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Oklahoma Proven plants selected for 2013

By Tracey Payton Miller

OSU Extension Horticulture Educator

We have learned a lot during the ongoing drought. One thing I've really noticed is what plants can take the brutal conditions. The Oklahoma Proven Plant Selections are similar, in which experts in the field have voted on good plant choices for use in Oklahoma's trying climate.

The Oklahoma Proven program began at Oklahoma State University in 1999, and every year a Collectors Choice, tree, shrub, annual, and perennial are designated. This particular program utilizes the expertise of various horticultural professionals to determine appropriate plant choices. Plants are chosen for resilience and ability to withstand the unpredictable weather conditions in our state.

The Collector's Choice is a newer category, featuring plant selections taking a little more tender loving care. This year's choice promotes specialty fruit for small spaces, such as peaches, columnar apples, dwarf pomegranate, and dwarf patio type blueberries. I will caution any low maintenance gardeners like myself: These plants may need pesticide sprays, ample water, and fertilizer to be productive. Fruit trees tend to be shorter lived and will be hard to grow with minimal inputs in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Proven tree for 2013 is the Winterberry Euonymus (Euonymus bungeanus 'Pink Lady'). This is a small, drought-tolerant, deciduous tree, reaching 15 to 20 feet. This plant will tolerate various soil types, have lovely mature bark, and beautiful pink seed pods in the fall. While I'm not familiar with this tree personally, the pictures make me want to incorporate one somewhere in my landscape.

Words cannot express my love for the 2013 Oklahoma Proven shrub. I have about 15 or more planted on my property, and I also grew and gave them as wedding favors. The Chaste tree (Vitex spp.) is one of the most drought tolerant, interesting, showy, fragrant, wispy, pollinator attracting plants I've ever seen. You can train this plant to be a tree form, and maintaining this shape is easy with a yearly removal of suckers at the base. This tree has lovely gray-green foliage, and showy, spike-type flowers similar to butterfly bush. Chaste tree typically has purple flowers, but I've also seen them with pink and white shades as well. This shrub will get large, up to 15 feet or more, so give it some room.

The Oklahoma Proven perennial selection for 2013 is 'Walker's Low' Catmint (Nepeta x faassenii). I also have this in my landscape, and I really enjoy it. This shrub has grey-green foliage and purple flowers (my favorite), and has a nice rounded form. Catmint is another highly drought tolerant perennial perfect for xeriscape beds or hot, dry areas.

The Oklahoma Proven annual selection for 2013 is 'Dakota Gold' Helenium. 'Dakota Gold' is a compact, low-input, yellow flowering plant. This plant has lovely little daisy type flowers, and dark green, grass-like leaves. An interesting fact about this annual is it used to be considered a weed.

Whether you are replacing plants lost due to drought, revamping an old bed, or creating a new one, I hope you'll consider looking at the Oklahoma Proven Selections. Information on previous selections can be found at oklahomaproven.org.

Date: 2/18/2013

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