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 next week or so. We need those spring rains to ready the garden for our hot and dry summer. So far, so good. 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 native, and trumpet vine is invasive. 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 Bill brought over from his mother's garden for nearly thirty years. 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?

July garden chores

Hydrangea paniculata 'Little Lime' and Senorita Rosalita cleome

The page on the calendar has turned. It’s already July, which came in on a flood in Oklahoma. Today is gray, but I don’t mind. Gray skies bring cooler weather. July will be hot and humid soon so enjoy it while you can and get those July garden chores done.

July garden chores. Sun Parasol Garden Crimson mandevilla with Surdiva Blue scaevola in a blue pot. I haven't a clue what that white thing is on the container, but the plants were sent to me from Suntory.
Sun Parasol Garden Crimson mandevilla with Surdiva Blue scaevola in a blue pot. I haven’t a clue what that white thing is on the container–maybe a sticker? Suntory sent the plants to me. I like them both.

It’s a completely different garden this year. Some plants have died from too much rain and Oklahoma’s clay soil. I thanked them for their service, ripped them out and moved on. Plants die. I’ve lost several things in this weather, including my tiny ‘Troll’ ginkgo. Yes, it’s sad, but the little guy just couldn’t handle the heat wave we had before the last rain. So, I’m replacing it with a purple fountain grass like ‘Fireworks’ until I decide on something more permanent. Grasses grow quickly and fill in bare spots. Thank goodness.

Earlier in spring, I moved my Hydrangea angustipetala ‘MonLongShou’ Golden Crane® to a new border with terrible drainage. I didn’t know how bad the drainage was until it started to suffer. By the time I figured out what was happening, it looked very, very sad. So, I returned it to its former spot. All of this moving may kill it, and I’ll have to try again. I’m telling you this because every gardener makes mistakes and has failures. It’s okay, if sometimes frustrating and expensive.

I thought I would share my July garden chores with you. They’re listed below.

Several containers on the back deck. In the pot on the left is 'Princess Caroline' grass, 'Henna' coleus, purple scaevola, Superbells® Coralberry Punch calibrochoa and alternanthera.
Several containers on the back deck. In the pot on the left is ‘Princess Caroline’ grass, ‘Henna’ coleus, purple scaevola, Superbells® Coralberry Punch calibrochoa and alternanthera. All of these are tropical plants so they don’t mind the heat as long as you remember to water.

Try tropical plants for summer. Tropicals are so happy with Oklahoma’s current hot and humid weather because these conditions replicate the plants’ native environment. If you have holes in the garden, consider plunking a tropical plant in the empty spot. No, they aren’t perennial, but anything that blooms abundantly, or struts an interesting leaf when the mercury hits 100°F isn’t going survive an Oklahoma winter. Consider tropicals your little black garden dresses for summer.

'Trailing Plum Brocade' coleus would look great spilling over a wall or a container.
‘Trailing Plum Brocade’ coleus would look great spilling over a wall or a container.

Some great tropical plants to try are:

  • Coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides. syn. Solenostemon scutellarioides). Make a place for those that can handle the sun including: ‘Henna,’ ‘Indian Summer,’ ‘Songbird,’ Colorblaze® KeystoneKopper, ‘ColorBlaze® Sedona, ‘Wasabi,’ ‘Religious Radish,’ ‘Big Red Judy,’ ‘Saturn.’ ‘Kingswood Torch’ and ‘Orange King.’ Remember, sun resistant types can also be grown in shade, but coloration will be different. The thicker the leaves, the better they perform in extreme sun and heat. For shade, choose one of the Wizard series, ‘Fishnet Stockings (can handle partial sun), ‘Black Dragon,’ or one of the excellent, large-leaf ‘Kong’ series. You can’t go wrong with Kong.

    Two different varieties of Kong coleus.
    Two different varieties of Kong coleus.
  • Almost as large as the coleus group is the genus alternanthera. It’s a diverse clan including A. ficoidea ‘Red Threads,’ A. dentata ‘Purple Knight’ (which can be grown from seed,) ‘Little Ruby’ and ‘Brazilian Red.’ Then, there’s green and pink A. ficoidea ‘Partytime’ and ‘Raspberry Rum,’ a dark red and pink with larger leaves.

    In late summer of 2011, the only border that looked good that dreadful summer was the one by the garage planted with tropical plants. Here, variegated oyster plant, 'Peter's Wonder' coleus, alternanthera and heliotrope make a very pretty picture.
    In late summer of 2011, the only border that looked good that dreadful summer was the one by the garage planted with tropical plants. Here, variegated oyster plant, ‘Peter’s Wonder’ coleus, alternanthera and heliotrope make a very pretty picture.
  • Tradescantia bermudensis ‘Variegata’, variegated oyster plant, aka Moses in the cradle, is a great tropical accent plant especially if you choose one of the variegated ones. Note that the golden variegated one isn’t as sturdy as the ordinary one or the white and green variety.
  • Some salvias are also tropical. Salvia elegens ‘Golden Delicious’ pineapple sage has been a huge hit here in recent summers. The regular pineapple sage is pretty too.

    Salvia elegens 'Golden Delicious' pineapple sage in front of my red fountain. #nofilter
    Salvia elegens ‘Golden Delicious’ pineapple sage in front of my red fountain last fall. No filter, just backlit with beautiful October sunlight.

Shop for crapemyrtle shrubs and trees. You can plant crapemyrtles in full sun in this weather, and they will do fine as long as you remember to water them. If you forget, they will let you know. Why shop for them now? Because they are starting to come into bloom. Don’t just fall for a pretty flower though. Make sure the crapemyrtle you choose is the best one for its location. Before you buy, look online to see if your variety will grow too large for its space. Buy the right sized crapemyrtle, and you won’t need to perform surgery on it every spring.

Put out more Nolo Bait™ and Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt.) This will be my third application of Nolo Bait™. I normally only put it out twice, but the rain washed it off both times. As soon as this rainy spell is over, I’ll put out another application. Also, I have some Bt. spray for the Checkerspot Butterfly caterpillars. They’ve destroyed several of my black-eyed Susans. I don’t mind sharing some plants with them, but they are voracious this year. These are both organic controls only applicable to the particular pest. They won’t hurt other creatures including humans. By the way, I only put Bt. on the plants being hit the hardest. I don’t spray the whole garden because I don’t want to hurt other caterpillars like those of the Monarchs and other butterflies. Bt. also helps slow down the redbud leaffolders on The Rising Sun® redbud. For some reason, this cultivar is a leaffolder magnet. The tree was nearly destroyed in years past.

Pink Velour® crapemyrtle that died all the way to the ground  in the winter of 2011
Pink Velour® crapemyrtle that died all the way to the ground in the winter of 2011. It bounced back in 2012.

Click on the gallery below to see more photos of the garden. I walked around the outside to get some different angles this time.

Mulch. If you mulched with quick-decaying matter like shredded leaves or fine pine, you may need to add to it. We’ve had a lot of rain that has taken a toll on mulch that floats. The rain has been rushing in instead of falling gently. I don’t know about you, but not only is some of my mulch at the bottom of the hill, but the gravel from my paths is too. Also, when it isn’t raining, the weather is hot, muggy and buggy. In hot weather mulch decays faster. I’ll be adding some shredded leaves to my beds this week around the plants, especially anything new. It’s really the wrong time of year to plant new things, but the weather has been so rainy, I take chances.

The border where Hemerocallis 'Desert Flame'  resides is quite swampy in places. I'll be adding leaves to set the earthworms to work.
The border where Hemerocallis ‘Desert Flame’ resides is quite swampy in places. I’ll be adding leaves to set the earthworms to work.

Add shredded leaves to swampy borders. The new border next to the house has a section that is full of clay. Not only that, the border within the retaining wall drains into this bed. After the five to six inches from a few days ago, along with last night’s rain, I now have a swampy mess in the middle. I’ll work some shredded leaves into this swamp with the hope that earthworms will break up the nasty clay. I won’t plant anything there until next spring. I’ll probably add some chicken manure to it too.

Fertilize with an all-natural liquid fertilizer. The garden could use a mid-summer boost so I’m going to put a hose-end fertilizer sprayer on and spray organic liquid fertilizer all over the garden. It will smell like a lake for a couple of days, but the plants will be all the better this tonic. Make sure your organic fertilizer has fish emulsion and molasses (or some other natural binding agent), I like John’s Recipe from Lady Bug Brand a lot. I also like Jobe’s Organic All Purpose Fertilizer which is granular. You can just throw it down on the soil and cover with mulch. Don’t forget to fertilize your containers too. A lot of water runs through those containers so they need all the help they can get.

Deadhead blooming plants. Any plants that have finished blooming can be deadheaded now to encourage more bloom. I don’t deadhead my hydrangeas because I like to leave the blooms intact and watch them turn to a beautiful brown or dark pink. Later, in fall, I might cut some of them to bring inside. However, I vigilantly deadhead my roses, lilies, daylilies, daisies and echinaceas so that their energy goes back into the plant instead of into forming seed. Also, you might cut back your asters again. I only cut back my mums once, but my asters are crazy this year. I cut them back three times, and some still bloomed. I’ll cut them back again because I want fall flowers.

Continue weeding. Weeding is ever constant, but it gives me time to let my mind float while I still get something accomplished. As I weed, I ponder all of the blessings in my life. Blessings like all of you who read this blog.

Okay, that’s all of the July garden chores I can think of. Guess I’ll go have a glass of iced tea and watch the sun set–if I can find it in all of these clouds.