Consolida ajacis — also referred to as Consolida ambigua, Delphinium ajacis and Delphinium ambiguum — is commonly known as doubtful knight’s-spur, annual larkspur, rocket larkspur or annual delphinium. This is another plant that took over one of my flowerbeds after I scattered the contents of a small packet of wildflower seeds. These spike-like plants grow to a height of 2 to 4 feet and exhibit fine, lacy foliage along with flowers in many hues — dark blue, light blue, purple, lilac, pink, salmon and white. Seeds are dropped in the late summer and seedlings emerge that same fall. They grow to about an inch or so in height and remain that way throughout the winter. The following spring the plants grow quickly and bloom most of the summer. They’re extremely drought tolerant though their appearance does suffer when they don’t receive enough moisture. Those in my garden really thinned out this past summer due to the drought, but the seeds they dropped quickly germinated following several good rains. Snow and temperatures well into the single digits haven’t deterred these seedlings in years past, attesting to the plant’s hardiness.
Five or six years ago, at the end of the summer, I picked up several small packets of mixed wildflower seeds for 20¢ each at a local home improvement store. They were cheap seeds to begin with, but had been marked way down at the end of the season. I went home and tossed the seeds into a few flowerbeds, figuring that if even a few came up I’d be happy. By the next spring I’d completely forgotten that I’d planted them, until some straggly looking foliage started growing. Eventually buds formed and flowers bloomed. Not sure what they were, I googled around and finally discovered they were Plains Coreopsis. They’ve been in my flowerbeds ever since, dropping enough seeds each autumn to fill the beds with blooming color the following summer.
Over the years new colors have emerged among these flowers. My original planting of Coreopsis had petals almost evenly divided between maroon and yellow. In some cases the maroon of the petals has crept up so far that only a thin edging of yellow is visible. Other flowers are completely yellow. Some bloom completely red. On others the two colors seem to blend together, as if painted on with a brush. I’m not certain of the reason for the emergence of so many different hues. Perhaps I had a few red flowers to begin with and just never noticed them, and the others are a result of cross pollination. Or perhaps the colors have just degraded as the years have gone by. I don’t know. If anyone else has the answer I wish they’d tell me! I love these flowers — they create an ocean of color in my flowerbeds and they’re Texas natives. What more could one ask for?
How many irises is too many irises? I don’t ask this facetiously. I really wonder how many is too many. If I had my way I’d probably plant our entire front yard in irises — and if the hot dry weather continues it may just come to that! Because really, I love this plant for so many reasons. Irises withstand heat. They don’t mind sub-freezing temperatures. They make an excellent ground cover even in shady areas if you don’t mind missing out on their blooms. Irises will virtually last forever once planted as long as you divide them every couple of years. They’ve often lain dormant in a corner of my yard for months after being dug during times when the ground has been too hard and dry to transplant them. Iris foliage remains green during the winter, adding a little color to an otherwise barren landscape. Not to mention, their blooms are a highlight of the spring and early summer. They’re really the one plant I can rely on to be there when all the others abandon me! Wow, don’t I sound needy? But it’s the truth. If you want a plant that you can rely on, choose the Bearded Iris.
Irises inhabit several areas of our yard. Some years back I transplanted some from one side of the house into an area beneath several trees in our side yard because grass would no longer grow there. At the same time I was doing that a neighbor a couple of blocks up the street set a wheelbarrow loaded with irises at her curb with a sign that said “Free”. I filled up a couple of plastic shopping bags with this lovely neighbor’s castoffs and added them to my collection. I think they all turned out to be purple, but that’s okay. I’ve come to like the color purple! Two or three years ago my Mom decided she didn’t want her irises anymore, so I dug them up and took them home, growing my collection even more.
Late this summer, after a really good rain, I decided to finally dig and separate the irises out front, something that hadn’t been done in several years because, once again, the ground was just too hard. After separating the rhizomes I cut the foliage back to about six inches and replanted the irises. I’ve continued this ritual following each rain we’ve gotten since then. Even though I’m not finished with this area, my iris patch is already about double the size it was previously. I’ve also been digging and replanting the irises in our back yard. With temperatures forecast to be around 70° on Friday and Saturday, and the ground still gloriously wet from last Saturday’s rains, I hope to get out and do some more damage this weekend!
“8Also he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground; 9But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth: then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark. 10And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark; 11And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf plucked off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth. 12And he stayed yet other seven days; and sent forth the dove; which returned not again unto him any more.”
Genesis 8:8-12 KJV
This birdhouse is hanging from a lower limb of a big oak tree in our front yard. And yes, it is hanging at an angle! Several broods of sparrows were raised in it during the summer and sparrows — whether the same parents and members of their multiple broods, or strangers who’ve emigrated from neighboring yards — have continued to use it as a resting place, rather than a nesting place, during the late fall. It’s undoubtedly being used as shelter during the increasingly colder nights as well. It’s always a wee bit depressing to see the empty birdhouses tottering from the tree limbs as winter approaches, and to not hear the shrill chatter of the young ones as they scream for another meal. At the same time, their emptiness offers something to look forward to again in the spring. The birds begin picking out their spots early in the year, carrying sprigs of grass, string, bits of plastic and any other items they can find to line their nests with, bringing with them a spirit of rebirth which is a precursor of budding trees and sprouting seeds. Winter will undoubtedly seem long and dreary, but the optimist in me always anticipates spring.