What a year!

Lisa Hair
Tupelo gum

Welcome back, spring! (I hope)

Ok, first, the freak ice storm hit. My Chinese Pistache lost three fairly large limbs, and I thought sure that my Tupelo Gum tree was history, with the lower third of its branches touching the ground. Somehow all it lost were its leaves. My poor 25 year Aristocratic Pear (same as a Bradford, very little difference), is going to have to be professionally removed this year before it explodes and destroys my storage shed, which is also 25 years old.

I mention this because in an earlier article I mentioned how important it was to put your tree in the right location for its mature size. I had no idea 30 years ago that it was a terrible idea to put a tree that would get 30’ wide in between a privacy fence and a storage building that were only 6’ apart! This will be an expensive lesson for me. I have been advising people to not plant any ornamental pear trees since their issues far outweigh their beauty. In fact, the state of Ohio passed a law recently prohibiting the sale of them after 2023. So if you have one, consider replacing it before it grows much larger.

Next, my roses never went into dormancy. Instead, they kept their leaves so long that they still have them in mid February, despite the 16 degree nights and their perpetual case of black spot. They will be the first to go this year!

I’m expanding my front flower bed to over double its current size, giving me room to experiment with perennials I’ve wanted for years but never had room for. My Mexican Sage will be relocated to my son’s acreage in Porter, Oklahoma, and I’ll move one of my Blue Salvias out away from the other two, creating a more even spacing. I’d like to grow Lavender and Rosemary, but I keep either locating them in the wrong spot or overwatering them, as all of the times I grew them before I lost them to Crown Rot. I’m going to grow some orange Icelandic Poppies, some Raspberry Coneflowers, and maybe even a Goldenrod! Last year I had good luck with the purples, blues, and orange combination, so I may add a bit of white to cool it down.

I’ve been using cottonseed hulls for mulch for a few years and will definitely continue. As it breaks down it really helps to soften my hard clay soil, plus it looks like a white blanket under the plants, reflecting the light and keeping insects confused. They have a little bit of cotton seed oil left in them at first, so the water may sit on top for a while. Your first few watering should be from a water wand and on medium flow. Don’t try to do it fast or it will just puddle up on top and aggravate you!

Finally, we had Snowmageddon! Who would have thought that that beautiful white stuff could shut down more than four entire states! I’m originally from central Ohio, where this used to be normal for us. Oklahoman houses and roads are not built to tolerate the snow and sub-zero cold, so plumbing, heat, food, and water were all affected. So were our plants. God used the cold temps to take out the roses for me, and I’m praying that my heavy mulch and southern location of my big beautiful Mexican Sage helped keep it alive. Same with my Blue Salvias. The only thing green in my garden right now is a patch of Queen Anne’s Lace that I’ve been trying to eradicate for two years!

Our broadleaf evergreens took a bad hit too! I’m seeing large Live Oaks with brown leaves on the entire canopy. This is going to be a wait and see issue for all of us. The new emerging leaves will rid the tree of the old, and we’ll find out then just how much we need to remove. If you are extremely concerned, you can prune off a small branch about 8” in from it’s tip and see if there is any green on the inner bark.

All I can advise you on now it to wait and see what comes back. I know, gardeners are patient with their gardens, but this winter has tried everyone’s patience. Until we see finally spring-

Happy (and hopeful) gardening!

Chinese Pistache

Lisa Hair is a retired professional landscaper, having worked at OBU as their gardener for over 18 years. She has her degree in horticulture from OSU OKC and is a Certified Master Gardener here in Shawnee.