Growing wild and weather-conscious

reddingJuly 14, 2011

This is sort of a extension of the discussion Jeanie started about wildflowers. Maybe I should have said "conditions conscious" instead of weather, since the soil must obviously also be taken into consideration. Please pardon the rambling dialog. I'm just tossing thoughts out to see what comments and ideas may come back.

I've pretty well decided that I'm not going to try for a xeric garden, exactly, because I'm apt to lose a lot of it if we have a wet and normal year. What I'm going to aim for is a water-wise garden that can make the best use of the worst conditions (heat, drought, flooding, chill, clay soil, etc) and can still make it when the conditions change. I'm not sure that any plants at all can survive against all of those things, but more careful selection and care in siting surely will make a big difference.

Driving into town yesterday (Shawnee) was a serious wake-up call. It's about 15 miles to town and through pretty heavily wooded country. What's happening to a lot of old growth is really scary. If I had to make a guess, I'd estimate that about 15% of the established trees are in trouble. I saw oaks, sycamores, mimosa, redbud and pines in rough shape everywhere I looked. The pines seem to be the hardest hit, but so many others are not far behind.

Fields that are in bottomland with a good water table are still modestly green, but they are the same areas that flood in the spring and send the big round bales floating away. Catch-22.

So, rather than put in the stuff I want and like, as I had been doing, and suffering the subsequent losses, I've begun looking around for suitable substitutes. Say, in place of the dogwood that probably would struggle, I'll get a doublefile viburnun that looks very much like it but is a lot tougher.

My hydrangeas this year have had a running battle with the heat. Some are clearly tougher than others, and I'm becoming very conscious of survivability, without, as Jo said, spending hours in watering every day. Between the hydrangeas and the hibiscus it's a constant struggle to keep them going. I love the hydrangeas, but would also trade them for a couple of nice big showy salvias that could keep right on trucking and bloom all summer.

The maple trees are getting up to the point where they are beginning to cast some shade, but even one of those has been in trouble this year. Even my Goldflame honeysuckle has quit blooming and is looking less than pleased about the heat, and it can usually tolerate just about anything and stay showy.

Speaking of trees, has anyone tried gleditsia triacanthus (thornless locust) here? Are they too brittle to survive the winters and the wind? I've always liked them for a garden because the leaves are small enough that things can survive under them, although they can sometimes send out surface roots.

Cactus really got me going with the photos of her wonderful native garden. Mine won't be the same, but I'm certainly going to take a page out of her book and begin to be a whole lot more selective in what I plant, and where. The result will probably end up being sort of cottage-y and sort of xeric. I don't care if it has no specific style - as long as it lives happily and is a garden.

I just got or ordered a couple of the books by Scott Ogden and Lauren Springer and will be paying a lot more attention from now on. Since we've had two winters of respectable snow, and now the drought conditions, it's beginning to look like a serious heads-up for changing climate conditions.


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If you'd like some native viburnum, come dig all you want. The only things tougher around here than viburnum? Virginia Creeper, Smilax and Poison Ivy/Oak. Yes, its blooms are pretty, but it has very bad manners. I left some because I thought the berries would be good for the wildlife. Nobody eats them. They just drop where they are and start more plants. The runners are ridiculous. Wait, what am I saying here? This is not a very convincing argument to get you to dig some, is it?


    Bookmark   July 14, 2011 at 2:35PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

But the native viburnums are so pretty when they bloom! (Seedmama, I'm doing my best to convince her to come dig some.) They also are very drought-tolerant. Ours survived the drought of 2003 when less than 19" of rain fell the entire year, and also survived a year in which almost 54" of rain fell. Any plant that can tolerate both those extremes in clay soil has got to be pretty tough.

Three other plants here that can survive wild temperature and moisture swings are rough-leaf dogwood, sumac and beautyberry as understory plants under post oaks. The beautyberries may get really sad looking in Extreme to Exceptional drought, but they survive.

We were about 10 miles NW of our house last afternoon and evening at a wildfire. The area where we were is a research foundation ranch where it appears Mother Nature is left alone to do her own thing with little to no human interference, so of course there's no irrigation. They've had about 11" of rain there this year and are in 'Extreme' drought. What did I learn from looking at what was growing on that land? There's very little green there, and it is in the low-lying land, not the upland areas. Some trees are still green. No grass or forbs are green. None. Nada. Zilch. Even the prickly pear plants were yellow and lying prostrate on the ground. There was very little wildlife. Firefighters who were on the fire ground saw no wildlife at all which is unusual. Often we see wild animals fleeing ahead of the approaching fire. Of course, why should there be any wildlife there---there's no food left for them.

Seedmama, In many areas, the smilax is browning out here....not that I think it will die or anything, but it at least will die back to the ground.

Pat, Often our native trees drop leaves as a survival mechamism in drought years. A lot of them did that in 2003, 2005-06 and 2008, but almost all of them survived and leafed out the following spring. A few of them were so happy when rainfall returned in the autumn that they broke dormancy and bloomed then. It was just one of those drought-related oddities.

Somewhere there is a list of trees that tolerate ice well, but the truth is that most of them break under a heavy load of ice. Our locust trees here don't break any more or less than anything else.


    Bookmark   July 14, 2011 at 3:23PM
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Dawn, I think you summed up the situation and answered accurately the conditions question with "Our locust trees here don't break any more or less than anything else".

Anything you plant is possibly subject to damage (blight, drought, wind, hail, snow, flood, pests) if its outdoors. Most plants will snap back in the next season or if its bad, after a season or two. Sometimes we have a bad bagworm year or if its not that, its something else. Remember the year with the zillions of web worms? Every tree practically looked decked out for Halloween, awful.

In 1998 which is the most similar year I can remember to this one, we had ALL the trees dropping leaves and some serious tip die off, even the hollies. It was worse than this year. A lot of trimming went on afterwards but everything for the most part recovered.
Those two big ice storms were worse. Its just all part of the cycle of things.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2011 at 4:43PM
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I don't think I'd be very enthusiastic about a creeping viburnum. I already have all the wild Virginia creeper I need, as well as a trumpet vine that I'm managing (sort of) to keep under control, and our share of poison oak and wild honeysuckle. The viburnum I'm particularly looking at is the doublefile, with it's open lateral habit and large white blossoms that look like dogwood. I don't think I have any viburnum at all on the property, but the vegetation between the barns where the water leak was located . . . . well, it's so dense that I'm not sure quite what might be hiding in there. I don't think I can even get in there at the moment.

I haven't had much luck with beautyberry in the past, but I was quite interested in the notation about rough-leaf dogwood, and I do love the color in the ornamental sumac. It grows wild in the extreme conditions of the central WA high desert, and it's spectacular.

I do want to be careful about trees that are prone to shatter in an ice storm. We lost the big ornamental pear a couple of years ago and it barely missed taking out the living room window. Then the roots sprouted everywhere! I've also lost pistache from an out-of-season snow load that caused heavy damage. I'd need to think twice about planting one here. And I want to avoid anything that's at all prone to webworm. Yuck! The Moraine locust seems to be resistant, if I can believe the notations on it.

Dawn, I know the trees can drop leaves to survive, but what I saw simply looked scorched, almost as if a fire had damaged them, except that they were randomly and widely scattered everywhere we looked. Really ugly and sad.

Now if we could just manage to turn ragweed into a commercial crop . . . . . All my pasture grass is history and if we do try to water, the only thing that responds is the ragweed. The sheep won't eat it, so I have heavy stands of it wherever it has managed to get any water.


    Bookmark   July 14, 2011 at 4:55PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Cactusgarden, It appears we are having one of those webworm years here, and it has developed during the last couple of weeks. I haven't seen any on our property, but just a couple of miles from us I have seen a lot of very tall trees (a whole almost every tree) with maybe 15 to 20 to 30 separate webs of worms in them. They weren't there at all a couple of weeks ago, then we saw a couple, then we saw explosive population growth and now there's millions if not quite zillions. Stressed plants, of course, often suffer more from pests.

In 1998 we had bought this property and were clearing it and fencing it. The builder broke ground in August 1998. Naturally we still lived in Texas, but we came up here on weekends. I wasn't paying a lot of attention to the weather up here...except it was hot and dry, but it was hot and dry in Texas too and my struggle there was to keep the garden alive while simultaneously abandoning it to spend the weekends up here. I do remember both 1998 and 1999 had some ridiculously hot days. In August 1999 we hit 108, 110, 111 and either 112 or 113 depending on which thermometer you looked at on various days. My DH's sister and her family came to visit from PA in 1999 and we were having highs in the 108s-110s that week. We kept saying "it really isn't this hot here all the time".

I guess I should have taken those two hot summers as an omen of what was to come in the 2000s, since we've had serious recurring bouts with drought every other year or so since then. To be fair---2004 was pretty wet and mild and so was at least the first half of 2007.

It is part of the natural cycle of things, but I sure don't like it! It is officially 107 at our mesonet station and 108 at our house. I sure do miss the snow and the cold right now.

Fire pagers are going off as I type this. At the rate we're having fires, there won't be any trees left to drop their leaves (or not) because they'll all be black and charred.


    Bookmark   July 14, 2011 at 5:16PM
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Dawn, We only had a few webworms last year and as of yet I haven't seen them this year. What county are you in? I keep hearing that SW Oklahoma is missing any rain and is in very bad shape.

We had all the stucco off of our house in 1998 for a much needed redo and were exposed so that drought was a bit of a blessing in disguise at least for us, but we didn't go around rubbing it in to anyone. That was the year I started drastically changing gardening directions. A trip through Texas and NM was the biggest factor though. I am one of the few people I know who likes that naturally barren looking western landscape. I dislike a lot of trees and do a silent cheer when Nature's Natural Pruner comes through with an ice storm or something like that as far as the trees are concerned. I have had some problems with too much neighbor shade fixed in one stroke along with power poles finally being out of harms way.

There were way too many Bradford Pears over planted here (but not anymore, post ice storm). A popular tree will often be over planted like that to the point of boring redundancy. They are notorious for falling apart in wind and ice. Chinese Pistache is recommended however and most of these held up very well. They are good for planting close to a driveway or patio too as their roots grow straight down and don't split the concrete.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2011 at 5:57PM
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Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos) is a great tree in Oklahoma. They are not quite thornless though. I've never seen or heard of one getting ice damage, though anything is possible. During the last big ice storm we had here, several of our Hackberry trees sustained some pretty bad ice damage, and they aren't known for being weak wooded.

Is the native viburnum the same as Rusty Blackhaw Viburnum (Viburnum rufidulum)? If so i'd go for it. It's a great shrub that tolerates most anything you can throw at it.

I've been planting along the same lines of what you are talking about for the last year and a half, though i'm sticking to mostly natives.

What other plants have you been thinking about?


I'm with's to the next big ice storm that wipes out all of the callery pears! Perhaps we'll get a nice plague to kill all of the pampas grass and crapemytrles as well (sorry, i know some people on the forum love those).

I saw some pics of your garden on the ornamental grass forum i think...very nice. It reminds me of my mothers garden in San Antonio. She has a great love of cacti and succulents. We actually used to pick the prickly pears as children and have prickly pear fights...sounds pretty bad now.


    Bookmark   July 14, 2011 at 6:58PM
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Right after my last post, the UPS truck arrived with my new red yucca from HCG. It looks really good, which is a blessing, since I can't afford to buy many plants. I'm really excited about getting it going in a nice dry spot where it will stand out.
The seeds I have for next year are Missouri primrose, mirabilis, agastache, zauchneria latifolia, and some drought-hardy penstemons.

That's good news about both the honey locust and the pistache. I fully agree that the callery pear has been hugely over-planted. I didn't think we'd ever get rid of all the new ones that sprouted from the old roots, and we haven't. I finally gave up and let some of them grow to provide shade for the propane tank in summer. At least they are doing that much, but it's been a real battle to control the hundreds that popped up. I guess it could have been worse. It could have hit the window when it came down.

Since a couple of you have said you'd be happy with a true SW style of garden, it opens the door for me to post these two photos. I love this garden and would be perfectly happy with it. It's all inside a big walled 'courtyard'.

You understand that I'd naturally want the house that goes with it!!


    Bookmark   July 14, 2011 at 7:53PM
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Thank you Matt. If I see one more Bradford Pear being planted I am going to throw up on it. Ditto on the Pampas which I might add need to be divided (Hello??) when they get that ugly dead center. I think everyone bought them the same year because I haven't seen a single one growing as an eyesore that isn't in that stage of decline.

However, I must say, the highway plantings of Chaste Trees, Native and Ornamental (other than the dreaded Pampas) Grasses and Ravenne Grass are a good trend. I am not real fond of the Ravenne but its holding it own out there and as specimen plantings and from a distance with lots of blank space around it, its rather striking. Crepe Myrtles... Yawn! Enough already. I dug all mine up for big junk day and finally got those roots killed.

People of minority taste must stand together, else we are trodden under all the B. Pears and Myrtles.

Here is my fav. There is a yard I drive by that has the most be-utiful buffalo grass. So soft and pretty. I wish more people would plant it and we could outlaw bermuda. I actually like it best when its all soft and dormant looking. On this stretch of grass beauty and appropriateness is ............... 3 banana trees and three large clumps of, you guessed it, PAMPAS GRASS. Now I ask, what the H... is that? ???

Here is another mind puzzling one. (I could go on all day as I mentally collect these weird combos to rant about and cannot pass by without commenting) There is a stand of nice tall Fir Trees. Under planted (leaning in all different directions in the shade trying to escape), are fan PALMS. That singular variety of palm that will just survive here (sort of). Did they ask "Should we do Colorado or Florida?" and simply solve the indecision with "Why not just do both!" ?? Maybe a nice big prickly pear would fit under those trees as well? I could offer one.


    Bookmark   July 14, 2011 at 7:59PM
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Tell me about it. The holy trinity of Oklahoma landscaping is Crapemyrtle, Pampas Grass and the ugly green monster Liriope. Toss in a few Blue Atlas Cedars spaced 5' on center and you've got yourself a winner.

Ok, i'm off my soapbox now. I'm currently battling some bermuda grass in the front yard. I've got my beds all laid out, and as soon as the weeds are gone and the weather cools down, i'm ready to plant. So far the plant list is:

Switchgrass 'Heavy Metal'
Switchgrass 'Dallas Blues'
Prairie Dropseed
Little Bluestem 'The Blues'
Adam's Needle Yucca 'Color Guard'
Ninebark 'Diabolo'
Staghorn Sumac 'Tiger Eyes'
Baptisia australis
Callirhoe involucrata
Oenothera macrocarpa
Liatris aspera
Penstemon cobaea
Salvia azurea
Rudbeckia fulgida
Juniper 'Skyrocket'

Just biding my time...waiting for fall. Seems like i was just biding my time, waiting for spring not too long ago.

Anyway, i saw in your pics that you had some winecups and missouri primrose do they perform for you?


    Bookmark   July 14, 2011 at 10:18PM
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When you mentioned the big dead center of pampas grasses, you reminded me of a neat trick i saw on The Victory Garden on PBS. Instead of digging up that gigantic clump of grass, just get a reciprocating saw with a 12" blade and cut the dead circle out of the middle. Apparently the grass will recover in one season. I haven't tried it out yet, but ive got a bunch of 'Dallas Blues' planted this season, so in a few years, i'll give it a shot.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2011 at 10:28PM
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OK Matt, you are now my hero and friend with the lirope remark! So nice to meet a kindred spirit. LIROPE. Gads! I spent endless hours and dug that crud out of my garden after being idiotic enough to actually inflict it upon myself years and years ago before I became an insufferable native plant snob. Oh look. A tree. Lets plant Lirope under it! And it makes such a nice little ruffle around every single bed too! I figure since the aforementioned plants we are trashing have such an overwhelming popular following, the sky won't fall if a couple of us say "Blah" and point our thumbs down and these same plants will survive in gardens everywhere without threat of extinction and us not growing them.

I love your list. You have some up there I am dying to try and haven't. I want to plant a sumac and can't for the life of me figure out a spot for it. I am dying to try the Small Leaved Sumac.

The winecups are easy (wintersow them) and look very good until around the first of July and then they die back some and start putting out seed. They look good spilling over a wall and need some room to spread. I cut it back when it gets ratty looking. The Missouri Primrose (also wintersow and easy) always looks good and blooms continuously with just a bit of extra water, (once every two weeks here lately) Both will bloom the first year and both have a long taproot. If given a bit of extra water, the primrose blooms almost every evening and all day long when its cloudy.

I have 3 of the 'Heavy Metal' and once grew one called "Prairie Skies' which is similar to 'Dallas Blues'. It flopped unless it got a lot of sun, more than a half day. I have 6 of the Northwind and I have to say I like it better than the 'Heavy Metal' because its olive green. It is touted to look "spraystarched" and it absolutely does. Thats said, I also like the 'Heavy Metal' but it definitely takes second place. Prairie Dropseed is a very slow grower. You might want to consider ordering it from Santa Rosa Gardens this fall when they have their annual half off of half price sale. I am going to order some then. It takes about 3 or 4 years to get a mature plant and it needs cold stratification.

I don't have an Adam's Needle but did get a Sapphire Skies yucca Rostrata this year and I love it. Yucca does good except sometimes it gets infested with a beetle and you have to sprinkle sulfur on it. Be sure to plant it where you want to keep it because they are terrible to move. They are very massive underground.

Liatris is always good but it will take some time before you see blooms or a mature plant. These are available as bareroot from a place I will have to look up. I posted this in another letter and now have forgotten. Its that place associated with the Native Plant site in Texas that is dedicated to Lady Bird Johnson.

Ninebark 'Diabolo' is a new one on me. Oh good. One to look up. I love hearing about a new plant. I haven't heard of that particular penstemon either and wan to look it up too. I ordered P. ambiguus seed and now wish I'd also ordered Thurber's after looking it up earlier today. I did well with wild Pink Snapdragon, pseudospectabilis and "so so" with the pineleaf. I planted enough to loose some plants however, so I am still set with them and collected some seeds.

'The Blues' is very blue. I ordered 8 last fall from SRG and I love it. I don't think there is a dog in the bunch when it comes to Little Bluestem and its my favorite grass if not favorite of all the plants I have. Those small plants put out a few seeds and the seedlings look the same color as the parents which are nice sized this year and starting to send up bloom stems. I'm collecting different types of little bluestem. They seems to vary from one strain to another. I also like the Indiangrass. I dug some up by the side of the road last fall and its very blue and vertical. And free$$.

The salvia is supposed to be a bit rangy, I think, and best at the back of the border I read. It might flop if its a wet year but thats just my guess.

My sister has many rudbeckia but I haven't done much. She has them naturalized and gets many compliments on them. I am thinking about doing Mexican hats instead.

My strongest continuously blooming natives are Thelosperma, Desert Marigold and Flameflowers. You will never have a day without blooms with these on your property from spring to fall. They all naturalize well which is either good or bad, depending on what you want.

The leadplant may have to go on my list too. Every year I say I will do that one. I am grass crazy right now but starting to gradually come back around to the forbs.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2011 at 11:14PM
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I know just what you mean about trends that everyone seems to follow for a while, ad nauseum. I can't help but remember a class when the instructor asked 'what do we never want to do with a landscape plan?' Without prompting, the whole class chanted back "redwood bark and juniper!" We were all SO sick of looking at it. . . . everywhere! Photinia was the next thing on the list. It has its uses, but good grief, I do wish people would show some individuality, so the yards don't all look like carbon copies of the neighbors.


    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 12:02AM
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Well Pat, actually its not as much being sick of looking at it as it is the fact that its not native. I am very proud of our state and wish we tended toward natives more than we do.

The personality of the state is altered by the artificialness of it all. Pampas Grass, which is from South America, looks out of place here and flashy especially when there are so many native grasses that are wonderful and we should be proud to use them. The Ravenne is also imported but somehow not so flashy looking and lush so it seems a better choice visually if you just have to go that huge imported grass direction. The lines of endless Bradford pears(from China and Vietnam) are artificial looking and that seems to be exactly why they are so popular, the perfect shape syndrome. The perfect green, water sucking, fertilized lawn syndrome of typically bermuda (from Africa) and the summer long flowering, well behaved, spring trimmed crepe myrtle (from Asia) syndrome completes the perfectly behaving landscape where no local "weeds" are allowed and everything is EXPECTED to behave like well manicured clockwork. Oh and the perfect edging syndrome with the beyond boring and "all one perfect height" liriope (from Asia) in its neat perfect lines staying nice and green all summer syndrome. It just doesn't look like "Oklahoma" because it isn't.

Seems people in the city are addicted to big flower flash, perfection and instant color all season and perpetual green. Sprinkler systems are a must. Our fun nurseries have disappeared here for the most part and now Home Depot and Lowe's seem to dictate what anyone plants. It all rather corporate.

We used to have some very nice small privately owned nurseries around here that offered different plants. Moesel's Horthaven. Anyone remember Marjorie Moesel? What a fun trip that was to look at plants!

Its now like Walmart. They are the same no matter where you go. Thats partly why people like Walmart I imagine. They know exactly what to expect.

I like the local "weeds". I also like a lot of the Southwestern "weeds". The American native ones that is. I love the Oklahoma and SW native grasses and like the trend I see of using them more in landscaping. I applaud it everywhere I see it happening and boo the other direction people seem to want to take, but I am in a very small minority.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 3:50AM
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I couldn't agree more about landscaping as a way to express the nature of a given landscape. Have you ever heard of the landscape architect Jens Jensen? He was very influetial in the native plants movement and a proponent of the prairie school of landscape design in Chicago in the early 1900's. You should look him up, i think you'd like his ideas. He wrote a great book called Siftings about his design philosophy. It's a good read and very inspirational.

Im a big fan of little bluestem 'the blues' as well. Too much so actually. One of the earlier designs for my front yard was going to include a kind of informal hedge using 'the blues', but i scrapped the design. Of course that was after i bought 75 plugs of it from Bluestone! I've been planting it everywhere i can just to use it up.

I work in Edmond and live in OKC, and i usualy take the back roads home, and i'm so tempted to stop on the side of the road to dig up plants! I've seen Indian grass, crossvine, sumac...maybe one of these days i'll remember my trowel. They will all be mowed down at some point anyway, so in a way i'm saving them.

The 'diabolo' looks like a prett cool shrub so far. It's sitting in a pot on my deck right now, waiting to be planted. The ninebarks are found more in the wetter eastern part of OK, but this cultvar is supposed to be tough and drought tolerant. The leaves emerge a coppery color and mature to a dark purple. It turns into a monster at 8-10', but you can cut it back every year and keep it around 5' and intensify the color of the foliage too.


    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 9:56AM
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My crepe myrtles were taller than the house already when my sister and I used the space between them as our playhouse. We wore the "floor" smooth and hard, and we decorated by hanging things on little twig stubs. Since then they have bounced back from many ice storms and droughts. I never water them. So for weather-conscious, (and sentimentality) they win for me, native or not.

Moesels Hort Haven was a mysterious magical place, too bad I didn't have a garden in those days. I would go there just to have a break from the featureless expanse of OKC. I'm going to miss Oasis in Stillwater when she closes. It has been great to have someone who can talk about every single plant she has. The garden she used to have out front was a great example for people- Baptista, red yucca, they way they could actually look if done right. And she only puts things out for sale when it was the right time to plant them, regardless of what Lowes is up to.

I'm enjoying Bustani and their interest in native OK plants. However, I also like that they are introducing plants they find in Africa, etc., that they think will work here too. And again, anybody working there can talk about any plant they have.

But for silly plantings, my neighbors down the street win my prize. In October of last year they filled their front bed (in permanent shade no less) with a row of big tropical houseplants from Wal-Mart. They had to have spent over $100.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 11:07AM
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I also agree about the native plantings. I said we were sick of looking at it because there was a trend on the west coast (and several other places) for a "landscape" of red lava rock, bark, and junipers. Low maintenance, yes. Probably as water-conscious as a suburbanite could imagine, but really pretty awful when you see it everywhere. As to the Photinia fraserii, it was a fad that moved in and took over. Not that it isn't a nice shrub, but when it's used everywhere it gets to be a bit much. You can even get sick of ice cream if it's a constant diet.

I'm still looking into some of the grasses, both as individuals and also the possibility of tearing out at least part of the lawn and replacing it with native stuff. I once read an article that said we are the only species who would consider ripping out all the natural vegetation in an area so we can plant specific grass, water it to make it grow lush, and then buy expensive machinery to cut it down to an exact height. Ain't it the truth??!

As a 'silly gardening' story, here's one that boggles the mind. I was once called in on a "do something - QUICK!" project on a big chunk of landscape. It was a new (as in less than 3 year old) home with a front elevation of nearly 100' long. The wife was a ditherer with too much money and very little sense. She had gone out and bought not just 'plants' but started trees in 25" boxes and then let them all sit in the sun with no care for 18 months. Row after row of plants in all sizes and shapes. Thousands of dollars, and all stone dead. It was sickening.
Now they had a daughter graduating and wanted to throw a big party. They needed the landscape cleaned up, green and 'pretty' for the event . . . in 10 days time. Sheeeeeeesh!!

Luckily they had a vineyard crew that I could borrow for all the clean-up, digging and planting, because there was a whole lot of it. Flat bare lawn area in front, huge pool patio with a big sloping hill behind it in back, big raised fountain, and so on. A big, big job for a last minute project, but they just couldn't have the limo drive up with the kids and have it looking like it was. People can be so bizarre at times.


    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 11:32AM
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I wish I could send you a bunch of African Sumac. Not sure if you'd want to deal with them, they're so weedy but boy do they grow and thrive in drought and provide big shade trees! Unfortunately, they are only hardy to zone 8b.
I'm trying to kill a bunch now as they are volunteering all over my yard but if it's big, hardy shade trees you want they do provide and they live with no water at all.
I wonder if Palo Verde are hardy in your zone? One of my favorites. A fast growing tree with lovely green bark and bright yellow flowers. I think it's a mesquite relative.
I do love salvias, although I've managed to kill a few this year. Lavender also do great in drought.
I also had a lovely barrel cactus in Lawton with brilliant fuchsia color flowers. I was a delinquent and stole it off Ft. sill. I think it was some rare species that only grows around the Wichita Mountains but it sure looked stunning in my garden.
Redwoods are always so pretty and the old style Bradford pears seem to do pretty well most of the time.
Maybe look to what does well in Colorado, too. They are extremely dry and have extreme cold. Not so much heat but the winds on the front range are brutal. Perhaps some front range landscaping ideas would work. The Blue Spruce is a stunning tree.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 11:35AM
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Colorado Blue Spruce don't perform very well here, though they're sold everywhere and widely planted. They need full sun to flourish, but our full sun is just too much for them. Same goes with Dwarf Alberta Spruce. Same deal, different color.


We don't see it much around here, but i always cringe as well whenever i see Redwood mulch or lumber or anything for that matter. I lived up in Arcata for a bit while going to Humboldt state, and saw much of the devastation of the old growth Redwood forests. Doesn't seem like an even trade off...loss of 100 year old trees for mulch and redwood decks.


    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 12:04PM
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Betty, its depressing hearing Bustani's is closing. Another brick in the wall! I used to watch Oklahoma Gardening religiously when Steve Owens was on it. I have a prairie clover plant from there. The guys out in Guthrie who provide plants for the Farmers Market (Pam's) have some natives they sell. I was talking to him about growing Prairie Dropseed and he said he might.

Do those people plant plastic flowers in winter when the tropicals freeze?

Matt, I looked up that 'Diablo'. That is really pretty. The sumac was too. It sounds very heat and drought hardy. The only downside seemed to be that it might get mildew in high humidity. We have problems with that on a lot of plants. I like having something with a big splash of deep burgundy. I'll be interested to hear how it does. They cut down my favorite field on that corner where the highway ends and there's that stop sign last week. Thats the field I want. Maybe its to rejuvenate it? Its such a nice one, I hope it isn't up for sale as a new housing site. I dug up a liatris, along with some heath asters around those parts. You really might need to stick a shovel in the trunk of your car, a trowel couldn't hardly penetrate that sticky clay I dug in but I did manage it. A trash bag was also a handy thing to have. I got seeds from the Maximillian Sunflowers but backed off from planting them in the end. No space.

I'm interested in checking out the bluestem plugs. Thanks for the tip on that. I have a long strip of clay on the property line I'm clearing and that might be a possibility. Oh, and I saw that same OETA show on coring out the grasses like an apple. He made it look easy.

Tracy, the Palo Verdes won't make it here but I wonder if the Retama (Jerusalem Thorn) would? Probably not. Neither will the acacias. A lot of things that grow well in high altitudes in Colorado can't survive here at all so I avoid them all no matter what the cold tolerance zone number is on it. A lot of those plants have a high temperature tolerance number on the tag that is around Zone 7 and then a very low number like 1 or 2. I always consider that a tip-off that summer is going to be a problem. Seems almost cruel to plant a high altitude plant here and I'd only try plants growing in the four corners areas I think. The exception is many of cactus and agaves if you can provide the drainage. Its those high altitude agaves that are the cold hardy ones.

Pat, that Photinia is very popular around here too. Its another Asian.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 4:27PM
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cactusgarden, it is Oasis in Stillwater that is closing (at some point - she would love to find a buyer, but wants to retire & doesn't want to go into the wedding flower biz), not Bustani (that I know of!).

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 5:08PM
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Well thats good. We have lost so many nice nurseries. Satterley's was a huge blow. I used to like to go and mostly drool because it was the Nichols Hills set. Really unusual plants and I'd give myself a treat every once in a while there. Coopers Closed. Ruby's closed. Moesel's (wah!). That was the worst. I noticed there are almost no fabric stores left either.

Matt, I should have specified I was talking about where that newest highway to Edmond ends and that stop sign at 150th. I think its called Hefner Parkway? Thats my dream field. NE corner. The SW corner is being readied for some kind of development.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 5:32PM
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....add to the list of overplanted, boring landscape plants, bedding begonias! Yuck! Why not a hardy begonia for shade? B. evansiana, with panicles of pink blooms, angel wings of green with red back.

I also deplore impatiens, pelargoniums, and petunias not to mention Cannas!

My biggest disappointment is still the closing of Warren's. I went the year after they closed to the O'Higgins - not one single similarity. Whine.....cry...big elephant tears!

Rod Moesel, the Moesel's son, may have the rubber tree. He has lots of plants to sell at his property, American Plant Products. I often get soil amendments, like the pine bark fines for my potting mix, at his place. They will sell to the "outsiders" - those without ID numbers if you tell them you can't find it anywhere else. My "turface" I buy as either cat litter, free of any additives, at the Dollar Store, or at the Auto supply stores as oil absorbent. The pine bark fines were $4 per 3 cf - a huge bag at Plant Products. Check out the website. He has tons of stuff.

Anyway, the Moesel's were members of the Barkley Branch of the American Begonia Society when I was a member, and were great folks. Carried lots of unusual begonias, as did Warren's. A few places carry Rex begonias, but to the unsuspecting public.....they are difficult to grow. Easier ones are the canes and rhizomatous types. So different from the sempervirens - the common bedding plant, yuck!


    Bookmark   July 16, 2011 at 8:19AM
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The worst thing about cannas is that even if you are sick of them and decide not to grow them, you continually get other people that want to give you their "extra" canna bulbs. I've run out of nice excuses, so now i'm just sticking with "I don't like them." Sometimes people are so shocked...


    Bookmark   July 16, 2011 at 11:36AM
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I was a bit surprised to read that acacia won't grow here, although it hardly broke my heart. So many people are wildly allergic to it that I would never think of deliberately planting it. We already have more than enough allergens to contend with.

I'm also really bored with the over-use of petunias. They do make a splash of color if they are massed and are happy, but so do a lot of other annuals, if you happen to want an annual garden. As a rule, I don't. I guess I'm just a bit too tight-fisted to want to go out and spend a small fortune on bedding plants that will only last one season. I love my hardy perennials and if they are the kind that provide interesting shape, texture, and fall color along with being low maintenance, I say hooray! The few annuals that I do use for pots of color are generally the really tough ones, like portulaca and some of the new and vivid purslane.

Two that really annoy me are when I see blue cedar or blue spruce planted completely inappropriately in a suburban postage-stamp front yard. Though the vendors tell buyers that they will grow nearly anyplace in the US, there seems to be very little mention of where they should grow, and where they should not. Anyone who has had a tree that's 10' tall and 8' wide, that they have tried to baby for years and then have it decide to die, can tell you that it's no fun at all.

Someone mentioned liriope as being among their pet peeves. Ah, yes. Why don't people look into its habits and where it will be planted before they use it? I can't say I've never put in any, because I have, but, I'm really selective about which one I use, what it's habits are, and whether or not it's going to be put someplace that will turn into a nightmare. Big stands of pampas grass also make me want to shudder.

Speaking of things that can try to take over, would anyone like some vinca major? It seems that a root or tiny start of it came in with something else and I didn't see it and take it out right then and there. Now it's going to be a serious chore to get rid of it.

One of my great dislikes, running right up there with hypericum, is juniper.. All different sizes and shapes of juniper. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I used to have a hedge that was 3' tall, 5' wide, and 700' long of the stuff that I had to keep trimmed. It's enough to turn anyone off.

So . . . . back to the interesting and tough natives and semi-natives for this climate that do a natural change with the seasons, provide variations in color, shape, texture and are magnets for butterflies, hummingbirds and so on. As for the grasses, I'm caught in a quandary of decision in selecting one (or ones) that will be big enough to be an obvious choice and not something that moved in from the pasture, and yet not so big that it wants to overwhelm or block out the rest. There are so many of them to choose from!

Someone mentioned lavender. Mine are looking good in this nasty heat, but they are more for foliage than anything else. That's a good thing, because they're big. The blossom wants to be pale and the fragrance is less than I had hoped for. They smell just a bit sharp and acrid. I think I have Grosso. Are there any suggestions for something that might be a trifle smaller, darker in color, and more 'lavender' in fragrance that will live happily here?

I just got a Lauren Springer book from the library, titled "The Undaunted Garden". Haven't had a chance to get into it yet, but it sounds like something that would fit right in here.


    Bookmark   July 16, 2011 at 1:03PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

This thread is moving so fast I can't catch up, but that's mostly because I'm spending a good portion of every day and every night at wildfires. Believe me, if I am seeing "tough" native plants that are surviving in these conditions, I'm making a mental note of it. So far, the survival of any given plant I'm looking at when I am out there depends on what kind of soil it is in (and I'm talking only about unirrigated areas). I'm seeing better survival on rocky limestone ridges and in areas with sandy soil. The areas with clay still have some great looking mature trees with a lot of green (younger trees have more scorching) but most understory plants are scorching and wilting.

Janet, I am in extreme southcentral Oklahoma just west of I-35 in Love County. I'm so far south that Texas sits to my immediate west and east, and just a few miles south of me.

We are burning, burning, burning day and night here so y'all know we're very dry, and we are not by any stretch of the imagination the driest place in Oklahoma. Pretty much everyone west of us is a lot drier than we are and has a much higher Keetch Byram Drought Index. We're only at 634 and there are some places in the 700s and I know of at least one (Altus) that is nearing the max-out number. of 800.

Our native plants vary depending on whether they're growing upland or on creek or river bottom land, and also vary depending on whether they're in sugar sand, sandy loam, red clay or limestone/caliche clay. At Love County's eastern edge, near Lake Texoma, they average about 42" of rain a year (not this year) and have a lot of beautiful, lush grasslands interspersed with post oak-hickory woodlands. At Love County's western edge, it is like a whole different country....dry, sandy soil, often hilly and with some canyons, and a whole lot less trees and shorter trees and not nearly as much understory. The grasses out west cannot be described as lush except during very rainy years, and they tend to be clumping-type prairie grasses widely spaced with dry, bare sand between them. They generally have some milkweed (the natives can be surprisingly tough) and lots of cacti. They might get 36 to 38" of rain in a good year. This is not a good year. In most of our county this year, the rainfall total for the year varies from 11" to about 13", so even the cacti are going dormant and in most non-irrigated areas, all the native grasses and forms are brown. We've been joking this week wile driving to fires that, from the looks of things, "brown in the new green". That is so true here, except in areas that have burned recently and they are, unfortunately, black instead of brown.

This is a great time for anyone interested in native plants to drive around their local area and see how the natives are doing in unirrigated areas. Any plant can hang in there and survive if well-irrigated, but the ones I'm most interested in are the ones that don't need heavy irrigation. Around here, the list of plants that are surviving on no irrigation is getting shorter by the day.

The only totally unirrigated flowers blooming on our place are the 'Strawberry Fields' gomphrena planted down by the road/driveway gate (and they are beginning to brown out), the 'Madame Galens' and 'Flava' trumpet creeper on the arbor by the gate, and native frogfruit in the front pasture. Back near the garage there also is a patch of native frogfruit that is green and is blooming, but it gets water from a nearby wildlife puddle I fill with water for the wild things to drink now that all the ponds are dry.

Even the cattails that edge our ponds (they planted themselves there, I'd never plant them) are turning brown and falling over, although I suspect they are only dormant and not dead. Even our Virginia creeper is browning out.

Matt, I'm proud to say our landscape doesn't contain any liriope, crape myrtles, pampas grass or Blue Atlas cedars.

Unfortunately, our place had common bermuda when we bought it, but I'm gradually shading it out as the many native trees we transplanted from our own woodland grow and get larger. Some day, all of that bermuda will be gone as long as a major ice storm doesn't take out all our tress and cause us to lose the shade.

I've tried to focus on learning which natives can handle anything here and I encourage those while simultaneously removing anything that struggles. (That is easy to do because after either exceptional drought or flood rains kill it, whatever 'it' happens to be, we remove it and plant something that will tolerate both.)

Betty, I do have a sentimental attachment to Crape Myrtles because we had them in Texas....planted long before we bought that house. They probably were 40 years old and were tall and beautiful, but I haven't wanted one enough to plant it here. Tim likes them so I imagine at some point he'll insist on planting one or more (he brings it up every spring but we never get around to it).

It is really hard to find plants that survive both our dry summers and sometimes horribly wet springs. That's kind of what caused me to start focusing on what I find growing naturally on our land---because it survives.

Matt, the native vibrurnums on our property are the Rusty Blackhaws. I don't know if Seedmama has the same kind. Ours all grow as understory plants in the post oak-hickory woodland area that has a creek (now dry) running through it and a few springs, though they often stop running during a drought. I don't know that they'd survive upland near the house in less shade and drier soil.


    Bookmark   July 16, 2011 at 1:03PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I gave up hybrid bedding petunias long ago because they just fry here in the heat. At my house they usually started looking like crap by June even though they'd looked really nice in March through May. I used to have them in hanging baskets on the wraparound porch. I replaced them with 'Laura Bush' petunias, which are much more heat-tolerant. They are a descendent of native petunias. We also have an occasional wild petunia (ruellia) pop up here and there on the of edge of our woodland. For me, Laura Bush petunias in the ground look good and bloom all summer long with just a little supplemental water. In containers where they can't spread out their roots, they need more water. I have some in containers now that are two years old and survived the winter and were blooming when it snowed. Any plant that can tolerate our high temps and last winter's cold is a winner in my book. As a plus, they reseed prolifically.

I like 'The Undaunted Garden' and also her book 'Passionate Gardening', co-authored with Rob Proctor. In fact, I guess I like all her books.


    Bookmark   July 16, 2011 at 6:22PM
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Dawn, one that I've used in hanging baskets in really extreme heat is an ivy geranium (pelargonium), although I don't think I've seen any of them for a long time. They've been surprisingly sturdy for me, lasting and blooming under conditions that would simply bake anything else in a heartbeat. Keep them pinched back to a reasonable length and give them water with a bit of Bloom in it and they just keep right on going. They appreciate a bit of shade if they can get it, but the heat they can tolerate is pretty astounding.


    Bookmark   July 16, 2011 at 6:30PM
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Susan! LAUGH!! Ditto and dubble ditto. I usually just say "Git the pan". But really, between impatiens and begonias, I have to say I like begonias. To be honest, I do. At least they don't need constant watering and stay in nice little clumps and will take sun or shade. I felt kind of bad after my rant because I started thinking how much money and care has gone in for beautification and here I am talking like an ingrate. I did some soul searching on that. I didn't know that the Rex Begonias were difficult but I thought those were houseplants. I think what is needed is more opportunities to buy natives locally and if they were available, people would buy them. If I have a rant, that would be it but I do notice them showing up more and more.

I have heard of Moesel Jr but have no idea where he is. A guy on Ornamental grasses was always talking about pine bark fines and my response is "Whats that?". TLC did have these giant sized bags of perlite when I went to try to find pine bark fines (I've still never laid eyes on that). I'd never seen that before and it was kind of fun to pick one up and see how weightless it was even though it was a big as me. None of it was as inexpensive as what you mentioned. I will have to check into that. Thanks for the tip.

Okie, I am so sad about the fires, sounds like you guys down there are getting the brunt. That said, I dearly love that part of the state and always want to stop to investigate the local plant life. I'm not the only one either. I love the kinds of plants that grow around there and if its an Oklahoma Native I want, that's where its usually from, otherwise, its in Texas. Whenever we drive south my husband and I always say, "Now this part of Oklahoma is more like it!" but of course we are city people heading for NM and not actually trying to grow vegetables etc, just ornamental natives and that makes a big difference. If you ever collect a list of plants when the fire stuff dies down and you can relax finally, I would be VERY interested in reading it. If you ever do, be sure to title the post so I will be sure to spot it. I ran across a plant called rayless gaillardia last night, seems I finally met one I like and it looked like something that would grow native in a place like southern Oklahoma. Does it?

Good luck to you, it sounds really scary. This thing we are in is only growing. Its all the way up to Canada I saw.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2011 at 7:19PM
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The one thing I'm finding that is tolerating the horrible conditions and keeps right on going is the nandina. I can't even begin to say which one it is, since I salvaged it from an old abandoned house, thinking it was worth a try when we had nothing at all across the front of our house. It takes the pounding it gets when the rain sluices down off the roof (since we have no gutters) and the wretched soil it's planted in, and the drought and the bounced heat from the white wall of the house in full sun, and the fact that it was piled high with snow last winter. It not only tolerated it, but kept a gorgeous red color all winter long.
It was really straggly when I put it in, and it's established well enough now that it needs to be pruned to give it some shape. Otherwise it's a fine, tough plant that has been really satisfactory. I may have to watch that it doesn't decide to spread, but so far it is not. I may go get some more, before the house is demolished and it's all destroyed.


    Bookmark   July 16, 2011 at 9:39PM
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Interesting you mention ivy-leaf geranium. It is the only hanging basket plant that will not only survive, but look good in our harsh winds and extreme dryness.


Are Laura Bush petunias fragrant? We have a nice fragrant, reseeding strain of OP petunias that can be surprisingly winter hardy and don't go to all white in a year or two. They are a bit weedy in wet years like last year, but they are relatively compact this year. Of course they need improved soil and regular irrigation here.

Like you, in the four years since we've been back here, if a perennial, shrub, or tree fails because of freeze, drought, or periodic excessive rain on the heavy clay soil, we also replace it with something that survives. Although people only a few miles away do well with desert willow, red yucca, and a lot of other relatively xeric southwestern plants, they don't make it here because of the latter.

Pat and Janet,

Acacia wrightii (greggii) might work in the right location in central Oklahoma. I've seen it growing in Kent County, Texas about 70 miles northwest of Abilene, at the northern edge of the range of Yucca torreyi. Wichita Valley Nursery in Wichita Falls could have it. They have a wide range of native plants native to west and central Texas and western and central Oklahoma. They generally carry plants produced from local seed and regional growers.

I've seen retama from the Lubbock area south grown as a shrub that dies back either to the ground or partially to the ground in the winter. Yet it grows back vigorously in the summer and blooms profusely. And of course, only the new growth has the distinctive green bark. In deep south Texas, it would grow to be a nice small tree in two or three years from seed.

Texas Panhandle

    Bookmark   July 16, 2011 at 11:30PM
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Just my two cents...I hate Liriope...but love Crape Myrtles. I'm very sorry that they just don't grow and thrive here like they did in Dallas; they seem to want to die back and just don't get that lovely tree form that we would have down there. That being said, IF you have a happy one that's in tree form, PLEASE do not top it! As wonderful Master Gardener and Texas radio personality Neil Sperry says, don't trim anything off that is of a diameter larger than a #2 pencil! It's an insult to the plant to do that (of course, also don't plant one in a spot that's too small and cramped for it!).
If you know Neil Sperry, you know he's a fine, classy knowledgeable man...I miss his to-the-point wisdom. You can check his page out on Facebook. He has a great planting tip for fall tomatoes. He has clipped newspaper through his tomato cages about 20" up and shade his transplants just a bit.

I do remember Marjorie Moesel :~) Believe it or not, I was a member of the Horticulture Club at OSU Ext. Center back in the 70s when I was in high school. The whole Moesel bunch was actively involved in that and in times were spent at their nursery.

I'm sick of this heat :(

    Bookmark   July 16, 2011 at 11:45PM
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Hi Sharon,

I've seen a wide variety of pruning styles used on the crape myrtles here in Shawnee. It seems to run from zero, where I've seen huge old plants that grow and bloom right down to the ground, to one place in town that wants to pollard the trees every year. If you go past there in winter, all you'll see are bare and naked trunks with nothing but stubs on top. And there's pretty much every style imaginable in between.

My daughter had some really magnificent ones at her old house in Shawnee. I have no idea how old they might have been, but the house was build in 1905 and was one of the showplaces at one time. The crape myrtles reached halfway past the second-floor windows and had the most wonderful trunks. They were handsome all year long. Someone who knew what they were doing had cared for them for a long time.
What part of OK are you in, that you're having problems in growing them?

Speaking of pruning habits, I got so tired of seeing pollarded trees out in the west. People would do it with everything from a fruitless mulberry to a catalpa to whatever comes next. Take a big saw and lop off all the growth right down to the main trunk at about 8' high so that all that remained was simply the trunk, standing desolate all winter, until it tried to grow in the spring and summer and then the process was repeated again. Maybe they are a curiosity with some of the trees outside the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco, but those gardeners are very, very good at what they do. It does not mean the practice can be applied willy nilly to a bunch of other trees and done by novices. That sort of butchery makes me crazy! I think I can safely say that our crape myrtles will definitely not be treated that way.


    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 12:55AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


Rayless gaillardia does grow here. In fact, we have it in our pasture that sits between our detached barn-style garage and the woodland that then takes up about 10 acres to our west and north. Like everything else this year, though, the rayless gallardia long ago turned brown and shriveled. It is hard to know what is dead and what is merely dormant but I'm willing to bet at least some of our dry, dead-looking pasture will revive and green up if it ever rains here again. The grasshoppers are eating the pastures down to the ground too.

It is so dry that even the Johnson grass alongside the bar ditches and fencelines is browning out and exhibiting leaf curl---the kind where the grass blades curl inward. I'd love it if all that invasive stuff died, but it never does.

Understory plants in the woodlands are looking much better than anything growing in the pastures, whether we're talking about native grasses or forbs. Of course, woodlands have such better soil from the years of leaves and plant debris falling to the ground and decomposing, not to mention the fact that the shade helps so much.

We've had a whole 28 or so hours without a fire call and so I have been able to cool off and sleep. It was heavenly! I almost feel human again. Since I was home all day and all night, I watered around the house as well as I could. The best-looking plant on our property right now is the swamp mallow that is planted beside the AC's compressor. Since the AC is running so much, that swamp mallow is as wet as it can be and as happy as a pig in mud. Location, location, location. : )

On the other hand, the swamp mallows actually growing on the edge of the long-dry big pond and the actual swamp, which has barely a trickle of water from its spring, are not happy and have browned out. I'm afraid that by August, we'll be surrounded by a sea of brown, other than the green foliage of the mature trees. Younger trees are browning and scorching, but mature trees are fine. If you were to look at the mature pecan tree in our front yard, you wouldn't even realize it was hot and dry. Even my young oaks look fine, but they get some water occasionally. Down in the woodlands, the big trees are fine and the smaller ones less so.

Every summer here is hot and dry, but the heat arrived so much earlier this year and, when you combine the early heat with the serious lack of moisture, it is a terrible summer here.


    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 8:34AM
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You might look at Juddii, Eskimo, Mohawk or Korean viburnums if you want something less troubled by drought, but they are more round shaped than horizontal, if that is more important to you. They are all fragrant, the most is juddii and the least is Eskimo. Korean seems to need a little more sun than the others to bloom well. I've had Mohawk in mostly sun and under oaks, and they bloomed about the same. The other two I've only grown in shade so I don't know their sun tolerance. They all have good late fall color, or really early winter color, since here in southern Ok, it's December before they color up. We have Rusty Blackhaw viburnum growing on the edge of our yard where it doesn't get much water and the roots aren't ever disturbed so we don't have any problem with it spreading. One clump is in fairly heavy shade so it doesn't bloom as much or have as much fall color as the one that gets lighter shade and a few hours of sun.

If you want better fragrance in lavender, you might try Hidcote (dark blue flowers) or Munstead (lighter blue flowers but a little better fragrance). They are both English lavenders and are a little more finicky than Grosso but they are not hard to grow. Lavendins(Grosso, Provence, etc) have a higher percentage of camphor scent which gives them the more acrid smell you noticed.

We have gotten so little rain here that I'm digging up anything that is struggling. I don't have time to baby things that are marginal and still keep up with the stronger plants. Somehow, even with reducing the load, I still manage to overlook plants. When we do start getting rain and cool again, I plan on grouping things together more and to plant more natives, too. I expect we will all learn something from this weather.


    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 1:08PM
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Lavender and rosemary- last summer, it was in a garden bed that I didn't plant for summer. The lavender and rosemary literally went all summer in AZ with probably one rain and no watering at all. With our heat, 100-115 degrees for over four months, that's impressive! Lavender and rosemary make lovely group plantings on mounded soil, where the drainage is better because of the mounds.
I still love crepe myrtles, even though they aren't native, I fell in love with them when I first moved to OK. If they aren't formally pruned they can be
very craggy and charming.
Silver maples- volunteer al lot, take advantage of irrigation, lovely but
seem like survivors in drier times.
Mulberries- great survivalist
fruit trees! I have a volunteer here in AZ and had a volunteer in Lawton.
Liriope sound very scary- like introducing bindweed to your garden. Some
people just don't think.
I agree on some of the awful, out of context landscapes. My yard has
giant date palms, queen palms and ponderosa pines. And, the yard is
completely full of black plastic and river rock, lava rock ( in the planters which are planted in date palms instead of flowers, right up next to the house!) and gravel. It's horrid! I'm thankful for the shade, although it's challenging finding enough room for a garden, but, the rock plastic and palm trees are messy, ugly and nasty. Too expensive and hard to get rid of. I might try, if we were to stay here forever, but we're not. Obviously. It was landscaped in the early eighties.
Palm trees are the most high maintenance tree, what is the attraction? And, planted in amongst huge pine trees? What? Vacation in the mountains and the tropics? A paradise backyard or what?
This is typical of Mesa, a lot of the RV and trailer parks are a mix of big pines and palm trees. Must be a senior citizen or snow bird thing.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 3:01PM
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Thanks Loretta for the info on the lavenders. I don't have a lot of experience with them. I've been pleased with the shape mine are taking, but the scent is a bit off of what I had hoped for. Good advice.

Janet, I was reading back through the posts and found the one where you commented about the pampas grass and palms. It just makes you shake your head and wonder what in the world they were thinking, doesn't it?

I'll definitely be looking up some of the viburnums that have been mentioned.
I can't find the specific post, but someone said they had to yank out their pyracantha because of problems. I spent some time yesterday in looking up the specific cotoneasters that could be used as a replacement if you're looking for a nice show of berries for the birds. I don't know if they'd be suitable for anyone, but I'm tossing in the idea for whatever it's worth.
I believe they are also hosts for several butterflies, but don't know which species, and I also need to note that they can attract bees. Some have a slightly crinkly leaf similar to a viburnum, and the big ones often look a lot like a pyracantha until you get close enough to see that they don't have thorns. It's such a huge family to choose from, with a wide range in habit, from low groundcovers to big shrubs. Not all will do well in OK, but a lot of them will. Here are a few that look interesting, if anyone wants to follow them up. One variety or another seems to be happy in such wide variations as PA, Denver, Albuquerque, Georgia and a lot of places in between. Most of them are tough and low maintenance, and many have good fall or winter color.

Bullatus is deciduous, up to 12' high and 10' wide. Hardy in zones 5-9
Lacteus takes dry to normal soil and is another big one. Zones 7 - 9.
Parneyi is big and can be pruned to tree shape. heat/drought tolerant. Z 7-9
Congestus in small and round, in a fairly tight ball shape.
Rockspray or cranberry is low and spreading
Salicifolius is also low and wide. 1' high x 5' wide. Z 6-8

The first photo is of a lacteus laden with berries.

Next is a bullatus in the fall. I stole the photo off the web but don't know who originally posted it.


    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 3:22PM
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I would have never guessed they are cotoneasters. They are beautiful plants, aren't they. I love plants with fall color.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 4:40PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


Laura Bush is nicely fragrant, with that old-fashioned petunia scent that you get with the old-fashioned OP types. If you remember back when they introduced the "VIP" petunia in Texas as one of the Texas Superstars in the mid-90s, then "Laura Bush" is very much like the VIP, and I think one of its parents' is VIP. The least surprising thing about the Laura Bush petunia is that Dr. Jerry Parsons and Greg Grant both were involved in its development. They both are such great Texas plantsmen.

The year that I raised Laura Bush from seed, I also planted Laura Bush Pink. Both the original Laura Bush, which has a violet-colored flower, and the pink Laura Bush, reseed well here. It has been about 6 or 7 years since I bought the packets of seed and planted them, and I haven't had to sow a seed since then because they reseed themselvs every year. The violet-colored Laura Bush reseeds true to type every time. The pink one reseeds in various colorations---some lighter pink, some darker pink, and some a streaky pink and white blend. Both the pink and purple types have shown extraordinary heat and cold tolerance.

I got my seed from Wildseed Farm and now they have not only the original Laura Bush and the Pink Laura Bush, but also a Formula mix that has some white shades.

This year they not only reseeded in the containers where I had them last year, but also in the veggie garden where I always mix them with the veggies and even in the pasture where they have held their own in the midst of all kinds of native pasture grasses in very heavy and slow-draining clay.

I'm going to find and link an old article from Texas Gardener (still my favorite gardening magazine, and I read every issue cover-to-cover finding it just as helpful to me here as it was when I lived in Texas) that gives a lot of the Laura Bush petunia's history.


Here is a link that might be useful: Texas Gardener Article on Laura Bush

    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 5:32PM
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Hi Loretta.

Yes, they can be really spectacular. I've used them in several situations under enormously different growing conditions, from lowland fog to high and dry. I had my fill of trying to deal with, and being stabbed by, the big pyracanthas a long time ago. I won't grow barberry for the same reason. Holly is wonderful stuff if you have the proper place for it, but I seldom do. It seems that one of the big family of cotoneasters will often fill the slot very nicely and do it in a pretty trouble-free manner. I can't ever remember a serious problem with one of them, unless you want to count the pruning job on one in a yard just north of San Francisco where it had been allowed to get so large and was bearing such a heavy load of berries that I can't even describe it. It was probably 10' tall and 18' wide! I don't even know for sure which one it was, other than huge. Very happy in the cool and damp weather where it was located, but doomed to break before very long if no help was on the way.


    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 7:33PM
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I just love those cotoneasters. I wonder if any of them would grow in AZ? As far as plants being native to OK, it's hard to generalize, since the eastern side is so different than the western side and the north is so different from the south. The is little resemblance between the far SE, near Idabel, the panhandle, like Guymon, down in the Wichitas and up by Grove. You simply can't say something looks like an OK plant or not an OK plant, without taking into account all the diversity of the state.
I'm actually surprised the pines are suffering so badly, since they do quite well in AZ with very little rain. We have many pine trees native to the state which live in places as hot as the low desert and up in the high country, all with very little moisture.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 8:34PM
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Tracy, I'm going to post a photo here of the cotoneaster lacteus growing in Albuquerque. You can see that they've pruned it up into a fairly open small tree to fit in with the desert landscape.

The next photo appears to be taken out in a natural field (I have no idea where) and the plant looks as though goats or burros have been grazing on it. Still, it's surviving.

I don't know for sure what the problem is with our pine trees. Some are okay and a lot of others are in big trouble. I don't like to even breathe the term 'pine borer' in case it might show up here. Those things can decimate a stand of pine like you've never seen.

I just had a huge wake-up call when I was trying to trace down the elusive tree that I can't identify. Somehow my search took me to a native plants site, and from there to an invasive plants list for OK. Would you all believe that the callery pear is now on the invasive watch list? Yep. And so are a whole lot of other things I would never have suspected, such as privet, and the yellow cinquefoil I had asked about earlier. Oops. Who'd have thunk it? Learn something new every day. I'm attaching a link for anyone who is interested, and it also shows problems for border states.


Here is a link that might be useful: Invasive Plants Council

    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 9:02PM
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Thank you for the reply. I will order the seed for Laura Bush petunias from Wildseed Farms for planting next year. (There's always next year.) If I'm going to grow petunias they have to be fragrant.


    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 10:58PM
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Tom. I read they litter pretty bad. I think I'd rather have a Desert Willow but I do think you are right, they'd grow here. Thanks

Dawn, I found a seed source last night in Texas. I have a gardening friend in Texas too depressed with the fear of fires and drought to even discuss gardening right now. She is waiting to see what is left alive when the damage is finally done.

Thanks and good luck to you. I hope we don't have a long drawn out Indian Summer this year into October. A hurricane would be nice, one of those slow moving wet ones.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 11:52PM
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Tracy, as far as I know, they should grow for you in Phoenix. I found a notation on the DG site that says they've been grown in Mesa, and in San Antonio TX. What is your actual zone there? Most of the heat tolerant ones say to at least zone 8 or 9, and some also specify that they can take clay soil and at least some drought.

This is really not fair at all, but I spoke with a farmer friend of mine from Southern IL last night. He said they have had so much rain that he lost an entire field of soybeans. He couldn't get his equipment in to harvest it because it was simply too wet. I told him he could have at least shared some of it with us!


    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 2:39AM
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