30 August 2015

Basil Season in the Garden

This is the year for basil in our garden. Each year it's something else. The eggplant year, the cucumber variety year - well, it's enough to say that every year we have a big mess of something to deal with. We donate any vegetables that become too abundant for us to use.

Back to Basil - I planted 3 seed varieties with the goal of having enough to make plenty of pesto plus a winter's worth to dry in the dehydrator.

We have enough to do it all.
Here's the post about the Basil varieties I planted this year.

There are four rows of plants in three locations around the place. So far, we've made one batch of pesto and filled the dehydrator once.

Then, I watered and lightly fertilized the bottom halves of the plants with seaweed/fish fertilizer and continued to water the plants regularly. Now, as you can see, it's time to harvest again.

This winter we will have enough of our own flavorful, dried, basil and we won't have to purchase any in the store.

I won't bother you with re-posting my pesto-making method but if you have any interest in seeing how we do it, below is the link to an earlier blog post with plenty of photos of the process. This year I cut down on the Parmesan and we actually liked the flavor better with less cheese. Garlic, salt, cheese: It's all so personal. And, yes, I always use walnuts instead of pine nuts.

How much insect stings and bites hurt - scientific measurements

Justin Schmidt rated them for you so you'll know how much sympathy you can beg for -

1.0 Sweat bee: Light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm.
1.2 Fire ant: Sharp, sudden, mildly alarming. Like walking across a shag carpet & reaching for the light switch.
1.8 Bullhorn acacia ant: A rare, piercing, elevated sort of pain. Someone has fired a staple into your cheek.
2.0 Bald-faced hornet: Rich, hearty, slightly crunchy. Similar to getting your hand mashed in a revolving door.
2.0 Yellowjacket: Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine WC Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.
2.x Honey bee and European hornet. 
3.0 Red harvester ant: Bold and unrelenting. Somebody is using a drill to excavate your ingrown toenail.
3.0 Paper wasp: Caustic & burning. Distinctly bitter aftertaste. Like spilling a beaker of Hydrochloric acid on a paper cut.
4.0 Pepsis wasp: Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath (if you get stung by one you might as well lie down and scream).
4.0+ Bullet ant: Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch nail in your heel.
One of the worst stings was from Pogonomyrmex badius (an ant, above) which he “likened to pain that might be caused by someone turning a screw into the flesh’ or “ripping muscles and tendons.” Wow. That is serious dedication to your work. Anything that has ‘badius’ in its name, well i’m steering clear of.
But perhaps the worst sting of all goes to the Pepsis wasp (or Tarantula Hawk, yeah it kills tarantulas. Pictured below.). Rather than light or fruity or shag-carpety, he described the pain as “…immediate, excruciating pain that simply shuts down one’s ability to do anything, except, perhaps, scream. Mental discipline simply does not work in these situations.”
Schmidt ended up rating 78 species of stinging insects. Check out some of his papers here:
Schmidt, J. O. 1986. Chemistry, pharmacology, and chemical ecology of ant venoms, pp.425-508. In T. Piek [Ed.], Venoms of the Hymenoptera.. Academic Press, London
Schmidt, J. O. 1990. Hymenoptera venoms: striving toward the ultimate defense against vertebrates, pp. 387-419. In D. L. Evans and J. O. Schmidt [Eds.], Insect defenses: adaptive mechanisms and strategies of prey and predators. State University of New York Press, Albany.
Schmidt, J. O., M. S. Blum, and W. L. Overal. 1984. Hemolytic activities of stinging insect venoms. Arch. Insect Biochem. Physiol. 1:155-160.

27 August 2015

Urgent Need for Native Plants - Doug Tallamy

Doug Tallamy packs auditoriums everywhere he speaks and last week he had a crowd of 250 with standing room only at the Tulsa Garden Center.

Tallamy is America’s hero of the movement to save humans by restoring the natural food web, one back yard garden, public space and corporate green space at a time.

Dozens of research studies have pointed to the emotional and physical health benefits of plant corridors over mowed spaces but Tallamy’s knowledge and passion push participants to feel an urgency to make a commitment, no matter how small. 

Whether you have some control over a public area or a residential neighborhood space, Tallamy suggests that you select plants that support and improve life.

The building blocks of habitat are bunching grasses instead of lawn grasses that need to be mowed, shrubbery that wildlife can use rather than useless ones, and beneficial canopy and understory trees. 

Every patio, front yard, park, fence line and community can begin to create food web friendly habitats.

Insects and plants have co-evolved to have a mutually beneficial arrangement so that now ninety percent of all insects can raise their young only on specific plants. Imported, European and Asian plants are alien to native insects and other wildlife.

By estimate, there are 45-million acres of lawn being sprayed and mowed; none of it provides food for wildlife

Why should you care enough to plant habitat where you once grew lawn?  Two examples: There are only 3% as many Monarch butterflies as there were 30 years ago and 50% fewer songbirds than there were 40 years ago.

Plants and animals in the food-web are the building blocks and rivets of life as we know it. When 
animals face reduced bio-diversity, humans also face reduced conditions because plants and animals create the clean water, oxygen, pest control and pollination that we need to survive.

Some of the landscape plants to avoid: Ginko biloba trees, Crape myrtle shrubs, Euonymous burning bush, Chinese wisteria, Japanese mimosa, Russian olive, Bradford pear and Chinese photinia. None of these imports provide any benefit to the food web, and there are over 3,000 of them being promoted to gardeners.

All varieties of oak trees help the food web, giving food and shelter to over 500 insect species. Those insects in turn feed birds, control garden pests, and pollinate fruits, vegetables and flowers.

Tallamy’s underlying message is to plant more insect food. One example he gave is that Ginko trees support 3 insects while native Prunus (plum and cherry) trees and shrubs support 500 insect varieties.

Clean farming methods use pesticides and herbicides to produce the most food. In the process, native plant green belts have been lost. Since that probably will not change soon enough in any significant way, public spaces and our gardens are all that’s left for the natural world, according to Tallamy.

When talking about the need for natives, Tallamy pointed out that Asian imports often leaf out earlier in the spring. If you think of a plant’s leaves as its mouth for collecting sun, this small difference means that food web plants do not have a chance to achieve spring growth before they are covered up.

“Bringing Nature Home”, Tallamy’s 2007 book (www.bringingnaturehome.net), has charts of plants that best support the food web. The US Forest Service provided funding for his office to create a list of the most beneficial plants for every county in the country. It will be available Jan 2016 on the National Wildlife Federation website at www.nwf.org.

Video of Tallamy’s 2015 presentation http://hort.li/1GDw

Tallamy's plant list by region is at http://udel.edu/~dtallamy/new_xls/webplants.xls

While there is no call to tear out your existing shrubs and lawn, there is an urgency to put in native plants among them. For regional suggestions visit Oklahoma Native Plant Society http://www.oknativeplants.org/

26 August 2015

Tulsa Daylily Society Auction Sept 3

DAYLILY AUCTION Thursday September 3 Tulsa Garden Center 7:pm
Tulsa Area Daylily Society will be offering recent hybrid daylilys for auction This is a great opportunity to purchase a beautiful perennial at a reduced price

Open to the public. Must be present to bid.

No other information is available at this time.
Contact Susan Snodgrass at   esusans1 at gmail.com

Landscape with Native Plants - Lissa Morrison - free talk Sept 19th

Lissa Morrison, who works at Botanical Garden of the Ozarks, will be the September 19 speaker for the meeting of the Flower Garden and Nature Society of Northwest Arkansas.

Location is the Northwest AR Technical Institute, 709 S. Old Missouri Rd, Springdale. The meeting begins at 10 am. 

"Taming the Wild – Ozark Natives in the Home Landscape"

The speaker, Lissa Morrison, has had an interest in native plants since 2008 when she and her husband, Merle, opened White River Nursery in south Fayetteville.  Her mission is to increase knowledge & understanding of how to use native plants in our own backyards.  

“By encouraging the use of some of the well behaved natives, we can hopefully return to a more balanced ecosystem.” 

Morrison genuinely believes that by changing one yard at a time, we as gardeners, can make a difference.

24 August 2015

Old House Garden Heirloom Bulbs

The only catalog I place an order from the day it arrives is Old House Gardens.

I have success with their bulbs at least 75% of the time and that's a terrific record for our crazy back yard where critters dig up bulbs as fast as we plant them some years.

Here are the fall-planted bulbs I selected -

Drought tolerant and flexibile about soil typeRhodophiala bifida or Oxblood Lily (Called Hill Country Red by Plant Delights) Cold hardiness zones 7a through 11
Sun to part shade
Red flowers late summer to early fall
15 inches tall
A bit pricey at 3 bulbs for $22.50 but they have a reputation for spreading. Easy to grow

White Trillium grandiflorum Snow Trillium 
for the shade garden
Trillium grandiflorum
moist humus soil
Height is 12 to 16 inches
Zones 4a to 7b
10 for $28
Here's a fun bit of information about how they form colonies from Easy to Grow - ants, flies and beetles pollinate trillium flowers and the seeds are dispersed over short distances by ants.

Ornithogalum nutans or Silver Bells
Ornithogalum nutans
Blooms mid-spring
Botanus says they are also called Nodding Star of Bethlehem
A florist favorite as they are scented and have a good long vase life
Easy to grow and naturalizes slowly
Cold hardy zones 6 - 10
Deer resistant
Attract bees and hummingbirds
25 for $18.50

Dicentra cucullaria or Dutchman's Breeches

These are members of the poppy family that are hardy in zones 3 - 7
Bloom in March at the Missouri Botanical Garden
Dicentra cucullaria
Part to full shade
Survive rabbits and clay soil
Intolerant of wet winter soil
Typically grows best in forest, slopes, along streams
Ferny foliage, white-pink flowers on 12-inch stems

I have not had good luck with Bleeding Heart but hope that this cousin will thrive in the shade beds

Click over to the Old House Gardens site www.oldhousegardens.com and see what appeals to you. They have several introductory packages that I ordered when I first started getting bulbs from them ten years ago. Good deals and nice variety in each pack.

20 August 2015

Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillars

These little Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillars are only able to eat and live on Spicebush shrubs so when Marilyn Stewart told us about them we bought a couple of the shrubs.

During the drought years, most butterflies went past our region of the country, heading for more hospitable places. But this year we are having a baby boom all over our little piece of earth.

 When looking for the first little caterpillars you'll see leaves chewed and folded over like the one on the left.

When the egg first hatches the caterpillar (larva) eats the contents of the egg for nutrients, then begins to chew the leaves. Their bodies emit a sticky substance that helps them in their work.
 So here's a tiny caterpillar on the right with my soiled garden hand for size comparison. The leaf was folded over and I opened it so you could see the little guy inside.
 Butterfly poo is called frass. I suppose just to avoid calling it poo. Notice the size of the butterfly caterpillar and its frass.

Also, notice the white-ish substance along the midrib of the leaf. That helps it stay where it needs to be and helps seal the leaf closed to protect it from predators.
The next photo is frass from a full size caterpillar which is no longer visible to us because it has moved on to form its chrysallis.
The photo of one this size is at the top of the post.

In all the years that we have been growing Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillars we have spotted only a few of the cocoon/chrysallis. And those were attached to the fence of the vegetable garden nearby.

photo from Dallas Butterflies

The links below the next two photos will take you to Dallas Butterflies, Gardens With Wings,  and Shady Oak Farm where you can find more great information about these beautiful garden pets.
photo from Shady Oak Farm

Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly range
photo from Gardens With Wings

The Spicebush Swallowtail native range is centered on the east and southeastern U.S.

Of course, they wander outside of their native range. But you can only get the babies if you plant a Spicebush! Its Latin name is Lindera Benzoin.

The website GardenList has a good list of places you can order native plants though a couple of my favorites aren't on that list. Start locally. Contact the native plant society for your state and ask where to buy locally grown plants. They will thrive best in your soil and weather conditions. More natives = more habitat = healthier garden = less work for you.

16 August 2015

Balloon Milkweed is Asclepias physocarpa

Balloon Milkweed plants
The balloon milkweed seeds I planted last winter in the garden shed have yielded large plants that
will feed lots of monarch butterfly caterpillars this fall.

Asclepias physocarpa was so easy to start from seed that we were able to donate a flat of plants to Muskogee's butterfly house, Papilion.

The seeds are available to purchase but ours were given to us by our gardening friend, Jerry Gustafson.

Balloon Milkweed flower clusters

The flowers are unique in that they hang in little clusters from those large-leafed plants, making a dainty show when compared with how rough the leaves are.

Sometimes the plant is called Gomphrocarpus physocarpus. It is native to South Africa so in the US it is perennial only as cold as zone 8 or 9. Definitely an annual here in Zone 7. Kathy Coburn the director of Papilion said that they get volunteer plants in the spring from the previous year's seed fall.

Collect your seed balls in the fall to plant them late winter in a warmed environment. They need no cold stratification of course since they are from hot zones.
Asclepias physocarpa flowers

Just distribute the seeds on damp, sterile potting mix and press them into the soil surface. I sprinkled the top with a little sand or vermiculite to keep the damping off virus away.

Unlike tropical milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa that takes FOREVER to germinate, this variety takes only two weeks.

13 August 2015

Mobile Botanical Gardens, Mobile AL

The Mobile AL Botanical Gardens are an ideal destination for winter and spring vacations along the Gulf Coast.

This relatively small public garden has large azalea and rhododendron collections for spring viewing and a significant collection of camellias for an ideal winter visit perfect.

Of the 100-acres that the park holds, 40-acres is set aside as a woodland park with trails winding among flower beds and distinct garden spaces.

As of August 1, the garden closes at noon due to the heat in Mobile.

One of the unique features of the garden is that many of the paths are wheelchair accessible. The walk from the parking lot to the main entrance is easy to navigate.

The first planted area visitors see when entering the property is a demonstration garden from the ReBloom Mobile Project that showcases plants for home gardens that provide bloom year-round. The paths are inlaid with local stone placed around a central lawn area.

The Millie McConnell Azalea and Rhododendron collection holds over a thousand evergreen Azaleas that wow visitors from March through June.  The original collection is increased regularly to include everything from the small Robin Hill Azaleas to the large Southern Indicas.

This year the Azalea collection was increased to include deciduous Aromi Azalea hybrids. The path then moves toward the plaza that features 19th Century cast-iron columns salvaged from now-demolished, historic downtown buildings.

The Azalea gardens are protected by a wooded glen of Longleaf Pine Forest and other southern trees that are part of the larger project to build a restored Lower South habitat for plants and animals. 

Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris) Treasure Forest has a typical forest floor walking surface. The 35 acre site contains a diverse ecosystem of 175 vascular plant species and 72 woody plant species. The native plants that can be observed include: Holly, maple, milkweed, sunflower, aster, St. Johnswort, dogwood, sedge, spurge, pea, beech, laurel, etc.

Control burns are conducted inside the Longleaf Pine Forest to manage the undergrowth and to encourage the return of the native wildflowers each year.

Another walkable garden was designed in 1970 for the pleasure of the visually impaired. The shaded pathway is lined with plants with plants that have textured leaves, scent and other features of interest. The Fragrance and Texture Garden is now being re-worked after a fireworks fire so it will be new and improved when you visit.

The Gulf Coast Herb Society maintains a section of brick raised beds where they have planted herbs with medicinal, culinary and general household uses. There is an arbor with seating and a fountain that provide a lovely place to relax.

The garden was founded in 1974 and has developed over the years thanks to the help of dozens of dedicated volunteers.  The gardens near the entrance are paved and easy to navigate. The Winter Garden is a series of relatively smooth surface paths that wind through the other gardens.

The International Camellia Society (http://www.internationalcamellia.org/) awarded the Sawada Winter Garden at Mobile Botanical the Garden of Excellence Award.  When we walked through it this summer we longed to return during camellia season in January.

The garden was named for Kosaku Sawada who brought a chest of seeds when he migrated from Japan. The seeds were his wife’s dowry. With those seeds, Sawada began a career in growing and hybridizing Camellia cultivars that are credited with changing America’s camellia gardens in the southern and western US.

The 50-year collection of Camellias is only part of the 5-acre Winter Garden. This garden also has native azaleas, viburnums, hollies, magnolias, winter flowering bulbs and other perennials.  The 500-members of Mobile’s camellias clubs work in the gardens, pruning plants, regularly adding new varieties

Overall, this garden is worth a trip! Sad to say, both in person when we visited in May and (when I called in preparation for writing this article) in Aug, the staff interactions left much to be desired. It is clear that visitors and garden writers are seen as a nuisance rather than a gift.

So, definitely go, but plan on a self-guided experience. 

Mobile Botanical Gardens 5151 Museum DR Mobile AL 36608
www.mobilebotanicalgardens.org  Some paths wheelchair accessible

12 August 2015

Flower Garden and Nature Society newsletter

FGNS is one of the clubs we are members of. I'm putting a link to the August newsletter here for your information.


They have great speakers! The 2 hour commute from our house to the meetings limits our attendance and we haven't really made any friends there (by that I mean we are never recognized) but enjoy our visits when we can go.

Maybe you'll be able to make an upcoming meeting.

09 August 2015

Aug gardening in Oklahoma

This has been an unusually mild summer so it actually seems realistic to start fall vegetables this year. During the drought and 117 degrees of the recent past it was absurd to even consider trying. The soil temps would kill anything that wasn't a desert survivor.

With that said, be strong, be brave, pick up some seeds. Here are the guidelines from Oklahoma State University's Fact Sheet.

Did you know you can watch the videos of previous Oklahoma Gardening tv shows? Here's the best link to explore http://www.oklahomagardening.okstate.edu/ - the index is on the left side of the page.

Also - YouTube has dozens of good videos on seed germination, planting, etc. Try this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1NnFNs5TDs and then look on the right for more.


  • August is a good month to start your fall vegetable garden.  Bush beans, cucumbers, and summer squash can be replanted for another crop.  Beets, broccoli, carrots, potatoes, lettuce, and other cool season crops can also be planted at this time.  (HLA-6009). The link to 6009 is http://pods.dasnr.okstate.edu/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-1114/HLA-6009web2013.pdf
  • Soak vegetable seed overnight prior to planting.  Once planted, cover them with compost to avoid soil crusting.  Mulch to keep planting bed moist and provide shade during initial establishment.  Monitor and control insect pests that prevent a good start of plants in your fall garden.

Fruit and Nut

  • Continue protective insect applications on the fruit orchard.  A good spray schedule is often abandoned too early.  Follow directions on last application prior to harvest. (EPP-7319)


  • Towards the end of the month, divide and replant spring-blooming perennials like iris, peonies, and daylilies if needed.


  • Water compost during extremely dry periods so that it remains active.  Turn the pile to generate heat throughout for proper sterilization.
  • Always follow directions on both synthetic and natural pesticide products.
  • Watch for high populations of caterpillars, aphids, spider mites, thrips, scales and other insects on plant material in the garden and landscape and treat as needed. (EPP-7306)
  • Water all plants thoroughly unless rainfall has been adequate.  It is better to water more in depth, less often and early in the morning.

Trees and Shrubs

  • Discontinue deadheading roses by mid-August to help initiate winter hardiness.
  • Watch for 2nd generation of fall webworm in late August/early September.  Remove webs that enclose branches and destroy; or spray with good penetration with an appropriate insecticide.

Lawn and Turf

  • Grassy winter weeds like Poa annua, better known as annual bluegrass, can be prevented with a preemergence herbicide application in late August. Water in the product after application. (HLA-6420)
  • Areas of turf with large brown spots should be checked for high numbers of grubs.  Mid-to-late August is the best time to control heavy white grub infestations in the lawn. Apply appropriate insecticide if white grubs are a problem. Water product into soil. (EPP-7306)
  • Tall fescue should be mowed at 3 inches during the hot summer and up to 3 ½ inches if it grows under heavier shade. (HLA-6420)
  • For areas being converted to tall fescue this fall, begin spraying out bermudagrass with a product containing glyphosate in early August. (HLA-6419 & HLA-6421)
  • Irrigated warm-season lawns can be fertilized once again; apply 0.5 lb N/1,000 sq ft in early to mid August.
  • Brown patch of cool-season grasses can be a problem. (HLA-6420)

06 August 2015

Free talk Aug 15 - Ozark Plants' History

The Ozark Mountains give northeast Oklahoma, northwest Arkansas, southeast Kansas and southwest Missouri their rolling hills, lush landscapes and native plants. 

This is all ancient terrain. Here a link to a wonderful blog about the plants of the Ozarks http://stateoftheozarks.net/index.php.

Also, a big treat for those who are interested in native plants -

The Flower, Garden, and Nature Society of Northwest Arkansas will meet 
Saturday, August 15, to hear about the history of plants in the Ozarks.  

Speaker is Janice Neighbor, Washington County master gardener.  

Meeting will be held in the Student Center of Northwest Technical Institute at 
709 S. Old Missouri Road in 
Springdale, AR.  

Meeting is free and open to the public.  
Social time begins at 9:30 and meeting at 10  

Info:  479-361-2198 or 479-466-7265

02 August 2015

Oso Easy Roses Are Actually Easy!

Oso Easy Lemon Zest Rose
in our back yard
If a plant makes it in our yard two years, it earns a spot in our hearts and in your garden.

We do not baby our plants because we have full lives and almost 3-acres to take care of. About half of the plants we put into the ground do not survive. So! Plants that thrive deserve a mention.

These two Oso Easy Lemon Zest rose shrubs went in two summers ago during the height of the rose rosette plague. We forget to water them. They have never been treated with insect or fungal spray in those two years. I have never had to clip blight from them. This spring I gave them a drenching with seaweed/fish emulsion.

That's it for their care other than one pruning to clean them up in the spring. These are from the fine growers, Spring Meadow Nursery in Fergus Falls, MN.

We only have the Lemon Zest ones but there are a dozen colors to choose among. Just click over to this Proven Winners Link to see the rest.

We're in zone 7 and they have bloomed for several months already without being deadheaded. They are hardy in zones 5 through 9. Full sun is recommended but ours are in part shade - this is the south after all.

Want easy? Ready to replace some shrubs or add to a flower bed? Look at Oso Easy Roses.

Here's the press release about the award these beauties just won -
Proven Winners
Oso Easy Lemon Zest Rose
The American Rose Society (ARS) announced at the 2015 National Conference that Proven Winners® received the Award of Excellence for Oso Easy Lemon Zest rose. To receive the Award of Excellence, a rose must prove its medal in six different no-spray trial locations across the United States. This is the second Proven Winners rose to win this prestigious award; Oso Happy® Petit Pink rose, received the Award of Excellence in 2012. 

“We are thrilled to receive this award from ARS for Oso Easy Lemon Zest, as its one of our favorite roses and a top seller”, Tim Wood, Product Development, Spring Meadow Nursery. "A healthy-growing, self-cleaning rose that does not fade to white has been on a lot of people’s wish list, and this award confirms that this is a very special rose.” 

The Oso Easy Lemon Zest rose was developed by Chris Warner, the highly acclaimed rose breeder from Shropshire, England. After years of trials and evaluation by Proven Winners, Oso Easy Lemon Zest rose lived up to the highest standards. Unlike most yellow varieties, Oso Easy Lemon Zest rose exhibits a very high level of disease resistance and its sunny, canary yellow flowers do not fade to white. Like all Oso Easy® roses, it is hardy and free-flowering, self-cleaning with attractive, glossy green foliage.