<![CDATA[Wisdom Designs - Plant Profiles]]>Fri, 26 Feb 2016 21:49:16 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Hot to Plant a Tree]]>Fri, 02 May 2014 02:48:48 GMThttp://wisdomdesigns.weebly.com/plant-profiles/hot-to-plant-a-treeSo you bought tree, now what?   Dig a hole, put tree in hole, fill up hole...right?  Yeah, pretty much.   However, there are some trees that are not properly suited to your soil and climatic conditions.   That is what this article is about the planting of tree to ensure survival of an investment of both time and money.
First of all, lets assume the tree is near where you would like to plant it.   Is this a good spot?  Look at the tag and hopefully you asked some good questions at the nursery.   You did ask good questions at the nursery, didn't you?  The biggest consideration is sunlight tolerance.  Is the site sunny, shady or somewhere in between?  This something to ask your nurseryman, usually the tags are written in climates different than we have in Central Oklahoma and can be wrong, so ask.  Second is tree size.  Usually the tags are spot on here, but sometimes Oklahoma clay and wind can stunt growth.  Are there structures in the way? If so, do you mind regular pruning? What about driveway or sidewalks that the trunk or roots could damage? Does the tree fruit? You may not want it near you car. Maybe fall litter will clog your gutters. Things to think about. The last major consideration is water. Is the area higher and dry or low and wet? Is it an area you can get water to easily? There are other things to think about but these are the major points. Now that you have thought about them it is time to go pick a tree, go ahead, I'll wait...

Ok, good choice! Now there are a lot of sources that say amending the soil or even replacing the soil is the way to go. And sometimes it is.  If you want to put a “dry” tree in a wet location. etc... But unless you dig a 20 X 20 X 20 hole, eventually the tree is going to be in your native soil.   So here is what to do.  The hole its self is actually the most important variable.  It should be bowl shaped, wide and shallow.   Depth is critical, you want to hole the EXACT depth of the root ball.  Too low it either stays wet and rots or the roots eventually girdle the tree.   To high and it is hard to evenly water and if leaves an unsightly and unnatural bump in the soil with the roots showing.  So the top of the root ball needs to be level with the top of the soil.
The width of the “bowl” needs to be at least twice the width of the root ball. This ensures the roots will not hit a flat surface and be diverted into a circle. Our clay soil basically makes clay pots. Look up Frankoma Pottery sometime. Also don't leave smooth walls, rough them up with a shovel.
At this point some people put rock or gravel in the bottom of the hole to “improve” drainage. Please don't do this. The soil underneath still won't drain any better and the surface tension of the water will actually slow the water passage from soil to stone to soil.  Here's what to do.  First put the tree in the hole, while trying to handle the tree by only the root ball. Once the tree is in the hole and looks good take a gander at the pile of dirt you dug out of the hole. There are only two things you need to add. Peat moss and pine bark chips. Both just to add organic matter, aeration and moisture regulation. The bark also helps break up the clay.  Over all, you want about 60% to 70% native soil. You want just enough amendments to give the tree a running start and to temper the root system from its growing medium to your soil.  Mix the peat and bark into the pile of soil then start filling in the hole. When the hole is a little over half way full with soil, start watering and flood the hole.  Let the water drain a little to settle the soil then fill the rest of the way with out covering the root ball. Next, staking.
Diagram of tree staking
It's windy in Oklahoma. Tree are big kites. Young trees have puny root systems in loose soil. See a problem?
Now what I see a lot of people doing is placing two T-posts on either side of the tree with wire or webbing supporting the tree high on the trunk and this works, that tree is not going to budge. However, weaker and faster growing trees, all trees really, react to their environment.  If, while young they grow in an environment where they are not affected by wind they will not grow in such a way to brace themselves against the wind making them weak and brittle.  If, however, they are allowed to be blown around a bit and only staked in such a way to keep the root ball in the ground, they will be strong and wind resistant.  So you will need three three to four foot stakes hammered into the ground outside of the planting hole at a steep angle. From these stakes you want wire with section of hose or webbing to be placed about two or three feet up from the ground.  After about a year, they should be good to remove.  I usually recommend removing stakes the fall after the year is up.  So if you planted a tree any time in 2010, you should remove the stakes in the fall of 2011.

That's it! just water regularly. Using a cheap lawn sprinkler, water the so the spray reaches outward towards the outer branches. Do so for 20 to 30 minutes once a week or so. A sprinkler system will not work. Less ofter for a longer period.
This marks the end of our Spring tree series, next week we will continue with our regular articles on other great and unique plants for you landscape.
<![CDATA[The Pines, Pinus]]>Tue, 01 Apr 2014 16:36:50 GMThttp://wisdomdesigns.weebly.com/plant-profiles/the-pines-pinusIt's finally spring this will be our last post in a series about good tree selections for central Oklahoma. Our next post will be about the site selection and planting of these trees.
Piney Forest
Pines have had a lot of bad press lately. After the hail storms last year many Pines turned yellow and died. This was caused by the Pine Bark Beetle introducing a fungus or blight to the trees through the wounds from being pummeled by the hail. Unfortunately the most popular Pine, Austrian Pine, P. nigra, is also horribly susceptible to blight. But there are good varieties, most are vast improvements over the Austrian Pine.

Large Pines
Lacebark Pine
Lacebark Pine (P. bungeana)
 A gorgeous specimen tree that grows to 60 feet tall and about 30-40 feet wide with a open, sometimes multi trunked, growth habit. The bark peels and flakes off like a sycamore. lower limbs can become brittle and break off in heavy snow or ice. Slow growing.

Photos courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden
Shortleaf PinePhoto courtesy of the University of Arkansas
Shortleaf Pine (P. echiata)
 These are the trees that make up the bulk of the Ouachita Forrest. Tall and open to about 70 feet tall and 30 feet wide. Resistant to most diseases and insects, strong branches, and makes a good lawn tree but difficult to move once established. Very drought tolerant.

Afghan PinePhoto courtesy of George DeLange
Afghan Pine (P. eldarica)
 A classic pine that grows fast to a dense 50 by 20 feet. Loves hot dry weather and alkaline soils.

Loblolly PinePhoto courtesy of Sooner Plant Farm
Loblolly Pine (P. taeda)
 Fast grower to 80 feet tall and 40 feet wide. Loose form. They naturally shed lower branches with age. They provide light shade and have a moderate root system, so they are a good tree to garden under. Good for quick screening and shade.

Small and Medium Pines
MugPhoto courtesy of Iseli Nursery
Mugho Pine (P. mugo)
 Short, usually 3 to 8 feet, symmetrical shrub with a rounded top. Usually tight growth and less than 10 feet wide. Several good dwarf selections exist.

Japanese Black PinePhoto courtesy of Iseli Nursery
Japanese Black Pine (P. thunbergii)
 Usually under 30 feet tall and 20 feet wide and often with a leaning or bending trunk. Almost a natural Bonsai. Requires more water in summer than most pines.

There is very little to worry about with pines. The first season after planting, water regularly. After that most pines don't like water and will suffer as a result of over watering. Yellow needles are the most common sign. They really don't need trimming, other that removing lower branches. If size is a concern, the new growth in the spring is bright green or white. Partially removing these will make the plant bushier and denser while slowing growth. Removing altogether will stop growth entirely.
I hope this has encouraged some of you to keep pines in you mind when selecting plants.  This list is but a fraction of the Pines available, and a fraction of the pines well suited for Oklahoma.  So do your research and find a good local nursery, you will have to live with you decision for many years.
<![CDATA[Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry, Amelanchier X grandiflora]]>Wed, 19 Mar 2014 21:19:53 GMThttp://wisdomdesigns.weebly.com/plant-profiles/autumn-brilliance-serviceberry-amelanchier-x-grandifloraThere are few trees that can be called “perfect.” Only a few of those are suited to Oklahoma.  In the wind down of the Good Trees for Oklahoma Series, I bring you the Serviceberry.
Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry in bloom
Photo courtesy of Eric Hill
Sometimes called Juneberry, the Serviceberry is a sadly underused tree.  Not too large, only 25 to 30 feet, tall and half as wide, they can be planted anywhere.  It has a nice open canopy that allows light to pass through. That along with a lack of surface roots make for easy plantings and lawns under the tree.
Autumn Brilliance Juneberry fruit an dPhoto Courtesy of Bryant Olsen
Several species and variates exist, but the most commonly available is also the most versatile.  Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry (A. X grandiflora), one of the Apple Serviceberries.  In spring drooping clusters of white flowers open from pink buds.  Later, new foliage is purple-ish and fades to a soft blue green.  In early summer red berries from that you can fight the birds for as the taste like sweet mini apples and are great in pies and jams.  The meat of the fruit is clear/white so mess from birds is not a major concern, but should be considered.  Leaves develop orange or red coloration and remain that way for a considerable time.  In winter the silvery bark shows off the strong, storm damage resistant branches; making this a four season tree.  Uncommon cases of rust and fireblight can occur but are almost always minor.

Serviceberry Fall Color
Photo Courtesy of Barock Schloss
<![CDATA[Caddo Sugar Maple, Acer saccharum 'Caddo']]>Fri, 28 Feb 2014 19:20:08 GMThttp://wisdomdesigns.weebly.com/plant-profiles/caddo-sugar-maple-acer-saccharum-caddoFall in New HampshirePhoto Courtesy of Ron Reiring
I realize late winter is not really the time to be thinking about Fall but I am. Fall in the north east, to be exact. Just about anyone should be able to conjure up an image of the New Hampshire-ish region in fall. Trees turning to oranges, reds and yellows. The tree most common there is the Maple. Dozens of species and hundreds of varieties exist all over the nation. Many do not do well with our oppressive heat and frequent mini droughts; while others suffer because of fast growth weakening them in our various storms. Other Maples will be covered later, but for the Sadly Under-used Oklahoma Series, I would like to talk about the Sugar Maple. Which brings me back to the New Hampshire/Vermont-ish area. The very tree responsible for Maple Syrup and much of the North East's Fall color.

Caddo Sugar Maple with Fall Color
Photo Courtesy of Marcum's Nursery
Now, Oklahoma and New Hampshire have very similar climates, soils and growing conditions, so, the Sugar Maple is GREAT for Oklahoma. End of story,see you next week...

Ok, I am being told that was in fact wrong...Oklahoma and the North East apparently have wildly different climates. There are just some varieties that are good for Oklahoma.
Young Sugar Maple
Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia
Sugar Maples as a species are slower growing(thus stronger) than most Maples, have a nice oval “Tic-Tac-ish” shape when full grown and have reliably fantastic fall color. The Caddo, while not a specific variety but a group of un-named varieties native to Oklahoma, are slightly smaller (50 feet) and have a soft yellow-orange fall color. The Caddos are very tolerant of alkaline soils and are great for the rocky-limestone soil of Texas and southern Oklahoma. Named after Caddo County just west of Oklahoma City and found all over the State. They are responsible for much of the beauty of the Talimena Drive in eastern Oklahoma into Arkansas.
Sugar Maple's Fall Color
Photo Courtesy of the National Forest Service
With all maples, they prefer well drained soil so clay will need some amendment. Deep watering in the first few years will encourage a deeper more drought resistant root system. They can develop surface roots so beware when planting them near something, less frequent waterings will help mitigate this problem.
Maple Surface Roots
Photo Courtesy of Julie Walton Shaver
If the nights are below freezing and the days are close to or above freezing, they can be tapped for their sugary sap. Because of this, they should not be pruned in winter or early spring as they will “bleed.” There is a variety, 'Legacy', that also does well in the south with a more varied fall color palate.
Under no circumstance should Acer saccharum be confused with Acer saccharinum (Silver Maple). That 'i' in there make all the difference, from a sturdy tree with good fall color to a weak tree with anemic fall color. These trees are common and popular because of the fast growth and interesting bark but really only have a 20 year life span and are prone to storm damage.
<![CDATA[Black Gum, Nyssa Sylvatica]]>Mon, 24 Feb 2014 15:24:41 GMThttp://wisdomdesigns.weebly.com/plant-profiles/black-gum-nyssa-sylvaticaContinuing our series on trees best suited to dealing with Oklahoma's ...interesting... climate, I bring you the Black Gum. Those of you familiar with Van Morrison will know Tupelo Honey, not only one of the greatest albums of all time but a honey made from bees that pollinate trees in the Nyssa genus.
Black Gum
(c) 2005 Steven J. Baskauf
A couple problems with this tree keep it from being widely planted, which is a real shame because it has one of the best fall displays anyone could want. First of all, they don't really like heavy soil. While that is not an insurmountable problem, they really need extensive site amending; which I will cover in the final post in this series. Second, when young, they need fairly regular water, more so than some of the more common trees(Chinese Pistache, Shumard Oak, etc...). They do however develop a impressive tap root, so older, well established trees will need less water. And finally it is that tap root that presents the worst problem, transplanting. When shopping around for these trees one may notice that large specimens are hard to come by; this is because their tap root makes older, larger specimens very permanent. So young, small, trees are all that are available in nurseries and patience is needed to acquire a large specimen. Again, site planning is needed, if you decided to cut the tree down, the tap root will produce suckers that even stump grinding will not eliminate.
Black Gum Fall
Now, with these issues, and my propensity to recommend “easy” trees, why am I talking about this tree in a Recommended for Oklahoma series? Well, those problems can be solved with some good, pre-purchase planning and this is a gorgeous tree. Moderate growth to 50' tall and 30' wide with a wide-ish rounded shape. Heavy horizontal branching resits wind, snow and ice damage. In the fall, the Black Gum will be one of the first trees to start showing color with yellows, oranges, and reds. Warmer Falls may slow the process, but usually it will turn quickly. During all seasons the bark is quite showy, rough and almost black will contrast with leaves during the growing season and the sky and snow in winter. In Fall, the female trees can produce a black berry that birds love; so keep that in mind when selecting a specific tree and location. Other varieties are hard to come by, a weeping(Autumn Cascade) and a smaller conical(Forum). Also a cousin, N. ogeche, produces Ogeechee Limes.

   --Photo Courtesy of North Carolina State University

This is a tree that, while a lot of preparatory work is involved, is very worth while. An outstanding large tree with four season interest that is not planted on every corner.

--edit--This is NOT a Sweet Gum, one of the common names is even Sour Gum. This WILL NOT produce the spiky gumballs. The fruit is a berry about the size of a blueberry.
<![CDATA[Oklahoma Redbud, Cercis canadensis texensis 'Oklahoma']]>Sun, 16 Feb 2014 19:28:22 GMThttp://wisdomdesigns.weebly.com/plant-profiles/oklahoma-redbud-cercis-canadensis-texensis-oklahomaEarly Spring really is one of the best times to get started on your landscapes.  Trees and shrubs get a huge benefit from being planted this time of year because of their dormancy cycle.  For the same reason bare root roses typically do better than their potted counterparts, trees and shrubs usually do not have the stress and shock symptoms when planted in the colder months.  Therefor, for the next few weeks, we will cover some of the better trees and shrubs for central Oklahoma.  At the end of this series, we will have a post on the best ways to plant these plants to ensure the best success.

Oklahoma Redbud I
To start this series on Oklahoma-able trees and shrubs, we will cover the state tree, the Oklahoma Redbud (Cercis canadensis texensis 'Oklahoma'). Most of us have seen them, some of us like them, so I will be brief with the description. They are fast growing to 25-ish feet, and have a open rounded shape with mostly horizontal branching.

Photo courtesy Monrovia

Below:  Easter Redbud (Top)
             Oklahoma Redbud (Bottom)

This is where is is so important to read tags. Most Redbuds sold are not truly Oklahoma Redbuds. An Eastern Redbud has light green leaves and pale pink flowers, while the Texas Redbuds, of which the Oklahoma is a variety, have thicker darker and glossy leaves and the Oklahoma alone has dark and rich pink flowers. The Texas Redbuds are also more adapted to the heavy alkaline soils here in the plains. Other Eastern Redbuds will need extensive soil amending and close watch on the water. Especially when freshly planted. No matter what species or variety is chosen, better than average drainage and watering will be needed. They are not a low maintenance tree; stay tuned for our message on how to make just about any tree low maintenance. Besides site requirements, the only thing to look out for is too many trunks. Too many splits stunts growth, weakens the tree and invites water and insect infiltration that can split the tree.
Aside from our state tree there are plenty of good varieties:
Texas White
Cercis c. t. 'Texas White' – Same as the Oklahoma but with white flowers.

Photo courtesy of North Carolina State University

Leaf of Silver Cloud Redbud
Cercis c. 'Silver Cloud' – An Eastern Redbud with slight marbeling in white. Does well with some afternoon shade here in Oklahoma.

Photo courtesy of Monrovia

Forest Pansy Redbud
Cercis c. 'Forest Pansy' – A better altenitive to the Purple Plum, great burgandy/purple foilage and the pink flowers typical of the species.

Cercis c. 'Covey' – Contorted and bent branches lend this variety to a dwarf and weeping habit.

Photo courtesy of Sooner Plant Farm

Cercis chinensis 'Avondale' – Not an Eastern Redbud but like a dwarf Oklahoma Redbud. One of the best flower show among all Rebuds. Nearly solid blooms from trunk to the tips of the branches.

Photo courtesy of Sooner Plant Farm

<![CDATA[Sedum aka - Stonecrop]]>Mon, 30 Sep 2013 18:46:41 GMThttp://wisdomdesigns.weebly.com/plant-profiles/sedum-aka-stonecropTri Color Sedum
   Sedum is, by far, one of the most varied genus of the Plant Kingdom.  Over 400 species grace this line of plants and within that there are numerous more varieties.  I will focus on a few in the hopes that this will spark you to ask questions and do your own research on these marvelous plants.     Basically, Sedum is a succulent, most are trailing but some are upright, colors ranges from gold to blue to red and all are very tough.  Several are cold hardy here in Oklahoma and others are tropical and make great house plants.

PHOTO: Tri-Color Sedum, from: www.plantsafari.com

Angelina Sedum
 I will start with my favorite, Angelina Sedum, one of the Spruce Leaved Sedum, S. reflexum.  A ground cover, it has a gorgeous golden color and after frost it develops a burgundy tinge that keeps things interesting during the winter.  It is VERY drought tolerant, a broken stem will sit for weeks with no change.  However if taken care of, it will grow quickly.  Give it space and be amazed.  If leaves start dropping, the plant is receiving too much water.

John Creech Sedum
Another popular species in the "Two-Row Sedum," S. Spurium.  The most common varieties being Dragon's Blood and John Creech.  Another groundcover, but these stay much lower.  Perfect for rock gardens.  Best if planted and left alone.

There are also bushy varieties of Sedum, most belonging to S. Spectabile.  These Showy Sedums are tall, 1.5 feet or more, and have large, long lasting flower head that appear in late summer and fall.  Not usually evergreen.  Full sun and average water will keep these happy for years.  Here in Oklahoma, we really only need to water in August and even then, not much.

Burros Tail Sedum
A long time favorite as a house plant is the Burro Tail, S. morganianum.  Best in bright light or part shade if outside, however, it is not cold hardy.  Allow to dry completely, then soak with water or half strength liquid fertilizer.

I hope I sparked your interest in this amazing group of plants.  I tried to choose varieties that are common in the OKC Metro.  Local garden centers may or may not have these specific varieties, but fear not.  Find a color and growth habit that you like and keep the basic rules in your head as you plant.
1.  They are a succulent, like a cactus.  They like well drained soil and fairly dry conditions.  If you have clay soil, be sure to let the soil dry a bit(at least to a depth of two knuckles) before you water again.  They can stay moist in Spring when they grow the most.  Late Summer and Fall, let them dry out.
2.  They like full sun.
3.  They do not like a lot of fertilizer.  If you have one in a pot, you can infrequently give it a half dose of liquid fertilizer.
<![CDATA[Kentucky Coffee Tree, Gymnocladus dioica]]>Wed, 17 Apr 2013 17:48:45 GMThttp://wisdomdesigns.weebly.com/plant-profiles/kentucky-coffee-tree-gymnocladus-dioicaWell, thinking it was about time for a tree, I thought I would start with one of my favorites.  The Kentucky Coffee Tree (Gymnocladus dioica) is a hardy stout tree with few faults. 
Kentucky Coffee Tree
Kentucky Coffee Tree Leaf
Its biggest fault is its leaves.  A double compound leaf means each leaf kind of has branches of its own.  They are also quite large from one to three feet long, they are like a palm frond.  Add the seed pods to the mix, a bit of a mess in fall and winter.  However, being so large they don't blow around so clean up is a breeze and due to the branch structure of the tree, there are not as many leaves as one would expect.

And yes, that is ONE leaf in the picture!

KCT in winter
Mainly because of its leaves, the Coffee Tree has a spartan branch structure.  Typically 3-4 main branches and not much more secondary branching.  This is good for a couple reasons.  
Oklahoma weather is hard on trees, ice coating the branches, fifty mile per hour sustained wind speed, tornadoes, two blizzards in as many weeks, not to mention the heat and drought.  Having so few branches makes the tree very resistant to storm damage.  It has no "sails" to catch the wind and the branches it has are extra stout.
Also, the winter is friendly to the trees appearance.  Without all of the spindly outer twigs, the tree does not look so bare and makes for a striking and solid look.

Notice the guy in blue to the left of the tree!

The Kentucky Coffee Tree received its name from the seed it bares.  Inside a large (4-9 inches) leathery brown seed pod are "nuts" that can be roasted and ground to make a coffee substitute.  But be careful, the seed are poisonous until roasted or boiled.  The seeds hang on the tree all winter adding to its interest but later in the season they fall and can be problematic.

KCT in Fall
This is truly a four season tree.  The leaves come out with a pinkinsh tint in Spring and fade to a dark blueish green in the Summer when is pyramidal form is really show off.  Fall comes with a mix of lime green and yellow, usually more of the lime green.  Finally in Winter, the contorted branches with a gray ruffled bark are put on show.  People will ask you how you trim your tree to keep it from looking weedy in winter.

This in one of the most versatile trees I know about, it will grow well in every state and into Canada and Mexico.  It thrives in moist rich soil but it also does well in the hot, dry, clay-pit that is central Oklahoma.  Roots are not a problem, it makes a great street tree provided enough over head room is given.  Regularly 70-80 feet tall and 50 feet wide with the potential for larger, they need room (but just a little!).  Stately Manor is a "dwarf" male(seedless) variety at only 50' tall by 20' wide.  
Water heavily the first couple years and you will have a extremely drought resistant specimen that will only require water in the driest of summers.  Pruning is unnecessary if planting location was wise.  Buy in winter so you know what your getting (male or female).  Both are needed to seed but close proximity is not necessary.  Pick one without many branches below seven feet or so; they are only going to get larger and you don't want to have to duck do you?

<![CDATA[Gaura, Gaura lindheimeri]]>Mon, 01 Apr 2013 07:00:00 GMThttp://wisdomdesigns.weebly.com/plant-profiles/gaura If anyone out there has "dirt" instead of "soil," then Guara is for you.  Let me introduce you to this little wonder: Guara lindheimeri is a perennial that will grow in every state, hot or cold.  Typically two to four feet tall and wide and never needs dividing.  It can take drought or wet conditions provided it is planted in well draining soil; here in Oklahoma, we add a lot of composted pine bark mulch to achieve that.  You can expect blooms all season, spring to fall.  Deadheading is not necessary but will encourage faster rebloom and discourage self seeding.  All varieties have flowers in the white/pinkish to red family but they will provide different effects.
Siskiyou Pink Gaura
Siskiyou Pink, (my favorite) has dark buds that bloom much lighter giving a two tone effect.

Whirling Butterflies Gaura
Whirling Butterflies, Pinkish white flowers that are the largest of all varieties. 

     -PHOTO: Peoria Gardens

Corrie's Gold, chartreuse tinged leaves with gold margins and light pink flowers

Dauphin, 5-7 feet tall and pink flowers that fade to white

While many more varieties exist, we are at the mercy of the market.  Not being the most popular plant, most nurseries only carry one or two varieties.  Which is why it is important to shop at a local nursery with trained staff who can tell you about the species being considered.  If you do find one, you will be happy as long as you plant is in site with poor soil.  Rich soil and fertilization will decrease bloom and inspire legginess.  They are, however, perfect for container culture!