The Shawnee News-Star Weekender May 18th 2019 Becky Emerson Carlberg It was a gift exchange of sorts.  On Mother's Day afternoon I was planting one zinnia, an aromatic garden sage and Thai Basel when up the driveway came a brightly colored collection of flowers wrapped in plastic and another group in a small jug, a […]

The Shawnee News-Star Weekender May 18th 2019

Best toy ever!

Becky Emerson Carlberg

It was a gift exchange of sorts.  On Mother's Day afternoon I was planting onezinnia, an aromatic garden sage and Thai Basel when up the driveway came a brightlycolored collection of flowers wrapped in plastic and another group in a smalljug, a sack and a long box.  At leastthat was what caught my eye before I checked who was behind the surprise to seea few of my nearest and dearest.  Wecarried things inside and promptly found a tall vase for the long blooms. 

The tall vase elegantly displayed yellow roses, yellow lilies, deep red Lilies of the Incas, stems of purple leaves, long green strap leaves and two cabbages stripped down to bare stalks leaving large leafy buds.  Novel idea for those who grew a bumper crop of cabbages and have grown tired of eating cooked cabbage, sauerkraut, Cole slaw, Bierocks (German yeast rolls filled with meat and cabbage), cabbage soup, corned beef and cabbage, Bubble 'n' Squeak (British fry-up of potatoes and cabbage), Reuben sandwiches, or Puerto Rican cabbage salad. 

Mother's day flowers with the tall and proud Daisy Fleabane

The shorter round white pitcher was placed next to the vase.  Filled with orange roses, red carnations, purplephlox, one large orange daisy, and soon to bloom yellow lilies, but what werethe three fuzzy green balls?  Curiouslime green flowers in soft fluffy orbs that invited gentle caressing similar towhat one would do with a Koosh ball.  Newto me, these were 'Green Ball' Dianthus. Florists love the green blooms of the hybrid Dianthus barbatus, or asone Canadian called them 'hairy green tennis balls.'  A very tactile bouquet.

Sericea lespedeza

In the sack were Kerrygold cheese and bread crisps. I amespecially fond of the Irish Kerrygold cheese. The true Mother's Day gift wasin the long box now sitting on the floor. Inside was an 18V Lithium battery with charger and dual-purposelightweight machine not only a string trimmer but edger.  Weed eaters usually come with two drawbacks:  weight and energy source.  The larger ones indeed have enough power tocut down a tree, but lugging around a gas tank on a stick gives me the feelingof using a Molotov cocktail to cut grass, plus it requires strong He-Woman muscles.  Dragging a long electric cord is too close tostretching a long heavy water hose across miles of landscape to get to that onelast plant.  More than enough incentivefor me to grab a pair of snips, clips or shears.

The day-glow green (or International Distress yellow, depending) 3.3 pound device is so cool.  I could hardly wait to try out my new toy, but the battery needed charging.  Shadows grew long as the sun set.  It was soon time for our company to leave.  By the jeep stood their Mother's Day gift.  Surprise!  one three-foot tall cherry tomato plant.  Because of what the squirrels had done last year (ate every tomato and green pepper around), this year they vowed no tomatoes.  Everyone has to have at least one tomato plant if they live in Oklahoma.  It's an Okie requirement.  Their plans have been foiled by this robust garden denizen which did have two small green tomatoes hidden within the leaves.  The mention of garden netting not only brought snickers but peals of laughter as they backed out of the driveway.  I halfway expected to see the tomato at the side of the road as they drove off, but pictures prove their Solanum lycopersicum, descendent of South American tomatoes, had at least made it to their home.

Next day the battery was charged and ready.  I immediately set to chopping down Sericealespedeza, an Asian legume with delicate deep green leaves and a foot-longtaproot.  In 1896 somebody in NorthCarolina had this brilliant idea to control erosion, stabilize mine sites andprovide nutritious food by planting Chinese Lespedeza, not native Lespedeza. Theforeign perennial took off and never looked back.  Presently, Sericea (Lespedeza cuneata) isconcentrated in the southern and eastern states.  The clover is a drought tolerant, fastgrowing invasive which crowds out native plants.  It produces toxic chemicals that inhibitgrowth of plants and seeds that survive for decades. Natural diversity ispretty well destroyed when large patches of this clover becomeestablished. 

A tool is now available for controlling the beast.  In the past we tried to cut the Sericea witha lawn mower before it bloomed while not destroying the larger leaf nativeclovers.  With so many bumble, honey andnative bees, butterflies, moths, other insects that live here, glyphosate(Roundup) is not an option.  

My green weed-eater and I dove deep into tall grass territory, inflicting little damage except on the Sericea.  Very satisfying to grind the plant nearly to the ground.  I discovered my technique needed a bit of work when trimming around the pollinator garden and Oakleaf hydrangea.  The Daisy Fleabane that had been nurtured for weeks went down before I realized the string had decapitated my lovely flower.  I brought it indoors and stuck the plant, still in shock, inside the vase with the other Mother's Day flowers.  The small daisies severely drooped.   Back outside I then tried the trimmer on the Wisteria, snapping off vines and tendrils. Tall bunch grass took several descending swipes.  The Japanese honeysuckle fought back.  The buckbrush caused the machine to yell.   Before I reached the hollies and forsythia, I was reminded we did have a hedge trimmer.  Oh yes.  So, I reined in my little trimmer and finished tidying up around the paths and walkways and killed the battery.  It was put it into the charger and I walked indoors.  Every little stem on the daisy was standing up with a tiny open flower at each end.  It lives for another day. 

My Earth Box with Cherokee Purple and cherry tomatoes.

This past Wednesday, the talk that followed the Multi-CountyMaster Gardener meeting was actually both an advertisement and presentation ofa garden box that 'turns brown thumbs green' using a unique wateringsystem.  Since Larry and Letitia Pierceare from Newalla, just miles from my house, I figure they deserve the supportof our community.  As an Earth Box andGro Box proponent for years (5 boxes) I noticed their deeper self-wateringboxes can be linked together in an innovative passive water flow system. Clever.  The 'Garden Anywhere Box' (GAB) is basicallyset up much like an Earth box: an elevated platform inside the box with soilwells, tube, fertilizer, dolomite, and a plastic cover.  The 'GAB' also comes with water tubing but,as with the Earth Box, no potting mix.  Eachbox holds 2 cu ft of potting mix, but Letitia Pierce stressed not to use gardensoil. No weeding.  Portable.Self-watering. Easy.  Give the 'GardenAnywhere Box' a go at

The trimmer battery has been recharged.  I see the Sericea growing!  Bye y'all.