Spring has sprung, you wildflower-lovers out there! Now’s the time to hit the road; you can’t go wrong with all that beauty bloomin’. Wanna know where to go? What to do? How to re-create Mother Nature’s handiwork in your own yard? Keep reading. And for updates on which flowers are blooming in your area, call the Texas Department of Transportation’s wildflower hotline: 800/452-9292.
Starting from Seed
For most wildflowers, in most parts of the state, fall, not spring, is the best time to sow wildflowers from seed. Here’s how it works: The seedlings will appear above ground before the first freeze, develop sturdy root structures during the winter, grow mightily during spring rains, then burst into bloom once it turns warm.
To order seeds for fall planting, try Native American Seed, a small company that operates out of Junction and specializes in wildflowers and grasses native to Texas. Founder Bill Neiman, who started the company in 1989, likes to say, “No one is smarter than nature herself.” Native American Seed’s informative and engaging catalog, which offers hundreds of varieties of seeds and mixes, offers these tips for successful wildflower planting: Match the seeds to the site, and consider the competition. Mow closely if needed, expose the soil, and rake up thatch no more than one inch deep (don’t stir up dormant weed seeds). When you sow seeds, let them touch the earth, then roll or pack them into the soil. Let it rain. Enjoy the experience! For a free catalog, call 800/728-4043; www.seedsource.com.
We also like Wildseed Farms near Fredericksburg, the largest working wildflower farm in the United States. In its catalog, Wildseed Farms offers hundreds of wildflower seeds, exotic garden plants, and herbs, plus planting advice. Best of all, though, Wildseed’s Market Center, seven miles east of Fredericksburg on US 290, opens to the public year round. Here, you can shop for garden items, have lunch in the cafe, tour a butterfly habitat, and, during springtime, marvel at the fields of blue, red, and yellow wildflowers spreading to the Hill Country horizon. Call 800/848-0078; www.wildseedfarms.com.
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Texans are a lucky bunch. Case in point: Our very own Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin serves as a nationwide native-plant ambassador. Visit the center this spring, when the ground’s 279 acres break out in riotous color. During the center’s popular Spring Plant Sale and Gardening Festival (April 9-10 this year), you can choose from more than 300 species of hard-to-find native plants and wildflowers, and visit with botanists and plant experts about how best to acclimate them to your yard. If you still want to learn more, see the center’s Web site, and click on the “Explore Plants” section, which offers a question-and-answer department dubbed “Ask Mr. Smarty-plants,” as well as propagation datasheets for 23 popular shrubs and flowers. Call 512/292-4200; www.wildflower.org.
Washington County Flowers
Washington County always ranks high for flower-trekkers in search of spring’s profusion. If you’d like to know which routes afford the best views, request a free copy of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce’s free Bluebonnet Trails map. The trails wind past numerous scenic and historic sites in Chappell Hill, Brenham, Greenvine, Burton, Independence, and Washington-on-the-Brazos, affording eye-popping views of the region’s flowery, fragrant fields. On April 9-10 in Chappell Hill, the Official Bluebonnet Festival of Texas draws some 40,000 visitors to celebrate spring with more than 250 craft booths, a petting zoo, pony rides, food, and music. Call 888/BRENHAM; www.brenhamtexas.com.
Have You Heard?
The Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary in McKinney hosts one of the largest native-plant sales in Texas April 15-17. At this special sale, you can learn how to attract wildlife to your garden and discover which plants will flourish throughout the heat of summer. Take good notes, find inspiration in the Heard’s colorful wildflower displays, then choose from more than 300 varieties of native Texas trees, shrubs, vines, grasses, cacti, lilies, perennials, and wildflowers. Call 972/562-5566; www.heardmuseum.org.
Hill Country Wildflowers
Dozens of springtime festivals take place in the Hill Country communities of Brady, Burnet, Early, Fredericksburg, Goldthwaite, Johnson City, Lampasas, Llano, Mason, and San Saba, which have once again joined together to host the annual Texas Hill Country Wildflower Trail. From March through June, this area explodes with bluebonnets, gaillardia, winecups, Indian blankets, and black-eyed Susans. On April 8-10, Burnet—named the “Official Bluebonnet Capital of Texas” by the 67th Texas Legislature—hosts the 22nd annual Bluebonnet Festival, which includes a pet parade, a bicycle tour, a car show, carnival rides, live music, a dance, food and beverage booths, and lots of arts and crafts vendors. For a complete list of events throughout the region and a map of driving routes, call 866/839-3378; www.tex-fest.com. For information about the Bluebonnet Festival, call 512/756-4297; www.burnetchamber.org.
Wildflowers in Ennis
For more than half a century, the Ennis Garden Club has organized a 40-mile network of wildflower trails that crisscross the Ellis County countryside, south of Dallas. Don’t miss this explosion of blooms! On April 15-17, the 54th annual Bluebonnet Trails Festival celebrates the season with live music, arts and crafts booths, a homes tour, and a children’s play area. For more information, or to request a free trail map, call 888/ENNIS-4U; www.visitennis.org.
East Texas Flowers
Rare are the bluebonnets that bloom in the forest, but don’t let that keep you away from East Texas during wildflower season, when flowering dogwoods, azaleas, yellow jasmine, wisteria, and a host of other flowers please the eye. Which routes should you drive for the best flower-viewing? The Pineywoods Economic Partnership offers a free brochure that outlines choice routes. Among them: Texas 21, or the Camino Real, which winds through Sabine, San Augustine, Nacogdoches, Cherokee, and Houston counties. Call 936/570-1974; www.discoverpineywoods.com.
For wildflower-viewing in northeast Texas, check out the 35th annual Wildflower Trails of Texas celebration in Hughes Springs, Linden, and Avinger April 21-23. A full spate of events, including parades, arts and crafts shows, plant sales, a trail ride, and live music, help ring in the beginning of blooming season, when you’ll start to see such flowers as coreopsis, bachelor’s button, and showy evening primrose in the landscape. At any of the three participating towns, you can pick up a free map for a 25-mile driving tour. Call 903/639-7519.
Finally, from April 15 through May 31, Henderson serves as the hub for the 6th annual East Texas Wildflower Trails. Three driving trails, which cover some 135 miles of gorgeous East Texas scenery, make for splendid spring sightseeing. Call 866/650-5529; www.hendersontx.com.
On the rolling blackland prairies of Texas, spring announces itself with a profusion of bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, coreopsis, and other beauties. Throughout April in DeWitt County, Cuero hosts the annual DeWitt County Lanes and Byways wildflower celebration, which includes a month-long wildflower specimen exhibit at the DeWitt County Museum, self-guided tours to view the area’s flowers, and, on April 9, several three-hour, guided Wildflower Excursions. Also on April 9, bicyclers can pedal wildflower-flanked routes, ranging from 10 to 60 miles long, during the popular Spring Scenic Cycling event. Call 361/275-9942 (www.dewittwildflowers.org), or 275-2112 (www.cuero.org).
Wine and Wildflower Trail
On April 15-17 and April 22-24 the Texas Hill Country Wine Trail, a collaboration of 16 Hill Country wineries, will host the Wine and Wildflower Trail event with special vineyard tours, food-and-wine pairings, music, art, and hayrides through bluebonnet-studded landscapes. Other events include the Harvest Wine Trail (August 19-21 and 26-28), Passport Wine Trail (October 1-31), and the Holiday Wine Trail (December 2-4 and 9-11). Call 888/997-3600; www.fredericksburg-texas.com or www.texaswinetrail.com.
Halfway between Dallas and Denton, Flower Mound’s eponymous mound—one of the few remaining remnants of the Great North American Prairie—rises more than 50 feet above the surrounding suburbs. Deeded to the residents of Flower Mound in 1983, the 12.76-acre mound is open to the public year round. Springtime offers particularly rewarding exploration, for the mound is covered with native flowers and grasses. If you’d like to learn more about the plant life that thrives here, request a copy of the new 120-page, full-color Field Guide to the Flower Mound ($20), which benefits the mound’s preservation.
The Mound is at the northeast corner of the intersection of FM 3040 and FM 2499. For information about the mound or the guide, call the Flower Mound Chamber of Commerce (972/539-0500), or go to www.theflowermound.org.
Flowers on High
About an hour northeast of Waco in tiny Tehuacana, you can celebrate the annual Tehuacana Bluebonnet Festival at “the highest point from Dallas to Houston” on April 16. Held on the original grounds of Trinity University (now in San Antonio), the event features tours of historic Texas Hall, a parade, classic car show, Civil War reenactment, “42” domino tournament, and wiener-dog race, along with food and drink vendors, bingo, performances by square dancers and gymnasts, live music, and an Elvis-look-alike contest. Call 254/395-4237.
Walks in the Park
On the banks of Joe Pool Lake near Dallas, Cedar Hill State Park harbors numerous native grasses and wildflowers. Every Saturday in April and May, longtime park naturalist Linda Dunn leads visitors on hourlong Wildflower Walks through the native grassland prairies, where you can see such abundant flowers as Indian paintbrush, foxgloves, buttercups, bluebells, fleabanes, standing cypress, and many others. On April 9, an event called the Cedar Hill Expo showcases the area’s many attractions with tours of the park’s 1850s Penn Farm, kayaking and archery demonstrations, and introductions to Cedar Hill’s wildlife. Call 972/291-3900; www.tpwd.state.tx.us.