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?