For The Answer
Larkspurs and columbines are two spring blooming plants that you can naturalize in your landscape. Plants are available now at area nurseries.
“Texas Gold” columbines are perennials with yellow shooting star blooms that rise above the lush soft green foliage. They bloom in March and are a favorite of the migrating hummingbirds.
They are one of my favorite plants because of several other desirable characteristics. “Texas Gold” columbines are shade tolerant. They grow best in mottled shade under deciduous trees, at the edge of landscapes or under high live oak crowns. In addition to the great blooms, “Texas Gold” columbines are a good groundcover for shady areas. The foliage resembles maidenhair fern. It is attractive in the spring, autumn, and winter.
The beds spread by seed. Plant a few transplants in good habitat and the bed will spread. At my former home in the Village of Westcreek the columbines prospered under the closely growing but thin crowned live oaks. Every winter the beds spread into the zoysia grass lawn, but only lasted until May when the hot sun quickly destroyed those plants that germinated outside the shade of the live oaks.
Larkspurs bloom in March and April. The flowers are pink, blue, white, and purple. The flower spikes can be four feet tall on good soils, but are only one foot tall on rocky or heavy soils. Area nurseries have “bunny bloom” larkspur transplants now. Plant them 18 inches apart for maximum bloom development. As the flowers on the spike die, they drop seeds that will germinate next year. The “bunny bloom” larkspurs come in white, pink, and pastel blue. They are single flowers with the face of a rabbit, complete with ears, if you look into the flower. Some years you can find double larkspurs. They are often purple. They also reseed. Every year fewer and fewer are doubles. If you prefer to plant larkspur seed, do it in the autumn.
Larkspurs are not eaten by the deer. I originally planted mine in a raised bed garden. They return every year amongst the snapdragons, pansies, and stocks. By March they can outgrow the largest, sturdiest snapdragon, so be prepared to thin out those that are overwhelming other flowers that you want to keep blooming.
Crossvine is another early spring bloomer. It has a burnt red color flower that will cover the vine in March. The selection “Apricot Beauty” has a more orange bloom that I find superior to the native selection. Hummingbirds like the crossvine bloom.
Crossvine is one of the best vines for San Antonio landscapes. The flowers are very showy in the spring and a few bloom through the autumn. The foliage is evergreen and vigorous enough to cover a fence, block a bad view or cover an unsightly pile, but it will not grow to the top of trees or to the end of the block like queen’s crown, trumpet creeper or some of the climbing roses. Grow it in full sun for best bloom performance. Crossvine will grow eight feet in each direction on a fence.
It is Rodeo and Stock Show time. Visit the Texas Experience Pavilion building in the “Family Fair” area to find the Master Gardener and Gardening Volunteer exhibits. The groups will be selling the new Solar Fire Tomatoes at the Rodeo on weekends. Jerry Parsons, Milton Glueck, and I will broadcast the “Gardening South Texas” Radio Show from the Rodeo on February 19, 2006. Visit us at the Texas Experience Pavilion building in the “Family Fair” area from noon to 2:00 p.m. I mentioned the Master Gardeners and GVST. Both groups are looking for more recruits. Contact the Master Gardeners at (210) 467-6575 and the GVST at (210) 590-4992. If training classes are full, note the times of the next class on your calendar and in the meantime work with the groups on their volunteer projects.