Dear Friends and Gardeners: a postcard from tornado alley

A view of the garden which faces the street.

Hi Carol and Mary Ann,

The weather was so exciting (as in bad) yesterday, I forgot to write. We had a cluster of tornadoes in central Oklahoma with more than twenty touching down. Sadly, six people perished.

After writing those words, gardening seems superfluous, but I do have some thoughts about my garden which relate to the weather.  Before yesterday evening, our spring was slow starting and very cool. Then, suddenly, May began and storm season with it (which isn’t unusual). The first and second weeks of May are always the most dangerous for tornadoes in Oklahoma. You may remember the deadly storm from May 9, 1999, as the most recent bad outbreak.

If you haven’t seen enough national footage, here’s some on our local television station.

The fountain in the potager. Someday, I'll have a greenhouse at the end of the potager.

For everyone who wondered about me, my family is all fine. We live north of Oklahoma City between Edmond and Guthrie.  My mother and sister, who live in the middle of Oklahoma City are fine too.  The twister which formed over Edmond didn’t appear to touch down anywhere, so my friends are all okay.

There were storms north and south of us, but we just received straight winds and a little rain.  The big tornadoes hit south of Oklahoma City in Del City and Norman and their surrounds.  I want to say how proud I am of my fellow Oklahomans and how much I love them. Throughout the storms of life, those manmade and those created in nature, Oklahomans are a courageous bunch who are always ready to jump in and help. As usual, the authorities are having to turn people away.

R. 'Carefree Beauty' and R. 'Cl. Old Blush (behind)

My garden is responding to the rain and cooler temperatures. Roses are blooming with gusto because they didn’t have a late freeze to stop them in their tracks.  I don’t think I ever saw a prettier spring.  There are also few bugs to mar the scene. Perhaps, the extra cold winter weather is the cause.  I’m seeing some leaf damage from rose slugworms (little green larvae of the rose sawfly).  I’ve been squishing them, and you can also use a pyrethrum based spray, but the damage isn’t that bad. They skeletonize the leaves as shown.

Rose slugworm and skeletonized leaves

As for the vegetable garden, I’ve eaten most of the bok choy and had green onions everyday.  Tonight, I’ll make Grandma Nita’s wilted lettuce salad for the first time.  (I’ve listed the recipe below)  which is one of my spring touchstones.  I also need to eat the broccoli because it is trying to bolt. I’ll get two heads and then some sideshoots before I pull it.  The red cabbage is growing by leaps and bounds, but no heads are forming yet. They may not if the wather warms too fast.  It is one of the conundrums of growing cool weather crops in Oklahoma that we have such a short window in spring to mature these vegetables.

Grandma Nita’s Wilted Lettuce Salad

3 slices bacon (or three tablespoons of a good vegetable oil)
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 teaspoons white sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Dash of salt
Four cups of leaf lettuce like Black Seeded Simpson – rinsed, dried and
torn into pieces
5 green onions with tops, thinly sliced

1.     Fry bacon, remove from skillet, crumble and set aside.
2.     To the still-hot bacon drippings, add the vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir over medium heat until hot and bubbly. (Be careful during this step so that the drippings don’t splatter you.)
3.     In a large bowl, combine the lettuce and green onions. Add the warm dressing and toss to evenly coat. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon and enjoy.

I have pea blooms. Peas will follow.  For Mother’s Day, Bill bought me these funky multi-colored tomato cages because I don’t like to stake.

Funky tomato cages in red, yellow, blue or green. I have all but the green.

Before the storms, yesterday, I drove an hour and a half to Sunshine Nursery in Clinton, Oklahoma. It really is the best place to find unusual shrubs and trees. I bought a very small desert willow cultivar, ‘Burgundy’.

Now, where to plant it? I do that occasionally; buy plants and not know where they are going, but I wouldn’t advise it.

That’s all I have for this week.  Bill and I celebrate our 21st anniversary tomorrow. We got married in a storm, not a fever (although Bill’s likes to pretend so). More supercell weather is predicted for tomorrow night. We have reservations at the Coach House so I hope the storms don’t interfere.



  1. Ilona says:

    I wondered how you were doing. glad you and yours are fine, and sorry for those who suffered with the tornado damage.

    Your garden is lovely and the veggie harvests sound wonderful- my lettuce is almost ready to pick for baby leaf salads.

    enjoy your pictures so much.
    .-= Ilona´s last blog ..Victorian Gardens =-.

    Hi Ilona, we are all just fine. I’m a native Okie, so I don’t get too worried about tornadoes. I just run to my fraidy hole.~~Dee

  2. Dee, wow what a few days we are having here! So far the worst we have had is a fence panel blown out, a tornado warning tonight and hopefully a quiet night tomorrow!

    Your garden is looking MAGNIFICENT, wow is all I have to say and one of these days I hope to get to visit. Happy Anniversary for tomorrow, 21 yrs is quite an achievement!

    Thanks Sarah. We’ve had some very wild weather. You hang on up there in the west. 🙂 ~~Dee

  3. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Good to hear all is well and good in your world. It was scary seeing all that tornado activity in OK. Do you have to drain and bring in your fountain? It sure is pretty.

    Hi Lisa, yes, we’re all okay. I live about 45 minutes north of where the tornadoes struck.~~Dee

  4. Hi, Dee, When I saw the news on TV, I worried about you! I am so glad you and your loved ones are safe!
    I know I have said it before, but I really envy your potager. My kitchen-garden design pales in comparison.
    R. ‘Carefree Beauty’ is stunning in its beauty.
    Stay safe, Pam x
    .-= Pam’s English Garden´s last blog ..Do As I Say, Not As I Do =-.

    Pam, I started small long ago. This is after 21 years of gardening on this land and many years prior. Your garden is wonderful BTW.~~Dee

  5. Sandy Casteel says:

    Hi Dee,
    Just had to say hi.
    I just happened to stumble on your wonderful site and have included it among my favorites for the future. I always enjoy your photos in the Oklahoma Gardening but didn’t realize you had such a wonderful venue for other great pics. Love your gardens!!
    I have to confess I was googling “salvia victoria” and your site popped up. One of our great garden club ladies, Fran Whitton, is moving back to Calif. and she has been sharing plants from her garden before taking off. I snagged a couple of large pots of the salvia and have planted them in my garden as a remembrance of her friendship. With a library full of “plant books” I was lazy and resorted to internet search for refresher info on them before I planted.
    I didn’t get to tour Hugh and Jennifer’s gardens last weekend to see their iris in full glory. It was such a great location for one of the stops on our OHS garden tourlast fall I would love to see them volunteer it again. Lots of work though, I can’t blame them for not wanting to do it again so soon.
    Will be seeing you.

    Sandy, thank you so much. I read your comment when I was away from the computer on my phone, and I’ve just now had time to respond. I love Salvia ‘Victoria’ and all of her cousins. Wonderful plants. You’re so lucky to have a source as it isn’t always easy to find. Now, for a suggestion, if you want it to reseed, put crumbled leaves where the seed will fall, and you’ll have plenty of seedlings next spring. ‘Victoria’ is perennial in Oklahoma, but it sometimes dies in a cold winter. This way you’ll always have more.~~Dee

  6. Jenny B says:

    Happy Anniversary, happy anniversary…imagine me singing–well, maybe you better not! 😉 Hope your celebration at the Coach House is wonderful. So glad you were not affected by those tornadoes. My heart goes out to those that lost property and even their life. So scary!
    .-= Jenny B´s last blog ..Spring Travels and Travails =-.

    Jenny, thanks for singing to me! We finally got to celebrate last night. It was delish. My heart goes out to those too who lost loved ones in the tornadoes. Property can be replaced, but people . . . .~~Dee

  7. Phillip says:

    Glad to hear that you and your family are safe. Your roses and peonies are beautiful!
    .-= Phillip´s last blog ..More roses =-.

    Thanks Phillip. No more beautiful than yours.~~Dee

  8. It’s so beautiful with the Peonies in full bloom and your Roses going gangbusters. I’m glad this spring has been kind to your garden and that the tornadoes passed you by.
    .-= Mr. McGregor’s Daughter´s last blog ..The Real Reason I Didn’t Go To Malvern* =-.

    Me too MMD, me too.~~Dee

  9. Glad you and that wonderful red vase are all right, but sorry to here of the devastation elsewhere. Hey! One of my closest friends is Nita (though full name is Aunita).
    .-= Monica the Garden Faerie´s last blog ..Matthaei Plant Sale =-.

    Hey Monica, my sis is named after our grandmother who was Juanita. No, her family wasn’t hispanic. My great-grand just loved the name.~~Dee

  10. eliz says:

    OMG, your garden looks beautiful. I think these are the nicest pictures I have seen. So glad the tornado did not hurt you or it.

    Thanks Eliz. I’ve been trying to take more photos of sections of the garden and not only closeups.~~Dee

  11. Robin says:

    I saw the news about the tornadoes! Wow, there were so many of them! Glad you and your loved ones are safe!

    I love the water feature in the potager. It is gorgeous!
    .-= Robin´s last blog ..Finally! An Oriole! =-.

    Thank you Robin, yes, that was an unusual day, thank God.~~Dee

  12. MA says:

    Your garden, the fountain, the roses…just gorgeous! Positively gorgeous!

    Thanks Hon.~~Dee

  13. Cindy, MCOK says:

    Dee, I just might make that salad! I have lettuce that’s going to turn bitter from the heat all too soon. Summer is here on my corner of Katy.

    I’m so glad you and yours are all OK after yesterday’s storms. I feel for those who aren’t.
    .-= Cindy, MCOK´s last blog ..Wit’s End of the Week Report: May 9, 2010 =-.

  14. Lorene says:

    Dee, so glad to hear you’re well. The garden is beautiful. Thanks so much for reminding me of that salad – yum. There are people who LIKE to stake?

  15. kclily says:

    Dee, I am glad to hear that you and your family came through the tornados safely. I live in Choctaw but the tornados touched down about 5 miles south of me. My family came through untouched also. I love your fountain in the potager. It has given me an idea for my backyard. Thanks for the inspiration.

  16. So glad to know you’re safe and didn’t get damage in your garden. Spring storms really can test your nerves!
    Happy Anniversary!

  17. If we get a hot summer, we have a small window of opportunity for spring crops, too, mostly because it takes so long to warm up. But we don’t always get a hot summer. Sometimes most of August goes by before we get a ripe tomato.
    .-= Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening´s last blog ..I Hate These Kind of Plants =-.

  18. Carol says:

    Dee… good to hear that you and all your family are safe. It is almost incomprehensible seeing all the damage that tornadoes can cause in such a short amount of time.

    It sounds like your garden is growing well, and keeping you busy. Same here! Congrats on your anniversary, too.

  19. Katie says:

    I like your tomato cages! About to do some of that, myself, today.

    I think I saw those green ones in Home Depot a few weeks ago. Let us know if/how well you like them, because I was thinking that they looked very “multi-purpose”

    Oh and your wilted lettuce recipe sounds DIVINE. I think I need to try that for lunch tomorrow! LOL!
    .-= Katie´s last blog ..Planet =-.

Comments are closed.