Shawnee News-Star Gardening June 27 2018 Becky Emerson Carlberg Have you seen impressive silky parachutes floating through the air or groups of white fluff bursting open in the fields?   Are they from giant dandelions? Ask any Monarch and they will tell you these are the green antelope horn milkweeds (Asclepias viridis) dispatching their young babies […]

Shawnee News-Star Gardening June 27 2018

Milkweed in Fluff

Becky Emerson Carlberg

Have you seen impressive silky parachutes floating through the air or groups of white fluff bursting open in the fields?   Are they from giant dandelions? Ask any Monarch and they will tell you these are the green antelope horn milkweeds (Asclepias viridis) dispatching their young babies into the world.   Nature is now distributing the next generation of milkweeds.   Despite the large kill-off of the Monarchs during the 2017 freezes in Mexico, the descendants of the survivors are here.   Their future is very dependent upon the milkweeds.

Why not try to collect some milkweed seeds. Soak them for several hours in tap water.   Inside a plastic bag with moist sand or perlite/vermiculite mix place your seeds.     Store in the refrigerator for at least a month.   Plant the 'winterized' seeds in a corner of your yard.   Keep the soil damp, not soggy.

OR do it the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center way.   Take your 'winterized' seeds and put in 4-inch pots that contain well-draining soil mix.   Keep damp and mist until the seedlings emerge.   Milkweed seeds can be tough to get going, but this approach has been successful. For specifics google: www.wildflower.org/learn/how-to/how-to-germinate-milkweeds.

Last week the Master Gardener State Conference was held at Muskogee. The Keynote speaker was Paul James, host of HGTV 'Gardening by the Yard' for 19 seasons.   The 'Gardner Guy' is on radio and Channel 2 Tulsa as well as the Marketing Director for Tulsa based Southwood Landscape and Garden Center.   This man loves gardening and became a Master Gardener in 1983, the first year the program was offered in Tulsa.

Paul was bitten by the garden bug at an early age while spending his summers in Arkansas with his grandparents.   He likes to say we garden to live a memory.   His neighbor has a manicured Zoysia lawn and loves Paul's diverse yard with lots of white clover.   The neighbor has fond memories of looking for 4 leaf clovers and making clover chains for his sister.

The epiphany plant for Paul was the potato.   It was at his grandparent's 100 acre farm he fell in love with potatoes.   Most crops grow above ground but the potato lurked below. Maude the horse pulled the plow.   He thought the potato harvest was so cool.    Today he cares for 60 hills.   His daughter caught his garden bug for potatoes and flies in from New York to help Paul harvest spuds.

Paul's format was a question and answer session to wake up the Master Gardeners. First question: 'My Abelias on the east side of my house suffered from the winter wind.   What can I do?'   Paul light heartedly recommended putting in rocks.   A good alternative is hardy Distylium, an evergreen in the witch hazel family with attractive red blooms that comes in several sizes.   This plant has high resistance and tolerates drought.   Old Abelias can get quite tall and wide.   Vitexes are also great pollinator magnets of various heights.

'What is his connection to Eskimo Joe's?'   His voice.   Paul recorded 'Buy your clothes at Eskimo Joe's' 30 years ago.

'The squirrels have stolen my green tomatoes and apples.   How can they be controlled?'   Paul shrugged his shoulders and told her to accept the fact they can be a constant nuisance.   He told a story. He worked hard to prepare the raised seed beds in 4' x 8' cedar frames.   When done, he felt quite satisfied.   Next morning there were 37 holes dug throughout the soil.   The solution?   Trellis lathing laid over the tops of the beds. Works for rabbits too.   Fences around the beds protect them from his dogs.

'Rose rosette virus hit my roses.   Is there a spray I can use?'   Black Forest Rose seems right now to be less susceptible, but there is no cure for this virus.   Lots of research has been done on the tiny mite that carries the virus.   Wind plays a part, but leaf/grass blowers are more likely the culprits that help spread the disease.

'My crape myrtles are covered in bark scale. Help.' Paul quipped there seems to be crape myrtle bark scale on every Quick Trip crape myrtle in Oklahoma!   Seriously, landscapers use systemics such as imidacloprid, a deadly neurotoxin in the neonicotinoid group that shows up in flowers.   He recommends to power wash and scrub the scale off, then follow with Neem oil to suffocate the nymphs and other insects.   The nonnative was first seen in Texas 14 years ago and they are here.

'My 40 year old Bald Cypress has over 30 knees.   My husband hates the grass growing around them.   What can we do?'   Live with it Paul exclaimed.   Bald Cypresses are beautiful and the knees are interesting.   If you don't want a tree to reach its full potential with lots of knees, the 'Peve Minarete' dwarf bald cypress is a cultivar that grows 8 to 10 feet in height.

'The citrus trees in the climate-controlled greenhouse have scale.'   Paul says start with strong blasts of water.   If not in bloom or no pollinators are present, use his favorite spray with Spinosid bacteria discovered in an abandoned rum distillery in 1982:   Captain Jack's Dead Bug Brew.

His parting shot:   ash tree borers have been reported in Delaware County in OK.   You might as well kiss your ash goodbye.