Tough Perennials

Pallida(Zone 7b)March 7, 2011

For those of you who have harsh growing conditions in OK,, after years of experience, with callouses on my hands, bruises on my knees and many back-aches, coupled with countless disappointments attempting to grow those beautiful plants whose lovely pictures are displayed from cover to cover in the many nursery catalogs sent to me, I have finally settled on growing tough, native plants that do well and give pleasure instead of agony when I view my flower beds. Here are some of my favorites, all sun-loving, drought-tolerant perennials, and more than welcome your favorites: Asclepias, Callirhoe, Coreopsis, Echinacea ( the wildflower, Pallida, being my favorite, thus, my name), Gaillardia, Hemerocallis, Liatris, Monarda, Phlox, Perovskia, Ratibida, Salvia, Sedums, Solidigo, Yuccas. I KNOW you, my sister and brother, "dusty-knees", have more. Love to hear and lenghten my list.

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Hi Pallida,

Thank you for posting thread on "Tough Perennials", these are the plants exactly I would like to grow... With the prevailing drought, scarcity of moisture and ever increasing water bill here in Norman, I guess Xerix plants would be the best way to go.

If you won't mind, could tel more about you growing techniques> where you buy seeds/plants? when to start indoor? when you transplants? etc will help newbie like me.

Thank you -Chandra

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 4:36PM
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thank you for saving me years of frustration! great info i can put to good use :)

dody :)

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 5:44PM
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Pallida(Zone 7b)

Answering your questions as best I can, Chandra.
For such common seeds, it is alright to pick them up at local nurseries or Lowes, Home Depot, Ace hardware. For fancier seeds or new cultivars, I order from Thompson & Morgan English seeds ( Different seeds have different growing habits. Perennial seeds take longer to sprout, some needing strong light, some prefer the dark. I would start them NOW, as you won't be able to set them out until around the middle of April, and that is after hardening them off by setting them out during the day and bringing them in at night, if temps. drop for about a week. Read the backs of the seed packets to see what the individual requirements are.
I buy plants all over the place, but the best advice I can give you is to buy from reputable local nurseries who will carry ONLY plants that do well in OK. Some of my favorite nurseries are TLC, Precures, Marcum's, although I will pick up plants at Lowes when they are fresh. Don't get eager and set out plants too soon. You will only wind up replacing them. In our Z7b, between the first and middle of April is the best time to plant. If you are going to start annual seeds, wait until the middle of March, as they (such as Marigolds and Zinnias ) sprout very quickly and will just get leggy in the house. In reality, perennial seeds should be started between the first and middle of Feb. Again, check germination times on back of seed pkts. Hope I haven't confused you. Have fun!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 7:03PM
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Pallida(Zone 7b)

Dody, glad to know that this info will be helpful. In your area, don't set out plants until AFTER April 15th to May 1st. Too much danger of a late killing frost. Have fun. Gardening is a joy! Check out poem on My Page.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 7:29PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Most of the tough perennials I grow already are on your list, but I also have had success with Four O'Clocks, Tall Verbena (Verbena bonariensis), French hollyhocks (Malva sylvestris 'Zebrina' and 'Magic Merlin'), swap mallow, hardy hibiscus (several different ones including Texas Star Hibiscus and Disco Bell), prickley pear cactus, daturas, some brugmansias (although we'll find out this year how cold-hardy they really are because they've never gone down to 3 degrees before so I think they may have frozen out), cannas, iris, yarrow (both native ones transplanted into flower beds and seed-raised hybrids), veronica, catmint 'Six Hills Giant' and gladiolas.

I also have many reseeding annuals that have reseeded themselves for so long in the same spots that people around here think they're perennial, but I don't think I'm getting the same plants back year after year but instead just reseeded ones. The plants that reseed consistently year here, year in and year out, are popppies of all kinds, larkspur, Texas bluebonnets, zinnias, morning glories, celosias, amaranths, lion's tail, purple hyacinth beans and black-eyed susan vine. Some years the moonflower vines and nicotianas reseed and some years they don't.

I'll mention one reseeder I'm half-sorry I ever planted and that is Pink Evening Primrose. If I lived "in town" and didn't have room for it to roam and ramble, I wouldn't like it much because it reseeds everywhere and vigorously. I think there's a possibility it might even be able to outcompete bermuda grass, if such a thing is possible. As it is, it reseeds too close to the garden (I planted it nowhere near the garden) and I have to remove it every year when it pops up out of the ground too close to the garden, but I like it out in the pastures and alongside the roadway or driveway.

The perennials that consistently do well here have to be a tough bunch because some year we'll have as little as 18-20" of rain and other years as much as 48-52". With mostly slow-draining clay, often the flowers that can handle dry clay or not the same ones that tolerate a lot of wet clay. so some of these flowers come back better on some parts of the property than on others, but I always have them "somewhere" and in good years you may see them "everywhere".

It's the same way with all the wildflowers in our pastures. Some years the coneflowers dominate while other years the paintbrush has a strong presence or the blue star grass or the rainlilies or the liatris dominates. It is interesting every year to watch and see which plants come back strongest in any given year.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 6:56AM
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Hi Pallida,
Thank you, this is quite useful info. I also like your poem "The kiss of the sun in the morning The song of the birds for mirth I feel closer to God's heart in the garden Than anywhere else on earth!"

Dawn, Thank you for listing additional tough plants. Now I have more choice and colors. Our soil almost like yours, tough red clay sometime its too wet and sometime its too dry.

Last spring I have planted two pre-planned gardens "Native Prairie" and "Three Seasons Garden" from Richard Owens nursery, most of the plants did not grow well in 3 seasons, but Native Prairie performed well. They are kind enough replace all lost plants in the fall, lets see how they will grow this time.


    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 8:13AM
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Pallida(Zone 7b)

Good Morning, Dawn
Woke up this AM to your letter and the forecaster guys talking about all the rain overnight. NOT! As usual, rains all around us (South of Wynnewood), not a drop here. For this reason and the fact that I live on a small acreage on top of a wind-swept hill (blows almost ALL of the time out of the South) as I have said before, with soil that could be used to pave the Interstates (clay for a few inches, then hardpan to China), I am forced to make raised beds, amending as I go and grow only the hardiest of plants. Loved your list. Have grown some of same, but have steered clear of Four-O-Clocks and Daturas because I truly thought they were annual. Love Glads, but with my wind? I am sure your annuals that keep returning are seed-born, the only problem here being, sometimes they revert to original parents. Adding to this list is Cleome. Don't grow those anymore, either, because of wind and the fact that they come up EVERYWHERE. Am extremely jealous of you wildflower fields! HA Don't have many here. Have even broadcast seeds with practically NO results. Sounds as though we are on the same page in our love for flower gardening. Thanks for adding to my list.


    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 8:19AM
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Pallida(Zone 7b)

Chandra & Dawn,
you both sound like seasoned gardeners. Are we having fun, or WHAT?! Am almost jealous of your clay soil. THIS I have dealt with all over the state of Oklahoma, but this concrete-like hard-pan is unbelievable. You can hardly dig a hole with a shovel. Guess I will have to buy a pick-axe. HA


    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 8:36AM
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There have been a couple of threads within the last month or two regarding native plants in Oklahoma and I've posted several that I grow. Many of my plants are natives since I garden to attract butterflies and grow not only their nectar plants, but their larval host plants as well.

Some that I have incorporated into my garden, that are larval host plants include:

Asclepias species (incarnata, speciosa, viridis, purpurescens, tuberosa altho it is not generally a host but a nectar plant, that I grew from seed - host for Monarch and Queen butterflies

Cynanchum laeve - Sand Vine - larval host for Monarch

Hibiscus coccineus - Texas Star Hibiscus - host for Grey Hairstreak

Boehmeria cylindrica - False Nettle (no stinging hairs) - larval host for Red Admiral and Question Mark butterflies

Passiflora incarnata - Passion Flower - vine - host for Gulf Fritillary and Variegated Fritillary butterflies

Senna hebecarpa - Wild Senna - host for the Cloudless Sulphur and Sleepy Orange butterflies

Zizia aptera - Golden Alexander - host plant for Black Swallowtail Butterfly

Aristolochia serpentaria, A. tomentosa, A. macrophylla - Pipevines - all hosts for the Pipevine Swallowtails

Plantago lanceolata and P. major - Plantain - larval host for Buckeye butterflies

Ptelea trifoliata - Hop Tree - small tree; host to Giant Swallowtail

Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii - Flame Acanthus - host to Texan Crescent Butterfly

Verbesina encelioides - Golden Crownbeard - larval host to Bordered Patch butterfly

Lindera benzoin - Spicebush - larval host to Spicebush Swallowtail

Salix nigra - Black Willow (growing in large pot) - host to Red Spotted Purple and Viceroy Butterflies

Baptisia australis var. minor - Wild Blue Indigo - gorgeous flowers - host to Wild Indigo Duskywing butterflies

Prunus serotina - Black Cherry - tree; host to Tiger Swallowtail

Hsckberry tree - host to Hackberry and Tawny Emperor, and American Snout butterflies

Liriodendron tulipifera - Tulip Tree - host to Tiger and Spicebush Swallowtails

Amorpha fruticosa - Lead Plant - larval host to Dogface Sulphur and Silver Spotted Skipper butterflies

These are just the ones that I grow, but some butterflies have extensive lists of larval host plants other than the ones I have.

I do grow some non-natives for butterflies, too, like fennel and Rue for Black Swallowtails. Giant Swallowtails also use Rue as a host. Zinnia and Cosmos for nectar.

Other natives I use as nectar sources include Button Bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis - very easy from seed); Maximillian Sunflower, Liatris spicata, Verbesina alternifolia, Eupatorium purpurea (Joe Pye Weed), Coniclinum coelistinum (Blue Mistflower), Monarda didyma, Ribes odoratum (currant), Spigelia marilandica (Indian Pink, a gorgeous red flower plant that hummers love), Lobelia cardinalis, Vernonia fasiculata (Ironweed), Pycnanthemum muticum (Mountain Mint), Rhus odoratum (Fragrant Sumac), Lonicera flava and L. sempervivens 'Blanche Sandman' (also larval host for Snowberry Clearwing sphinx or hummingbird moths), Datura wrightii, Ariseama triphyllum (Jack in the Pulpit), Salvia coccinea, and Salvia greggii.


    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 9:27AM
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Forgot to add that while a lot of the common wildflower and native plant seeds can be found locally, if you step outside the norm, as I had to do when growing native milkweeds (Asclepias), there are some very good native seed sources around. A couple of them include Prairie Moon and Everwilde Farms. There is another seed source in Texas called Wild Seed Farm, but a lot of their seed is native to the Western US and Europe, of species that have "naturalized" here, but are not native to our region. and they don't have an extensive inventory like PM and Everwilde. Buying plants that are native to other regions, especially California and points west, does not bother me, but some people are purists and like to have native plants only native to their precise area.


    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 10:44AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Chandra, I spent the first few years here trying to figure out what could survive in our clay and there were a lot of failures. Finally, I found a copy of Scott Ogden's book "Gardening Success In Difficult Soils" and it helped tremendously. I also spent a lot of time observing the native flowers on our property and on property around us, and slowly figured out which ones tolerate clay both when it is wet and when it is dry. After all that searching, we now have a pretty good list of what does or does not grow here in our clay and I don't vary from that list too much any more. I figure I might as well stick with what works.

I've linked one source for the book below. I think it is out of print, but every now in then you can find a used copy online or in a Half-Price Books store.

Jeanie, The rain missed us again today. I am having to water the clay soil around the foundation so the foundation won't crack and shift. Usually that's a job reserved for summer, but there's been so little rain that our ground is cracking (though not near the house) so I'm watering the foundation soil in winter/spring. I also watered the veggie garden because the afternoon storms all started east of us and are moving east/northeast, so no rain is going to fall here today, nor is there a good chance of any rain here the rest of the week.

Some folks are getting rain today and I'm happy for them, but I wish you and I were getting some of that rain too.

I thought 4 o'clocks and daturas would be annuals here, but they have surprised me by coming back. We have a narrow band of sandy soil about 20' wide that cuts across part of our property and they come back best there, but also in some clay areas. The only thing about the 4 o'clocks is that their large, tuberous roots get bigger every year and after a few years they can be about as large as a child's you cannot remove them easily once they've been there a few years. I have them in several colors....mostly the fuschia one but also some yellow, white and pink ones. The daturas reseed a lot some years and very little other years. One year, the double yellow ones came up in a crack in the pavement near the garage. The crack was about 1/4" wide, and that plant got 2 feet tall and bloomed and it was gorgeous. Usually the native white one reseeds the most, but all three doubles (yellow, white, purple) sometimes reseed too.

No one is jealous of my soil. It is red river clay and as hard as bricks! You can be jealous if you want to, but it takes monumental amounts of non-stop soil amendment to loosen it up. It is so bad that it makes me think longingly of my black gumbo clay I had in Texas. We were down in some of the blackland prairie areas of northcentral Texas on Sunday and as we were driving down a country road with plowed black clay fields on either side of us, I was telling my DH that I missed my black clay. Of course, when we lived there, I didn't appreciate the black gumbo, but that's before I tried gardening in red brick clay. : ) I guess the grass is always greener on the other side.

I have a large collection of tools, especially shovels, we've broken over the years. I think you probably do need a pickaxe or a mattock to break your hardpan....or dynamite.

Is your hardpan only a layer of soil or do you have caliche' down beneath your clay?

Our place is the opposite of yours. We are in a low-lying creek hollow pretty close to the even-lower-lying Red River, so wind is not a huge issue most of the time, especially since our house, outbuildings and garden are pretty much surrounded on three sides by woodland, which gives us a pretty nice windbreak on three sides.

Gardening on a hilltop is a lot more challenging. You might not get much reseeding there because the seeds might blow away, I suppose. We have friends who used to live on a hilltop here and they had a hard time gardening there because of the wind. They had wind there even when no one else did, so you have my sympathy. Since our friends were on the highest point of land in their area, lightning struck their house once and set it on fire. That gave me a whole new appreciation for our low-lying area. On the other hand, we could sit on their porch and watch tornadoes travel across the county because they had a great view!


Here is a link that might be useful: Scott Ogden's Book on Alkaline Clay and Caliche'

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 6:00PM
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For anyone who's still hanging in there in spite of the current hot spell, I thought I'd throw in my two cents worth. I'm in Bethel Acres, about 25 miles E of OKC, and we have a combination of sandy strips with hard caliche or clay under it, and plain heavy red clay. Some of the things I've tried and would have sworn would work here, have not. Both the perovskia and nepeta have died. I have only one gaillardia left out of the pack I started from seed. My garden isn't xeric. We're on a well, and I use mulch and a drip irrigation system to conserve water. The things that are trying to take over are the bee balm, evening primrose, and surprisingly, a spiderwort that has had about 8 babies. The ones I expected to seed all over the place, like the coreopsis, have not; not even when I deliberately scattered seed. The salvia seems to be doing okay, but I've had no luck with penstemon. Even the buddleia I planted is really struggling. I don't know if I'll save it or not. The only thing that's been predictable is the bearded iris. It's thriving. I did manage to winter over some lantana, by using garden blanket covering, but lost a lovely little threadleaf Japanese maple, which made me very sad. We've also lost two big hibiscus moscheutos. I think a gopher might have gotten one, and we don't know what killed the lovely big red one. Two more are still alive and well.
If anyone is looking for fast growing trees, I have starts of corkscrew willow. It does take up some space, but it's a really fun tree and the growth rate is something to see. Florists love the twisty branches. Oh, and we lost all but one of the 12 paulownia trees we put in. In this ongoing heat, even the maples are starting to look scorched. Unfortunately, the weed crop is alive and very healthy.
I'm a transplant from CA and was a master gardener there, but this is a whole new ball-game. I'm having to learn all over again. If anyone has any ideas of what might be going on, I'd like to hear them. The plants I think should be ironclad for OK do not seem to be working out at all. On the other hand, if anyone wants squash and tomatoes . . . . . . . . Enough said?

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 8:07PM
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Pallida, I just saw this post and seems our minds are running the same way. I should have posted here. I love this topic right now with this terrible heat dome we are suffering under. I feel a bit vindicated because we had those rainy years right after I transitioned to drought loving plants and one spring in particular, I was worried I'd done myself in. Desert Sages were the only casualties. The drought lovers made it for the most part so this is a good way to go in this crazy state we live in.

I'm going to have to google some of those plants I saw listed up there tonight. I'm always looking for suggestions and new ideas.

My Liatris is "snaking" around on the ground. Anyone ever had that? Its supposed to stand up straight. Its one I dug up in a clay field here in Central Oklahoma and it gets half day+ afternoon sun. It looks like a big octopus.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 8:43PM
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Here's a picture of my tough Okie perennials from yesterday.

Besides the well known things in the picture, some that have handled the heat & the winter alike are --

Bee Balm - some kind of dward - wintered over & doing ok
The only salvia I have much luck with is May Night, which has taken over a friend's garden but doesn't spread in mine. Gaura has done really well for me in all kinds of weather. Veronica speedwell
Mexican Hat
Catmint Walker's Low, has spread nicely and always looks good. I want to dig some up and move it around.
Artemisia Powis Castle - lost one right off, the other has made it three years
Buddleia Royal Red wintered over and is doing ok! I saw this literally growing like weeds in Plymouth England and have tried to grow it ever since.

It took 2 years for my Shasta Daisies to bloom but wow it was worth it - Alaska and Marconi and Crazy Daisies

I love sedum and would like more varieties. It does so well in all weather.


    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 8:47PM
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We have so much wild honeysuckle around here that few people seem to think of it as a garden plant, or are familiar with the more unusual ones. My all-time favorite is called 'Goldflame' and it appears to like the OK climate as well as it does CA. It's a very compact and yet vigorous plant with an amazing bloom period, and the blossoms are huge. Last year mine was still blooming on Thanksgiving. It never gets sprawly and loose like Hall's or some of the others, and the only problem I've ever found is aphid, which is easily controlled with a systemic. A 2-year-old plant on my chain link fence is now nearly 5' tall and just about as wide. A solid ball of bloom. Goldflame is all but impossible to find in a nursery, but it's available online. If someone will tell me how to imbed a photo, I'll post it.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 10:31PM
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Pallida(Zone 7b)

WOW! Transferring from CA to OK had to be quite a culture shock. Since you were a "master gardener" in California, you, obviously, know your gardening and that what grows on the west coast doesn't, necessarily, grow well here. When I first started this thread at the beginning of the year, I was expecting another good year of beautiful flowers and the "joy of gardening", as I, too, have gardened for many years,
and I also worked at landscape nurseries in OKC for years. Little did I know that we would be suffering the worst year I can EVER remember with the intense heat, high winds, drought and "critters" invading our beds, probably because their food and water is in short supply in the wild.
It sounds as though you have the same terrible soil that I have, therefore raised beds seem to be the answer. Of course, you will still have to water regularly, preferably with soaker hoses and timers. I STILL recommend the heat and drought-tolerant plants (some of which you have already tried, but you might try again) such as : Perovskia, Echinacea, Gaillardia, Liatris, Artemesia, Coreopsis (all varieties), Hemerocallis, Phlox, Sedums, various Grasses, Salvia, Asclepias, Dwarf Crape Myrtles, Peonies, etc.
I had bad luck this year, because the deer discovered my yummy menu, so lost a lot of plants to their meandering gnoshing.
Good luck in adapting to our crazy weather. Certainly hope it settles down soon and we can go back to enjoying being outside! It, normally, isn't quite this bad.

We will just have to "hang in there" until this horrible heat and wind settle down. It is causing me to have to water daily, but I use soaker hoses and just let them run for about two hours.
As for your "snakey" Liatris, I have no clue. Can you stake it and give it a hint ad to how it is SUPPOSED to be growing? HA.

Your garden is lovely! You must be watering and fertalizing with a passion! You, definitely, have a grip on what grows well here. The Buddleia is the only thing I don't grow well. Every time I've planted it, it gets spider mite, and I DON'T do spider mite as it is a pain to control! Thanks for sharing the picture. Be glad you don't have deer. They LOVE Hemerocallis!

Jeanie (Pallida)

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 11:12PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Cactusgardens, Liatris can sprawl for several reasons. One reason can be too much water---it is more of a xeriscape type plant, so mine don't sprawl in dry summers too much but if we have a very wet spring or wet summer they get too heavy and can't hold themselves upright so they end up sprawling all over. Often, if we have a very wet winter, they rot and don't come back. There are some newer hybrid liatris types that don't sprawl, but I just grow the common native ones. They also do better in mixed plantings of grasses/forbs and can flop over on the ground if not grown with grasses since the grasses help hold them upright.

Betty, Your flowers are so lovely as always.


A lot of the plants that aren't growing well for you will often die if grown in clay, even well-amended clay. One problem in trying to figure out what grows here is that plants that grow well in the sandy soils and sandy loam soils here often don't grow well in the heavier clay soils and vice versa. People in NE OK can grow plants that refuse to grow here in my clay in southern OK, for example.

Nepeta rots and dies in my unimproved clay in wet winters, but does well in the well-amended soil in raised beds in the veggie garden, so that's where I grow it. Swamp mallow does grow well for me in clay in several locations, and that is with no irrigation. I'd give the hibiscus moscheutoes another try. It reseeds itself for me some years. Pink evening primrose is invasive in my clay so I pull out most of the sprouts in spring and leave only a few. Otherwise it colonizes every inch of space.

Butterfly bush doesn't grow in my clay, so I plant Vitex agnus-castus instead.

Spiderwort is invasive in my clay soil and I religiously pull out every bit of it I find. Otherwise it takes over every square foot of space.

Coreopsis doesn't come back reliably for me. It might last 3 or 4 years if none of the winters are excessively wet. I grow Mexican hat and greenthread daisies instead because they don't seem bothered at all by the clay, and neither does clasping leaf coneflower.

I don't grow maples here because my soil doesn't drain well enough for them, and they don't like our heat.

Paulownia doesn't like our extreme July and August heat, which for many of us arrived in May this year. The ones people have planted here in southern OK are big underachievers and mostly look yellow, stressed and plain old sad in the summer months.

When we first moved here, it was a drought year and everything was dormant or dead, which made it hard to figure out what would grow here. I bought a wildflower seed mix from Wildseed Farms and sowed it in 4 different areas: one with heavy unimproved clay, one with well-improved clay, one with a clayey-sandy sloping soil (it drains well because of the slope) and in our band of sandy soil. I kept careful notes of what sprouted and grew the first year, and what came back the next couple of years. That worked fairly well in helping me understand what plants liked the various kinds of soil we have. However, I have found that a lot of the prairie type plants that flourish in dry summers are not as happy in wet summers or don't tolerate wet winters. So, some years certain flowers predominate while others virtually disappear and in other years with different weather conditions, a different set of plants dominates. Using the wildflower mix helped me shave years off the learning curve in determining what did or didn't like our soils. I also made lists of the native forbs and which soil type I found them growing in so I'd know what I could plant where.

There are some plants that can tolerate wet soil to a certain point, but then if they stay too wet too long it is all over for them. That's especially frustrating. I lost some ornamentals that had lived here for several years in pretty heavy clay when we had 12.89" of rain in one day in April 2009 and another 6 to 8" of rain over the next six weeks or so. Of course, after having that kind of rainfall in an area with heavy clay soil, I knew I'd lose a lot of plants.

Reading the Scott Ogden book I linked above also helped me tremendously because he carefully covers what does and doesn't survive in difficult clay soils. Paying attention to what sprouts here naturally has helped a lot, although too much of what sprouts is indeed a bunch of weeds that I don't want.

All veggies grow well for me in the veggie garden although some require raised beds and some don't.
You cannot give away squash here in my county at this time of year, and most years tomatoes do just fine. I've had huge tomato harvests for a couple of months now, but in the heat they're slowing down some. We have more than we can eat so I'm getting ready to can some of them.

One of the tougher plants that has surprised me here is gomphrena 'Strawberry Fields'. I grow it alongside the driveway down by the mailbox and gate about 300 ' from the house so it is never watered, and it has come back there reliably for about 10 years, both in years with 19" of rainfall and in years with 53" of rainfall, and with everything in between. It is tough. It won't die and you can't kill it. That's my kind of plant.


    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 12:23AM
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First of all, my Wal Mart has Gaura 'Siskiyou' marked down to $2 a pot!

Dawn, I have never grown gomphrena 'Strawberry Fields" but that's a pretty great recommendation. I enjoy gomphrena 'fireworks' and so do the butterflies, but have to treat it as an annual (Bustani in Stillwater).

Jeanie, I really never fertilize this, not even sure I would know how. I always think I should. I'm useless in the 'soil amendment' conversation because this spot was part of my father's religiously composted garden from '54-97. I started it back up in 2000, just fighting bermuda, but planted this in earnest in '09. I have a much harder time with my veggies in raised beds because there isn't 50 years of organic matter to help me out. That's my winter project.

I got my Ratibida start from what was growing up into a boxwood hedge at a hotel in Plano TX at Thanksgiving about four years ago. I got some variegated this year from Bustani and really like it & have been getting good starts off of it.

I would LOVE a big stand of Rudibeckia and have sown my weight in Rudibeckia 'Hirta' seeds with no luck. I finally spent $6 on one from TLC, yikes.

It is pouring rain, so I have this thread in one window and google image in the other, looking up unfamiliar names. Some day we'll just click on a word and picture will appear, right?

Chandra, the best way to start a tough Okie garden is pass-along plants. I buy things here and there, but the real anchors of my flowers are from friends. I'd be happy to pass along anything next spring. Baptiste doesn't like to be moved, but those big ones in my pic have been moved/divided twice.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 10:46AM
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I LOVE this forum! You guys are terrific. Pallida, you nailed it when you said that moving from Sonoma Co CA (home of the Luther Burbank Garden) has been a real culture shock. After spending about 20 years there, I moved to the mountains of NorCal and had to learn everything again. I think the biggest difference is that, out there, you have to water things to make them grow. It rains all winter and spring and then stops in May and is dry until November. Here, we can't seem to stop stuff from growing, though it's usually not the stuff we want. I need to take a lot of time and go back and read the forum several more times. I've been copying and pasting a bunch of the information for future use. I'll see if I can find a copy of the Scott Ogden book.
I have been trying to put my plants into areas where the soil is appropriate for some sort of survival, but the extreme heat and the wind is not helping. I do have some areas of part shade, but most of the property takes full sun or close to it, and there's very little protection from the wind.

The crape myrtles seem to be doing okay, and the peonies, honeysuckle and nandina. The Goldflame honeysuckle is gorgeous, and a Pinata rose seems to be happy. My Peace rose is in reasonable shape but the Double Delight is barely alive. The lavender seems to be thriving. Even the rose of sharon are drooping in this heat, and what blossoms are on them are tiny and wilted. I put in a couple of hosta in a rare semi-shade spot in light soil and they also seem to be okay so far. I'm also trying some hardy azaleas in the same light shade area and hope they make it. The hydrangeas are hanging in there, although they get pretty droopy in the heat, right along with the hibiscus. The bee balm has quit blooming, and so has the oenothera (primrose). All the hardy geraniums I've tried have promptly died, along with the nepeta and the perovskia. That one grew one season, bloomed, and died during the winter.
Someone mentioned sedum, and I brought some brevifolium with me from CA. It's alive and spreading, but very, very slowly. I thought it would do better than it has done here.
I was interested to see that veronica might work here, since it was an idea for an alternate if I can't get the penstemon or salvia to survive. Only one of my 3 baptisia is still alive, but it seems fairly healthy. And it was disappointing to hear that buddleia might never grow here. One of the things I've managed to keep alive for a couple of years is agapanthus, with winter mulch. They have not bloomed yet this year, but they look pretty good.
I put in some little malva fastigata this year and am hoping they will survive and possibly reseed, since I've got plenty of space to cover. The two things that have absolutely taken off and are multiplying like crazy are the bearded iris and the ever-present violets. Somehow a bit of dormant violets got in with a shipment of stuff from the old CA garden last year, and now I've got them all over the place. Anybody want old-fashioned purple violets for a ground cover? Beware, they spread like wildfire.
I think I may try putting some of the iris in a clay patch that I'd like to use as a border. I got a coreopsis to grow there, but it seems to kill everything else but weeds. Otherwise I'll have to build it up to be at least a moderately raised bed.
In talking about xeric gardening, one of the problems I'm facing here is that the climate is not predictable for rain, as this year is showing. If I go with a real xeric plan and we have a normal year, the summer rain will be hard on the plants, won't it?
Has anyone tried growing viburnum here? I think I might like to try one of the doublefile that looks like a dogwood in bloom. Anyone have a comment? And does anyone know whether painted daisies will make it here? I've seen them growing in big beds alongside veronica in a tough WA climate, so maybe? And how about columbine for my part-shade area? The soil in that section is pretty light and humusy, so maybe?
On a lighter note, last year I grew "the lemon cucumber vine that ate Cleveland" and it looks like the squash this year is about to do the same thing.

And for those who are battling squash vine borers, I've found a veggie garden spray that will get them. It's called Bug Buster, put out by Monterey. Home Depot is supposed to carry it, but I had to order mine from an online store.

Many thanks again.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 12:15PM
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I just planted a snowball viburnum this spring. It's hard to say for sure how it's handling the heat/wind/drought since this is it's first year and I expect some kind of adjustment period. It is hanging in there, though not as good as some of the other shrubs I planted. The forsythia in particular seems to be laughing in the face of adversity and thriving anyway.

I did need to give the viburnum a shot of liquid fertilizer a few weeks ago because the leaves were turning yellow. Since then the new growth is back to a nice deep green. I guess my conclusion so far is that viburnum will tolerate the climate, but it doesn't handle nutrient poor soil well. I suppose I'll have to baby it along and see how it goes.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 12:34PM
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It sounds like viburnum would be worth a try. I have one big section of flower bed that seems to have a fairly decent soil. Probably a layer of topsoil that was brought in years ago. It's only about a foot deep before it hits clay, but it might work. I wonder if it would still need to be amended to improve it.

Has anyone ever tried growing bluebells here? Either campanula or mertensia. They are extremely cold tolerant, but I don't know about the heat and humidity. In areas where they do well, they really thrive and spread, and I love them. Any tips would be appreciated.
Also, has anyone tried santolina (lavender cotton)? I think it's pretty drought tolerant and can make a nice round ball when it's happy.


    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 1:09PM
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Pallida(Zone 7b)

Yep. The crape myrtles, lilacs, peonies, nandina, photinia, barberry and viburnum (to name a few) all do well here.
The shade plants you mention should do fine for you, including campanula.
You live further north than Dawn and I, so we deal with hard clay soil, hotter temps. and practically no rain, even in a good year. The dividing weather line seems to be Norman. North of there, more rain and cooler temps. Since you love the Butterfly Bush, you might go ahead and try it. When I lived in OKC, I had no trouble growing it, but DID have problems with spider mite. Also, try perovskia, again. If it is in full sun and dry soil, it should thrive. Have you thought about trying brugmansia?
You might take a trip out to TLC and talk to them. I used to work there, and the personnel is very knowledgeable. Of course, you know that summer is the very worst time to plant or transplant, because of heat and drought stress. Autumn is the best time to plant trees, shrubs and perennials.
Wahoo! Are we having fun, or what?! Gardening is such fun, and the plant kingdom enormous!


    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 3:43PM
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Thanks, Jeanie. That's good news. Naturally I won't be trying to put anything new in until fall, but now I'll have a better idea of what might work. I'm getting so tired of losing plants. I'd really love to have perovskia, so I'll try again, and will give the doublefile viburnum a try. What about some of the smaller spireas? They do well here, don't they?

I think I'm probably due east of Norman, about 20 miles or so. It seems to me that what I've done is to not completely give up on my west coast gardening mind set and I keep using some of my old habits that clearly do not work in OK gardening. There I could push the envelope a lot by using mulch, water and other gardening aids and get away with things that should not have worked. Oklahoma is a whole different scene, and I need to learn some of the rules for gardening here if I want it to succeed. If I can't even get gaillardia to grow for me, then I'm obviously doing stuff wrong.
Also, I'm using pea gravel as my mulch in a lot of the garden, since I had over a ton of it. I think it's just bouncing back the heat and making it worse for some things, like the maple trees. I hate to take it out and start over, since it's a 24 x 80' area, but I may need to use more bark or something less reflective around the more heat sensitive plants if it's going to work right.

You mentioned TLC. Where is that? I don't get out and about very often, but a good nursery is always a wonderful find. For anyone in the Shawnee area, Shawnee Feed store on Hwy 177 has expanded theirs into a year-round operation. It's pricey, but nice, with a good gift shop also.

Yep, we are certainly having fun. I just love this forum, being able to talk to other folks who live here and deal with the erratic climate and soil problems.

Betty, your garden looks great! Maybe I'll try some daylilies, and I'll definitely put in some veronica. I've got several large shrubs now and need to fill in with some lower stuff that can take the full blazing sun and will tolerate wind.
How did you imbed the photo in that post? I'd love to be able to send one in, but I don't know how to do it.


    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 12:11PM
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Pallida(Zone 7b)

Hi Pat,
As I said, it usually isn't quite this bad. We are having July/August type weather in June, which makes me a little nervous. What are July and August going to be like?
I think you are probably right about the pea gravel radiating too much heat. The other mulch I would avoid is rubber mulch. Can you imagine how hot it must get under rubber?!
Yes. Spireas, Wigelia, Abelia, Viburnum, Forsythia and, of course, good ol' trusty Crape Myrtle all do well here.
Hemerocallis grows well here, if you don't have deer.
TLC is located in Northeast OKC on the North side of Memorial Road. A bit pricey, but good plants and helpful personnel. I think Cindy still works there, has been there for years.
Good luck. Gardening in our climate is definitely a challenge!

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 4:20PM
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Hi Jeanie.

Okay, I have a few more questions, and a few possible suggestions for things that have worked well for me in a z6 climate with hot, dry summers and snowy winters. I'm including a partial view of my flower border that began as an oversized weed patch four years ago. I'll definitely be adding daylilies.
It's funny that the deer here will eat them, since the ones in CA did not. Tulips are another story entirely!

It doesn't really show in the photo, but I have a lot of 6' tall chain link fence to cover up. I tried getting a Carolina jessamine, but it's not really thriving and has only given up a half-dozen blooms the whole time. I've got both trumpet vine and Virginia creeper growing wild on the property, along with assorted honeysuckle, but don't want to put either of them on the fence. Has anyone tried rosa banksiea here? A little wild pink polyantha I put in on one section is almost proving to be too vigorous. It's sent out a lot of 8' canes in 90 days. Are there any other suggestions for covering a whole lot of fencing with something that isn't too straggly or thorny?

As a garden filler among the heavier plants, I'm trying standard gypsophilla. I had really good luck with it in that same z6 climate, so I thought it would be worth a try here. Another tough one that needs little care is the groundcover sweet woodruff. Galium odoratum. I think it would do well here and is easy to control.

I noticed some mention of annuals that reseed so vigorously that they can be nearly considered perennial. Has anyone ever heard of the Gloriosa daisy? It falls into that category, and blooms like a gaillardia on steroids. It can reach 30" tall very easily. Another one is lychnis coronaria. The bright pink blooms go well with the soft gray foliage, but don't get them started unless you don't want them to spread. They take zero care and are shallow rooted, but the seed is tiny and will end up all over the place.

I agree with you about the weather. It can cool off and rain any time and it won't hurt my feelings. We're getting nervous about the 4th, with all of our overly dry pasture. Coming from CA, I do hate fire!


    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 5:59PM
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What I meant to say about the pinks is . . . don't plant them unless you don't care if they spread, because they definitely will.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 6:09PM
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I just looked it up, and must stand corrected on the Gloriosa daisy. It's listed as a perennial Rudbeckia gloriosa for z2-10. My feeling about it is, maybe and maybe not. We had years when it was everyplace, and then years when it was really sparse.

I've mentioned the Goldflame honeysuckle as one of my favorites, and will include a photo here. It's so much more well-mannered than the others in the family, and the bloom is spectacular. It never seems to get sprawly or leggy and tends to form a big ball that blooms from the ground right on up. I've grown it for about 15 years and it seems to be tough as nails and near zero care, other than some water now and then. The one shown is a baby that I started last year and it was just getting started. This year it's about 4' tall and 8' wide, plus being over 2'thick, so it's completely covered the chain link.

With a little judicious feeding, it will keep blooming all season long. I think I may layer some more of it to start new plants, since it's hard to find.


    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 7:37PM
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Pallida(Zone 7b)

Hi, Pat,
Your flowers are beautiful! I am glad you learned how to "forward" pix. I am still struggling with this issue, as I use my cell phone for E-Mail.
Although honeysuckle is beautiful, sometimes it can become as invasive as Wisteria. Of course, if you have the room, no problem. I have never grown the Lady Banks rose, but understand it is border-lime hardy here. There are always the annual vines, Moonvine, Morning Glory and Cardinal vine, all of which are lovely. Then, there is the perennial vine ,Clematis, including the one that blooms in the Fall called, as
best I can remember, Sweet Autumn, which gets huge. There used to be a honeysuckle called Pink Lemonade. Lots of vines for fences and trellises.


    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 9:06PM
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Pat I admire how you've started your garden by establishing the big plants first. Those look great.

one of the things on my fence is Autumn Clematis, but it can become seriously invasive in some areas. It is all over our city park like Kudzu.

I've tried Sweet Woodruff a few times and it never makes it through winter. I really like it & wish I could get it going. I used thyme as a groundcover this summer and it seems extremely happy.

As for daylilies, I'm looking at the Gilbert H Wild & Sons catalog & website a lot right now (partly because it is too hot to do much outside so I can dream of fall). They are in Missouri. I've never bought from them but the Tulsa Hemerocallis society seems to think highly of them & took a field trip there this summer. I'm kind of tired of all my old double orange lilies and they aren't looking good in this weather so its time for them to go.

Here is a link that might be useful: Gilbert Wild & Sons

    Bookmark   July 1, 2011 at 12:15PM
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Hi Jeanie,

The things I like so much about the Goldflame are that it has a very tidy habit, does not require much, if any, pruning, and it does not seem to be invasive at all. It stays where you put it, fills in amazingly well, and behaves itself in general. Not to mention blooming forever. If you want it someplace else, you need to start cuttings and move them, unlike the local variety that wants to take over the free world.

I've wondered about clematis in this climate. When I tried to grow it before, it tended to get straggly and unkempt and just didn't work well, though I've seen some that were gorgeous. I'm trying to stick with things that are perennial and that will need a minimum of ongoing care to look good. I have annual morning glory coming up everywhere in the flower bed and I can't seem to get rid of it. Half the weeds I yank out are morning glory. I've ordered the Scott Ogden book you recommended and can hardly wait for it to get here, even though it's too late in the year to do much. Maybe it will keep me from making so many mistakes.

Do you happen to know whether anyone uses gypsum to help break up the heavy clay soil here? I don't know whether it would help or not. I used it in the black clay of the Sacramento Valley where I could cheat and have a farm tractor till it in for me, but I think it can also be applied as a top dressing. It apparently will leach down into the soil and help loosen it up. If anyone is interested, I can do a little research on it. I know that I have areas on the property that nothing is going to change. The clay is so heavy and dense that it's impossible to walk there at all if it has gotten any rain. But maybe in some of the less troublesome areas it would help.

Also, how do we address the situation of a decent soil that has a subsurface of caliche as soon as you dig 12" down into it? Try to plant the things that are relatively short-rooted, or hope that the deeper ones will be able to deal with it when they get there? Some of mine is nice and loose and full of humus and sand on top, but nearly solid rock underneath. The water seems to either drain too fast and dries out or stands on that caliche shelf.

Working in the garden in the heat yesterday, I began to think that, as regional gardeners, people in Oklahoma should take the award for meeting challenges. I had no clue until I actually moved here. I've gardened from one end of CA to the other, and in OR, WA, and CO, but never have I seen anything quite like Oklahoma for 'unique' conditions. It does require both creativity and determination, doesn't it? My hat's off to all of you who do it so successfully. I've planted drought tolerant things in full sun and light soil and had them die. The nepeta didn't last two weeks. Put in part-shade plants in an appropriate spot in good soil and given them water . . . and had them die. I think you guys must work magic with your gardens, and/or have lots and lots of practice!

On posting photos, what it seems to require is an html code to make it work. I don't think you can do that from your phone, since you don't have the Pat

    Bookmark   July 1, 2011 at 12:36PM
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Pallida(Zone 7b)

Finally got some pix on "Testing, Testing"! I love these lilies!

Jeanie (Pallida)

    Bookmark   July 1, 2011 at 12:42PM
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Pat, I'm struggling with the same problem with my soil. It acts more like sandstone and lets the water pass right through it. That's terrible for my plants because while it absorbs all the water, it doesn't really let the roots grow into it. That probably explains why it is so hard for me to grow trees and shrubs here.

I'm not really sure how to loosen up the hardpan. I've read that if you work a lot of organic matter or compost into the soil, the worms will break it down over time and give the soil a more loamy texture, but I haven't been at it long enough to know whether it's working, especially since I can't dig around my trees once they're already established. I think there might be some truth to it, though, because the soil in our front yard (where we have a pretty thick, established bermuda lawn) is much softer and easier to dig than in the back. I'd love some advice from people who have been at it longer, because I am so tired of chipping away at concrete whenever I want to plant something.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2011 at 12:56PM
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Pallida(Zone 7b)

We Okies are a determined lot, that's for sure!
L. O. L on the honeysuckle that attempts to take over the world! I might try Goldflame next year. Promise it won't eat my house? HA
Gypsum is great. I see people say they use sand, but I honestly don't see how they keep from creating concrete.
Good luck on the caliche problem. I have the same soil plus clay, and finally resorted to raised beds, after digging (oh my back) a few holes, amending, with good soil and promptly killing many plants, when I first moved here!
After switching to HTML, finally got some pix posted. See "Testing, Testing. I grew up in the '50s, if this gives you a clue. HA


    Bookmark   July 1, 2011 at 1:08PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Pat, This is one of the worst years ever to be a gardener in Oklahoma, so maybe next year will be better. Your soil sounds a lot like mine and some of the plants you've tried and lost, like nepeta and penstemon, only grow well for me and return consistently if I grow them in raised beds that are at least 4-6" above grade level. That helps keep them them from becoming waterlogged and dying during the wet springs.

Our soils are highly variable here and it can take some experimentation to figure out what will grow well in your specific combination of soil/climate conditions. I planted and lost lots of stuff as I learned what would tolerate heavy, red, highly-alkaline, slow-draining clay in a climate where rainfall can be 19" one year and 52" the next, but summers are invariably hot no matter what the rain is or isn't doing. It's just a matter of whether the summer is hot and dry or hot and humid. With heavy clay, look to native prairie flowers as your inspiration because they have adapted to the poor drainage and the wild swings from wet, soggy, pudding-like wet clay to hard-as-concrete dry clay. Often, flowers that survive wet clay don't survive dry clay but most prairie-type natives do.

One salvia that works well for me is the common Texas Hummingbird Sage. Not only does it survive whatever the weather throws at it, but it reseeds itself vigorously so if you plant it once, you have it forever. Laura Bush petunia is another. It reseeds right out in our pastures where it gets nothing but rainfall. These are the kinds of flowers I've learned to appreciate--tough ones!

Hibiscus muschuetos grows very well for me. I have the common white (with a red eye) swamp mallow growing on the edge of our big pond (it is about a half-acre when there's water in it though there's no water in it now), our spring-fed swamp and in the buttefly garden outside my kitchen window. Down in the border around the veggie garden I have 'Disco Belle' and 'Dixie Belle'. They are blooiming now. I water them about once a week since no rain is falling.

You asked about gloriosa daisy. I have been able to keep it alive for 2 or 3 years, but can't keep it going longer than that. I suspect it needs soil that drains better than my red clay. However, clasping-leaf coneflowers and native brown-eyed Susans grow wild on our property. We have some of them every year, although some years they do much better than other years.

In our red clay, Sweet Autumn clematis was not invasive, but I suspect Betty's area has much nicer soil than we have so I can see how it would be invasive there. I had one here for 7 or 8 years, but it died in 2009 after 12.89" of rain fell in one day, followed by 6 to 8 more inches of rain over the next 6 weeks. It just couldn't tolerate staying that wet for that long.

Gypsum works with some types of clay and not with others. It doesn't work with the kind of clay I have. You can check with your local ag extension service or Natural Resources Conservation Service office to find out what kind of clay you have and whether or not it would work there. The only thing that has worked for me is to add copious amounts of organic matter. I added 8 to 10 inches the first year (not at once, but in several rounds of soil improvement) and rototilled it into the soil. Now, I add it from the top down as mulch and I still add tons every year because "heat eats compost."

We all need to compare notes this fall after we see what survives

Don't get discouraged. Eventually you'll figure out what likes your soil and tolerates our weather and it won't be nearly so frustrating. I never absolutely, positively decide that a specific plant "won't grow here" until I've killed it 2 or 3 times.

I've found that most things described as invasive aren't invasive for me and instead they struggle to survive in our dry clay. I guess in an odd way that's a bonus. In order for something to be invasive in clay, it has to be very, very tough. As you've already found out for yourself, pink evening primrose is one that can tolerate our soil and our wild weather.

I have 'Pink Lemonade' honeysuckle on the cedar arbor that serves as an entryway to my veggie garden. There's one plant on either side of the arbor. They grow just fine and are lovely but haven't escaped and run wild. I just love the 'Pink Lemonade'. It looks very similar to goldflame, which isn't surprising, since both are coral honeysuckle (Loniera x heckrotti) types.

The flowers that are blooming right now look great, but the water bill arrived today (ugh!) leaving me pondering how much I can cut back on watering them without completely losing them.


    Bookmark   July 1, 2011 at 1:28PM
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Well, Jeanie, we grew up in the same era. I started in the early '40s, so I may be ahead of you by a few years. I must say that it's one of the reasons I'm looking for tough, little-care perennials for the garden. A lot of my get up and go has gotten up and gone.

If you do try the Goldflame, I promise it won't take over. You just need to give it enough height and width to fill in. I had it growing on a split-rail fence in CA and it was roughly 8' wide and 4' tall. About the same as it is here.

Dawn, I'll certainly look for that salvia. I love it and have had about a 50/50 success rate with different ones. Does anyone know about penstemon here? It should handle the heat and drought and cold. Whether it can take heavy rain is another story.

You guys will all laugh at me when it comes to OK and soil amendments. We have chickens and sheep, so there was plenty of aged natural stuff on hand for the veggie garden this year. We dutifully dug it in. Now I have to warn my daughter when I go out to pick stuff, in case I disappear into the squash patch and she has to come looking for me.
Dr Livingston, I presume?

Should I start a new section that just deals with nature stuff in OK? Soil, bugs, heat, rain, drought and so on? Or can we stay in this same topic?
I don't know if anyone noticed the weed crop on top of the gravel in the photo of my garden. What I didn't say was there there is a layer of 3 oz DeWitt Weed Barrier Pro under the gravel. The weeds promptly seeded over the top and then rooted right down through it . . . within about 90 days. After several calls to DeWitt to ask about the warranty, they finally agreed to send a replacement. I now have a giant roll of the heaviest stuff they make. Industrial grade. We'll see. It might actually work, but I'm not holding my breath. What I have found over the years is that a good mulch always seems to help improve the soil. Whether or not it works in the clay is a good question, but it does seem to. In the annual veggie garden, I use newspapers and grass clippings and then till it in the following year, or in the fall if we can get to it. I don't think anyone on this forum is silly enough to use the black plastic that was popular with some for a while. Then they found out what it does to plants of all sizes. Bad news! And it makes the soil really funky.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2011 at 3:55PM
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Hi, Redding! I have two Honeysuckle vines that are not invasive, but get large and gorgeous. One is Lonicera flava, yellow flowering, and the other is 'Blanche Sandman', a hybrid of the native L. sempervirens. They attract hummingbirds and are also a larval host plant for the cute little Snowberry Clearwing sphinx moth, which is a day flying moth that hovers at flowers like a hummingbird does.

I also grow a couple of hibiscus, H. coccineus, the red flowering swamp hibiscus. It does need watering in the drought, but will adapt to less than many others. I don't know the name of the other, but it has cutleaf maple foliage that is green with an overcast of bronzy red, and humongous deep pink flowers. They have been in the garden now for about 8 years.

Liatris - depends on the species you are growing as to whether or not they are drought tolerant. The common Liatria spicata is not drought tolerant and likes swamp-like conditions to do well. Mine is flopping some this year, but I think it is because it needs to be divided. It is a huge group of corms that have become over crowded. Some of the other native Liatris survive on drought conditions much better, like L. ligulistylis, and L. pycnostachys.

I grow a number of native plants, because they easily adapt to the growing conditions in Oklahoma, and have survived because of their adaptability. Here is a group that do well for me, both native and non-native:

Cephalanthus occidentalis - Button Bush, a native
Asclepias - different milkweed species, are host plants
for the Monarch butterfly, and nectar plants as well, and
the natives I grow include A. speciosa, A. incarnata, A.
tuberosa, and the non-native annuals, A. curassavica and
Calotropis gigantea
Senna bicapsulis - an annual non-native reseeder here, it
is a larval host for the Cloudless Sulphur and Sleepy
Orange butterflies
Senna hebecarpa - a native Senna, with very attractive
blooms, same as above
Passiflora 'Lavendar Lady' - gorgeous, gorgeous blooming
vine, non-native except for parent, P. incarnata
Passiflora incarnata - native to Oklahoma, but will come up
in various locations the following year - easily pulled up
Salvia 'Lady in Red' hybrid of native - virtually an
invincible Salvia that is not hardy, but reseeds each year
Salvia 'Black and Blue' - non-native hybrid, hardy and
beautiful blue blooms with black calyces
Salvia 'Hot Lips' - non-native hybrid, gorgeous bi-color
red & white bicolor blooms
Salvia 'Cherry Queen' - non-native hybrid, beautiful deep
red blooms
Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii - Flame Acanthus,
with red-orange blooms
Florence Fennel and Bronze Fennel - non-natives, love for
the texture and as a larval host for the Black
Swallowtail butterfly
Datura wrightii - comes back every year and love the huge
white trumpets - night bloomer for sphinx moths
Phlox 'Wanda' - Bustani Plant Farm is the only one that
carries this - blooms from spring to fall - lavendar/pink
Verbesina encelioides-Golden Crownbeard, Cowpen Daisy - has
pretty silvery green foliage, annual that reseeds, native
Zinnias - always great in the garden and loves heat
Coneflowers - or Echinaceas - some do well and some don't;
I have the species E. purpureum, which is actually pink
and it does well
Spigelia marilandica - Indian Pink (for the roots, not the blooms, which are red) - don't see this mentioned much and it is a wonderful little native the hummers love and is very pretty with its red tubular blooms with yellow throats. Tough, and will tolerate our roller coaster environment

You mentioned Clematis and one that does very well in our climate for me is C. 'Polish Spirit'. Purple blooms. It is a viticella hybrid, and I think, in my humble opinion, that the viticellas do best here. I also grow 'Nelly Moser', Jackmanii, and Dr. Rupple. Jackmanii does okay, but the other two suffer when our environment is hot and dry. There is one I haven't tried that is native to Texas - C. texensis, with scarlet red blooms. I imagine it would do well here, too.

An annual I am growing this year that loves the heat and sun, is Gazania. Love the blooms, which can be any color - on the same plant! except blue I think. They bloom their little heads off. I'll be saving seed from these.

Asters are great for fall bloom here and take just about any kind of soil you can throw at them. I have a native, Aster oblongifolius, which gets huge, as does my non-native Aster tartaricus 'Jindai', which its large, paddle like foliage. But, boy are they stunning when they bloom in the fall!

Hope this has helped you out some, too.


    Bookmark   July 2, 2011 at 8:23AM
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I sort of skimmed through this so if this suggestion was mentioned I just missed it. There's a lot of type up there. I ran across a garden plan called a "Walled Garden" that was based on a cloister garden inspired by an old rectory. Doesn't that conjure up nice thoughts? Anyway, its for Texas and they always keep in mind drought and heat hardiness. One vine listed was Crossvine and another was climbing Prairie Rose. I looked up the Crossvine, very pretty and dense and it said it was a good climber. They also suggested Texas Wisteria which is not supposed to be as invasive as the European ones and an espaliered Magnolia. I think other espaliered plants would also be nice and that would work on a tall chain link fence such as you described. I always thought it would be fun to try that. You said you had a 6' chain link fence. What about a row of espaliered fruit trees? or something ornamental?

    Bookmark   July 2, 2011 at 3:36PM
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Thanks, guys. I really appreciate the ideas. I hadn't thought of doing an espalier on the fence, but of course it's possible. There are oak trees growing on the far side of the fence and hanging over it, but I hope to be able to eliminate some of them eventually. That brings to mind a tough plant that has always been pretty iron-clad for me. Mahonia (Oregon grape) doesn't seem to require care, and I ran an espalier of it all down along an ugly garage wall. It doesn't get very tall. I think 4' is about the maximum, but it's hard to beat when it comes to toughness. It does not seem to mind heat, cold, a heavy snow load, gallons of rain, and considerable drought.

Susan, I was particularly interested to hear about that Phlox, and will also look into the Datura and Passiflora. It's good to have recommended varieties that have worked well for OK gardeners. Maybe I'll avoid so many mistakes. If I just didn't want to be greedy and try to find things with a long bloom period, low care, interesting shape or fall foliage color, and really hardy, I'm sure it would be easier.

Someone mentioned that they are trying brugmansia? I can't find the post now to remind me of who it was, but I was amazed. I've seen them in full bloom in San Diego, where the temp rarely falls below 40 degrees, so they grow into really spectacular small ornamental trees. However, that brought something else to mind. I've crowded some plants way beyond their climate zone at times, and had some successes with it. Camellia, crape myrtle and a few others have turned into handsome shrubs in a z5-6 mountain garden where they have lived for about 20 years. But, to get them through the first cold winters, I wrapped the trunks or covered them up with Garden Quilt from Gardener's Supply. I know that the best scenario is to plant things that are rated for our climate, but all of us will try something iffy now and then.

I tried putting in Miss Huff lantana here and promptly lost all of them with the first winter cold snap, but last year I tried again and covered them with Garden Blanket. I think all of them survived. They aren't thriving the way they normally would be, but I haven't fed them and the water situation is hard on them.
Naturally, I seem to wait until the weather is miserably cold and a freeze warning has been issued before I remember to go out and do the plants, but it's easy to use. I usually take along a little stapler, so it's fast. Cut the fabric to size, wrap it around the plant or trunk, fold over the edges and staple them together. It's done in a snap, and I've saved a whole lot of plants that way. I don't know for sure, but it's supposed to raise the temperature about 15-20 degrees. If you have invested in something that's rated for a much milder winter climate, it might be worth trying it. It could prevent losses of young plants.

Does anyone know if Pistache or 'Shademaster' Gleditsia (locust) trees will make it here, or does the climate beat them up too much? How about the pink dogwood Cornus florida?
What about astilbe? It refused to bloom or do much of anything for me in the mountain garden. Has anyone grown it? Would it be worth a try here?

Someone mentioned deer in their hemerocallis, so I had to send along this photo taken out my CA kitchen window. Needless to say, we had to deer fence the roses and veggies, and gave up on trying to have tulips in bloom! They did seem to leave the daylilies alone though.


    Bookmark   July 2, 2011 at 4:45PM
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I have a hybrid dogwood tree, 'Stellar Pink'. It's supposed to have better disease and borer resistance than the Cornus Florida, though I didn't know it at the time when I bought it. I still have so much to learn. :p

It's on its fourth season since I planted it, and it's looking pretty good. It's been slow to grow, though, and isn't very drought tolerant. I have to water it deeply and regularly to keep it happy, but I think it's finally starting to get settled in. It did have a curious switch to white flowers this spring, though I read that it's not uncommon for the hybrids to have a temporary color identity crisis after they're transplanted. I'm hoping it'll switch back to pink next year.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2011 at 9:31PM
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All the Mahonias that I know of are recommended for desert climates. If I am correct (and a lot of times I'm not) they are in the Berberis family aren't they? Agarito is a nice spiny one that can reach 8 feet and gets lots of red berries. Makes a good security fence. They take some shade too. My red Barberry is drought hardy and I only water it deeply once a month but its a giant and well established. Its in full sun for the best color.

A really pretty tree that is very drought tolerant and blooms most of the season is Desert Willow. Its downside is that it has no winter interest but I really like how airy they are. TLC had some kind of improved variety with larger pink flowers and it smelled very fragrant and nice. Not one of those over powering smells you'd get tired of. I can't remember the name of the variety. They were very pretty in form and denser than the native types. The flowers look like orchids. It would do better here than dogwood and you'd have a longer bloom season. They grow faster with watering but will take drought very well.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2011 at 10:33PM
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Cactusgarden: thank you so much for mentioning Desert willow. They planted a couple in the park by my house and I had no idea what they were but your description was right on and I googled them. Now I need one!

Also, your landscaping is amazing!

    Bookmark   July 3, 2011 at 12:04PM
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Hi Cactus,

I'm not absolutely positive about the mahonia we've had, but I'm pretty sure it's the aquifolium (Oregon grape holly) and it's hardy to zone 5. Drought tolerant, it can live for months without water, but it can take normal watering. It can also stand under months of snow and survive 60" of rain in the spring without skipping a beat. True to its name, it has a holly shape leaf, plus bright yellow blossoms, and a dark blue berry. The leaves are spiky like a holly, but the stems have no spines, so it isn't hard to work with. It can be a slow grower, but also responds well to feeding. Yes, it is a relative of the barberry. It's a native to the mountains of NorCA, and I don't think this variety would do well on the desert. Whether it would grow here or not is another story. I can't help with a named variety. My parents have grown it for 30 years and I don't even know where it came from originally. I was going to post a link to the page on a well known garden site that describes this particular one and has photos, but got a notice that all links or references to it are blocked to prevent spam. It belongs to a man named David. You know?

Thanks for the suggestion on the Desert Willow. It sounds interesting. I had not heard of it before, so I'll look it up. The corkscrew willow I've had for two years has taken off and is growing like crazy. It's about 10 times the width it was when I got it, and has jumped from a little 3' wisp into a 12' tree. I've even given away starts from it.

Someone mentioned that veronica will do well here. Is it the longifolia? I would love to try it, if you think it will work.

Also, Jeanie, you said to try the perovskia again. I would love to, but I wonder if what I had was actually the atroplicifolia that I ordered.. I'd have to go back through my old garden receipts to find the name of it. Can anyone tell from this photo? Those blossom stems were easily 18" long, and very showy. The leaves seemed to be greener than most sages. It looked like it would be gorgeous once it was established, but I only managed to keep it alive through one summer season. It was gone the next spring. Is there a specific one that you've had success in growing?

I put in a white sage this year, for some contrast, and will see if it makes it, but I really wanted perovskia.


    Bookmark   July 3, 2011 at 12:11PM
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Ooo! That's pretty! I hope we can ID it because I want one!

    Bookmark   July 3, 2011 at 1:20PM
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