Native Son: November 2014
by Steven Chamblee
The Top Ten Things I Love About Autumn
The whole world seems to change during autumn. While most folks think of football, pumpkins, and fall foliage, my eyes see other things.
Seeds on Magnolia cones. These screaming bright red seeds appear in their full glory for only a few days before they fall off into the coarse duff below their parent.
Coralbean flowers. There are several species of Erythrina, one of which (E. herbacea) extends its native range up into North Central Texas from South America. Other, less cold-hardy species, such as E. crista-galli (shown), need protected locations to survive the winters. Brilliant red blossoms are pollinated primarily by hummingbirds.
Tons of Tunas. The prickly pear fruits (called “tunas” in old Mexico) are fully ripe and ready for picking. Aside from the popular prickly pear jelly, they can also be used to create wine, to flavor lemonade, and as the main ingredient in prickly pear pie.
Zinnia’s last stand. I usually get two zinnia crops each year. The first I plant in mid-spring and usually cut down as the plants become a little summer-seared in early August. The second crop is already emerging below them, from the seeds dropped by the first crop, and they put on a wonderful show as temperatures cool.
Zexmenia gets “zexy.” This lovely, sprawling, native shrubby perennial blooms best in sun, but will also flower in the shade. Fall seems to bring out its languid and efflorescent nature.
Turk’s apples. Your tough Turk’s cap has flowered away during the summer, keeping the hummingbirds happy, and now the crop is in. While they contain five hard seeds, the “apples” (technically fleshy capsules) are quite delicious when ripe.
Asters are kickin’ it. One of the toughest perennials I know, asters resemble small shrubs most of the growing season, until autumn turns them into billowing clouds of blue.
New winter color. Snapdragons, pansies, kale, cabbage, Swiss chard, mustard, and dianthus bring a new freshness to color beds.
Mexican mint marigold shines! A true Texas-tough perennial and culinary herb since spring, this sweet baby loads up on nectar-rich golden blossoms in autumn.
Nice laundry-hangin’ weather! I may not be “The Most Interesting Horticulturist in the World,” but you can quote me on this: “I don’t always use bleach, but when I do, I prefer to use it all at once.”
Come out and breathe in the beauty of Chandor Gardens! Go to www.chandorgardens.com for details. Just take I-20 west to exit 409, hang a right, go 2.1 miles and hang a left on Lee Avenue. Head straight 12 blocks and you’re driving in the gates. Call 817-361-1700 for more information.
I can always use another road trip! Let me know if you’d like me to come out and speak to your group sometime. I’m low-maintenance, flexible, and you know I like to go just about anywhere. No city too big; no town too small. Just send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll work something out.