RECOMMENDED BLOOMING PLANTS
It has been a great March for blooming plants. Did you note
which ones did best in your neighborhood?
After several years of decline (thinning
crowns, leaf drop) the standard pittosporums have responded
to our mild, wet weather since autumn to thicken up, and to
bloom heavily this spring. The blooms have lasted two weeks
now and appear to be ready to last another two weeks. The fragrance
is sweet and musky like frangipani but more potent. The 16 feet
diameter, 8 feet tall specimen that we have in our yard permeates
our entire front yard.
Pittosporum is not recommended as much
as it was a few decades ago; the plant was overused. Maybe it
is time to reconsider it. Standard size pittosporums can take
sun or shade, are deer resistant in my neighborhood, are very
drought tolerant and provide dark-green evergreen foliage without
disease or insect problems. Standard pittosporums should be
considered along with the hollies and nandinas for our basic
foundation plantings. The variegated version is showy in some
situations, though it is not as tough as the plain green.
As good as the standard size pittosporum
is for San Antonio, the dwarf version has proven not to be suitable.
It is very sensitive to cold weather. Even slight freezes after
warm temperatures in the winter result in injured stems that
die as soon as hot weather arrives.
Another large shrub that has been particularly
showy this spring is the Lady Banks rose. It is a huge (16 feet
around) shrub with white or light yellow blooms. I am told that
the thorny version is fragrant but so far I have not seen such
an example. There are both whites and yellows in my neighborhood
but none have thorns or fragrance. In past years the bloom season
has been short (three weeks) but it has already been that long
this spring without any noticeable decline in color.
The Lady Banks is normally used as
a large weeping specimen plant in full sun, but it can be trained
to climb up a mesquite or other deciduous trees where it gets
at least six hours of sun. In my neighborhood by the Medical
Center we have about 100 homes and are blessed with over two
dozen deer (counted that many in one group last weekend). Several
large Lady Banks co-exist with the hungry mammals. They eat
at low new growth but do not seem to relish the rose. Mike Shoup
of The Antique Rose Emporium also confirms that the Lady Banks
is not a favorite deer food.
Iris seem to be deer-proof no matter
how many deer share your neighborhood. This has been a spectacular
blooming year for the versatile perennial as well. The old-fashioned
white and blue cemetery iris have completed their prime bloom
period but the fancier bearded iris are just beginning. The
colors include blue, yellow, white, violets, red-brown, cremes,
oranges and bicolors. Some selections have fragrances. My favorite
yellow iris smells like lemon.
Like pittosporum and Lady Banks rose,
the iris bloom period is relatively short, but iris make a great
groundcover for the rest of the year. The 14 to 24 inch sword-like
blades form a thick, attractive bed.
Irises can be planted anytime of the
year. The nurseries have container-grown plants available now.
The normal time to plant the rhizomes is in the fall, but I
just planted some a few weeks ago. They are sending up leaves
now and will bloom next spring. Plant bearded iris so that the
rhizome top is even with the surface of the ground. To bloom
well they require full sun but can tolerate any type of soil
as long as it dries out between rains. Iris are one of the most
drought tolerant plants available.
Texas Gold columbine is
another perennial that is blooming now. Recognize it by the
yellow shooting star blooms on 18 inch stalks over foliage that
resembles maiden hair fern. The books say Texas
Gold columbine is deer-proof but it is not any longer.
Deer have learned to browse it to the ground.
Texas Gold columbine is
derived from native stock and qualifies as a xeriscape plant
despite its delicate appearance. It is one of my favorite plants
because of its bloom, and especially its foliage. Columbine
makes a very attractive groundcover under deciduous trees and
even live oaks with thin crowns. The premium plant is in short
supply at nurseries this year, but you can grow your own plants
by collecting seeds in April and early May from established
beds. Plant them in potting soil in late summer for germination
after the cool winter weather. Transplant them early next spring.