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Growing Cool Season Annuals


Jerry Parsons:

Once you've decided to plant in the fall so that you have beautiful bloom next spring, you want to be sure to pick some surefire winners so that they can take any kind of winter that might be inflicted upon them. One of the ones called Dianthus that many of you are familiar with is Pinks, can take extremely cold temperatures. However, it doesn't bloom much in the early fall after you plant it, but it sure gives a blast of color in the spring. Probably the all time winner is one called Pansy. It comes in all different shapes, sizes, colors and everything else. So Pansy is certainly one you want to consider. Snapdragon is one that sometimes has disease problems, but it sure gives a blast of color next spring, just not too much this fall.

Of course there is a new boy on the block that we want to talk about called bluebonnets, and it's even available in different colors finally. So consider either Dianthus, Pansies, Snapdragons or bluebonnets.

The most common color that you see in bluebonnets is naturally blue. People say, "well all bluebonnets are blue", not necessarily so. If you look in the wild you will find all sorts of colors. Here is some that are white for instance; right here and every now and then, you'll find a rare pink. So there are many different colors, and these exist in the wild. They aren't anything we have breed or crossed or anything like that. They already exist there. So basically what we are doing, is selecting color variants out and separating them out and making sure that there is no blue growing in there with them, because these flowers are extremely cross pollinated. You take all the blue away from take this white, and let it grow by itself where it can only be pollinated with the white flower. Then the seed if you save from this particular plant will be white. That is basically all that has been involved. There's no breeding or such, at least not by mankind. It's natural breeding going on. So there are many color variants out there and what we have undertaken to do is separate as many color variants as we possibly can so we can get several different colors of the Texas state flower, which of course is the bluebonnet.

Of course we get into this problem, 'well of course is this a white bonnet or a white bluebonnet, or exactly what is it?' It is indeed a white bluebonnet. Of course bluebonnet is written as one word and it is the true name of the flower. So if it is white, it is a white color variant, it is a white bluebonnet. So we've solved that problem. The next thing people say is "that's not a true bluebonnet". It certainly is, genetically and species wise it is a bluebonnet. This is the state of Texas state flower. If you don't like white, then you don't have to plant it. You may want to plant pink or you may want to stay with the blue.

A lot of work that we have done out in the fields and travel around together with these seeds, the different color of these variants, is sponsored by a hotel in Fort Worth. It is called the Worthington, and we decided they needed a color of their own that they could use in the Fort Worth area and be real proud to use. This is the color we have chosen, for them. It is a little less controversial than some of the other colors that we have because it is a blue, but it is a hue. It is basically an off color blue. I refer to it as sky blue. It is a beautiful thing as you can see and of course, it stands beautiful alone by itself, but it is also extremely pretty when you plant it in with the darker blue, if you want to. This is one that has been named the Worthington Bluebonnet. So it's just a different color hue.

The problem we have with these, the problem we have with all of these off colored types, whether it's pink or white or whatever, is it takes a long time, several years of segregation, in other words, keeping them apart from all the other colors, before they will indeed breed true back to this seed color that you have. Of course when you are dealing with color hues, such as you have here, a lot of times it's a call, a judgment call between, let's say these 2. Here is the Worthington right here, and of course here's one it's kind of white, it's kind of a dirty white color. Of course this needs to be removed so that you can make sure you have the right color that you want. So this color separation is not an easy matter. But it will give us an opportunity to have bluebonnets, the Texas state flower, in many different colors, and enjoy them just like you would with any other flowers, with all the different colors that are available.

Steve George:

You've just seen how beautiful the bluebonnets are in nature. You can have that same beauty in your home landscape. It is very, very easy if you follow a few simple rules. Remember that the bluebonnet, although it blooms in the spring, it is best planted in the fall. You want to plant in the fall that way you have the cooler months of the year for it to establish its root system, and grow extensively underground. Now the key in planting bluebonnets is to choose a full sun, well-drained site. With the transplants the stems arise from a simple crown, and it is important that the crown is not buried in the planting process. So dig a planting hole of the proper depth, get that filled and firm the soil around it making sure that the crown is flush with the surface of the soil, especially with the seedlings, it is important to provide some kind of protection against the attack of pill bugs. You can buy pill bug baits and I would apply those at planting and then perhaps once a week for the first month until they become established. The key in growing them is to have a full sun, a well-drained location. Now during the winter the bluebonnet will have just a small rosette of leaves above the soil, so to give you color in the bluebonnet bed during those cooler months you can interplant with Pansies, another winter annual such as Dianthus and also snaps. These will be very colorful during the winter as the bluebonnets begin to grow in the spring. These can be removed. So get a full sun location that is well drained and you'll be extremely happy with the results.

Jerry Parsons:

That should give you some tips on how to successfully grow annuals. I think we have pretty well talked about the best ones to use to plant in the fall and bloom in the spring, some transplants and seeds. We talked about the location, why to plant them, plant them in mass, and of course bed preparation, make sure your bed is prepared because that's what's going to be growing your plants for the duration so to speak. Don't over water-- and that's the key things that people do in a place that doesn't get enough sun, and they over water. Of course once they get growing, we talked about fertilizer earlier but you also have to fertilize them a little bit later, like you were talking about Greg right?

Greg Grant:

Yes, you have to come through and side dress them, to keep them blooming. You also have to come through and dead head them, come through and take off the old blooms as they fade to keep the new blooms putting on and keep them pretty all through the winter and into the next spring.

Jerry Parsons:

So there is really no reason why people can't have beautiful annuals. If you need some more information?

Greg Grant:

Yes sir, there are 2 publications you get from your local county extension service by either writing or calling the county extension service. There is one with "Annual Flowers in the Home Landscape" and one on "Landscape Gardening". It will tell you about bed preparation, about which plants to plant. It will tell you about design, and everything you need to know about growing transplants and other things you plant in the fall and bloom in the spring

.Jerry Parsons:

Okay and if you need to send us a self addressed stamped legal size envelope, we will be glad to send you these 2. Just send it to the Weekend Gardener, address which is P.O. Box 380391, which is of course in San Antonio. The zip is 78280 and we'll be glad to send that right out to you.

Thank you for joining us and we hope you have some beautiful annual plants this year. This is Jerry Parsons Horticulturist from the Extension Service and

Greg Grant:

Greg Grant, Horticulturist, with the Agriculture Extension Service and we'll see you in the spring when your beds are blooming.

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