For The Answer
Express-News Weekly Column
Blooms, blooms everywhere. April is probably the most bloom rich part of the year in San Antonio.The early wildflowers are in full bloom. Bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, verbena, and coreopsis are decorating the roadsides and vacant fields. ‘Texas Gold’ columbine has yellow flowers on the end of long stalks above the mound of soft light green foliage. It is a wonderful groundcover for the area under deciduous trees. Most of the year “cats claw” is a vine of dubious value climbing to the tops of trees and overcoming shrubs. Right now, however, it has a waxy flower about the same color as columbine but makes a more spectacular show because of the larger bloom and its elevated location in the landscape. Because of the waxy petals, the evening sun makes the cats claw bloom glow.
Huisache is pretty obvious in the dry parts of the city. It has golden yellow blooms arranged closely along the stems of the small tree. The bees like the huisache blooms and, in fact, it makes a premium honey.
There are two other yellow blooming plants obvious in the landscape now. The primrose jasmine is a weeping shrub about 8 feet tall and around. It has dark green foliage and a waxy yellow flower about the same color as cats claw but only a quarter of the size. Primrose jasmine appears to be deer proof (so far!) and is a dominant shrub in neighborhoods blessed by an abundance of deer. Lady Banks rose has the same shape as primrose jasmine in locations without deer but, in areas where deer browse, the fast growing rose grows up mesquites and trellises out of their reach. Most Lady Banks roses have a light yellow rose about half-dollar size. There is also a white version. Most of the plants are thornless, but some older selections have thorns and fragrance.
The Lady Banks roses will provide about three weeks of spectacular bloom, other old-fashioned roses are blooming now and will bloom for longer periods of time. Old Blush has a pink flower about three times as large as Lady Banks; it has a climbing and shrub version. The butterfly rose blooms from now through late winter; it makes a 6 foot shrub. The flat silver-dollar-size blooms go through three color phases: peach, pink, and crimson. Katy Road and Belinda’s Dream are more pink roses blooming now and will bloom through early winter.
April is the time of the year when some of our favorite xeriscape shrubs bloom. The pyracantha bloom is very small and off-white but it covers the plant so heavily it is noticeable. Less showy but equally important to the birds as berry producers are the yaupon and possomhaw hollies. All three of these shrubs/small trees are attractive additions to the landscape, especially for the berries that last well into the winter until the mockingbirds and cedar waxwing strip the fruit for food.
We do not think of standard pittosporum as a blooming plant, but right now many specimens are covered with blooms. Stand downwind and the fragrance is overwhelming. I find it pleasant and so do the bees and moths, but some people think it is “just overwhelming”. Bridlewreath spirea is also blooming now. The small white flowers on the weeping stems make a brief show.
Purple is a dominant color in my yard now because of ‘Blue Princess’ verbena and larkspurs. The ‘Blue Princess’ makes a spectacular groundcover 18 inches tall. The larkspur is a reseeding annual. The purple doubles that I planted as transplant three years ago have spread all over the yard. The expectation is now that they will be overcome by the lighter-colored simple-flowered bunny bloom larkspur but not so far. The late freeze did not do much damage to the winter annuals and the spring has been cool and mild so the snapdragons, petunias, dianthus, and pansies are looking great. They will decline if temperatures stay above 80 degrees F. for a few days but for now they are great.
The April flowers are very noticeable this spring. The same conditions that have allowed the blooming plants to prosper have also supported a strong weed crop. The rescue grass, bedstraw, henbit, chickweed, and thistles that are trying to seed now will decline with the winter annual flowers. Eighty-degree heat will end their life cycle. Until then, keep them mowed to prevent the seeds from maturing. It is probably too late to benefit by the use of contact herbicides.
To enjoy the blooms of the plants discussed in this article in your landscape next year, plant them through the course of the year. The shrubs and roses can be planted now or in the autumn. Plant the wildflowers and winter annuals next fall. Also make a note on your calendar that next year on or about September 1 you will apply a pre-emergent herbicide like Amaze to prevent the winter weeds.