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's Rocket Larkspur,Delphinium ajacis, a Ranunculaceae can be found at website:

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

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!!

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