Beautiful Plants, Beautiful Landscape

For 26 years Steve Huddleston served the Fort Worth Botanic Garden as Senior Horticulturist, and in that capacity he was my guest every Sunday morning at 8:06 as I signed on the air on WBAP 820AM. He shared details of the Garden’s showstopping plants and upcoming events with my listeners. I was always grateful that anyone would get up early to join my radio family.

When Steve told me he planned to retire I was sad to be losing a nice feature of my program and regular contact with a friend.

You can understand my happiness when Steve told me that he’d been offered the position of public relations manager of the Botanic Garden and its new partner, the Botanic Research Institute of Texas. So, I still get to talk to him every Sunday.

Now, it’s today…
I was sitting here at the computer wondering what my fifth and final story for this week’s e-gardens might be when a text came through. It was from Steve and attached were photos of his front yard. It was like a gift out of Cyberspace heaven.

‘Taishan Orange’ marigolds flow through the Huddleston landscape. Click image for larger view.

Taishan Orange marigold
Steve told me his color scheme gravitates around oranges, yellows, and purples this time of year. I told him I could see that!

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Mainstay of the orange is the bed of outstanding Taishan Orange marigolds. Steve said he planted those on August 25. It takes us back to the old Texas AgriLife testing program that brought us “MariMums,” marigolds that were to be planted in mid-August so that they could be in full bloom at the same time as garden mums. The promise the Aggies gave us was that they would bloom better and longer than chrysanthemums would. This bed makes the case.

10 weeks of this kind of color certainly justifies late August planting of Taishan marigolds!

They grow to 15 inches tall, and their originator Pan American Seed touts them for their stout habit and superior production of flowers. Steve agrees. And, by growing them in his fall garden, he’s getting more intense color and bypassing spider mites, the bane of spring-planted marigolds in Texas.

What a dazzling display fall asters make in their part of the garden. And they’re perennials!

Fall aster
The purple in his landscape, for the most part, is fall aster (Aster oblongifolius). It’s hard to imagine that this gorgeous perennial was hardly ever seen in garden centers 30 years ago. It was strictly a pass-along heirloom plant you saw in older neighborhoods, and finally, thanks to gardens like the Fort Worth Botanic Garden, it’s getting its just recognition.

Here is the same landscape as viewed as you step out the Huddlestons’ front door. You can see many of the plants in the list below. Click image for larger view.

Other plants in the Huddleston front yard include stars of the hot weather, New Gold trailing lantanas, ‘Dark Violet’ skullcap (Scutellaria x ‘Dark Violet’), New Mexico agave (Agave parryi v. neomexicana), Catawba crape myrtle (planted this summer and not in bloom now), Lindheimer muhlygrass, Rose Creek abelias near the house and fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatic ‘Gro-Low’ – I’m not sure I see it in the photos).

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So, to my friend Steve, thanks for riding in to save me today. Great job on the landscape, and thanks for all the information you bring to the gardeners of Texas!

Editor’s note: Do I want to mention in these orange-influenced surroundings that Steve is a graduate of Oklahoma State University?

Posted by Neil Sperry
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