[gardeners] Wildflowers

asidv@fbg.net (gardeners@globalgarden.com)
Sun, 19 Apr 1998 13:26:13 +0000

One day, early last week, we had the joy of driving down three
seventy-mile long perennial beds. The State Highway 
Department courteously provided paving for the automobiles and 
named it "Interstate-10."

The beds were full of bluebonnets -- still the old fashioned blue -- 
not yet the pink ones, or the Texas A&M development, the maroon 
bluebonnet in honor of the school's color. To contrast, there were 
lavender verbena, pale pink Mexican primroses, deep claret winecups, 
and rare spots of peachy-orange Indian paintbrush. Here and there 
were clumps of the flowers Lady Bird Johnson once called DYC's . 
Called upon to translate, she smiled, "Damned yellow composites."

It is Lady Bird to whom all of us are indebted for these highway 
"perennial beds." Years ago she offered a prize to the Texas 
highway departments who developed the most beautiful flowers 
along their rights-of-way. Doing the work on their own time and 
without State or Federal funds, local garden clubs saved seed, some 
seed was purchased, and (if truth be told) a lot was rustled -- and 
the highway crews scattered or (I'm told this IS the truth) fired the 
seed into the ground from sundry weapons!

There are places -- not on the Interstates -- where the wildflowers 
this time of year are so dense that traffic moves at a snail's pace, 
and where deputy sheriffs must be posted to keep people off private 
land. (Texans do not take kindly to those who go onto their land 
without formal invitation.)

Not being a born-and-bred Texan, all my efforts at planting 
bluebonnets were fruitless, but as my NG companion IS a third 
generation Texan; we encouraged him to plant the seed, he did, and we 
now have two great patches in full flower. Each year, mowing is not 
permitted until the seed pods have turned brown, split, and "thrown" 
their seed. Give us three or four more years and we will have most of 
the "cultivated" half of our five acres covered in bluebonnets. The 
other wildflowers we have are mostly planted by birds -- 
we still haven't any Indian paintbrush, but there are winecups, mealy 
blue sage, rain lilies, Mexican primroses, and all manner of 
unidentified tiny things that bloom. And in a month or so, there will 
be standing cypress and Maximillian sunflowers. And more DYC's.

So don't let anybody tell you that flowers won't grow out of rocks, 
or that Texas is all sagebrush and cactii. As a matter of fact,I 
can't grow a sage to save my life, and our only cactii are in the 
house -- except prickly pear, and we keep a bit of that around to 
provide napolitos and for the blooms -- which can be spectacular.

About those sage. Maybe what I need to do is have my native-born 
Texan plant a few!  Pat