Uncurling Blues

Anyone coming upon the tightly clustered buds of Phacelia congesta for the first time could be forgiven for assuming its flowers would be white. Instead, they emerge as a beautiful purple to lavender-blue, giving the plant its common name of ‘blue curls.’

As the buds mature, they begin to separate and uncurl, providing a second common name for the plant: caterpillars. A favorite Texas garden flower because of its abundant nectar — and deer resistance — blue curls grow easily from seed, and often form large colonies.

Most references indicate a March to May bloom time for blue curls; as summer heat arrives, they fade from the scene. In fact, the first three photos showing plants in various stages of opening were taken in Goliad on March 5.

That said, only one day prior, in the Rockport cemetery, the process of uncurling was nearly complete; many of the flowers already were beginning to fade. Goliad and Rockport are only sixty miles apart; it was a good reminder that local conditions, including temperature, hours of sunlight, and rainfall can make quite a difference in a plant’s life cycle.


Comments always are welcome.

Eudora Welty Pens a Gardener’s Plea

Someone forgot to wipe his chin when he left the flower bed!

Having praised the creativity, intelligence, and playfulness of our squirrels, it seems only fair to give equal time to an opposing opinion: that the creatures roaming our neighborhoods are sneaky and destructive, not to mention determined to wreak havoc on our gardens and our homes.

Gardens are especially vulnerable, as American author Eudora Welty knew. Like Emily Dickinson, Welty loved her gardens as well as her writing. The garden at her home, designed and created in 1925 by her mother, Chestina Welty, is maintained today by garden restoration consultant Susan Haltom and a group of volunteers who have brought the garden back to its 1925-1945 glory.

A book detailing the garden’s history, One Writer’s Garden, includes a parody of William Blake’s poem “The Tyger.” Welty wrote the parody herself, attached it to a stick, then posted it in her garden as a warning and a plea. Even as a squirrel lover, I have to admire the humor.

Squirrel, squirrel, burning bright,
Do not eat my bulbs tonight!
I think it bad and quite insidious
That you eat my blue Tigridias.
Squirrel, Sciurus vulgaris,
Leave to me my small Muscaris;
Must you make your midnight snack, mouse,

Of Narcissus Mrs. Backhouse?
When you bite the pure Leucojum,
Do you feel no taint of odium?
Must you chew till Kingdom Come
Hippeastrum advenum?
If in your tummy bloomed a lily,
Wouldn’t you feel sort of silly?
Do you wish to tease and joke us
When you carry off a crocus?
Must you hang up in your pantries
All my Pink Queen Zephyranthes?
Tell me, has it ever been thus,
Squirrels eat the Hyacinthus?
O little rodent —
I wish you wo’dn’t!

Comments always are welcome.

Spigelia Times Two


During my explorations of the area surrounding the San Bernard Oak, the most intriguing discovery involved this tiny flower. I’d never seen anything like it and, as it turned out, there’s a very good reason.

Spigelia texana, or Texas pinkroot, is one of our state’s endemics. Unlike other members of the genus found in the state, it’s considered rare, and occurs in only a few counties.  A member of the family Loganiaceae, the genus contains around sixty species; Spigelia honors Adriaan van den Spiegel (1578-1625), professor of anatomy at Padua. Most plants in the genus are known as pinkroots.

Spigelia texana can be found in bottomland hardwood forests along the east Texas coastal plain, in soil containing sand or clay. Only a few inches tall, its funnel-shaped flowers are about a half-inch long, and marked inside with the greenish lines that help to identify it. Another species found in the state, the prairie pinkroot (S. hedyotidea), is similar in appearance, but contains lavender lines inside the flower.

A third species known as Indian pink (Spigelia marilandica), is far more common, reaching from Florida across the Gulf coast states to far eastern Texas. Its bright red and yellow flowers are favored by gardeners because of its color, it’s tendency to clump, and its attractiveness to hummingbirds.

Jason, of Garden in the City, was kind enough to share photos of his Indian pinks. Once I’d identified Texas pinkroot, its similarity in shape to Indian pinks became obvious.

As its name suggests, the prairie pinkroot (S. hedyotidea), is found farther inland. This photo by Bob Harms shows the clear resemblance to the Texas pinkroot; since prairie pinkroot grows in areas I also visit, I may recognize it if I come across it there.


Comments always are welcome.

The Hand of a Hidden Gardener

Narcissus, backed by bluebonnets and coreopsis – Rockport City Cemetery

Wildflowers are the primary spring attraction at the Rockport City Cemetery, but there can be surprises.

Any non-wild flowers there usually are non-living as well: made of plastic or silk. This year, a few non-native but entirely alive flowers suggested the work of a human hand. They added a different kind of beauty to the scene, and may have been planted in memory of a family member or friend who was especially fond of them.

Bud of Leucojum aestivum, or summer snowflake

I was delighted to find examples of Leucojum aestivum, the so-called summer snowflake. I’ve often seen photos of the flower from England or our northeastern states, but until this trip, I’d seen only one actual flower: an apparent escapee from a garden at a nearby historic plantation.

The small, graceful flowers are delightful. I was especially taken with the shape of the stamens, which looked to me like bits of tubular pasta. The flowers are pollinated by bees, and a closer look at the pollen scattered about on the inside of this flower suggests that it’s been visited by at least one very busy bee.

A little online exploration revealed that these plants will naturalize very well in parts of our state. If we can’t have snow, at least we can have snowflakes.


Comments always are welcome..
Click any image for greater size and more detail.
For a great look at snowdrops, see this post from Pete Hillman.

A Wetland Treasure

Louisiana canna (Canna glauca) ~ Pineywoods Native Plant Center, Nacogdoches

With its feet firmly planted in the water, its long, slender leaves arrayed around a sturdy stalk, and its gently curving petals, the plant’s appearance first suggested an iris: a beautiful if somewhat puzzling version of the irises native to Texas.

In fact, I’d come across Canna glauca, a member of the Canna family native to Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and South Carolina in the United States. The plant favors a wet environment, and  often goes by the names water canna, or Louisiana canna. The specific epithet glauca refers to its blue-green leaves.

I’ve never been a fan of so-called canna lilies, which aren’t lilies at all, but members of a genus which originated in tropical areas of the Americas before being introduced into other parts of the world. But C. glauca, less frowsy than many canna cultivars, caught my eye with its color and simpler form.

Its seed pods are as interesting as the flower is beautiful, and reminiscent of some exotic Asian fruit. Although cannas are easily propagated by dividing their underground rhizomes, they can be started from seed.

Each pod contains one to three fairly large black seeds which require scarification, soaking, and consistent warmth for germination to occur. It seems to be quite a process, but the reward is obvious: another native canna to enjoy.


Comments always are welcome.