14 October 2014

Garlic planting day

Every year around this time we plant a couple hundred garlic seeds to be harvested next summer. What you see on the kitchen counter in the photo is a combination of what's left of the garlic we harvested this summer plus the garlic we purchased from Keene Organics.

After I pulled all the weeds, Jon harvested our compost to lay down a layer onto the raised garlic bed.

Then, I separated the heads of garlic into their cloves or seeds and handed them off for him to plant.

We decided to plant less this year - 150 instead of 200 and will know next year whether that is enough for us.

Organic Gardening recommends that you soak the cloves for two hours in baking soda and liquid seaweed. We've never done that but you can follow the link to read about their method.

Since we grew winter squash in the raised garlic bed this summer the soil will need some boost so we're going to fertilize a bit this year, although we usually do not bother.

Both Keen Organics, Seeds from Italy, and Sand Hill Preservation still have seed garlic left if you haven't purchased yet. Don't miss planting garlic, even if you have to put it in the flower beds. So delicious and not from China like grocery store garlic.

Also, be sure to mulch with something loose and organic. Straw works well if you have access to it. Rather than buying straw, we have always used pine needles from under our Loblolly Pine trees. We apply it 4 to 6 inches deep around the time of the first freeze to keep the ground from heaving with the freeze and thaw cycle over the winter.

13 October 2014

Guided Walk in Sand Springs Ancient Forest Oct 18 2014

Oklahoma Forestry Services invites avid hikers, casual walkers, nature lovers, families with strollers and seniors to take a walk in the Keystone Ancient Forest near Sand Springs from 8 am to 1 pm

Foresters will lead the walk and share information about the forests and trees and how foresters work to keep forests healthy and thriving. The walk will take about 1 1/2 hours if participants stop at each educational station. 

Sponsored by: Foresters and Natural Resource Professionals

from the Society of American Foresters, Oklahoma Forestry Services, Oklahoma State University and City of Sand Springs Parks and Recreation Department!

When: Gates are open from 8:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.  

Where: Keystone Ancient Forest, West of Sand Springs, OK
(From 209th West Avenue (Prue Road) and Highway 64 / 412 exit - Travel north along Prue Road approximately 2 miles. The entrance is directly across from the second cell phone tower and features a large sandstone and black iron gate)

Cost: Free

The Walk: We will follow an approximately 3 mile trail (round trip) through the Keystone Ancient Forest and learn about the unique ecoregion and forest type called the Cross Timbers.  On the trail, there will be educational stations and interpretive signs where you can learn about trees, the history and uniqueness of the Cross Timbers, and how professional foresters care for the forest.

Please dress appropriately for the weather and wear sturdy shoes.  The Walk through the Forest will take about 1 ½ hours if you stop at each station.  Each hiker will receive a free water bottle and water and snacks will be provided while supplies last.  Other educational brochures and giveaways will also be available, and professional foresters will be on hand to answer your questions about trees.  A special station for kids will offer fun hands-on Project Learning Tree activities and cool giveaways. 

If you have questions please contact Erin Johnson, OK Division SAF Chair at 405-640-9492 orerin.johnson@ag.ok.gov. To learn more about the Society of American Foresters go towww.safnet.org.

For more information contact Oklahoma Forestry Services at 918-522-6158 or visit http://www.forestry.ok.gov/walk-in-the-forest

11 October 2014

TPC Members' Garden Tour

Black and Blue Salvia guaranitica

This morning dozens of members of the Tulsa Perennial Club met at Grogg's Green Barn to embark on a tour of members' gardens. Several of their neighbors also volunteered  to let us tromp through their gardens to us so in all, we visited 10 beautiful gardens.

It was 50-55 degrees all day and although the rain stopped by 10 am, it was too cold for me to linger anyplace. Here are a few of the scenes we enjoyed -

Willow-leaf Sunflower -
Helianthus salicifolius

These are two photos from the front garden at the first home where the house sat on an acre with an above ground pool, seating areas and raised bed vegetable garden in the back.
Here the homeowner was available
to answer, "What's that plant?"

One homeowner and club member
explained that the sculpture was made
from a tree that died in the backyard.

Linda Outlaw allowed us to lunch on her back deck, tour her gardens and then gave a presentation on installing drip irrigation systems.

We always feel grateful to gardeners who do the work to get their yards ready for groups of visitors - we know what it's like!
Linda Outlaw
demonstrated drip irrigation installation

Cute! solar room for holding tender plants over the winter.

09 October 2014

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 www.ecosystemgardening.com. 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, www.mailordernatives.com 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 http://hort.li/1zxx.

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 (www.isons.com (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 www.easywildflowers.com and container-grown plants are available from MO Wildflowers (www.mowildflowers.net).

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.

06 October 2014

Ruellia brittoniana is Dwarf Mexican Petunia

Ruellia brittoniana Dwarf Mexican Petunia
For the front of a summer and fall flower bed, I've found pink flowering dwarf Mexican Petunia, Ruellia brittoniana. 

Started from seed a couple of winters ago, ours bloom intermittently for several months. Those dark green leaves persist for several months

Part of the reason ours bloom so little is that they are in too much shade.

The plants grow a foot tall. They are cold hardy in zones 7 to 10 only.

The plants are host food for the Common Buckeye butterfly caterpillars and the flowers are a nectar source for most local butterflies.

Ball Seed has some interesting information about them. They call them Ruellia Southern Star Pink and also have pink and white flowering varieties.

Outside Pride calls them Southern Star Ruellia and like many references suggests that they can become invasive. Mine have not moved an inch nor sprouted from seed anyplace other than where I placed them two years ago.

The tall, purple flowering variety has been declared a Texas Super Star

"The dwarf, less-aggressive version of the species is Katie dwarf Ruellia (sometimes called Nolan's dwarf). About 6 inches in height, it works nicely in an informal front-of-the-border grouping or as a groundcover in narrow spaces," said Mackay. "Katie needs no deadheading, and will continue to flower all season long, and is just as tough as its species parent, able to grow in hot, dry neglected spots."
In good soil, the plant will reseed true, but is not as invasive as others in the species. Recently, a dwarf pink version of Katie called BonitaTM was patented and introduced by Color Spot Nurseries.
The Texas Superstar  effort is one of Texas A&M University's most innovative and successful horticultural research and Extension programs."

There's a good article about Ruellia  at Austin Bug Collection's site http://www.austinbug.com/larvalbugbio/ruellia.html

30 September 2014

Purple Perilla Frutescens var Crispa from Kitazawa Seed

Our Purple Perilla patch really grew into a thing of beauty this summer. And, it was all from volunteer seedlings that sprouted from last year's plants.

The deep purple leaves are beautiful as filler in flower arrangements and bees love the tiny flowers.

The flavor is delicious if you like cinnamon, which we do. Many people use this mint in salads, to wrap seasoned rice, and as a vinegar dye in pickling recipes. Here's a recipe that layers the leaves with a spicy vegetable sauce - sounds yummy - Misty Yoon. Or you could make Kim Chi following the recipe on Maangchi. Two of its names include Sesame, for example, in French its name is Sesame sauvage.

 Our original seeds came from Kitazawa Seed

Another variety Perilla frutescens, is used in Shinto ceremonies. There is plenty of speculation about medicinal uses such as its containing Omega 3 oils, but nothing that sounds like it should be recommended...It's mostly grown for the varnish industry.

Of course, October is its time to go to seed so it's on my mind to collect and distribute seeds to new locations around the garden beds. As we are planning for next spring and summer, we have other plans for the bed where it has been allowed to flourish for a couple of years.

28 September 2014

Giant Swallowtail Butterflies are Papilio cresphontes Cramer

Giant Swallowtail butterflies are a thrill. We don't get a lot of them and I watch for their appearance every fall when they come to nectar and lay eggs on the Rue plants. 

Called Orange Dogs in citrus growing areas because their caterpillars eat Rue to the stems.

According to the U of FL, "Its range extends from southern New England across the northern Great Lakes states, into Ontario, through the southern portions of the Central Plains to the Rocky Mountains. The species ranges southward to Florida and the Caribbean, into the southwestern United States, and on through Mexico to Central and South America."

Two Giant Swallowtails in flight
The caterpillars go through five skins but each one looks like bird droppings of one kind or another. 

It's one of those things: If you grow the host plant and avoid all chemical sprays and applications, you will get an opportunity to enjoy these gorgeous creatures in your garden or patio.

Rue has beautiful blue leaves

Rue or Ruta Graveolens, is fairly easy to grow from seed since the seed pods are as large as 4-O'Clock seeds. The yellow flowers you can see in my photo of the plant are not large but there are lots of them. Evidently the pollinators love them because they make hundreds of seeds.

 When the seeds fall to the ground a grove of tiny Rue plants emerge. I pull out the smallest and leave the largest plants in place.
Mature plants last only 3 to 5 years here but by then we have replacements growing in place. I'm not sure but my guess is that we have less than a dozen mature plants around our beds.
Giant Swallowtail Caterpillar - last instar

And, other swallowtail caterpillars have eaten the plants, also. The Giants are so easy to recognize that you'll know when you see a green and yellow striped caterpillar on the plant that it's not a Giant.

Either way, they are all welcome!

25 September 2014

Fall is Shrub Planting Season - Flowering Shrubs

Shrub planting season is here and there are more choices than ever. Whether your garden needs tall or short, pencil thin or a thick, the selections for adding year-round beauty have never been so appealing.

Shrubs serve many purposes in the landscape and do not have to be those boring blobs of green
commonly seen around fences and foundations. In order to be called a shrub, plants have to be made of several woody stems that do not die to the ground over the winter.

If you think of a garden you admire, you probably see it as a picture viewed from a window or a terrace, with layers of plants. The plants at eye-level, between the taller trees and the shorter perennials are often shrubs.

The two main categories of shrubs are evergreen which hold their leaves or needles throughout the
winter and deciduous types that drop their leaves. Evergreens include boxwood, euonymus, Burford holly and Nandina (heavenly bamboo), as well as the needle-bearing juniper, pine, and spruce.

Some selected shrubs and their seasons of interest –

Spring flowering – Forsythia, Abelia, Aronia (Chokeberry), Physocarpus (Ninebark), Exochorda
(Pearlbush), Spirea, Weigela, Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince), Viburnum, Azalea, Rhododendron,
Syringa (Lilac), Fothergilla.

Re-blooming shrubs have a smaller number of flowers for three seasons and include roses, hydrangeas, Weigelas, Syringa

Summer flowering – Calycanthus (Sweet Shrub), Hibiscus, Hydrangea, Buddleia (Butterfly Bush), Roses, Crape myrtle, Hypericum (Saint Johnswort)

Autumn flowers, colorful leaves and/or berries – Callicarpa (Beautyberry), Viburnum, Weiglea,
Cephalanthus (Button Bush), Itea (Sweetspire), and Fothergilla has colorful fall leaves.

Winter beauty from bark and/or berries – Ilex (holly) berries, Cornus dogwood red bark, crepemyrtle bark, Viburnum berries, Hawthorn berries, Lindera berries (spicebush), Roses (hips), Pyracantha (fire bush) berries.

When deciding which shrubs to put into large containers for the patio or which ones to add to your
landscape consider what you want and what would be practical. Flowering shrubs bring pollinators and insects that can disrupt activities around doors. Shrubs that drop their leaves are messy around water features such as fountains. Pencil thin shrubs can look spindly and large shrubs can block views.

Berry-producing shrubs bring birds to the garden.

Because there have been so many advances in plant hybrids, many native shrubs have new, improved varieties worth researching.

Consider the size of the shrub at maturity, its sun and irrigation needs, whether it tends to send up suckers throughout the garden, the number of weeks of flowering, cold hardiness, leaf color and style.

A hedge row full of plants with pointy leaves and thorns makes an impression. So does an entire bed full of variegated leaves in white, beige and assorted shades of green.

In planned gardens, evergreen shrubs are inter-planted with deciduous shrubs so that after most plants are bare, there are still some with color. Silver-leaf shrubs are inter-planted with glossy green leaf ones for contrast. Red and orange leaf shrubs are planted among white flowering plants.

Most shrubs benefit from pruning, shaping and a light application of late-winter fertilizer.

For ideas and help

“The Creative Shrub Garden: Eye-catching Combinations for Year-round Interest” by nursery manager Andy McIndoe, published by Timber Press (www.timberpress.com), 2014. $30 list and $21 online.

Plants of Merit, Missouri Botanical Garden’s online reference can be searched by just about any criteria your garden plans require – www.missouribotanicalgarden.org.

Oklahoma State University, Horticulture Department (HORTLA) www.hortla.okstate.edu. Fact Sheet 5816 is “Selecting Shrubs for the Landscape”. Shrubs listings include wet or dry planting area, acid and alkaline soil, shade or sun, showy bark and fruit, winter interest, etc.

Visit a local nursery to see what the shrubs look like. Mail order shrub resources include – Spring
Meadow Nursery, www.springmeadownursery.com and 800-224-4729, Sooner Plant Farm,
www.soonerplantfarm.com and 918-453-0771.

21 September 2014

Cold Hardy Begonia grandis

What a great choice for the hosta bed!

Evidently they can be grown from seed but ours were nursery purchases.

The leaves are red on the back so when the morning sun is behind them it's quite a scene.

At the leaf axis you can see a little white bulbil forming.

They can be removed and planted to increase your holdings.

15 September 2014

New - latest fruit tree additions

All seven of the new fruit trees made it through their first summer in the ground. They came from a variety of sources, both local and mail order as I researched and searched for varieties that would survive our weather, fungal diseases due to the high humidity here, high temperatures, sometimes-droughts, and every insect known to warm, humid zone 7 gardens everywhere.
These photos are taken from the east -southeast of our 2.5 acres. In the first photo on the left is the raised bed usually full of garlic but pressed into service for winter squash and pumpkin vines.

The second photo is from the east. On the left is the same garlic-squash bed but you can also see the garden shed and the two new apple trees over there. The dream-fantasy-illusion is to have an allee of fruit trees that provides spring flowers for the pollinators, summertime shade for gardeners' rest and maybe some bits of fruit when they mature.

This year we planted a second Pawpaw (not shown), Red Currant bush (not visible), Minnie Royal Cherry, Royal Lee Cherry, 2 Stanley Prune Plums, Gala, Fuji and Arkansas Black Apples.

The larger fruit trees in the background by the vegetable garden are the 7 year old plum and the 5 year old pear trees.

Chestnut trees
Then there are the two remaining chestnut trees from an original planting of five. These have made it six years so far though have had a tough time of it. They are not at the farthest part of the eastern edge of the property (there are blackberry bushes and a wood pile behind them) but they are on a little slope. The dream when they were planted was for an early morning coffee spot.

Dreaming of benches in a shady fruit-tree allee or under the spreading chestnut trees....... Maybe next year?