Dave at The Home Garden asked us to share what we thought was our gardening niche. I’m good at a few things like: growing vegetables, roses, and daylilies, along with their supporting cast of perennials and annuals. However, that’s not much of a niche.
After some consideration, I would have to say that after forty-five years of living, I understand my climate. I know Oklahoma’s fierce changes of weather; its strange soil that ranges from heavy clay to light red sand eroded from sandstone; its seeming moodiness at being neither the Southwest, the Midwest, the East Coast, nor the West. In national gardening magazines, which I love, I find that we fit nowhere. Instead, we seem to have a little bit of everyone’s climate. At first, I found this confusing, but after twenty plus years of trial and error, I know what will grow here.
And what won’t. The list of plants I’ve killed is venerable, long and varied. Some opened up to Oklahoma’s warm, verdant springs, but fizzled when the summer furnace hit. Plants in this category include: sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus,) lupines, which I grew before I realized they liked it cool; sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum,) which I’ve read is invasive even in Oklahoma City, but here, it died; and candytuft (Iberis sempervirens), which usually lasts a season or two before giving up. The lists goes on and on, but I’d rather focus on what does well here.
In recent years, I’ve had a lot of success with my prairie plants like: black-eyed susans (Rudbeckia hirta [Asteraceae]) and goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea.) I understand goldenrod can be invasive in some climates, but it doesn’t seem to be so here. Some daylilies (hemerocallis) also love it here, but others do not like the hot summers. Although I really love Br. Charles Reckamp’s cultivars, he hybridized in Chicago, and his cultivars tend to be very dormant. His H. ‘Sacred Shield doesn’t enjoy my zone 7 garden. Every spring, it starts out well, but by midsummer, all of the outer leaves are dying, thereby shrinking the plant. A shrinking daylily is not as floriferous as one which increases. In this photo, you can see the foliage already turning brown. This isn’t to be confused with daylily rust, which is another problem altogether. Another daylily, H. ‘Fairy Tale Pink’, not a Reckamp, also does this. I think I may dig both of them this year because I get tired of pulling their ratty foliage.
This photo was taken in my friends, the Olsons’, garden and shows how plants like blackeyed susans and garden phlox are great companions. The phlox isn’t in bloom yet, but will be soon and will carry on for months. Echinacea purpurea is also in the background on the right.
I’m trying Baptisias this year, and I hope they will hold up to the heat and increase too, adding another class of plants to my space.
That’s my gardening niche, understanding my climate. So, now I ask, what’s yours?
Hi, Dee, I’d have to say my gardening niche would be to extrapolate the lessons from the garden and apply them elsewhere. I’m a thinker. Always a thinker. I’m sometimes lost to the sheer pragmatics, thus always random but always learning. It’s says a lot about your personal Sense of Place that you can say that you understand your clime, ground upon which you walk, choices. Well done. Kathryn xox
Kathryn, I would say you’re right. That is your niche!~~Dee
Lisa at Greenbow
I too understand my climate. As to a niche. Hmmmmm I think I am an eclectic gardener. I like a little of everything. I have a
what I think most would call a cottage look. However I like a spot of formality which I have tried by making a knot garden. My
DB says I try too many things. I think it flows together fairly well. I mean…can anyone say my garden is perfect? I sure haven’t
met anyone that says so out loud. Oh yes I have moments when I think, get a picture quick before the moment is gone. Ha.
After babbling here I think I might not have a niche especially but an understanding and acceptance of my style, what ever you want to call it.
Lisa, I bet your garden is great. Mine is both formal and informal too.~~Dee
Thanks for the tips Dee, I will give both Phlox and Black Eyed Susans a try this year. Right now I am trying to hunt down a Passion Fruit or two, I had huge success against the odds with them in the UK and I am certain they would thrive in the sun & heat on my back fence here.
Susan, I hope I helped. It is really hard to move from such a temperate climate like Britain to our own furnace. And, don’t forget the ice, wind, snow, thunderstorms. You get the idea.~~Dee
Annie in Austin
Understanding climate is a pretty good niche to be in, Dee- and it sounds as if you really know what will do well where you garden.
I’m not sure how long being reconciled to our climate will take me- with such inconsistent weather, what lives one summer dies the next. I guess if an interesting plant is cheap enough [or better yet, free] I’ll try it no matter what the book says.
Annie at the Transplantable Rose
Oh, Annie, don’t get me wrong. I still try stuff, but I get frustrated when July comes, and the plants gives up the ghost.~~Dee
Oh, oh, I know what my niche is! It is to know who to ask about gardening, who to ask about books, and break that down in who to ask about what type of book. I simply know who to ask for what. 🙂 You enthuse me to start thinking of gardening in Mobile.
Thank you, dear. You get that big, beautiful plantation, and I’ll try to help.~~Dee
Wow. That’s a really great answer. I haven’t a CLUE what my niche is! That’s like asking the meaning of life…now I have to go ponder in a dark corner somewhere! Thanks for making us think!
Thanks, Diana. It wasn’t my original idea, but I ran with it. You think about yours and let us all know.~~Dee
Dee-if you got a Niche..do you scratch it? Maybe that’s just a Southern funny and I better go put my shoes on–it is cold here. Turn up the heat.
Anna, you are so funny. I’m sorry you’re cold. It’ll warm up soon.~~Dee
“….after twenty plus years of trial and error, I know what will grow here. And what wonâ€™t.”
Hi Dee, finally back up for air and thank you for coming to visit…it made me eager to see what you’re up to. Wow, you’ve been busy and prolific and populating this blog with gorgeous photos and elegant, personal essays about our favorite subject.
This phrase above gives this new-to-California gardener so much hope, my friend. It will take me many more decades to reach your level of Yoda-wisdom, but your message – that time, trial, error, and just doing it – teaches me!
I knew you were working hard on print journalism. I just wish we lived closer so I could read your stuff in the news, and you could read mine. In the meantime, blogs help us keep up with each other. “my Yoda-wisdom”? That’s pretty funny. I’ve been here a long time. You’ll adjust quickly to that California sun. Wait and see.~~Dee
Hey Dee!! I just ran through your garden and back out. I left footprints!!
Anna, it’s pretty cold out there right now. I hope you had shoes on.~~Dee
My goodness, I feel positively fortunate to be gardening, here in Massachusetts. Somewhat acidic soil, fairly low phosphorus levels, summer humidity and unpredictably cold and snowy winters (last year very little snow), are the worst of our problems. But, overall, a pretty fair gardening climate, here in Zone 5. It’s been enlightening to learn of the regional differences each gardener faces….. Deb
Oh, I don’t know, Deb. Every climate has its advantages and disadvantages. For example, we can grow beautiful salvias, and I don’t think they do well in Zone 5. I don’t think I could get used to your long winters. It is interesting to see what others face. Thanks for commenting.~~Dee
Hello, thanks for visiting my blog, I love your photos. I adore gardening and think the hardest thing to learn is to know when to not buy those gorgeous plants that you know deep down just won’t grow in your garden!!
Hi Kim, thanks for stopping by my blog and thanks on the photos. I can’t wait to use my new camera this spring and summer.~~Dee
Plain and simple; cacti and succulents!
Absolutely! And you’re in the right climate for them.~~Dee
Ok, I figured it out and posted it to the right site. Once I understood the concept and read it like you did—It was easy to figure out. My niche is Container Arrangements. Duh?
Anna, I’m going to come over and peruse your niche. Containers are fun to do.~~Dee
Ok, let me think about it– a very good question! I’ll post about it!! Stay tuned.
I’m a Zone 7, transplanted to Zone 9 over 30 years ago and just now beginning to thrive. I no longer make the mistake of ignoring catalog zone recommendations and buying based on whim. Learning the local climate is a major accomplishment. Now, if I could just do better with vegetables…
WS, I’m glad you got it figured out. It took me over twenty years to understand that where I live doesn’t conform to anything else. That I don’t prune roses when the east and west coast does. That the water requirements here are different, etc. It takes awhile to figure all of this out. Glad you’re thriving.~~Dee
Mr. McGregor's Daughter
That’s an excellent niche! Instead of “Know thyself,” the maxim for us should be “Gardener, know thy climate.” I’m getting there with mine, but I think I could be more adventurous & experimental. That’s the problem with a niche – it could slip into a rut. Definitely shovel prune those lame performers. There’s always something better to plant. So many plants, so little room…
MMD, I love your “Know thy climate.” I know what you mean about falling into a rut. Ruts are always there waiting.~~Dee
I was so pleased to receive your comment over on my blog, thanks so much. What a good question, and a great idea for a post. I have only had a garden for just over 9 years and I can’t start to tell you the money I have wasted on plants which haven’t thrived, or worse still survived! I pretty much know now what my garden likes, so I generally stick to what I know, quite often just dividing the plants and adding more of the same around the garden. I do tend to get sucked in watching all these gardening programmes and then wanting everything in sight! x
I was going to look at the blogs you like to read and found myself on your side bar, thank you. That makes me feel wonderful.
You are on mine now.
Deb, you’re welcome and thanks to you.~~Dee
When we first started on our Tulsa garden 13 years ago, I also killed sweet woodruff. It took me many years to accept that even though lots of plants are listed with the correct zone in the garden catalogs, it takes a hardy plant to survive Oklahoma summers. There’s nothing uglier than lamb’s ears here in August, moldy and laying on the ground, crying to be ripped up. Dee, I just found your website last week and have been checking it every day since! There aren’t many garden bloggers here in OK, and it’s interesting to read a gardening blog that’s so close to my neck of the woods.
Becky, thank you so much. I have some of those sad lamb’s ears. I grow them for my Bear, who loves them, but I agree, they don’t really like our climate.~~Dee
I’m Zone 8. The heat is something else; the humidity making it even worse. Though when things are humid, it is kind of like a greenhouse. Thankfully, most of my gardening is done on the east side of my garden home. So I can shield most plants from the heat of the day. On the west side I mostly have lawn, and try not to pay too much attention to everything else!
Brenda, yes, the humidity. It can be terrible. I also love the east side of my house, although I didn’t think about it That way the plants are sheltered at the hottest time of day. My west side has a lot of shade, but the sun can be brutal in the spring before the trees have leafed out.~~Dee
I know my climate and my zone and what will and won’t work, but I can’t resist trying something different. Sometimes over and over again. I have a list on my blogs side bar of the stuff I’ve killed. Trust me there are more, I just have to remember them all. Dee your garden is lovely. Thanks for sharing the pictures.
Deb, I love your sidebar idea. How funny. I think everyone tries new stuff. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it fails miserably. Thank you for your kind comments.~~Dee
That’s a very good niche to be good at Dee! Knowing your climate and how stuff works with it is very important. It sounds like gardening can be quite the challenge in Oklahoma! Thanks for responding to my question!
Dave, thanks for asking the question. It made me think.~~Dee
I would have to say after 20 years of gardening only here in Oklahoma. I still pick plants that wither away. Just can’t resist I guess.
You far better understand the climate and are a inspiration to gardeners like me.
Wow, Curtis, thanks for the high praise. You seem like a great gardener to me. I think we all still pick plants that we hope will thrive, and then mourn them when they don’t. That’s part of the game, don’t you think?~~Dee
I’m in Southern Ontario and we get VERY temperamental weather that can change on a dime. The hail storm last June was something else to contend with after it RIPPED up so many of my plants.
My niche .. I still don’t know enough to stop experimenting . I doubt I will ever be comfortable enough to really count on some plant or method, that will stick with the changing weather .. we have horrid heat and humidity in the summer .. hardly any Spring .. a few weeks and we JUMP right into that awful stuff .. maybe my nice is to stick with drought/humidity tolerant, (sounds like an oxy-moron but true) .. plants that can survive this weather and myself ? LOL
Hi Joy, we get that nasty hail too in the spring. I just cringe when it comes and wish I were Wonder Woman with a magic lasso. Sometimes, we don’t have much spring either and then all the plants get really stressed. Thanks for commenting. It means so much to me.~~Dee