Wildflower is published quarterly by the Wildflower Center. Its content is national in scope with articles about the conservation and use of native plants as well as news from the Wildflower Center. A subscription is provided to Wildflower Center members as a benefit of membership.
Letter from the Director - Fall 2008
In The Gardens
The joys of wildflowers can be subtle – the unexpected pleasure of blooms where none were before, happening upon the brilliant berries of a possumhaw in winter or the autumn sun turning gulf muhly grass to rose.
And while we want everyone to share our enthusiasm for these quiet delights, we realize that visitors to a botanic garden have high horticultural expectations for their experience. In recent years we have focused on upgrading the Wildflower Center’s native plant gardens with greater structure, stronger design and more dramatic plantings, knowing that if our visitors see the beauty of wildflowers in different garden settings, they will want to plant them at home. The gardens now provide attractions in every season, and demonstrate how native plants can perform elegantly in a variety of settings.
The Café Garden, for example, was redesigned last year and boasts colorful masses of purple coneflowers (Echinachea purpurea), square bud primrose (Calyophus berlandieri), western ironweed (Vernonia baldwinii), mealy blue sage (Salvia farinacea) and winecup (Callirhoe involucrata), which bloom in succession from early spring through summer and fall.
Any garden is always a work in progress and we – like all gardeners – will never be completely satisfied with our 12 acres of native plantings. We continuously listen to our members and volunteers who share information, ideas and inspiration for enhancing our wildflower displays.
Wildflower magazine is a great source of expert advice on creating knockout landscapes with native plants. (See the article “Front and Center,” page 20.) Transforming your own landscape makes economic sense now more than ever as water and energy prices spiral upwards. The right native plants in the right place will need fewer resources, saving on your water and maintenance bills as well as expenses for chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Here at the Wildflower Center, we also are working hard to make our gardens a model of sustainable practices by harvesting rainwater and using Integrated Pest Management and organic products. Part of our commitment to environmental sustainability is ensuring a future for our diverse Texas species.
Last year, our nursery manager, Sean Watson, and horticulturist Philip Schulze, enhanced the Center’s plant collection from South and West Texas by collecting seeds (with full permission) from such biologically diverse areas as Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, The Nature Conservancy’s Chihuahua Woods Preserve, Sabal Palm Audubon Center and Sanctuary, Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park and Yturria Brush.
Thanks to their skilled propagation, plants from those seeds are the centerpiece of our new South Texas garden – brilliant Tulipan del Monte (Hibiscus martianus); night blooming cereus (Acanthocereus tetragonas); Wright’s yellowshow (Amoreuxia wrightii); yellow-blooming manfreda (Manfreda sileri) and yellow prickly poppy (Argemone mexicana). These plants happily bloom in the hottest part of summer, because, well, that’s what South Texas plants do.
In our West Texas Mountain Garden, located next to the administration building, long-spurred columbine (Aguilegia longissima) and giant silver loco weed (Astragalus giganteus) are growing beside the previously planted Cochise scaly cloakfern (Astrolepsis cochisensis), green sotol (Dasylirlion leiophyllum), blackfoot daisy (Melampodium leucanthum) and Mexican feathergrass (Nassella tenuissima).
The happy comments of our visitors assure us that Andrea DeLong-Amaya, our director of horticulture, her steadfast crew and the hundreds of faithful volunteers are on the right track.
We like to say that the Wildflower Center is “more than just a pretty place” … but it IS a pretty place. — Susan K. Rieff, Executive Director