1998 Horticultural Promotions for South Central Texas

Contact Drs. Jerry Parsons or Calvin Finch, Texas Cooperative Extension, for further details. Telephone: 210-930-3086

Information concerning the following new plant selections will be made available during the following time periods. These news releases are made to acquaint the public with new ornamentals that have been observed for several years and are reliable performers in the greater San Antonio area.

January, 1998

1. Color-enhanced Bunny Bloom Larkspur

BUNNY-BLOOM LARKSPUR: A reseeding annual with a backward projecting spur and the head-of-a-bunny formed by the upper white petal of the pink flower. The can't-miss-it bunny head is pure white framed by pink petals. Tightly compact blossoms are arranged on spikes. Space transplants 8-10 inches apart. Prefers full sun to partial shade in very well-drained soils. Do not eat flower or seed!

LARKSPUR -- FEBRUARY TRANSPLANTS Flowering annuals that re-seed and return year after year can be as valuable as perennial flowers to the garden. There is something magical about plants that like your garden so well that they choose to come back each year for another visit. In addition to convenience and economy, reseeding annuals often add a charm and special character since they frequently come up in places where we may not have planted them, adding spontaneity to the garden.

One of the most spectacular reseeding annuals is larkspur. Larkspur (Consolida ambigua) is known for its tall spikes of blue, lavender, purple, pink or white flowers. Bicolor flowers occur occasionally as well. Both single and double flower forms exist. The double flower has been preferred because of the larger bloom which is showier in a cutflower or dried arrangement. However, the single flowered version has a uniqueness and "animal magnetism" which make it much more intriguing than its bigger blooming sister.

How can a flower have animal magnetism? The genus name "Delphinium" comes from the Greek word "delphis," which means "dolphin." To the Greeks the flowers of larkspur, the annual species of delphinium, resembled the shape of a dolphin. If those impetuous Greeks had continued to watch the opening flower bud of the larkspur, anyone with the slightest bit of imagination, and a bit of horticultural wisdom from the great plantsman from San Antonio named John Fanick, can clearly see the flower parts (petals) of a single larkspur form a bunny's head. The color of the petals which form the head shape determines how obvious the bunny head is. Some flowers with pink lower petals (sepals) surrounding white, bunny-head formed center petals dramatically display the hare head. The head is not as obvious on flowers which are not bicolor but the shape of the bunny head remains. As the flower matures, the petals loosen and the bunny head figure is lost. For several days after blooms open, the bunny head is so exact that eyes and the curvature of two ears can be detected. If the presence of a cute bunny head in a flower is not enough to excite you, guess when larkspur blooms in this area. Easter! Children have always wondered where the Easter bunny lives. Now you can show them the Easter bunny flower which will be sold as transplants named Bunny Bloom Larkspur in January - February. You will also demonstrate that you are a competent plant person by having the spectacular display of Bunny Blooms every year. Once you plant Bunny Blooms and if you let the Bunnies drop their faces and mature seed pods, you will be blessed with an abundance of bloom for years -- this plant multiplies just as the rabbits it displays with such beauty! John Thomas of Wildseed, Inc. (originally in Eagle Lake, Texas and now in Fredericksburg as well) has consented to grow the pink-and-white (bicolor) Bunny Bloom Larkspur. An abundance of seed and transplants will be available for sale in the fall of 1998 thanks to the hard work of the Bexar County Master Gardeners growing the stock seed, roguing and harvesting seed for Wildseed which will package and distribute the seed nationwide - worldwide. The Wildseed Company Rocket Larkspur (Delphinium ajacis (Ranunculaceae) can be found at website:

http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/wildseed/34/34.5.html

The entire Wildseed catalog can be found on the horticulture website at:

http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/wildseed/

Larkspur is a fall-seeded or winter-transplanted, cool season annual. The seed will not germinate in your garden or in the transplant producer's greenhouse unless it's exposed to cool temperatures. They usually germinate after weather with a cold front has occurred. This is why Bunny Bloom larkspur transplants are not available in nurseries until January and February. However, this is an ideal time to plant transplants to add greenery to an otherwise dreary winter landscape. Delphinium and larkspur share a name but larkspur is smaller, reaching only two to three feet tall and larkspur produces flowers two-thirds the size of delphinium. Fortunately for gardeners both delphinium and larkspur are cold-hardy and have similar requirements. There ARE two VERY important differences: Larkspur may be seeded directly into the garden in fall, and it readily reseeds.

A frequent problem with reseeding annuals is over-germination and, therefore, crowding, to the point that plants cannot grow and produce properly. This requires careful observation in the garden to check on young seedlings so that when they reach a size large enough, they can be transplanted or thinned. Most young seedlings may be successfully transplanted when they put on their second set of leaves. Some annuals, such as poppies and larkspurs, are somewhat difficult to transplant and do best when thinned and allowed to mature where they germinated.

Young seedlings of flowering annuals may show little resemblance to the mature plants and be very difficult to distinguish from weeds. This requires practice and patience until the young seedlings of desired annuals become familiar. It also implies that heavy mulches cannot be used in areas where reseeding annuals are desired. The mulches are just as effective in controlling the desirable annuals as they are the weeds. The good news is that most pre-emergent herbicides which can be purchased in garden centers can be used at planting in seeded larkspur areas without fear of damaging larkspur germination and growth. Other broadleaf weeds and grasses can be effectively controlled with a chemical pre-emergence herbicide and larkspur will still thrive.

Although larkspur grow during winter, it takes the warmth of spring to coax them into rapid growth. They reach their full height around Easter in Southcentral Texas. The plants are spectacular, easily grown and make wonderful fresh as well as dried cutflowers. A sunny location and well-drained soil of moderate fertility are the major requirements. Thinning the seedlings in mid-winter or planting transplants 8 to 10 inches apart will usually result in a more impressive display of individual plants that can reach 3 to 5 feet tall. Like poppies and bluebonnets, larkspur usually needs little or no supplemental irrigation, since it completes its life cycle during our naturally cool, moist season. You should try to get your supply of Bunny Bloom larkspur as soon as possible since people are Flipper - ing over this Peter Cottontail of a flower. I recommend planting an entire flat (96 transplants) to ensure a hare - raising visual impact! I DO NOT recommend this plant for people who like to eat everything in the landscape since the eating of larkspur seed and young plants can cause more digestive upset, nervous excitement and depression than you already have. In fact, the eating of an abundance of larkspur may be fatal which is probably what you deserve for destroying the natural beauty of this spectacular reseeding annual!!

After larkspurs have completed their flowering season in late spring, they may be replaced with hot-season annuals such as Junior petunia, periwinkles, or the bigger-than-ever Dolly Parton-like purslane.

February, 1998

1. Location-specific Turfgrass Selection For Hot & Dry -- Hot & Wet South Texas Growing Conditions

A. Floratam St. Augustine Grass For Shady, Moderate TrafficAreas

Floratam St. Augustine grass was released by the Florida and Texas Agricultural Experiment Stations in 1972 as a SAD virus and chinch bug resistant selection. It has since been observed to be brown patch tolerant. Like other Florida types, Floratam is a vigorous, coarse textured St. Augustine grass variety. Floratam has a purple stigma color and is sterile. Stolons of Floratam are large, purplish-red in color with internodes averaging 3 inches in length. Leaf blades are wider and longer than common St. Augustine grass. According to James Beard, TAEX Turf Researcher - retired, test at A&M concluded it is the most drought-tolerant of all St. Augustine grasses.

Floratam is not as cold tolerant as the common type found in Texas so preconditioning by use of Winterizer fertilizer (3-1-2 or 4-1-2 ratio) in the fall (October) is CRITICAL. Floratam may suffer freeze damage in areas north (cold) and west (dry) of San Antonio. Floratam also lacks the degree of shade tolerance that other St. Augustine grass varieties possess but filtered light through live oak canopies offer the ideal growth environment.

We believe that the recommended Floratam St. Augustine is the best available for the diverse growing conditions of South Central Texas. It tolerates and even thrives in periods of excessive rainfall. A study of the drought tolerance of grasses entitled: "Comparative Intraspecies and Interspecies Drought Resistance of Six major Warm-Season Turfgrass Species" was conducted by S. I. Sifers and J. B. Beard at Texas A&M University.

Four years of field drought resistance studies were completed on grasses growing on a modified sand root zone.In the fourth year of the study, 29 bermudagrass, 2 seashore paspalum, 2 buffalograss, 8 St. Augustine grass, 6 centipede grass, and 11 zoysiagrass cultivars were subjected to 158 days of progressive water stress with no supplemental irrigations applied and less than 7.5 cm of natural rainfall.Degree of leaf firing was used as an indicator of dehydration avoidance and post-drought shoot recovery was used as the indicator for drought resistance.Significant drought resistance differentials were found across the cultivars and among the species. Results were consistent with the first three years of the study among the bermudagrass, seashore paspalum, St. Augustine grass, and buffalograss cultivars.Among the centipedegrass cultivars only Oklawn fully recovered. Leaf firing of all zoysiagrass cultivars was in excess of 50%. All recovered, except Meyer at 20 percent and Belair at 45% after 30 days.Excellent dehydration avoidance was seen in Floratam and Floralawn St. Augustinegrass. There were large variations in drought resistance among the five St. Augustinegrass cultivars. Floralawn and Floratam showed high green shoot recovery. They showed less than 50% leaf firing after 34 days of drought stress and recoveries of over 90 percent. However, Texas Common and Raleigh St. Augustinegrass as well as Prairie buffalograss showed over 98% leaf firing and less than 20 percent recovery.The performance of Floratam and Floralawn was excellent throughout the study in terms of shoot color, turgidity, and uniformity. They were comparable to 609 Buffalograss.

2. Rodeo Master Gardener Specials for '98 -- Funds will be used to support the Youth Gardening Program of the Bexar County Master Gardeners under the direction of Dr. Calvin Finch. Plants will be promoted and advertised in the San Antonio media but not necessarily available in local nurseries A. The new Bexar County Master Gardener determinate (small growing) plant, large cherry tomato(DWARF CHERRY SURPRISE TOMATO) recommended for canning and sauces as well as fresh eating.

B. BUNNY-BLOOM LARKSPUR -- Pink-headed Bunny Bloom Larkspur

C. JUNIOR PETUNIA: A reseeding annual old-fashioned petunia.More cold tolerant, disease resistant and heat tolerant than modern hybrids. Spreading growth habit with deep lavender, medium size flowers. Space transplants 12 inches apart. Prefers full sun in well-drained, fertile soils. -- the first hybrid, old-fashioned petunia which reseeds itself year after year and blooms from early spring until fall.

D. Texas Gold Columbine in 2-inch peat pots for economical columbine establishment

E. The new Heading Success Spinach variety -- the first heading spinach

F. A new, spectacular Perennial Phlox to join the common magenta pink phlox (Southern Comfort). This yet-to-be-named phlox is longer standing, disease tolerant and begins blooming several weeks after the common phlox. This phlox has darker green, wider leaves and the plant is tidy until fall. The weight of the blooms do not break the plant open as readily as does the common phlox. A new winner for SouthCentral Texas gardeners.

G. POSSIBLY -- Ornamental Sweet Potatoes -- White and Maroon foliage

H. POSSIBLY -- Seedling Bush Morning Glory in 3 inch containers

BUSH MORNING GLORY OR MOONFLOWER

This interesting plant is in the sweetpotato family (Ipomoea) with a shrub-like growth habit. The scientific name is Ipomoea leptophylla. It is described as growing in exceedingly dry places and can be considered a Xeriscape plant.The bush morning glory is the most prolific bloomers of any of the summer perennials. The plant is covered with medium-size, light pink blooms all summer. Blooms last only one day but clusters of blooms are formed in the axial of every leaf. Plants can get 6-8 feet tall with multiple trunks. When hard frosts kill plants, the tops should be removed; plants will sprout again from the hardy root system the following May. Once established the bush morning glory is a tough (drought-tolerant and heat-tolerant) plant. It blooms best in direct sun and will not bloom if receiving less than 8-10 hours of direct sun. Plants can be cut back monthly to encourage branching and increase blooming surface. Cutting back in July will reduce plant height and encourage a spectacular fall bloom.

March, 1998

1. Blue Princess Verbena (Verbena X Hybrida 'Blue Princess')

Spreading perennial with showy lavender-blue flowers. Discovered in Englandby Greg Grant, formerly of Color Spot, now teaching at Stephen F. Austin. Zone 8.

One of the showiest of perennial flowers is the verbena. Verbena has many attributes such as heat tolerance, everblooming and enduring. However, since nothing is perfect, verbena has some faults which, if known in advance, can be avoided. Remembering that "a word to the wise is sufficient", I will concentrate on the faults of verbena so you can know how to successfully grow one of Texas' most adapted plants.

The first, and probably most significant, Verbena problem is knowing how to identify the best of the Verbena types. In 1985 Extension horticulturists began to clarify Verbena nomenclature. Verbena types available are the short-lived annual verbena (Verbena hortensis); the large-flowered, short-lived perennial verbena (sometimes referred to the species V. x hybrida types); and the smaller-flowered but long-lived perennial verbena loosely referred to by botanists as Verbena Hybrids (Verbena x tenera). Throughout the years local horticulturists have noticed that a particular form of the last classification of Verbena Hybrids are among the easiest of the verbena to grow and would normally be perennial unless exposed to a wet spring or fall when the foliage is susceptible to attacks of the fungus called powdery mildew. To clearly identify this superior Verbena for garden consumers was a major problem. The adapted Verbena was called by many names such as common verbena (there were at least three types called verbena!), sand verbena and vervain. The most adapted Verbena did not have a common name which could be agreed upon by the numerous botanists consulted because this Verbena is a hybrid (mixture of species). Regardless of its true identity, all agree that it is a tough, Texas plant which should be planted in this area by those who enjoy beautiful bloom in the heat of summer. To plainly identify this Verbena, it was given the name TexTuf. TexTuf verbena is available in three colors -- purple, pink and red. The true TexTuf Verbena has a label in each group of plants clearly identifying it as the selected type. Otherwise, the buyer has to be familiar with the plant-type to know it is the long-lasting Verbena.

The second problem with Verbena is planting location and culture. Most people make the mistake of pampering it. It MUST be planted in the sunniest, best drained spot in your landscape. It WILL NOT bloom profusely, and, in fact, becomes diseased with powdery mildew unless the plants get plenty of sunlight (8-10 hours of direct, sunbathing sunlight). Verbenas do not require a particularly rich soil but periodic (at least monthly) applications of a slow-release, complete fertilizer such as 19-5-9 at the Rate of one pound per 100 square feet are beneficial during the growing season. In the case of plants which have borne an abundance of bloom and then show signs of going out of bloom, a light pruning will produce another crop of flowers within 15-20 days. Here's the problem; people DO NOT want to cut plants back and WILL NOT cut them back as long as one pitiful-looking bloom endures. People who cannot discipline themselves to shear old blooms periodically should not grow Verbena. After the first spectacular bloom display cut-shy people will be looking at ugly for the rest of the season and wondering why. Bloom removal is not tedious. Simply trim about a fourth of the plant's top growth, including old flowers but do not expose main stems, with a flexible line trimmer. Pruning removes old flower parts, shortens the plants and encourages branching which soon results in an even showier and prolonged display of bloom especially if you will fertilize and water after each cutback. Cutback will probably be required two or three times per season. The final, most drastic cutback will be in the fall when plants are cutback so winter annuals such as pansies, dianthus or bluebonnets can the interplanted among the Verbena.

The third problem with Verbena is that they are susceptible a few to pests. Well, so is every other living thing! I mentioned that Verbena is susceptible to the fungus powdery mildew if planted in a wet, shady locale. If the plant is neglected (not fertilized and watered properly) it is likely to become infested with spider mites, a common Texas nemesis. Miticide such as Kelthane (Red Spider Mite Spray) with two teaspoons of liquid detergent added per gallon of spray applied every 5 days for four consecutive sprays will help. Organic growers can use insecticidal soaps or sulfur dust but an invasion of spider mites MUST be dealt with or plants can be destroyed. Leaf miners which make little trails in the leaves do not cause significant damage but are ever-present. Systemic insecticides such as Isotox, disyston (Systemic Insecticide), and cygon can be used periodically for longer lasting insect control. Thrips and leaf hoppers can also be a problem and can be controlled with the same insecticides.

The three problems which I mention, just to make you aware, SHOULD NOT distract gardeners from using one of the few summer perennials which can survive and beautify the Texas summers (which are usually hotter than Hades!) If you have a sunny, well-drained location and are willing to shear Verbenas periodically, I will make three recommendations:

(1) Any of the TEXTUF SERIES -- purple, pink and red

(2) A beautiful lavender blue Verbena from England named BLUE PRINCESS VERBENA(Verbena x hybrida 'Blue Princess'). It is a rapidly spreading perennial Verbena with showy lavender-blue flowers. This variety was discovered in England by Greg Grant, former Bexar County Extension Horticulturist, while on a plant collecting trip to England for Color Spot Growers. Color Spot has graciously made this new, blue verbena available to everyone.

Verbena is described as "a genus of perennial herbs (sometimes known by the ancient name Vervain)". Verbenas have been known since the most ancient times. The druids had the greatest veneration for the plant, and before gathering it offered a sacrifice to the soil. They also held bunches of verbena between their hands during their devotions. When the Romans sent messengers of peace to other nations they adorned their apparel with sprays of verbena. Images of Venus Victrix were often crowned with wreaths of verbena and myrtle. The peoples of Antiquity also attributed verbenas with certain medicinal properties. It was noted that much of the fame attached to the plants was mainly attributable to magical practices performed with the herbs. The Romans credited powers of rekindling the flames of dying love to the plant, and gave it the name Herba Veneris (plant of Venus). During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, it became an instrumental component in the rites of witches and sorcerers. In folk medicine, a decoction of verbena leaves boiled in vinegar was used to treat rheumatic pains, lumbago, and pleurisy. It also provided a potion for aiding digestion. The flowering tips of young growth and the leaves of Verbena officinalis dried in the sun contain the glucoside verbenaline which, if incorrectly used, can cause paralysis. All of the Verbena which I have previously mentioned are crosses of several species and not intended for herbal use. I just though since some people enjoy saying they are growing "herbs", Verbena fits right into the herb category. Besides, Verbena is a beautiful blooming herb which will tolerate all that a hot Texas summer has to offer.

2. The San Antonio Garden Center Sale Funds used to support GardenCenter activities. Plants will be promoted and advertised in San Antoniomedia but not necessarily available in local nurseries

A. Fiesta (variegated green-and-white foliage) Turk's Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) is a shade-tolerant, deer-resistant Texas native that has blooms which hummingbirds love. Grows in sun or part sun. Grows 4 to 5 feet tall, forming a shrub like perennial plant. Flowers from late spring through the fall, with bright red petals rolled loosely around the flowers' reproductive parts. It is a relative of hibiscus, with variegated green-and-white foliage which makes a perfect complement to colorful flowers and is a showy stand-out in shady areas where the green color is lost. Hummingbirds love it and enjoy feeding in the shade. It dies to the ground each winter, then comes back in the spring -- it is a root-hardy perennial. It is an old-time favorite of early Texas gardeners since it is deer resistant as well. It is drought tolerant and some have indicated that plants can be weeded with a glyphosate herbicide such as Roundup, Kleanup or Finale without significant, if any, damage to the foliage of the Turk's Cap. (Try at your own risk!!)

B. The Firespike is a plant which solves the problem of most landscaperswho have a shady area in which very few plants will grow, much less bloom. Firespike will not only grow in the shade but plants will providea magnificent display of practically glow-in-the-dark red bloom spikes which attract hummingbirds and butterflies.

Firespike (Odontonema strictum) is a shade loving, tender perennial with deep green, glossy leaves. It will be grown for its beautiful foliage in the spring and summer. Firespike is a substitute for the nationwide popular hosta which is devoured by snails in this area of Texas. This beautiful foliage provides a startling contrast to its fire-red late season blooms. Its brilliant spikes of deep red flowers in late summer and fall are cherished by hummingbirds and butterflies. Firespike can be grown as a tropical container plant, an annual which grows about 2 feet the first season, or, if it survives the winter as a protected perennial growing more than 4 feet tall. This plant can be grown in heavy clay soils and wet conditions.A recommendation by some is that some of these plants be dug and potted in late fall and used as blooming house plants throughoutthe winter. It is one of the most versatile plants and definitely the best blooming plants for shade conditions.C. Any plant material still available from the Rodeo Sale in February.

April, 1998

1. Big Blooming Purslane -- Big, Beautiful and Edible -- Dolly Parton's Pride

Purslane is the heat-tolerant, drought-tolerant flower which is sometimes referred to as the Dolly Parton flower because it blooms from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The new, larger-flowered Eubi-type purslanes are just as spectacular and show- stopping as Miss Dolly's personal attributes. The smaller blooming "weedy" cousin of the cultivated Dolly Parton flower as well as Dolly herself have suddenly become the belles of the garden among creative chefs and nutritionists. Although purslane has proliferated as a wild edible around the world for centuries, in its renaissance purslane is acclaimed for not one, but two starring attractions: the rediscovery of its cooking possibilities--its tinker-toy eye appeal, crisp texture and lightly tangy taste--and the scientific discovery of its potentially healthful omega-3 fatty acids. If this weren't enough, it has above average values of Vitamins A and C and provides all of these goodies with only 15 calories in a 100-gram portion (as compared with 76 in a boiled potato).

Purslane is eaten extensively in soups and salads throughout the Mediterranean area, where the incidence of heart disease is low. The Russians dry and can it for the winter. In Mexico it is called VERDOLAGA and is a favorite comfort food, eaten in an omelet or as a side dish, rolled in tortillas, or dropped by handfuls into soups and stews.

The exciting new health discovery is purslane's high content of alpha linolenic acid, a type of the omega-3 fatty acids. It may affect human health directly, but the most intriguing possibility is that the human body might be able to convert into other, related kinds of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) found in fish oils. Researchers see evidence that these substances lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as make the blood less likely to form clots. But ages before this scientific finding, purslane was eaten as treatment for arthritis, inflammation and heart disease and to promote general good health.

PURSLANEPortulaca oleraceaPurslane Family Purslane is a succulent low-growing plant which is very tasty and crunchy. The entire plant can be used, the stems being most succulent. Purslane grows all over the world, often in disturbed soil. Purslane can be used as the main salad ingredient, lightly seasoned with diced onion, vinegar, and oil. The plant is good cooked with soups, steamed, sauteed, or pickled. Add it to omelets.

Thoreau used and enjoyed purslane, and he wrote of the plant, "I have made a satisfactory dinner off a dish of purslane which I gathered and boiled. Yet men have come to such a pass that they frequently starve, not from want of necessaries, but for want of luxuries."

IDENTIFYING PURSLANE

Purslane sprawls along the ground with its fleshy, succulent, highly branched stems. The stems are round and tinted red. The flavor of the raw stems is mild, slightly sour, and the texture is crunchy. The leaves are paddle-shaped (obovate), flat, and alternately arranged. The small flowers are yellow,sessile, and contain five two-lobbed petals. The small seed capsules produce abundant black seeds.

VERDOLAGO CON QUESO

1 quart purslane, including stems Approximately one-half cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

Collect tender purslane, including the stems, and carefully rinse to remove any sand or soil. Gently boil for about two minutes or until tender. Drain the water and chop the purslane into smaller pieces. Return the purslane to the frying pan and shred the jack cheese over it. Keep the purslane in the pan just until the cheese melts. Be careful not to over-melt the cheese. Serve warm. Serves 2.

PICKLED PURSLANE

1 quart purslane stems and leaves 3 garlic cloves, sliced 1 quart apple cider vinegar (or old pickle, jalapeno juice,etc.) 10 peppercorns

Clean the purslane stems and leaves by rinsing with fresh water. Cut into 1" pieces and place in clean jars with lids. Add the spices and pour the vinegar over the purslane. Keep this in the refrigerator and wait at least two weeks before using. Serve as a side dish with omelets and sandwiches.

TRAVELER'S JOY

3 cups purslane, chopped onion (wild, if avail.) 1 hard-boiled egg, sliced1 cup chickweed cup amaranth leaves1 ripe avocado Approximately 1/4 cup cheddar cheese 1 teaspoon garlic salt (or other cheese), diced into small bits Juice of lemon Much of this salad can be gathered on the trail (or in your backyard, for that matter). Chop the purslane, chickweed, amaranth, and onion into bite sized bits. Add the avocado, peeled and diced. Add one hard-boiled egg, sliced. Mix in approximately 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese which has been cut into small bits. Squeeze the lemon over the salad, add the garlic salt, and mix well. If you have them, you can add chia seeds and one tablespoon of mayonnaise to this lip-smacking salad.

VERDOLAGO CON HUEVOS

2 cups purslane, with stems, diced 6 eggs 1 cup wild or domestic onion, or Butter 1 cup nasturtium leaves and stems, diced

Carefully clean and rinse the purslane. The entire above-ground plant can be used as long as it is still tender. Add the diced onion and purslane to a heated and buttered cast-iron skillet. Cook for about five minutes. Add the eggs and cook omelet-style. Serve with a tomato slice. Serves three.

FRIED PURSLANE

Approximately 1 cup of purslane growing tips Flour Ground bread crumbs Beaten eggs Collect the tender new tips of purslane--about the last two or three inches from the stems. Rinse these in water to remove any sand. Roll them (or shake them) in flour until thoroughly floured, and then dip in the beaten eggs. Cover each purslane stalk with bread crumbs. This process is easiest to do if you simply line up the three dishes of flour, eggs, and bread crumbs, and do the breading production line style.

When the breading is done, fry or saute each purslane stalk for about five minutes or until golden brown. Serve with catsup, mustard, or sour cream. This is a unique hors d'oeuvre for even your finest, fanciest parties.

HAM AND PURSLANE ON RYEA Delectable Sandwich

2 slices rye bread, toasted or plain (or you can use whole wheat, pumpernickel, or sour dough) A few slices good quality ham A handful of fresh purslane, stems included Mustard/horseradish mix (no yellow dye, please) Instead of lettuce or pickles on this ham sandwich, you're using fresh purslane. It's quite flavorful. The slightly crunchy flavor of the crisp, succulent purslane stems helps to make this a satisfying sandwich.NUTRITIONAL COMPOSITION OF WILD FOODS (per 100 grams)

Dashes denote lack of data for a constituent believed to be present in measurable amounts.Source: Composition of Foods, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture

NEW ZEALAND SPINACH: Calories-19, Protein-2.2 gr, Fat-.3 gr, Calcium-54 mg, Phosphorus-46 mg, Iron-1.6 mg, Sodium-159 mg, Potassium-795 mg, Vit. A-4300 IU.,Thiamine-.04 mg, Riboflavin-.17 mg, Niacin-.6 mg, Vit. C - 30 mg, Part consumed-Leaf.

NETTLE: Calories-65, Protein-5.5 gr, Fat-.7 gr, Calcium --,Phosphorus -- Iron --, Sodium --, Potassium --, Vit A-6,500 IU., Thiamine --, Riboflavin --, Niacin --, Vit C-76 mg, Part consumed-Leaf.

POKE (Cooked Shoots): Calories-20, Protein- 2.3 gr, Fat-.4 gr, Calcium-53 mg, Phosphorus-33 mg, Iron-1.2 mg, Sodium --, Potassium --, Vit. A - 8,700 IU., Thiamine - . 07mg, Riboflavin-.25 mg, Niacin-1.1 mg, Vit C - 82 mg, Part consumed- Shoots.

PURSLANE (RAW): Calories --, Protein-21 gr, Fat- 1.7 gr, Calcium-.4 mg, Phosphorus 103 mg, Iron-39 mg, Sodium-3.5 mg, Potassium --, Vit A --, Thiamine 2,500 mg, Riboflavin-.03 mg, Niacin-.1 mg, Vit C-.5 mg, Parts consumed-Stems and leaves. Recipes:

MEXICAN PURSLANE STUFFING

This is a home-type dish that is as simple to prepare as "scrambled eggs with..." but much more nutritious. Serve as a side dish, a brunch main dish or as a filling in tortillas and pitas.

1 to 1 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 1 small onion, finely chopped 1 medium-size ripe tomato, chopped (not skinned) 1 SERRANO or jalapeno chile, finely chopped, or freshly cracked black pepper, according to taste 2 to 3 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce 1 egg beaten

1. Set aside a few raw springs of purslane for garnish. Steam or blanch the rest until tender-crisp (three to five minutes). Drain thoroughly, transfer to a plate covered with several layers of paper towels and blot dry.

2. In a large pan, saute garlic and onion in vegetable oil until soft. Add tomato and chile, and saute until the mixture becomes sauce-like. Season with soy sauce. (If you aren't using the chile, add freshly ground black pepper.) Saute until mixture is warm and the flavors marry.

3. When ready to serve, add the beaten egg to the warm mixture in the pan and mix gently. The egg will bind the mixture loosely but should not harden into scrambled eggs. Garnish plate servings with reserved sprigs.

YIELD: 4 servings

PER SERVING (estimated): 91 calories, 4 g protein, 9 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat, 68 mg cholesterol, 200 mg sodium, 68 percent U.S. RDA Vitamin A, 77 percent U.S. RDA Vitamin C.

May - June, 1998

1. JUNIOR PETUNIA: A reseeding annual old-fashioned petunia.More cold tolerant, disease resistant and heat tolerant than modern hybrids. Spreading growth habit with deep lavender, medium size flowers. Space transplants 12 inches apart. Prefers full sun in well-drained, fertile soils.

Junior Petunia is the offspring of the V. I. P. PETUNIA Very Important Petunia or Petunia violacea Violet In Profusion

This V.I.P. petunia is native to South America. The flower is violet colored and the plant is heat tolerant and low spreading. The plant is known for its profusion of small bell-shaped violet colored flowers. Both dainty and durable, it's one of the parents of all modern petunias. It is a great plant for beds, baskets or barrels. Her offspring, the Junior Petunia, offers just as many colorful blooms but the blooms are twice as large and the plant has larger, darker green foliage which serves as a background to showcase the spectacular floral display.

People always want characteristics in plants which are uncharacteristic of that plant type. For instance, we want citrus trees which produce good tasting fruit and tolerate sub -20 degree F. temperatures; we want tomatoes which will store for months after harvesting produced on cold tolerant plants; we want flowers to grow in stone and bloom all year; we want petunias to tolerate the hot temperatures of summer and have a multitude of blooms. Why can't these characteristics be incorporated into the plant of our choice? For such wondrous characteristics to be utilized in a plant variety, the desired traits must be genetically inherent in some plant line(s) of that particular species so that, via plant breeding, these traits can be transferred to the ultimate, hybridized super-plant. Many times we want too much, i.e., you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. But in the case of petunias, especially in the case of creating a petunia which tolerates the hot summer temperatures and has a multitude of blooms, the Mother of all petunias which fulfills the heat and bloom requirements has been brought from Germany by Greg Grant, former Extension horticulturist and former Director of product development for Color Spot Growers. This tough little petunia beauty was observed at a horticulture exposition in Stuttgart, Germany in July, 1993, and is now available in local nurseries under the name V.I.P. petunia. V.I.P. is the acronym for Very Important Plant (Petunia) or Violet In Profusion since the Mother of all petunias should be considered a very important plant. This is not the old-fashioned, reseeding annual Petunia X hybrida which many local gardeners enjoy every year. This is its Mother (Petunia violacea).

Petunias are NORMALLY extremely "thermophotoperiodic." That is, their growth habit responds according to the temperature and the amount of daylight. At 62 degrees F. to 75 degrees F. , the growth habit will vary depending on daylength. At temperatures above 75 degrees F., whether under short (less than 12 hours) or long (more than 12 hours) days, the plant will USUALLY be tall and leggy with a single flower. This is how hot weather takes its toll on petunias. I emphasize the terms NORMALLY and USUALLY because the V.I.P. petunia defies the law of thermophotoperiodics since it is a trailing type, perfect for hanging baskets. To add icing to the cake, so to speak, the V.I.P. petunia is practically sterile which stimulates continuous bloom. This super V.I.P. petunia is only available in one color -- violet. The violet color, composed of purple and red pigments, practically glows. According to color expert Ken Charbonnau, Director of Color Marketing at Benjamin Moore Paint Company, the big news in color are purple and blue-violet. In the backyard garden or for patio containers, you may want to create a more relaxing and serene mood by choosing cooler or softer colors which V.I.P. petunia provides.

There are basically five types of petunias: the double grandiflora, double multiflora, single grandiflora which includes the large flowering cascades, single multiflora, and California giants. The size of the flowers vary anywhere from the smallest of one inch in diameter to five to six inches. In the case of petunias, big IS NOT best! The big blooms of the grandiflora petunias are showy and look nice in catalogs but they are not durable or practical. The lightest rain or watering will droop and discolor the large grandiflora blooms. Since the bloom is the focal point of a flower bed, the gardener wants as many beautiful blooms as possible.

Multiflora petunias such as the carpet series have been the champs -- small, but durable and prolific. Multiflora petunias have medium-sized blooms and lots of them. Multiflora types are more disease tolerant and withstand South Central Texas winters better than other bloom type mentioned. The V.I.P. petunia is a new class called "Milliflora" because they are dramatically smaller than any other petunia on the market. The 1 - 1.5 - inch flowers are about one-third the size of standard Multiflora petunias but what they lack in size they more than make up in number and duration.

Petunias should be planted in full sunlight, if possible, since even the V.I.P. will become spindly and have fewer flowers if grown in the shade. This is not to say that petunias will not tolerate moderate or light shade, but they need a minimum of seven hours of direct sun. The V.I.P. petunia has a trailing habit which can be enhanced by periodic trimming during the growing season.I have mentioned that the V.I.P. petunia is tough but I have not indicated just how TEXAS TOUGH this petunia type really is. Normally petunias planted any later than April in this area NEVER have a chance to bloom before the extreme summer temperatures annihilate plants. With the advent of the V.I.P. and the Junior petunia, Texans can FINALLY have a profusion of petunias all summer long and even planted with such Texas - tough plants such as lantana and Purple Heart.

It is generally not necessary to apply any fertilizer before planting. However, one week after the plants have been planted, begin applying fertilizer. Use a slow release fertilizer with an analysis such as 19-5-9 at the rate of 2-3 pounds per 100 square feet of bed area. Be sure to water the fertilizer into the soil and remove any that may have fallen on the foliage of the plants. Apply fertilizer monthly throughout the growing season. Water soluble fertilizer high in analysis such as 20-20-20 may also be used with the first application being made the day the petunias are planted. Apply the water soluble fertilizer as instructed on the container.

Petunias have another decided advantage over many other plants in that they have relatively no serious insect or disease pest. Aphids may become a problem, but these can be controlled by spraying or dusting the plants with Malathion or diazinon. Slugs also seem to like to feed on petunias and these can be controlled by the use of baits. A good preventive measure for fungus diseases is to avoid watering plants from above and wetting the foliage. This can be accomplished by the installation of drip irrigation tubing in the flower bed before planting. If the plants become contaminated with a fungus disease, pick off the infected leaves or flowers and spray remaining leaves, weekly with a fungicide such as benomyl (Systemic Fungicide), bayleton (FungAway) or Ortho Funginex.It is also important to remember that petunias don't like water on their flowers. Note that, after a rain, petunias close up and appear to be wilted. So, when you water, use a watering wand or drip irrigation system so plants are watered well at ground level. Once water has touched the flower, it will take several days before it is fully open again. This is especially true of the grandiflora bloom types but, as we would expect from the new SUPER-V.I.P. and JUNIOR petunia, the blooms recover more rapidly after rains.

Now, the good news is that V.I.P. has produced an offspring, the Junior Petunia, which is just like its mama but even better in some very important ways.

July - October , 1998

1. Seeding colorful Bluebonnets for glorious spring patriotic color.

See also information from Wildflowers in bloom.

COLOR-IZATION OF THE STATE FLOWER BYJERRY M. PARSONS, Ph.D.Specialist and Professor of HorticultureTexas Cooperative ExtensionTexas A&M University System

The bluebonnet is the state flower of Texas. The Texas Agricultural Extension horticulturists in cooperation with local seed producers, bedding plant producers and vegetable farmers have domesticated the bluebonnet wild flower into a new multi-million dollar bedding plant.

People often ask how did such a wonderful project begin and why hadn't someone done it before. The origin of the entire bluebonnet domestication project can be summarized in one hundred words or less: "In 1982, a dying con artist and Texas naturalist named Carroll Abbott, Mr. Texas Bluebonnet, implanted in the mind of a naive horticulturist, me, a dream of planting the design of a state flag entirely composed of the state flower, bluebonnets, to celebrate the 1986 Texas' Sesquicentennial. This seemingly simple proposal and what has been involved to make it a reality have involved thousands of people, created a multi-million dollar agricultural industry, generated more positive publicity for Texas A&M than the football team (especially after their loss to UT!), and is still producing products and wildflower knowledge with no apparent end in sight."

The question of why hasn't someone done it before is intriguing. I think the answer involves organization, timing and unselfish determination. This bluebonnet color-ification project has been supported by institutes of higher learning, experienced seed production companies, the best agricultural producers in Southcentral Texas and numerous mass media. The synchronous efforts of all of these capable individuals and organizations can solve almost any problem. The timing was perfect--the public could relate to a patriotic effort of planting the design of a state flag entirely composed of the state flower, bluebonnets, to celebrate the 1986 Texas' Sesquicentennial; financially stressed farmers needed another crop with which to diversify production; the bluebonnet fits into the classification of a low-input crop to produce which also returns plant nutrients to the soil to enhance future production; and the state's most publicly - visible, productive Agricultural Extension horticultural programs was available. The ingredient of unselfish determination was definitely an important factor. Everyone involved freely shared information and resources without any monetary demands or expectations for reimbursement. It seems that the concept of doing what had never been done; of creating that which some said could never be; and of dreaming the impossible dream was enough payment for the dedicated participants. Since the beginning, development of unusual bluebonnet color types has been the main driving force of this project. All of the other developments such as bluebonnet transplants; rapidly germinating, chemically scarified seed; commercial seed production; early-blooming plant types; etc. were all necessary ingredients needed to find and proliferate the colors needed-- blue, white and red--to plant the initial floral goal -- a Texas' state flag.

The blue bluebonnet was, of course, already available. The only thing needed to be done with the blue was to enhance seed germination and formulate a commercial production technique which would insure a dependable seed supply.

The white strain of bluebonnet was somewhat common yet still unknown to the majority of Texans. Photographers always treasure the opportunity to find an albino nestled among the blues to enhance their artistic attempts. Consequently many people knew where white populations existed. When attempting to locate and gather seed of the white bluebonnet population, a very wise criterion was used. People were told only to collect seed from whites in large groups so that natural selection had already bred some of the blue out of the white. The genetics of the whites were not clearly understood and we did not know exactly how many white blooming plants would be produced when planting seed collected from white bluebonnets. Many skeptics indicated that it would take years to successfully complete the purification of a white strain. The first season that white seed were collected and planted, 75 percent of the plants produced bloomed white the following year. That which some had said to be "impossible" had been accomplished in only two years. However, gardeners did not like the white color so that strain has been lost due to lack of interest and sales. The common blue bluebonnet needed only some cultural problems solved to ready it for marketing and production. The white strain offered a significant challenge but nothing insurmountable. But the development of a pink-colored bluebonnet was thought to be a practically impossible task.Even Carroll Abbott considered locating, purification and proliferation of the pink, and eventually red, bluebonnet a bit far-fetched. This great plantsman had roamed the fields of Texas for years and had only seen three pink-blooming bluebonnet plants. Some of his native plant friends had never seen even one! But Abbott underestimated the thousands of searching eyes of wildflower enthusiasts that scoured every nook and crevice looking for the rarest of the rare and the effective production agriculture group which can proliferate many from a very few.

In searching for the pink color variant, the same criterion used to successfully locate and purify the white strain was used. People were told only to collect seed from pinks in large groups so that natural selection would have already bred some of the blue out of the pinks. However, the pinks indeed were so rare that only four locations throughout the entire state were reported. Oddly enough, the "mother-load" of pinks was found within the city limits of San Antonio.Shortly after some seed were gathered, the road maintenance crews graded the area and destroyed the entire naturally-occurring population. We have saved one of Nature's rarest gifts -- the pink bluebonnet. Once a gene source was located we were on the way to adding pink and shades thereof to the bluebonnet color spectrum.

We did not know exactly how many pink-blooming plants would be produced when planting seed collected from pink bluebonnets.The first season that pink seed were collected and planted, less than 12 percent of the plants produced bloomed pink the following year. This compared to a 75 percent rate for the white strain. This was a good indication that the going was to be slow in the development of the pink but, as the old saying goes, "when the going gets tough, the tough get going". Obviously, the development of the pink then red strain was going to take longer.Because the pink strain was so rare and so special, it was named after the mentor of this project -- the Abbott pink bluebonnet is now a reality. Its unique and subtle beauty will always serve as a reminder of Carroll Abbott's dedication and inspiration to all who love and appreciate Nature's rarities. The Legend of the Pink Bluebonnet can be found at WebSite:

http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/archives/parsons/flowers/bluebonnet /pinkbluebonnet.html

Like Carroll Abbott, his pink bluebonnet namesake is full of surprises. The pink bluebonnet strain is providing wonderful "bonus" color hues which none of us initially imagined. The purification of a pink bluebonnet strain has lead to the creation of an entirely new color variant which will make the bluebonnet without a doubt the most revered state flower in history to a certain segment of the Texas population. Geneticists indicate that with every color in nature exists hues or shades of that color. For instance, with the pink bluebonnet should exist a series of shades of darker pink and, eventually, red. That has happened. Within two years, a truly red bluebonnet from seed and transplant will be available. Another spectrum of colors should exist when blue color shades are mixed with pink or red to create purplish or, in another commonly used color description in Texas, maroon. Isn't there a group of Texans who might slightly be interested in developing a maroon- colored state flower? Sounds like an Aggie deal to me! The Aggie maroon bluebonnet does exist as well as a beautiful purple.

The spectacular and significant thing about the occurrence of these color types is that this is THE FIRST TIME IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD that these color variants have been seen and existed. Because there has never been quantities of pink bluebonnets, red or maroon colors would not have been able to be derived. For horticulturists and lovers of the Texas state flower, this is a significant historical happening -- we have seen what no person has seen before!

Once a color has been selected, isolated and seed proliferated, the REAL problem is maintenance of the seed supply. Some of the original farmers who grew the colored bluebonnets are no longer interested because of lack of sufficient and reliable profit. If the supplier quits, the seed of the color variants expires within 3-5 years. This has been the case with the maroon and red; no one wanted to increase the seed. An encouraging thing happened this year. John Thomas of Wildseed, Inc. (originally in Eagle Lake, Texas and now in Fredericksburg as well) has consented to grow the maroon, red and Abbott Pink bluebonnets. If we have several good growing seasons, all the seed and transplants Texans could want will be available for sale in the fall of 1998. Wildseed will package and distribute the seed nationwide - worldwide. John Thomas and his Wildseed Company has been a big supporter of Texas A&M University System activities and specially the work being done on wildflowers. The entire Wildseed catalog can be found on the horticulture website at:

http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/wildseed/

The Bexar County Master Gardener work crew has been instrumental in the culture of the stock seed plots which will eventually enable acreage of the red and maroon bluebonnets to be grown. The red and maroon colors would have probably vanished without their dedicated help. The maroon bluebonnets can be seen on the Parson's Archive Site at:

http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/cemap/lupines/maroon.jpeg and will probably be named 'Grant's Maroon' in honor of D. Greg Grant who was the first to recognize the potential of the Lupinus harvardii as a cutflower http://agnews.tamu.edu/stories/HORT/longstem.htm and who first identified and isolated the original color selection in a planting of pink bluebonnets which eventually produced the maroon and red bluebonnets. The red bluebonnet will be named'Henry's Red' in honor of the late Mr. Henry Verstraeten, a San Antonio vegetable grower from Belgium, who, in his small retirement garden, grew and insured the seed increase of EVERY Lupinus texensis color variant (white, Barbara Bush Lavender, Abbott Pink, maroon and red) which has ever been marketed.

Maybe now the 17-year-old project can come to a close and I can finallyREST IN PEACE!!!!

More can be learned about bluebonnets at Parson's Archive Site: http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/archives/parsons/flowers/bluebonnet /bluebonnetstory.html

One would think that a project such this would receive nothing but praise and support. But there are many people who have an attitude of: "I don't want to do anything but I sure don't want anyone else doing anything either!" Another group of people just want "to leave things as they have always been". It is from these types that come such criticisms as: "If the bluebonnet flowers are white, it shouldn't be called a bluebonnet--it's a white bonnet." "Why change the color of the state flower?" To these types of confused souls I will answer once again.

First of all, the state flower is the bluebonnet, written as one word. A color variant of that flower would be properly described with the name of that color plus the name of the flower of which it is a color--consequently, white bluebonnet, pink bluebonnet, maroon bluebonnet is correct. Secondly, the colors of the state flower which have existed for as long as bluebonnets have bloomed HAVE NOT been changed. Additional colors other than the more common blue, which already existed in Nature and have for hundreds of years, were isolated and purified. No plant breeding or genetic manipulation of bluebonnets has been done except by God. Any complaints or criticisms concerning bluebonnet color strains and their attractiveness should be directed to Him--not to me. The maroon color is naturally occurring from the pink strain; if a Texas Longhorn burnt-orange bluebonnet appears, it will be proliferated. All of these colors have been developed to enhance the Texas state flower. ALL of these colors are legally the state flower. Now for the first time in history, color patterns of the state flower can be planted and enjoyed. What other flower comes only in one color? Shouldn't the Texas state flower be the best that it can be? BLUEBONNET COLORS

When Noah from the Ark did go, The Lord for a sign did send the rainbow. But man will forget when the bow is dry.What will remind him to look to the sky?How will he remember that to God he is bidden, That beyond the blue sky heaven is hidden?

So from the bow God took white, pink and red, To remind us of Jesus, who for sin -- blood was shed. Then upon the bonnet He painted the hues,And covered them up with the rainbow blue.Then he scattered the bonnet all over Texas,And the whole world admired the flower God gave us.But it remained for an Aggie, cleverest of the landTo show us the rainbow, hidden by God's hand. by Mrs. Paul Steigerwald La Pryor, Texas