What to plant

Local pros offer tips for the hottest trends in gardening this spring.



The coneflower is easy to care for and attracts birds and butterflies.

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Whether you plug ’em and plant ’em yourself or use the services of a landscaping professional, by now, you are likely salivating over the chance to enhance your garden. After all, the crocuses have bloomed and the daffodils have sprouted, and it’s hard to resist the siren call of flats of flowers or displays of fresh green shrubberies.

We asked some local landscapers what trends they expect to see this spring in Tulsa gardens.

Hot colors

The No. 1 color for 2012 is Tangerine Tango. (TulsaPeople’s resident design guru says this is the new trend in home color, too.) For the garden, though, you’ll find it in petunias, hibiscus and impatiens, Southwood Nursery designer Tena Houghton says. In fact, she notes, bright colors rule. Along with the traditionally popular top three — purple, pink and red — gardeners can add pop to their patios and porches with pots in “atomic colors,” such as bright green, yellow or orange. 

Plant it black

As a counterpoint, dark, black or burgundy foliages, such as black mondo grass, have gained popularity as a way to provide high contrast. And they last year round.

Feed the birds

Once upon a time, your great-grandmother may have created a landscape that would attract birds, butterflies and bees, and included berry-producing bushes in her mix. If the birds didn’t nibble it all away, she used the fruit for pies and jellies.

Well, fruit trees and berry bushes are coming back into fashion. 

Nurseries are growing “some really nice-looking blueberry bushes so that the bush itself, and not just the fruit, is attractive,” Houghton says.

Similarly, propagators may have hybridized beloved flowers, such as the coneflower, to enhance certain aspects of the flower. But it turns out garden favorites are actually more attractive to wildlife in their original form. Guess Mother Nature knew better.

Outdoor living

Everything old is new again, and that includes front porches. Shaded, furnished porches where homeowners can connect with their neighbors are returning, Houghton says. Builders are again adding larger, more visible front porches or retrofitting older homes to include them.

Of course, backyard living areas remain popular, local landscapers say. The number of complete outdoor kitchens with elaborate barbecue grills is expected to grow 20 percent to 25 percent over the next five years, Houghton says. 

Landscaping trends

The landscaping industry has changed over the last decade, including plants and materials, says Jamin Johnson, owner of Tulsa Tree and Landscape.

“Specialty tree growers have been able to graft and combine and do crazy things with everything from weeping redbuds to weeping crabapples to taking an entirely different tree and putting it on another tree’s root system to develop fantastic new hybrids,” Johnson says.

But when planning landscaping, homeowners should “be careful as well,” he says. “A flowering cherry may not be suited for our zone, while a flowering crabapple will.”

Don’t abandon Oklahoma’s native trees and plants, which may have been given a different look or effect through creative techniques, Johnson says.

Landscaping rules

1. Prepare your soil. Remember, Tulsa has all types of soil combinations. Find out what your soil needs and provide it. “Get good soil cultivation from the start,” Johnson says. “Amend the soil correctly — 18 to 24 inches deep.”

2. Water as needed. It’s not just the torrid summers that require attention to watering. In all seasons, roots continue to grow, “so you want strong root development for them to be able to withstand the harsh Oklahoma weather,” Johnson says.

3. Don’t rely on Mother Nature to provide all the water. Homeowners should give trees and shrubberies a good soaking, three to five days a week. Trees benefit from less frequent but longer periods of watering. Watering time may vary. Although native trees and plants are better suited to Oklahoma’s sporadic and extreme weather, he says, supplemental watering will increase their chances of survival.

Please don’t plant …

After several years of extreme weather, Tulsa landscapes have taken a beating. Many have lost established trees and shrubbery. If you are in this camp, you may feel a little skittish about replanting. What should you avoid? Arborvitaes (evergreen trees and shrubs of the cypress family).

“In the nursery, they are fine, but take them out into the landscape and they cannot handle extreme hot and cold,” Johnson says.

Arborvitaes are popular because they are cheap and fast-growing. But if you replant them two to three times, “you’ve spent more on them than you would have getting the right tree,” he says.

Consult a landscaper. Ask for growing instructions and double check that information against other sources.

“We don’t educate our clients as well as we think we should,” Johnson says.

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