There have been big changes in the past two weeks in Oklahoma gardens as most areas of the state got its first hard freeze.
The most tender annuals have now frozen to the ground, some tougher annuals have only burned back the topmost tender foliage to survive until a harder freeze.
Deciduous trees and shrubs are at various stages of the fall transition from growing season to winter hibernation. Some already have dropped all their foliage while others are in various stages of turning yellow like cottonwoods or the pretty reds of our maples. A few trees still have active green chlorophyll and are still in various shades of green awaiting the winter kill of a harder freeze.
This is the season when evergreens become the “green” star of the garden for the next few months until spring. Evergreens provide the green color in our landscapes through the beauty of needled evergreens like junipers, pines, cedars and broad-leaved evergreens like hollies, euonymus, boxwood, and many others. These evergreens even play important roles in our winter festivals and holidays when used as wreaths and Christmas trees.
This is the season to plant your spring flowering bulbs for a burst of early spring color. Daffodils or narcissus naturalize here in most soils and come back year after year to produce their yellow, white or orange flowers that trumpet the arrival of spring. The enchanting beauty of tulips drove the early European royalty into the first investment bubble. They produce an unparalleled royal show of red, pink, yellow and orange color. They rarely naturalize here and need to be replanted most years. Hyacinth, Dutch iris, crocus and many other lesser known but still beautiful and fun spring flowering bulbs should be planted now. Buy nice firm bulbs, dig or auger a hole, drop the bulb — shoot or growing side up, cover with soil, water and prepare for a spring fireworks of flowers. The old-timers say the bigger the bulbs the bigger the show. Your nurseryman can give you specific instructions, but we generally suggest that most bulbs should be planted about three times as deep as the bulb size with a little bone meal or bulb food.
There are several crops that will produce color all though the winter in your garden and the star performers in Oklahoma are pansies. There are many great varieties available in lots of colors and flower sizes so you can be charmed by colorful flowering pansy faces through all the short, darker days of winter. Select nice healthy plants at your local garden center, plant them in a sunny flower bed or decorative container, water regularly and enjoy the flower show all winter and through early spring. They will give out as the season heats up in late spring and early summer next year.
We wish you a happy Thanksgiving later this week and hope you will be blessed with time and fellowship with family and friends. I am convinced that time in the garden helps keep us grounded and helps us appreciate the wonders around us.
Rodd Moesel serves on the Oklahoma Horticulture Industrial Council and the Oklahoma State University agriculture dean's advisory committee. He is a former president of the Oklahoma Greenhouse Growers. Email garden and landscape questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.