Shawnee News-Star Blog 27 Jun 2017  Becky Emerson Carlberg This year's State Master Gardener Conference was in Drumright June 16th at the Central Technology Center.   The night before was the traditional Evening Social held in the old brick schoolhouse now known as the Tidewater Winery.   Master Gardeners (MGs) tasted various wines produced at the Winery, [...]

Shawnee News-Star Blog 27 Jun 2017

The Native Basketflowers

 Becky Emerson Carlberg

This year's State Master Gardener Conference was in Drumright June 16th at the Central Technology Center.   The night before was the traditional Evening Social held in the old brick schoolhouse now known as the Tidewater Winery.   Master Gardeners (MGs) tasted various wines produced at the Winery, toured the building and sit on the deck overlooking two vineyards.   Dinner in the winery followed.

The next morning MGs from across the state arrived early to register and partake of the Continental breakfast.   Fourteen Multi-County MGs attended.     People (over 215) found seats in the classroom/auditorium and received a hardy welcome from Sandy Carroll, the President of the Creek County Master Gardeners as well as a handout that provided a brief synopsis of each speaker's presentation. The theme 'U Can Grow It' was selected to encourage and empower folks in the community to become self-sufficient while helping build character and esteem.     Coordinator of Oklahoma Master Gardeners, David Hillock, spoke briefly and announced next year's State MG Conference would be in Muskogee.

David Redhage was the keynote speaker.   He descends from a line of farmers, and has had a lifelong interest in gardening.   Now the President of Kerr Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, David began his 'Pollinator & Native Plants' program   with a picture showing one row of squash planted to attract pollinators surrounded by rows of Elderberries and Eastern Gamagrasses.   Native pollinators are more efficient than European Honey Bees, and are active earlier in the morning and later in the afternoon.     The reason for the declining pollinator population: change in habitat.   At least 3 plant species that flower in each season will encourage pollinators.   Indeed native landscapes look rough, but nature is not clean cut.   Mow wildflowers in the fall to expose and disperse the seeds and they will have a jump start in germination the next spring.   As for vines, shrubs and the trees, do not cut those in the fall.   Native bees nest in the stems.

David's wildflower tips:   Carolina Anemone seed viability is only 60 days.   Those seeds must hit the ground within 2 months or they die.   Indian Pinks grow in shade.   Four native indigos (Baptisia spp.) grow in OK; Cream and Yellow False Indigos, Nuttall's Wild Indigo and White Wild Indigo.   My favorite, Frog Fruit (Phyla sp.) made the list.   Yellow Puffs are low-growing yellow fuzzy flowers now appearing along roadsides. Related to Bachelor's Buttons, the Basketflower likes living in OK, TX and NM.   The only other place to find the native Basketflower is China.   Their seeds were included in the wildflower mix from Johnston Seed Company (Enid.)   Basketflowers are now forming colorful patches in my hard-as-rock lateral field.   I love these tough wildflowers. Prairie Gaillardia pollen must mature before it becomes appealing to pollinators.   Have patience and they will come!

Next was 'Garden with a Purpose.' Carla Grogg of Grogg's Green Barn in Tulsa was trained in Interior Design. She and her husband opened their nursery 7 years ago.   Their focus was to use organic, sustainable practices and encourage the participation of kids.   They hold Kids Camp to inspire creativity, learn about shared space and patience and nurture a life-long love of outdoors.   Initially they were known as the 'Hippie Nursery.'   By providing healthy and safe options, the Grogg's have built up a loyal customer base.      Last fall the milkweed was named 'Plant of the Year.'   Grogg's grew milkweeds for this year and sold over 1,100 milkweeds by early April. They have worked with Bama in Tulsa to develop a natural waterway (each side is16 feet and 50 feet long.)   Cover crops and natives were planted.   ONE Gas utility company has locations from MX to KS registered as Monarch Way Station 'Corridor sites' courtesy of Grogg's. Grogg's helped American Airlines plant their first Monarch Way Station this year in a plot 80 feet long and 20 feet wide.   In Bixby parks, they sampled the soil and 'it was nourished.'   Six months later pockets of plants and seeds were planted.   The natives are choking the Bermuda out.   Yay.

Carla's Tips:   Beneficial insects are such a good alternative to pesticidal sprays.     Ideal candidates are the Green lacewing, ladybug, praying mantis, and parasitic wasp. To attract butterflies in spring plant willows and fennel; in summer Coreopsis and Liatris and autumn go for Joe-Pye weed, asters, and goldenrods. The bees are drawn to clover, sumac, berry bushes, asters and goldenrod.   Everyone should work on one unique aspect in their garden.   The unique aspect at Grogg's is hidden underground.   Two connected cisterns 30 feet deep and 60 feet wide collect rainwater from all the gutters.   They hold 5,000 gallons.   One inch of rain will fill them up!

Heirloom Black Krim Tomato in Earthbox

Lisa Merrell followed with 'Heirloom Plants.' The Tomato Man's Daughter spoke of the wonders of heirloom plants.   Their ancestors endured trials and tribulations and have survived.   Generation after generation of heirlooms have withstood the test of time by passing down hardy traits in their seeds. Darrell Merrell, her dad, grew up with large gardens on a working farm ten miles south of Tulsa.   Those 10 acres supported immediate and extended families.   Darrell became a stockbroker, but moved on to be the 'Doughnut Man.'   Thirty-two years after leaving the home place, her dad sold the bakery and moved back home.   He reclaimed old garden spots and launched the heirloom business.

Heirlooms are open pollinated plants that produce next generation seeds that grow true (to the parent.)   It takes years to stabilize the line.   The seed origin must be fifty years or older and is usually either handed down through the family or sold by seed companies that cultivate heirloom plants. The Sioux tomato was Darrell's favorite. The heat-tolerant Sioux was introduced in 1944 by the University of Nebraska.  Darrell's heirloom crop began with 12 seeds purchased from a man in Norman. The Cherokee Purple came to him from a Tennessee man whose family had grown the tomato for 100 years.   Starting with Tulsa flea markets and selling plants at $2 each in 1993, he developed a reliable customer base.   Lisa has taken over and is continuing her dad's work.

Lisa's Tips:   Plant tomatoes in April, May and July; place 3-4 feet apart; 1-2 gallons of water/week.   Plant different varieties for diversity.   If the leaves are turning up, the plant may be overwatered.   If the plant blooms but does not set fruit, give it a shake each day for a week to help release the pollen within the flowers.   If the plant is not blooming, it needs phosphorus in the form of ½ cup bone meal.

After lunch came Kenda Woodburn, Horticulture Educator in Osage and Tulsa Counties.   Her topic was about 'Foraging.'   The trestle table was piled high with the necessary things to bring on a foraging trip:  long sleeved shirt, thick socks, heavy duty boots (guards against snake bites), bug and sun sprays, Quick Trip plastic cup, knife, notebook, pen, apron, backpack, water, leather gloves, garbage bag, plastic sacks, clippers, dog leash and collar (you never know when you might need to throw together a tent or take a stray dog home), snacks and Benadryl.   Kenda is a strong woman.

Kenda's tips:   Know your directions.   Never step over a log but on top of it; snakes may be on the other side.   Check berries for other inhabitants (wasps..).   Three fourths of the world's flowering plants and 35% of the world food crops depend on animal pollinators.   Elderberry flowers, not stems, may be eaten, as can strawberry leaves.   Dandelion greens contain a good amount of vitamin K, calcium, iron and riboflavin. The sand plum is open pollinated and each tree's fruit may have a different flavor.   Young poke is edible as long as no red appears on the stems; mature plants are poisonous.   Boil and drain the young poke 3 times before eating.

Beth Teel began 'Garden Style' with a quote from Celia Thaxter, 1894:   'It is a wonder how much work one can find to do in so tiny a plot of land.'   The retired teacher delights in creating unique garden styles and containers.   She likes to use limestones for edging and stressed that whatever you do, always start with good soil.   Her successful 'Teel Mix' is composed of sacks of Back to Nature Cotton Burr compost, cow manure, mushroom compost and peat. Good stuff.    The making and planting of Hypertufa pots is her thing.   She creates about 100 a year  using a mix of peat moss, sand or perlite, Portland cement and water to form the pots.

Beth's Tips:   Stick Artillery fern and Coleus cuttings in moist soil; they should grow.   Wandering Jew, Sedums, Verbenas, Caladium bulbs, Eyelash Begonia and Tierella all can be used in container gardening.   Around each Hosta plant put eight inches of pea gravel and cover with coffee grounds; it repels snails.   Golden Feverfew seeds look like dryer lint!   Spraying the inside of metal pots with Rust-o-leum seals the interiors.

Beth's estate sale story: She spied a statue sitting in the middle of a nasty pond and had to have it.   Pulling off her shoes and socks, she waded knee deep in slimy thick green water to the statue.   Any other time she'd never be able to move the heavy thing, but this time it was light as a feather.   She paid $20 for her find, but kicked herself later for there was a second matching statue in another pond.

Kudos to the Creek County Master Gardeners, the amazing native plant nurseries and all others involved.   It was an experience not to be missed.