For The Answer
By Calvin Finch, PhD, SAWS Conservation Director, and Horticulturist
Week of March 15, 2004
What’s Blooming Now
If you are lucky enough to have some of the spring blooming plants in your landscape, they will be “showing” their stuff now and every spring from now on if you follow some simple cultural practices.
“Texas Gold” columbine is one of my favorite plants for the San Antonio area. It has just started to bloom and is available in local nurseries. The flowers are yellow shooting stars that rise above the plant on 18-inch stalks. The bloom is spectacular for a short time, five or six weeks if the weather stays cool, but the foliage is attractive for eight or nine months. It resembles maidenhair fern with larger leaves. The mounding foliage makes an excellent groundcover under deciduous trees or even at the edge of live oaks. It can tolerate winter sun but not summer sun. ‘Texas Gold’ columbine is a weak perennial. The individual plants are short lived but on good sites the bed maintains itself by reseeding. To encourage reseeding leave the seedpods until they mature and pop open. The seed also needs to reach bare soil. Mulch cannot be used if you expect plants to reseed. The books authored before the 90’s say that deer do not eat columbines. They may not have back then, but they do now!
Larkspur (delphiniums) also reseed. They are sun-loving annuals that begin blooming now and decline in about six weeks. The flowers can be pink, white, blue or violet, and singles or doubles. After three years I have white and pink singles reseeding along with violet doubles. The expectation is that the population will eventually revert to singles unless you introduce some doubles every few years. Larkspur are not eaten by deer but are a favorite of hummingbirds and butterflies. Transplants of larkspurs are also available in the nurseries now.
Cemetery iris are available in blue and white. The blue ones are often called blue flags. I like iris for several reasons. They have orchid-like blooms but are among the toughest xeriscape plants. Iris are tolerant of almost any soil situation and are easy to transplant. Just place the rhizome half way into the soil so the top is at or above the surface and they will perform admirably if they are planted in full sun. Deer do not eat iris in most situations and the foliage makes an unusual, attractive groundcover after the bloom period. Even the brightly colored (yellow, purple, brown, maroon, white, blue, and bicolors) Dutch iris are tough plants. Many have pleasant fragrances and bloom later in the spring.
Lady Banks rose is the plant for you if you want to fill a large space (12 to 14 feet around and 8 feet tall) with a weeping plant that is completely covered with yellow or white flowers for about three weeks every spring. Lady Banks can be trained to grow over 20 feet tall seeking sun at the top of a mesquite or other tree. In my neighborhood the deer now eat any low-growing foliage but cannot reach the tops of plants that grow high into the trees. Some old selections of Lady Banks rose have fragrant flowers and are thorny, but most are thornless and scentless.
Crossvine is an evergreen vine that is ideal for many landscape situations. The flowers are a burnt red color and a favorite of hummingbirds. One selection, “Tangerine Beauty”, has more orange in the flower. They bloom very heavily in March and early April with a few blooms on the vine through the summer and autumn. Crossvine is aggressive enough to screen a bad view if it is grown on a fence but not so aggressive that it takes over the neighborhood like trumpet creeper or some of the climbing roses.
If you are looking for a little exercise this weekend, join me at the Market Street Planting Party at the old Casino Park on Saturday, March 20, from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. We will plant some cross vine and other plants at the SAWS park on Market Street between the Hilton and the Hertzberg Circus Museum on the Riverwalk. Milton Glueck from KLUP 930 AM Radio and Milbergers Nursery will provide gardening gloves and other goodies for every volunteer. The first 140 volunteers that show up for work will receive a Casino coin which entitles them to a horticultural boat tour of the Riverwalk. Walking tours will also be available. Tools will be provided. Park at the SAWS main office located at 1001 E. Market, which is a short walk (west) from the site. For more information call Karen Guz at 704-7479.