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Agriculture Today

Texas gold columbines can ‘pop’ your lawn

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April 25, 2012 | 3,995 views | Post a comment

Q. Tell us more about the Texas gold columbine.

A. Texas gold columbines are blooming now in area landscapes. They do most of their growing in the fall, winter, and spring. Summer is their rest period. Texas gold columbines are desirable plants for San Antonio landscapes for several reasons. The yellow blooms resemble “shooting stars” as they emerge from the foliage on stalks that reach 3 feet tall. The foliage is an attractive soft green that reminds me of maidenhair fern. Thirdly, Texas gold columbine is shade tolerant. It grows best under deciduous trees or even sparsely foliated live oaks.

This exceptional plant is described as a weak perennial because the individual plants are short-lived. To make up for it, Texas gold columbine reseeds itself. To take advantage of reseeding, avoid mulching around Texas gold columbines.

Q. I have a Magnolia tree that I have had about three, maybe four years now. I would guesstimate its height to be about 20 feet. My question is what could be causing some of the leaves to turn brown? I have read that it could be caused by lack of water or too much water. Considering the spring we have had, I cannot imagine it is a lack of water. Is this something to be concerned about and/or what is the recommended treatment? The tree currently has several buds and has bloomed every year.

A. Magnolias have a very difficult time obtaining iron from our soils. They are acid lovers. The symptoms are caused by that difficulty. The tree is trying to grow in response to the wonderful conditions this spring, but probably has a damaged root system from last year’s drought. If good conditions continue, it should grow through it, but they are always sensitive to the stresses of our soil and erratic rainfall.

Q. We have a neighbor that grows a small red carnation-like flower that he calls “German carnation.” Do you know anything about it?

A. German carnation is a perennial that produces blood-red blooms. The blooms resemble the florist shop blooms in miniature. I have had best luck growing this perennial in morning sun, in a raised bed. To maintain a bed I had to treat them as other weak perennials and divide the clumps every few years. German carnations have existed in New Braunfels gardens for the entire history of the city.

Q. Why don’t area gardeners grow more Heirloom tomatoes? I think the old-fashioned tomatoes taste best.

A. Most Heirloom tomatoes are indeterminate growers. They grow foliage as long as the weather is good. By the time they start setting fruit, it is too hot for much success.

We have better luck in producing fruit if we use a determinate tomato that grows a reasonable amount of foliage and then concentrates on setting fruit while the temperatures are still mild. Among the best are Tycoon, BHN 602, Celebrity, 444, Solar Fire, Sunpride, and Phoenix.

Calvin Finch is a horticulturist and the San Antonio Water System’s director of water resources. Hear him on “Gardening South Texas” on KLUP 930 AM radio Saturdays noon to 2 p.m., and 1-3 p.m. Sundays. Or, email him at

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