By Dee Nash April 2018

Oklahoma is a curious place to garden. Being east of the Rocky Mountains at the juxtaposition of the Great American Prairie and the deciduous forest, it is full of weather extremes like sudden temperature changes, fierce storms, and wild winds. But, no matter where you live in Oklahoma, April is one of the best months of the year. One might even call it enchanting.

In April, gardeners can plant and sow seeds with abandon. Deciding what to plant may overwhelm you because nurseries are overflowing with annuals, perennials, shrubs, and trees. 

What can you plant in April? Nearly everything. Depending on where you live, the average last freeze date ranges from late March through late April. Check the Oklahoma Climatological Survey’s handy online map before planting tender annuals or tropicals like coleus, geraniums or warm-weather vegetables. Perennials, shrubs, and trees can be planted earlier, and you can continue in April. If gardeners wait too long, the dreaded summer heat train may arrive causing heat and water stress. If you’re growing heat-loving vegetables like beans, corn, tomatoes and peppers, transplants or tropicals, definitely wait until nighttime temperatures are in the 50s. Watch your local weather for details.

It’s time to plant potted roses if you haven’t already. If you want a Grandiflora resilient to almost everything Oklahoma can throw at it, try ‘South Africa,’ a deep, golden yellow. For a billowy, cottage garden look, grow David Austin English roses. Some of the hardiest and most disease resistant ones are ‘Claire Austin,’ ‘The Lady Gardener,’ and ‘Darcey Bussell.’ Another heritage rose worth growing is ‘Peggy Martin.’ It survived a hurricane in its namesake’s Louisiana garden and blooms in May with a possible second bloom in fall once established. Grow more fickle roses on the east side of your house taking advantage of gentle morning sun and wind protection. Feed roses once a month for the best bloom and don’t expect them to bloom much during Oklahoma’s hot summers. 

Other shrubs worth growing are ‘Ogon’ spirea, often sold as Mellow Yellow®, most panicle hydrangeas, including H. paniculata ‘Limelight and Little Lime®, Quick Fire® and Little Quick Fire®. Little Lime® and Little Quick Fire® are dwarf selections. If you want a shrub with fernlike, dark foliage, try Sambucus nigra, Black Lace® elderberry. It would be especially beautiful with Rosa ‘South Africa’ planted in front. 

For an early-blooming tree that is the host plant for Spicebush Swallowtails, plant Lindera benzoin. It’s a small tree with lime-green blooms in early spring that also attract pollinators.

Hopefully, you planted spring-blooming bulbs last fall, but what can you surround these spring beauties with other than violas and pansies? Try Phlox divaricata, woodland phlox. It is native to the eastern United States. I think the blue variety is the most beautiful although there are purple and white ones too. ‘Blue Moon’ is a great selection. Over time, it will spread via seeds and division and render your garden a spring fairyland. 

There is nothing sweeter than an April day with temperatures in the 70s, even when accompanied by our ever-present wind. When you go to your local nursery, don’t be tempted just by bright annuals. Instead, take a list and a deep breath, if possible. Hopefully, I helped you with your list. As for your breathing, well, you’re just going to have to go that one alone.  

Category: Gardening
Peggy Martin Rose. Photo by Dee Nash

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