I’ve been thinking about the wildfires in California today. My heart goes out to the people whose lives have been altered, whether they lost property or not. Thinking about the devastation made me consider our own dry state. I know what you’re thinking, “Not with the monsoon of June,” but prior to last summer, our drought lasted years.

Seven years ago, in Oklahoma’s back country, two young men were seen with fireworks. They set off a wildfire that burned so hot, it annihilated both the buried telephone cables and all microorganisms twelve inches deep in the soil. I took this picture today showing the fire’s continuing impact on one tree.

I remember because our home was within three miles of that fire. Fortunately for us, the winds blew the flames the other direction, but we went without land line telephones for a month. I live in a log house, so I keep my eye on the burn ban information at the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture anytime our climate is dry. Another fire that same season came within a quarter mile of my house. We were preparing to pump water out of our pond and wet down the roof when it changed course.  So, all of this got me wondering, what can we do to help ourselves before another fire.

We need to do the following:

  • Mow around our homes
  • Chop down all cedar trees anywhere nearby. Filled with cedar oil, they go up like roman candles during a fire sending sparks thousands of feet away. I’ve seen it. Also, cedar trees are now invasive in our state. You’ll be doing all of us a favor.
  • Get rid of any fuel around the house like dead tree limbs, firewood, etc.
  • During a red flag alert, don’t shoot off fireworks. If you decide to shoot fireworks during non-drought conditions, fine, have a garden hose nearby.
  • Follow the directions from the Oklahoma Agriculture Department regarding burn bans.
  • Watch the Firewise landscape DVDs and plant some the shrubs and trees around your home that the forestry department recommends.

I know this year was a record one for rainfall, but with our wacky weather, drought will be back and sooner than you think, fire danger will be too.

Summer’s Last Bouquet

dsc01484.JPGI have a painting by Sandi Gore Evans titled “Last Rose of Summer.” A Mason jar holds two yellow roses just turning to brown. Parchment petals litter the countertop. A lace curtain billows over the entire scene. I’d love to show it to you, but it is a watercolor and is covered by glass. This is the best I can do.The red rose on the left is ‘Mr. Lincoln,’ a hybrid tea. This is his second year in the garden, and he is still struggling to get a footing without being grafted. I live out in the country where the wind really does whip down the plains. Most of the roses I grow are on their own roots. That way, if they get frozen to the ground (which does sometimes happen) I still end up with the same rose, not some ugly grafted rootstock rose. (You know the ones . . . you see them all over town. Dark red with giant yellow stamens. They bloom once, and remain green foliage the rest of the year. ) In the spring, I’ll write more about grafted versus own root roses.
I think I get three exquisite blooms a month from ‘Mr. Lincoln,’ but he is still worth having for the fragrance which is a classic rose scent.

The yellow and orange stunner on the right is another hybrid tea, ‘Rio Samba.’ ‘Rio Samba’ is hands down my favorite hybrid tea rose. It is vigorous, the blooms are beautiful, but its fragrance is slight. I don’t grow many hybrid teas, but I have two ‘Rio Sambas.’

I cut these roses yesterday, and with today’s projected high reaching only 48 degrees, this may be my last bouquet. Buds, ripe with promise, still perch at the end of rose canes, not knowing that summer is over for them too.

Time for the rose bushes to pull back and conserve their energy for next year. Sounds like a good idea for gardeners too.