Saturday, May 7, 2016

Celebrating National Wildflower Week!

The first full week in May is designated National Wildflower Week by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin.  The center formerly marked the occasion with a tour of native plant gardens in the Austin area, but sadly the tour has been discontinued.  So this week I honored our local wildflowers with a couple of my own tours.

I began the week in appropriate fashion with a visit to Sheryl Smith-Rodgers and James Hearn's garden in Blanco, about an hour north of San Antonio. Sheryl blogs at Window on a Texas Wildscape and recently mentioned in a post that she and James would be celebrating their 10th anniversary by opening their garden.  Count me in along with my friend Melody who is also a fan of Sheryl's blog.  As an added bonus, their garden was featured that same Saturday morning in a wonderful segment on Central Texas Gardener.  Since the new shows are up on You Tube by Thursday I was able to check out the preview.  We made the hour's drive through the gorgeous Texas Hill Country to the historic town of Blanco and knew we were in the right place as soon as we spotted The Meadow on the corner.

After a warm welcome from Sheryl, we mingled with family and friends while exploring her gardens
under grand old live oaks.

Sheryl focuses on Texas native plants so we enjoyed seeing many plants that are unusual in garden settings.  I collected lots of tag photos to remind since she has a number of native plants I'd not heard of or seen in gardens before.

Fascinating collection of plants.

The garden has been designated as a Texas Wildscapes Wildlife Habitat demonstration site by Texas Parks & Wildlife.

Then we headed over to The Meadow for a closer look.  We actually walked around to the road and not through the meadow, but I loved this Texas-style cedar gate.

Sheryl and James purchased the lot next door and left all the native plant species in place while culling out invasives in the process.

Sheryl created tags with links to the NPIN or native plant database.  Melody tried several with her phone and they worked great.

Again, I was fascinated by plants I was not familiar with like this Zizotes milkweed.  We also spotted Antelope Horn milkweed in the meadow.

We had a wonderful time and you can see Sheryl's photos of their special day on her blog here.  She invited us back and we might just take her up on that with a few more of our like-minded gardening friends.  I still get amazed at all the special places blogging takes me and the wonderful friends I make.

Inspired by Sheryl's meadow I ventured out on Friday morning to explore a few remaining natural spots in my own neck of the woods.

This area on an easement is kept mowed by a neighbor who thoughtfully left the native White Prickly Poppy (Argemone albiflora) in place.

Since it is quite prickly I've not collected seeds for my garden but they are disappearing so fast that I might try planting a few along the back fence.

At first glance, there doesn't seem to be much native plant life to observe but lets take a closer look.

Pink rainlily and Greenthreads

Snapdragon Vine (Maurandella antirrhiniflora) intertwined with Pearl Milkweed Vine (Matelea reticulata)

Pearl Milkweed vine closeup

Vervain, a number of these members of the Verbena family are native to my area.

Tiny yellow flowers with feathery foliage on the left are Dahlberg Daisy, a plant I have purchased from a local nursery.  Now I know where to find more.  Not sure about the larger yellow daisy flower on the right.

Berlandier's Flax

Scutellaria wrightii

In the unmowed area, Oenothera speciosa or Pink Evening Primrose which I'm trying to reestablish in my garden.

This might be Ipomoea lindheimeri, Lindheimer's Morning Glory.  Texas Bindweed (Convolvulus equitans)

Cirsium texanum, Texas Pink Thistle

Moving on around the corner along a very busy highway these Mimosa microphylla or Sensitive Briar were filling in an untended spot.  I once saw these used as ground cover on a garden tour in Austin and loved the idea.  They're prettier than this photo shows and you can see better photos here.  I tried transplanting a few into my yard several years ago but they didn't stay.   Maybe I'll try again.

There's my target for today's walk.  Where the mowed turfgrass from a business landscape stops and a wildflower meadow similar to Sheryl's begins.

Lots of Indian Blanket flowers and Greenthread appear at first.

A swath of White Prickly Poppies mixed in, I like this combination

Then to my surprise I spot what looks like Guara lindheimeri.  Wow, this plant is sold at local big box stores.  I'll be back to see if I can collect one or two from an inconspicuous spot.  I have no problem collecting plants here since this will eventually be paved over in favor of commercial development all too soon.

I never would have thought to look for Guara until I visited Sheryl's meadow.

More Vervain

Probably Silver nightshade (Solanum elaeagnifolium).  It's pretty, but mostly considered a weed.

Turning down the side street in a future commercial development.

Surrounded by wildflowers on both sides.

Heading back home through the field, I pause now and then to take in the abundance of wildflowers and try my hand at identification.  Bluebonnets going to seed, that was easy.

Those glove-like fingers indicate a Penstemon, but which one (?).  Making note to watch for seeds.

Tiny pink star-like flowers I still need to figure out.

An airy white flowering plant that looks like Baby's Breath with Phlox pilosa which seems to have finally shown up in my garden this year.

Need more research on the white flower since I can't find a native flower like this and Baby's Breath is non-native.

This is a probably a native wild carrot (not sure which) and not the invasive Queen Anne's Lace.  I pull these from my garden, but enjoy them in this setting.

Lots of butterflies and bees in the meadow.

These are orange prickly pear blossoms waiting to open.  I like the bright orange which is less common than the yellow so I'll be back to pick off a pad or two.  Remember, all this will be paved over for parking lots or commercial buildings someday.

It's been fun to mark National Wildflower Week with a special wildflower walk in my own neighborhood.  I'm still working on my ID skills, so if you recognize any of the unidentified flowers or think I misidentified any of these, please help fill in the blanks.


  1. Oh, oh, oh, there's so much I want to share and say! First, THANK YOU for visiting our gardens. We were so honored that you and Melody made the special trip to see them. Thank you! The day was just perfect in all ways. And thank you for the wonderful post you've made about our Wildscape and combining it with a stroll of your own through a local natural area. It is simply amazing what we can find if we only look closely. One of my goals is to preserve the native species that grow in our neighborhood by growing them on our property. Wow, you found a boatload of native species! I'm impressed. Pearl milkweed vine AND snapdragon vine together. Both are favorites of mine. And that maybe-Lindheimer's morning glory is likely a bindweed (Convolvulus equitans). See what you think. As for gaura, just gather some seeds and toss them around. That's how I got them started in the Meadow. Egads, I see dastardly Malta-star thistle in the photo of the silverleaf nightshade (that "toxic" species hosts a lot of critters...check out my blog). If future development doesn't get all these beautiful natives, then the invasives will. And could those star-shaped pink flowers be mountain pinks? Seems a bit early for them to bloom, but this year is weird. Check out small bluets and Texas parsley (I've seen Texas parsley with white flowers on a street easement.) I may or may not have helped. Thank you again, Shirley!

    1. I so enjoyed your comment Sheryl! I'll try the seeds for Guara since I'd rather have the actual native when possible. The bluets look promising for the small flower and Mountain Pinks too. It's just amazing that all this grows so close to such a large commercial center. Already inspired by your blog in the past we have pulled Malta star thistle and that "dastardly" cabbage out of the utility easement behind our house. Those we can't pull we try to cut off before they go to seed. We see progress with fewer of them back there. Thank you so much for your help in getting these flowers identified.

    2. You're so welcome! It's fun to share knowledge, right? That's how I've learned so asking other pepople. And was that morning glory smallish? I woke up this morning and thought ALAMO VINE. That's another morning glory, but its flower is larger. :-)

    3. Alamo Vine, that might be it. I'll get a closer look at the leaves. For some reason it didn't look like bindweed which grows on my fences.

  2. Such a wealth of amazing wildflowers there--both at the garden and along the road! What a difference it makes to allow the native wildflowers to flourish. Thanks for taking us along for a tour!

    1. It is nice that the commercial property owners wait until late summer to mow.
      Always bittersweet to walk here knowing it won't stay this way.

  3. What a lot of wild flowers! And how sad that it will all be paved over at some point. I hope you get some pads from the orange prickly pear! They are among my favorite color, and you have them in the wild!

  4. I'll remember to go back soon to collect seeds along with some cactus pads.

  5. I thought I'd see your outing next to the expressway on your blog today! I was going to the car wash and saw ya'll walking through the wildflowers. They are so beautiful right now and only if you are up close can you see the pretty smaller ones. Thanks for the photos and i.d.'s on those!

    Funny you should mention orange prickly pear flowers because this is the first year that I noticed the one on Roma's fence and I was going to ask her for some pads. (Some for me and you!) Such a striking color!

    1. That's funny you saw our walk! As I mentioned, I plan to go collect some things another day.

  6. What a lovely post. Years ago I was at a local florist/garden shop (since closed) where a customer was asking if they carried any native plants stating she was wanting a more natural look to her garden. After she'd been told "no" and left, the owner got a laugh out of other customers by stating if anybody wanted a more natural look, they need go no further than the ditch across the street.

    Everybody laughed (but me - I went out and took a good look at that ditch!) because that was the attitude then. People weren't looking at native plants as wildflowers but as roadside weeds, the sorts of things you mow down so the easements looked more like somebody's lawn.

    I'm so happy I'm around to see those tides turning. Thanks for the tour of Sheryl's meadow, and for sharing your own roadside discovery walk!

    1. The change has taken place slowly over time but it's been a good one. Now we have several nurseries and even big box stores carry native plants.

  7. What a great Wildflower Week for you! Without reading a word, I knew where you were when I saw the first photo. I enjoyed the tour Sheryl and James' garden on CTG a couple of weeks ago and I am glad you got to see it in person. Regarding the gaura, I pulled up a couple of plants in a vacant field next to a nursery, of all places. The variety I have is an annual. It is in full bloom now and will start to die out in the next month or so. It gets pretty large and reseeds freely. I have another one that showed up in my front yard under my big cactus. I think it is a different variety. It only grows a few inches tall and has smaller flowers.

    1. The meadow is pretty amazing especially driving in and seeing all the flowers on the corner. Guara will make it through a mild winter in San Antonio but is mostly an annual. I'm glad to know it's easy to move into the garden. Those were quite tall, about 18" or so. I'll look around for more varieties now that I know where to find them.

  8. Gorgeous set of photos! We were at Palmetto State Park over the weekend and saw a lot of great wildflowers there that I still need to process. I love finding the small things like that gaura!

    1. While swaths of wildflowers are gorgeous, it's getting down and looking close that is so fascinating.


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