The Gardens’ Summer Favorites That Will Work For Oklahoma Home Gardens
Nate Tschaenn, Director of Horticulture
Have you ever tried growing a plant that you saw in a gardening magazine or catalog with disappointing results? Maybe the leaves were yellow or burnt to a crisp in summer, the bloom time was disappointingly short or nonexistent, or you were plagued by disease or insects. Growing plants in Oklahoma is much different, and often more challenging than many other areas of the country. It’s easy to be jaded when seeing photos of gardens in other states and think, “I can’t grow that here.”
One of the great benefits about visiting your local public gardens is being able to actually see and evaluate a great variety of plants actually growing in your local conditions. At Myriad Gardens you will be able to see plants not only at their peak but also after a month or two of 90-plus degree days. Part of our mission is to showcase plants that Oklahoma gardeners will be most likely to have success with in their own gardens. We are also planting and trying new things every year, sometimes with great success and sometimes failure.
Here are some of our favorite plants that are new to the Gardens this year and have held up well all summer:
Cherry Skullcap (Scutellaria suffrutescens)
This is probably my favorite addition this year. I’ve been blown away by this plant’s performance. It started blooming in April and has not stopped as of mid-August. It is a very low growing perennial, never reaching more than 8 inches in height. It’s planted in full sun in one of the hottest spots in the Gardens and hasn’t shown any sign of stress.
Caradonna Meadow Sage (Salvia nemerosa ‘Caradonna’)
‘Caradonna’ is by far my favorite cultivar of meadow sage. The flowers are dark purple and are held more upright in straighter spikes and bloom longer than most other cultivars, including ‘May Night’, which is much more common but does not perform well in Oklahoma in my opinion. We paired it with the cherry skullcap and it is a knockout combination.
Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum)
Blackfoot Daisy is a wonderful Oklahoma native prairie plant. I have been tremendously impressed with the nonstop bloom production without any need for deadheading. The low, spreading growth and heavy flower production makes it seem like an annual, but this perennial withstands our cold winters as well as the blistering heat. The dainty white flowers are also fragrant and attract butterflies.
Purple Pride Beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Issai’)
While beautyberry wasn’t exactly a new addition to the Gardens, we certainly needed more of this awesome native shrub. We added a mass of 16 three gallon plants to the southeast lower lake and I’ve been impressed how quickly they grew and filled in. The graceful arching branches and clusters of tiny pink flowers are nice in summer, but the true show for these shrubs comes in fall. The long, slender branches are currently covered in tiny bright purple berries that will remain long after the leaves fall off.
Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia ‘Torch’)
Although not a true sunflower, Mexican sunflower is a quick growing annual that can reach impressive heights and is easily grown from seed like sunflowers. The intensely bright flowers are much smaller and more abundant though. Our plants grew to about 5 feet high and 3-4 feet wide. They may require some staking. One plant had a branch bend in half but it still continued to grow and flower. We’ve been so impressed with these plants; you can count on seeing more next year.
Pink Zazzle Gomphrena (Gomphrena ‘Pink Zazzle’)
I had never seen this annual before finding it in a garden center this spring. It was so different from any other gomphrena I’ve ever seen that I knew I had to try some. The flowers are huge for a gomphrena, a little over two inches wide. The light green leaves are also bigger and covered in long, thin hairs giving it a delightfully fuzzy appearance. The plants have not spread as much as a typical gomphrena, but have bloomed continuously and work well in flower beds. You can see this cool annual for yourself in the Children’s Garden.