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… 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… 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… 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?

Hydrangeas for Oklahoma’s finicky climate

Calamagrostis × acutiflora 'Overdam' in front of Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle'

Do you like hydrangeas, but despair of growing them in hot and sunny Oklahoma? Here are several hydrangeas for Oklahoma’s finicky climate. Choose wisely because hydrangeas live for a very long time, and many of them take up a lot of gardening room. If your garden is small, but mighty, choose one of the dwarf types I feature in this post.

There are old favorites and new ones to love. As you know, I lost many roses to Rose Rosette Disease, and I used hydrangeas and native shrubs to replace roses in my garden. These young plants are now growing into good anchor plants for herbaceous beds and borders. Plus, they’re easy care. Note: click on the photos in the galleries to make them larger.

H. arborescens ‘Annabelle’

First up, of course, is H. arborescens ‘Annabelle.’ The beautiful ‘Annabelle’ has lived in my garden for many years and grew from two small cuttings rooted by my friend, Wanda Faller. Hi Wanda!

For those of us worried about pollinators, it’s also the hydrangea that pollinators love. In fact, it is covered with many different creatures all summer long. ‘Annabelle’ was found in Anna, Illinois, and it’s native to southern Missouri, Oklahoma and even Louisiana. We need to plant more native plants in our gardens. Hybridizers have tried to improve upon ‘Annabelle,’ but for my money, they haven’t yet.

Hydrangeas for Oklahoma's finicky climate. Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' with pollinators drunk with joy
H. arborescens ‘Annabelle’ and pollinators drunk with nectar joy

‘Annabelle’ just gets better and better each year. I’ve rooted many cuttings for friends, and I think I’ll root more for overwintering in the greenhouse. Note: if you ever get a greenhouse, build it twice the size you think you need. You’ll find uses for it, I promise. Mine is much too small to do everything I want.

‘Annabelle’ is hardy to USDA Zone 3, and it gets 4 to 5 ft tall by 6 ft wide.

‘Annabelle’ holds onto her blooms throughout most of winter, and since she blooms on new wood, there’s no worry–cutting them off in spring won’t lessen her impact come summer. Not so with some of older H. macrophylla cultivars. To be honest, I’ve never had much luck with any of the traditional big-leaf hydrangeas in this garden. New and old cultivars live here just fine, but even the newer ones don’t bloom with any consistency. A non-performing hydrangea is a boring plant.

‘Annabelle’ can take some sun in Oklahoma, but not as much as some of the other hydrangeas I’ll feature in this post. She needs plenty of water as do most hydrangeas to look their best. Remember the word hydrangea starts with the Greek prefix “hydro” meaning water. All of mine are on drip irrigation to conserve as much water as possible.

H. quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’

My second-favorite hydrangeas are in a tie. I really love H. quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’ and H. paniculata ‘Limelight.’ The paniculata (panicle) group can take a lot of sun as can some quercifolia (oakleaf) hydrangeas. However, ‘Ruby Slippers’ wins for dealing best with intense sunllight. ‘Ruby Slippers’ resides at the end of the garden where she took over for my ‘New Dawn’ roses, the first to succumb to Rose Rosette back when I barely knew what was happening.

No, hydrangeas aren’t roses, but they provide three beautiful seasons of interest, and compared to roses, hydrangeas are so easy care it’s hard to believe. ‘Ruby Slippers‘ came out of breeding at the U.S. National Arboretum. It blooms on old wood so remove the blooms after they fade. ‘Ruby Slippers’ is hardy to USDA Zone 5. It’s also a small, compact shrub–3 1/2 ft. tall and 4 to 5 ft. wide–so not much pruning is necessary.

See? Easy.

H. paniculata ‘Limelight’ and H. paniculata Little Lime®

Limelight,’ took the garden world by storm when it was introduced, and it’s a very forgiving plant. With water, it can take a lot of sun. I’ve seen it growing as a standard–small tree–making an exclamation point in garden beds. Or, you can let it spread out and become a great backdrop for other plants.

Like ‘Annabelle,’ ‘Limelight’s’ pointed blooms start out green, turn to white and then back to green by end of summer. Eventually, they turn a rosy, light brown. It blooms on new wood so there’s no worry of cutting off the next season’s blooms. In fact, it’s such an easy plant to grow throughout much of the country that I see it everywhere I travel. It’s also hardy to USDA Zone 3a, but doesn’t mind heat either. Mine is planted at the end of a rose border where I lost a Knock Out® rose to Rose Rosette. ‘Limelight’ does get big: 5 ft. to 6 ft tall and wide so give it some room.

If you have a smaller garden, there’s now a newer and smaller version of ‘Limelight’ called H. paniculata Little Lime®. This is a dwarf variety of panicle hydrangea and grows 3 ft. to 5 ft. wide and tall. I planted three next to my deck behind some daylilies and Tightwad Red crapemyrtles. Last summer, I grew Senorita Rosalita cleome in front too, and the purple and green made quite an impact for the fall garden tour. These small beauties also work well in containers with drip irrigation.

H. paniculata Quick Fire® and Little Quick Fire®

At each end of the same border, I planted H. paniculata Quick Fire®. These shrubs grow larger, and their blooms have more visual interest as they fade than Little Lime. Just one of the prettiest hydrangeas in production, and they can handle at least half a day of morning sun. As you can see from the photo below, they also have red stems. Quick Fire grows six to seven feet tall and wide, and it’s hardy to USDA Zone 3.


If you don’t have that kind of space, there’s a Little Quick Fire® too. Up until now, I bought all of the shrubs I’ve discussed. Proven Winners sent me Little Quick Fire and H. serrata Tuff Stuff™ to try out last summer. Little Quick Fire settled right in and is growing great guns. It is hardy to Zone 3 and grows from 3 ft to 6 ft. Tuff Stuff is taking longer to settle in, but even though it’s a mountain hydrangea, I have high hopes for it. Tuff Stuff grows 2 ft to 3 ft wide and 3 ft to 4 ft tall. It is hardy to Zone 5a.

H. paniculata Pinky Winky®

Years and years ago, I received Pinky Winky at a Garden Writers Association annual meeting. It grew from a one gallon pot to a nice-sized shrub about 3 ft tall by 3 ft wide. It’s supposed to grow larger, but some plants in Oklahoma are more stunted. Mine grows in full sun all day. It is hardy to Zone 3. I love the long pointed blooms and its small size, but I hate the name. I’d really like to try H. paniculata ‘Renhy’ Vanilla Strawberry, but Pinky Winky has grown so well in this spot I don’t have the heart to remove it. Maybe I can find another spot for Vanilla Strawberry. It grows much larger–6 ft to 8 ft tall and 4 ft to 5 ft wide. It is hardy to Zone 3.

Now, most of these hydrangeas bloom white and then fade to either pink, red or brown. I know how much people love blue hydrangeas, but in my part of Oklahoma, they require very specific conditions. Conditions I’m not willing to provide. Why should I when all of these others are so happy here?