This master gardener transforms her family acreage into a wildlife paradise

Story and Photos by Susan Albert

Judi Hively of Hominy, who gardens on the land where her grandparents once lived, said she must have inherited the gardening gene from her mother, who liked flower gardening, and her grandfather, who always tended a vegetable garden.

Snow on the mountain, Judi Hively’s favorite native plant, features variegated foliage. The red flowers are the native Turk’s cap.

It wasn’t until her own children were grown that she took up the shovel and started creating islands filled with trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals in a country-cottage style. “I wanted to make it like what you would see if you went to granny’s house,” she said. “I enjoyed learning about new plants and took the master gardener program in Washington County and graduated in spring of ’04.”

Layering trees, shrubs, and perennials provides habitat for birds and other wildlife. At left is a cut-leaf variety of sumac (Rhus cv.) In the center are flowering crapemyrtles (Lagerstroemia indica). The large shrubs are 60-plus-year-old arborvitae (Thuja spp.); the yellow flowers are brown-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba). Next to those are hardy Hibiscus and Gomphocarpus, a milkweed grown as an annual.

She enjoys the continuing education required to maintain master gardener certification, such as plant conferences, gardening schools, and Stillwater offerings. Hively also volunteers at the Linnaeus Teaching Garden in Tulsa and at the Tulsa Botanic Garden.

The bed at the entrance to Judi Hively’s home includes, from left, elephant ear, Caladium, purple heart (Tradescantia pallida ‘Purpurea’), and in the wheelbarrow are Sedum, Swedish ivy (Plectranthus australis), Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus), Dutchman’s pipe (Aristolochia spp.), and crossvine climb the pole in the background.
The arbor features a native Wisteria along with a crossvine. Containers of Caladium work well in the shade.

“I wanted to plant more than marigolds and petunias. I expanded on to more unique flowers and plants.” She often chooses Oklahoma Proven selections to showcase in her yard, as well as plants from a variety of nurseries in the state. 

In pots, from left, are Plectranthus (gray plant), sweetpotato vine (Ipomoea batatas); in back are hardy Hibiscus, candlestick plant (Senna alata), and brown-eyed Susans.

Hively said landscape design trends now are more habitat oriented. “I always thought the birds were just ‘there.’ I didn’t think about layering. Same with butterflies and bees.” She incorporated layers of trees and shrubs, evergreen and herbaceous, that also offer fruit for birds and blooms for pollinators. In spring, the landscape comes alive with blooming tulips (Tulipa spp.), daffodils (Narcissus spp.) and snowdrops (Galanthus spp.). 

The country cottage style is evident in this mix of perennials and annuals. Coleus, Celosia, Petunia, black-eyed Susan and phlox adorn the front two rows. In the back are crapemyrtles.

In summer, the daylilies (Hemerocallis spp.) are followed by true lilies (Lilium spp.) – Asiatic, oriental, and species. She also plants Crinum and spider lilies (Lycoris radiota) and is adding Canna to a bed that will feature only bulbs and tubers.

Several Miscanthus grasses grow in this bed including the variegated ‘Morning Light’ and at right, a ‘Giganteus’ volunteer.

She tries to have something in flower all year to avoid any big lulls. “Pentas, Phlox, and Salvia stay for a long time,” she said, and are visited by pollinators. Every season brings her favorites, such as Salvia coccinea ‘Lady in Red’ in the summer and the velvety Salvia leucantha in the fall.  Hively also finds room for big, bold plants that draw one’s eye, such as Alocasia and Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’.

Wild poinsettia (Euphorbia cyathophora) is shown in the foreground. In the back are phlox cultivars ‘Robert Poore’ (pink) and ‘John Fanick’ (white with pink center).

The grounds are filled with naturally occurring native plants and she continues to add more. She attends the Tulsa Audubon habitat tour each spring where she buys from wildlife-friendly vendors. “I like those that are mainly native to Oklahoma and surrounding states since they seem to do best here. You need to be careful and not get any that might take over a bed. For those, I try to plant where I can mow them if they start getting out of control.”

Pollinators, such as this eastern tiger swallowtail, are a familiar sight on the phlox.

Her favorite native plant is snow on the mountain (Euphorbia marginata and E. bicolor). “I would miss them if somehow they didn’t come back. They are so colorful when things start getting dull,” said Hively. With such a wide variety of ornamentals to take care of, Hively still finds time to try “cool new plants,” but she keeps a lot of the “old faithful” plants, too. 

Her tip for Oklahoma gardeners: “Grow what does best in your area even if it’s not the latest plant or style.”




Trees to try:
Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)
Yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea)
Blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica)
Western soapberry (Sapindus drummondii)
Japanese pagoda tree (Sophora japonica)
Arizona cypress (Cupressus arizonica)
Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum)
Pond cypress (Taxodium ascendens)

Favorite plants for bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds:
Phlox (P. paniculata)
Lantana (L. camara)
Pentas (P. lanceolata)
Turks cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii)
Hardy hibiscus (H. moscheutos)
Salvia ‘Lady in Red’ (S. coccinea ‘Lady in Red’)
Butterfly bush (Budleia davidii)
Snow on the mountain (Euphorbia marginata and E. bicolor)
Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata)

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