Color me beautiful. That’s what my garden would say if you could see her. The summer of 2012 is whispering with soft winds instead of roaring like the fiery furnace of 2011. To say Oklahoma gardeners are glad is an understatement. We are relieved. We’ve had a bit of rain, and mid-day heat opens daylily faces as they stretch toward the sun. They and we are content.
No Death Star for the moment . . . instead, Mr. Sun is full of jolly, good cheer. It may all change in July, but for now, the garden is happy and content with her lot. Plants are abundantly growing, and we will have tomatoes, corn and okra. We’ve already eaten green beans and new potatoes. Life is serene, and this is the summer you feel you could grow anything.
I see you rubbing your hands in expectation. I understand. It’s one of those summers.
Before you go into the nursery and buy something only grown in the Pacific Northwest, or the forests of Japan, stop yourself. Don’t do something rash. You will cry later. If you simply must have a Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Snowkist’ or an Acer palmatum ‘Peaches and Cream’ . . . sigh . . . put them on the east side of the house, out of the wind and in morning sun. Don’t place them south or west. These plants don’t know what to do with our prairie heat or clay soil. They need good, sandy drainage and protection from our harsher elements. Oh, and make sure you have irrigation . . . lots of irrigation.
Why not do the smart thing and plant something easy instead? Grow plants better suited for our climate. Think prairie natives perhaps, or garden stalwarts. Whatever you choose, enjoy, water and feed, giving perennials three years or more to do their thing. If plants don’t work as planned, don’t worry. I kill things every year because I push the limits of my zone and climate, but in the beginning, I stuck with those that worked like my ten easiest flowers, or best vegetables for Oklahoma. For another good list of the tried and true, read my friend, Steve Bender’s book he wrote with Felder Rushing, Passalong Plants. Written for gardeners in the lower south, it’s also a great resource on what will work here. Once you have some success under your belt, then you can think about pushing zones. Or, you can play it smart and not push them at all. After gardening here for over twenty years, I’ve decided I’m a bit past all that. I want to grow what works.
Let’s relish in this summer of our joy. Let’s go out in the morning with our coffee and tea while the air is cool, and the cicadas haven’t yet begun to sing. Let’s look upon our flowers and vegetables with love and forget the Summer of Hell, but let’s also remember the lessons learned and plant smarter this time.