Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day for January 2010: Achieving Winter Bloom

Amaryllis 'Charisma'

Last year, my January Bloom Day post consisted of little, so I vowed to give you more in 2010.  Like last year, let’s begin with the amaryllis, which are actually Hippeastrum, but we all call them the former.  (Thank goodness I’m not in charge of the how and why of plant taxonomy.)  Five varieties were planted to cheer us during what has already been a long and cold winter:  ‘Charisma’, ‘White Christmas’, ‘Elvas’ (which is now blooming and obviously not that cultivar), ‘Red Lion’ and ‘Royal Velvet’ (both of which are not yet blooming, but are on their way).

Helleborus argutifolius 'Silver Lace'

I planted more hellebores, knowing they wouldn’t have blooms this early, but in a mild year, a red dirt girl can hope.  Even the foolish dream, don’t they?  The ‘Silver Lace’ variety does have buds and will probably bloom earlier than all the others which simply sport shivering, evergreen foliage for this Bloom Day.

Pansy Imperial Antique Shades

Normally, I’d have several pansies, but, except for one or two, they were beaten into submission by our record snowfall.  That’s okay, they will come back.  I’ve seen them look worse.  The Imperial Antique Shades seem especially hardy.

When walking through the Legacy Garden for an Oklahoma Horticulture Society meeting a couple of years ago, I caught the scent of one of the most, truly fragrant shrubs planted next to the sidewalk.  The meeting was in February, and the shrub was winter honeysuckle, Lonicera fragrantissima.  I helped in the Legacy Garden last summer, and the friend in charge gave me a piece to root.  It’s since grown into a nice sized shrub of three feet by four feet.  Not an attention grabber unless it is blooming, I planted it where it had room to spread since it should get six to eight feet wide and tall.  There is no worry of Lonicera fragrantissima becoming invasive like the blasted Japanese honeysuckle, Loncera japonica, I inherited when I married HH.  (It belonged to his maternal grandmother, Ma, who was quite the gardener and, of course, didn’t know its invasive ways).

By the by, if you ever wonder if a plant is invasive, look at it this way.  If it is easy peasy, lemon squeezy to grow in Oklahoma, and someone has tons of it in their garden and wants to share it with you, it is either: (1) aggressive; or (2) invasive.  Take the present (because it might be something splendid like my heirloom garden phlox), but before planting, check the Oklahoma Invasive Species List (where Japanese honeysuckle oddly isn’t listed), the Oklahoma Problem Species List (where it is), or the national Invasive Species Resources for Gardeners which has invasive plants listed by region.

In other words, do your research before placing anything in the ground.  There are at least three plants in my garden where I wish I’d followed my own advice.

Lonicera fragrantissima during a hard winter

Back to my winter honeysuckle.  It is normally evergreen in my climate, but this year, with our below-average temps, it is brown and ugly.  However, beneath its burnished leaves are the tiniest buds.  I’m waiting for next month to see what it will do.  Lane Greer wrote a really, sweet article on winter honeysuckle if you’d like to know even more (pun intended).  Also, Elizabeth Lawrence was a fan of its perfume if not its shrubby tendencies, and she wrote about it in several of her books.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise'

Buds also abound on my two, witch hazels, ‘Diane’ and ‘Arnold Promise.’  ‘Diane’ is sitting in her pot in the garage for the moment because the weather was so bitter.  I need to get my son’s strong back to aid me in moving her into her permanent home.  If only I could figure out where that should be.  She needs partial shade, and actually I have an idea for her.  I’ll share more later about these fragrant shrubs.

Knockout in winter

One last photo, only because it is interesting.  From the shriveled, freeze-dried blooms, I can show you that the original, red Knockout rose was still blooming when temperatures plummeted.  The pink variety was too.

The lovely Carol from May Dreams Garden sponsors our monthly bloom day.  Many thanks to her vision which arose out of Elizabeth Lawrence’s quote, “We can have flowers nearly every month of the year.”

Also, if you have time, you might want to snap a few photos for Pam from Digging’s Foliage Follow-Up to be posted the day after Bloom Day.

As always, thanks for stopping by.  Your words encourage me more than you can know.

The Eastern redcedar menace

Eastern Redcedar
Eastern Redcedar

Sounds like a 50’s B-movie just in time for Halloween.

In my wildfires post, I discussed the fire danger posed by cedars and promised you more information. Not long ago, like most rural residents, I considered cedar trees to be weeds that appeared on my acreage and in my flower beds. Irritating, but not dangerous. I changed my mind when I realized how invasive they are.

The Oklahoma Redcedar Task Force was formed in 2001 to come up with some solutions to this ever growing problem (pun intended.)

Per the task force’s report published in 2002, although there are five different native junipers in Oklahoma, the one causing most of the problems is the eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana.) The other natives are Ashe juniper (Juniperus ashei), oneseed juniper (Juniperus monosperma), Pinchot juniper (Juniperus pinchotii) and Rocky Mountain juniper (Juniperus scopulorum.)

As gardeners living in a dry state, we’re always thinking about drought tolerant native plants. We’ve embraced gallardias and bluestem grasses, but native isn’t always a good thing. Cedars suck. Literally. In the summer, a mature redcedar consumes up to 30 gallons of water a day. That water is diverted from hardwood trees like oaks because cedars sprout underneath the hardwood’s canopy, and later, starve it of water.

Redcedar smothering an Oak tree
Redcedar smothering an Oak tree

But, why you ask, is a native plant so out of control? It’s the lack of fire. Being a child of the 60’s, I am a Smoky the Bear fan, but the Great Plains were always prone to fire. Lightning strikes and controlled burning by Native American tribes kept the cedars in check. When Oklahoma was opened for pioneer settlement in 1889, land use was changed, and fire, which controlled the cedars, was nearly stopped. We created the perfect environment for cedar encroachment.

According to the task force, by “. . . 2013, 12.6 million acres will be infested with at least 50 trees per acre, and 8 million acres will be covered with at least 250 trees per acre, creating a 74% loss of native prairies, shrublands, cross timbers forests and other forested ecosystems (Oklahoma State University Rangeland Ecology and Management 2001).”

If all of this isn’t enough reason to grab a chain saw and get after it, there are two other reasons I hate cedars. They carry the spores of cedar apple rust, and I have five apple trees. I’ve planted disease resistant varieties like Enterprise and Liberty, but they still suffer. I’m also really allergic to cedar pollen.

But all is not lost. Since the report was published in 2002, there has been some improvement. The Aromatic Cedar Association was created “to provide information regarding the management and utilization of “aromatic cedar” . . . “[to] connect businesses, individuals and government agencies together to promote and develop the eastern redcedar industry.” The redcedar industry has sprung up much like the trees themselves. Trees are now harvested and used for cedar oil, fence posts and lumber. Other entrepeneurs have improved devices to rid farmers and ranchers of the trees.

Two brothers from Hinton created their own saw for tree removal after the one they used was inadequate. Their invention, the Dougherty Tree Saw, won a 2004 Journal Record Innovator of the Year award. I’m impressed.

Word is beginning to get out about the cedar menace, and you, dear reader, are instrumental in spreading the news. So, get out there, and let others know that if they’re not vigilant, a cedar tree may soon be marching toward you. Just like in the movies.