For The Answer
Weekly Express-News Article
Saturday, February 11, 2006
By Calvin R. Finch, PhD, SAWS Water Resources Director,
“What’s Blooming Now”
There are a number of plants that will make a great bloom show in late February and March.
“Texas Gold” columbine is one of my favorite plants. It is a perennial with yellow blooms that arise on three feet high stalks above the beautiful soft green foliage. I used to describe the flowers as spider like, but my friends in the nursery trade convinced me it was better to say they looked like shooting stars.
“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 canipies. 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.
“Texas Gold” columbine plants are available in most area nurseries right now.
Larkspur is another great bloomer for early spring that is available as transplants in area nurseries.
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 1, 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.
It is too late to plant paperwhites to bloom this year, but note the show they make in our dry landscapes. The foliage is lush green and the white flowers are visible even in partial shade. One of the best things about paperwhites is that they are deer resistant. So far, I believe that they are not eaten in any neighborhood. Paperwhites bloom reliably every spring whether it is dry or wet, cold or warm. Plant the bulbs in the autumn.
If it is a vine you need in your landscape, consider crossvine. Crossvine is another March bloomer. It has a burnt red color flower that will cover the vine at peak bloom. 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 coral vine, 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.
Those of you looking for a new tomato variety for 2006 can find Solar Fire on the weekends at the Rodeo and Stock Show. The Master Gardeners and Gardening Volunteers of South Texas will sell the new selection at their booth in the Texas Experience Pavilion building in the “Family Fair” area. On Sunday, February 19, 2006, from noon – 2:00 p.m., you can also find Jerry Parsons, Milton Glueck, and me at the Texas Experience Pavilion building in the “Family Fair” area. We will be broadcasting “Gardening South Texas” live from the Rodeo. Bring your questions for us to answer on the air and take home your new Solar Fire tomatoes.