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Brenda's Garden
by Brenda Beust Smith

Monday, October 31, 2011

Wildflowers obvious choices for re-landscaping Brenda's Garden after Ike

Sales of this poster benefit the Jane Long Society"What is a weed?  A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered."
 -- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Fortune of the Republic, 1878

Talk about frustrating!

For the recent Jane Long Festival on Bolivar Peninsula, I was asked to give a talk on native plants of Bolivar for the accompanying Jane Long Lecture Series.  (Jane Long, in case you don't know, is best known as the Mother of Texas.  But her influence went far, FAR beyond
her brief-but-incredible stay on Bolivar Peninsula.)

Actually, tho, the lecture sponsors wanted help for peninsula residents attempting to re-landscape after Ike swept this historical cape so clean it was almost literally a single beach from Gulf to Bay. 

So my focus was more on plants that might (or we know did) exist at the time of Jane Long (1820-1822) and were still around today. 

Okay, so some folks call these weeds.  NOT!  They're actually my kind of plant!

As strange as it may sound today, historical records do mention pine trees almost all the way to the ferry landing, and at least one bear crossing the ice that covered the channel between Bolivar and Galveston during one of the coldest winters on record.

ASIDE: During which Jane gave birth to a child that survived while left all alone save for two small girls with her. Impossible to imagine today when we don't even want to go outside if it's too hot, too cold, too many mosquitoes, etc.  I now have two framed Barbara Prenger "Jane Long" sketches over my bed at the beach and my desk in Houston to remind me not to be such a wimp about things!! A Bolivar Peninsula artist, Barbara captured Jane in her famous cannon pose for the official Festival sketch.

Barbara Prenger's offical Festival poster (left) is available from the
Jane Long Society.

So back to the flowers.  On the poster at the top of the page are just a few of the flowers that I have been photographing for over 45 years on Bolivar, so I know they're hardy and can take anything (almost) Mother Nature can throw at them.  (Click Here for a full size poster).

All have returned since Ike.  Every plant pictured on this "Wildflowers of Bolivar" poster would work well in home landscapes.

Moving clockwise around the poster starting in the upper left:

CORAL BEAN.  Good for back of bed.  Thorns.  Full sun.  Fire engine red bean pods that almost glow in the sunlight.  Hummers love.  5-8 ft. tall but can be pruned shorter.

PASSION VINE.  A favorite of monarch.  Incredibly beautiful purple flowers that have a wonderful backstory.  Spanish missionaries saw all the symbols of Christ's Crucifixion in the blooms.  Sun.  Unfortunately, it might love you TOO much, so it needs room to spread.  On a back fence would be ideal.

GAILLARDIA.  Another great backstory.  Early Indians used to say that all the flowers were once yellow.  But as foreigners invaded their lands, and their blood was spilled during massacres, parts of the flowers were stained forever.  That's why almost no two are alike, each combining red, orange and yellow in varying patterns.  Sun. 

BLACK-EYED SUSANS.  This was the most incredible year I've ever seen for these flowers on Bolivar.  They were gorgeous and so abundant, even during the worst part of the drought.  Easily found in almost every nursery.  They like sun but can take some shade.

MORNING GLORIES.  These are the wild ones we see growing all over.  They're as hardy as the "Heavenly Blue" so popular as a heritage plant.

BLUEBELLS.  Purplish-blue flowers.  These like Bolivar ditches, where they grow in full sun.  If you order bluebell seed, make sure it's TEXAS bluebell seed.  There is another bluebell grown "up nawth" that is not the same flower at all.

SEASHORE MALLOWS.  I've transplanted these into my home (Aldine) in North Houston and they did well . . . for a while.  But then, I don't really take care of anything, so don't go by me.  We're at the beach all summer when we should be home watering.  They grow about 5' tall, with these delightful little pink hibiscus-like flowers up and down the stalks.

COREOPSIS.  Great home garden plant.  Available in most nurseries.  Seldom get over a foot or two high, lots of flowers, perennial, sun.

BUTTERCUPS.  Officially these are known as Pink Evening Primroses.  Hard name for us, because most folks think of evening primroses as yellow. And primroses as a completely different plant altogether.  We call them buttercups because the flower "cups" are filled with yellow pollen and if you smush one on someone's nose, the nose is left with a bright yellow tip.  These grow easily in lawns and smart gardeners just mow around them while they're in bloom.  When they stop blooming, just mow them down and let the lawn grass take over.  It will.  Then they'll return early the next spring and you can mow around them again until they're finished.  They'll reward you with an incredible pink display.

Sales of this poster at top benefit the Jane Long Society and they make great placemats (they're 11" x 17" and laminated).  Think Christmas gift!  They can be ordered from me, $12 each (that includes pph).  Make checks payable to Brenda B. Smith and write "Bolivar Wildflower Poster" on the memo line.  Mail to: 

Bolivar Wildflower Poster, 14011 Greenranch Dr., Houston, TX 77039

Getting back to relandscaping after Ike, no matter where you are, Houston Audubon Society has developed an incredible website page called "Bolivar Naturally."  Bolivar is an important part of the International Flyway, a migration route that draws birders from all over the world.

Having this important stopover site destroyed by Ike was intolerable for these folks, and they are urging everyone along the Texas Gulf Coast to replant bird-/butterfly habitat type plants as quickly as possible.  To help, they've designed this wonderful resource that offers excellent advice:

To reach this website, log onto, and click on Bolivar Naturally.  Or just click on the "Bolivar Naturally" link.  


"THE LAZY GARDENER'S GUIDE ON CD" — Specifically for Houston area gardens: monthly do-now reminders & gardening advice. 12 pre-designed gardens for butterflies, hummers, sun, shade and more. A gardening book on CD. $20. Make checks payable to Brenda B. Smith & mail to: Lazy Gardener's Guide on CD, 14011 Greenranch,
 Houston, TX 77039-2103.

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