Roses. I dearly love them, but I must be honest. The last few years haven’t been kind to roses in the Sooner State. The summer of 2012 wasn’t nearly as bad as 2011, but it was bad enough. Before September, the last rain we had was in early June, and it was only a trickle. Like the rest of the central U.S., we suffered under the unrelenting sun. July 2012 was our 6th driest.
So the roses are under tremendous stress as are the daylilies. Established daylilies, though, bounce back quicker even if they go completely dormant, but I must be careful of those that were planted in the spring. They are most likely to die. Now, it’s fall, and I planted numerous daylilies I’d bought and nurtured in pots all summer under the deck. To see those daylily faces, I’d say it was worth it all.
Grasses inspire me with their grace and grand finish. How can anyone, outside of those who are in states where grasses can become invasive, not love them? Over the last few years, as I remove a rose here and there due to Rose Rosette Disease or declining health, I put a robust grass in its place. My fall garden is the better for it, and honestly, looks much more like a garden in north central Oklahoma might look. I find I am going back to the prairie at least where grasses are concerned. That doesn’t mean I only choose native ones though.
I’m too excited about other favorites too, native or not. Muhley grass is a new passion, but I’m waiting to see if our love affair will overwinter here in Zone 7a. I know it can handle the heat. Pennisetums are all favorites, and while I love the Princess group, I also enjoy smaller P. setaceum ‘Fireworks.’ In the dwarf grasses, I have this crazy, fuzzy one sold as P. alopecuroides ‘Hameln.’ It isn’t, and I haven’t been able to identify it, so I can’t tell you its name. I keep splitting it to make more. Miscanthus sinensus ‘Little Zebra’ emerges with broad, horizontal stripes along its blades through spring and summer and tops out with golden tassles in September, October and beyond. All of the switch grasses, including Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind,’ ‘Shenandoah,’ ‘Heavy Metal’ and ‘Cheyenne Sky,’ are great plants once they get going. Each has its own growth habit and size. In my garden ‘Northwind’ is the tallest. Remember that with any perennial, including grasses, you need to wait three seasons to see it at its best. I’d like to try Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Moudry’ one day because of its black flowers. For shade, I’m so excited about the Japanese forest grasses I could do a whole post on them alone. Perhaps, another day.
Writing about the forest grasses reminds me of my favorite small tree, the Japanese maple. It is hard to grow anywhere in Oklahoma in recent years, but it is possible. I can’t speak for western Oklahoma though. Maybe if you had a wind break like a steel plate or something? Or, maybe stick with prairie plants and such that bend with the wind. I do love Japanese maples, but I must also grow them in places protected from heat, cold and wind. Not very good Oklahoma plants really, but passion often spurs us to do silly things. I think I’ve got ten or so now.
Bulbs and tubers, spring or summer blooming, are favorites because they give so much for so little. I write about bulbs a lot so I’m not going to expound too much on them today. If you want to read more about last year’s Bulb-a-rama, here are Parts I and II. I am leaving the dahlias in the ground this fall. I planted them on the east side of the house, and I hope this is satisfactory. I’ve had smaller dahlias return many years before succumbing to our crazy weather.
For more plants that inspire passion in the garden, come back later this week and see Part II.