The hazelnut seedlings from the Arbor Foundation did not survive the winter. The incredibly tiny saplings were sent bare root (in this case roots barely there), planted in pots deeply embedded in mulch with inches of mulch over the soil surface. Both were regularly watered. They were just too small. The other three to the east of the house are still alive.

You’d never know it, but I am a charter member of the Arbor Day Foundation’s

Hazelnut Project. The objective is to create a system of woody agriculture to supply food. We’re doomed. The last two years my hazelnuts have hung on by the skin of their teeth, but not for lack of fertilizer. The septic tank and laterals have experienced problems and the area has been saturated a few times.

Others have thriving hazelnuts producing multitudes of nuts. Pictures abound of happy gardeners standing by their trees, arms outstretched, showing off their nuts. Don’t’ go there. Easy to pick, easy to crack and delicious to eat. The only way I am going to enjoy hazelnuts is having a spoonful of Nutella. The trees reach a maximum height of 10 to 15 feet with dense canopies. Thus, they form great windbreaks, wildlife cover and living snow fences. When was the last time we had enough snow to make snow ice cream or even cover the leaves on the ground?

This year’s brilliant idea was to order the Pollinator Paradise Garden in a box. Most the time I lust over the pictures in the High Country Gardens catalog. Although they are located in Vermont (yes Vermont), they support sustainable gardens and have offered drought-resistant and native plants for over 25 years. Low maintenance grasses (even Buffalo), ground covers and wildflowers substitute for constant mowing. No worry about milkweed. The early Green Milkweed is already blooming in many places.

The perennial garden of summer bloomers was designed to fit a 5’ x 5’ square. The plants arrived before Easter, wrapped and packed in a flat box. I freed all from their protective covers and placed them in the sun. Everyone got a good drink and soon perked up. Must now somewhere make a bed. Build it and pollinators will come.

My first thought had been to create a raised bed tucked between the native grasses by the driveway. Or I could take the spade and see how difficult it would be to dig out the grass. One clump after another, I soon had a rectangle….at an angle. How did that happen? The bed was skewed like a parallelogram. Most competent gardeners would have properly measured the area, driven in stakes and tied string to use as guidelines. Well, the botanist did not do this. Grabbing some bright utility flags, I eye-balled and then re-aligned the edges to shift the boundaries. Really glad no one was around to see or hear me as I determinedly corrected the bed. Those 8 plants plus shipping cost $76.92. It had gone from a pollinator garden to an investment.

The directions said soil prep is essential. Quite right. They recommended to amend the soil with Yum Yum Mix and compost. This I read after the goldenrod, Agastache Coronado Red, Hyssopus, black-eyed Susan, two Liatris and one purple coneflower had been planted. These natives should handle the sandy clay soil. I could faintly hear my 4th grade school teacher Ms Jones telling my mom the C on my report card was because I did not follow directions.

Yum Yum Mix is a soil amender sold through High Country Gardens. Good enough to eat. Alfalfa, cottonseed and kelp meals, greensand, rock products, humate (dried organic solids) and dry molasses in a 4.5 pound shaker jar for $30. Not happening. Why not buy a bag of cattle manure/compost from the store. I wrestled the bag into the van, all 40 pounds of wet stinking staining organic mush inside a sleeve of slick plastic. Back at the garden, the heavy damp compost was mixed around every plant. Knowing how vulnerable and enticing this would be to the wildlife world, pieces of landscape timber, fencing and tomato cages were strategically placed to thwart any invaders.

My pollinator garden looked positively tacky. What next. Tiles. Red concrete tiles soon surrounded the bed. Not only did I have a place to stand but they would certainly tamp down the grass growth. The bed resembled an eclectic Roman mosaic floor. A few inches of pine straw or wood chips will soon be applied. Voila, done.

By the second growing season the plants are supposed to reach mature size. Pruning and maintenance tips to improve winter-hardiness and spring emergence were included. Right now, the plants look very good. Of course, in a few days another dip in the Jet Stream will bring severe weather. This translates to possible hail or strong winds.

As with all plants here in central Oklahoma, love and appreciate them every day because you never know how long they will be there. On May 19th 2013 my garden was blown away by Tornado Bob.