Texas In Bloom
On the flower trail
Sitting Bull once stated, “Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!” If you have a perennial passion to see the wildflowers that decorate East Texas and the Texas Hill Country each spring, here’s a virtual bouquet of cities where you can cultivate your interest. Before you reach for the car keys, spend a few minutes checking the hot lines that pinpoint the best sites for flower power. Call the Texas Department of Transportation at (800) 452-9292; along with road information, this number offers reports on wildflower sightings throughout the state. Reports are updated weekly with news of spectacular roadside wildflower displays on the hot line, as well as at www.txdot.gov.
With its rich soil and kind climate, East Texas is home to a wide variety of wildflowers as well as cultured plants, all of which offer a sweet getaway during the spring months.
Brenham. The cozy community of Brenham, best-known as the home of Blue Bell ice cream, is also a capital for wildflower-lovers. Well before the first blooms, the Chamber publishes a “Wildflower Watch” (www.visitbrenhamtexas.com/plan/wildflower-watch.html) tracking the progress of the wildflower fields. The weekend of April 13, the fun culminates with several events, including the 35th annual Blue Bell Fun Run, a race alongside fields of bluebonnets.
Chappell Hill. Chappell Hill bears the distinction of holding the Official State of Texas Bluebonnet Festival. On April 13-14, guests can tap their feet to the beat of live musical performances; mull over merchandise among an array of vendor booths brimming with gardening supplies as well as more than 300 arts and crafts vendors; check out a wildflower photo exhibit; and join a tour of the historic town, which includes views of fields of the famous lupinus. www.chappellhillmuseum.org/bluebonnet.html
Ennis. A carpet of bluebonnets 40 miles long greets visitors to the city of Ennis each April. Dubbed the Official Bluebonnet City and Official Bluebonnet Trail of Texas by the Texas Legislature in 1997, Ennis honors the symbol of the state’s pride annually at the Bluebonnet Trails Festival, which will be held on April 20-21. www.visitennis.org
Henderson. Celebrate the sight of life renewing itself in a city that’s older than the Lone Star State with a drive along one of three of Henderson’s wildflower trails. Coreopsis and Indian paintbrushes color the landscape on the East Texas Oilfield/Overton History Tour, while red-blooming clovers dot the spots that woodpeckers and bobwhites call home on the Loop Within a Loop – Henderson to Tatum driving tour. Cruising along the Southern East Tour, fans of floral finery can look for a variety of native blooms flourishing in the area’s rich red clay soils. www.hendersontx.us
Jasper. Jasper’s motto is “Jewel of the Forest,” and on March 16 the small East Texas town will celebrate a botanical treasure at the 25th annual Azalea Festival, a nod to nostalgia complete with an antique car show, a children’s carnival and a plethora of petals in full bloom. www.jaspercoc.org/azalea_festival.html
Nacogdoches. In China, the azalea is called the “thinking-of-home bush,” and when plant-lovers pay a visit to Nacogdoches during the city’s annual Azalea Trail, they will no doubt be thinking of ways to incorporate the flowering shrub into their own home gardens. Proud to hold the title of Texas’ largest azalea garden, Nacogdoches welcomes fans of flowers, who can take a guided tour of the Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden and enjoy the beauty of more than 20 miles of azalea trails. Throughout the month of March, visitors can attend an itinerary of azalea-inspired special events including the Nacogdoches Azalea Trail Symposium, which this year will feature “Building Azalea Gardens: Large and Small.” Other events include the Nacogdoches Azalea Trail Photography Show; a guided tour of homes; the Art of Floral Design, Color and Textures from the Gardens showcase; the Nacogdoches Farmers Market Spring Fling Saturday; the SFA Garden Gala Day and Plant Sale; and much more. azaleas.visitnacogdoches.org
Linden. Home to a host of musical giants ranging from blues great “T-Bone” Walker and ragtime jazz founder Scott Joplin to The Eagles’ Don Henley, Linden offers a chorus of color each spring as yellow-fringed orchids, phlox, coral beans, coreopsis and Indian paintbrushes welcome botanical buffs. Partnering with nearby towns Avinger and Hughes Springs, Linden will pay tribute once again to its blooms on April 27 at the Wildflower Trails Festival. www.lindenwildflowertrails.net
Palestine. For 75 years, flower enthusiasts have flocked to the Anderson County community of Palestine for the Dogwood Trails Celebration, this year taking place during the last three weekends in March. The celebration reaches a peak on March 16, when visitors enjoy a full day devoted to the trees’ delicate white petals. www.dogwoodbloomwatch.blogspot.com
Tyler. Tyler may be known as the Rose Capital of the World, but each spring the city celebrates another natural beauty during the Tyler Azalea and Spring Flower Trails. From March 15-April 7 this year, floral fanciers can admire nature’s palette of vibrantly colored petals as they enjoy activities including tours of the historic city, the Main Street Flower Market, an amateur photography contest, the Southwest Regional Orchid Show and Sale and much more. www.tylerazaleatrail.com
The Hill Country, located west and northwest of Austin, is home to some of the best fields of wildflowers in the state. Along the chain of lakes that snakes through the hills, the Highland Lakes Bluebonnet Trail features flowering fields and festival fun in the towns of Burnet, Buchanan Dam, Llano and smaller area communities. Each town on the trail celebrates with art shows and a festival atmosphere, and you’ll be able to get information on the best fields for photos, too.
Austin. Lady Bird Johnson, whose love of the state’s native plants was cultivated in the soil of her East Texas home in Karnack, once stated, “Where flowers bloom, so does hope,” and the hope for a brighter tomorrow springs eternal along the trails of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. In April, a rainbow of blooms, ranging from the cheerful yellow of the buttercup to the saturated purple of wine cups, dots the facility’s many gardens and trails. www.wildflower.org
Blanco. Blanco’s love of lavender stems from the fertile imagination of a National Geographic photographer on assignment in Provence, who noticed that the landscape of the French region resembled that of the Texas Hill Country. From photographer Robb Kendrick’s cultivation of 2,000 lavender plants in 1999, Blanco has blossomed into the Lavender Capital of Texas. While the purple blossoms can be seen from May through July, in early June the city holds the Blanco Lavender Festival to honor its favorite flower, which includes free tours of area lavender farms. www.blancolavenderfest.com
Boerne. At the Cibolo Nature Center in Boerne, a colorful array of butterflies will flit past folks wandering along nature trails that showcase four ecosystems: riparian forest, tall-grass prairie, spring-fed marsh and live oak savanna. For those who wish to bring home a bit of Boerne’s beauty, the Cibolo Nature’s Mostly Native Plant Sale takes place each spring. www.cibolo.org
Burnet. A look at the Lone Star State’s wildflowers wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Bluebonnet Capital of Texas. Burnet’s devotion to the state’s official flower is in full bloom every second weekend in April when a sea of blue blossoms welcomes visitors to a floral-themed festival that offers three days of good, old-fashioned fun for the whole family. The festival celebrates its 30th anniversary this year from April 12-14 with events that range from a pet parade to a cowboy breakfast as well as an arts and crafts show featuring plenty of bluebonnet-themed creations. bluebonnetfestival.org
Fredericksburg. Near Fredericksburg, the 16-mile-long Willow City Loop, a drive through unfenced ranch land that includes canyon views, bluffs, spectacular wildflowers and wildlife, is another popular bluebonnet trail. The Willow City Loop is north of Fredericksburg off Highway 16; take the second Willow City Loop turn off Highway 16 to enjoy this winding trail. And on the outskirts of the city, the production fields at the family-owned Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg are blanketed in a kaleidoscope of colors to inspire any green thumb. The largest family-owned wildflower seed company in the country, Wildseed Farms holds its Wildflower Celebration in early to mid-April, when the fields are filled with bluebonnets and other Texas wildflowers. You can stroll along a walking trail and even cut your own wildflower bouquet; weekend visitors can also enjoy a taste of local wines and the sound of Texas music. Each spring, the Butterfly Haus opens for visitors to walk through its free-flying butterfly habitat. www.visitfredericksburgtx.com
Fast Facts About Bluebonnets
Although several plants are termed “bluebonnets,” the Lupinus texensis is the Texas bluebonnet.
The bluebonnet is the state flower of Texas. The designation includes the Lupinus texensis and four other varieties.
Very rarely, bluebonnets will be pink.
Want to plant bluebonnets? Plant in direct sunlight in well-drained soil; August is the best time to plant seeds.