Speeding through the upper atmosphere Daisy Mah and I sat in our jet age comfort dreaming of plants that we hoped we would see on our Cal Hort trip to Texas.
Our first find was in the parking lot of our hotel, Sophora secundiflora, the Texas mountain laurel, an evergreen shrub with delicious, drooping, purple racemes that smell like grape koolaid. We found some of last years seed, and being propagation inclined, made them our first souvenirs.
The next day was sunny and cool as we rode in deluxe comfort out of Austin, through vast fields of wildflowers, Castilleja, scarlet paintbrush, bluebonnets, and that scourge of the California irrigated garden, Oenothera speciosa, the Mexican evening primrose. Kristin briefed us on the similarities and differences of our California climate and the climate of central Texas, they having a prolonged drought and late frost, and assured us we would see new, tough and adaptable plants great for our California gardens. We visited the Antique rose Emporium, with many hardy roses "rustled from old abandoned cemetaries and, therefore, guaranteed to tolerate extreme Texas heat. Our charming host Mike Shoup assured us "if dead people can grow 'em anybody can" just the first of many encounters we would have with charming Texan humor.
Next stop was the much anticipated Yuccadoo Nursery and Peckerwood Gardens. The "spikophiles" in the group were ecstatic at the selection of Agave, Yucca, Nolina and Dasylirion. My favorite (I want them not to poke me) was Dasylirion miquilahensis (spelling?) with fine, soft foliage in a lovely mass. Other beauties such as Echeveria runyonii and Dyckia marnier-lapostolle with silver foliage also caught my eye. A short walk across the property we lunched in the garden of John Fairey, Peckerwood Gardens. Large oaks and pines created a cool and lovely high shade under which we saw a number of fascinating plants like Pinellia with its little mouse tails and Eomecon which Daisy tells me grows well in her Sacramento garden. Styrax in bloom caused "oohs" and "aahhs" mixed in with the native savannah holly with its mottled bark. For those interested in native and hardy Hibiscus a stop at Hibiscus Hill Plantation is a must. Although a little early for flowers we had a most interesting introduction to the species of Hibiscus being studied for their use as fiber as well as ornament.
The next day we breakfasted on delicous pastries and coffee in the garden of Jennifer Myers in an outdoor living room next to the fireplace. Jennifer's garden was recently featured in Garden Design magazine and was as lovely as anticipated. A formal symmetrical entrance and many pots with palms and other plants gave a Mediterranean feel around the beautiful historic limestone home.
Then we visited the home and garden of James David where we were "wowed" by the use of limestone and formal garden design. The back garden reminded me of the Alhambra with its runnels of water, starting up at the house and continuing pool to pool down a lovely formal staircase into the pond below. The talent of Mr. David and his staff was obvious from the perfect views from every window, the attention to the minutist detail and artistic placement of pots and plants.
My personal interest was the Ladybird Johnson National Wildflower Center, because I want to learn more about Texas native plants that would be useful in California gardens. Their water-harvesting entrance evoked Roman aqueducts and demonstration areas provided beautiful displays of native annuals and perennials. We toured the prairie restoration
areas, heard a docent speak about hummingbirds, and of course ran up a few charges in their most excellent book store and gift shop. As a close to a great day John Dromgule of The Natural Gardener most generously hosted us for wine and cheese, an opportunity to pick up some new and interesting plants and a lively discussion of organic garden techniques.
The next day dawned early with a first stop at the Zilker Botanical Garden and staff led tours of the recently completed prehistoric garden. Home landscape demonstration areas incorporated the native Melampodium, Carex texana, and Callirhoe involucrata, the Texas wine cup.Then it was time to visit the plants in their wild habitat with Eric Lautzenheiser at the Freidrick Wilderness Park. Hiking up the hillside we saw Juniperus ashei, Yucca rupicola, Diospyros texana and more. The highlight of the tour was the rare Quercus laceyi (syn. Q. glaucoides) and a creamy yellow form of Aesculus pavia
On Friday we visited the San Antonio Botanical Garden which opened in 1980. Our tour guide, Don Cox, was entertaining and humerous and I was dazzled by the glasshouse collections of tropicals, especially one unknown plant we dubbed the "suction cup" plant. A serene and lovely Japanese garden was unexpected as well as the floriferous flower gardens. The restoration of an east Texas landscape included the central Texas bald cypress which Don informed us "puts on more weight than an old flame at a high school reunion..." I know I will try to get his Chilopsis linearis 'Bubba' a dark burgundy and upright growing selection good for hot Valley gardens.
Well, I know I'm out of space but there is more to tell, watching thousands of bats pour from beneath a bridge with an interpreter from Bat Conservation International, the fabulous garden designed by John Troy, a collector's garden at the home of Brett Bothe, a barge tour of the San Antonio Riverwalk plantings, the Alamo and Schumacher and Big Red Sun Nurseries. And I know there is something I've forgotten! The tour was more than I had hoped for, fabulous gardens, lots of new plants and fun and friendly people and everyone speaking Latin!
What better vacation could there be?