Native Son: Nac

I took a little jaunt down to Nacogdoches, Texas, the other day to give a talk. Nac is a pretty little town, one of those places where I feel connected, like I belong there. I always figured it was the obvious thing, Stephen F. Austin State University, its renowned horticulture program, and the four surrounding gardens billowing with botanical wonders. While that’s still the main draw, I suddenly realized what should have been obvious to me all along—the entire town is a garden … and someone is to blame.

‘Slender Silhouette’ sweetgum trees rise to the skies in Nac… Click the image for larger view.

Yes, I was literally doing the proverbial “just walkin’ down the street, minding my own business” on the way back from the mind-blowing Fortney House (do check it out) when I saw a few fastigiate (column-like) trees growing along the sidewalk. A little closer and I recognized the leaves as a sweetgum tree. Hmmm … now how and where in the world would someone find a few fastigiate sweetgum trees … probably ‘Slender Silhouette’ … to plant along this particular sidewalk in little ole Nacogdoches, Texas? I think I know the culprit.

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Sure enough, an hour later, I’m riding shotgun in the truck when Dave unknowingly confesses: “Hey, those are my trees!”

Dave Creech

Dr. David Creech is many things to many different people, but to me he’s a natural teacher, a forever student, a shameless ambassador for education and horticulture, and the kind of guy I’m proud to call friend. I’m not going to list all of his credentials and accolades, but I will say while all of that and more is true, Dave is basically a modern-day Johnny Appleseed, leaving a trail of green wherever he goes.

Dave Creech surrounded by young horticulturists at Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Dave has been connecting people with plants for nearly half a century, first as a researcher and professor before retiring from the classroom to take on the directorship of SFA Gardens … which sounds like more fun to me. Dave is also famous for his generosity, sharing plants with every public garden in Texas … though he certainly didn’t stop at the borders of Texas. Dave consults with associations across the US and in 6 other countries, including Nepal, Israel, and China. And, of course, he and his team grow select species to meet the frenzied demands for superior and hard-to-find plants. Local gardeners around Nac zoom in for gourmet plants grown specifically for the spring and fall fund-raising SFA Gardens plant sales. (Next one is October 1 & 2.) I have personally shopped the sale for the Fort Worth Botanic Garden, Chandor Gardens, and the Longview Arboretum—this is top shelf stuff here.

Dave Creech in his element at a Fort Worth Botanic Garden conference.

And the town of Nacogdoches just might be the biggest recipient of Dave’s generosity. Creech’s plants are simply everywhere there … along the streets, in the church yards, at houses, in parks … and most go unnoticed by the general public, who just see pretty greenery. But to us plant geeks, Nac is one of the best places to rubber-neck your way around town, oo’ing and ah’ing and speaking in partial sentences … ”Did you see…,” ”What was…,” “Is that a…?” (Maybe I need a bumper sticker … ”I Brake for Michelias.”)

Two Texas horticultural icons: Greg Grant (left) and Dave Creech enjoy springtime at Bayou Bend in Houston.

“There is no smarter, more dedicated, or more motivated friend to Texas horticulture than my friend Dr. David Creech. Many a public and private garden owes its existence to him, as do countless plant nerds.” -Greg Grant

So where does Dave get all of these magical plants? I suppose you could call it, “acquisition of genetically-superior botanical anomalies via an extensive network of professional, academic, and interpersonal alliances,” or maybe just go with, “Dave’s got a lot of plant friends.” (Hmmm, “plant fiends?”) Regardless of how you word it, Dave has friends worldwide who want to see their plants become parts of gardens across the globe.

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So how do YOU get a Creech plant … for free? Best bet is to attend the monthly Theresa and Les Reeves Lecture Series (2nd Thursday, 7pm) at the Brundrett Conservation Education Building at the Pineywoods Native Plant Center, 2900 Raguet Street in Nacogdoches. After the lecture, there’s always a rare plant giveaway.

And while you are in town, cruise around a little bit. Chances are, you’ll find a Creech plant just waiting to meet you. If you want to know more about Dave Creech himself, warm up with his “Life on the Green Side” blog at


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! 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 too small. Just send me an e-mail at and we’ll work something out.

Posted by Steven Chamblee
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