A Labyrinth is NOT a Maze

I’ve always admired labyrinths and mazes.  They connect us to the past, the present and the future.  After seven years of thinking about it, we finally have a labyrinth in the Gayla Mize Garden.  It’s a classic seven course design with a wonderful East Texas look.

LABYRINTH IMAGE FOR NEWSLETTER

The labyrinth is surrounded by a circle of ‘Slender Silhouette’ sweetgum trees.  It’s a unique columnar tree – fastigiate is the term – and the original tree was discovered on the edge of a lake in Tennessee by legendary plantsman, Don Shadow. It was reported to be 60′ tall and only 8′ wide.  Well, Don liberated some cuttings and grafted the clone.  He returned later to get some more wood and was caught by the landowner with a gun.  It’s Tennesee, you know.  He was persuaded to leave quietly and returned later to find that the tree was cut down.  However, it really didn’t matter because the original grafts took and the tree was saved for posterity.  Please don’t disparage the fact that it’s a sweetgum, often hated and reviled for the round sweetgum balls that scatter across lawns and gardens in the South.  Stepping on one barefoot can make you an enemy of the tree.  So when folks ask, does it have balls, I always say, “Yes, it has sweetgum balls, but they don’t fall far from the tree.”

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Even though we’ve talked about a labyrinth for many years, it wasn’t until Eagle Scout Luke Stanley approached me about a project that this came together.  Most Eagle Scout projects involve building picnic tables and boardwalks.  When I mentioned this opportunity, Luke jumped at the chance.  While funding was an issue, it finally all came together.  The project received a boost near the end with Tim Howell’s donation of a Klingstone Paths treatment, a chemical that bonds all the pea gravel into a concrete hard surface, one that is permeable to rain.  It breathes.

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Tim Howell applying a Klingstone Paths treatment to create a concrete hard surface

 

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Duke Pittman tamping things smooth and Tim Howell applying the chemical

So, what is a labyrinth?  The term labyrinth is generally synonymous with a maze.  However, in modern times it’s accepted that a labyrinth is not a maze and a maze is not a labyrinth.  Contemporary scholars and enthusiasts observe a distinction between the two. In this specialized usage, a maze refers to a complex branching multicursal design with choices of path and direction, while a unicursal labyrinth enjoys only a single path to the center. You can get lost in a maze.  On the other hand, a labyrinth is easy to navigate.  It requires no complex thinking to stroll one’s way to the center.  It’s impossible to get lost.  Follow the path.

Unicursal labyrinths appeared early in man’s history as designs on pottery, baskets, body art and in drawings on walls of caves, churches, businesses and homes.  The Romans used ornate unicursal designs on walls and floors in tile or mosaic. Many labyrinths set in floors or on the ground are large enough that the path can be walked. Unicursal patterns have been used historically both in group ritual, for private meditation and in recent times have found therapeutic value in hospitals and hospices.

Our single-path classical seven-course design fits the association of the Labyrinth on coins as early as 430 BC. Even though literal descriptions made it clear that the Minotaur was trapped in a complex branching maze, from Roman times forward labyrinths were almost always unicursal. Branching mazes were later reintroduced when garden mazes became popular during the Renaissance.

Now I realize that the average East Texan may not embrace the psychic and cosmic benefits of a labyrinth.  We like chicken fried steak, Bar-B-Q, beer in a can and hunting wild hogs.  A labyrinth just doesn’t come to mind.  Some citizens are truly suspicious of labyrinths as strange and alien inspired.  However, it’s just not true.  No matter your persuasion, we encourage you to saunter to the middle and then saunter out. To get the full benefit, you should approach the entrance and concentrate on your breathing for a minute or so.  Empty your mind.  Relax.  Then start the trek. Go for a very slow pace.  For our labyrinth, it takes about five minutes to make your way to the center rock.  Sit a spell, contemplate your well being and then take the stroll out.  Science proves that your blood pressure will drop, your mood will improve, and all will seem right with the world.  In these trying times, a labyrinth might just be the medicine we need.

Ray Mize – Another Soldier Has Fallen

Ray Mize passed away March 13, 2017 in Nacogdoches. He was 86 and lived a full life. Ray was a great friend of the SFA Gardens, the University and this community.  I’ve known Ray since the 1980s.  His wife Gayla was the light in his eye.  She volunteered from the very beginning of the Arboretum and in all kinds of city beautification projects.  Ray was always in tow.  He was a cattleman and I ran a few head in Shelby County.  He liked agriculture.  I did too.  So, we kind of connected. It was Gayla that brought him to loving flowers. Behind the scene, both Gayla and Ray had much to do with the creation of the Ruby Mize Azalea Garden. Of course, everyone knew Ray adored Gayla and for good reason; she was a very beautiful, sweet and special lady in our town.

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The road to the Gayla Mize Garden was a long one. There’s about 68 acres of land along University Drive that was owned by SFA. In 2008, Dr. Mike Legg in Forestry and Michael Maningas in Recreation submitted a Texas Parks and Wildlife proposal for a trails project.  The proposal needed collaborators and some matching funds.  That was us; SFA Gardens stepped up and as part of the deal, I wanted to name the property SFA Recreational Trails and Gardens (SFARTG).  They agreed and the University agreed.  Over a mile of trails came together and the SFARTG was dedicated in March 2010.  Well, time passed and the trails were there but no garden.  We did plant a line of the purple spider azaleas Koromo shikibu that are the front of the Ruby Mize Azalea Garden, but that was about it.  There’s a reality at universities: no money, no garden.

When Gayla Mize passed away in 2009, Ray had lost his soulmate. He would drive down University and see that sign shouting out “SFA Recreational Trails and Gardens.”  He would think, “where’s the $%&! Garden?”  The first I knew of Ray’s interest in building a legacy garden was in 2010.  I received a call from the secretary in the Agriculture building.  According to her, a large man with a patch on one eye had walked in to the main office.  He was carrying an axe and a crosscut saw wanting to know “where is that $#%!& Dave Creech?  He needs to get to work.”  To be honest, Ray kind of scared the ladies there in the front office.  I had moved my office to the Tucker House at the Pineywoods Native Plant Center and we soon got connected.  Ray was interested in that that frontage along University as a legacy for Gayla Mize.   We visited about what might be done.  A relationship was born.

As most of you know, things move slowly at a University. I often say our speed is deceiving; we’re actually slower than we look.  Ray visited with the administration and the University gave their blessing on the idea of a legacy garden.  Well, Ray would give us a little funding and we’d go into action.  Ray told me, “I like to try on a pair of shoes before I buy them.”  We kept at it.  Being stubborn gardeners, we kept chipping away.  It did take a serious effort to get the understory of privet, tallow, green briar vine, and honeysuckle out of there.  We took out a few trees which always add to the excitement of garden building.  We needed a clean forest floor to see what we had. We needed a garden design and Barb Stump sprang into action with that.  After all she was the designer and creator of the Ruby Mize Azalea Garden.  Who better than her!  We had to deal with some drainage issues.  There were plants to acquire and grow.  There was building a trail system inside the eight acres of garden.  In 2011, when Ray was convinced he was on the right track and our crew was up to the task, he stepped up and provided the legacy endowment.

Well before we made a serious run at planting azaleas, camellias and Japanese maples, I gave Ray a call and said get to the garden and I wanted him to plant the very first tree.  Burrows Creek defines the northern edge of the Gayla Mize Garden and we planted a nice baldcypress.  It remains to this day and I suspect it’ll be there for a few thousand years.

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Ray Mize planting the first tree in the garden in 2010

The dedication of the Gayla Mize Garden took place April 16, 2012.

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Dedication April 16, 2012

 

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Ray Mize and President Baker Patillo, April 16, 2012

Ray was no average donor. He provided us with over-the-shoulder attention all the time.  Ray was old school.  Skip the paperwork, roll up your sleeves, and make it happen now.  He’d catch me in my office or the garden and never fail to nudge me to move faster.  We needed more flowers.  What the heck was I doing with my time?  I said trails take time.  Before I knew it, he had enlisted his grandson Ryan Cupit to help us get the trail base in.  Why wasn’t the gazebo finished? We’re working on it. Did I understand what it meant to make hay when the sun shines? Yes, I’m trying.  Did he have to bring some of his folks in there to make something happen?  I’d explain that it takes one hundred years to build a garden, two hundred if you don’t rush it.  He wasn’t convinced.  Ray was a man on a mission.  Our conversation usually ended with him saying, “Am I going to have to go talk to Baker?”  That, of course, is the SFASU President, Baker Patillo.  I hoped he was bluffing but it did provide additional incentive.  Ray liked to tease and he always let me know at the end of our visits how pleased the way the garden was growing.

Ray truly loved the garden. It was an important connection to Gayla and to everyone in our community.  The Agriculture in him meant he understood what it’s like to grow things on a big scale and what drought, floods and freezes can do.  He had empathy.  Ray noticed when the parking lot was full and that always made him feel good.  He liked the place being used.  Ray was more than a supporter; he was an aggressive participant for a greener Nacogdoches.  Leaving a legacy for Gayla, for his two children Jimmy and Lysa, for all his grandchildren, and for all the citizens of Nacogdoches, well, this was Ray’s way of paying it forward. When I walk the garden now, I feel there’s someone above pointing out all the stuff we need to be doing.  I suspect it’s Ray and I’ll bet anything Gayla has him planting something in God’s back forty.

Cunninghamias Need a Fan Club

Cunninghamia is referred to as China fir and is generally regarded as the most “primitive” surviving member of the Cupressaceae. It is not a fir (Abies) and most authors treat this evergreen conifer as a genus of two similar species, C. konishii of Taiwan and C. lanceolata of mainland Asia.  More recent studies have identified C. konishii in China and Vietnam as well. There’s another softer foliaged version that does well in East Texas, C. unicaniculata, which is considered, again, as a variety of C. lanceolata.     The Flora of China treats lanceolata and konishii as varieties of C. lanceolata, but other sources treat them as two separate species.  Let’s just say the nomenclature is still somewhat undefined.

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Trees can reach over 100′ tall and over 6′ in diameter and are generally blessed with  pyramidal, dark green crowns. Bark is gray to reddish brown with fissures that crack into flakes that expose the inner bark.  Single trunk species are dramatic in the landscape. Over a century ago the trees were occasionally planted in landscapes, parks and courthouse squares in East Texas.  There were no doubt part of the mix of things brought into Texas out of Tennessee nurseries.  In Nacogdoches, we have some rather beautiful trees Scattered here and there.

They are indeed survivors.  There’s one nice tree in Nacogdoches, TX that rests at the front of the Westminster Presbyterian church on North street.  It’s a three trunker and while it’s a bit ratty, it remains quite a patriarch in our fair city.

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I’ve encountered the tree all across the South and they no doubt date back to an era when the tree was obviously appreciated.  What drove the plantings remains somewhat of a mystery.  After all, it often features fallen branches, and the dead and dying spiny needles are no joy to the barefoot crowd.  Still the tree persists without attention or much care.

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C. lanceolata on North Street, Nacogdoches, TX

 

There’s one form that should be planted and it sports clean foliage most of the time.  We have several C. unicaniculata at SFA Gardens, including one that dates back to the 1980s.  They do root and we’ve multiplied them for giveaways and special friends that like the rarely encountered tree.

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The center tree is C. unicaniculata of good form in our collection

 

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C. unicaniculata is soft needled

China fir can be rooted but it is agonizingly slow.  Large cuttings taken in the winter and given bottom heat under mist will root after three or four months.  Moved to a shade house they take their time deciding to survive – or not – and in a year or two they can make a reasonable small tree.  They cuttings exhibit plagiotropic growth.  That is, the cutting never realizes it’s supposed to be a tree, choosing instead to think it’s a branch.  Cutting back the resultant rooted branch can force a shoot that finally becomes a decent leader.  Perhaps this is why the tree is rarely seen in commerce.

For the conifer enthusiast, there are several dwarf varieties to choose from but the fan club remains small.  For someone looking for an evergreen conifer rarely seen, this may be the tree for you.

TEXAS ASSOCIATION OF BOTANICAL GARDENS AND ARBORETA – TABGA

tabga-grapevine-2017TABGA CONFERENCE, GRAPEVINE BOTANICAL GARDENS, GRAPEVINE, TEXAS – FEB 23-24, 2017

In an attempt to organize all the Botanical Gardens, Arboreta and Public Gardens and Parks under a single umbrella – the Texas Association of Botanical Gardens was created in 1991. The individuals behind the formation of the organization were Paul Cox (retired from the San Antonio Botanical Garden), Henry Painter (Fort Worth Botanical Garden), Linda Gay (retired from the Mercer Arboretum, now at Arborgate) and Dave Creech (SFA Gardens). An agreement was reached that the TABGA would have no by-laws, no committees could be created, and there would be only one annual meeting per year – and the host for each annual meeting had to cover all the costs. Since those early days, annual meetings, usually in February, have been well attended – and provide Directors and staff the opportunity to get together, review the past year, and share in the joys and tribulations of gardening in Texas. Select nurserymen and landscapers often intend as invited guests.  While not all of the gardens of Texas attend the annual conference, most do.  The following list is a good starting point for those looking for a listing of the public gardens in Texas. If you find any problems with the list or descriptions, please contact Dr. Dave Creech at dcreech@sfasu.edu – who is semi-retired and cheerfully serves as the informal webmaster of this one web page Association.  It’s what happens when an army of professionals keeps it simple.

NORTH TEXAS

CLARK GARDENS BOTANICAL PARK

567 Maddux Road, Weatherford, TX; Mailing Address: P.O. Box 276 Mineral Wells, TX 76068; Phone 940.682.4856; ; Fax 940.682.4078 Email: info@clarkgardens.com; Director – Carol Clark Montgomery carol@clarkgardens.com; Event Coordinator – Melissa Barry Melissa@clarkgardens.com; Group Tours, Memberships and Administrative Assistant -Beverly Hayes Beverly@clarkgardens.com

Surrounded by native woodlands and tucked away down a country road between Weatherford and Mineral Wells, is Clark Gardens Botanical Park. Its story is one of hard work, dreams and the visions of Max and Billie Clark. What began as the Clark’s private garden in 1972 – a small personal endeavor of traditional landscaping on this rugged Texas hillside – is now a botanical masterpiece. Much of this world of tranquility – this unexpected treasure – was sparked by Billie Clark’s inspirations. In 1999, Max and Billie established the Max and Billie Clark Foundation and donated 143 acres, including the gardens, to this new non-profit organization. The gardens are an educational and scientific facility as well as a working model of beautiful, yet sustainable, landscapes. The native Texas and Texas adaptable plants the park exhibits are low maintenance and many are drought tolerant. On April 22, 2000, Clark Gardens opened its gates to the public and has been declared one of the most beautiful gardens in Texas. Visitors may take a photo journey of the making of Clark Gardens Botanical Park, and read more about its unique history when they visit the History House in the Park’s West Garden Area.

CHANDOR GARDENS

Box 255, 711 West Lee Ave., Weatherford, Texas 76086; 817-361-1700 Steven Chamblee, Horticulturist – schamblee@weatherfordtx.gov

Weaving the mysterious elements of Chinese architecture into the elegance of a formal English garden, the 3.5-acre former estate of portraitist Douglas Chandor was designed & built to delight your heart and revive your senses. Each of the garden’s fifteen rooms will enchant you. From the 20 foot stone boulder waterfall to the formal bowling green to the mysterious dragon fountain, something wonderful awaits you around every bend.

DALLAS ARBORETUM

825 Garland Road, Dallas, Texas 75218; Phone: 214-327-8263; 214-327-4901 Event Hotline; Jenny Wegley, Horticulturist – jwegley@dallasarboretum.org

The Dallas Arboretum is a sixty-six acre arboretum and botanical garden. It is devoted to research and education, as well as to public display. Plan a full day here in the spring or fall. The Dallas Arboretum has amazing color displays and has developed a cutting edge evaluation program for new plant materials.

FORT WORTH BOTANIC GARDEN

3220 Botanic Garden Boulevard, Fort Worth, Texas 76107; phone: 817-871-7686; Bob Byers, Director, Bob.Byers@Fortworthtexas.gov; Steve Huddleston, Director of Horticulture Steve.Huddleston@fortworthtexas.gov; Rob Bauereisen, Grounds manager at Robert.Bauereisen@fortworthtexas.gov; Gail Manning, education horticulturist at Gail.Manning@fortworthtexas.gov; Kathleen Cook, landscape architect at Kathleen.Cook@fortworthtexas.gov; Leslie Pool, Garden center coordinator at Leslie.Pool@fortworthtexas.gov

The oldest botanic garden in the state of Texas, the Forth Worth Botanic Garden consists of 110 acres within the cultural district of Fort Worth. It features 23 gardens, among them the rose garden, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, a 10,000 sq. ft. conservatory that houses a tropical collection, and the beautiful Japanese Garden.  Opened in 1973, the Japanese Garden covers 7 ½ acres of varied topography and includes authentic Japanese architecture, koi ponds, waterfalls, and meticulously-maintained plant material, including a vast assortment of Japanese maples.   

GRAPEVINE BOTANICAL GARDENS

411 Ball Street, Grapevine, Texas 76051-5113; Telephone: 817-410-3470; Kathy Nelson, Parks Department, Capital Improvements Project Manager, knelson@grapevinetexas.gov

This garden is a beautiful treasure in the heart of historic Grapevine – an excellent place to enjoy the natural beauty and tranquil surroundings of nature. This special garden welcomes visitors with hundreds of varieties of plants, extraordinary scents to tantalize, and the therapeutic beauty that a day in the garden provides.  The gardens are an ideal location to exercise, hold a wedding or special event and take those special family photos.

HOMESTEAD HERITAGE TRADITIONAL CRAFTS VILLAGE

P.O. Box 869, Elm Mott, Texas 76640; Phone: 254-754-9600; Email: info@homesteadheritage.com

This is an all-organic establishment with planting scattered around the grounds. The Homestead Heritage Village is a working farm featuring a herb garden, perennial borders, old roses and vegetable gardens.

WINSTON PATRICK MCGREGOR PARK

1612 W. Henderson Street; Cleburne, Texas; Mailing address: City of Cleburne, Community Service, P. O. Box 677, Cleburne, Texas 76033; Grace Clanton 817-487-0761; Kristi Dempsey 817-645-0949 or (817) 556-8858

Winston Patrick McGregor Park will is at the corner of West Henderson and Colonial Drive. The land, financial gift and house were bequeathed to the City of Cleburne by M. Frank Scott, longtime resident of the City. The 10-acre park is a botanical style park featuring native plants and plants that are suitable for the Cleburne area. The park has walking paths, a pavilion/gazebo, a pond with fountain, children’s garden, memorial grove and a variety of educational and recreational activities. The house, now completely restored, is used for meetings, small receptions, and other gatherings. The gazebo will accommodate concerts, weddings, and other events.

TEXAS DISCOVERY GARDENS AND CONSERVATORY

3601 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, P.O. Box 152537, Dallas, Texas 75315; Phone: 214-428-7476; Email: TDG@TexasDiscoveryGardens.com

Texas Discovery Gardens and Conservatory is a seven acre arboretum and display garden. It is designed to showcase native plants in an urban environment and teach the conservation of nature. The tropical conservatory doubles during the State Fair as a living butterfly exhibit.

THE HEARD NATURAL SCIENCE MUSEUM AND WILDLIFE NATIVE PLANT GARDEN

One Nature Place, McKinney, Texas 75069; Phone: 972-562-5566; Email: info@heardmuseum.org

A 289 wildlife sanctuary that is glorious in spring and fall. The museum is beautifully integrated into the beauty of this Texas landscape. The Texas Native Plant Display Garden harbors over 200 plant species, including some seldom seen in public collections, like Texas aloe and the native black cherry.

WESTON GARDENS IN BLOOM

8101 Anglin Drive,  Fort Worth, Texas 76140; Phone: 817-572-0549; Email: Weston@westongardens.com

The Weston Gardens in Bloom is a retail nursery covering seven acres and a display garden covering four acres in the gardens. The gardens feature English-style mixed borders, old roses and native plants.

LUBBOCK MEMORIAL ARBORETUM

Clapp Park, 4111 University Avenue, Lubbock, Texas 79413; Phone: 806-797-4520; Email: lubbockarbo@lubbockarboretum.org

A fifty-five acre arboretum and research site, exhibiting landscape use of native and adapted plants.

EAST TEXAS

AMAND BAYOU AND NATURE CENTER

8500 Bay Area Boulevard, Pasadena, TX 77507; Phone: Local (281) 474-2551; Tom Kartrude, Executive Director, Phone: 713 274 2666; Email: tom@abnc.org

ABNC was founded in 1974 as a result of efforts begun by an environmental visionary, Armand Yramategui. Armand foresaw the urban growth around Armand Bayou and strove to have this land remain a wilderness. Armand’s tragic death in 1970 inspired a local, regional and national coalition of people and organizations to acquire the 2500 acres of land now preserved as ABNC. ABNC is a non-profit organization that was established with the mission preservation and environmental education.

BEAUMONT BOTANICAL GARDENS AND THE WARREN LOOSE CONSERVATORY

Bert & Jack Binks Horticultural Center, 6088 Babe Zaharias Drive, Beaumont, Texas 77705; Phone: 409-842-8129; Gary Outenreath, Horticulturist: goutenreath@yahoo.com

A 10,000 square feet glass conservatory displaying thousands of tropical plants. The tropics come alive, with a water lily pool full of fantail goldfish, edged by Victorian water lilies from the Amazon, plus foliage and flowering tropical plants of every imaginable description.

BLUE MOON GARDENS

13062 Farm Road 279, Chandler, Texas 75758; Phone: 903-852-3897

Blue Moon Gardens is a six acre cottage garden, greenhouse and retail nursery. The gardens are clustered about a farmhouse that’s nearly a century old and newer buildings that carry out the same style, this is a cottage garden par excellence. Be careful visiting the nursery; it’s easy to get carried away with the wonderful diversity of ornamental plants.

EAST TEXAS ARBORETUM AND BOTANICAL SOCIETY

1601 Patterson Road at Highway 175 West, P.O. Box 2231, Athens, Texas 75751; email: info@eastexasarboretum.org

The Arboretum and Botanical Society is a 100 acre nature trail and associated gardens. The property includes an1850s dogtrot house as home to a small museum, a large open-sided pavilion and numerous color gardens.

IDEA GARDEN

420 Rose Park Dr., Tyler, Texas 75702 (Highway 31 West at Rose Park Drive); Phone: (903) 535-0885; Fax (903) 535-0884; Email: ggrantgardens@yahoo.com

Right next to the Municipal Rose Garden, the 8,000 square foot IDEA garden offers a tranquil setting, designed for the serious gardener seeking new ideas or for the enjoyment of the casual visitor. The garden features more than 90 varieties of flowers, trees, shrubs, grasses, ground cover and bog plants. Some are new or currently underutilized, but all are adapted to the Northeast Texas area. Also featured are new plant promotions and plants being tested and evaluated for use in our region. All plants will be grown in an environmentally friendly manner using water conserving methods. The IDEA Garden features several composting methods. The IDEA Garden, the Shade Garden, the Sunshine Garden, and the Heritage Rose Garden are all maintained by the Smith County Master Gardeners

 JASPER ARBORETUM AND OUTDOOR LEARNING CENTER

225 Water Street, Jasper, TX 75951 (1 block south of the courthouse); Mailing address: Jasper Master Gardeners c/o Texas A&M AgriLife, 271 E. Lamar, Suite, 200, Jasper, TX 75951. PHONE: 409-384-3721 or call the Chamber of Commerce at 409-384-2762; Email: sharonruthkerr@gmail.com

This 14-acre complex features several park areas sponsored by a coalition of organizations and the City of Jasper. The original plans for the gardens were designed by horticulturalist Dr. Dave Creech at the request of Estelle Debney, founder of the Jasper Arboretum board, with the support of the Woman’s Civic Club. Sandy Creek runs through the center of the park from Hwy 96 to the scenic stone-arched Main Street bridge. The north bank features formal gardens, children’s Kiwanis Park, and Library Gardens (dry garden, rose garden and butterfly garden). The historic Beaty-Orton House built in 1888 is surrounded by the sunny garden (color plantings and heritage azaleas) and the home itself is filled with period antiques. The house is open for tours by appointment only and may be reserved for special events like weddings and quilt shows. The newest addition to the park is the Master Gardener greenhouse and Outdoor Learning Center. In front of the greenhouse is a pergola with brick patio and swings, a favorite lunchtime stop for downtown Jasper. Behind the greenhouse is a potting shed/classroom overlooking Sandy Creek, where otters sometimes play. Next to the greenhouse is the Butterfly Gardens. During Butterfly Festival (first Saturday in October), a section of the butterfly gardens next to the greenhouse is netted over to be a protected butterfly house where children can get a closer look at the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly. One goal is to raise enough money to build a permanent butterfly house that will be open year-round. Future development on the south bank will include a larger pond with fountains, footbridge over the creek, nature trail with Texas native plants and a log cabin nature center. Both the Jasper Arboretum and Jasper Master grdeners are 501(c)3 non-for-profit organizations.

 LONGVIEW ARBORETUM AND GARDENS

Director of Parks and Recreation, PO Box 1952, Longview, TX 75606
Email: info@longviewarboretum.org; Phone: (903) 237-1398

The Longview Arboretum and Gardens will be located on 28.62 acres of city-owned flood plain land adjacent to the Maude Cobb Convention & Activity Center in Longview, Texas. The mission statement states that the goals of the garden are to enhance the natural beauty of East Texas, preserve and protect the clean air, clean water, good soil, trees and abundance of living plants in the East Texas area; to enhance natural and native habitat with a minimum amount of disruption and intrusion, and to build an entity that will reflect the grace of God and His creation that East Texas citizens can enjoy and help preserve for generations.

LOVETT PINETUM

Near Lufkin, Texas.  Jim Carcano, Director of Horticulture, Email: jim@lovettpinetum.org

The Lovett Pinetum began with Dr. Robert Lovett’s enthusiasm for conifers.  On 14 acres near Springfield, Missouri, he began experimenting with planting several different speciesofpine starting in 1970 and continuing through today.  In 1997, the Lovett Pinetum was formed as a non profit to continue the further development and management of the collection.  The pinetum has grown to 108 acres in Missouri and includes a 43 acre site in Lufkin, Texas.  The Pinetum collection includes more than 500 species, varieties, and cultivars of conifers.  Visitation is ONLY by appointment.

MCFADDIN-WARD HOUSE

1906 Calder Avenue, Beaumont, Texas 77701; Phone: 409-832-2134

The McFaddin-Ward House is an estate garden on the grounds of a 1906 Beaux Arts Colonial style house. It is three landscaped blocks including buildings; 40,000 square feet in lawns and 20,000 square feet in garden beds.

QUITMAN ARBORETUM AND BOTANICAL GARDENS (aka Gov Hogg Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens)

100 Gov Jim Hogg Parkway, Quitman, Texas 75783; Contact information: Pam Riley   903-466-4327   (President) pam_riley2003@yahoo.com; Vice President – Jan Whitlock j_whitlock@hotmail.com; Treasurer – Linda Avant; Secretary – Deanna Caldwell; Email: friendsarboretum@yahoo.com

A new 23-acre garden in Quitman, Texas, with the crown jewel being the Stinson house. The Stinson House was built in 1869 by James A. Stinson in Pine Mills, Texas–about 15 miles east of Quitman at the intersection of Highway 154 and 312.  Ima Hogg was instrumental in having the Stinson House moved to its current site (at the back of the Governor Hogg Park) in 1968.  The house has six fireplaces (one in each room).  Central air and heat as well as electrical lights have been added.  A room off the front porch that is separate from the main house was originally used by the family for workers or travelers to spend the night.  That room has been converted to a bathroom.  After the house was moved to its current location in 1969, it was owned and operated by the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife.  The house served as a museum and housed Hogg family furniture for several years until the museum was closed due to lack of funding.  The house then sat empty and unused for a number of years until it was finally incorporated into the Arboretum in October of 2009.

TYLER ROSE GARDEN

1900 West Front Street, Tyler, Texas 75702; Phone: 903-531-1212; email: info@tylertexas.com

The Municipal Rose Garden is fourteen acres dedicated for public display and research. The garden has some 38,000 to 40,000 specimens of more than 500 varieties, mostly modern. The is one of the largest collection of roses open to the public in the whole world.

SFA GARDENS

Stephen F. Austin State University; P.O. Box 13000, Nacogdoches, Texas 75962-3000; Phone: 936-468-4343; Dave Creech, Director: dcreech@sfasu.edu; Anne Sullivan, Administrative assistant, sullivanfa@sfasu.edu; Dawn Stover, Mast Arboretum: dawnstover@sfasu.edu; Elyce Rodewald, Environmental Education: erodewald@sfasu.edu; Duke Pittman, Landscape Manager: pittmanwesle@sfasu.edu

Located on the campus of Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, SFA Gardens includes the SFA Mast Arboretum, Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden, Pineywoods Native Plant Center and the Gayla Mize Garden.  Each of the gardens offers a unique outdoor experience.  From a vast and diverse collection of rare plants from around the world, to Texas’ largest azalea garden, to gardens and nature trails dedicated solely to native plants, and a new network of hiking and biking trails.   The SFA Gardens serve to promote plant diversity in the landscape while serving as a living laboratory for SFA students, faculty and the nursery and landscape industry.   SFA Mast Arboretum was established in 1985, the Mast Arboretum is 10 acres built entirely around themes and is used as display gardens for research and education. A green laboratory and a cornucopia of diversity, this garden serves as a teaching tool for the Horticulture program and is a must-see garden stop for visitors to Nacogdoches, the oldest town in Texas. The Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden – over eight acres, 7000 azalea plants (500 varieties), 200-plus varieties of Japanese maples, 200-plus camellia varieties, 200 Hydrangea varieties, and much, much more, this garden encompasses forty beds and over 1.2 miles of walking trails. SFA’s Pineywoods Native Plant Center is the third garden in the USA affiliated with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center with a mission to display a wide range of plants native to the Pineywoods. With over 2.2 miles of all-season trails and forty acres, this garden is a remarkable island in the middle of a busy city. Finally, the Gayla Mize Garden is eight acres initiated in 2010 and is part of the 68 acres of the SFA Recreational Trails and Gardens with a focus on deciduous azaleas, their hybrids and wide ranging collection of trees and shrubs in our never-ending trials to find plants with promise.

SHANGRI LA BOTANICAL GARDENS AND NATURE CENTER

2111 West Park Avenue, Orange, Texas 77630; Phone: 409.670.9113; FAX: 409.670.9341; Rick Lewandowski, Director. E-mail: info@shangrilagardens.org; Jennifer Buckner, Horticulture Director: jbuckner@shangrilagardens.org

Nestled within 252 acres in the heart of Orange, Texas, Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center is a program of the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation, a private foundation whose mission is to improve and enrich the quality of life in Southeast Texas and encourage and assist education. The unique ecosystem of Shangri La presents an ideal opportunity to further that mission as well as carry on the vision of H.J Lutcher Stark, the man who originally developed it more than 60 years ago. The formal Botanical Gardens contain more than 300 plant species in five formal “rooms” as well as four sculpture “rooms.” Adjacent to the Botanical Gardens is a bird blind which allows visitors to observe nesting birds in Shangri La’s heronry. The Nature Center includes a hands-on exhibit called the Nature Discovery Center, a laboratory, and three outdoor classrooms located deep in the cypress swamp. The Orientation Center includes an Exhibit Hall, Discovery Theater, Children’s Garden, Exhibition Greenhouses, Café, and Garden Store. Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center is the first project in Texas and the 50th project in the world to earn the U.S. Green Building Council’s Platinum certification for LEED®-NC, which verifies the design and construction of Shangri La reached the highest green building and performance measures. As one of the most earth-friendly projects in the world, Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center offers a glimpse of how people can live in harmony with nature. The combination of gardens and nature at Shangri La presents a serene oasis for retreat and renewal, as well as the opportunity to explore, discover and learn. Visit Shangri La and rekindle your sense of wonder.

THE GARDENS AT TEXAS A & M UNIVERSITY

600 John Kimbrough Boulevard, Texas A&M University 2142, College Station, TX 77843-2142; Joseph Johnson, Gardens Manager; Phone: 979-862-1697; Email:  Joseph.Johnson@ag.tamu.edu

The Gardens at Texas A&M University are envisioned as a place of beauty, a peaceful sanctuary on campus, and a place where everyone at Texas A&M and the surrounding community can relax, enjoy and learn simultaneously. The Gardens project will restore, preserve, and develop nearly 40 acres riparian way into an aesthetic, functional public garden to conduct formal teaching, research and extension/outreach activities. The Gardens will serve as an outdoor classroom for faculty and staff to teach students and the public valuable concepts about food production, landscape beauty and the natural environment. Construction began in June 2016 on the 7 ½ acre Leach Teaching Gardens that will serve as an outdoor teaching, education, and demonstration venue centered on garden design, installation and management. The Leach Teaching Gardens expected to be completed in the spring of 2018 will contain a collection of thematic gardens focused on: vegetable and food production; butterfly, bee and bird gardens; Earth-Kind® techniques and Texas Superstar® plants; student-designed and constructed rotating gardens; our garden heritage; and more.

CENTRAL TEXAS

 ANTIQUE ROSE EMPORIUM

10,000 Hwy 50, 7561 East Evans Rd, Independence, TX 77833; Phone:  979-836-5548  and the FAX is 979-836-7236 and in San Antonio, TX 78266 the phone is 210-651-4565 and the FAX is  210-651-4569; Open in Independence Mon-Sat 9am-5:30pm and Sun 1:30am-5:30pm – and in San Antonio Mon-Sat 9am-5:30pm and Sunday 11:00am-5:30pm

With two locations, visitors can wander through an amazing nursery and garden displays that features pass-along plants, proven performers and a plethora of own-root antique roses. Heirloom gardening at its finest.

BEND OF THE RIVER BOTANIC GARDEN

7915 S. General Bruce Drive, Temple, Texas 76502; Currently open as Park rental space only; 254-913-1013; Zoe Rascoe, VP BOTR Botanic Garden Foundation – zrascoe@brc.tamus.edu

Bend of the River Botanic Garden will provide Central Texas with a natural space for learning, research, cultural enrichment, and leisure activities. The 90 acre Garden site will offer venues for public and private events, opportunities to improve health and wellness in a natural setting, cultural and educational programming and research, and serve as a destination for the enjoyment of nature and outdoor recreation. The Master Plan will be finalized in early 2017 with a capital campaign to follow.

 LADY BIRD JOHNSON WILDFLOWER CENTER

4801 La Crosse Avenue, Austin, Texas 78739-1702; 512-292-4100

As a wildflower center perfectly adapted to its environment, this display garden educates the public in the use and utility of regional plants. The garden consists of many small cultivated beds, including 23 theme gardens, and several miles of trails through the wonderful Hill country of Texas.

MAYFIELD PARK GARDEN

3801 Old Bull Creek Road, Austin, Texas 78703; Austin Parks and Recreation Department; 512-974-6700

Mayfield Park Garden is twenty-three acres of public park with both natural woodlands and landscaped gardens, including a herb garden. Not all of the acres are cultivated.

CARLEEN BRIGHT ARBORETUM

9001 Bosque Blvd., Woodway, TX 76712; 254 399-9204; Janet Schaffer, Director. Email: arboretum@woodway-texas.com

Nestled in the rolling hills of Woodway, Texas you will find quaint pocket gardens and a rustic nature trails throughout this 16 acre facility. The Carleen Bright Arboretum celebrates and shares the distinct beauty of gardens and natural environments in Central Texas; it is a year-round focus for community life.

UMLAUF SCULPTURE GARDENS

605 Robert E. Lee Road, Austin, TX 78704; For Museum information, call (512) 445-5582; Fax. 512-445-5583

Several paths take you through the garden to discover over 130 sculptures by Charles Umlauf, an internationally recognized sculptor. Sculptures range from detailed realism to lyrical abstractions. Family groups, animals, religious and mythological figures, and nudes are featured in the collection. The figures are crafted from wood, terra cotta, stone, bronze, and marble. This serene and shady spot is wonderful for escaping the Austin summer heat while still communing with nature and art. A stream runs through the garden, forming small pools at various spots. Both the museum and the garden are accessible to people with disabilities.

WILDSEED FARMS

425 Wildflower Hills, P.O. Box 3000, Fredericksburg, Texas 78624; 830-990-1393; 800-848-0078; email: wsf@fbg.net

Wildseed Farms is a two hundred acre working farm and display garden set up to give visitors a close-up view of some of the crops. It is a world leader in producing wildflower seeds. It includes 70 acres of bluebonnets as well as trails through the growing areas and beside sizeable display beds.

WILD BASIN WILDERNESS

Wild Basin Wilderness, 805 N. Capitol of Texas Hwy., Austin, Texas 78746; Director Monica Swartz, Wild Basin Director; 512-233-1619; monicasw@stedwards.edu

Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve was founded in 1974 to protect 227 acres of pristine Texas Hill Country and to provide nature education programs. Visitors enjoy 2 1/2 miles of hiking trails that pass through woodland, grassland, and streamside habitats. These habitats are home to threatened and endangered species, and hundreds of native plants, animals and birds. Wild Basin’s nature education programs are funded by special events, memberships, corporate donations and grants.

SAN ANGELO INTERNATIONAL WATER LILY COLLECTION

The Civic League Park is located at 24 South Park Street, between Beauregard and Harris Street.

In 1988, Ken Landon joined hands with city officials to create a lily pool at Civic League Park. The neglected pond, built in 1934, as a reflection pool, was a gooey bog when then city parks director, Jimmy Rogers asked city council members to approve an “Aquatic Beautification Project.” After receiving the go-ahead, the two men and members of the San Angelo Council of Garden Clubs rolled up their sleeves and set to work. Soon, thousands of people were flocking to the park to look at the lilies. September and early October are the “Spring time” of flowering for lilies.  However, something is always blooming in the collection April through October. The spotlights are turned on the night bloomers, and the park is also well lit and safe.

ZILKER BOTANICAL GARDEN

2220 Barton Springs Road, Austin, Texas 78746; 512-477-8672; Melissa Bartling, Horticulturist 512- 477-8672 ext. 15; Email: melissa.bartling@austintexas.gov; Elizabeth McVeety, Garden Center Coordinator 512-477-1750; Email: elizabeth.mcveety@austintexas.gov; Julyette Evans, Events Coordinator 512-477-8672 ext. 10; Email: julyette.evans@austintexas.gov;  Website: ww.austintexas.gov/department/zilker-metropolitan-park and http://www.austintexas.gov/department/zilker-botanical-garden

Zilker Botanical Garden is located on 26 acres in the heart of Austin in Zilker Park. Beautiful theme gardens include rose, herb, daylily, iris, fern, and azalea collections as well as the native Green, Taniguchi Japanese, Hartman Prehistoric, and Butterfly Gardens.

SOUTH TEXAS

COCKRELL BUTTERFLY CENTER AT THE HOUSTON MUSEUM OF NATURAL SCIENCE

One Hermann Circle Drive, Houston, Texas 77030; 713-639-4629

The Butterfly Center in a three-story, cone-shaped glass conservatory. It was built and is maintained especially as a living exhibit of butterflies. The conservatory bloomed an Amorphophallus titanium in 2010, which was a signature event and greatly increased attendance.

CORPUS CHRISTI BOTANICAL GARDENS

8545 South Staples, Corpus Christi, Texas 78413; 361-852-2100; Michael Womack, Executive Director, Email: wmwomack@stxbot.org

A one hundred-eighty acre combination botanical garden, with both highly cultivated exhibits and nature trail featuring native plants and wildlife including extensive natural areas and endangered species.

HILLTOP GARDEN

100 Lee Lane, Lyford, TX 78569; (956) 262-2176; Paul Thornton, Botanical Garden Manager pthornton@hilltopgardensaloe.com ; Cynthia Gonzales, Visitor Services associate; cgonzales@hilltopgardensaloe.com; 956-262-2176

Hilltop Gardens is 25 acre tropical healing garden that is surrounded by a 500 acre organic farm. Hilltop Gardens is located in the Rio Grande Valley.

Hilltop Gardens, the historical home of Aloe, is far from the sounds, lights, and energy of the city. It is a place to experience nature….a place to enjoy…. a place to learn….and a place to revitalize your mind, body and spirit with activities that focus on the restoration, nourishment, and preservation of an environment that promotes wellness. The concept of the gardens is based on the healing power of aloe and has been designed as a respite from the hectic world. It’s a place where our visitors can learn, explore and experience nature. It’s a place that promotes wellness of mind, body and spirit. The gardens are surrounded by a 500 acre experimental farm, a 12 month operation that grows premium quality crops. The farm is certified both organic and global GAP (Good Agricultural Practices).

HOUSTON’S HERMANN PARK CONSERVANCY

Hermann Park Conservancy, 6201-A Hermann Park Drive, Houston, Texas 77030; Doreen Stoller, Executive Director; 713-524-5876 ext. 331; doreen@hermannpark.org

A major park with public gardens and expansive green areas.

HOUSTON BOTANIC GARDEN

Administrative Office: 3701 Kirby Drive, Suite 992, Houston, Texas 77098; 713-715-9675; Email: info@houstonbotanicgarden.org; Claudia Gee Vassar, Interim Executive Director: cgvassar@houstonbotanicgarden.org; Jose Leal, Office Manager: lleal@houstonbotanicgarden.org

The future site of the Houston Botanic Garden is a 120-acre site with a mature tree canopy located on Sims Bayou. The natural oxbow and the channel create an island that, along with the southern gardens across Sims, will host a variety of collection and display gardens, event spaces, educational exhibits, and research facilities. The Houston Botanic Garden strives to enrich life through discovery, education, and the conservation of plants and the natural environment.

JAPANESE TEA GARDEN (CHINESE TEA GARDEN, SUNKEN GARDEN)

3875 N. St Mary’s Street, San Antonio, Texas 78212; Phone: (210) 735-0663

This is a Japanese-style garden, with large lily pond and lush semitropical planting. Contains many more flowering plants than most gardens of this type, incorporating native perennials and colorful annuals throughout. This site is designated as a Texas Civil Engineering Landmark and a Registered Texas Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

MERCER BOTANIC GARDENS

22306 Aldine Westfield Road, Humble, Texas 77338-1071; 713-274-4160; Emails: Darrin Duling, Director at dduling@hcp4.net; Anita Tiller, Botanist at atiller@hcp4.net; Jeff Heilers, Greenhouse Manager at jheilers@hcp4.net; Chris Ludwig, Horticulturist at cludwig@hcp4.net; Jamie Hartwell, Volunteer Coordinator at jhartwell@hcp4.net; Maryanne Esser, Board President of The Mercer Society at msociety@hcp4.net

Mercer Botanic Gardens is over 325 acres of beautiful public gardens.  The gardens feature an outstanding collection of gingers, bamboos, and trees and shrubs adapted to the Gulf Coast region.

 MOODY GARDENS RAIN FOREST PYRAMID

One Hope Boulevard, Galveston, Texas 77554; 800-582-4673; Email: Danny Carson, Horticulturist dcarson@moodygardens.org; Donita Brannon, Rain Forest Horticulturist donitab56@gmail.com

A ten story glass conservatory, re-creating conditions in the world’s rain forests. It is home to thousands of flora and fauna. The conservatory includes plants, fish, butterflies, birds, bats, and insects from American, Asian, and African rain forest.

RIVER OAKS GARDEN CLUB GARDEN AND AZALEA TRAIL

2503 Westheimer, Houston, Texas 77098; Phone: 713-523-2483

Several acres of classic old world formal garden. Bayou Bend Collections and Gardens is a new LEEDS Silver building worth a trip and is part of the

SAN ANTONIO BOTANICAL GARDEN

555 Funston Place at North New Braunfels, San Antonio, Texas 78209; 210-536-1400; Executive Director Bob Brackman Email:  john.brackman@sanantonio.gov

This botanical garden is planted and maintained for the purposes of education and research, as well as the conservation and display of plants from around the world. Includes a conservatory, display gardens, formal beds and native planting. The garden covers thirty-three acres.

SUNDERLAND’S CACTUS GARDEN

Route 1 Box 40, Alamo, Texas 78516; 956-787-2040

This is a five acre wholesale and retail nursery. Thousands upon thousands of desert plants live and thrive in this natural rock garden setting, representing about 2,000 different kinds of cacti. The gardeners propagate them on site, thus preserving rare and endangered species. Harry passed away June 4, 2010 and we are not sure of the status of his amazing collection.  No link to a website specific for this garden but I’ve included a description.  Needs checking.

VALLEY NATURE CENTER

301 South Border, Weslaco, Texas 78599; 956-969-2475

A five acre educational nature park featuring native flora unique to the local ecosystem. “A secret garden in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley.”

WEST TEXAS AMARILLO BOTANICAL GARDENS

1400 Streit Drive, Amarillo, Texas 79106;  806-352-6513; email: jackie@amarillobotanicalgardens.org

A four acre garden designed to provide horticultural education for the region. It includes display gardens, a conservatory, a gallery for exhibitions, classrooms and a 1,600 volume library, making it a valuable resource for the community.

BARTON WARNOCK ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION CENTER

HC 70, Box 375, Terlingua, Texas 79852; Phone: 915-424-3327

The environmental education center is a two-acre botanical garden set within 99.9 acres of natural area. The garden features plants native to the Chihuahuan Desert.

CHIHUAHUAN DESERT GARDENS OF THE CENTENNIAL MUSEUM, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT EL PASO

Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, Texas 79968-0533; John M. White, Garden Curator, Chihuahuan Desert Gardens, University of Texas at El Paso, Centennial Museum Rm. 305, 500 W. University Ave., El Paso, TX 79968; (915) 747-5335 Office; (915) 747-5411 Fax; email: museum@utep.edu

A two acre teaching and research garden open to the public for both formal and informal education in the use of native plants in the low-water landscape. This assemblage of 430 species is one of the largest collections of Chihuahuan Desert plants in the world.

TEXAS A&M AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH AND EXTENSION CENTER

Xeriscape Demonstration Display Garden, Texas A&M University, 1380 A&M Circle, El Paso, Texas 79927

A demonstration xeriscape garden, using plants native to the Chihuahuan Desert, as well as other arid regions, for research and education. The High Desert Cactus Garden is outstanding.  I’m not sure of the status of this garden.

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Moody Gardens 2016

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Chandor Gardens 2014

 

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Bayou Bend 2012

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Zelker Botanical Gardens, Austin, TX 2009

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San Angelo, TX 2007

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vitis – Trialing Grapes behind the Pineywoods Curtain

Our goal for a grape vineyard at the SFA Gardens is rather simple.  We want to plant and evaluate as many muscadine grapes as possible.  We have a perfect bottomland spot in the Jimmy Hinds Park.  This stellar native, Vitis rotundifolia, has a lot going for it.

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Muscadine grape research plots at Jimmy Hinds Park

 

Before you stick up your nose in the air and say something undignified, please hear me out.  Give this southern fruit a chance.  First, let’s remember that muscadine grapes are native to the Gulf South.  They are resistant to Pierce’s disease and other maladies that affect their more sophisticated cousins.  You can eat them out of hand and share them with the wildlife that like them about as much as we do.  The fruit can be green, bronze, purple or black, depending on the variety.  Well tended vineyards can produce 8 to 18 tons per acre!  They live a long, long time and can swallow your home and your barn if you leave for a decade or two.  Of course, there are  negatives.  Let’s face it, muscadine wine is not taking home the red ribbon at the enology events. Most are thick skinned a bit seedy.  The fruit ripens unevenly so grapes are normally picked one at a time and not as a cluster.  the vines can be either pistillate or self-fertile so a pollinator may be required.  While muscadine wine enthusiasts in the South, swear by the foxy and robust flavors, others see this Southern relative as unrefined, callous and not worthy of discussion.  Muscadine discrimination is what I call it.

This new planting is located at the north end of the Pineywoods Native Plant Center at Jimmy Hinds Park.  Jimmy Hinds was the first Agriculture teacher at Stephen F. Austin State University and actually farmed with students where this planting now calls home.  Jimmy had a penchant for fruit trees and vines, vegetable gardens and he is considered as the father of modern poultry farming in East Texas. The effort to create the collection led our program to collaborate with Dr. Justin Scheiner, grape viticulturist at TAMU, College Station, Texas – and one of our former students.   It’s that full circle again.  Working with Justin, other universities and a few specialty nurseries we’ve reached 54 varieties of muscadine grapes in the collection.  They are cheerful in the bottomland soils of LaNana creek.  Because of space issues, only one plant per variety is planted, and again, every plant is labeled.

What’s exciting is there are new varieties emerging all the time.  Breeders are focusing on thinner skins and the ability to pick a “cluster” rather than individual grapes.   Eudora is a recent USDA release by Stephen Stringer that produces a small cluster of high quality grapes.  ‘Southern Jewel’ is a University of Florida release, a black, self-fertile muscadine that produces grapes on clusters  It’s one we have yet to bring into the collection.  We are still on the hunt for Loomis, Doreen, Golden Isles, Regale, Sterling, Magoon and African Queen.  Vitis X ‘Razzmatazz’ is so new we’re not sure what to say other than it’s gotten tremendous promotion.  In fact, the first vines were sold by mail order nurseries for $99 each.  Ouch.  It’s a Jeff Bloodworth creation and I think it’s actually 1/2 Vinifera and 1/2 Muscadine?  It’s continuous flowering, seedless (!) and produces grapes from August until frost.  It’s a fascinating plant and flowers may need to be pruned away to prevent overbearing and the vine becoming unthrifty.  Tasty!

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Vitis X ‘Razzmatazz’

Ison’s Nursery has been at the forefront of spreading new clones here and there.  The University of Georgia and University of Florida have made significant introductions.  Stephen Stringer, USDA Poplarville, Mississippi has introduced some and we are blessed with a number of his advanced selections in our trials.  While mailorder is about the only way to get many of the uncommon types, there are plenty of local retail nurseries that carry a variety or two.  Here’s our current list of varieties in our planting.

Grape varieties

Grape varieties in the collection 03-16-2017

 

As for pruning and training, there are plenty of fact sheets on the web that describe the ins and outs of pruning muscadines.  There are a myriad of ways to train muscadines.  We have chosen to go with a three wire system with plants about 20′ apart on rows 15′ apart.  In our system, the cross arms are at 5’6″ which is perhaps a bit shorter than the average Texan but gives kids in the SFA Gardens Educational Program a chance for an easier harvest.  Vines should be trained to a single trunk to simplify care and culture.

Insects and diseases have not been a problem but wasp nests can be an issue.  Snakes often enjoy perching on the branches to grab a bird or two.  Deer are a horrific problem for young plants and in our case we are putting a chicken wire tube around the developing plant.  We don’t like this but this is state property and even though our campus is concealed carry, we can’t take care of the problem the Texas way.

I’ll close with a little story here.  Back in the 1980s, I used to have a peach orchard on Highway 7 near Center, Texas.  “Creech’s Peaches” sat in a good spot for a roadside market.  While the 3500 peach trees was the focus, I did have other fruits and I farmed and swapped a few vegetables.  A dozen persimmons, that many pears, and a small 30-vine single trellis wire muscadine vineyard with 15 varieties planted was just a part of the mix.   When the muscadine were ripe starting in September, I would eat them every day for about a month, share them with friends and also sell a few hundred lbs. on the Houston market via my broker.  One year, I picked more than 800 lbs., packed them and set them in the cooler at the peach shed and called my broker who said she’d pick them up the next morning on her way to Houston.  I kind of forgot about them until a few weeks later I noticed a strong fragrance in the air near the barn.  When I opened the door to the cooler, I realized that the grapes were still there and the crates rumbling, rocking and rolling.  It was a fermentation party.  I called a old timer who ran a famous poultry and hardware supply store in town and told him my problem.  “That’s no problem, bring them to me.”  Well, I loaded them up in my truck and he had me back up to a barn across the road.  A couple of fifty five gallon drums had been cleaned and we’re ready to go.  There were some friends working a big gunny sack of potatoes into slices.  The grapes were dumped into the drum, along with the potatoes and some other “important stuff”.  The drums were covered and kind of sealed.  For the next few weeks you could smell the store before you got there.  I got a call a month or so later and was invited to a tasting.  The wine (?) had been bottled and it was a bronzy muddy mixture and if you let sit, the sediment piled up in the bottom of the bottle.  That’s the “good stuff” I learned.  I also learned we needed to share the bottles with friends because our product would go bad pretty quick.  I was thinking, gee, it’s already kind of bad.  How bad can it get?  Still, it was a good evening.  There weren’t any hallucinations.  While my knees were a little weak, no jake leg symptoms developed and I left cheerful that the grapes were not wasted.

The best time to visit the vineyard at the Jimmy Hinds Park would be mid-September to near frost.  We don’t have a plan to market the fruit.  We intend to share it with our visitors, school age kids,  faculty and staff.  Come and visit!

Ficus carica – Figs for the Pineywoods

Figs are old, odd and other worldly. It’s a big genus.  Depending on your source, there are 1000+ Ficus species.  Figs around humans are an old story and predate the fossil record of wheat, barley and rye.  Enthusiasts think they are the first record of Agriculture.  The worst of this lot are convinced that it was a fig that Eve used to seduce Adam, not an apple.  After all, apples weren’t common in the ancient paths near Jericho.  Figs were.  Shouldn’t we all agree that Eve and Adam covered their shame with fig leaves?

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Fig Variety Plots at SFA Gardens

Most figs are tropical jungle plants but some edge their way into territories that facing freezing temperatures. In the modern world, they are common as houseplants.  From giant banyan trees of Asia to houseplant staples to small leafed groundcovers, Ficus wins. Only two species might be considered major food crops. Ficus sycomoro (a long term fail at SFA Gardens), and then there’s F. carica (the common edible fig).

 TYPES OF FIGS:

Figs are complicated. The fruit we eat is actually a flower inside a structure called a syconium with male flowers above the female with pollen spread by a wasp who enters the structure through a hole called an ostiole.

 Caducous — Smyrna figs: Need to be pollinated to mature fruit. Without pollination the fruit will drop before it matures. Smyrna figs must be grown in the presence of Caprifigs and pollinating insects to bear fruit.

Intermediate — San Pedro figs: Do not need to be pollinated to set a breba (first) crop but do need pollination to set the main crop.

Persistent — common figs: Do not need to be pollinated to bear fruit. This is what is referred to as the common garden fig.

VARIETIES – SFA Gardens is in the early stages of a large variety trial. We are working with Allen Owings at the LSU Hammond station to create a duplicate germplasm repository of varieties and to evaluate their performance over many years.

TAMU  recommends Alma, Celeste, Texas Everbearing and recommends trialing Lemon, Bournabat, and LSU Purple.

LSU recommends Brown Turkey, Texas Everbearing, Black mission, Alma, Celeste, Kadota, Blue Giant.

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Favorites at the SFA Gardens

Fig varieties at the SFA Gardens

 

Fig varieties 03-16-2017

Fig varieties SFA Gardens 03-16-2017

 

PLANTING – Choose a well drained site. Spacing at not less than 16’ apart – can have various configurations. While figs appreciate moist soil, waterlogged conditions are not good.  A surface or subsurface drainage system, berms or raised beds may be a good idea.  Plant in the early spring in East Texas.  We like to plant big healthy one to three gallon plants .  After planting, mulch lightly with pine bark, straw or other matierials.

.IRRIGATION – Critical to good plant growth in most sites. We use daily drip, one emitter per plant on young plants, multiples on older plants. Ours are ½ gph emitters and a couple of hours per day and off on rain days.

 FERTILIZATION – In most soils, a complete fertilizer spread lightly every month or two in a circle around the plant, and well away from the crown of the plant is prudent. Young plants respond to Nitrogen.  Soil tests will indicate the need for P, K or other elements.

 PRUNING – We lean to a minimalist approach. Very little pruning except to remove dead wood perhaps to cut back low hangers and on the ground branching which we do to have an unobstructed view of the base of the plant – for chemical weed control applications, mainly.

DISEASES/INSECTS – Very sandy well drained soils may be a nematode problem. In some years, rust can be difficult.  Birds, critters and friends can take out a crop quick.

 PROPAGATION – Easy by cuttings. June July and Aug cuttings under mist root quickly.  Hardwood cuttings stuck in well drained circumstances and kept moist root well most winters.  I used to tell students that if they couldn’t root a fig they needed to change majors.

FREEZE PROTECTION – Hard winter freezes are the big problem. Single digit events can take figs back to or near the ground.  The main problem is with young plants. If just a few trees, packing mulch, pinestraw, and any other insulating materials into a ring around the tree helps.  When spring arrives, pull the straw back and pray for a bud to break.  It usually will.  Homeowners can position trees on the South side of heated buildings to get some relief from low temps.

 

Cinnamomum chekiangensis – A Really Big Camphor Tree for the Gulf South

The SFA Gardens have always hung its hat on planting a new tree or shrub species as soon as we can hunt it down. One of our patriarch trees fits that bill is Cinnamomum chekiangensis.  If you google this interesting camphor tree relative, you can still find current blogs and fact sheets touting its rarity and good performance.  It’s been in the landscape at the SFA Gardens since 1994.

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When measured January 10, 2017 our largest Cinnamomum checkiangensis tree was 44.5” in circumference (14.2” dbh) and I don’t know how tall, but it’s a well shaped towering evergreen in Asian Valley of the Mast Arboretum.  It’s another one of those surprising performers at the SFA Gardens.  At the time we planted it, I was thinking it’s a camphor tree so it’ll die here in a winter freeze.  No, it won’t.

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This hardy camphor tree has been in the USA about twenty years. I lectured about this tree in late September 1998 and that lecture is still on line, as part of the Proceedings of the Tenth Conference of the Metropolitan Tree Improvement Alliance.  The conference was held in Conjunction with the Landscape Plant Development Center and the Annual Conference of the Society of Municipal Arborists, St. Louis, Missouri.  Here are my 1998 comments on a tree that was new to the USA at the time.

“Cinnamomum chekiangensis, a recently introduced species of Camphor tree, is a promising candidate for east Texas gardeners looking for an attractive broad-leaved evergreen tree. I can’t locate the species in any of my references. Our tree was a gift of Kai Mei Parks, Camellia Forest Nursery, Chapel Hill, North Carolina and was collected in China by her husband, Clifford Parks, a botanist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The species is evidently quite hardy; only in the ground four years, the tree has endured temperatures below 11°F. After seeing a thirty-foot specimen at Camellia Forest Nursery, I am convinced we now have a hardy camphor tree for our region. C. japonicum – the common camphor tree grown in semi-tropical and tropical locations, has suffered limb damage from mid-winter freezes during most winters and is no longer with us. The Lauraceae family is large with some 250 evergreen species, mostly strong zone 9 and 10 residents. This rare under-tested species should be hardy into Zone 7. We have observed the tree at SFASU for three years and have found it to be durable and attractive. It was planted as a small specimen in a raised sandy loam bed in the bottomland section of the arboretum. The tree is fifteen feet tall, an attractive dark-green pyramid, and endured a complete blow-down during the flood of October, 1994 (propped back up, some soil thrown on top of the root ball, and then staked for a few months). We rooted the species in high percentages with a May cutting collection and have about a hundred one gallons to be distributed.”

For twenty years, I’ve thought maybe this tree would just skip on by the invasive category.  It still may but our sole tree had never flowered until evidently this past year.  I just noticed (Jan 13, 2017)a few seedlings under the tree that I’m assuming are from the tree.  The fact our 17 degree F event a week ago didn’t need the 2″ tall children is not a good sign.  Being a Friday the 13th made it even a bit more ominous, certainly sad.  We’ll keep a close eye on this situation simply because it’s a Cinnamomum and we know how the less hardy cousins have done along the Z9 coast.  Bullies.  I

As mentioned in the 1998, it did have a tragedy early in its life, blown out of the ground with roots exposed after a heavy wind.  I shoveled it back in the ground and said, “Darn it!  Stay there!” Cinnamomum chekiangensis has smooth gray bark tempting to tree carvers eager to express their love or a message for future generations. The foliage is dark green, aromatic and attractive and the tree’s form is pyramidal.  Cuttings rooted quite well on our young tree (which was a youthful seedling at the time) and I haven’t tried to root it in recent years but suspect it should root nicely.

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We have other Cinnamomums that are obviously hardy. Most of those are very rare in our region but have gotten remarkably large in the Ruby Mize Garden.  To be honest, they make me nervous.  They are yet to flower and we’ve seen no seed but their growth rate and disposition are impressive.  Time will tell. C. micranthum is huge with beautiful leaves, yet to flower, and is obviously hardier than the literature suggests.  We have four others that have surprised us as well, staying unmentioned until we have more data.  One thing we can say is that the hardiness ratings found in the limited literature are not accurate, at least judging by their performance in the SFA Gardens.  Whether or not they are or should be domesticated will have to depend on their tendency to take over. C. japonicum and C. camphora are known bullies in Zone 9 and 10 of the Gulf South and should be avoided.  They die here in Nacogdoches, taken out quite quickly by even mild winter freezes.

We like other big broadleaved evergreen trees at the SFA Gardens: 1) Machilus thunbergi is an evergreen native of Asia, a member of the Lauraceae family, and looks promising in the deep South – provided selections are sought that come from cold-hardy stock plants. We have seedlings from an old  specimen in Aiken, South Carolina, that endured below zero freeze events and we have one plant surviving of six clones (National Arboretum) planted just before the 1989 freeze, 2) Phoebe chekiangensis, another rare member of the Lauraceae family, has been a durable conical evergreen tree in our gardens. As for the Phoebe, we’ve killed it.  It’s nearly gone from the garden.  The old tree was cut down simply because it liked the garden too much; it’s invasive.  I like the tree, just would like to find a seedless form!  We are still removing chance seedlings here and there, some several hundred feet from the original big tree.  Like the Cinnamomum, I can find little in the literature concerning this plant. Finally, the last tree to mention would be Nothophoebe cavalieri which lives in a protected cove between the two Art buildings.  Even though protected, it still suffers freeze damage in our severest winters.  It does thrive at Mercer Arboretum in Houston, Texas.

Cinnamomum chekiangensis has proven itself in our garden and remains impressive.  Even after twenty years, we still need to hold on to a bit of caution.  I like to think of plants as innocent until proven guilty but knowing the family as we do in the Gulf South, it’s best to be prudent and keep a steely eye on the plant’s nature for invasiveness.  Then, of course, there’s the laurel wilt issue, a new disease just now hitting our bays in southeast Texas.  Emerging disease and insect threats are not a pretty picture.

 

Araucaria angustifolia – The Tree That Refused to Die

The Parana pine in the SFA Mast Arboretum has a long and tortured history. The fact it’s still alive is a miracle.  It was a 1988 gift from Steven and Cathy Da Silva who ran Salamander Creek Farms, a small specialty plant nursery here in Nacogdoches, Texas.  Steve said it should be hardy but he wasn’t sure.  Having never run into the plant way back then, I called around and the tree just wasn’t part of the Gulf South picture.  So, I was skeptical from the beginning.  This is Texas and our summers are just a hair cooler than hell.  Not knowing any better we planted the tree on the South side of the Agriculture building in March 1988 in the middle of our annual display beds.  In fact, on March 13, 1988, we even had a little ceremony for the planting with Steve, five students (Dwayne Johnson, Barry Abatie, Margaret Taylor, Jeff Anderson and Tom Slack), yours truly and, of course the tree appearing in the Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel.  God only knew what the tree was about to face.

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March 13, 1988 Daily Sentinel

For the first two years, the tree settled in and didn’t grow. It looked about the same after two years as it did when we planted it.  It was green, looked healthy enough, but there was almost no new growth.  I would tell students, “it’s making roots”.  To add to the torture test, on December 23, 1989, the Arboretum was hit with a the lowest recorded temperature of all time, a frigid 4 degrees Fahrenheit.  I assumed it was a goner and it did shudder, turn a little bronzy but it just kept living.

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Araucaria angustifolia in its new home asking the question, “Why here?”

Fast forward a few years and we had a new cheerful Horticulturist on board, Greg Grant, and he wanted to do a redo of the South side of the Agriculture building, and as part of the renovation the tree had to go.  I accused him of hating the tree and after all, he had just personally chopped down a tulip tree that came from a seed from a tree planted by George Washington at Mount Vernon.  I agreed but said you have to move it carefully to a new spot on the east side of the Art building, a brand new conifer garden which was designed and planted by a long ago student, Matt Welch.  Matt was one of those rare students who would come to me asking, “do you think it would be OK if I . . . ” and before he could finish the sentence, I would say yes.  My general teaching mantra has always embraced the idea that plant nerds with passion need no brakes.  For the record, Greg’s “careful” part of the transplanting was abandoned and in the move, the root ball broke apart leaving only a few sad and pathetic roots.  It sat in its new home on the slope crying, “Why did you do this to me?”  I assumed it would die.  It didn’t.  In fact, it decided to heck with this, “I need to grow”, and grow it did.  I believe, until someone says different, this is now is the largest A. angustifolia in Texas?

In its new home, it sat a few years adjusting to the shock of such a rude transplanting but it wouldn’t die.  Amongst a bunch of relatives in the conifer world, it finally decided to grow and grow it has.  Through droughts and heat spells never seen before, the tree remains testimony to the tenacity of a species whose kinfolk go back to ancient group of Araucaria-related conifers that dominated forests more than 145 million years ago.

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The Parana pine in August 2006

I don’t know how many years went by before I finally thought, “Gee, this tree is rather cheerful.  We have new growth, the bark is really showing off, and if you squint a bit, the tree looks like it could be hanging out in a subtropical forest in its home in Brazil.

 

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Jan 10, 2017

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Great slabs of exfoliating bark

 

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Interesting bark 01-10-2017

On January 10, 2017 I measured the tree and the circumference at breast height was 40.5 inches (12.9″ dbh).  I’m not sure on the height (40′?) but will get that information soon.  The tree sheds vicious branches that are tricky to the touch.  Spiny enough to deter a hungry Brontosaurus, perhaps.  The tree self sheds lower branches that litter the floor making walking there barefoot impossible.  Not for sissies.

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Araucaria needles are short, sharp and vicious

Several years ago, Janet and I used a “Big Tree Ap” on the phone to visit many of the heritage trees of Portland, Oregon.  One was the biggest Araucaria araucana (a close relative of A. angustifolia) with a 70′ Height, 37′ Spread, and 8.5′ Circumference.  I thought wouldn’t that be nice at SFA!

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Araucaria araucana at a private residence, 419 NE Hazelfern Pl, Portland, Oregon

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Araucaria araucana, Portland, Oregon

 

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Bark of Araucaria araucana, Portland, Oregon

We’ve planted a few other Parana pines in the Arboretum hoping to create a colony that in a thousand years will amaze and befuddle visitors.  Because the tree is dioecious (male and female), we’re hoping to get a mix big enough to get some pollination.  The seed is hard to come by and often pricy.  Parana pine is a really unique rarely encountered tree, a prehistoric relic threatened in its home by land use changes, fire and climate change.  With time, perhaps the Gulf South will be the proper home for these botanical masterpieces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prunus X ‘Purple Pride’ – The Very First Purple Leaf Plum With Native Genetics

Prunus X ‘Purple Pride’ USPP 23742 is a unique introduction.  It’s a burgundy-foliaged seedling of Prunus angustifolia ‘Guthrie’ – a Chickasaw plum introduced many years ago by Charles Webb of Superior Trees in Florida.

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‘Purple Pride’ in June 2012 in the SFA Mast Arboretum

I have admired a Chickasaw plum called ‘Guthrie’ since the mid-1990s. Planted on the west side of the Mast Arboretum, this tree quickly became popular for its fruit.  With larger fruit than our normal Chickasaw plums in East Texas, the tree is also more trunk forming than thicket forming.  With their parents nearby providing directions and advice, I would find kids scurrying up the tree to gather fruit.  In 2007, I confronted one of those  thieving families and told them sternly they could keep the fruit, but would they please bring Dawn the pits when they were through with them.  Believe it or not, several big bags of pits did arrive at her headhouse doorstep.  While Dawn balked a bit, thought this was  “gross”, she did clean them up and then stratified hundreds of seed.  Out of those seedlings that emerged, we discovered five that popped up with burgundy foliage.  ‘Purple Pride’ was one of those seedlings, and it grew into a tree of columnar form with denser branching and it featured strong burgundy foliage in the spring and fall.

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‘Purple Pride’ Little Rock Arkansas, image by Jim Robbins

I queried Charles Webb, Superior Trees, Florida, for the history of Prunus angustifolia ‘Guthrie’ and he wrote me back 11/17/2011, “I, Charles Webb, discovered Guthrie plum in the early 1990s in Madison County, Florida. I was scouting for Chickasaw plum seed when I noticed a single old plum tree with a few large, attractive fruit that were also tasty. The old tree had more dead than live branches and no growth suitable for rooting but I felt the plant was worthy of preserving. I made a single hack with a machete on the back of the tree to induce sprouting. Upon my return the following summer there was a nice healthy sprout that resulted in three rooted specimens that were outplanted in my fruit orchard. These three plants were the source of cuttings for the propagation of Guthrie plum. The name Guthrie was chosen because a Guthrie family was the nearest resident to the old tree. These three trees plus several more continue as our source of cuttings. I hope this information will serve your needs. I look forward to seeing your selection with purple leaves. Charles Webb”.  Isn’t that a great story?

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The original ‘Guthrie’ tree in the SFA Mast Arboretum, mother of ‘Purple Pride’.

 

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‘Guthrie’ in heavy flower

Cutting propagation of this seedling of ‘Guthrie’ was first attempted in June 2007. Since then, Dawn Stover, Research Associate, SFA Mast Arborretum has undertook many rooting studies and found the clone exceptionally easy to root (90+%).  A good starting point for propagators is to choose 4-5” softwood cuttings collected in June and rooted under intermittent mist.

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‘Purple Pride’ cuttings root at good percentages and overwinter well

In the container, ‘Purple Pride’ is very vigorous and a saleable plant can be produced in a three or five gallon container in one year.

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‘Purple Pride’ plants going into a Fall plant sale at the SFA Gardens

The characteristics of this cultivar have been stable and are reproduced true to type in successive generations.  Key features of this small flowering tree include, 1) foliage that is deep burgundy in color with new leaves emerging bright dark red. The foliage coloration is retained from spring through fall, with only slight greening during the summer months, 2) ‘Purple Pride’ exhibits foliage that appears clean and disease free, 3) ‘Purple Pride’ can be readily trained into a single trunk, 4) white flowers that are conspicuous against the burgundy foliage, 5) the red fruit has a nice flavor 6) easily propagated by cuttings, softwood and semi-hardwood under mist in June for best results, 7) strong drought resistance once established for a few years.,  finally, 8) we feel that ‘Prunus Pride’ would be useful when planted in wildlife food plots in the south as the burgundy foliage allows land managers to easily recognize ‘Purple Pride’ plants in a brushland and avoid them during mowing regimes.

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Blooms appear in late March in the SFA Gardens

 

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‘Purple Pride’ needs a pollinator variety nearby for fruit production

Chickasaw plums enjoy a large range including Missouri, west to Kansas, southern Nebraska, and extreme southeastern Colorado, south to extreme eastern New Mexico, to Texas and Louisiana. It is naturalized east to central Florida, north to New Jersey, western Virginia, southern Ohio, and Illinois. It was extensively naturalized and spread by Indians in prehistoric times (Little, 1979). According to Sargent (1965), the original native range was thought to be central Texas and Oklahoma. In William Bartram’s travels through the southeastern U S in the late 18th Century, he wrote that “he never saw the Chickasaw plum wild in the forests but always in old deserted Indian plantations”. He hypothesized that the Chickasaw Indians brought it from the Southwest beyond the Mississippi River (Bartram, 1791).

Fruit is red turning to burgundy. We have seen very light crops at SFA and ‘Purple Pride’ definitely needs a pollinator variety to improve fruit set.  Plant Methley, Morris, or a similar variety nearby.   Tree blooms in mid-March at SFA and usually avoids frost but fruit set has been poor, certainly no comparison to the heavy crops of the parent, ‘Guthrie’.

The tree has been evaluated in a wide range of testing locations.  Jim Robbins, University of Arkansas (jrobbins@uaex.edu) has had the plant for years at three locations: Fayetteville, Little Rock, and Hope. Four plants at each location, full sun in the field, with drip irrigation.  No pruning or training.  Plants exceeded expectations.  Planted in early 2011, the following image was in the Fall 2012.  Jim’s comments are relevant: “A wow plant.  Fast growing.  Upright habit.  Will lend itself to a single trunk tree.  No bacterial scorch.  A burgundy foliage Chickasaw.  Fruiting yet to be determined.  Image below was taken in the Fall 2012 and illustrates upright plant habit.  In these three test plots, there was a trend to increasing growth South to North.”

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Sept 3 2013 Little Rock Arkansas, Image by Jim Robbins

Doug Arnold and Gary Price of Trees USA, Lindale, Texas report the tree looks good in container production. Good foliage quality with no sign of scorch, unlike other purple leaf plums.  Other reports from cooperating nurseries suggest good foliage quality free of diseases that normally torment other purple leaf plums, particularly those with a background of P. cerasifera, the European or Asian myrobalan or cherry plum. Nurserymen interested in getting a start of ‘Purple Pride’ plum or finding sources of this variety should contact Dawn Stover at Email: dawnstover@sfasu.edu

References

Bartram, W. 1791. Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida. In Little, E. L. Checklist of United States Trees. USDA FS Washington, D.C.

Little, E. L. 1979. Checklist of United States Trees. USDA FS Washington, D.C.

Sargent, C. S. 1965. Manual of the trees of North America. 2nd Ed. Vol. II. Dover Pub., Inc. New York. 934p.

Rhododendron X ‘Koromo shikibu’ – A Purple Spider Azalea and her SFA Child, ‘Speckled Spider’

The signature plant of the front line of the Ruby Mize and Gayla Mize Gardens at SFA is an azalea named ‘Koromo shikibu’. This unique “spider azalea’ features purplish-pink strappy flowers with 1 1/2 inch long and ½ inch wide petals  with darker spots at the base.  The variety produces produce a good number of blooms “out of season”, primarily in the Fall.  While never touted for its fragrance, and unlike most indica azaleas, ‘Koromo shikibu’ does have a distinct sweet smell especially if you put your head right into the mass of flowers.  In recent years, others have finally recognized its value and it was given the prestigious “Rhododendron of the Year Plant Award” in 2015 by the American Rhododendron Society.

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SFA’s colors are purple and white so when we were deciding what azalea to line the front of the Ruby Mize Garden, ‘Koromo shikibu’ came to mind. Barbara Stump, our then Azalea Garden designer and implementer, though it was a great candidate for this 880′ long front line.  I agreed.  It had flowered well across the creek in the Mast Arboretum, a single plant we had planted in 1988 in a collection of azaleas and Japanese maples in an area we named “Asian Valley”.  Our original plant was acquired from Margie Jenkins, Amite, Louisiana, and when the Ruby Mize Garden began in 1997, we went back to her with an order.  Margie became the mother of the hundreds of plants needed for the project.

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Margie Jenkins, Amite, Louisiana with a ‘Koromo shikibu’ bloom

‘Koromo shikibu’ one-gallon plants were planted on the inside of a rustic cedar rail fence where they remain to this day.  Under sprinkler irrigation and on a slope with great drainage, they took off.  Over a decade later, when the Mize family, led by the patriarch Ray Mize, created the endowment for the Gayla Mize Garden, it was a no brainer, we just had to plant more.  This created a perfect mirror image on both sides of the wide expanse of University Drive planted to the variety.

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The exact parentage of ‘Koromo Shikibu’ remains a mystery. Most often it’s considered a hybrid with R. macrosepalum (the large-sepaled azalea’) with the pollen parent unknown.  Still, there’s confusion on nomenclature.  In the past, it was listed as Rhododendron linearifolium var macrosepalum, the Spider Azalea, and was renamed R. stenopetalum ‘Linearifolium’.  A recent attempt at nomenclature sees the plant as a variety of ‘Linearifolium’, the Lavender Spider Azalea, and ‘Koromo shikibu’ is now more commonly designated as the cultivar, R. macrosepalum ‘Koromo Shikibu’, and no longer considered to be a unique strain of R. stenopetalum.  My conclusion is I don’t know and I’m not sure I care, so I’ve taken to calling the plant Rhododendron X ‘Koromo shikibu’.  You decide.  The difference between a horticulturist, a forester and a botanist is simple to understand.  Horticulturists like to grow plants and enjoy them.  Foresters like to grow plants and cut them down.  Botanists like like to huddle in rooms, talk about plants and rename them to annoy foresters and horticulturists.  End of story.

There are a couple of forms of ‘Koromo shikibu’ worthy of a place in the Gulf South Garden.  One is ‘Koromo White’.  No one is exactly sure where the origin of this plant derived but one source suggests it was developed by Dave Wagner in Burtonsville, Maryland, and was modestly distributed as “Wagner’s White Spider #1”.  I’ve seen the plant called ‘white princess’ as well.  Evidently, those two names have never really stuck.  It’s mostly sold as ‘Koromo White’.  Whatever the name, it’s a great plant with the same bloom characteristics, modest fragrance and habit of ‘Koromo shikibu’.rhododendron-kormo-white

Finally, there’s the SFA Gardens introduction, ‘Speckled Spider’. This unusual sport first appeared in 2010 in the 880‟ long line of ‘Koromo Shikibu’ spider azaleas that define the front of the Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden. Spotted first by Duke Pittman, technician for the garden, the big branch sport appeared as a bright beacon against the darker blooms of ‘Koromo Shikibu’.  This variety has been propagated and sold under a number of names, including ‘Margie’s Speckled Spider’, a name I deemed best.  However, I guess that was just too long and that name is gone.  It’s commonly seen as just ‘Speckled spider’.  It has all the blooming characteristics, fragrance and habit of it’s parent.rhododenron-speckled-spider-1

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To complicate things, eagle eye Duke Pittman spotted another sport in the spring 2017.  This one was found in the long line of Koromo shikibus of the Gayla Mize Garden.  It’s actually a bit different than ‘Speckled Spider’ and features no striping and primarily white petals with a few purple splotches.  Whether this holds up and stays stable after we take cuttings in June 2017, I don’t know.  Time will tell.

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Duke Pittman’s newest sport in Spring 2017

 

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Sport of Koromo Shikibu with no striping

 

Like in life, some things work out in gardening, some don’t.  This one worked out.  In the spring, the two front lines on University Drive are a fender bender display of purple blooms.  Over the years we’ve discovered the plants tolerates sun, drought and the challenges of its Texas home.  The “out of season” blooming can vary from a little to a lot.  In fact, we’ve noticed late November and December flowers so heavy we worried that the subsequent spring show might be shorted.  Nope, so far, that hasn’t happened.  ‘Koromo shikibu’ likes to bloom.