I haven’t done a ten easiest in awhile, so I thought I’d update us all with flowers instead of veggies. I get a lot of searches from folks who want to know how to garden in our very tough conditions, and I’m here to help. Some of these flowers may not work in every situation, and in some states may even be aggressive or invasive. Not so here. It is a testament to our tough growing conditions that there isn’t a large invasive plant list in Oklahoma.
- Rudbeckias in all their forms. The easiest one to grow is R. fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm.’ It was selected as the Perennial Plant of the Year in 1999 and with good reason. It is simple to grow. However, it does spread by rhizomes and seed and can be quite aggressive if you don’t keep it in check especially in areas with irrigation. I make sure its dark seedheads are promptly chopped off to prevent spreading. Other rudbeckia cultivars are ‘Irish Eyes’ which has a lovely green eye, and a couple of newer ones, ‘Cherry Brandy’ and ‘Denver Daisy’ (both of which I bought to try this year.)
- Irises. They don’t bloom for a long time, but they are magical when they do, and their foliage is simply spiky and lovely all at the same time. Grow a few and enjoy their sonata to spring. Personally, I like blue irises and yellow ones. It’s just my thing.
- Peonies. Herbaceous in the sun, and Tree peonies in the shade. Give the herbaceous type (which come up from the ground every spring) some extra support in case it rains. You can almost always count on it raining during peony and Arts Festival season.
- Roses. I know what you’re thinking . . . just bear with me. Roses can be easy and some of the easiest I’ve found are the OSO Easy™ rose collection. I was given OSO Easy™ Paprika as a trial plant a few years ago, and she has performed under some very severe conditions. In fact, I just moved her to a new location the other day, and I should have done it in February when she was dormant. This will be her biggest trial yet. I loved Paprika so much, I purchased OSO Easy™ Peachy Cream which has also done famously. These are small roses so place them at the edge of a border if you try them. I think I’ll buy OSO Easy™ Strawberry Crush if I see it at the nursery. Maybe I should do a Top ten roses for Oklahoma sometime.
- Daylilies. Everyone knows I love daylilies, but part of the reason is they’re so easy to grow. Give them some water, fertilizer and sun, and you have a month of beautiful blooms. Choose three plants, early, mid and late blooming, and you can have a month of blooms. ‘Autumn Minaret’ is a late blooming heirloom which can grow scapes to six feet or more.
- Shasta daisies. Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Becky’ is one of my all-time favorites. She will grow and give you two to three months of white flowers on strong stems. If she gets too much water, she can have stem rot. I also have ‘Silver Princess’ which is a dwarf cultivar topping out at one foot. ‘Alaska’ is an older cultivar which doesn’t have as strong stems, but is still pretty. ‘Broadway Lights’ opens with yellow blooms fading to cream. I planted it last year. The jury is still out.
- Good old-fashioned garden phlox. I have the best passalong which is pink, and I’ve grown the purple too. They are bullet proof in central Oklahoma. Everyone should have a stand of garden phlox. I also like the cultivars ‘Bright Eyes’ and ‘Mt. Fuji,’ a white I can grow much better than ‘David’ which I’ve killed more times than I can count. ‘Mt. Fuji’ just wants to be in full sun to keep from getting powdery mildew. In fact, all garden phlox need full sun.
- Zinnias. I like the taller types you can bring inside as cut flowers. I don’t sow my seed until it is super hot. Then, the zinnias are fresh when other things are fading. I also love Persian Carpet which are low growing and the Profusion series. You can often buy the latter as plants. They will spread and do well if you keep them deadheaded. Nothing seems to bring in the butterflies better than zinnias and black-eyed Susans. Botanical Interests has great seed including Persian Carpet ones. I’ve also grown their Art Deco mix. So beautiful.
- Hollyhocks. These can also be grown from seed. Start them early to get the best bloom. Some years with our long summers, they will bloom the first year. Other years, the second. They look great at the back of the border. ‘Indian Spring’ is a good mix of single bloom seeds.
- Sunflowers. Another easy one to grow from seed and so many varieties from which to choose. Check our Renee’s Garden Seeds for many varieties. I’m trying the Sun Samba mix this year.
Those are my top ten, go-to flowers. What are the ones you plant year after year in your garden? Do tell.