Howard Spencer

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since Feb 02, 2019
Central Oklahoma
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Recent posts by Howard Spencer

After my azarole tree died from cedar rust, I gave up on growing hawthorns.

From what I have read, the only hawthorn that seems resistant to the cedar rust here in central Oklahoma is the Cockspur Hawthorn. The Cockspur Hawthorn is native to Oklahoma. It has long horrible thorns and produces small fruits best left for the birds. No one sells these dangerously thorny wild hawthorns.

A thornless Cockspur Hawthorn branded as the Crusader Hawthorn , Cruzam,  (Crataegus crus-galli var. inermis) used to be sold but in recent years was unavailable.

However, this spring Jackson & Perkins began offering a thornless Cockspur Hawthorn. I ordered one and am looking forward to delivery of the bareroot whip soon.

I am not really concerned about the quality of the edible fruit. I can leave it for the birds. But I wanted a hawthorn tree of some variety for the garden. They are an extremely decorative small tree. No Medieval cloister is complete without a hawthorn tree. It should go well with my medlar trees.

I will let everyone know how well this thornless Cockspur Hawthorn  does  in Central Oklahoma and if it truly is resistant to the cedar rust and to the other diseases that kill off hawthorns planted here.
7 months ago
The Mexican Hawthorn, Tejocote, would likely do well in your climate.

It has crossed my mind to try planting a Tejocote  here in Central Oklahoma, but having been burned by the azarole  hawthorn, I'm thinking that my best bet would be to give up on hawthorns and stick with medars which show much more disease resistance to the cedar rust which is a major problem in these parts.

I have microclimates around my property so that I can grow cactus and yucca in some areas and ferns and hostas in other areas. I like to experiment as to what will survive where.

The Central Oklahoma climate is extreme. It can be very hot and dry in the summer, and cold and icy in the winter. And the wind comes howling down the plains.

Good luck with the azarole trees!  

1 year ago
Good luck with the azarole trees!  The golden azarole tree that I planted as a whip last spring is still a whip but is barely alive. Just a few tiny leaves on the stick. The whip was leafless for some weeks, but struggled to grow a few more as the summer progressed. The new leaves were also touched by the cedar rust disease. I plan to dig up the azarole, and replace it with a medlar in the spring.

The Marron medlar that I planted in the spring of 2018 is doing well. I will try to plant a different variety of medlar in the spring, to see how it does.

The drought tolerant, thornless and cedar rust resistant Crusader Hawthorn was the only hawthorn that seemed to do well here in Central Oklahoma, but it no longer appears to be available as a mail order tree whip from any of the nurseries. So, I am giving up on planting a hawthorn here, and am going with another medlar.

1 year ago
Maybe you'll have more luck with the azarole hawthorn in AZ? The azarole appealed to me because it grows all around the Mediterranean Sea, including North Africa and the Middle East. It should survive in a hot inhospitable climate.

I don't know if cedar rust is a problem in AZ. If not, the azarole might do well there. But it is definitely not cedar rust resistant.

I am not sure as to how well a Medlar would do in AZ as the medlar seems to require cooler temperatures, especially during the winter. It likes some days with frosty weather.  

Here in Oklahoma, we have had an exceptionally wet spring. The unusual weather is testing some plants that are considered "drought resistant" with fungal and bacterial blights, while other plants that often struggle here to survive the high heat and drought of the summer are thriving like crazy with all of the additional rain.

And as for farmland, all of the most desirable "bottom land" is a sea of mud these days. Farmers can't get into the fields to harvest or plant a crop. And as they say, cattle have five mouths in a muddy pasture.

1 year ago
The azarole hawthorn tree that I planted in early April looked good for about a month and a half. Then it contracted the dreaded cedar rust. Although sold as disease resistant, it seems that the azarole hawthorn is quite susceptible to cedar rust, as are most hawthorns.  I will have to pull up the azarole tree by the roots and replace it with something that is resistant to cedar rust.

On the bright side, the Marron Medlar tree that I planted in the spring of last year is doing very well. No sign of cedar rust. And with all of the rain that we have had this spring in central Oklahoma, the medlar tree seems to be thriving. Whereas, in my xeriscaped front yard, black spot and rot have affected the cactus and yucca in their raised beds. I've needed to prune a lot of prickly pear cactus this spring to save it from the rot. However, the iris and daylilies have loved all of the rain. It balances out in the end.

So, now I plan to remove the azarole tree, and order another medlar tree to replace it. I'll order another variety of medlar tree, other than a Marron Medlar, and see how that variety will do here.

I'm giving up on trying to grow hawthorns here in Central Oklahoma. The cedar rust disease is just to virulent here. But I am pleased to see that medlars seem to resist the disease.
1 year ago
I've never attempted to eat one. I am told that they are outrageously bitter. The joke is that you can make an orange aide out of one little orange, a bucket of sugar and a 55 gallon drum of water.

I have heard that birds can not taste bitter, and only mammals can taste bitter. So, I suppose, the fruit has evolved so that the seeds would be spread by fruit eating birds. However, I can not say that I have ever seen a bird eat one. Maybe we have the wrong type of birds around here. I have heard that all forms of citrus, including the trifolate orange, originated in China. I am hoping that the fruit might one day attract orioles. I have rarely seen orioles here. Orioles are noted fruit eating birds.

The trifolate orange is a favorite nesting spot for many species of birds. A lot of critters avoid the thorny trees and shrubs, and so they make for protected nesting spots.

I am more interested in creating an oasis for birds than I am in producing my own veggies and fruit. Mine is more of a contemplative garden than it is a functional space for growing human food.

1 year ago
Trifolate oranges thrive in the red dirt of Oklahoma. To create my hedge, I just dropped little oranges into a series of holes. They grew into a hedge that I need to prune back frequently or they will grow into a tree. The little yellow orange are infamously inedible. But the trifolate orange can be grown into a dense and  impenetrable hedge that even a bison will not break through. The spring blossoms smell like orange blossoms and the little yellow oranges are decorative in the autumn. I find the formidably thorny branches decorative. The foliage is shiny and lime green. They have become a weedy invasive species in some parts of the South. I got my little oranges from my brother who lives nearby. His originally came from an old family homestead in northern Mississippi, also in red dirt country. His trifolate orange has grown into tree form, and it is about 20 feet tall.  My trifolate oranges in hedge form have yet to blossom and fruit, but they are less than five years old and grown from seed. I have kept them trimmed back to about 4 feet tall.

The trifolate orange is best grown to create an impenetrable hedge. If you want to be walled in by thorns like Sleeping Beauty, then it is the hedge for you. But the fruit is really not edible. Even the squirrels, possums, and raccoons won't eat them!  And if you don't want a lot of them sprouting up randomly, it is best to rake up the little oranges in the autumn once they fall from the tree/shrub and dispose of them. The crushed little oranges have a strong scent of orange.
1 year ago
I attend an annual show/sale by the local Cactus and Succulent Society. They always have a selection of cold hardy cactus that will grow outdoors here in Central Oklahoma.  The Indian Fig prickly pear cactus seems to grow just about everywhere. The main thing about prickly pear cactus is to plant them in raised beds where their spread can be tightly controlled. Otherwise, they quickly turn into a cactus patch that is impossible to weed. I must prune my prickly pear cactus every year. Otherwise, they bend over, touch the ground and try to root. Gloves are insufficient when dealing with cactus. I have a set of long handled pliers and a long sharp knife. One must avoid touching the cactus, even with gloves. But I like thorny plants, and have a hedge of trifolate oranges. They are about as thorny as plants come.

I decided to xeriscape the front yard when I purchased the property. The front yard was an open shadeless expanse of grass that without heavy watering turned brown and brittle by August. The front yard faces west into the blazing hot afternoon sun. Temperatures here often reach over 100 degrees for extended periods each summer. The cactus and yuccas thrive there without watering while the grass burnt out even with watering. I have micro-climates around the property, with some areas quite arid, and some areas lush enough to grow ferns and hostas. So, I plant accordingly. And I have built  drainage channels to move rain runoff around the property to where the water is is most needed.

Red cedar is a problem in these parts. It was planted as windbreaks on the prairie, and thrives in overgrown fields. But when it burns it explodes like a bomb, increasing problems with wild fires. And each winter, the pollen is a major allergen for many people. I have a large female red cedar on my property. Because it is female, it lacks the pollen, but it is a potential source for cedar rust. It is attractive and the only large tree on the property, and so I want to keep it. But it makes me very much aware of the danger of cedar rust.

I've visited the Pacific Northwest a number of times. The climate there could hardly be more different from what it is in Central Oklahoma. But some plants are highly adaptable. We'll see what happens with my medlar and azarole trees here on the great plains.

1 year ago
I've never eaten azarole, hawthorn or medlar fruit.

I'd like to taste them one day. I have planted trees and shrubs mainly for the use of the birds. The squirrels, possums and racoons also take advantage of any potential source of food. If I get any fruits or berries it is by pure luck. But that's OK by me. I am not really planting a garden as a food source for me, but rather do the yard work as a spiritual meditative practice. It works for me, and I get a lot of exercise.

I purchased my property five and a half years ago, and have done quite a lot of yard work in the succeeding years.

I xeriscaped the entire front yard, building raised beds for cactus, yucca, and similar arid plants, and diverted the rain run off around the sides of the house to the backyard where I have plants that require more water. The front yard looks like it belongs in Santa Fe rather than in Central Oklahoma. A surprising number of cactus are cold hardy if kept dry in raised beds.

The backyard abuts a city park that features an open mowed meadow leading down to a wooded riparian area. Which gives my own modest suburban property an expansive visita maintained by the city.

I am treating the backyard almost like a Medieval cloister, and have been planting trees and shrubs that might have once been found in such gardens. Hence, the medlar and the azarole trees. The Mexican Plum, which is native to Oklahoma, is the only tree plum that does well here. I am also looking to plant heritage roses, which are disease resistant.

I can't plant some trees and plants here due to the local problems with red cedar rust that effects many fruiting trees and almost all hybrid roses. I have been putting in a lot of labor building raised beds,  paths, and drainage channels, so that in the future, the gardens will actually be quite low maintenance.  Hard work now, low maintenance later.

I had been trying to locate a thornless cockspur hawthorn, some are sold under the name of Crusader Hawthorn, but could not locate one. Unlike many hawthorns, these are supposedly resistant to the cedar rust. But I was unable to find one locally or find a mail order nursery with one in stock. So, the azarole looked like a good optional choice, and it also would have been commonly found in Medieval cloisters in southern Europe.

I dare not plant quince trees due to the cedar rust threat.

How are your medlars doing in Western Washington State?  That's prime apple country, so I suspect they thrive there.

I'll keep you updated on the azarole news this spring.  I think it should do well here.

1 year ago
As of February, 2019, I have a Gold Azarole tree on order from One Green World in Oregon.

I ordered a Marron Medlar from them last winter, it arrived in early April, I planted the medlar and it has so far survived a Central Oklahoma summer and looks good for this winter.

I am hoping to receive the Gold Azarole tree in early April this spring. We will see how both trees do this summer and next winter.

The growing zone here is 7a. We have red clay for soil. This being the southern plains, the weather here is extreme. Very hot in the summer, but can go down to single digits F in the winter. Both the medlar and azarole, once established and well rooted, are supposed to be drought tolerant and disease resistant. Major considerations here in central Oklahoma. Red cedar rust is a problem here. It can also be hot and dry or hot and humid here. The wind can be an major issue. I have planted the medlar in a wind protected area and will likewise plant the azarole in a wind protected spot.

I have limited grounds and am planting small trees that suit the scale of the property and which should be compact enough for me to prune without professional assistance.

Other than the medlar tree and the Gold Azarole, that is now on order, I also have a Mexican plum tree, and several varieties of redbud trees on the property.

I built a special raised bed for the medlar tree and plan to construct a special raised bed for the azarole tree as well. Both trees tend to branch low to the ground and I want to be able to work under them. While the medlar is thornless, I fully expect the azarole to have thorns, and I would like those thorns elevated and out of way when I run a lawn mower near to the raise bed.

I wish you luck with the azarole in south Georgia.

I will let you know how my azarole thrives in central Oklahoma.

Good luck!

1 year ago