No Particular Place to Go
So I’m losing my mind the other day (yes, even us mellowed out plant nuts go nuts occasionally), so I head out willy-nilly down good ole Garner Road toward…well…Garner. The redbuds and Mexican plums are blooming their heads off with such enthusiasm that I can even see them “a way off ova yonda.” Windows down, birds are singing, and the cool air feels good as it blasts my hair and beard into the kind of mess that would prompt my mother to lecture this 47-year-old man on the importance of grooming. (Love ya, Mom.)
Lots of plants bloom like braggarts, which is okay because they are truly gorgeous and make us all feel good. (Besides, Dizzy Dean once said, “It ain’t braggin’ if you can do it.”) So along with the spring blow-out of callery pear, forsythia, quince and other assorted harbingers of spring, I take note of one or two yellow blooms off in the bar ditch over there, which prompts me to stop and check it out.
I smile to discover a small native Texas perennial with a tight rosette of thin leaves and inch-a-half-wide cheery yellow flowers gently swaying atop 10-inch-tall peduncles. (Flower stems are technically called peduncles…now isn’t that fun?) The flower petals have four distinct grooves in them, and these grooves are purplish on the underside, which quickly separates this little gem from the vast ocean of yellow wildflowers that are often collectively referred to by plant folks as “DYC’s” (“Darn Yellow Composites.”) Yep, we’re talking about the four nerve daisy, and it’s just begun its blooming season. (It may be botanically referred to as either Hymenoxys scaposa or Tetraneuris scaposa, depending upon the sentimentality of the horticulturist at hand.)
Four nerve daisy is a sweet little native wildflower that is tough enough to squeak out a living in poor-soiled bar ditches and shortgrass escarpment prairies, even during the drought years. But bring her into the garden with a dab of good dirt, a dash of fertilizer, and a dribble of water, and this humble prairie cutie transforms into a genuine garden beauty. Blooming for months on end, she adds a delicate charm to the perennial or cottage garden by forming a soft-textured, softball-sized rosette of wispy leaves and tossing up that lovely halo of always dancing flowers. Like any true southern charmer, she’s right at home in the forefront, and can gently smooth out the hard edges of sidewalks and curbs without growing too far out of bounds.
I fondly remember planting my first four nerve daisy at the Heard Natural Science Museum in McKinney back in 1996. I planted many more with the Applied Learning Academy students up at the north entrance of the Fort Worth Botanic Garden back in 1998, where the swatches we planted still remain, though they’ve shifted a bit to accommodate the sprawl of other plants.
So I hop back into the truck and slide a single flower into my water bottle for safekeeping. I smile as I remember another plant nut who loves this flower, my good friend, Lee Ann Nave, who works over at…ahhh, and now I have a destination—Clark Gardens just down the road in Mineral Wells.
And just in case you’ve never heard of the place, it’s simply amazing. Twelve hundred varieties of iris, the largest EarthKind rose garden anywhere (according to Neil’s long-time friend, Dr. Steve George), ZILLIONS (okay, thousands) of poppies blooming everywhere, and enough flowering spring bulbs to make the good folks at the Dallas Arboretum do a wide-eyed double take. But, my favorite part is the simple fact that you can still shake hands with the amazing Max Clark, the very fellow who, along with his wife Billie, let his personal garden get way out of hand to become this horticultural haven. And you can still scrub the scruff of his constant companion, a sweet Labrador Retriever named “Chocolate,” as they get their nails dirty together everyday in different areas of the garden. It’s rare these days to find such a place or such a person, and you owe yourself a visit before this very sweet Texas springtime turns into summer.
Better yet, come see me at Chandor Gardens in Weatherford in the morning, grab some lunch, then head on out to Clark Gardens to make a day of it. Get all of the info you need at www.chandorgardens.com and www.clarkgardens.com or give me a call at 817-613-1700 and I’ll fill you in.
PS—There’s still time to sign up for horticulture classes at Chandor Gardens! Water Wise Gardening, Butterfly & Hummingbird Gardening, Faux Stone Troughs, Night Hike, and more! Go to www.lifelong.tcu.edu for details!
Chandor Gardens, 711 West Lee Avenue , Weatherford , TX 76086 . From the Metroplex: Take I-20 west to exit 409, turn right on Santa Fe and go 2.1 miles to Lee Avenue . Turn left, go 12 blocks, and you’re driving in the gates.
About the author: Steven L. Chamblee is Chief Horticulturist at Chandor Garden in Weatherford. He is also a contributing editor to Neil Sperry’s GARDENS Magazine, where his writing appears each issue. For more information, visit www.chandorgardens.com.
Classes come to Chandor Gardens! We’re hosting some great classes out here this spring. (There’s still a few spaces left in Water Wise Garden Design!) Go to www.lifelong.tcu.edu to check it out!
Mark your calendars for the Parker County Master Gardeners PLANT SALE on April 21. Details next month.