ones toward the middle. There are many dwarf varieties for the front of the bed and to line a shady walkway.

In our heat, shade from the afternoon summer sun is essential for success with Azaleas. That all-important shade can come from a building, a solid fence or trees and shrubs. The other necessary condition that those provide is protection from harsh, drying, wind in the winter.

One complaint about Azaleas in general is that they are beautiful for such a short period of time during the growing season. Plant hybridizers have taken care of that for us now with Azaleas that grow a second set of flower buds after the first flush of flowers in the spring.

Because they continue to bloom for 6 months, re-blooming varieties are not completely covered with flowers at any one time. Since they prefer the cool and need time to re-grow buds they have more flowers in spring and fall with a sprinkling of flowers in the heat of the summer.

Included in the most common brand names you will find The ReBLOOM™ Azaleas from Greenleaf Nursery’s Garden Debut® collection, Bloom-A-Thon Re-Blooming Azaleas from Proven Winners and Encore Azaleas.

Greenleaf’s ReBLOOM (www.greenleafnursery.com) is bred to be more compact than their standard re-blooming varieties such as Encore and Bloom-A-Thon. ReBLOOM colors include Red Magnificence™, White Nobility™ and Coral Amazement™ this year. Next year will be the official release of additional colors. They are all cold hardy to -10 F (zone 6).

Encore Azaleas (www.encoreazalea.com) website has a drop-down menu where you can shop by both size and color choice. Proven Winners plants (www.provenwinners.com) are also widely available locally.

To see both Rhododendrons and Azaleas, visit Elk Ridge Garden (http://elkridgegarden.com) and Lendonwood Gardens in Grove OK (http://lendonwood.com). Both of these public gardens were planted by Dr.  Leonard Miller and are unbeatable locations for enjoying a spring garden walk.

19 April 2015

Tulsa Garden Club Spring Tour

The details have arrived so now I can tell you everything you need to know about the Tulsa Garden Club's 2015 Spring Tour.

Saturday April 25 from 10 am to 5 pm.
Tickets are $10
Start at any garden

4 private residence gardens including

1818 East 43rd ST
Featuring herbs, evergreens

2618 E 40th ST
Featuring dry creek beds, sculptural plants, succulents

3030 S Yorktown
Featuring Azaleas, dogwoods, holly, hostas, roses

2932 S Woodward BL
Featuring Laurels, dogwood, acer, hydrangeas, roses, rock garden, viburnum yews

The proceeds from the tour benefit Tulsa Garden Center projects.

16 April 2015

Wild Black Cherry tree is Prunus serotina

Prunus serotina, wild black cherry tree
Wild black cherry trees have been added to our fence line in two places, thanks to wildlife. No more, please.

Considered junk trees by many, we allow these two because they provide early pollen for many insects and late little berries for birds. Of course, the birds like those cherries so much that they replant and replant with abandon.

This plant is one of the pioneer species, mostly growing where black walnut, hackberry and black locust trees proliferate.

The tree was introduced as an ornamental and since the seed germination rates are very high, it soon became naturalized until today it is considered undesirable or invasive, which ever word you prefer.

Wild Black Cherry is host to caterpillars who eat its leaves.

If the leaves are crushed, they smell like cherries.

Eastern OK is at the far-west portion of its habitat, probably because of our normal rainfall being high. West of the OK/AR state line there is nothing on the graph at the link.

MOBOT reminds us that Wild Black Cherry is hardy in zones 3 to 9,  They are easy to grow but due to a deep taproot, they are difficult to transplant. They also say the fruit is inedible fresh off the tree but we can attest to the jelly made from them being very high in flavor!

And, "Native Americans prepared decoctions of the inner bark for cough medicines and tea-like cold remedies. Hard, reddish-brown wood takes a fine polish and is commercially valued for use in a large number of products such as furniture, veneers, cabinets, interior paneling, gun stocks, instrument/tool handles and musical instruments. Specific epithet comes from the Latin word for “late” in reference to the late flowering and fruiting of this cherry in comparison to other cherries."

Yikes! Illinois Wildflowers' site says they grow to 80 feet tall. So if you don't like it decide before it becomes too tall to remove without great expense.

Hmmm. I've only made jam but if your interests and culinary talents are broader than mine, try the wine recipe here. Brandeis University provides a juice and jam recipe for you here.

13 April 2015

Wild Plum - Prunus angustifolia, Purnus Americana, Wild Plum - Spring flowering shrubs and trees

Native plum tree bark
As I walk around our yard in the morning with camera in hand, I see many lovely little and mid-size plants that I can no longer exactly identify. Did the birds plant that or did we?

I thought these were little native plum trees, Prunus Americana, that we planted along the south fence-line to soften the view of our neighbor's gigantic metal building with a pile of tires so high we can see it from the hammocks in the summer.

However, now I'm pretty sure they are our native Sand Plums, Prunus angustifolia instead. 

Here's a handy link from the Washington Native Plant Society with photos of dozens of spring flowering trees and shrubs to help you identify what the birds planted in your beds and fence-line!

My dream is that in a couple of years the native plums will at least block the tire pile though they will always remain too short to block the building and yet small enough to not grow into the power lines along the property line.

One of our other purposes in planting them was to feed and shelter wildlife. We purchased the minimum of 50-tiny tree/shrubs in a bundle from this site.and took advantage of their delivery truck stopping in Muskogee last year (free delivery). We planted 10 or 15 and gave away the rest to my yoga students to plant in their yards.

Prunus angustifolia flowers
I love the little five-petaled white flowers they display in the spring and am even so bold as to hope to get enough little plums to make a batch of wild plum jam.

They are shrubby and can form thickets though the ones we have on the other side of the yard by the swale have never really moved or multiplied. I suspect it's because they are in too much shade.

Oklahoma State University has a Fact Sheet at this link that will explain all the many names, varieties, planting and harvesting tips.

09 April 2015

Poke weed - Love It or Kill It? Phytolacca americana

April 16, 9:30 am Russell Studebaker speaking
“Poke Weed: Native Spring Greens or Garden Pest?” Muskogee Garden Club
119 Spaulding DR Information Susan Asquith 918.869.7401
Among the plants we love there are many with the word “weed” in their name including: Jimson Weed, Butterfly Weed, Bishop’s Weed, Joe Pye Weed, Milkweed, Jewel Weed, Rosin Weed and Poke Weed. Some we plant intentionally and others show up as gifts from birds and squirrels. Still others show up after we apply purchased compost. 

Jimson Weed (Datura or Loco Weed) is frequently planted by gardeners because of its large, ruffled purple and white flowers. Easily grown from seed, garden centers sell it in one-gallon containers. Datura is called Loco Weed because the poison in the stems can cause hallucinations.

Bishop’s Weed (Aegopodium podagraria or Goutweed) is sold in garden centers as a rapidly growing shade perennial that chokes out more undesirable weeds. Besides, in India and Russia the flowers and leaves are eaten and it is widely used to make a treatment for psoriasis. The medicinal ingredient is psoralens.

Rosin Weed (Silphium integrifolium or Rosinweed) is a native wildflower that resembles sunflowers. It is valued for its pollen and nectar which provide food for long-tongued bees primarily, including honeybees, bumblebees, Little Carpenter bees, Cuckoo bees, Miner bees, and large Leaf-Cutting bees.

Jewel Weed (Impatiens capensis or Touch-Me-Not) is a natural remedy for poison ivy rash. It is often a component of poison ivy soaps. The name comes from the fact that the flowers hang like jewels from the plant. Pale Jewelweed has yellow flowers and Spotted Touch-Me-Nots have orange flowers with dark red dots. 

Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum) has become such a popular native butterfly plant that the market is full of hybrids that take up less garden room and have a more cultured look than the variety that grows in moist ditches along roadsides. It attracts many butterflies, skippers, bees and other pollen-eaters, is drought tolerant, and with adequate moisture, will grow in any soil.

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias, Pleurisy Root, or Milkweed) is now grown by thousands of gardeners and public gardens in an attempt to help save Monarch butterflies from extinction. The adult butterflies like the flower nectar but the real reason to grow it is that the next generations of Monarchs cannot live without it: Monarch caterpillars can eat only milkweed from the moment the eggs hatch until the caterpillars/larvae form a chrysalis. All varieties serve the purpose.

Poke Weed (Phytolacca americana or American Pokeweed) is a large plant that many people eat in the early spring. Although eating it raw is never recommended, both the leaves and roots are used medicinally. In the early spring the young shoots and leaves can be harvested and cooked in several sets of boiling water to remove the toxins. Those who enjoy it say it tastes like asparagus (http://hort.li/1ESY).

The medicinal applications of Pokeweed include: Rheumatoid arthritis, tonsillitis, mumps, glandular fever and other complaints involving swollen glands, chronic catarrh, bronchitis and diseases related to a compromised immune system.

Horticulturist and garden writer Russell Studebaker grows Poke Weed in his Tulsa garden and is a fan of it as food for the table. Over the years, through his talks and garden columns he has convinced many gardeners to grow and harvest it.

In his talk at Muskogee Garden Club next week Studebaker will show slides and talk about Pokeweed's place in American history, its importance as a cash crop in OK and AR and its commercial canning in AR. He will provide recipes in one of his several handouts.

“Pokeweed is an important source of food for wildlife,” Studebaker said. “Hummingbirds eat the flower nectar, birds eat the fruit and the Giant Leopard Moth raises its young on the plants.”

Studebaker wrote for the Tulsa world for 20-years and now writes for Tulsa People magazine and Oklahoma Gardener.

05 April 2015

Virginia Bluebells are Mertensia virginica

Virginia Bluebells are some of the happiest spring flowers for shade. The flowers are pink and then blue or is it blue and then pink. Either way, no one cares because they are a spring thrill.

The leaves are a soft round shape and I've yet to see a spot of disease or a bug bite in all the years they have been out in the shade bed.

What's amusing about them is that they move around the bed, travelling from one side of that paver path in the photo to the other. I asked them why but they gave no response.

Cold hardy in zones 3 to 8 or 9 means that gardeners in most parts of the globe can be successful with them. Plus, they are a native so they behave. They max out at about 1.5 feet tall and die to the ground with summer's heat.

They can be inter-planted with ferns and hostas since they are gone when those plants are showing their stuff.

The clumps can be divided early in the spring or root cuttings can be made when the plants are dormant.

Ephemeral plants have short cycles. A spring ephemeral is one that comes up quickly in the spring and dies back to the ground before you know it. Other native spring ephemerals for the shade garden include Blood Root and False Rue Anemone.

04 April 2015

Tulsa Garden Club Annual Garden Tour April 25

Tulsa Garden Club's  65th ANNUAL GARDEN TOUR

Saturday, April 25, 2015  10:00 am to 5:00 pm

Come enjoy 4 lovely spring gardens featuring a wide selection of annuals,perennials, water features and succulents, creatively planned and displayed, and adaptable for home gardens of any size and budget, located at:

2932 Woodward Blvd., 1818 E. 43rd Street,
3030 S. Yorktown and 2618 E. 40th Street

Tickets  are $10 each and available at the Tulsa Garden Center, 2435 S. Peoria from
April 10 to 24, and at participating gardens on April 25.

Tickets for the special “Patrons Party” on Friday evening, April 24 are available starting at $65 per person/$130 per couple, and include a private tour for patrons on Saturday morning.

Proceeds from the tour benefit the many horticultural, educational, civic and scholarship projects of Tulsa Garden Club for the benefit of the community.

For additional information, please call: 918­248­8248