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Monday, May 2, 2016

A stroll through Okeena Park with arboretum manager Mary Beth Sheppard

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The College Bed at Okeena Park comes to life in the springtime.
On a beautiful, crisp, early November morning, Mary Beth and I met at Okeena Park to label trees for Level II Arboretum certification. Since the weather was so fine, we took a stroll through the south end of the park and noted all the beauty and history there.

The bed closest to the college has been aptly called the College Bed. One of the first master gardeners (class of 2001) laid out the bed with brick pavers and planted an assortment of plants, melampodium, day lilies, and The Fairy rose, all of which remain. Leadership Dyer County later added the signage. Alderman Bob Dean was instrumental in having a water spigot added to the beds in 2006; then, Mary Beth added the Carissa hollies. The Master Gardener sign was added in 2007.

The old, aristocratic dogwood central to the bed is declining in health. Mary Beth treats the tree annually each fall with Bayer Advantage which includes fertilizer and insecticide to kill the borers common to dogwood trees. A mockingbird claimed the top of the tree and likes to sit and talk to a worker weeding or planting in the bed. Perennials of blackberry lily, coneflowers (both white and purple), chrysanthemums, coreopsis, Lenten roses (hellebores), Verbena bonariensis, various daffodils, peonies, day lilies, French hollyhocks, iris, and azaleas have been added. In the fall, seeds for spring annuals of larkspur, poppies, gomphrena, and celosia are sown (or self-sow). Pansies are added in October and tulip bulbs go into the ground during the first few days of December. Around the end of January, the Lenten roses begin to bloom followed by the pansies, daffodils, iris, peonies, larkspur, poppies, day lilies and roses. There is a plant or flower for passersby to enjoy for every season. This bed is maintained by master gardeners Sherry Dunlap and Kim Rhodes.

A new addition, Sweet Bay Magnolia, Magnolia virginina, is just north of the College Bed. Creamy white blooms emit a sweet lemony fragrance in June. Grow this near an outdoor living area to enjoy its fragrance.

This Shumard Oak, Quercus shumardii, is a fast-growing oak located in Okeena Park whose leaves transform to reddish orange in the fall.
A couple of Fringetrees, Chinanethus virginicus, sometimes called granny graybeard, stand close by. A wonderful landscape tree for a small yard, it sports shiny, lustrous, green leaves most of the year with white, fragrant panicle blooms appearing in the spring. It is one of our most beautiful native trees, slow growing and like forsythia, belonging to the olive family. Carol Reese, UT Agricultural consultant, suggests the Chinese Fringetree, chinesis, as a better variety for quality of bloom.

As we head up the walking trail toward the swimming pool, there is a row of crape myrtles, Lagerstroemia indica, spreading their wings rather than growing tall. These are another reason not to commit 'crape murder' by destroying the natural grace of the limbs that are laden all summer with watermelon-colored blooms. The bark becomes a prominent feature as exfoliation increases the tones, texture, and mottling of the trunk.

Neighboring the Fringetrees and displaying beautiful, tawny fall foliage is a chestnut oak, Quercus montana. On the left side of the trail stands Nutall Oak, Quercus nuttalli, one of the fastest growing oak trees. The Laurel Oak, Quercus hemisphaerica, is the newest of the oaks on the left side of the trail. The Shumard oak, Quercus shumardii, is another fast-growing oak whose leaves transform to reddish orange in the fall. These trees withstand drought once established and provide fruit and shelter for wildlife.

Japanese maple, Bloodgood, at Okeena Park in fall 2012.
Next, we pass the Japanese maple, Bloodgood, with deep, dark maroon leaves most of the year. New growth is a bright, reddish shade. It can handle sun but prefers a half-day of sun and shade.

The Japanese maple, Acer palmatum seiryer, is almost dainty with its soft, green, feathery foliage in the spring and summer turning maroon in the fall. This tree was donated two years (2010) ago by the parole office in honor of Dyer County crime victims.

A Common Smoketree, Cotinus coggygria, is beautiful with deep burgundy leaves in the fall while sporting pink, 'smoke' inflorescent blooms in the spring. This is a native tree that has blue-green leaves most of the year and is closely related to the sumacs. Some like to prune them to promote vigorous shoot growth, but this one is tended only by Mother Nature.

The Swimming Pool Bed at Okeena Park in the summer of 2012.
The Swimming Pool Bed was established by Master Gardener Cindy Hawthorn, in 2001. Most of the plants in this bed are shade lovers. It is dominated by an old Pecan, Carya illinoinensis , tree (1945 time period). Members of Wives of War Veterans donated the Pecan trees to the park in honor of the World War II veterans. Along with the stately pecan is a beautiful dogwood, Cornus floridia. The two trees are accompanied by a large Oakleaf hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia, another native plant that changes colors in the fall and puts on a show of beautiful white, oblong spring blooms. A beautiful, bicolor pink and white Encore azalea, an original plant to this bed, spreads elegant limbs in all directions loaded with huge, fantastic blooms in spring and fall. Camelia japonica, Maxie, donated by David Maxwell in memory of his father, nursery man A.D. Maxwell, was added in 2012. Japanese anemone line the east end of the bed with their soft, pink, striking blooms that stand up above the foliage. They are commonly called fall anemones since they bloom mid-August to late September. These beautiful anemones are hardy perennials in zones 4 through 8 but go dormant in the winter. Several hostas add leaf texture while Nepta, Walker's Low catmint, displays a mound of flowers that bees and insects enjoy. Daisies, mums, pink and white coneflowers, pink primrose, and Aegapodium (Bishop's weed) fill in any blanks. This bed has beauty for all seasons.

Along the pool parking lot are Zelkova trees, Zelkova serrata , good, drought-tolerant landscape trees for cities because of their easy care and vase-shape so limbs do not extend over cars in the parking lot. These trees provide good shade with easy fall cleanup.

An arborist assisted Cindy and Mary Beth in restoring trees to the park when they were forced to take down 26 trees for safety reasons. When the trees were condemned, the arborist made a list of suggested trees and assisted with a grant to provide funds for new replacements. The city provides funds to hire an arborist yearly to check on the health of the trees. With our latest plantings, the park now has 62 species of trees.

If you are interested in our parks and preserving them for future generations, please consider becoming a Master Gardener. Just call the local agricultural office at 286-7821 and get registered. A new Master Gardener class will begin Tuesday, Feb. 5 at 5:30 p.m. at the Dyer County Extension Complex. If you would like to donate a plant or tree to the park in honor or memory of someone so that future generations can enjoy it, please call Mary Beth Sheppard, 285-6410, or Sherry Dunlap, 286-6257.

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Master Gardeners, thank you for all your hard work in making Dyersburg a more beautiful place to live! You are very much appreciated!

-- Posted by Jazzybrad on Thu, Jan 10, 2013, at 1:16 PM

Enjoyed reading this article in the bleak of winter. Hope to be able to go enjoy the park and see all the various plants some time this coming year.

-- Posted by realworld on Fri, Jan 11, 2013, at 12:04 AM

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