Blessed be gardens and weddings in May

Byzantine gladiolus

It’s the beginning of May. Sorry I haven’t written in a couple of weeks. You must forgive me. Like the garden, I am gathering my strength, girding my loins, and getting ready to launch myself and the garden into June. We are facing the calendar and weather with courage, the kind that’s said its prayers.

We have weddings and graduations in May and a regional daylily garden tour in June. We are fixing fences, building beds and borders, and weeding, always weeding. Anything we can’t fix, we will cover with mulch and call it good. We are fluffing with abandon.

This is the back garden from atop a side border. I am standing on top of the retaining wall about five feet in the air. No bulb foliage here, but you can see the great, greenness that is early May.
This is the back garden from atop a side border. I am standing on top of the retaining wall about five feet in the air. No bulb foliage here, but you can see the great, greenness that is early May.

Most of the garden is in its green phase between the last of the fall-planted/spring-blooming bulbs and the daylilies. It is my least favorite time because I find all that bulb foliage very distracting and messy. Still, I let it do its thing so I’ll have more flowers next spring. Ignore the bulb foliage and let it die a natural death before removing. Don’t cut it back no matter how much it irritates you.

Ignore the bulb foliage and let it die a natural death before removing. Don't cut it back no… Click To Tweet
Byzantine glads in the back garden. I need more of these little beauties.
Byzantine glads in the back garden. I need more of these little beauties.

One of the few plants blooming with abandon are the Byzantine glads, Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus. They are unabashedly hot pink and wave their petals in the air like they just don’t care. If you live in Zone 6 or further south, you should grow these lovelies. I’m making a note to buy more from Old House Gardens this fall.

Garden gathers its strength. Apricot mystery rose with 'Niobe' clematis.
Apricot mystery rose with ‘Niobe’ clematis. What a sweet dichotomy I planted here. Occasionally, a plan works as you want it. I planted these about twenty years ago. Hard to believe they are still going. Like marriage, gardening is a mystery.

My daughter, Megan, known here as the Diva, is getting married tomorrow. I am thrilled for her and Robert, her fiance. Lots of changes in our family this year. A May wedding is a splendid thing. I married my sweetheart twenty-eight years ago on May 12.

May is a beautiful time even if the Oklahoma weather is acting like Seattle or merry old England this year. It’s been cold, wet and rainy for days, but I see that blue skies are forecast for tomorrow and the week ahead. What a happy occasion it will be!

Spirea Double Play Red is the most beautiful color and is blooming at the moment.
Spirea Double Play Red is the most beautiful color and is blooming at the moment. It has splendid pink and red blooms.

The garden senses the change in weather too. Right now, it’s a garden in waiting. The tropical plants which began so strong in late April are looking for wool coats, but as I said, next week is supposed to be better. At my house, we’ve had copious amounts of rain, six inches one week and three inches the next. I think we got another inch two days ago.

Click on the photos in the gallery to make them larger and see the captions better.

It’s been cold for May, from 45 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit with cloudy skies. Where are you oh Death Star, ahem, Mr. Sun?

The roses and clematis have no complaints except some mummified blooms on the multipetaled roses. They have trouble opening in cold and rainy weather, and thrips don’t help matters. Clematis clamber and climb through the roses as if they’re never faced a hot and brutal sun before. I must laugh at the vagrancies of an Oklahoma spring and at the positive outlook plants seem to have.

I must laugh at the vagrancies of an Oklahoma spring and at the positive outlook plants seem to… Click To Tweet

Ahhhh, an Oklahoma spring . . . gardeners just never know what they’re going to get. This year, Seattle and London, next year, maybe Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Like the proverbial Boy Scout, a gardener must always be prepared.

Hint: you should also learn to go with the flow.

Raised beds after eleven inches of rain. I'll dig up the tomato plants and the decorative cotton, put in more soil and plant more seeds.
Raised beds after eleven inches of rain. I’ll dig up the tomato plants and the decorative black cotton plants, put in more soil and plant more seeds. Stuff happens. Rain happens.

Remember how I was going to share the building of my raised beds? I still will, but well, my sweet son worked so hard on getting the soil just right, and then tempestuous rains came. Six inches in a few hours compacted the soil where I’d planted cut-flower seeds like zinnias, cosmos, celosia, amaranth and bells of Ireland. Some seeds washed away, while tomato plants shivered. I’m just glad we lined the beds with landscape cloth, or it would have all washed away, down the hill and into the lower pasture.

There was a time when I would be dismayed, but I’ve learned to shrug my shoulders and go on. The rains come. The rains go. We can’t control the rain

Instead, let us be happy come what may. Also, blessed be gardens and weddings in May.

 

Rain-soaked garden

Clematis 'Fireworks' Rain-soaked garden

Most of Oklahoma got rain night before last. The rain-soaked garden woke up yesterday morning to singing birds, crawling caterpillars and me stalking it with my camera. There is nothing more pleasurable than spring in an Oklahoma garden, except, maybe fall, but spring is being extra good to us this year.

I almost always approach the back garden from the French doors leading out onto my deck. This week I got all of my pots plants except one that held a blueberry bush. I was trying to see if it was alive. Blueberries often go dormant here, and it now looks dead. I'll replace it with something from Bustani Plant Farm on Monday.
I almost always approach the back garden from the French doors leading out onto my deck. I’m getting ready to skip down the stairs and out onto the gravel paths. This week I got all of my pots planted except one that held a blueberry bush. I was waiting to see if it was alive. Blueberries often go dormant here, but it definitely looks dead. I’ll replace it with something from Bustani Plant Farm on Monday.
Rain in Oklahoma is cause for celebration, and it looks like we're in a stormy pattern for the… Click To Tweet

Rain in Oklahoma is cause for celebration, and it looks like we’re in a stormy pattern for the next week or so. We need those spring rains to ready the garden for our hot and dry summer. So far, so good.

[Click on photos in the galleries to make them larger.]

Let’s chat about garden chores and what to do now. I’m also linking this post to Garden Bloggers Bloom Day hosted by Carol Michel at May Dreams Gardens.

Intenz celosia which is one of my favorites will grow quite a bit larger. It blooms all summer and is tropical meaning it won't come back.
‘Intenz’ celosia which is one of my favorites will grow quite a bit larger filling part of this space. It blooms all summer and is tropical meaning it’s not perennial and won’t come back. Isn’t that black pipe ugly in back? I better cover it up with a grass. Oh wait! I did.

So, what to do now? You can plant almost anything you want. I’m going to do another post on Monday after I get back from Bustani Plant Farm–if I get the chance–and give you a plant list of reliable garden performers. There’s really no worry of freezes unless something weird happens.

I’ve been watching the weather closely. I think we’re out of danger even though we’ve had a freeze as late as May 1 once. However, that was a really cool spring, and we’re not having one of those this year. In fact, the weather has been nearly perfect.

New foliage on Rosa 'South Africa' against the variegated leaves of Aer palmatum 'Peaches and Cream' Japanese maple. I do love Japanese maples and plant them every chance I get. They are so delicate in form and are easy to grow in the right spot with fertile soil.
New foliage on Rosa ‘South Africa’ against the variegated leaves of Aer palmatum ‘Peaches and Cream’ Japanese maple. I do love Japanese maples and plant them every chance I get. They are so delicate in form and are easy to grow in the right spot with fertile soil. The east side of the house is the best place. Peaches and Cream is located in the flower border next to the garage. The leaves turn the most scrumptious orange and white in fall. ‘South Africa’ rose is a very hardy Hybrid Tea that blooms yellow.
  1. So, plant with abandon! I have.
  2. Mulch with something biodegradable like shredded bark, shredded leaves or compost, although compost will degrade into the soil faster than the other two options.
  3. Pull weeds or use a weeder like the CobraHead Weeder and Cultivator. I’m also a huge fan of the DeWit Right Hand Dutch Hand Hoe. You need to get ahead of the weeds before they get too large.
  4. If you haven’t already, lay soaker hoses and put them on timers. Also, hook up your containers to a simple drip irrigation kit like Raindrip R560DP Automatic Container and Hanging Baskets Kit. It is similar to mine. Hook all systems up to timers, and your garden watering is mostly worry free.
  5. Burn off weeds in gravel paths, or if you’re not organic you can spray with one of the weed killers. You can also use natural sprays, but my experience is they only do top kill and don’t get the roots. However, you will damage them enough that when the sun gets fierce, many weeds still dry up and blow away.
  6. Plant shrubs, including roses, and trees, but make sure they have consistent water to get established.
  7. Plant tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant along with other hot weather plants. Plant all of your herbs now too, including basil, parsley, and others. It’s probably too late for cilantro which bolts at the first opportunity. For salsa, I just buy cilantro at the store. You can buy great transplants at many of our nurseries and even the box stores. I’m growing several new tomatoes and peppers this year that I started from seed. I’ll detail my selections in another post.

Bill, my son, Brennan, and I are building raised beds this weekend. This time we decided to buy corners to make our lives easier. With corners, you can place the boards into the corners and voila! You have raised beds. We’re putting the raised beds where my tilled garden was the last couple of years. I’ll grow more vegetables and cutting garden flowers in this spot. We may add more beds in the future, but are only doing three for now. I’ll post about the raised beds next week and get pictures for you this weekend.

I have our regional daylily garden tour in June so I’m buying plant tags and such to identify everyone. It’s a must for daylily enthusiasts. I hope I figure out the i.d. on all of my plants before visitors arrive. I may need some “Unknown” tags for oldie goldies I love, but no longer remember their names. My garden is really about what looks good with daylilies. Although I have many daylily plants, I’m not a true collector anymore. I like so many plants.

Above, we’re down in the bottom of the back garden again. The back garden is, by far, my favorite part. I love the back garden because it’s mature and mostly takes care of itself once I get everything cut back in early spring. I weed it, plant a few annuals/tropical for more color, and then let it do its thing. I don’t even need to do much pruning because I no longer have many roses back here. I do have one ‘Belinda’s Dream’ rose, but that’s about all. Most succumbed to Rose Rosette Disease, but that gave me new opportunities especially on the arbors. I tried several plants to replace my climbing roses, but found I love orange ‘Major Wheeler’ coral honeysuckle on the back arbor. [See the photos above.]

In the middle portion of the back garden is another arbor. It was my first arbor, and this is one of the original parts of the garden planted over twenty-five years ago. Once upon a time, I had ‘Cl. Old Blush’ on this arbor, but it also died so I planted ‘Tangerine Beauty’ crossvine and ‘Dropmore Scarlet’ coral honeysuckle. Please don’t confuse crossvine with trumpet vine. They are different plants. Crossvine is native, and trumpet vine is invasive. I caused quite a stir on Instagram and Facebook last week when I posted an afternoon photo of crossvine. People asked me where to buy it. Well, last week, I saw five plants of ‘Tangerine Beauty’ at TLC Nursery. I wonder if they had a run on the plants yet. Maybe they still have some. It is beautiful and beneficial to hummingbirds and an early pollinator nectar source.

Please don't confuse crossvine with trumpet vine. They are different plants. Crossvine is… Click To Tweet

 

‘Dropmore Scarlet’ is a well-behaved honeysuckle that would make a great vine for any garden. I find American honeysuckles very easy to grow. The only thing they lack is fragrance, and you can plant other fragrant plants. Whatever you do, don’t plant Japanese honeysuckle. I have been trying to eradicate the start Bill brought over from his mother’s garden for nearly thirty years. I still have it in two corners of the garden, and yes, I used brush killer on it even though I hate using chemicals.

Whatever you do, don't plant Japanese honeysuckle. I have been trying to eradicate the start… Click To Tweet

Because we’ve had rain and nearly perfect temperatures this spring, the shade gardens are showing off. I believe the single-flowering Japanese kerria is one of my best easy-care plants. I’ve given tons of it away over the years, and my first plant was from Wanda Faller. Wanda also gave me my maidenhair fern and ‘Annabelle.’ These are the backbones of my shade gardens.

However, this year, my old hostas look splendid. I couldn’t ask for better foliage. I place pecan hulls around my hostas to discourage slugs. In Oklahoma, we don’t have as many slug problems as some other gardeners, but in spring, when it’s wet, we do see the little slimy boogers. I hate them. They hate pecan hulls and eggshells. I enjoy the thought that they are in pain as they slide across these sharp objects.

Yeah, I’m mean like that.

As for hostas, I don’t often recommend them for central Oklahoma. Tulsa gardeners grow beautiful hostas, but they often get more rain and have more shelter than we do because of their rolling hills. However, if you find hostas with substantial leaves, they will often perform well even in central Oklahoma in the shade, especially the blue-green ones. Even the less substantial ones are happy this spring and last, and for the first time, ‘Empress Wu’ is looking really good. She’s substantial, but slow growing in my garden.

We are replacing the split-rail fence around the back garden soon because it is wearing out again. We removed the chicken wire and will replace it with flat fence panels. It will be much easier to maintain.

Ok, with that, I’m going to leave you. I want to go outside and do a little mulching while the weather is cool and rainy. Blue skies this afternoon make this red-dirt girl happy. What’s blooming in your garden this fine spring day?