oklahoma

What says, "it's spring!" to you?

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My definition of anticipation – waiting for the spring landscape to burst with color!

This week was the week I have been waiting for since the first cool freeze last fall.  Warmer days, fewer nights in the 30’s, and longer days have yielded fescue lawns turning greener every day, trees with swelling buds, and shrubs adding color to the landscape. 

I love spring!   

This time of year it is common for me to see a plant bursting with color and declare it to be my favorite plant.  Only to declare a new favorite the next day. 

Since I don’t have the time to write about all my favorites and you don’t have the time to read about them, I have narrowed the list to three spring favorite perennials, three shrubs, and three trees.

PERENNIALS

Creeping Phlox (Phlox stolonifera) . The first to welcome spring each year. Creeping phlox produces a spring-like carpet in pastel hues of white, lavender, red and pink. Creeping phlox is a moderate grower that can spread up to 2’ but only reaches 4-6” in height. It requires full sun, but will tolerate a couple hours of shade each day. Borders, walls, and around boulders are where it looks best. In my garden, you will find it cascading over a rock retaining wall. It tolerates most soils as long as it is well drained. The plant requires little maintenance. Mites are about the only insect problem it will have.


Creeping Phlox (Phlox stolonifera)
. The first to welcome spring each year. Creeping phlox produces a spring-like carpet in pastel hues of white, lavender, red and pink. Creeping phlox is a moderate grower that can spread up to 2’ but only reaches 4-6” in height. It requires full sun, but will tolerate a couple hours of shade each day. Borders, walls, and around boulders are where it looks best. In my garden, you will find it cascading over a rock retaining wall. It tolerates most soils as long as it is well drained. The plant requires little maintenance. Mites are about the only insect problem it will have.

Dianthus (Dianthus).  It works well as a border, in small groupings, around boulders or as a single plant reaching 10-15” tall with a spread of 12-24”. They bloom in late spring in rose, pink, white, red. They like full sun but will take some dappled shade or afternoon shade. Just like creeping phlox, they are a cool season lover. They will grow in most soils, but prefer alkaline soils — waterlogged soil will cause crown and root rot. Heavy mulching near the crown of the plant can be detrimental. Late March and into May is the peak bloom time. Light feeding in the spring with a complete fertilizer of phosphorus, potassium and low nitrogen is recommended. Other an occasional aphid or powdery mildew issue, they do not have many problems. There are more than 300 varieties of dianthus to choose from. My all-time favorite is ‘Firewitch’. It has a silver-green foliage and with a vibrant pink bloom.

Dianthus (Dianthus). It works well as a border, in small groupings, around boulders or as a single plant reaching 10-15” tall with a spread of 12-24”. They bloom in late spring in rose, pink, white, red. They like full sun but will take some dappled shade or afternoon shade. Just like creeping phlox, they are a cool season lover. They will grow in most soils, but prefer alkaline soils — waterlogged soil will cause crown and root rot. Heavy mulching near the crown of the plant can be detrimental. Late March and into May is the peak bloom time. Light feeding in the spring with a complete fertilizer of phosphorus, potassium and low nitrogen is recommended. Other an occasional aphid or powdery mildew issue, they do not have many problems. There are more than 300 varieties of dianthus to choose from. My all-time favorite is ‘Firewitch’. It has a silver-green foliage and with a vibrant pink bloom.

SHRUBS

Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia ‘Lynwood’).  Best grown as a specimen shrub where it can show off its naturally stunning shape. Forsythia’s brilliant yellow flowers are the first to welcome spring. It performs best planted in full sun and will grow in partial shade, only with less spring blooms. It is considered a fast grower. Forsythia adapts well to most soils but prefers well drained. It rarely has an insect or disease problem. Pruning should only occur after spring blooms fade. If you prune later in the year you will reduce blooms the following spring. The best way to prune this shrub is to remove older wood all the way to the base of the shrub. Traditional forsythia will grow to 6-8’ with an 8’ spread and are well suited for large lawns. If you have a smaller yard, look for one of the newer varieties, such as Gold Tide (Forsythia ‘Courtasol’), a dwarf variety that only reaches 2’ high and spreads to 4’.

Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia ‘Lynwood’). Best grown as a specimen shrub where it can show off its naturally stunning shape. Forsythia’s brilliant yellow flowers are the first to welcome spring. It performs best planted in full sun and will grow in partial shade, only with less spring blooms. It is considered a fast grower. Forsythia adapts well to most soils but prefers well drained. It rarely has an insect or disease problem. Pruning should only occur after spring blooms fade. If you prune later in the year you will reduce blooms the following spring. The best way to prune this shrub is to remove older wood all the way to the base of the shrub. Traditional forsythia will grow to 6-8’ with an 8’ spread and are well suited for large lawns. If you have a smaller yard, look for one of the newer varieties, such as Gold Tide (Forsythia ‘Courtasol’), a dwarf variety that only reaches 2’ high and spreads to 4’.

Bridal Wreath Spirea (Spiraea x vanhouttei).  A medium sized shrub with arching branches covered with an abundance of white cascading flowers in mid spring. It is a very hardy, heirloom shrub, with no specific pest issues that thrives in well drained soils. It attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. To preserve the natural arching shape, avoid sheering — but if pruning is needed, it is best done in the spring after blooms fade. It looks stunning planted in full sun to partial shade in front of darker structures or large hollies. Spiraea nipponica ‘Snow mound’ is another great variety.

Bridal Wreath Spirea (Spiraea x vanhouttei). A medium sized shrub with arching branches covered with an abundance of white cascading flowers in mid spring. It is a very hardy, heirloom shrub, with no specific pest issues that thrives in well drained soils. It attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. To preserve the natural arching shape, avoid sheering — but if pruning is needed, it is best done in the spring after blooms fade. It looks stunning planted in full sun to partial shade in front of darker structures or large hollies. Spiraea nipponica ‘Snow mound’ is another great variety.

TREES

Redbud (Cercis canadensis var. texenis ‘Oklahoma’).  My all-time favorite “Welcome to spring” plant.  (You can expect me to dedicate an entire email to this tree every spring!)  Reddish-purple blooms appear on branches before leaves appear. The ‘Oklahoma’ variety was discovered in the Arbuckle Mountains and know for its glossy, heart shaped, green leaves in the summer. It grows to 15’-20’. Prefers full sun but does well as an understory tree in dabbled shade.

Redbud (Cercis canadensis var. texenis ‘Oklahoma’). My all-time favorite “Welcome to spring” plant. (You can expect me to dedicate an entire email to this tree every spring!) Reddish-purple blooms appear on branches before leaves appear. The ‘Oklahoma’ variety was discovered in the Arbuckle Mountains and know for its glossy, heart shaped, green leaves in the summer. It grows to 15’-20’. Prefers full sun but does well as an understory tree in dabbled shade.

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‘May Night’ Salvia (Salvia x sylvestris).  Sage type flower spikes of deep bluish-purple that will add color in April, May and early June. The best flower show will be in full sun, but it will tolerate a little dappled shade each day. The plant grows 12-18” tall with flower spikes reach 24”. The plant looks great in the middle of the garden planted behind creeping phlox or dianthus, and in front of Shasta daisy or Black-eyed Susan. The leaves often become tattered later in the summer and dormant over the winter. Remove faded blooms to maximize bloom period and pruning the plants after blooming may result in a few fall blooms. In the early spring, before new growth emerges, remove the dormant foliage. Salvia tolerates clay soils but will struggle with root rot if the soil stays saturated.

‘May Night’ Salvia (Salvia x sylvestris). Sage type flower spikes of deep bluish-purple that will add color in April, May and early June. The best flower show will be in full sun, but it will tolerate a little dappled shade each day. The plant grows 12-18” tall with flower spikes reach 24”. The plant looks great in the middle of the garden planted behind creeping phlox or dianthus, and in front of Shasta daisy or Black-eyed Susan. The leaves often become tattered later in the summer and dormant over the winter. Remove faded blooms to maximize bloom period and pruning the plants after blooming may result in a few fall blooms. In the early spring, before new growth emerges, remove the dormant foliage. Salvia tolerates clay soils but will struggle with root rot if the soil stays saturated.

 
Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles japonica “Texas Scarlet’).  Another early bloomer known for adding splashes of red to the landscape. It also performs best in full sun and tolerates partial shade but with fewer blossoms. Considered a moderate grower and mid-sized shrub, most varieties reach 4-5’. It does best if planted where it can grow to its natural size and shape. If pruning is required, only prune in the spring after blooms have faded. Flowering Quince is loved by butterflies and hummingbirds. The plant is very draught tolerant once it is established and it will tolerate most soils, but like most plants would enjoy well drained areas. Another variety, Chaenomeles speciossa Double Take Series has blooms that resemble camellias.

Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles japonica “Texas Scarlet’). Another early bloomer known for adding splashes of red to the landscape. It also performs best in full sun and tolerates partial shade but with fewer blossoms. Considered a moderate grower and mid-sized shrub, most varieties reach 4-5’. It does best if planted where it can grow to its natural size and shape. If pruning is required, only prune in the spring after blooms have faded. Flowering Quince is loved by butterflies and hummingbirds. The plant is very draught tolerant once it is established and it will tolerate most soils, but like most plants would enjoy well drained areas. Another variety, Chaenomeles speciossa Double Take Series has blooms that resemble camellias.

 
Crabapple (Malus ‘Prairifire).  There are many varieties of crabapples, but ‘Prairifire’ is one of the best. It was the Oklahoma Proven Tree of the Year in 2007. It is disease resistant and not phased by most of the problems with crabapples. Flowers of rose-pink cover the tree as soon as leaves emerge. Young leaves go from purple-red to dark green as they mature. Branches have red fruit in the winter. Mature, 20-25’, trees have a rounded top. Plant in full sun as a specimen tree or in a grouping. Water extra during periods of extreme heat or draught.

Crabapple (Malus ‘Prairifire). There are many varieties of crabapples, but ‘Prairifire’ is one of the best. It was the Oklahoma Proven Tree of the Year in 2007. It is disease resistant and not phased by most of the problems with crabapples. Flowers of rose-pink cover the tree as soon as leaves emerge. Young leaves go from purple-red to dark green as they mature. Branches have red fruit in the winter. Mature, 20-25’, trees have a rounded top. Plant in full sun as a specimen tree or in a grouping. Water extra during periods of extreme heat or draught.

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana).  A specimen type tree that reaches 15-20’. Large blooms put on a spectacular show on multi-trunk spreading branches. Blooms range from white to pink to purple. Best if planted in full sun. Plant away from radiant west or south heat where warm spring days may cause buds to develop too early only to be killed by a late freeze. They require regular deep watering in the summer months when leaves become tattered looking. It is best if their roots are protected with a layer of mulch to conserve water in the summer.

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana). A specimen type tree that reaches 15-20’. Large blooms put on a spectacular show on multi-trunk spreading branches. Blooms range from white to pink to purple. Best if planted in full sun. Plant away from radiant west or south heat where warm spring days may cause buds to develop too early only to be killed by a late freeze. They require regular deep watering in the summer months when leaves become tattered looking. It is best if their roots are protected with a layer of mulch to conserve water in the summer.

What are your favorite spring plants?

Send us an email or give us a call (405)367-3873, we would love to know what says “spring” to you!

Lorne Hall

Don’t let your Crape Myrtles fall victim to Crape Murder

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Crape myrtles are a must have plant for nearly every landscape.  They are one of the longest blooming plants in our region, have attractive branching and bark, and provide great fall color. 

Crape Myrtles require some pruning every spring, but way too often Crape Myrtles are trimmed incorrectly, too severely, in late winter to early spring. 

Why do so many cut crapes back to 4-5’ every year?

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Three Reasons for Bad Crape Myrtle Pruning

  1. It is simply what everyone does to their Crape Myrtles in the spring. Have you ever wondered if it is the best practice?  It pains me to see so many beautiful Crapes cut back to ugly stubs every spring.  This practice ruins the natural form of the plant.  Southern Living termed the practice as “Crape Murder” decades ago, but yet it continues as the common practice.

  2. The wrong variety was selected for the location and pruning is needed to control the size. Varieties include large tree types that grow 20’ or larger, medium varieties 12-18’, 6-12’ small varieties, and dwarf varieties.  When you select the right size for your planting area and are not forced to prune heavily to contain the plant, you will find you will have a healthier plant resulting in less disease and more blooms. 

  3. They believe the myth that crape myrtles bloom more if they are severely pruned every year.  Flowers are produced on new growth every year even if they are not pruned. Actually, without heavy pruning you will have more branch area resulting in more summer blooms.

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Crape Murder destroys the natural beauty of the plant. Mature crape myrtles have wonderful smooth and molten bark with graceful shapes. You will never experience this quality if you murder them every spring.

This Crape Myrtle fell victim to Crape Murder.

Best Pruning Tips

  1. Know what your goal is before you start.  You can always prune more, but once you have pruned, you can never prune less. 

  2. Remove last summer’s seed pods from the ends of the branches with hand pruners.

  3. Remove all the smaller branches growing toward the center of the plant.  This will allow more air and light to reach the center of the plant which will increase blooms and reduce disease.

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Great pruning… this Crape Myrtle didn’t fall victim to Crape Murder.

4. Make cuts back at the main branch and don’t leave stubs.

5. Remove any unwanted branches from the base of large shrub or tree from varieties.  Typically 5-7 trunks, free of any branches for the first quarter or third of the plant results in an attractive landscape plant.

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First leaf buds on a pruned Crape Myrtle in late March.

 

Crape Myrtle Insect and Disease Issues

Scale – The last two years many Crape Myrtles in central Oklahoma developed bark scale.  This problem is relatively new to our area, but has been a nuisance in Texas for a few years.  The insect is invasive and results in a black mold along the branches and trunk.  Although the scale is rarely fatal to the plant, they are responsible for stunted growth, reduced flowering and loss in aesthetics.  Best control is achieved with a dormant oil in the spring followed by contact insecticide applications in late spring and early summer when pest populations increase.

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Powdery Mildew – Best identified as a power-like dusting that develops in late spring and early summer on new leaves.  It will result in reduced blooming and misshaped leaves when untreated.  Warm days, cool nights, low wind circulation, and excessive moisture on the leaves are the culprits.  Best practice is to plant Crape Myrtles in areas where they will receive plenty of light and air movement.  If you notice powdery mildew, fungicide applications will be required to control the spread of the disease.

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Aphids – Traditionally, they have been the major pest for Crape Myrtles. A few aphids are not a problem and do not require treatment. But, if populations increase they can cause damage. Application of a dormant oil in the late winter or spring is the best preventive step to control aphids and is recommended. If aphid populations become a problem during the season, repeated applications of an insecticide will be required to gain control.

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Please let us know if we can help you with any Crape Myrtle issues — from plant selection, proper pruning, and care.

To insure you have a summer full of wonderful crape myrtle color, call (405)367-3873 to schedule a dormant oil application this week!

Lorne Hall