Native Son: The Stevie Photo Challenge

In my ridiculous quest to ensure originality in this little column, I borrowed an idea from one of those Facebook challenges. You know, that old “post the 13th photo on your phone camera” routine. For my version, I grabbed one of my old USB thumb drives and will post from that. Let’s see what happens … I figure I will be as surprised as you.

That time I met the incomparable Molly Hollar, namesake of Arlington’s Molly Hollar Wildscape. Molly was a lot of things to a lot of people, but to me she was the symbol of how much difference one person can make in the lives of others. And judging from my own hair color, I’m guessing about 1998 or so for this pic.

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This incredible photo is completely unretouched … and it looked just like that in person. Many moons ago, I spent a few leisurely hours with retired Texas State Forester Larry Schaapveld and his wife, Kay. Larry loaded his fire pit with Bois d’Arc logs and got that puppy all fired up and hot … which was nice. Then he rolled the logs so it was all embers and no flames … which was cool. Then he pulled out a bellows and pumped air into the bottom of the fire pit … yabba dabba doo!

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Blue Moon Nursery in Edom, Texas has long been recognized as one of the greatest destination nurseries in the Lone Star State (right up there with The Arbor Gate in Tomball). Among many other attributes, Blue Moon has gotten the Fairy Garden down pat. This is one of the dozens of fairy pics I took there.

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The surprised frog captured my attention while shopping at the wonderful Barton Springs Nursery near Austin. To my own surprise, it jumped into my basket and now lives at my house.

Two-headed chick! When you get a pair of chicks together for some cutesie photos, anything can happen.

Located at a private garden in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (a surprisingly lovable town), this old water fountain turned succulent showcase is one of my all-time favorite garden elements.

I well remember the first time my mind was blown by one of the best water lily collections I’ve ever seen … and I’ve seen many … in San Angelo, Texas. That is NOT a typo. This is also one of the best examples of a municipality working with a private citizen (Ken Landon) to create something exceptionally wonderful. Go see for yourself … WORTH EVERY MILE OF THE TRIP!

This ginkgo, a street tree in a suburb of Philadelphia, exhibits an unusual growth nicknamed, “chi-chis.” This was the first time I’d ever seen this with my own eyes. I assumed they were a type of pneumatophore, structures grown and used by certain plants to supplement air exchange, such as bald cypress knees. A little further research proved me wrong—-no definitive reason for bald cypress knees or ginkgo chi-chis has been determined yet.

Roadside vine along a little blue highway in Wyoming that I assume to be a type of Clematis.

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My visit to Ernest Hemmingway’s grave in Ketchum, Idaho, lasted about three hours. Although he died before my second birthday, I spoke with the famous author about his stories, a few of my stories, and the meaning of life. When I told him I wanted to lay down flat on that tombstone slab and take a photo of his view, I could’ve sworn I heard a giggle.

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Since the world didn’t end during the whole Y2K fiasco, I took a road trip to Mexico. Wound up at Los Posas, the surrealist garden in Xilitla, San Luis Potosi. Built by an eccentric English poet named Edward James, Los Posas has many amazing and dramatic structures including towers, columns, and tombs, but this half-sphere off the jungle path captured my attention … and my memory. It served as the inspiration for the recently-built stone cone at The Longview Arboretum. (Don’t bother with that date stamped on the pic … I didn’t know how to set it properly.)

The tiny woman in the photo is Monica Flory, on the day the tractor arrived. Gardener Tom Babin was also on hand to accept the delivery. The story is brief—Monica saw us working our fannies off in the garden and made the comment, “You could probably use a tractor. How much does one cost?” I guessed between twenty and thirty thousand dollars. Monica brought me a check the next morning, and life at the Longview Arboretum has never been the same since.

Monica, small in stature and big in heart, passed away a few weeks ago. And yes, I still talk to her when I am in the garden.

Nothing like a little trip down memory lane to get me all fuzzed up. Maybe it’s a reminder that this game of life is indeed about the journey. Maybe it’s a nudge to make me realize that nothing lasts forever … that every moment can count. Maybe it’s that realization that, while our gardens seem to connect us, our real connection is with each other.


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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