The quote above is my own. And while it may not pass for profundity, it captures the essence of what I think is the most important lesson I’ve learned in 40 years of success and failure as a gardener.
I’ll never forget the first time I heard the term deadheading. It was in the late 70s, and it curiously coincided with the moment I decided that the Grateful Dead was the most overrated band of the era.
Deadheading is the process of removing spent flowers. It’s not something you have to do, but in some cases it’s worth doing.
I first met Jared Chamberlain in 2010, the year he joined Bodean’s Seafood Restaurant as Chef de Cuisine. I took an immediate liking to him, thanks to his big, friendly smile and contagious laugh. But I was particularly impressed by his take on food preparation: less is more, freshness is key, and pretentiousness has no place on the plate.
Three Big Bloomers for Summer
Funny thing about trees and shrubs: Most of them do best when planted in either spring or fall. In fact, I can’t in good faith recommend that you even consider planting most trees – and to a lesser extent, most shrubs -- this time of year. Better to just wait until fall.
But there are three notable exceptions – all deciduous -- and they are among my favorite plants because not only do they bloom like crazy in the intense heat of summer, they actually do best when planted in the heat of summer. And the three I speak of are Crape Myrtle, Vitex – also known as the Chaste Tree – and Desert Willow.
I could easily rattle off a dozen or more reasons why I like succulents so much – their rich diversity, mind-blowing colors and textures, ease of care, and so on – but what I like best about them is they’re just plain cool. And funky. And in some cases downright bizarre.
Succulents are native to arid regions all around the world, including the United States. Botanically speaking, all cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. Nevertheless, they all share the ability to store water in their fleshy leaves and stems, a trait that makes them extremely drought tolerant.
They’re also among the easiest plants to grow, which is to say they’re difficult to kill unless you overwater them. They grow in poor soils. They don’t need fertilizer. They don’t need to be pruned. And they’re rarely bothered by pests or diseases. About the only thing easier to grow are plastic plants (and we have plenty of plastic succulents available that look remarkably like the real thing!).
Most succulents are grown as houseplants, but there are several that are perfectly hardy and dependable perennials in our area such as Hens and Chicks, Sedums, and Yucca. Most succulents are also easy to propagate: just stick a leaf on top of the potting mix and it’ll root in no time. And most succulents will grow well in average household light. I overwinter mine on the shelf of a bay window that never gets direct light and they do just fine.
The real trick to keeping succulents healthy and happy, especially during the winter months, is to let them dry thoroughly between waterings. I generally water mine once a month in winter.
You can grow succulents in just about any container, from the traditional to the unusual. At one of our recent Planting Bar classes, a woman showed up with an old, rusty toolbox and proceeded to fill it with succulents. It looked great!
Fun Factoid: Asparagus is a succulent. And when roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper, and a squeeze of lemon, the taste is truly, well, succulent!
Twenty-five or so years ago, I planted a tree that at the time I’d never heard of, let alone seen growing anywhere around Tulsa. It was a Japanese Snowbell, known botanically asStyrax japonicus. I treated it as an understory tree, sticking it in a spot that received dappled light all day thanks to a twisted, strangely contorted old hackberry that looked like it belonged in a scene of The Hobbit