Spring Flowers:

I've always loved spring best. When I look around Central Texas in the spring I get excited to see familiar flowering friends like daffodils, redbud trees, spirea (bridal wreath shrub), and German iris. I'm surprised that more people don't plant things here that will bloom every year in this season. Maybe it's because up north where the winters are miserable, people are more anxious for spring to come than we are in Central Texas where the winters are glorious. If you ever get the chance, visit the north when the spring flowers are in bloom. Nearly every yard is bursting with so many spring flowers that it seems like fairyland, and in Kentucky tourists come just to see the spring show.

We can do this in Texas also, for there are lots of flowering shrubs, and flowers that will bloom in the spring, and our season begins mid-winter, which gives us much longer to enjoy the show. Even though the plants seem to flower only briefly, if you put out lots of things that bloom consecutively you will have continuous flowers from February into the summer season. The problem is that many people don't know that most of the things that bloom in the spring have to be planted in the fall. When they look around each spring and say, let's get some of that and try to plant it in the spring, it fails. Then they get discouraged and give up. This is a shame, because spring flowers are the easiest to grow. You just have to plant them at the right time.

Let's take a look at a list of things that have to be directly sown in the fall, and do not make good bedding plants: Poppies, larkspur, bluebonnets, and Indian paintbrush. Although petunias, and alyssum are usually planted as bedding plants, they can also be directly sown. The best time to plant all of these flower seeds is in October and November. They are just sown onto prepared garden soil, and watered into the soft dirt. Do not try to covered them up because they are very fine. It helps to add a little sand to the seed before you sow them to spread them out so you don't dump them all on one spot, and it is best to do it when it is not too windy, or they'll end up everywhere except where you want them. They don't need a lot of water to sprout, thank goodness, and they are popping up all over right now, even though we have been in bad drought conditions. Of course they would have come up more thickly, had we had even a modicum amount of rain. The amazing thing is that they came up at all! Other wildflower seed is the same, including black-eyed Susan, cow-pen daisy, calendula, bachelor buttons, and echinacea (or coneflower). The reason why these seeds need to be planted in the fall is that most of them only germinate at 45-50F, and some need to be chilled and warmed periodically before they will sprout.

Snapdragons, pinks, and flowering cabbage are bedding plants that are set out in November and December. The pinks will flower from December on into spring, and the snapdragons will begin to bloom in March. Petunias will begin to bloom in February, as well as alyssum, crocus, and daffodils. Next, flowering fruit trees such as peach, plum, and Bradford pear bloom. Even if they don't set fruit due to a late frost, these small trees are great landscaping trees, and are gorgeous in the spring. Then redbud trees bloom, and after these come the crabapples, and apricots as well as wisteria, German iris, and spirea. It's a shame that spirea shrubs such as bridal wreath are out of fashion, for a row of them in full bloom is an exhilarating sight. They are the most beautiful not clipped because they have small soft leaves and arching canes that are very graceful in their natural shape.

Everyone loves azaleas, camellias, and hydrangea shrubs, but these will only grow well where there is ample water, some shade, and the soil is acidic. If you have sandy loam, then you have acid soil. Dogwood trees like these same things. Although you can plant trees and shrubs in the spring season, you will have to water them several times a week through the summer, and are most likely to have the best luck if you plant them in the fall so the roots can get established.

Last of all are the late blooming bulbs like lilies, Dutch iris, and amaryllis. You can grow more than just the old fashioned red and white striped amaryllis. I have found hothouse amaryllis hardy in this area as long as they are in a protected spot, or mulched during the winter. One word of caution is that peonies and Oriental lilies will not usually bloom below zone 7. The reason is that the bulbs do not get enough chill time. Out of all the lily family, the Asiatic and Easter lilies do the best in our zone 8. This is only a small list of the things that you can have blooming in your yard during the spring. I have not even touched upon jasmine, weigela, viburnum, roses, and many others.

once you get spring blooming flowers started they will resow themselves, or are perennials that come back again and again for many years. Many are still blooming around old home sites when the people who first planted them there are long gone generations ago. Just remember not to mow them off before they go to seed, and that bulb leaves must dry up naturally. If you mow off the leaves before that they will soon die out. While things are in bloom, take a few notes about what you would like to try next year, and prepare your beds. Fall will be here in just a few more months, and you can plant some too.