Denny Schrock

everything’s better with bluebonnets

I spent last week in the Hill Country of Texas in and around Fredericksburg in Gillespie County in search of wildflowers, as well as beautiful gardens and culinary delights, all part of a press tour arranged by Geiger and Associates and the Fredericksburg Convention & Visitor Bureau. This part of Texas is renowned for its springtime fields of bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis), the state flower. Sadly, the extreme drought plaguing the region this year has diminished the show. But I still found plenty of gorgeous flowers to enjoy.

The close up shot of a bluebonnet, at left, was taken in the garden at the Fredericksburg Herb Farm where I stayed two nights in one of their delightful Sunday house cottage replicas. I didn’t indulge in one of their spa treatments, but did partake of a delicious salad sampler lunch in their restaurant. Owners Rosemary and Dick Estenson made certain that I was taken care of well.

One area attraction that was a must-see on my list was Wildseed Farms, the largest wild seed producer in the nation, and host to more than 300,000 visitors yearly. In addition to wildflower display gardens, John Thomas and his staff offer a great selection of landscape plants, gift items, and an on-site restaurant called the Brewbonnet Biergarten, where we had lunch.

Field of pink primroses at Wildseed Farms

Claret cup cactus blooming in display gardens at Wildseed Farms.

One bit of trivia: Not all bluebonnets are blue! Color can vary from pure white to pink to blue to near maroon. Wildseed Farms carries ‘Alamo Fire’ maroon bluebonnet in their online catalog, and has white forms of the plant on display.

The best display of bluebonnets that I saw, however, was at Torre de Pietra Vineyards, one stop on an afternoon Texas Winery tour that included Pedernales Cellars.

Bluebonnets at Torre di Pietra Vineyards

Hinckley's golden columbine

Wildflowers could show up almost anywhere in Fredericksburg. The Hinckley’s golden columbine pictured in this post was right in the middle of town next to the Vereins Kirche, a symbol of the town’s German Heritage, and an extension of the Pioneer Museum. Just down Main Street at the main site of the museum, I spotted some brilliant orange Indian paint brushes on the grounds surrounding the historical buildings on display.

Indian paintbrush at the Fredericksburg Pioneer Museum

Spiderwort growing in a crack at Enchanted Rock

One morning I took a trip to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. This granite outcropping provides fantastic views of the surrounding countryside, but an inhospitable substrate for plant growth. But as you can see at right, some determined plants take root in cracks and crevices, providing color in this harsh environment. For those searching for wildflowers at the park, you’ll have better luck by taking the loop trail around the rock.

I have several seedlings of bluebonnets growing in my greenhouse at home. I’ll plant them in the garden this spring and fondly remember the Texas Hill Country when they send up their fragrant blue and white spires.

Denny Schrock

Poinsettias-Texas style

Sharon Asakawa standing in front of Texas-sized poinsettias at Ellison's Greenhouse.

Sharon Asakawa standing in front of Texas-sized poinsettias at Ellison's Greenhouse.

Even the poinsettias are larger than life in Texas. I discovered that on a recent press trip to Brenham, Texas, hosted by the Washington County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. Along with 15 other journalists, I spent several days in the “Birthplace of Texas”, exploring such sites as Ellison’s Greenhouse, where the photo at left was taken. Sharon Asakawa, host of GardenLife radio show, is a petite woman, but these 6-foot-tall plants towered over nearly everyone. (I’ll be a guest on Sharon’s call-in show on Sunday morning, December 12. Check the station list for times in your area.)

In addition to mammoth poinsettias, Ellison’s Greenhouse grows standard-size plants in colors ranging from traditional red to pink, white, burgundy, orange, and bicolor. One of my favorites was Iced Punch (pictured below), a two-toned cherry red and white variety with distinctive markings reminiscent of stained glass.

IcedPunchwebWashington County also offers many other horticultural wonders. Antique Rose Emporium, gardens at the Round Top Festival Institute, Chappell Hill Lavender Farm, Lavande olive and lavender farm, Windy Winery, and Pleasant Hill Winery were some of the additional stops on the tour.

For those more interested in history or food, the trip included the Washington-on-the-Brazos Historic Site, where Texas declared its independence from Mexico, a tour of the Blue Bell ice cream factory where we were treated to Homemade Vanilla fresh off the line, plus stops at several fun and funky restaurants, such as Royer’s Round Top Cafe with its Carnivore Platter and “Pie for Life” program; R Place, which serves up BBQ and family-style fixin’s, along with homemade cobbler and Blue Bell ice cream; Must Be Heaven Sandwich Shoppe with its unique Sawdust Pie; and the Funky Art Cafe, which is part gourmet restaurant, part art gallery, and part gift shop. The fabulous food didn’t stop at the restaurants, however. My hosts at Texas Ranch Life guest ranch and Lillian Farms Bed & Breakfast also treated us to delectable meals. (Did I mention that I gained 5 pounds on this trip?)

One regret that I had on the trip is that it didn’t happen during spring when the Central Texas hillsides are covered in bluebonnets, the native wildflower lupine. Of course, that’s just an excuse to return to Washington County for another helping of Texas hospitality!