By Trisha Gedon
Special to The Sun
With the spring season just a few weeks away, Oklahoma gardeners already are making plans for their spring and summer landscapes.
For 15 years the Oklahoma Proven program has helped guide gardeners toward plants, trees and shrubs proven to grow well in Oklahoma’s diverse climate and soil types.
The selections for 2013 promise to provide gardeners with lots of color and texture, said David Hillock, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension consumer horticulturist.
“Each year a set of plants is chosen by horticulturists that will help consumers choose plants appropriate for Oklahoma gardens,” Hillock said.
This year’s tree selection is the Winterberry, the shrub is the Chaste Tree, the perennial is Walker’s Low Catmint and the annual is the Dakota Gold Sneezeweed.
In addition to these four selections, in 2009, Oklahoma Proven also began a new category called Collector’s Choice. Hillock said this category offers a plant with the adventurous gardener in mind. While designed to do well in Oklahoma, it may need special placement or a little extra care. This year’s Collector’s Choice category is Specialty Fruits for Small Spaces, including columnar apple, patio peach, dwarf pomegranate and dwarf patio blueberry.
“This year’s Collector’s Choice was chosen because space is often limited in today’s landscapes, especially in the urban/suburban environment,” he said. “Many varieties of popular fruit-producing plants are now available to fit in small spaces.”
Columnar apple trees fit into narrow spaces due to their tall, narrow growth habit. They provide delicious apples to eat, as well as provide attractive spring flowers.
Patio peaches are miniature trees that do well growing in a pot and are quite ornamental. They grow from about 4 feet to 6 feet tall and offer light pink to deep reddish-pink spring flowers. It is hardy in USDA Zones 5 through 9.
Dwarf pomegranate is a novelty type plant with edible fruit that also grows well in a patio container. Dwarf pomegranate grows to about 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide. It is deer resistant and good for fire-wise landscapes. This plant is hardy in USDA Zones 7 through 11.
Dwarf patio blueberries are about one-third to one-half the size of regular blueberries. This plant does well in patio containers and serves as an attractive landscape feature with white or pink bell-shaped flowers in the spring, followed by blue fruits, dark green to blue green summer foliage and then excellent fall color.
“All of the plants in the Collector’s Series prefer full sun to part shade; moist, well-drained soil; and a slightly acid soil pH, except for the blueberries which require a pH of 4.5 to 5,” Hillock said.
The Winterberry tree is a large shrub to small tree with pendulous branches and light green foliage. Its flowers are yellow-green but not showy. Fruits are pinkish capsules which split open at maturity revealing an orange aril. Winterberry grows from 15 feet to 24 feet tall and just about as wide. It is very adaptable and drought tolerant. It also tolerates a wide range of soils and grows well in USDA Zones 4 through 7.
This year’s shrub is the Chaste Tree, which is a multi-stemmed large shrub, but it can be trained into a small tree. Flowers appear in the early summer and will continue to bloom sporadically through the fall. Flower colors can be blue, lavender, pink or white and can make wonderful cut flowers. Spent flower spikes are often cut off to encourage continuous flowering. This plant does well in USDA Zones 6 through 9.
Walker’s Low Catmint is this year’s perennial. It is an easy to grow, pest free perennial. The plant develops into a mound of aromatic, grayish-green foliage, with lavender-blue flowers appearing in the spring and continues to bloom if properly pruned by trimming after initial flowering.
Gardening enthusiasts who wish to see full color photos of the 2013 Oklahoma Proven selections can go to oklahomaproven.org.