The Shawnee News-Star Weekender May 11th 2019 Becky Emerson Carlberg Today is the Multi-County Master Gardener Plant Sale.  Lots of healthy plants.  Come one come all!  This morning in Stillwater is the Oklahoma Master Naturalist Prairie Ecology workshop.  Central Oklahoma is a blend of rugged oaks that hug the high ground, redcedars tucked into valleys […]

The Shawnee News-Star Weekender May 11th 2019

Tulsa Model A Club on parade

Becky Emerson Carlberg

Today is the Multi-County Master Gardener Plant Sale.  Lots of healthy plants.  Come one come all!  This morning in Stillwater is the OklahomaMaster Naturalist Prairie Ecology workshop. Central Oklahoma is a blend of rugged oaks that hug the high ground,redcedars tucked into valleys or taking ownership of pastures, riparian plantsgrowing along waterways and the grasses and wildflowers of the prairies.andwild deer.wild hogs.wild birds.wildlife. Prairies are open, wind-swept seas of vegetation.    Whenyou stand in the prairie, the unimpeded sky reach to the heavens and endlessrolling lands stand firm beneath your feet. You are transported to another world and truly become a soul freed in thevastness of nature. 

Living day in and out on the prairie could be a challenge,at least to this Little Dixie native from the hills of southeast Oklahoma.  I do remember Ms. Jessie, a lady from WesternOklahoma who had come to teach so close to the Arkansas border.  She always had this feeling of claustrophobia.  How could we stand being hemmed in by hillsand smothered by trees?

Not unlike the comment I heard at the art show in Yukon yearsago.  Their Czech Festival, started in1966, is the first Saturday in October.  Hillsand trees were well-represented on my art panels.  An old local man walked up, stared at thepictures, glared at me and stated it was all make-believe.  There was no place like that inOklahoma.  Try as I might to explain theseplaces truly existed in Oklahoma, the man looked at me with disdain and stompedoff.

The Prague Czech festival is the first Saturday in May (last Saturday), the same day as the contested Kentucky Derby.   I like horses and felt sorry for those thoroughbreds galloping around the muddy track with their tiny little jockeys perched on nearly non-existent saddles, flailing arms and whips.   Seems like the horse race is now all about the best jockey, not the horse.

St. Wenchelas kolaches for sale

But I veered off track. The Prague Kolache Festival, held each year since 1960, had theubiquitous Kolaches, food trucks, carnival with Ferris wheel, arts and craftsshow, flags, various organizations, floats, vintage restored cars, utility andfire trucks, Shriners and horses.  Blackshiny Clydesdales pranced as they pulled the carriage loaded with people downthe parade route.  Fourteen Clydesdaleslive in luxury at the Express Ranch in Yukon. These beautiful animals make appearances throughout the US. The Shrinerszoomed around in their mini-vehicles as Shriner clowns interacted with the kidsalong the way.  Extra special was thedentist and crew throwing candy and telling all to make appointments for dentalcheck-ups! Polka street dances, beer tents and other venues assured the revelrywould continue deep into the night.

Kolaches arrived with Czech settlers nearly 200 years ago andare the star attraction at Czech festivals. The rich sweet yeast rolls originally had the traditional plum/prune,poppyseed or thick cheese fillings. These ingredients could be stored and used in a pinch. Regular jamssoaked into the rolls and boiled over during cooking.  Today additional flavors may be apricot, peach,cherry, blueberry, cream cheese or apple topped with a streusel topping. Priorto the festival, the Prague Bakery and several churches in the area spend weeksbaking and assembling Kolaches.  Thisyear Wilber Nebraska and their Kolaches made an appearance.  Wilber has the fifth largest Czech populationin the country.  Their festival is inearly August.

We toted Kolaches and nine recently excavated Goldenrods upto Tulsa the next day for a visit and a 'little' garden work.  Note I said 'little' which translates toback-breaking excavations euphemistically labeled gardening. 

A few plants were needed for the lengthy backyard bed which undulates along the wood fence on the north and east side.   The width varies from five to fifteen feet.   Waiting to be planted sat two May Night Salvias covered in purple flower spikes, three red-leaf Cannas and an Astroemeria purchased the day before.   We took off to Southwood Nursery and came back with an oakleaf hydrangea, OK Proven Southern Wax Myrtle and a Viburnum all in five gallon pots.   The two Astilbes, two Hostas and the breath-taking dark maroon Heuchera (Coral Bells) were in two-gallon pots.   One rose bush with multi-colored roses to be subjects for an art competition was 30% off.   The Jeep looked like a portable greenhouse.  

New bed withstood its first T-Storm

The Oakleaf Hydrangea is a very southern perennial shrub.  When established it is drought tolerant.  Southern Wax Myrtle, call it a tall shrub orshort tree, has waxy berries once used to make bayberry candles.  This hardy plant I know from the Outer Banksof North Carolina where it grows by houses and in yards quite close to theocean.  The native range follows the Easterncoastline around to Texas and even extends into Oklahoma.  Brushing against the foliage released a lightlemony fragrance. 

The native version to hydrangeas is the Viburnum. In spring itproduces balls of white to pink flowers (depending on the species) followed byfruit relished by wildlife.  Along myroad grow the native Rusty Blackhaw Viburnums unless severely pruned by thecounty.  The Hydrangea, Wax Myrtle andViburnum will be planted in the partial sun section of the bed.

Native to North American woodlands are the Astilbes, shrubswith fern-like leaves and striking flowers. They appreciate dappled sun as do the native Heuchera and Japanese Hostas,both perennials.  The deepest section ofthe bed is shrouded in shade and stays moist; perfect for these low-lightdwellers.  On the other hand, theSalvias, Cannas and Astroemeria will be planted in the sunny part of the bed. TheSouth American Astroemeria is known as Lily of the Incas.  The spotted, trumpet-shaped flowers arebeacons for hummingbirds.  This perennialproduces strong wind-resistant stems. The May Night Salvia flowers were already inundated by honey bees,unnerving one gardener. 

The arrogant Goldenrods (Solidago sp.) have proven themselves to be aggressive. Offspring from the Pottawatomie County Extension bed, they are larger than the native goldenrods in front of my house.    Three groups have been dug and moved to other gardens.   The gift that keeps on giving. Goldenrods are great plants that can't be beat for attracting butterflies and native bees.  These guys will have lots of room in the west-facing bed to spread out with wild abandon, which they no doubt will.

Little clay rescue pots standing up in a row

The mulch was pulled away and we got to work digging holes.  Tree roots. Rocks.  Slabs of sandstone.  Pieces of concrete.  Broken red tiles.  Vintage red bricks.  Clay pipes. Small clay pots inserted into each other to form long tubes.   What was this? The buried clay rows were atthe highest point in the bed; dozens of little pots.  Leftovers? Innovative drainage solution? Theplanting took on the atmosphere of an archaeological dig which lasted muchlonger than anticipated. 

As the sun set, a cookout commenced.  Steak, salmon, cheeses, chips, asparagus andpotatoes were served outdoors on the patio. What a great way to spend the evening before our late trip back toShawnee.