Happy Mother's Day, everyone!
Whether you are a mom, a dad, teenager, or grandma, everyone enjoys flowers. Some people, however, are highly allergic to them, which may discourage them from gardening. However, there are plenty of ways to use foliage plants to landscape their home, with numerous trees and shrubs to choose from.
Green is green, right? Ok, maybe light green, medium green, and dark green, but it’s all green stuff, right? Wrong! There are numerous greens out there. Just look at the king-sized extra jumbo box of crayons and you’ll start to understand. But there are numerous shrubs and trees that are blue-silver, gold, lime-green, yellow, burgundy, and red, and that is in the spring, not fall!
Pairing shrubs with different colors is beautiful. Add different forms, heights, and textures to the mix and you have an amazing looking home! Mix Crimson Pygmy Barberry with Lime Mound Spirea and Nellie R Stevens Holly for a treat, or try Saybrook Gold Junipers with Arizona Cypress and Dwarf Yaupon Holly bushes. Each of these combinations have different foliage colors, textures, and forms, so your landscape has interest.
With the warm temperatures and humidity we’ve been experiencing comes fungal diseases like black spot and powdery mildew. Crape Myrtles are especially susceptible to mildew, but so far I’ve not seen any Crapes that didn’t get frozen back last winter, so it may not be a problem this year. That’s a good news-bad news thing right there!
Mildew affects roses like it does Crape Myrtles, but roses are also susceptible to black spot. Cleaning out any old leaves on the ground beneath the bushes, and watering from a soaker hose or drip system helps the situation, but I have found that removing all the leaves from the lower 14” of the plant helps keep it from spreading to, as well as applying new mulch each year.
Mulching now while the soil is moist will help your plants get established faster as well as keeping you out of the heat this summer. It regulates soil moisture, temperature, it suppresses weed seeds from sprouting, and just plain looks nice. Please try to avoid those dyed mulches, as most of them contain chopped waste lumber that has come in contact with who knows what. The dye also leaches out into the soil over time, and I know of no studies being done to see if it is toxic after building up in the soil for years. Stick with cedar, shredded cypress, eucalyptus (if you can find it), or pine nuggets.
We should be ok to sow flower seeds directly into the garden now. Soil temperatures are much warmer now, and the seeds won’t sit and rot in the soil. To find your soil temperatures, go to Mesonet.org and click on maps. Find soil temperatures and see what your county’s temp is. Our weather station is located in a cow pasture just east of St Gregory’s campus. The Mesonet site is also good to check your soil moisture and other info like radar and forecasts.
Usually the first week of May is when I trim back mums, but if yours are to tiny right now it is ok to wait until June. Just don’t trim them after that or you won’t have any blooms this fall. Asters, coneflowers, and Rudbeckia can all be trimmed back to increase flowering, just wait until the end of May and only prune once. ShastaDaisies do not benefit from this, so please them alone.
Hopefully by June we will have leveled out temperature spikes and can garden more seriously. Until then, happy gardening!
Lisa K Hair is a certified Master Gardener, with a degree in Horticulture from OSU OKC. She was the campus gardener for OBU for 18 years, and retired last year to spend more time with her Great Pyrenees/St Bernard dog, Dollie. She is now the newest member of the Shawnee Beautification Committee.