Well, thinking it was about time for a tree, I thought I would start with one of my favorites.  The Kentucky Coffee Tree (Gymnocladus dioica) is a hardy stout tree with few faults. 

KCT
KCT Leaf
Its biggest fault are its leaves.  A Double compound leaf means each leaf kind of has branches of its own.  They are also quite large from one to three feet long, they are almost like a palm frond.  Add the seed pods to the mix, a bit of a mess in fall and winter.  However, being so large they don't blow around so clean up is a breeze and due to the branch structure of the tree, there are not as many leaves as one would expect.


Picture
Notice the guy in blue to the left of the tree!
Mainly because of its leaves, the Coffee Tree has a spartan branch structure.  Typically 3-4 main branches and not much more secondary branching.  This is good for a couple reasons.  
Oklahoma weather is hard on trees, ice coating the branches, fifty mile per hour sustained wind speed, tornadoes, not to mention the heat and drought.  Having so few branches makes the tree very resistant to storm damage.  It has no "sails" to catch the wind and the branches it has are extra stout.
Also, the winter is friendly to the trees appearance.  Without all of the spindly outer twigs, the tree does not look so bare and makes for a striking and solid look.

KCT Seed Pod from http://donwiss.com/pictures/F-2000-03-19/
The Kentucky Coffee Tree received its name from the seed it bares.  Inside a large (4-9 inches) leathery brown seed pod are "nuts" that can be roasted and ground to make a coffee substitute.  But be careful, the seed are poisonous until roasted or boiled.  The seed hang on the tree all winter adding to its interest but later in the season they fall and can be problematic.


KCT Fall Color
This is truly a four season tree.  The leaves come out with a pinkinsh tint in Spring and fade to a dark blueish green in the Summer when is pyramidal form is really show off.  Fall comes with a mix of lime green and yellow, usually more of the lime green.  Finally in Winter, the contorted branches with a gray ruffled bark are put on show.  People will ask you how you trim your tree to keep it from looking weedy in winter.


This in one of the most versatile trees I know about, it will grow well in every state and into Canada and Mexico.  It thrives in moist rich soil but it also does well in the hot, dry, clay-pit that is central Oklahoma.  Roots are not a problem, it makes a great street tree provided enough over head room is given.  Regularly 70-80 feet tall and 50 feet wide with the potential for larger, they need room (but just a little!).  Stately Manor is a "dwarf" male(seedless) variety at only 50' tall by 20' wide.  
Water heavily the first couple years and you will have a extremely drought resistant specimen that will only require water in the driest of summers.  Pruning is unnecessary if planting location was wise.  Buy in winter so you know what your getting (male or female).  Both are needed to seed but close proximity is not necessary.  Pick one without any branches below seven feet or so; they are only going to get larger and you don't want to have to duck do you?
 

Gaura

03/11/2009

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If anyone out there has "dirt" instead of "soil," then Guara is for you.  Let me introduce you to this little wonder: Guara lindheimeri is a perennial that will grow in every state, hot or cold.  Typically two to four feet tall and wide and never needs dividing.  It can take drought or wet condition provided it is planted in well draining soil; here in Oklahoma, we add a lot of composted pine bark mulch to acheive that.  You can expect blooms all season, spring to fall.  Deadheading is not necessary but will encourage faster rebloom and discourage self seeding.  All varieties have floweres in the pinke to red family but they will provide different effects.


Siskiyou Pink, (my favorite) has dark buds that bloom much lighter giving a two tone effect.




Whirling Butterflies, Pinkish white flowers that are the largest of all varieties. 


     -PHOTO: Peoria Gardens






Corrie's Gold, Gold tinged leaves





Dauphin, 5-7 feet tall and pink flowers that fade to white


While many more varieties exist, we are at the mercy of the market.  Not being the most popular plant, most nurseries only carry one or two varieties.  If you do find one, you will be happy as long as you plant is in site with poor soil.  Rich soil and fertilization will decrease bloom and inspire legginess.  They are, however, perfect for container culture!

 
 

Sedum is, by far, one of the most varied genus of plants.  Over 400 species grace this line of plants and within that there are numerous more varieties.  I will focus on a few in the hopes that this will spark you to ask questions and do your own research on these marvelous plants.     Basically, sedum is a succulent, most are trailing but some are upright, colors ranges from gold to blue to red and all are very hardy.  Several are cold hardy others are tropical and make good house plants.

PHOTO: Tri-Color Sedum, from: www.plantsafari.com


I will start with my favorite, Angelina Sedum, one of the Spruce Leaved Sedum, S. reflexum.  A ground cover, it has a goregus golden color and after frost it devlops a burgundy tinge that keeps things interesting during the winter.  It is VERY drought tolerant, a broken stem will sit for weeks with no change.  However if taken care of, it will grow quickly.  Give it space and be amazed.  If leaves start dropping, the plant is receiving too much water.


Another popular species in the "Two-Row Sedum," S. Spurium.  The most common varietes being Dragon's Blood and John Creech.  Another groundcover, but these stay much lower.  Perfect for rock gardens.  Best if planted and left alone.


There are also bushy varieties of Sedum, most belonging to S. Spectabile.  These Showy Sedums are tall, 1.5 feet or more, and have large, long lasting flower head that appear in late summer and fall.  Not usually evergreen.  Full sun and average water will keep these happy for years.  Here in Oklahoma, we really only need to water in August and ever then, not much.


A long time favorite as a house plant in the Burro Tail, S. morganianum.  Best in bright light or part shade if outside, however, it is not cold hardy.  Allow to dry completely, then soak with water or half strength liquid fertilizer.