Native Son: April 15, 2021

(Note from Neil: I opened up my e-mail Tuesday morning. It caught me off guard. But then I realized that our buddy Steven is living in the real world of Texas Horticulture 2021. Look at what he wrote to me.)

Dear Neil,

I am so very sorry, but I just can’t think of anything to write about for this month’s e-gardens. Please don’t hate me. Work has been insane… I am behind on everything. Inside, outside, literally, everything and everywhere. BUT… I will get the Longview Arboretum up to snuff before our spring concert series starts on May 6. Five Thursday nights in a row… killer music, great fun… if I live that long. Learn more at

I’m still trying to plant those 25 ‘Tokyo Tower’ Chinese fringe trees that I got from Dr. Creech down in Nacogdoches last week. I stopped by the SFA Plant Sale and got some amazing and unusual stuff for the Arboretum—Salvias, Stachytarpetas, and Rothecas—oh my!

Chionanthus retusus ‘Tokyo Tower.’

Planting a lot of that stuff in the new Metzler Garden… a garden we’re building to honor Bob and Dorothy Metzler, folks that have supported the Arboretum long before I even heard of the place. I’m trying some design ideas that I’ve had rolling around in my head for years—fun to see it coming to life. We’re not finished yet, but the hard parts are done and we just need to plant it out.

The new Metzler Garden, ready for planting.

We spent most of the winter digging out and replanting most of the Arboretum’s formal beds, as they needed major soil work. It was pretty drastic—tractor and backhoe stuff. We would have finished all of this before March, but that Freezemageddon set us back more than a month.

Continued Below

But now the place is really starting to come together. Came back with high quality bedding mix and new plants… azaleas, camellias, 17 different Japanese maples, weeping redbuds, pieris, snowball viburnums, bridalwreath spirea, hollies, and tons of other stuff, including a load of Chinese ground orchids, which are stunning right now.

Just a few of the many varieties of Japanese maples at the Longview Arboretum.
Chinese ground orchids showing off their delicate blossoms.
Snowball viburnums doing what they do best.

Speaking of stunning, I am amazed that many plants I thought were goners have started to sprout back from the bases. Gardenias, Indian hawthorns, camellias… even many of the purple Chinese fringe flowers have come back! There’s nothing like a garden to remind you that life has its challenges and setbacks, but you can make it through almost anything if you just keep moving forward. Sometimes it just takes patience… and, as you know, I am not a patient patient.

In a bizarre twist, these diminutive Indian hawthorns, completely covered in twelve inches of snow during Freezemageddon, survived unscathed.
Much of the Southern Living Garden is a little shorter after the removal of freeze damage, but the deciduous azaleas came through just fine.

Cleaning out the creek/stream/babbling brook/rivulet/rill—everybody seems to call it something different—was a total mudfest, but we got though it. I just finished the last infrastructure repair today, and my back is letting me know I will not be doing that again. Speaking of different names, I love what people call the Arboretum—“Arbotorium,” “Arklareetum,” and my personal favorite, the “Arboquarium.” (The cutest little 4 year-old girl came up with that!)

Speaking of names, I’m sure you remember back when the Dallas Arboretum was getting established, few people knew what an arboretum was, so that rumor started that an “arboretum” was another word for an insane asylum!

The next two weeks are going to be a planting frenzy. Laying on the color like frosting on a cake. I hope we can round up a few more volunteers to help. If you know of anybody, have them shoot us an email at or call 903-212-2181.

By the time the color is in the ground, it’ll be time for focusing on our kid’s Summer Science classes. Bees to beavers, toads to turtles, flowers to forests, we got it covered.

Anyway, I’ve got to get back to it. I’m truly sorry that I just couldn’t come up with an article this month. Hope you will forgive me.

Peace & Love,

The newly emerging foliage of ‘Ruby Falls’ Redbud is simply adorable.

Just so you know… the Longview Arboretum & Nature Center is OPEN! Hours are 10am-5pm, Wednesday through Saturday; Sunday 12 noon-5pm. Come out and see us! Please observe social distancing at this time. And bring your own brand of Zen! 903-212-2181

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.

Posted by Steven Chamblee
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