The Shawnee News-Star Gardening September 4 2019 Becky Emerson Carlberg Hello 2019 Pottawatomie County Free Fair!  This afternoon plant entries are accepted, tomorrow morn is the judging and then the fun begins, from tractors, livestock, food, and 4-H to the carnival.  Support our link from the past with the present.  It's Fair time once again. […]

The Shawnee News-Star Gardening September 4 2019

Becky Emerson Carlberg

Hello 2019 Pottawatomie County Free Fair!  This afternoon plant entries are accepted,tomorrow morn is the judging and then the fun begins, from tractors, livestock,food, and 4-H to the carnival.  Supportour link from the past with the present. It's Fair time once again.

In spring comes the initial burst of wildflowers inOklahoma.  The blooms are timed with theemergence of the first butterflies and other insects as well as the arrival ofmigratory birds.  The mutual sharing ofpollen and nectar benefit all wildlife. Although many trees, shrubs and grasses grow and reproduce through thesummer season, the pace drops in heat and dry conditions.  As autumn approaches, the annuals call it aday and die.  Perennials go into winterpreparations and hope to see next year.  ManyGaura species are biennial.  They producevegetative rosettes one year, stay low and slowly grow through the winter andnext spring begin accelerated growth which culminates in some mighty tall,floral displays August and September. 

Right now, many Oklahoma plants, triggered by decreasingsunlight and cooler nighttime temps, are preparing for their last hurrah, theautumn flush of flowers and fruits.  Asin spring, plants are here to feed the birds, butterflies and other fauna.  In return the plants are pollinated and setseeds for next year's generation. The relationships are quite complex but havebeen in place for thousands of years. People have messed up much of it.

You'd be surprised what plants will do if allowed to reach autumn without being mowed or cut down.   They may not look spectacular during the summer, but simply hang on.   Maximilian sunflowers appear as leafy stalks until September, then their multiple buds with yellow petals open along the stems.   The common sunflowers become vibrant in July and continue through fall.   Soft goldenasters (Chrysopsis pilosa), which look like broadleaf weeds, form carpets of small daisy-like yellow flowers where they have been left undisturbed.  

Try not to be so human and neat.  Countless insects overwinter in plant stems 18inches and below in height.  Larvae livein the leaf litter.  Unless there isdisease present, why not be a lazy gardener like I am and leave the leaves anddebris alone.  Edge and trim a border aroundyour selected areas and let nature thrive. 

Look at the longer shadows. The color of the sky.  Winter ison the way.  Sneezeweed (Heleniumautumnale) bouquets have sprung up along the roads and in fields.  Snow-on-the-Mountain (Euphorbia marginata)decorate the pastures.  Along sides ofwoods are purple ironweeds (Vernonia fasciculata) covered in butterfliesand moths.  Goldenrods (Solidagospecies) are beginning their cascades of yellow. 

Remember, it is not the goldenrod activating your allergies.  Blame the ragweed (Ambrosia artemisia).  After all the rains, tall ragweed isattaining magnificent heights, sending the irritating pollen aloft in Oklahomawinds.  Ragweed flowers are miniscule unseenupside-down teacups.  Don't trust Google.The site has an abundance of misidentified plants including innocent goldenrodsbeing labeled ragweeds. Gasp.

In natural uncut areas of shade, sun, thickets and roadsidesare now blooming native thistles.  Thesesuper important plants are biennials as are Gaura.  Most form rosettes one year, overwinter andflower the next in their 2-year cycle. Bumblebees (often in small groups of twos or threes), gold finches,hummingbirds, butterflies, moths, and a myriad of other organisms use thethistle flower and plant.  Late nesters, Goldfinches,build nests and raise young in July and August. They not only line their nests with thistle fibers and eat thistle seeds,they feed their offspring thistle seeds (unlike other birds which offercaterpillars and insects.) Goldfinches rely on the late floweringthistles. 

Tall thistle (Cirsium altissimum) is very common incentral and eastern Oklahoma.  Wavyleaf (Cirsiumundulatum) grows statewide, yellowspine (Cirsium ochrocentrum) thrives inwestern OK, and yellow thistle (Cirsium horridulum) is in the southeastpart of the state.   Four other speciesare much less common, but as you see, the native thistles cover the state.

Confusion has arisen concerning the invasive thistles fromEurope and Asia.  Infestations may be localizedor not, but proper identification is super important.  Most of these invasives bloom earlier in Mayand June.  They have sharp spinesespecially along the stem. 

Only the tall native thistle blooms in September intoOctober.  The flower heads are shapedlike compact purplish shaving brushes. The leaves of this member of the aster/sunflower family are shallowlobed and undivided with only very fine spines along the edges.  The underside of each leaf has a white bed ofvelvety down. 

Tall means this thistle can reach 6 to 12 feet high!  The flowers are usually pink to purple, buton rare occasions white does happen. When touched by fingers, the tall thistlehas the softest spines of all the thistles. 

'In the sun

the butterfly wings

like a church  

window.'  

Jack Kerouac