How have you been dealing with the erratic temperatures and welcome rainfall? Better yet, how have your plants been coping? My plants are plotting a coup and I think they have purchased airline tickets to Florida. More on my plants and some of the early spring wild plants that are now in bloom or setting seed.

24th April 2013 Blog

Becky Emerson Carlberg

Last night’s temperature at my house descended to about 28 degrees.  The mist that fell yesterday accumulated to 0.04 inches of moisture.  The previous 24 hour amount was 0.10 of an inch.  The measurement after the deluge a few days before that totaled 4.30 inches.  Not bad.  We have had some amazing moisture!  And some very cold nights.

That’s it.  No more moving plants in and out.  From here on, the overwintered indoor plants will have to toughen up their stems and leaves.  Last count was 5 times these plants have been dragged, rolled or carried outside…..only to be brought back inside when the temperature was predicted to go below freezing.  Oh yes, one night sheets were strung and clipped with clothespins around plants all snuggly arranged along the front porch wall.  The temperature dropped to32 degrees.  Do not talk to my plants.  They have nothing positive to say right now.

The citrus grove.  The two citrus trees, taller than I am, look extremely bedraggled.  Every time I move them out, they get another branch or two pruned back.  If we have any more freezing cold nights, my trees will be 2 feet tall by the end of spring!  The one giant aloe with its companion plant, the pineapple, both look great.  They love to travel.  I did not move the decorative pepper plant indoors last night.  It was brought in before the freeze a few nights ago, but did not come in alone.  A colony of ants had taken up residence in the pot, and they were not amused the next morning when the heater kicked in, warmth spread through the soil, and they took off to forage only to find cold floor tiles and three interested cats.   

So the pepper plant was covered with two sacks last night, anchored to its place outside on the patio.  The edges look a bit freezer-burned today.  The pineapple sage, left to spend the winter in its giant pot close to the pepper, has never looked better and is on its way to becoming an even larger version of itself than last year.  It was one of the few plants that survived and thrived in the intense heat, as long as it had its big gulp of water every day.  The hummingbirds would often visit the red tubular flowers.

Hummingbirds.  Meanwhile the hummingbird feeders are out, and I have one, maybe two, ruby-throated birds flitting about.  The large flock of red-winged blackbirds that emptied the birdseed feeders each day during the winter has joined into a larger collection of red-wings.  They roost together somewhere else and go out on feeding expeditions every morning and return to their roost at night.  I counted over 200 birds one morning flying out for breakfast at 7:30am. They wing it low when the winds pummel against them, just clearing the fence lines or barely going over the telephone lines, but fly high if the winds are in their favor.

The opossum.  It has made it a personal mission to totally excavate the entire area around the bird feeders as well as much of the back yard.  If the area were a garden, it looks in perfect condition for planting spring seeds.  Lots of freshly tilled dark organic soil.  I have to take my rake and fill in holes as well as knock back mounds of dirt in a feeble attempt to level the land…..until the next night.

My mother reports her azaleas are now chock-a-block full of glorious red, pink and white blooms.  Her Autumn sage has red blossoms, her tulips form clusters of white cups, and her back yard was full of little snowdrop like flowers.  What was blooming in my yard?  Hmmm.  Let’s see.  Not there.  OK, nothing here.  That looks sad.  Wait, my rosemary has blue/purple flowers along several of its branches.  The invasive, un-killable wandering Periwinkle is now blooming in blue.  The iris is gearing up with fat buds at the ends of long stems.  The plants are very apprehensive about the spring bloom thing this year in my yard.

So I took a walk down the road.  As usual, certain wildflowers and grasses are leaping ahead in spite of the weather.  The Rescuegrass (Bromus catharticus) is heading.  Because you see it in early spring, it gets its common name because it comes to the rescue after a drought or winter as forage for some wildlife and cattle.  Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) is another early spring grass for animals, but not particularly nutritious.  Oddly, both of these are not native species, but then neither are cattle. 

Let’s get to some great “weeds”.  Narrowleaf vetch (Vicia sativa) is crawling along with purple flowers. The Carolina geranium (Geranium carolinianum), a miniature version of the cultivated geranium but with tiny pink flowers, is alive and well.  It also answers to the name Cranebill.  Virginia pepperweed (Lepidium virginicum) has already gone to seed, and the seeds do have a peppery bite to them.  The Sowthistle (Sonchus sp.) has a commanding presence with prickly leaves and dandelion-like flowers.  Actually, the young leaves are edible and rabbits like to munch on them.  My favorite is the Daisy fleabane (Erigeron strigosus).  To see the small white composite flowers with yellow faces opens up a cheerful moment in your life.

Blooming well ahead of the invasive Japanese honeysuckle with its white tubes is the native Trumpet-honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens).  This vine has bright orange/red tubular flowers that somehow time their bloom schedule with the hummingbird arrivals.  The low growing native blackberries (Rubus sp.) can be seen along the roads with their simple rose-like flowers.  The plants are short.  Last on my list is the Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa).  The first eager plants are now sending up their orange or yellow ‘”paintbrushes”.  This plant is semiparasitic on surrounding plants, but the paintbrush accumulates selenium, in particular, within its plant body.  There are those plants that take up and store metals and other contaminants and are useful in bioremediation.

If you did not celebrate Oklahoma Arbor week the last week in March, you have a second chance this Friday, April 26th.  That day is National Arbor Day.  Another chance to plant a tree!