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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Beyond Bluebonnets

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Texas Indian Paintbrush
unusual pink color 

Spring in Texas is legendary for fields upon fields of wild bluebonnets, roadsides covered in bluebonnets, and backyards with bluebonnet patches. Newspapers publish subscriber's bluebonnet photos, Internet sites track where the latest bluebonnet fields are blooming, and every small town provides bluebonnet trail maps. Bluebonnets are spectacular, and seeing them in bloom was destined to become one of the rituals of my life each spring the first year I saw my first bluebonnet patch. Bluebonnets became one of the redeeming features of living in Texas.

Texas Bluebonnets
Ennis, Texas 

You see, Texas became home after marrying a long tall Texan who was serving in the US Navy in the Washington, D.C. area.  Before ever visiting Texas, Texas became my home, and my impressions of Texas were all based on second- and third-hand accounts from movies, books, television shows, and friends' and new family tales of Texas.  Not all of those impressions were positive.

Wild Foxglove
along Texas Hill Country roadside  

Have you ever seen The Last Picture Show, a black and white movie, set in a dying small west Texas town populated by townspeople who have affairs with each other, single and married? Their lives were unfulfilled with lost hopes and dreams. The most indelible scene in my mind shows a tumbleweed blowing across a dirty empty street with dust swirling across barren flat land in the background. We saw this movie the night before I was to have major surgery just three weeks after our wedding. Going to the movie was supposed to cheer me up, but instead drowned me in a sea of despair, causing me to cry as I asked my new husband if this was what Texas and the people were really like. He reassured me that this was not what Texas was like.

Winecups on roadside
Of course, after moving to Texas two years later, I discovered Texas was populated by good, kind-hearted people and was not black and white.  Indeed, each spring the land comes alive with stunning shows of multi-colors in wildflowers. Bluebonnets are only the first act.

Texas Indian Paintbrush
in unusual fuchsia color & common orange color

More than 5000 blooming plants make Texas their home, and each spring my spirit is renewed as I make pilgrimages just to look at what is blooming. To drive slowly along, windows rolled down, head and arms leaning out to try to spot every bloom, and to spot the unusual is an annual ritual. Over the years, together my long tall Texan and I discovered the beauty of Texas wildflowers. While he had seen them for years while growing up in Texas, he had never really looked at them before our outings.

Texas Indian Paintbrush
two unusual shades of pink 

Growing up in Alabama, spring meant cultivated flowers such as dogwoods and azaleas, but not  showy fields of wildflowers. Over the years, many a dogwood tree, azalea, and peony died in our yard in the Texas blazing summer heat as I tried to grow the plants from my childhood. Others have grown these successfully, but I cannot. Instead, I now appreciate the plants that do flourish in Texas.

Texas Indian Paintbrush in deep pink 

The pinks, fuchsias, and peaches like these Texas Indian Paintbrushes are not as common as the orangey-red Paintbrushes that grow in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Each year I keep a look out for pastel Paintbrushes, and these pastel Paintbrushes were spotted in Brazos County.

Texas Indian Paintbrush 
Texas is now my home by choice. Now retired, I could move anywhere, but I see beyond the bluebonnets to my friends and family who also are Texans. If you look for me, you know where to find me.
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