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?

August Garden Observations

Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff'

Remember all that hurrying and scurrying we did from late February to June? Well, the dog days of August are here, and because I don’t have to work so hard, I’ve had time to make a few August garden observations.

August Garden Observations. I really like the plant combinations around the red fountain this year. Pineapple sage, 'Dallas Red' lantana, 'Pink Crystals' ruby grass and 'Victoria Blue' salvia (returned from last year.)
I really like the plant combinations around the red fountain this year. Pineapple sage, ‘Dallas Red’ lantana, ‘Pink Crystals’ ruby grass and ‘Victoria Blue’ salvia (returned from last year.)

1. Weeds never leave. Sure, once things heat up, the spring weeds take a hike, but they are soon replaced by the summer weeds. Any spring weeds I missed set seed in the gravel paths to torment me later. If I didn’t know it before, I know this much now. Gravel is a great seed starting medium. I find stray plants in it everywhere especially that of Verbena bonariensis, zinnias, the various gomphrenas, anything that self seeds. So, use grit on top of your pots when you start seeds in spring and fall, and you’ll just be replicating what’s already going on in my pathways.

H. Liz Schreiner with tiny bees. This daylily is a very good pollinator plant, and it reblooms.
H. Liz Schreiner with tiny bees. This daylily is a very good pollinator plant, and it reblooms.

2. This summer has been the finest I’ve seen in ten years. We’ve had regular rain. The plants are responding beautifully to the moderated temperatures, and all is well. Still, with all this bounty, I’m thinking about my friends in California and Tennessee who aren’t getting any rain. This makes me sad. Oklahoma continues to have drought, but we seem to have lessened it somewhat this spring and summer Drought is always a few drops away in Oklahoma and Texas, but have you heard about Lake Mead? It’s drying up, and that’s where people in Los Angeles get their water. I don’t know what they will do. Pray for rain for them and the folks in Tennessee. Blogging connects you with people all over the world, and suddenly, you aren’t just hearing about stuff on the news, you know these people. They are your friends.

This is just part of the back garden shot in early morning. I have many other beds and borders too.
This is just part of the back garden shot in early morning. I have many other beds and borders too.

3. My garden is middle-aged, and has all the aches and pains associated with its twenty-five plus years. I started part of the garden when I was a young gardener, and I now see many things I would do differently. I should’ve planted more trees and shrubs at the beginning. I planted more later, but you can see where the fabric of the garden is frayed when an established rose dies of Rose Rosette Disease or other problems. I lost another rose last week. I plan to replace it with a Hydrangea paniculata, maybe ‘Limelight.’

This is the border by the garage and the potager. I'm going to move the cold frame. I don't like it in that spot. It ruins the view.
This is the border by the garage and the potager. I’m going to move the cold frame. I don’t like it in that spot. It ruins the view.

4. The garden is too big. I started out small, got the gardening bug, and overdid it. I am always thinking of new things to plant, and honestly, if I could afford it, I would hire my friend, John Fluitt from Garden Design Associates to help me create a garden that is easier to care for and more cohesive. I would plant more evergreens for winter interest too. However, in Oklahoma, we have to be very choosy about the evergreens we grow. So many hate it here. Most years, with the summers we have, who could blame them?

Vernonia fasciculata, smooth ironweed grows wild on my property. It eventually made its way into the garden, and I kept it for the butterflies and bees.
Vernonia fasciculata, smooth ironweed grows wild on my property. It eventually made its way into the garden, and I kept it for the butterflies and bees.

5. If I made changes to the garden, I would add even more pollinator plants. I find that I’m more interested in pollinators than ever. I’ve built up my soil for years, and it’s no longer a challenge to get coleus, grasses and flowers to grow. I’m still working on the soil in the newer vegetable patch. Rotation and good soil are the two watchwords there. Ah, but the small bees and butterflies, I love them best. I really do. They’re so busy all day, and in the early morning, so sleepy. I feel like a tender mother to them  which makes me laugh because they don’t know I plant all of this for them.

Eupatorium 'Little Joe' with bumblebee
Eupatorium ‘Little Joe’ with bumblebee

This year, some days are full of sunshine while others are shrouded in cloudy goodness. Nights with sensible low temperatures let plants recover even if we do have a hot day the next. The vegetable garden with its too many tomatoes, peppers and eggplant is overflowing and full of grassy weeds. I just can’t keep up although I mulched and did everything I’m supposed to. The corn was delicious. The tomatoes abundant, and in spite of the potato beetles, even the eggplant has recovered and produced good fruit. I go out and fight the squash bugs twice a day, and I’m thinking about planting bush beans where the corn stalks stand empty. Maybe. Next week is the Garden Writers Association annual meeting in Pittsburgh, and I’m going so there may not be time. Two articles are due beforehand, and work comes first.

Garden beds by the street.
Garden beds by the street in early spring.

About the garden, I know what you’re thinking. You’ll tell me it’s beautiful, and it is, but I also see where things need to be removed for the betterment of other plants. Removing plants even when they are self-seeders is very hard. I just grit my teeth and do it for the garden’s sake. Too many plants are being overshadowed by their neighbors, and I plant in series of “ones” far too often. The garden could use more focal points. I know just enough about design to be dangerous these days.

Purple chair with 'Grandpa Otts' morning glory
Purple chair with ‘Grandpa Otts’ morning glory clambering up the arbor behind. In spring, this arbor also has orange and pink American honeysuckle.

When the children finally get out of college, I’ll hire someone I trust. I hope John is still designing then. The company will bring in backhoes and other equipment to help me get things set up for the years ahead. I hope Bill is ready for that expense. I’ll also get a small pool because it’s hot in Oklahoma in the summer, and I need somewhere to cool off. As long as I’m dreaming, I’ll also build an outdoor shower so I don’t drag garden debris into the pool. Either that, or I will just move to town and leave it all behind. I’ve been watching my friend as she moves from one garden to a clean slate, and I have a longing for a smaller house and a smaller garden so I can manage things better. We’ll see.

These are my August garden thoughts. What would you change about your garden if you could?

I posted this as part of the Tuesday Garden Party hosted by five different home and garden bloggers.