Shawnee News-Star Garden Article August 29 2018 Becky Emerson Carlberg A week ago, on an evening after it had rained that morning, I looked up to see the most amazing sight.   The sky was full of dragonflies.   However they knew, the masses of airplane insects had timed their aerial hunting between the insect-eating birds that […]

Shawnee News-Star Garden Article August 29 2018

Boys at Yucca Flats

Becky Emerson Carlberg

A week ago, on an evening after it had rained that morning, I looked up to see the most amazing sight.   The sky was full of dragonflies.   However they knew, the masses of airplane insects had timed their aerial hunting between the insect-eating birds that had retired for the night and the insect-eating bats which were soon to emerge.   Hundreds of the small carnivores zigged and zagged over my head.   A few came close to investigate, then darted away.

Nature is all around us.   We just need to open our eyes and see what is here and what can we do to help.   Monday morning, the 20th of August, teams of Oklahoma Baptist University students arrived at sites across Shawnee, ready to help.   This was Welcome Week at OBU and the week started, after breakfast, with community service projects to 'Serve Shawnee.'   Over 500 students participated.   Groups composed mainly of freshman with seniors to assist spent the morning working with Master Gardeners and Garden Club members at Santa Fe Depot, Oklahoma Native Park, 9th and Union Parking lot, City Auditorium Plaza, Rose Garden Park, Early Childhood Center and the Japanese Peace Garden (JPG).

Sixty students, eighteen Master Gardeners, four Garden Club members and even volunteers 'off the street' put in several hours cleaning, raking, weeding, creating new garden beds, mulching and power washing.   It was a big success.

My area was the Japanese Garden.   Our city coordinator, Jim Van Antwerp, delivered sacks of mulch and several stones before the fifteen students arrived after 8 am.   How they all managed to get into the OBU van was a mystery in itself.   Under the guidance of five master gardeners and four strong volunteers, the students were separated into crews and directed to various places.

The Murrah Memorial plot swallowed up several people, but they soon re-discovered the five Rose of Sharon bushes, perennials and sunflowers.      The Yucca Flats project involved ripping out Bermuda, Johnson and Dallis grass from around the large dark gray rocks and native Yuccas, retrenching the boundary, altering the rock border and edging with mulch.   One sturdy student collected trash around the huge expanse of the JPG. Other students weeded the small dinosaur bed and raked the gravel 'water' around the boulder 'mountains' in the Kidney and Zen Gardens.

Two small beds of cannas were dug, separated and replanted.   Determined students pushed wheelbarrows full of mulch to small trees where they prepared the soil then covered with wood chips. Power washing?   The teahouse at the Japanese Garden was in dire need of a good bath.   The upper rafters had been fenced off from birds for years, but not from dust and dirt.   The picnic table seats, benches and floor tiles were blasted as well, leaving the teahouse clean and fresh.   It sparkled. After three people tackled the Teahouse beds, the entire picnic area could qualify for a picture in 'The Oklahoma Gardener' or 'Southern Living' magazines.

No one would have guessed this was August in Oklahoma at 8:20 in the morning and a balmy 72 degrees with a cool breeze from the northwest. The temperature only reached 80 degrees by noon.   Beautiful day.

Lots of compliments and thank yous came from the general public walking the airport track.   Except this one man.   Oblivious to the weeded beds and all the great work done around him, he stared at tall grass and stated it needed to be mowed.   Dallis grass.  If I took time to explain to him how fast Dallis grass grew, the seedheads would be waving in our faces by the time I was finished.   The bunch grass thrives in the warm, moist conditions of the south and ruthlessly invades turf.   The perennial 'Paspalum dilatatum' arrived from South America in the late 1800's and took root in New Orleans and parts of Texas.   It spread its way to the JPG by deep rhizomes (underground stems) and seeds from seedheads that look like skinny fingers at the ends of three to five foot tall stems.   Dallis grass abounds in certain areas of the JPG.    Dallis, 19th century farmer, loved this grass and grew large tracts of the stuff in LaGrange, Georgia. He was either adored or despised because the grass was nicknamed after him in 1900. Why couldn't he have become infatuated with Buffalo grass?

Hey man, don't blame the city.   They maintain 610 acres of green space.   Now, open your eyes wide and appreciate what good things were done all around you in nature.

Good work OBU.

Clean after a hard days work

Only one week to the Pottawatomie County Free Fair.   Be part of green movement. Look on-line at the Pottawatomie County Free Fair Book for the few rules in the Horticulture part of Plant Science. Bring your flowers and green goodies to the Heart of OK Expo Center.  Wednesday afternoon before 6 pm. September 5 2018.   Good luck!