Gardens of the Cross Timbers: Peter Rabbit loves pollinator plants

Becky Emerson Carlberg
Southern Magnolia bloom

I totally know how Mr. McGregor felt after seeing his garden demolished. My pollinator garden of perennials was thriving in the rains and mild temperatures. The Indian Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella) had just sent up two stems with yellow tipped red-faced flowers. The Milly Rock Red Yarrow was in the process of developing a mound of aromatic leaves and already had produced clusters of small red flowers. The one floral stalk of the Mini Gallery Yellow Lupine had come and gone, but a new smaller one was just beginning to flower. The Maximillian sunflowers and Coreopsis rescued from the edge of the road were nearly a foot tall.

The pollinator garden and Earthboxes full of tomato plants were surrounded by thick lush prairie grasses. The weed eater, ready for business, soon had the area neatly trimmed. The tomatoes and flowers looked great. All done before the afternoon heat.

Late evening I walked out to admire the gardens. What flowers. The yarrow, Indian Blanket, Maximillian sunflowers and Coreopsis were gone. As if they’d never been there. Not even a stem or root remained. The lupine had one sad little stem of palmate leaves. The Beardtongue with purple flowers was half the size it had been. Only the marigolds were still in their corner. The culprit with a fluffy tail had been seen lurking about nibbling grass, but no one thought anything about it since the plants had been left alone for weeks.

The big bold bunny was nowhere to be seen. Probably off napping while digesting 80% of the pollinator garden. The garden now looks as if it had just been mowed. My ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ neighbors would be pleased.

One large pot with a single sunflower was placed right in the middle of the garden. Does the rabbit like sunflowers? Another fence is in the works to accompany the four others which surround flowers and veggies in my small garden oasis. Oh well.

Tulsa Tough Friday Night

June 11-13 was the St. Francis Tulsa Tough weekend. Ridiculously hot, humid and miserable until the sun went down. The annual Tulsa Tough began 2005 and has been going on each year except being cancelled last year (Covid19). Three days of competitive and non-competitive bicycling. Supported by a huge number of partners, sponsors, and a substantial purse, the race-a-thon was hosted by USA Crits. Riders from 36 states participated, with nearly 400 just in the criteriums. The crit (criterium) is a race defined by a number of laps around a set course. The shebang began at 5 p.m. Friday evening as storm clouds built in Kansas. Sticky weather.

The Friday event was the McNellie’s Group Blue Dome Criterium. Barriers were padded with the most natural of padding—sacks of Southwood Landscape and Garden Center Azalea Potting mix. The Men’s CAT 1/2 race (proficiency level just below pro) had 133 competitors. A massive wreck occurred at the first curve, taking out 20 to 30 riders. The race continued. My son finished with 75 others. The Men’s Pro 1 race that followed had a three man sweep from the elite LEGION team of Los Angeles. The young diverse multi-racial cycling team (23 to 31 years old) was formed in 2019.

Natural Padding at Tulsa Tough

Saturday’s FC Arts District Criterium was the site for the next series of races. Tulsa was in a heat advisory. The steamy morning began with Gran Fondo riders leaving before 8 a.m. Gran Fondo is loosely interpreted from Italian as ‘big ride.’ The three Gran Fondos ranged from 30 to 100 miles throughout the Tulsa area. Rest stops with food, water and bike/health support were available, but the Octoberfest Rest Area got rave reviews. It was the beer and bratwurst that did it. Early afternoon were the kids (9 years old and under) and junior races. Afternoon temps hit 95 degrees with 102 heat index. The crits continued. The Men’s Cat 1/2 race my son was in started with 129 people, but ended with 81. He was involved in two wrecks but managed to finish (#81).

The Men’s Pro 1 race again was dominated by four members of the LA Legion team. The field of 152 finished with 92. The Pros were flying at 35 mph around bends, curves and straightaways in the tight confined race course.

Sunday morning the River Parks Criterium began at 8 a.m. The next set of Gran Fondos had already departed. The Arkansas River race included the infamous Cry Baby Hill lined with people cheek and jowl. Midday were the junior and kid races. At 2:15 p.m. came the Townie Ride. Anyone who had a bike could join in support of bicycle riding in Tulsa. For over ten minutes all ages pedaled down the road while whistles, ringing bells and yells of encouragement came from the sidelines. Temperature reached 92 degrees. In the Men’s Cat 1/2, only 41 finished out of 132. For the third time, LA Legion took top honors in the Men’s Pro 1 race, which ended the 2021 Tulsa Tough.

Two mornings I spent watching Tulsa Tough livestream….in air conditioning. The sweaty sweltering afternoons were something else. Large water dispensers were set up at each crit venue. Tents, fans hooked to generators and tubs of icy canned drinks dealt with the inhospitable conditions.

The humid warmth brought out the intense scent of the many Southern Magnolias in bloom; large creamy blooms embedded inside thick, broad evergreen leaves. Most Tulsa magnolias seem to have survived the cruel February cold snap. Native to the southeastern part of the U.S., the ancient magnolia is considered one of the most primitive flowering groups. The Jackson Magnolia stood on the White House grounds for 190 years, planted in 1828 by Andrew Jackson in memory of his wife Rachel. Held together by support cables and guy-wires, the old tree was cut down in 2018. It had survived far beyond the average life span of 80 years. Direct descendants have been cultivated and the Jackson Magnolia lives on.

My pollinator garden, on the other hand, might not. The marigold has now disappeared. It’s been tough.

Becky Emerson Carlberg

Becky Emerson Carlberg, graduate of Oklahoma State (Plant Pathology) is a teacher, artist, writer as well as certified Oklahoma Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at