For The Answer
Report from the Landscape
Caterpillars everywhere! Each year at this time caterpillars feed on the new live oak leaves that are emerging. It is usually not a major problem to the trees. They have survived the attacks for eons. Within a few weeks, the caterpillars will have completed their life cycles and be invisible again. In the meantime, move quickly under live oak trees and do not look up with your mouth open. Bt products will kill the caterpillars if it is applied to the leaves on which they are feeding. Malathion will kill them if they get too much to bear on your house, sidewalk, or newly planted trees.
The winter weeds sense the longer days and warmer temperature and they are trying to produce seed before they die. The best strategy is to keep them mowed. Use a string mower amongst the shrubs and along the fence. In the lawn, the lawn mower works well. There are a number of good contact herbicides, but by the time they work, the weeds have set their seed and are dying because of the warm weather.
The oak blooms are all over your lawn and driveway. They are not neat, but the “good news” is that they are loaded with nitrogen. Let the blooms that drop on the lawn or in the garden just decompose where they fall. The mess will disappear within three weeks. Use a stiff broom for the material on the driveway. Place it in the compost pile, mix it with the leaves that you use for mulch, or just apply it directly to the garden.
In addition to the oak flowers there are many other things in bloom in the landscape now. Many of them are much more attractive. The waxy yellow flowers all over the trees and fences in some neighborhoods are cat’s claw, Macfadyena unguis-cati. The plants are available at some nurseries where it is called “yellow trumpet vine.” Think awhile before you plant it. The flowers are spectacular, but the vine will grow into the crowns of trees where it can shade the foliage under it.
Texas gold columbine are beautiful. The foliage looks like maidenhair fern and the blooms resemble shooting stars; yellow blooms on stalks that rise above the attractive foliage. Texas Gold columbine grows in the shade. Under deciduous trees is ideal. The blooms are showy in March and April, and the foliage is attractive in the autumn, winter, and spring. They make a great ground cover. The columbine do not look like a tough plant, but they qualify as a xeriscape plant.
Texas gold columbine are weak perennials. A few in every bed die each year. The saving grace, however, is that they reseed every year. If you want them to naturalize, the seed must be able to reach the bare soil. If you would rather have them grow in mulch, collect the seed and start new plants yourself. The pods shoot seeds away from the plant when they are completely dry so collect the pods when they show some straw color. Place the pods in a paper sack where the pods will open.
Larkspurs are another reseeding plant. They bloom every year at this time of the year. The naturalized flowers are purple, blue, pink and white. They vary in height from about 18 inches to 3 feet tall. You can plant transplants now to start the cycle or plant seed next autumn. Deer do not eat larkspurs.
Snapdragons are also plants that are not usually eaten by deer. Early April is prime snapdragon blooming time. Plant them now in full bloom or as transplants in September or October for an autumn and spring blooming period. A little later in the spring, rust, a fungal disease will attack them, but for the next month enjoy the red, blue, purple, pink, white and yellow flowers. The “rocket” are the tall selection. I think they are the best to grow. Use them in containers (at least three gallons) supported by a tomato cage so the wind does not break the heavy plant. Put snapdragons on your calendar for next September.
Crossvine has orange red blooms. A well-fertilized plant growing in soil enriched with compost will be covered with blooms at this time of the year. It is often this plant in the spring where I first see hummingbirds. The foliage is evergreen. There will be some blooms through the summer and into the fall, but spring is the showiest time. Use crossvine to grow on a fence or to block a bad view in full sun. Crossvine will not take over the yard, but it is aggressive enough to do the job.