Zanthan Gardens meadow

April 5th, 2008

Friday dawned with a heavy downpour. So much for the promise of fine Texas weather that we used to lure all the northerners and midwesterners down for Spring Fling. Pam/Digging had arranged for the four of us to visit the beautiful gardens of Jenny Stocker. Go see her photos. They’re amazing. As was the garden. As was Jenny.

The official start of Spring Fling, our dinner party at Matt’s El Rancho, felt like a giant family reunion, even though this was the first time most of us garden bloggers had ever met. And yet we knew each other. For years we’ve shared the daily joys and sometime tribulations of our gardens. Talk immediately turned to weather, soil, seeds started, plants failed, and plans realized. Although we spoke the same gardening language, we often did so with different accents. Some say to-may-to; others to-mah-to. (Lirope? Basil? Crinum? Cercis?) Carol spoke botanical Latin while Annie held firm to the ecclesiastical pronunciation of her youth. And let’s not even mention my inability to pronounce the name of any rose I grow; they’re all French.

Being bloggers as well as gardeners, most of our conversations included references to each other’s posts, all that accumulated detail that made us feel like old friends–old friends who in many cases had never seen the other’s face, or knew the other’s real name, or occupation.

Gardening has always had a tradition of friendship through correspondence. One of the most famous, between Elizabeth Lawrence and Katherine White almost did not survive their meeting in person. Among the garden bloggers, however, I sense an immediate comraderie. This experience is so beyond what any of us envisioned when Pam tossed the idea out at us last December.

I’m running on pure adrenaline right now. Must dash off for the real beginning of Spring Fling.

Spanish bluebells
Spanish bluebells in Texas.

April 2nd, 2008
Hyacinthoides hispanica, Spanish Bluebells

The year we met, I planted bluebells for AJM to remind him of home. I know that when I was an ex-patriot, that I really missed the sheets of bluebonnets that signal spring to a Texan.

Now the bluebells I planted weren’t the wildlings of English woodlands, Hyacinthoides non-scripta; they were the larger, garden variety from Spain, Hyacinthoides hispanica. As it turned out, for many years Spanish bluebells were the variety preferred by English gardeners because the flowers are larger and form on both sides of the stem, and because the plants more vigorous. Apparently too vigorous. In recent years, concerns about invasive aliens interbreeding with the natives have raised alarms in England. The beloved native is threatened by a Spanish army breaching the garden walls.

This is not a problem in Central Texas so I grow my Spanish bluebells without guilt. They grow very well here, die down quickly after they bloom, and come back reliably without being aggressive.

Spanish bluebells
Spanish bluebells in Texas.

I finally got to see English bluebells in their native habitat when we drove down to Oxford and the Cotswolds a couple of years ago. Impressive. Sheets of blue. Just like bluebonnets!
English bluebells
English bluebells in England. I don’t know if the color is really that much deeper or if it’s just a trick of the light.