Native Son: March 21, 2019

All photos by Steven Chamblee including this lovely self-portrait (comment provided by his friend Neil).

3:25am…and I am looking at a blank computer screen. Thoughts swim through my mind like little individual guppies that refuse to form a school. I try to think of themes…”Lucky,” “Season of Change,” and the always-works-when-you’re-desperate “Top Ten.” Nothing seems to meld. Perhaps a poem…nah. So now I stare at this short paragraph. Better than nothing…

I look over at the bookshelf and see a copy of How To Be A Canadian that Carmen Wanner gifted me after her epic railroad trip across the Canadian Rockies. Hmmm…

How To Be A Texas Gardener

First off, if you’re lucky enough to meet a Texas gardener, take a moment to show some respect. Even a single season of gardening in Texas can take quite a toll on what used to be a normal person. A few seasons in the searing sun can render one’s mind and body into something resembling a crumpled-up newspaper. Those folks who’ve survived fifty years of Lone Star gardening ought to receive some kind of golden medallion from the governor. Not that they’d wear it…dangly stuff just gets in the way…but they could show it to the grandkids and make up stories about out-swimming Mark Spitz. Might as well say Jesse Owens or Jim Thorpe…the grandkids wouldn’t know them, either. Maybe call it, “The Luther Burbank-Liberty Hyde Bailey Grand Medal of Horticultural Endurance.” Nah. Tell ‘em George Strait gave it to you on New Year’s Eve. If they don’t know who George Strait is…well…shame on YOU.

1. Git yer hopes up…way up. Tell yourself stuff like, “How hard could it be?” and “If ugly ol’ Cousin Verne can do it…” (You just don’t know that Cousin Verne used to resemble a young Brad Pitt.) Tell yourself that Sperry and the rest of these goobers are clueless wimps and that you are the master of your manifest horticultural destiny.

2. Get yourself primed by watching some English gardening TV shows, then march yourself right down to the local big box store and spend three months’ salary on whatever that 18 year-old garden expert tells you is good. Remember…wearing a three-dollar vest beats a college education any day of the week.

Strobilanthes is being grown for Parker County Master Gardener sale.

3. Blow off soil preparation, thoughtful design, and all that other time-wasting jazz. Just plant all that stuff in a paisley pattern. Make sure to put that Mimosa tree right up close to the front door to “frame it” real purty.

4. Water it once and consider the job done. Mix yourself up a pitcher of margaritas as a reward.

5. Wait four months.

Continued Below


6. Mix yourself up a pitcher of margaritas to take the edge off the realization you blew three months’ salary on a bunch of dead stuff…dead stuff that you now have to dig up and throw away.

7. Have a good cry.

8. Talk to Jesus.

Some of the plants growing for the Parker County Master Gardener Plant Sale.

9. He will likely tell you to make a compost bin for all that dead stuff.

10. Remind yourself, while you’re digging up the dead stuff, that this will all be funny one day.

11. Remind yourself that the best answer to any question is, “Ask someone who knows.”

12. Quietly acquire a copy of Neil Sperry’s Lone Star Gardening. Just looking at the pictures actually WILL help you, but perhaps it’s best to read a little here and there.

13. Memorize a few terms. I suggest “tilth,” “deadhead,” “rhizome,” “zoysia,” and “pecan.” And don’t ever say, “pee-can.” It’s “puh-cahn.” This is Texas.

14. Quietly acquire a dozen or two of those half-inch thick bakery cookies (both chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin—don’t get cheap on me now), then nonchalantly walk into your local Texas AgriLife office and ask for directions to a good local independent nursery. The question/cookie combo should be sufficient to attract several Master Gardeners to you and initiate a lengthy (or until the cookies run out) conversation on good nurseries, best plants for your area, soil preparation, who’s who among the Master Gardeners, and which one of them lives right down the block from you (and is about to become your new best friend).

Plectranthus, wandering Jew and other plants being grown for Parker County Master Gardener sale.

15. Nonchalantly ask if the Master Gardeners have a plant sale. (In Parker County, it’s April 13, 8am to noon at the AgriLife building.) Stifle your desire to shout, “YEAH, BABY!”

16. Go meet your new best friend (more cookies…) and nonchalantly discuss the weather, plants, nurseries, gardening accoutrements…and maybe even a plan for your place.

17. Make a plan and write it down. Sometimes an epiphany on Monday is gone by Tuesday. Of course, sometimes that’s a good thing. Don’t be afraid to change your mind…do you really want to put the barbeque grill in the afternoon sun?…because it’s a whole lot easier to change something on paper than it is to dig up thirty shrubs.

18. Now get busy before it gets hot outside…don’t forget sunscreen.

19. And play some George Strait for the grandkids.

Steven goes facefirst into a mango margarita.


Come see me! I’ll be presenting “Great Garden Ideas” in Coleman, Texas on March 28. For more details, click here.

Do you or someone you know want to work with me at Chandor Gardens? We’ve got an open position! E-mail me at for more details. Please include a resume.

Parker County Master Gardener Plant Sale is almost here! Lots of Texas Tough and hard-to-find plants! For more details, click here.

I need a road trip! Let me know if you’d like me to come 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 to small. Just send me an e-mail at and we’ll work something out.

Come out and see me at Chandor Gardens! Located in the heart of Weatherford’s Historic District, Chandor Gardens is the perfect place to get away and enjoy the simple pleasures of life that can only be found in gardens. Call 817-613-1700 or visit for details.

Posted by Steven Chamblee
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