San Angelo Water Lilies

To say unusual and unexpected is an understatement about the San Angelo International Water Lily Collection.  The fact that it exists is due to the dream of one man – Ken Landon.

First, a little history.  San Angelo is located where five spring fed streams converge.  As early as the 15th century the Indians that lived there were peaceful hunters and gatherers.  Early Spanish explorers named them Jumanos.   These same people groups would go to Spanish missions and settlements further west seeking protection from the warlike plains Indians.  They described their home area as a land of water and flowers.

In the early 1600’s two monks from a Franciscan monastery near present day Albuquerque were sent to investigate their claim and found a crystal clear pond covered with water lilies.

This information comes a pamphlet provided by the city at the Visitor Center.

waterlilykToday the water lily collection is part of the city park system but is supervised by Mr. Landon.  This is the most extensive collection of different varieties of water lilies of any place in the US.

The ponds are about 12 feet below street level.

waterlilybAlong the street side a steep wall covered with Cross Vines is a striking backdrop as well as the plantings in front of it.  These include the hardy Texas Superstar Yellow Bells (Tacoma stans).

waterlilygThe two side “walls” are terraced beds filled with many different varieties of plants.  Some are well adapted to the area, like the hardy Hibiscus with the large blooms.  In this same bed are some tropical Hibiscus, which have to be dug up and taken into the park system’s greenhouse.  Others are replaced from new rootings already being grown in the greenhouse.

The back ‘wall’ opens into another park area.  There is also some construction there.  Maybe new ponds?

waterlilyfThis shrub with the greyish green foliage is Cassia.  I only know that because the ground crew had just finished their lunch and answered a few questions for me.

waterlilyeHas the characteristics of other Texas survivors.

waterlilydThe dark color foliage might be Potato Vine.  The bright green is Ice Plant and the Red is Oxblood Lily or Schoolhouse Lily (Rhodophiala bifida).

Now to the eye candy.

waterlilyj‘Texas Dawn’ (Nymphaea elegans) is the variety of Water Lily that is native to the area.  It was named the official state water lily in 2011.

Because the Texas lily is so hardy, Dr. Landon cross pollinated it with other lilies for stronger strains.

I don’t know the names of the following varieties.  Just loved the soft colors and different forms.

waterlily9

waterlilyaThe giant pads are usually from Asia.

waterlily8

waterlily6

waterlily7

waterlily5

waterlily4

waterlily3

waterlily2

waterlily1

waterlilyA great place to visit even if you think it isn’t your cup of tea.  I don’t plan to have a pond of any sort because it would be an invitation for more wild animal visitors in the yard.  But nature is amazing and can be enjoyed in its many forms.

“Communist until you get rich; feminist until you get married; atheist until the airplane starts falling.”  The Hypocrite Diaries

The Lady Wore Red

Chris De Burgh’s “Lady in Red” lyrics include these lines:

“I’ve never seen you looking so lovely as you did tonight.  I’ve never seen you shine so bright.”

A red dress is an attention getter.  Red flowers have that same effect in the garden.

ladyinredEven a common old fashioned plant like Canna Lilies are still striking.  Not only do the bright flowers shine, but the large leaves fill up a space.

They have the added bonus of being low maintenance and easy to grow.  They probably bloom better with a little more water, but mine do fine with less than ideal amounts.  The rhizomes multiply yearly which makes it easy to share the bounty.

ladyinred5Dynamite Crape Myrtles have a deep, deep red color.  For all of central Texas, Crape Myrtles are one of the best flowering small trees around.  They come in so many different colors and are a trustworthy performer.

I’ve read that Dynamites are fast growers.  That has not been my experience.  Granted, the soil here is dense clay with lots of caliche and rocks.

They did not even bloom for the first two years and only had a few flowers the third year.  Just when I was about ready to give up, they were covered with full, gorgeous clusters.

ladyinred6Crimson Pirate Daylily is new this year.  We’ll see how hardy it is in this climate.

ladyinredbThe Texas Star Hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) has bloomed several times this year and none last year.  Sometimes plant performance is a conundrum.

ladyinred9The wind whips it around pretty hard.

ladyinredaThe pods for new blooms are clustered behind the one already open.  So far, only one flower at a time blooms.

ladyinred8On a different branch a flower pod awaits its turn.

ladyinredcTurk’s Cap flowers are small but so attractive.  The large, thin leaves look totally unsuitable for our hot summers.  But it’s in full sun and has survived for five years, continues to grow and get larger.

ladyinreddRed Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea) have shoots coming up all around the mother plant.  It surprised me to learn that hollyhocks are short lived with only a 2 to 3 year lifespan.  However, they readily reseed.

ladyinredp.jpgFlame Acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus Nees var. wrightii) looks so unimpressive from a distance with the red washing out in the sun.

ladyinredfUp close each tubular flower seems bold.  Also known as Hummingbird bush, Wright’s desert honeysuckle, Wright acanthus, Mexican flame, and Wright’s Mexican flame.  So it’s no surprise that hummingbirds, butterflies, and other insects flit around it.

ladyinredgAll the new little bushes sprouting in my beds attest to the fact that it reseeds profusely.

ladyinredo.jpgBack in full force, Strawberry Field Gomphera (Gomphrena haageana) has filled out this spot nicely.  Each flower contains about 60 seeds.  That accounts for all the new plants this year.

Gomphrena also makes a good dried flower.  I tried a few last year.  If cut when the color is vivid, the color holds pretty well.

ladyinredr.jpgOne Standing Cypress (Ipomopsis rubra) still has a few blooms but has mostly gone to seed.  It is indigenous to the southeastern US and is a member of the phlox family.

Standing Cypress or Texas plume, Red Texas star, Red gilia has been difficult for me to get established.  I don’t know if that is because it is biennial here or that the seeds are not sprouting.  But it is such a striking plant that I keep trying.

“One of the most breathtaking concepts in all of scripture is the revelation that God knows each of us personally and that we are in His mind both day and night.”  Dr. James Dobson

Texas Star Hibiscus

This is a plant that I had high hopes for, but so far, it’s been a so-so performer.  It is planted in a raised bed that has pretty good soil.  This is the fourth year I’ve had it.  I decided that maybe I expected too much from the Texas Star Hibiscus and had not given it the care it needed.  So I began to investigate.

This is my Texas Star Hibiscus, Hibiscus coccineus.  I already knew that it is being crowded out by Henry Duelberg Salvia.  I’ve pulled out some of the salvia that is close to the trunks.

In the wild It grows in sandy, moist acidic soil.  Okay.  Now the problem is evident.  It also has very high moisture requirements and usually grows in bogs and water gardens.  So the statement I had read before buying it (that it is a plant for all soils) is probably not accurate.  Double whammies against success in my garden.

It needs plenty of sun.  It gets that in spades.  But morning sun and filtered afternoon light is best.  It blooms on new growth and needs sufficient water to keep it growing all summer.  That explains why mine didn’t bloom at all last year in the drought.  It only grew to about a foot then. Poor thing didn’t get much water at all.So, if I want it to bloom, I must give it more water.  This year it must be getting enough water because it has bloomed several times – one bloom at a time.  The bees and butterflies enjoy the treat.

Without the flowers, the weird shaped leaves make it look like what hippies used to smoke.  I’ve read that some people have called the police on their neighbors who own this plant.

The bright red makes it really pop in the garden.  So I’ll just enjoy those occasional unusual star flowers whenever they bloom.

“Praise the young and they will blossom.”  Irish proverb