Wild Gardening – Herald Democrat

By Becky Emerson Carlberg Special to the Shawnee-News Star

We’re not talking about throwing crazy berserk planting parties, but what an idea! The enthusiastic (have you ever been around a birder who spots a new bird?) Tulsa Audubon Society hosted their 29th annual Wildlife Habitat Garden Tour & Plant Sale May 14-15. The theme: “Gardening for Wildlife. Invite nature to your yard.” Five private residences have planted their landscapes to share with wildlife. We humans were invited to visit these private spaces that nurture native plants, including host plants for butterflies. Clean water was available in every single garden, along with birdhouses, rocks, trees and cool paths to wander. The gardens provided nourishment and shelter year-round, but this time of year, the spring flowers took center stage. Along with the PGA Tournament. More on that later.

After stopping at the first garden to pay the admission donation and pick up a brochure stamped with a sparkly gold leaf, we admired the huge oak and redbud in the front before proceeding along the path to the backyard. A burgundy leaf Japanese maple greeted us, but Russian and Mexican sages, Gaura, brown and black-eyed Susans, phlox and a number of annuals were beginning to bloom. Succulents and houseplants in pots sat on broad sweetgum stumps, metal art sculptures were here and there, and a rock-ledged pond filled with brilliant goldfish made sure no grass grew here. The entire back garden was awash in lush leafy greenery.

Utopia Gardens, Collector’s Garden and the Oklahoma Native Plant Society were set up in front for advice and plant sales. We talked with the lady active in the Jenks Flycatcher Trails since 2013. This amazing garden with the five-foot tall waterfall has resulted from the collaborative effort between Jenks Public Schools and Tulsa Audubon Society.

Garden number two with the red ladybug stamp was the bare bones garden. Most plants are new. Over 100 species of wild native plants have been installed over the past fifteen months. Native grasses are planted in front. We walked to the backyard past the shady native giant river cane bamboo (Arundinaria gigantea). The owners hope it will eventually form bamboo stands (canebrakes) used by species of warblers. The rest of the backyard was typical mowed grass, but many native plants edged the fenced property. A new small pond had young rough horsetails, a tiny elderberry plant and a little bit of coral berry (buckbrush). In autumn the berries are eaten by quail and robins. Missouri Wildflowers Nursery in front.

In front of Garden three with the yellow butterfly stamp were people from the Oxley Nature Center, bird houses by Mark, and Prairie Wind Nursery, with Bill Farris in attendance. The backyard, formerly in grass, now supports Sumac, American Beauty berry, black gums, redbuds, Ninebark diablo in bloom, and other natives growing in a very relaxed state. Almost wild. Three tarnished teapots on top of 4-foot-tall metal rods were waving from a bed of red Yucca and milkweed.

The purple dragonfly stamp meant we were in garden four in Chimney Hills Estate. Wild Things Nursery with Marilyn Stewart and the Tulsa Audubon Society manned this post. This garden conversion, which began in 1995, is now a Monarch certified waystation full of coneflowers, larkspur and tropical milkweed. The inviting flagstone path to the back opened up to a well-tended yard with a multitude of Coreopsis, ferns, Hosta and Oregon grape hollies in the shady part. The sunnier area featured coral honeysuckle on the back fence, Mexican hats, beebalm, black-eyed Susans, purple coneflowers, pipevines, cardinal vines, and a large rock-lined pond with small waterfall. The peaceful water feature held aquatic milkweed, cattails, water lilies and goldfish from a 7th grade science class project from years past. The nearby ash tree is used as a nesting site for Downy woodpeckers.

A telescope was set up in the walkway. From this distance the mother Red-Shouldered hawk could be observed caring for her three fluffy white babies. The excitement built when mama flew off and grabbed somewhere either a baby opossum, lizard or rodent. She then soared over to another tall tree to dine, but not in solitary splendor. The Blue Jays and sparrows pestered the life out of her before she winged it across the street, clutching her skinny tailed meal. No doubt the babies will be the final recipients.

The orange sunflower stamp signaled the last garden of the day, self-described as organized chaos. The “mow-no-more” plan featured pipevines growing on two large sycamores for pipevine swallowtail larvae and butterflies, spots of clover for bunnies, orange butterfly milkweed, Rue, Asters, Russian Sage and other pollinator plants all nestled inside cemented stones that bordered grass paths. The chunky large rock, drilled with several holes and surrounded by a pile of small river rocks, has a self-contained fountain that bubbles up water. The eight foot tall spicebush in semi-shade, the Carolina allspice (Calycanthus floridus), was exploding in fragrant dark maroon flowers with a fruity odor similar to banana, strawberry and pineapple. Crushed bark and leaves emit a fresh camphor-juniper scent. Duck Creek Farms and Wildlife in Need Group in Tulsa sold plants in the driveway.

The PGA Championship Tournament is back at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa. Five times it has been in Tulsa. The last broiling, hot humid event was in 2007. The golfers cooked.

The course, first opened in 1936, was renovated in 2018-2019. The thick border of trees was thinned, fairway widths expanded, bunkers reshaped, six creeks restored and the course lengthened over 300 yards from the back tees. 40,000 people are expected to attend each day as 3,000 volunteers keep things moving smoothly. Hotel rooms are booked. Private residences are being rented out for thousands during the 4-days. The competing golfers include 16 past PGA winners. Black Escalades are seen all over town.

While golfers perform on manicured grasslands, the Tulsa Audubon Society recommends to add more native plants and wildlife landscape features each year!

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