Agathis australis – The Kauri Tree, Lord of the Forest

Touching ancient trees is a habit of many of my tree obsessed friends. It’s a connection humans can make with the past, present and future.  Some of my more spiritual friends think it transfers a kind of cosmic energy from one to the other and vice versa.  I’m not sure about that, but I like the idea.


Janet and I at the big one, Tane Mahuta, May 13 2017

In early May 2017, Janet and I made the trek to the North part of the North Island in New Zealand to visit the last remnant of the ancient Kauri forest. The Kauri tree is Agathis australis which is one of a relatively small genus of 22 species.  It’s an evergreen tree, a member of the Araucariaceae family of conifers and was once widespread during the Jurassic, now restricted primarily to the Southern hemisphere.  The bark is smooth and light grey to grey-brown, usually peeling into irregular flakes. The lowest branches fall away, leaving circular scars.  The juvenile leaves are larger than in adults,  more or less acute. The male pollen cones appear usually only on larger trees after seed cones have appeared. The female seed cones usually develop on short lateral branchlets, maturing after two years.


Male pollen cone and female cone

The original forest was logged heavily in the last of the 19th century and first half of the 20th century.  The kauri was popular because it enjoyed a straight bole free of knots and made excellent masts for ocean faring ships.  The timber is generally straight-grained and of fine quality with an exceptional strength-to-weight ratio and rot resistance, making it ideal for yacht hull construction..  The wood is commonly used in the manufacture of guitars and ukuleles due to its light weight and relatively low price of production. It is also used for some Go boards (goban). The uses of the New Zealand species (A. australis) included shipbuilding, house construction, wood panelling, furniture making, mine braces, and railway sleepers. Various species of kauri also yield various resins that have value.  While only 2% of the original forest now remain, what’s there is protected and under the conservation ethos of the Māori, the original settlers of New Zealand.

You can tell a lot about a culture in how they greet each other. For some, a  hongi is a traditional Māori greeting in New Zealand. It is done by pressing one’s nose and forehead to another person at an encounter.  With a hongi, the ha, or breath of life, is exchanged and intermingled and is thought to share the souls of both involved.  Through the hongi a person is no longer a visitor but is instead part of the people of the land.  With that status,  one is obliged to share in all the activities and duties of the people there.  In long ago times, that meant bearing arms in battles or in tending crops and harvesting the bounty of the earth.  So the hongi is a tradition that involves sharing the breath of life, an act that comes directly from the Gods.


Janet planting a hongi on the ancient one

Tāne Mahuta is the big one.  Its age has been estimated at between 1,250 and 2,500 years. It is the largest kauri known to stand today. The Māori name is the name of a God and means “Lord of the Forest”.  There are other giant kauri nearby with the second largest being Te Matua Ngahere. The “Four Sisters” are nearby and thought to be siblings that made their home together.  Tāne Mahuta is certainly the most famous tree in New Zealand.  While known to the Māori well before European settlers landed, the stand wasn’t identified until the 1920s when road contractors were surveying for the road that how runs through the forest.


Te Matua Ngahere

In the Māori creation myth, Tāne is the son of Ranginui, the sky father, and Papatuanuku, the earth mother. In this legend, Tāne separates his parents from their marital embrace until his father the sky  was high above mother earth. Tāne then sets about clothing his mother with flora and fauna.  These are regarded as Tāne’s children.   In 1971, the tree had a trunk girth of 45.2 ft. with a trunk height of 58 ft.  The total height of the tree was 168 feet and the trunk volume has been estimated at 8630 cubic ft.  Total volume of wood estimated at 18,250 cubic feet.

There’s a serious threat to the remaining Kauri.  From the Forest Phytophthoras of the World website: ( ),  I offer the following:  “In 1972 a Phytophthora was associated with dead and dying trees in a kauri forest stand on Great Barrier Island, an island off the northern New Zealand coast . Symptoms included yellowing of foliage, canopy thinning and occasional tree death. The causative organism was identified as P. heveae by J. Stamps of the Commonwealth Mycological Institute. In 2006, Phytophthora ‘taxon Agathis’ was reported from kauri in a forest west of Auckland on regenerating and mature trees. The original identification of the causative organism as P. heveae was questioned, as the ITS–sequence of the isolate obtained from the Great Barrier Island and those from the mainland since 2006 was identical to P. castaneae. This raised the possibility that the kauri Phytophthora was a new species within Clade 5 of the genus (Blair et al. 2008). The ‘Kauri killing’ Phytophthora organism has been now formally described as Phytophthora agathidicida B.S. Weir, Beever, Pennycook & Bellgard (Weir et al., 2015), distinct from P. castaneae and other species of Phytophthora.”  There’s no doubt the disease has made its way in to the Waipoua forest and the trail entrances are equipped with sanitizers to spray the soles of shoes of any visitors, who are encouraged not to wander in the forest but to stay on the trails.  The shallow roots of the kauri tree are particularly susceptible to infection and dead and dying trees are nearby.  The long term prospects for the kauri tree will now rest with scientists who are feverishly screening for resistant seedlings with the hope that replanting will insure the forest remains.  Still, the long term prospects are seen as dismal and the chance to stand in the shade of these giants may not be with us forever.


At the head of the trail into the Kauri forest there are precautions to take



Kauri tree killed by Phytophthora

Parrotia persica and P. subaequalis – They Don’t Call them Ironwoods For Nothing

Like so few of us, this fellow gets better with age. While Persian Ironwood is not overly encumbered with a blinding floral display, this tree makes up for it with great form, bark interest, good Fall color, and a durable disposition in the garden.  Given a little time (OK, ten years or more), this tree will create a lively conversation. Best performance in the Deep South is to keep the tree in a spot that’s slightly acidic, medium moisture, and well drained.  That said, this tree has been through the grinder here, from freezes, droughts, and blasting heats to floods and tornadoes and hurricanes, and they just keep on trucking.

Parrotia persica 'fall color' - 2

The genus name recognizes the founder F.W. Parrot (1792-1841) who was a German Naturalist. Parrotia persica is a small, single to multi-trunk deciduous tree that will top out at 20-40′ tall.  The flowers lack petals and are comprised of reddish stamens surrounded by brown bracts and they appear before leaves appear.  With a good hand lens, you might call them pretty.  Fall color is a key feature with most showing off with a butterscotch to yellow as temperatures cool in the Fall.  With age, the bark exfoliates to show green, white or tan patches beneath and it’s quite striking the older a tree gets.

Parrotia persica flowers greensboro 01-14-08

Flowers will not win best in show but are attractive on close inspection

Parrotia persica

The bark is a key feature . . .

There are varieties.  We’ve worked hard to get the pendulous form and have has several that never panned out.  I acquired three that were fakes before finally getting the real thing.  I think it’s a Kew England plant under many names but ‘Kew’s weeping’ is the real deal.   It’s strongly weeping and defines the word slow.  We are rooting it and if I hand you a one gallon it means I like you.  Special plant for someone looking to be edgy.  We have one cultivar named ‘Biltmore’ and I assume it’s from the big tree there but it looks like the straight species to me.  ‘Vanessa’ is another variety, and does seem to feature a slightly different foliage look in the Fall and is perhaps a bit more upright.  Don’t have an opinion on whether it’s really smaller statured.   There are other varieties reported but we haven’t found them.  P. persica ‘Bella’ features upright branches and widely serrated ovate leaves. These leaves are reported as deep-purple when young and then mature to a rich green colour. The leaves are also reported to twist slightly, which adds further interest. P. persica ‘Horizontalis’ is a semi-weeping variety with wide spreading horizontal branching.  P. persica ‘Jodrell Bank’ is supposedly more of an upright form.  P. persica ‘Pendula’ is passed around as a weeper but when folks ask, I say “not so much.”  I don’t know anything about a clone called P. persica ‘Select’ which is reported to have purple-edged new leaves that become uniformly green after the first flush.

Dirr lists these and others including, ‘Burgundy,’ ‘Felicie,’ ‘Globosa,’ ‘Henny’s Dwarf,’ ‘Jennifer Teats,’ ‘Jodrell Bank,’ ‘Lamplighter’ (variegated, unstable), ‘Persian Lace’ (variegated), ‘Purple Halo,’ ‘Purple Moon,’ ‘Purple Rim,’ ‘Ruby Vase,’ and ‘Summer Bronze’.  In fact, Dirr’s article is a fine read as he too finds the plant totally reliable and totally underutilized.

Parrotia persica vanessa 01-12-07

‘Vanessa’ Fall Color

Parrotia subaequalis should be a rage. It’s related to P. persica but very rare and only recently introduced.  What’s odd about P. subaequalis is that it was found in eastern China, about 3500 miles away from the natural range of P. persica.  Another odd fact is this tree was a recent find, first characterized by Deng in 1992.  Arnold Arboretum had small plants in the garden in 2004.  From that auspicious start, the plant has been scattered far and wide.  We’re contributing to that.  What’s sad for me is I saw the plant at the Nanjing Botanical Garden years ago but assumed it was P. persica and never gave it a second glance, chalking it up to Chinese nomenclature issues.  I never caught it in the Fall because that’s what separates the two immediately.  It’s brilliant red.

Parrotia subaequalis

Parrotia subaequalis in the Fall

parrotia subaequalis (2)

SFA Gardens Dec 2017

Easy to root and grow, we are multiplying P. subaequalis as fast as we can.  If we give you one, it means we like you.  There’s a great story in Arnoldia that every fan of the Hamamelidaceae should read:

I don’t think I’ve ever met a plant enthusiast who didn’t find this tree special and the conversation wanders into why it doesn’t make a top ten list somewhere.  I guess it’s the lack of flowers?  Maybe it’s because it’s so slow to get going?  Maybe we’re just not that fond of Persia in the Deep South?  It’s just not well known in the South and rarely encountered in the nursery trade, never seen at the mass markets.  For whatever reason, this tough and durable tree is worthy of any well drained full sun spot in the Southern garden.

Vitex agnus-castus – A Tree For The Most Chaste Among Us.

Baluchistan in the 1980s was a different time.  As an American, as a USAID consultant for the fruit industry, I was treated by my hosts in fine fashion.  After all, the money was flowing into the country from various aid agencies.  Pakistan was having to deal with hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Russian/Afghanistan war and the USA was helping the Pashtuns, the second largest ethnic group in Pakistan.  They were Afghans.  So, at the time, I was one of the good guys.  My first encounter with a chaste tree in the wild was in a narrow dry mountain valley in this western province.  The white to lavender blooms were dancing above the finely cut leaves of ten to fifteen foot shrubby trees that ran along the stream.  This is the home of the chaste tree.  For centuries farmers had captured the mountain run off of these streams into stone aqueducts that carried the flow out of the canyons down into valleys and then into small canals that split and split again to feed fruit orchards, vegetable farms and local villages.  A system of waterways are the Karez irrigation system of the region and they serve as more than just an irrigation source.  They tie farmers, villagers, and communities together in a long history of water rights, cooperation and wars.  When we talk about water wars, this place wins.  Along the run of the flow out of the mountains, the adjacent lands prospered.  This is one of the natural homes of the Chaste tree.

Vitex agnus castus 06-03-06

Columbia Park, Shreveport, LA

Vitex agnus-castus is an ancient tree.  It’s home is a wide swath across the Mediterranean.  It enjoys many names including hemp tree, chaste tree, chasteberry, Abraham’s balm, and monk’s pepper.  Vitex agnus-castus is a bit different from related Vitex species in that it can tolerate some winter freezing without dying.  The tree was used in basketry.  However, I cannot verify if its reputation as an anaphrodisiac is true.  That means anti-libido.   You might have seen it coming.  Chaste tree?  Monk’s pepper?  At any rate, it is reported to have been used in men’s prison to keep the more festive males in check.  There are reports sailors made good use of it during their long voyages on the sea.  Just the name Monk’s pepper implies something; I’m not sure what.  Anyway,  the ground seed does look a lot like pepper and I can attest it tastes a little like pepper, but I never really wanted to overindulge.  I can also testify that the rumor that Hillary Clinton was going to make it the state tree of New York is patently false.  It’s just another darn example of that fake news problem.

Vitex agnus castus 2 06-03-06

Vitex agnus-castus can be cut back annually and will still rebloom

Long naturalized here and there, the species has been in cultivation in the South since 1670. The chaste tree is a butterfly attractant and sports showy blue, white, mauve, or pinkish blooms from May into September.  This small tree can be left to reach 10 -15’ in height or whacked back to more desired proportions.  If the spent blooms are cut away, the tree returns with another vigorous show of flowers.  While exceptionally drought resistant, the chaste tree appreciates a good garden soil and moisture and vigorous plants mean longer and more dramatic inflorescences.   In the north, the species can be effectively used as a perennial.  Since it blooms on new growth it cannot be knocked out of a bloom show even when frozen close to the ground.  Vitex is easy to root.  While considered to be a cross-pollinating plant, single plants will self pollinate and make seed as well.

The variety ‘LeCompte’ is a nice form with long blue inflorescences and it came from the town of LeCompte, Louisiana.  It was captured out of a home landscape by Greg Grant and a van load of SFA students.  The story goes that the van screeched to a stop, the doors flew open, the cuttings were liberated, an escape was made good and the whole escapade took less than fifteen seconds.  It may not be true but it does lend credence to the adage that if you have ten horticulturists in a room you’re looking at nine thieves.

Vitex agnus-castus 'LeCompte'


There are many varieties.  Salinas Pink and Flora Ann are introductions that showcase pinkish blooms with Flora Ann the pinkest in the trade. Both are  Greg Grant introductions. These two provide a little different twist to the normal blues, lavenders and whites of most varieties in the trade.

Vitex flora ann

Vitex agnus-castus ‘Flora Ann’ is a Greg Grant introduction and still the best pink

Other varieties include:  Abbeville Blue – Deep blue flowers; Alba – White flowers; Blushing Spires – Soft pink flowers – a poor pink in our region; Fletcher Pink Lavender-pink flowers – not in our collection; Lilac Queen – Lavender flowers; broad spreading; 20 feet tall – not in our collection; Montrose Purple Rich – violet flowers; Rosea – very pale light pink; Sensation – lavender blue; Shoal Creek – Large blue-violet flowers on 12 to 18″ inflorescences; leaf spot resistance; Silver Spire – White flowers.

A current variety trial near the coliseum parking lot runs from North to South.itex agnus-castus has a long and interesting history.  It’s a plant with a story.  It’s tough, drought resistant and reliably flowers.  It may have value if you’re locked in a prison cell and need to keep your mind properly focused.  It attracts bees and butterflies.  If you don’t like the way it’s acting, you can cut it all the way to the ground and it’ll return that spring and be flowering by summer.  Texas A & M University named it a Texas Superstar and branded it with yet another name.  It’s now promoted as the “Texas Lilac”, which I objected to simply because it’s not a darn lilac (Syringa species) and it’s not really a Texan.  It just immigrated here.   My protest went nowhere and I’m more convinced than ever that fake news is winning.

Wisteria frutescens ‘Dam B’ – Or is it Damn Bee?

Back in late May, 1998, Greg Grant and I were admiring a particular Wisteria frutescens in the SFA Mast Arboretum’s “lines of vines”, a collection of 96 vines on posts.  The plant was found by Lynn Lowrey, legendary plant hunter, near the dam of a lake in southeast Texas that was oddly named Dam B.  We were discussing the merits of the plant.  It had nice-sized blooms for the species, clean foliage, good texture, a little repeat blooming, and had been easy to keep in bounds.  There we were scratching our heads for a good name when in a flash, one of those pesky bumble bees made a dive at Greg’s head.  He rocked backwards took a swat at the critter and muttered, “Damn bee”.  I said, “That’s it!  We’ll name it Dam B.”  After all, the plant was collected at Dam B.  To Greg and I, the name made sense but the problem remained with the spelling.  Should we go with “Dam B” or “Damn Bee”?  This created a healthy debate on who might or might not be offended.  Were there better names out there, or would this grab the public attention to plant more native Wisterias?   We never really settled the issue, couldn’t come up with a better name, and the inspiration soon left the both of us so the name ‘Dam B’ stuck.  Over the years, the clone has been passed around and can be found in commerce, either as ‘Dam B’, or occasionally as ‘Lowrey’, and rarely as ‘Damn Bee’.

Wisteria frutescens original Dam B

‘Dam B’ sports light blue/lavender, finely scented, pendulous flowers in six-to-ten inch long racemes that mix perfectly with the fine-textured foliage.  This plant enjoys a heavy flowering season in late May and June and then blooms lightly and sporadically throughout the summer and into the fall.  Pruning and deadheading certainly encourages repeat blooming.  Our specimen “on a stick” was easy to keep in bounds and the suckers from the crown are easy to take care of in comparison to their Asian cousins.

Wisteria frutescens dam b 1 04-22-07

Wisteria frutescens ‘Dam B’


Wisteria frutescens dam b 04-22-07

‘Dam B’

This selection of Wisteria frutescens has been with us many years and I have seen it at other locations; it’s a promising candidate for the southern gardener wanting a less rambunctious vine with wisteria-like charm.  There are other Wisteria frutescens to consider.  ‘Amethyst Falls’ out of Head-Lee Nursery in South Carolina remains a popular standard, sports dark bluish purple popcorn like blooms and is popular because it never sets seed which allows it to bloom repeatedly.  We have Wisteria frutescens ‘alba,’ the white flowering form and another seedling in the Arboretum. ‘Memphis Blue’ enjoys a long true blue inflorescence.  ‘Longwood Purple’ is another dark flowered popcorn bloom form.  Our collection also includes three selections by Maarten van der Giessen of Best Liners of Semmes, Alabama and they look strong.  Our latest acquisition is a “pink” form found by Peter Loos and Matt Welch several years ago near Pascagoula, Mississippi.  While not a sizzling hot pink, there’s enough pink there to give us hope for future selections.

Wisteria frutescens peters pink 04-15-06

Wisteria frutescens ‘Peter’s Pink’ really is kind of pink


Wisteria frutescens peters pink 1 04-06-07

‘Peter’s Pink’

Wisteria frutescens is native, hardy, drought-tolerant and much better behaved than those closely-related, yet less civilized Asian cousins, Wisteria floribunda, the Japanese wisteria and Wisteria sinensis, the Chinese wisteria.  The main problem with these two brutes is growth rate.  A vigorous Chinese or Japanese Wisteria can become a monster if left untended for very long (like overnight).  Root suckers can gain an incredible foothold far from camp.  Plant Wisteria frutescens.

Propagation is easy. Softwood cuttings under mist in June and we have had good success with hardwood cuttings taken in late winter.  All Wisterias appreciate full sun, a well-drained soil and good horticulture during the establishment years.  A three year old vine is here to stay, quite capable of dealing with heat, drought, cold, floods, and the gardener’s neglect and occasionally, abuse.  Tough plants for a tough place on earth.

Vitex rotundifolia – Is Beach Vitex a Beauty or a Beast?

Is beach Vitex a beauty or a beast?  Isn’t this an invasive species? Isn’t this the dreaded “Kudzu of the beach” now threatening the Carolina dunes? Isn’t this the focus of all kinds of eradication campaigns? Why would any serious horticulturist even talk about a plant like this, much less write about it? Well, we’d just like to quietly point out that there are many areas of the southern USA where it’s quite common in landscapes – and it’s simply just another interesting non-invasive exotic plant. That’s the case in our region of Texas. It’s no thug here.

Vitex rotundifolia - Sept 2006

Beach vitex in the lines of vines

With over thirty years of experience with this hardy evergreen species in the USA – it’s an immigrant from Hawaii, believe it or not – we can now say there are many parts of the South where beach Vitex is rather tame. This is a species grown in fairly large numbers from a wide range of wholesale nurseries in Texas, Alabama, and Louisiana. Considering the fact that this is one tough immigrant from Hawaii, and the fact it’s easy to keep alive, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that it appears here to stay. Given a little positive horticulture, the plant can be downright beautiful, and it’s in that vein the plant can be used. First, let’s give testimony and respect to the species as a landscape candidate, without discounting its invasive potential in areas where it finds itself too much at home. Writing this piece conjures up memories – thirty years ago – of some officials of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department visiting J.C. Raulston, Director of the North Carolina State University Arboretum, and suggesting to him that promoting, growing, thinking about or touching this plant was just about the most horrible thing a horticulturist could do.

Vitex rotundifolia 2 - Sept 2006

Beach vitex makes a big trunk when trained on a post

Yes, this plant is easy to grow. In coastal sandy spots, it can go where you don’t want it to, and when it’s there it can and will smother native vegetation. It can be a bad boy. So here’s the rule: In those sections of the country that beach Vitex is way too frisky for its own good, don’t plant it, and, when you see it, kill it. In our Zone 8 region of Texas, we have never seen a seedling and if landscapers used the plant as described in this treatise, well, the end result is no problem. As a groundcover in our region, beach Vitex is not that voracious. At the San Antonio Botanical Garden in Texas (a bit warmer than Nacogdoches, Texas in the winter and summer), Paul Cox reported that it’s “manageable”. Knowing Paul Cox, that might not be too good. At any rate, experience is a good teacher.

Vitex rotundifolia 3 - Sept 2006

First, how bad is this plant? Well, it is a native of the USA, but only because it comes from Hawaii. First introduced as an exciting groundcover over 30 years ago as a potential groundcover for sunny dry spots, this introduction made its way to the sand dunes of South Carolina, and it’s there that beach Vitex has come to be quite frightening. This brief note isn’t intended to stir up a fight in the horticultural crowd. The invasive exotic issue is real and one that deserves respect and attention. We know that. However, an invasive in one spot can be quite docile in another and it’s in that vein this article is presented.

Vitex rotundifolia 06-19-08

Lines of vines in the old days, two thugs side by side?

If you happen to live in a region of the USA where beach Vitex never throws seedlings – and where it’s easily managed in a run – the plant does have attributes. We have long enjoyed it as a vine in our “line of vines” collection. The foliage is beautiful, clean and fully evergreen. The blooms are relatively inconspicuous coming in the fall as blue spikes. While attractive up close, they are never overwhelming. Our most conspicuous specimen in the Mast Arboretum “line of vines” has been trained to a post and never fails to gain approval by visitors.  We’ve used the plant as a vine and as a groundcover and found that it responds to an occasional shearing. Once again, let me repeat, we’ve never seen a seedling in our Zone 8 garden (not that we won’t find one tomorrow!) – and in our garden it’s not that vigorous, nor does it generate much fear and loathing. That said, tread with trepidation.

Scuttelaria suffrutescens ‘Texas Rose’ – A Plant That Needs Petting

Scuttelaria suffrutescens ‘Texas Rose’ is a pink-flowering skullcap that’s actually from Mexico.  It’s surprised Southern gardeners with its charm and durability. It’s a neatly mounding sub-shrub to one foot tall and about twice that wide with fine leaves and twigs.  It sports bright pink snapdragon flowers and makes a shiny addition to the front of any border or as specimens massed.  In mild winters here in the Pineywoods, it’s evergreen and has never failed to perform well if given just a little attention.

Scuttelaria suffrutescens-1a

P.C. Standley describes the type specimen from Coahuila, Sierra de la Silla near Monterrey, as a small shrub.  While more popular in the gardens of central and west Texas, this plant deserves greater use in the dry, sunny gardens of East Texas with Zones 8 and 9 most suitable.  We have found that good specimens always elicit some kind of urge to pet the plant – probably because the mound appears and happens to be very firm to the touch.  The plant has a bright show in May and early June and the blooming period persists throughout the summer and fall if under decent horticulture. It ends to rebloom after rainfall events.

scuttelaria bicentennial garden

‘Texas Rose’ Scuttelaria in the Bicentennial Garden, Houston, Texas


There are now a number of pink-flowering forms of this species appearing in mostly western nurseries and they appear under different names including ‘Cherry skullcap’, ‘Mexican pink skullcap’, to ‘Texas Rose’.  I suspect but can’t prove they are all the same clone or seedlings of the clone that goes all the way back to an expedition to Mexico with Lynn Lowrey and Ray Jordan in October 1987.  From the Friends of the SFA Mast Arboretum Newsletter # 5 and if you’ll please forgive that this is an ancient scan and a few pages are out of order, there’s some interesting information that can be found HERE:

This chronicles an interesting expedition to the San Madre Oriental mountains with Lynn Lowrey and Ray Jordan back in a time that Mexico was peaceful and inviting.  In that piece, I wrote that, “after backtracking east to the main road that runs between Montemerellos and Monterrey, we made one last side excursion to Chipinque.  The mountain town and associated forest is home for thousands of Mexican redbuds, numerous oaks, and a forest floor of salvias and penstemons.  On one hike, a large-flowered Phaseolus vine was spotted, and, according to Lynn, the best find of the trip, a skullcap colony, Scuttelaria species.  This rhizomatous, perennial herb made a strong attractive ground cover in a few sun-lit forest pockets.”

Scuttelaria suffrutescens-5a

Actually, as I remember the find, I said, “Lynn, what’s that plant with the pink flowers,” and Lynn responded, “what flowers?” Amazingly, I came to learn that Lynn was red color blind and could only discern reds, pinks and greens when they were real close to his eyes.  This always leads me astray.  One of the great plantsmen of all time, my friend JC Raulston, had no sense of smell.  When folks ask what’s wrong with me, I usually say, “I’m somewhat addled.”

This particular trip had as a goal primarily the collection of oak and other fall seeds that we encountered.  One of those oaks was Quercus rysophylla and one of those seedlings ended up in the garden here at SFA, a towering giant that I think is the #2 size wise in the nation.  Peckerewood has the biggest.  In the case of the Scuttelaria, a few cuttings were taken and rooted easily at SFA.  As we were about to cross back into Texas, we stopped at a favorite cantina to clean seed, organize cuttings, remove any soil from root systems all in an effort to make it through the USDA inspection station.  I can remember Lynn remarking the little skullcap was probably the best find of the trip.  Well, it certainly found its way into the market and google world.  We have found the plant easy to root under mist and plants should be moved soon after the first root initials make their appearance.  Leaving cuttings in mist after rooting too long can result in dead cuttings.

This is full sun plant for the South and should be give sharp drainage. A raised bed is perfect.  In the Arboretum, we have had good success with dry-loving plants by using sandy loam berms and a thin layer of crushed decomposed granite as a mulch.  The plant responds to fertilizer.  Some attention should be given the plants during the first two establishment years and we have not found the plant to be particularly rhizomatous, behaving instead like a green stiff mound throughout the year.  The plant survived the December 1989 dip to zero degrees and Tony Avent of Plant Delights in Raleigh, North Carolina, has kept the plant through many winters.  After a number of years, I discovered the clone had been given the name ‘Texas Rose,’ a name coined by Tim Kiphart, SFA Horticultura alum, who provided Tony with the plant. I’m confident that this is the same plant as the one in the Arboretum, the plant collected in October 1987.  As for the others that dot the trade, I’m not so sure where they came from.  There are darker flowered forms, perhaps derived from sports, or seed, or as a new collection.

A Labyrinth is NOT a Maze

I’ve always admired labyrinths and mazes.  They connect us to the past, the present and the future.  After seven years of thinking about it, we finally have a labyrinth in the Gayla Mize Garden.  It’s a classic seven course design with a wonderful East Texas look.


The labyrinth under construction.  Drone view by Dr. Dave Kulhavy, College of Forestry

The labyrinth is surrounded by a circle of ‘Slender Silhouette’ sweetgum trees.  It’s a unique columnar tree – fastigiate is the term – and the original tree was discovered on the edge of a lake in Tennessee by legendary plantsman, Don Shadow. It was reported to be 60′ tall and only 8′ wide.  Well, Don liberated some cuttings and grafted the clone.  He returned later to get some more wood and was caught by the landowner with a gun.  It’s Tennesee, you know.  He was persuaded to leave quietly and returned later to find that the tree was cut down.  However, it really didn’t matter because the original grafts took and the tree was saved for posterity.  Please don’t disparage the fact that it’s a sweetgum, often hated and reviled for the round sweetgum balls that scatter across lawns and gardens in the South.  Stepping on one barefoot can make you an enemy of the tree.  So when folks ask, does it have balls, I always say, “Yes, it has sweetgum balls, but they don’t fall far from the tree.”


labyrinth 2Even though we’ve talked about a labyrinth for many years, it wasn’t until Eagle Scout Luke Stanley approached me about a project that this came together.  Most Eagle Scout projects involve building picnic tables and boardwalks.  When I mentioned this opportunity, Luke jumped at the chance.  While funding was an issue, it finally all came together.  The project received a boost near the end with Tim Howell’s donation of a Klingstone Paths treatment, a chemical that bonds all the pea gravel into a concrete hard surface, one that is permeable to rain.  It breathes.

labyrinth 4

Duke Pittman tamping things smooth and Tim Howell applying the chemical

So, what is a labyrinth?  The term labyrinth is generally synonymous with a maze.  However, in modern times it’s accepted that a labyrinth is not a maze and a maze is not a labyrinth.  Contemporary scholars and enthusiasts observe a distinction between the two. In this specialized usage, a maze refers to a complex branching multicursal design with choices of path and direction, while a unicursal labyrinth enjoys only a single path to the center. You can get lost in a maze.  On the other hand, a labyrinth is easy to navigate.  It requires no complex thinking to stroll one’s way to the center.  It’s impossible to get lost.  Follow the path.


After Klingstone Chemical Paths treatment

Unicursal labyrinths appeared early in man’s history as designs on pottery, baskets, body art and in drawings on walls of caves, churches, businesses and homes.  The Romans used ornate unicursal designs on walls and floors in tile or mosaic. Many labyrinths set in floors or on the ground are large enough that the path can be walked. Unicursal patterns have been used historically both in group ritual, for private meditation and in recent times have found therapeutic value in hospitals and hospices.

Our single-path classical seven-course design fits the association of the Labyrinth on coins as early as 430 BC. Even though literal descriptions made it clear that the Minotaur was trapped in a complex branching maze, from Roman times till now labyrinths were almost always unicursal. Branching mazes were later reintroduced when garden mazes became popular during the Renaissance.

Now I realize that the average East Texan may not embrace the psychic and cosmic benefits of a labyrinth.  We like chicken fried steak, Bar-B-Q, beer in a can and hunting wild hogs.  A labyrinth just doesn’t come to mind.  Some citizens are truly suspicious of labyrinths as strange and alien inspired.  However, it’s just not true.  No matter your persuasion, we encourage you to saunter to the middle and then saunter out. To get the full benefit, you should approach the entrance and concentrate on your breathing for a minute or so.  Empty your mind.  Relax.  Then start the trek. Go for a very slow pace.  For our labyrinth, it takes about five minutes to make your way to the center rock.  Sit a spell, contemplate your well being and then take the stroll out.  Science proves that your blood pressure will drop, your mood will improve, and all will seem right with the world.  In these trying times, a labyrinth might just be the medicine we need.

Ray Mize – Another Soldier Has Fallen

Ray Mize passed away March 13, 2017 in Nacogdoches. He was 86 and lived a full life. Ray was a great friend of the SFA Gardens, the University and this community.  I’ve known Ray since the 1980s.  His wife Gayla was the light in his eye.  She volunteered from the very beginning of the Arboretum and in all kinds of city beautification projects.  Ray was always in tow.  He was a cattleman and I ran a few head in Shelby County.  He liked agriculture.  I did too.  So, we kind of connected. It was Gayla that brought him to loving flowers. Behind the scene, both Gayla and Ray had much to do with the creation of the Ruby Mize Azalea Garden. Of course, everyone knew Ray adored Gayla and for good reason; she was a very beautiful, sweet and special lady in our town.

Ray Mize 4 5 12 _3600 small

The road to the Gayla Mize Garden was a long one. There’s about 68 acres of land along University Drive that was owned by SFA. In 2008, Dr. Mike Legg in Forestry and Michael Maningas in Recreation submitted a Texas Parks and Wildlife proposal for a trails project.  The proposal needed collaborators and some matching funds.  That was us; SFA Gardens stepped up and as part of the deal, I wanted to name the property SFA Recreational Trails and Gardens (SFARTG).  They agreed and the University agreed.  Over a mile of trails came together and the SFARTG was dedicated in March 2010.  Well, time passed and the trails were there but no garden.  We did plant a line of the purple spider azaleas Koromo shikibu that are the front of the Ruby Mize Azalea Garden, but that was about it.  There’s a reality at universities: no money, no garden.

When Gayla Mize passed away in 2009, Ray had lost his soulmate. He would drive down University and see that sign shouting out “SFA Recreational Trails and Gardens.”  He would think, “where’s the $%&! Garden?”  The first I knew of Ray’s interest in building a legacy garden was in 2010.  I received a call from the secretary in the Agriculture building.  According to her, a large man with a patch on one eye had walked in to the main office.  He was carrying an axe and a crosscut saw wanting to know “where is that $#%!& Dave Creech?  He needs to get to work.”  To be honest, Ray kind of scared the ladies there in the front office.  I had moved my office to the Tucker House at the Pineywoods Native Plant Center and we soon got connected.  Ray was interested in that that frontage along University as a legacy for Gayla Mize.   We visited about what might be done.  A relationship was born.

As most of you know, things move slowly at a University. I often say our speed is deceiving; we’re actually slower than we look.  Ray visited with the administration and the University gave their blessing on the idea of a legacy garden.  Well, Ray would give us a little funding and we’d go into action.  Ray told me, “I like to try on a pair of shoes before I buy them.”  We kept at it.  Being stubborn gardeners, we kept chipping away.  It did take a serious effort to get the understory of privet, tallow, green briar vine, and honeysuckle out of there.  We took out a few trees which always add to the excitement of garden building.  We needed a clean forest floor to see what we had. We needed a garden design and Barb Stump sprang into action with that.  After all she was the designer and creator of the Ruby Mize Azalea Garden.  Who better than her!  We had to deal with some drainage issues.  There were plants to acquire and grow.  There was building a trail system inside the eight acres of garden.  In 2011, when Ray was convinced he was on the right track and our crew was up to the task, he stepped up and provided the legacy endowment.

Well before we made a serious run at planting azaleas, camellias and Japanese maples, I gave Ray a call and said get to the garden and I wanted him to plant the very first tree.  Burrows Creek defines the northern edge of the Gayla Mize Garden and we planted a nice baldcypress.  It remains to this day and I suspect it’ll be there for a few thousand years.

ray mize in garden

Ray Mize planting the first tree in the garden in 2010

The dedication of the Gayla Mize Garden took place April 16, 2012.

Ray 2 (1)

Dedication April 16, 2012


Renamen (3)

Ray Mize and President Baker Patillo, April 16, 2012

Ray was no average donor. He provided us with over-the-shoulder attention all the time.  Ray was old school.  Skip the paperwork, roll up your sleeves, and make it happen now.  He’d catch me in my office or the garden and never fail to nudge me to move faster.  We needed more flowers.  What the heck was I doing with my time?  I said trails take time.  Before I knew it, he had enlisted his grandson Ryan Cupit to help us get the trail base in.  Why wasn’t the gazebo finished? We’re working on it. Did I understand what it meant to make hay when the sun shines? Yes, I’m trying.  Did he have to bring some of his folks in there to make something happen?  I’d explain that it takes one hundred years to build a garden, two hundred if you don’t rush it.  He wasn’t convinced.  Ray was a man on a mission.  Our conversation usually ended with him saying, “Am I going to have to go talk to Baker?”  That, of course, is the SFASU President, Baker Patillo.  I hoped he was bluffing but it did provide additional incentive.  Ray liked to tease and he always let me know at the end of our visits how pleased the way the garden was growing.

Ray truly loved the garden. It was an important connection to Gayla and to everyone in our community.  The Agriculture in him meant he understood what it’s like to grow things on a big scale and what drought, floods and freezes can do.  He had empathy.  Ray noticed when the parking lot was full and that always made him feel good.  He liked the place being used.  Ray was more than a supporter; he was an aggressive participant for a greener Nacogdoches.  Leaving a legacy for Gayla, for his two children Jimmy and Lysa, for all his grandchildren, and for all the citizens of Nacogdoches, well, this was Ray’s way of paying it forward. When I walk the garden now, I feel there’s someone above pointing out all the stuff we need to be doing.  I suspect it’s Ray and I’ll bet anything Gayla has him planting something in God’s back forty.

Cunninghamias Need a Fan Club

Cunninghamia is referred to as China fir and is generally regarded as the most “primitive” surviving member of the Cupressaceae. It is not a fir (Abies) and most authors treat this evergreen conifer as a genus of two similar species, C. konishii of Taiwan and C. lanceolata of mainland Asia.  More recent studies have identified C. konishii in China and Vietnam as well. There’s another softer foliaged version that does well in East Texas, C. unicaniculata, which is considered, again, as a variety of C. lanceolata.     The Flora of China treats lanceolata and konishii as varieties of C. lanceolata, but other sources treat them as two separate species.  Let’s just say the nomenclature is still somewhat undefined.


Trees can reach over 100′ tall and over 6′ in diameter and are generally blessed with  pyramidal, dark green crowns. Bark is gray to reddish brown with fissures that crack into flakes that expose the inner bark.  Single trunk species are dramatic in the landscape. Over a century ago the trees were occasionally planted in landscapes, parks and courthouse squares in East Texas.  There were no doubt part of the mix of things brought into Texas out of Tennessee nurseries.  In Nacogdoches, we have some rather beautiful trees Scattered here and there.

They are indeed survivors.  There’s one nice tree in Nacogdoches, TX that rests at the front of the Westminster Presbyterian church on North street.  It’s a three trunker and while it’s a bit ratty, it remains quite a patriarch in our fair city.


I’ve encountered the tree all across the South and they no doubt date back to an era when the tree was obviously appreciated.  What drove the plantings remains somewhat of a mystery.  After all, it often features fallen branches, and the dead and dying spiny needles are no joy to the barefoot crowd.  Still the tree persists without attention or much care.


C. lanceolata on North Street, Nacogdoches, TX


There’s one form that should be planted and it sports clean foliage most of the time.  We have several C. unicaniculata at SFA Gardens, including one that dates back to the 1980s.  They do root and we’ve multiplied them for giveaways and special friends that like the rarely encountered tree.

cunninghammia unicaniculata mar 2004

The center tree is C. unicaniculata of good form in our collection


Cunninghammia unicanulata q

C. unicaniculata is soft needled

China fir can be rooted but it is agonizingly slow.  Large cuttings taken in the winter and given bottom heat under mist will root after three or four months.  Moved to a shade house they take their time deciding to survive – or not – and in a year or two they can make a reasonable small tree.  They cuttings exhibit plagiotropic growth.  That is, the cutting never realizes it’s supposed to be a tree, choosing instead to think it’s a branch.  Cutting back the resultant rooted branch can force a shoot that finally becomes a decent leader.  Perhaps this is why the tree is rarely seen in commerce.

For the conifer enthusiast, there are several dwarf varieties to choose from but the fan club remains small.  For someone looking for an evergreen conifer rarely seen, this may be the tree for you.



In an attempt to organize all the Botanical Gardens, Arboreta and Public Gardens and Parks under a single umbrella – the Texas Association of Botanical Gardens was created in 1991. The individuals behind the formation of the organization were Paul Cox (deceased), Linda Gay (retired from the Mercer Arboretum, now at Arborgate), Henry Painter (retired from the Fort Worth Botanical Garden) and Dave Creech (SFA Gardens). An agreement was reached that the TABGA would have no by-laws, no committees could be created, and there would be only one annual meeting per year – and the host for each annual meeting had to cover all the costs. Since those early days, annual meetings, usually in February, have been well attended – and provide Directors and staff the opportunity to get together, review the past year, and share in the joys and tribulations of gardening in Texas. Select nurserymen and landscapers often intend as invited guests.  While not all of the gardens of Texas attend the annual conference, most do.  The following list is a good starting point for those looking for a listing of the public gardens in Texas. If you find any problems with the list or descriptions, please contact Dr. Dave Creech at – he cheerfully serves as the informal webmaster of this one web page Association.  It’s what happens when an army of professionals keeps it simple.



567 Maddux Road, Weatherford, TX; Mailing Address: P.O. Box 276 Mineral Wells, TX 76068; Phone 940.682.4856; ; Fax 940.682.4078 Email:; Director – Carol Clark Montgomery; Event Coordinator – Melissa Barry; Group Tours, Memberships and Administrative Assistant -Beverly Hayes

Surrounded by native woodlands and tucked away down a country road between Weatherford and Mineral Wells, is Clark Gardens Botanical Park. Its story is one of hard work, dreams and the visions of Max and Billie Clark. What began as the Clark’s private garden in 1972 – a small personal endeavor of traditional landscaping on this rugged Texas hillside – is now a botanical masterpiece. Much of this world of tranquility – this unexpected treasure – was sparked by Billie Clark’s inspirations. In 1999, Max and Billie established the Max and Billie Clark Foundation and donated 143 acres, including the gardens, to this new non-profit organization. The gardens are an educational and scientific facility as well as a working model of beautiful, yet sustainable, landscapes. The native Texas and Texas adaptable plants the park exhibits are low maintenance and many are drought tolerant. On April 22, 2000, Clark Gardens opened its gates to the public and has been declared one of the most beautiful gardens in Texas. Visitors may take a photo journey of the making of Clark Gardens Botanical Park, and read more about its unique history when they visit the History House in the Park’s West Garden Area.


Box 255, 711 West Lee Ave., Weatherford, Texas 76086; 817-361-1700 Steven Chamblee, Horticulturist –

Weaving the mysterious elements of Chinese architecture into the elegance of a formal English garden, the 3.5-acre former estate of portraitist Douglas Chandor was designed & built to delight your heart and revive your senses. Each of the garden’s fifteen rooms will enchant you. From the 20 foot stone boulder waterfall to the formal bowling green to the mysterious dragon fountain, something wonderful awaits you around every bend.


825 Garland Road, Dallas, Texas 75218; Phone: 214-327-8263; 214-327-4901 Event Hotline; Jenny Wegley, Horticulturist –

The Dallas Arboretum is a sixty-six acre arboretum and botanical garden. It is devoted to research and education, as well as to public display. Plan a full day here in the spring or fall. The Dallas Arboretum has amazing color displays and has developed a cutting edge evaluation program for new plant materials.


3220 Botanic Garden Boulevard, Fort Worth, Texas 76107; phone: 817-871-7686; Bob Byers, Director,; Steve Huddleston, Director of Horticulture; Rob Bauereisen, Grounds manager at; Gail Manning, education horticulturist at; Kathleen Cook, landscape architect at; Leslie Pool, Garden center coordinator at

The oldest botanic garden in the state of Texas, the Forth Worth Botanic Garden consists of 110 acres within the cultural district of Fort Worth. It features 23 gardens, among them the rose garden, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, a 10,000 sq. ft. conservatory that houses a tropical collection, and the beautiful Japanese Garden.  Opened in 1973, the Japanese Garden covers 7 ½ acres of varied topography and includes authentic Japanese architecture, koi ponds, waterfalls, and meticulously-maintained plant material, including a vast assortment of Japanese maples.   


411 Ball Street, Grapevine, Texas 76051-5113; Telephone: 817-410-3470; Kathy Nelson, Parks Department, Capital Improvements Project Manager,

This garden is a beautiful treasure in the heart of historic Grapevine – an excellent place to enjoy the natural beauty and tranquil surroundings of nature. This special garden welcomes visitors with hundreds of varieties of plants, extraordinary scents to tantalize, and the therapeutic beauty that a day in the garden provides.  The gardens are an ideal location to exercise, hold a wedding or special event and take those special family photos.


P.O. Box 869, Elm Mott, Texas 76640; Phone: 254-754-9600; Email:

This is an all-organic establishment with planting scattered around the grounds. The Homestead Heritage Village is a working farm featuring a herb garden, perennial borders, old roses and vegetable gardens.


1612 W. Henderson Street; Cleburne, Texas; Mailing address: City of Cleburne, Community Service, P. O. Box 677, Cleburne, Texas 76033; Grace Clanton 817-487-0761; Kristi Dempsey 817-645-0949 or (817) 556-8858

Winston Patrick McGregor Park will is at the corner of West Henderson and Colonial Drive. The land, financial gift and house were bequeathed to the City of Cleburne by M. Frank Scott, longtime resident of the City. The 10-acre park is a botanical style park featuring native plants and plants that are suitable for the Cleburne area. The park has walking paths, a pavilion/gazebo, a pond with fountain, children’s garden, memorial grove and a variety of educational and recreational activities. The house, now completely restored, is used for meetings, small receptions, and other gatherings. The gazebo will accommodate concerts, weddings, and other events.


3601 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, P.O. Box 152537, Dallas, Texas 75315; Phone: 214-428-7476; Email:

Texas Discovery Gardens and Conservatory is a seven acre arboretum and display garden. It is designed to showcase native plants in an urban environment and teach the conservation of nature. The tropical conservatory doubles during the State Fair as a living butterfly exhibit.


One Nature Place, McKinney, Texas 75069; Phone: 972-562-5566; Email:

A 289 wildlife sanctuary that is glorious in spring and fall. The museum is beautifully integrated into the beauty of this Texas landscape. The Texas Native Plant Display Garden harbors over 200 plant species, including some seldom seen in public collections, like Texas aloe and the native black cherry.


8101 Anglin Drive,  Fort Worth, Texas 76140; Phone: 817-572-0549; Email:

The Weston Gardens in Bloom is a retail nursery covering seven acres and a display garden covering four acres in the gardens. The gardens feature English-style mixed borders, old roses and native plants.


Clapp Park, 4111 University Avenue, Lubbock, Texas 79413; Phone: 806-797-4520; Email:

A fifty-five acre arboretum and research site, exhibiting landscape use of native and adapted plants.



8500 Bay Area Boulevard, Pasadena, TX 77507; Phone: Local (281) 474-2551; Tom Kartrude, Executive Director, Phone: 713 274 2666; Email:

ABNC was founded in 1974 as a result of efforts begun by an environmental visionary, Armand Yramategui. Armand foresaw the urban growth around Armand Bayou and strove to have this land remain a wilderness. Armand’s tragic death in 1970 inspired a local, regional and national coalition of people and organizations to acquire the 2500 acres of land now preserved as ABNC. ABNC is a non-profit organization that was established with the mission preservation and environmental education.


Bert & Jack Binks Horticultural Center, 6088 Babe Zaharias Drive, Beaumont, Texas 77705; Phone: 409-842-8129; Gary Outenreath, Horticulturist:

A 10,000 square feet glass conservatory displaying thousands of tropical plants. The tropics come alive, with a water lily pool full of fantail goldfish, edged by Victorian water lilies from the Amazon, plus foliage and flowering tropical plants of every imaginable description.


13062 Farm Road 279, Chandler, Texas 75758; Phone: 903-852-3897

Blue Moon Gardens is a six acre cottage garden, greenhouse and retail nursery. The gardens are clustered about a farmhouse that’s nearly a century old and newer buildings that carry out the same style, this is a cottage garden par excellence. Be careful visiting the nursery; it’s easy to get carried away with the wonderful diversity of ornamental plants.


1601 Patterson Road at Highway 175 West, P.O. Box 2231, Athens, Texas 75751; Adam Black, Director of Horticulture, Email: or:

The Arboretum and Botanical Society is a 100 acre nature trail and associated gardens. The property includes an1850s dogtrot house as home to a small museum, a large open-sided pavilion and numerous color gardens.


420 Rose Park Dr., Tyler, Texas 75702 (Highway 31 West at Rose Park Drive); Phone: (903) 535-0885; Fax (903) 535-0884; Email:

Right next to the Municipal Rose Garden, the 8,000 square foot IDEA garden offers a tranquil setting, designed for the serious gardener seeking new ideas or for the enjoyment of the casual visitor. The garden features more than 90 varieties of flowers, trees, shrubs, grasses, ground cover and bog plants. Some are new or currently underutilized, but all are adapted to the Northeast Texas area. Also featured are new plant promotions and plants being tested and evaluated for use in our region. All plants will be grown in an environmentally friendly manner using water conserving methods. The IDEA Garden features several composting methods. The IDEA Garden, the Shade Garden, the Sunshine Garden, and the Heritage Rose Garden are all maintained by the Smith County Master Gardeners


225 Water Street, Jasper, TX 75951 (1 block south of the courthouse); Mailing address: Jasper Master Gardeners c/o Texas A&M AgriLife, 271 E. Lamar, Suite, 200, Jasper, TX 75951. PHONE: 409-384-3721 or call the Chamber of Commerce at 409-384-2762; Email:

This 14-acre complex features several park areas sponsored by a coalition of organizations and the City of Jasper. The original plans for the gardens were designed by horticulturalist Dr. Dave Creech at the request of Estelle Debney, founder of the Jasper Arboretum board, with the support of the Woman’s Civic Club. Sandy Creek runs through the center of the park from Hwy 96 to the scenic stone-arched Main Street bridge. The north bank features formal gardens, children’s Kiwanis Park, and Library Gardens (dry garden, rose garden and butterfly garden). The historic Beaty-Orton House built in 1888 is surrounded by the sunny garden (color plantings and heritage azaleas) and the home itself is filled with period antiques. The house is open for tours by appointment only and may be reserved for special events like weddings and quilt shows. The newest addition to the park is the Master Gardener greenhouse and Outdoor Learning Center. In front of the greenhouse is a pergola with brick patio and swings, a favorite lunchtime stop for downtown Jasper. Behind the greenhouse is a potting shed/classroom overlooking Sandy Creek, where otters sometimes play. Next to the greenhouse is the Butterfly Gardens. During Butterfly Festival (first Saturday in October), a section of the butterfly gardens next to the greenhouse is netted over to be a protected butterfly house where children can get a closer look at the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly. One goal is to raise enough money to build a permanent butterfly house that will be open year-round. Future development on the south bank will include a larger pond with fountains, footbridge over the creek, nature trail with Texas native plants and a log cabin nature center. Both the Jasper Arboretum and Jasper Master grdeners are 501(c)3 non-for-profit organizations.


Director of Parks and Recreation, PO Box 1952, Longview, TX 75606
Email:; Phone: (903) 237-1398

The Longview Arboretum and Gardens will be located on 28.62 acres of city-owned flood plain land adjacent to the Maude Cobb Convention & Activity Center in Longview, Texas. The mission statement states that the goals of the garden are to enhance the natural beauty of East Texas, preserve and protect the clean air, clean water, good soil, trees and abundance of living plants in the East Texas area; to enhance natural and native habitat with a minimum amount of disruption and intrusion, and to build an entity that will reflect the grace of God and His creation that East Texas citizens can enjoy and help preserve for generations.


Near Lufkin, Texas.  Jim Carcano, Director of Horticulture, Email:

The Lovett Pinetum began with Dr. Robert Lovett’s enthusiasm for conifers.  On 14 acres near Springfield, Missouri, he began experimenting with planting several different speciesofpine starting in 1970 and continuing through today.  In 1997, the Lovett Pinetum was formed as a non profit to continue the further development and management of the collection.  The pinetum has grown to 108 acres in Missouri and includes a 43 acre site in Lufkin, Texas.  The Pinetum collection includes more than 500 species, varieties, and cultivars of conifers.  Visitation is ONLY by appointment.


1906 Calder Avenue, Beaumont, Texas 77701; Phone: 409-832-2134

The McFaddin-Ward House is an estate garden on the grounds of a 1906 Beaux Arts Colonial style house. It is three landscaped blocks including buildings; 40,000 square feet in lawns and 20,000 square feet in garden beds.

QUITMAN ARBORETUM AND BOTANICAL GARDENS (aka Gov Hogg Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens)

100 Gov Jim Hogg Parkway, Quitman, Texas 75783; Contact information: Pam Riley   903-466-4327   (President); Vice President – Jan Whitlock; Treasurer – Linda Avant; Secretary – Deanna Caldwell; Email:

A new 23-acre garden in Quitman, Texas, with the crown jewel being the Stinson house. The Stinson House was built in 1869 by James A. Stinson in Pine Mills, Texas–about 15 miles east of Quitman at the intersection of Highway 154 and 312.  Ima Hogg was instrumental in having the Stinson House moved to its current site (at the back of the Governor Hogg Park) in 1968.  The house has six fireplaces (one in each room).  Central air and heat as well as electrical lights have been added.  A room off the front porch that is separate from the main house was originally used by the family for workers or travelers to spend the night.  That room has been converted to a bathroom.  After the house was moved to its current location in 1969, it was owned and operated by the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife.  The house served as a museum and housed Hogg family furniture for several years until the museum was closed due to lack of funding.  The house then sat empty and unused for a number of years until it was finally incorporated into the Arboretum in October of 2009.


1900 West Front Street, Tyler, Texas 75702; Phone: 903-531-1212; email:

The Municipal Rose Garden is fourteen acres dedicated for public display and research. The garden has some 38,000 to 40,000 specimens of more than 500 varieties, mostly modern. The is one of the largest collection of roses open to the public in the whole world.


Stephen F. Austin State University; P.O. Box 13000, Nacogdoches, Texas 75962-3000; Phone: 936-468-4343; Dave Creech, Director:; Anne Sullivan, Administrative assistant,; Dawn Stover, Mast Arboretum:; Elyce Rodewald, Environmental Education:; Duke Pittman, Landscape Manager:

Located on the campus of Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, SFA Gardens includes the SFA Mast Arboretum, Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden, Pineywoods Native Plant Center and the Gayla Mize Garden.  Each of the gardens offers a unique outdoor experience.  From a vast and diverse collection of rare plants from around the world, to Texas’ largest azalea garden, to gardens and nature trails dedicated solely to native plants, and a new network of hiking and biking trails.   The SFA Gardens serve to promote plant diversity in the landscape while serving as a living laboratory for SFA students, faculty and the nursery and landscape industry.   SFA Mast Arboretum was established in 1985, the Mast Arboretum is 10 acres built entirely around themes and is used as display gardens for research and education. A green laboratory and a cornucopia of diversity, this garden serves as a teaching tool for the Horticulture program and is a must-see garden stop for visitors to Nacogdoches, the oldest town in Texas. The Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden – over eight acres, 7000 azalea plants (500 varieties), 200-plus varieties of Japanese maples, 200-plus camellia varieties, 200 Hydrangea varieties, and much, much more, this garden encompasses forty beds and over 1.2 miles of walking trails. SFA’s Pineywoods Native Plant Center is the third garden in the USA affiliated with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center with a mission to display a wide range of plants native to the Pineywoods. With over 2.2 miles of all-season trails and forty acres, this garden is a remarkable island in the middle of a busy city. Finally, the Gayla Mize Garden is eight acres initiated in 2010 and is part of the 68 acres of the SFA Recreational Trails and Gardens with a focus on deciduous azaleas, their hybrids and wide ranging collection of trees and shrubs in our never-ending trials to find plants with promise.


2111 West Park Avenue, Orange, Texas 77630; Phone: 409.670.9113; FAX: 409.670.9341; Rick Lewandowski, Director. E-mail:; Jennifer Buckner, Horticulture Director:

Nestled within 252 acres in the heart of Orange, Texas, Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center is a program of the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation, a private foundation whose mission is to improve and enrich the quality of life in Southeast Texas and encourage and assist education. The unique ecosystem of Shangri La presents an ideal opportunity to further that mission as well as carry on the vision of H.J Lutcher Stark, the man who originally developed it more than 60 years ago. The formal Botanical Gardens contain more than 300 plant species in five formal “rooms” as well as four sculpture “rooms.” Adjacent to the Botanical Gardens is a bird blind which allows visitors to observe nesting birds in Shangri La’s heronry. The Nature Center includes a hands-on exhibit called the Nature Discovery Center, a laboratory, and three outdoor classrooms located deep in the cypress swamp. The Orientation Center includes an Exhibit Hall, Discovery Theater, Children’s Garden, Exhibition Greenhouses, Café, and Garden Store. Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center is the first project in Texas and the 50th project in the world to earn the U.S. Green Building Council’s Platinum certification for LEED®-NC, which verifies the design and construction of Shangri La reached the highest green building and performance measures. As one of the most earth-friendly projects in the world, Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center offers a glimpse of how people can live in harmony with nature. The combination of gardens and nature at Shangri La presents a serene oasis for retreat and renewal, as well as the opportunity to explore, discover and learn. Visit Shangri La and rekindle your sense of wonder.


600 John Kimbrough Boulevard, Texas A&M University 2142, College Station, TX 77843-2142; Joseph Johnson, Gardens Manager; Phone: 979-862-1697; Email:

The Gardens at Texas A&M University are envisioned as a place of beauty, a peaceful sanctuary on campus, and a place where everyone at Texas A&M and the surrounding community can relax, enjoy and learn simultaneously. The Gardens project will restore, preserve, and develop nearly 40 acres riparian way into an aesthetic, functional public garden to conduct formal teaching, research and extension/outreach activities. The Gardens will serve as an outdoor classroom for faculty and staff to teach students and the public valuable concepts about food production, landscape beauty and the natural environment. Construction began in June 2016 on the 7 ½ acre Leach Teaching Gardens that will serve as an outdoor teaching, education, and demonstration venue centered on garden design, installation and management. The Leach Teaching Gardens expected to be completed in the spring of 2018 will contain a collection of thematic gardens focused on: vegetable and food production; butterfly, bee and bird gardens; Earth-Kind® techniques and Texas Superstar® plants; student-designed and constructed rotating gardens; our garden heritage; and more.



10,000 Hwy 50, 7561 East Evans Rd, Independence, TX 77833; Phone:  979-836-5548  and the FAX is 979-836-7236 and in San Antonio, TX 78266 the phone is 210-651-4565 and the FAX is  210-651-4569; Open in Independence Mon-Sat 9am-5:30pm and Sun 1:30am-5:30pm – and in San Antonio Mon-Sat 9am-5:30pm and Sunday 11:00am-5:30pm

With two locations, visitors can wander through an amazing nursery and garden displays that features pass-along plants, proven performers and a plethora of own-root antique roses. Heirloom gardening at its finest.


7915 S. General Bruce Drive, Temple, Texas 76502; Currently open as Park rental space only; 254-913-1013; Zoe Rascoe, VP BOTR Botanic Garden Foundation –

Bend of the River Botanic Garden will provide Central Texas with a natural space for learning, research, cultural enrichment, and leisure activities. The 90 acre Garden site will offer venues for public and private events, opportunities to improve health and wellness in a natural setting, cultural and educational programming and research, and serve as a destination for the enjoyment of nature and outdoor recreation. The Master Plan will be finalized in early 2017 with a capital campaign to follow.


4801 La Crosse Avenue, Austin, Texas 78739-1702; 512-292-4100

As a wildflower center perfectly adapted to its environment, this display garden educates the public in the use and utility of regional plants. The garden consists of many small cultivated beds, including 23 theme gardens, and several miles of trails through the wonderful Hill country of Texas.


3801 Old Bull Creek Road, Austin, Texas 78703; Austin Parks and Recreation Department; 512-974-6700

Mayfield Park Garden is twenty-three acres of public park with both natural woodlands and landscaped gardens, including a herb garden. Not all of the acres are cultivated.


9001 Bosque Blvd., Woodway, TX 76712; 254 399-9204; Janet Schaffer, Director. Email:

Nestled in the rolling hills of Woodway, Texas you will find quaint pocket gardens and a rustic nature trails throughout this 16 acre facility. The Carleen Bright Arboretum celebrates and shares the distinct beauty of gardens and natural environments in Central Texas; it is a year-round focus for community life.


605 Robert E. Lee Road, Austin, TX 78704; For Museum information, call (512) 445-5582; Fax. 512-445-5583

Several paths take you through the garden to discover over 130 sculptures by Charles Umlauf, an internationally recognized sculptor. Sculptures range from detailed realism to lyrical abstractions. Family groups, animals, religious and mythological figures, and nudes are featured in the collection. The figures are crafted from wood, terra cotta, stone, bronze, and marble. This serene and shady spot is wonderful for escaping the Austin summer heat while still communing with nature and art. A stream runs through the garden, forming small pools at various spots. Both the museum and the garden are accessible to people with disabilities.


425 Wildflower Hills, P.O. Box 3000, Fredericksburg, Texas 78624; 830-990-1393; 800-848-0078; email:

Wildseed Farms is a two hundred acre working farm and display garden set up to give visitors a close-up view of some of the crops. It is a world leader in producing wildflower seeds. It includes 70 acres of bluebonnets as well as trails through the growing areas and beside sizeable display beds.


Wild Basin Wilderness, 805 N. Capitol of Texas Hwy., Austin, Texas 78746; Director Monica Swartz, Wild Basin Director; 512-233-1619;

Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve was founded in 1974 to protect 227 acres of pristine Texas Hill Country and to provide nature education programs. Visitors enjoy 2 1/2 miles of hiking trails that pass through woodland, grassland, and streamside habitats. These habitats are home to threatened and endangered species, and hundreds of native plants, animals and birds. Wild Basin’s nature education programs are funded by special events, memberships, corporate donations and grants.


The Civic League Park is located at 24 South Park Street, between Beauregard and Harris Street.

In 1988, Ken Landon joined hands with city officials to create a lily pool at Civic League Park. The neglected pond, built in 1934, as a reflection pool, was a gooey bog when then city parks director, Jimmy Rogers asked city council members to approve an “Aquatic Beautification Project.” After receiving the go-ahead, the two men and members of the San Angelo Council of Garden Clubs rolled up their sleeves and set to work. Soon, thousands of people were flocking to the park to look at the lilies. September and early October are the “Spring time” of flowering for lilies.  However, something is always blooming in the collection April through October. The spotlights are turned on the night bloomers, and the park is also well lit and safe.

Mailing: PO Box 513,  Physical: 1219 Fisher St         Goldthwaite TX 76844
Susan Lindsey, Executive Director-
Savannah Early, Garden Manager-
Phone- (325) 648-2750     Website:
Texas Botanical Gardens and Native American Interpretive Center is a cultural and educational center in the heart of Texas honoring and celebrating early Native American life and highlighting their dependence on the region’s native plants and waterways.  The Gardens represent an area along the Colorado River in Central Texas exhibiting historical native plant communities, the lifeways of the first people to walk across Texas, and conservation of natural resources in Texas. We feature sustainable design, use local materials in construction, conserve water, preserve natural resources, and promote appropriate plant and land use.


2220 Barton Springs Road, Austin, Texas 78746; 512-477-8672; Melissa Bartling, Horticulturist 512- 477-8672 ext. 15; Email:; Elizabeth McVeety, Garden Center Coordinator 512-477-1750; Email:; Julyette Evans, Events Coordinator 512-477-8672 ext. 10; Email:;  Website: and

Zilker Botanical Garden is located on 26 acres in the heart of Austin in Zilker Park. Beautiful theme gardens include rose, herb, daylily, iris, fern, and azalea collections as well as the native Green, Taniguchi Japanese, Hartman Prehistoric, and Butterfly Gardens.



One Hermann Circle Drive, Houston, Texas 77030; 713-639-4629

The Butterfly Center in a three-story, cone-shaped glass conservatory. It was built and is maintained especially as a living exhibit of butterflies. The conservatory bloomed an Amorphophallus titanium in 2010, which was a signature event and greatly increased attendance.


8545 South Staples, Corpus Christi, Texas 78413; 361-852-2100; Michael Womack, Executive Director, Email:

A one hundred-eighty acre combination botanical garden, with both highly cultivated exhibits and nature trail featuring native plants and wildlife including extensive natural areas and endangered species.


100 Lee Lane, Lyford, TX 78569; (956) 262-2176; Paul Thornton, Botanical Garden Manager ; Cynthia Gonzales, Visitor Services associate;; 956-262-2176

Hilltop Gardens is 25 acre tropical healing garden that is surrounded by a 500 acre organic farm. Hilltop Gardens is located in the Rio Grande Valley.

Hilltop Gardens, the historical home of Aloe, is far from the sounds, lights, and energy of the city. It is a place to experience nature….a place to enjoy…. a place to learn….and a place to revitalize your mind, body and spirit with activities that focus on the restoration, nourishment, and preservation of an environment that promotes wellness. The concept of the gardens is based on the healing power of aloe and has been designed as a respite from the hectic world. It’s a place where our visitors can learn, explore and experience nature. It’s a place that promotes wellness of mind, body and spirit. The gardens are surrounded by a 500 acre experimental farm, a 12 month operation that grows premium quality crops. The farm is certified both organic and global GAP (Good Agricultural Practices).


Hermann Park Conservancy, 6201-A Hermann Park Drive, Houston, Texas 77030; Doreen Stoller, Executive Director; 713-524-5876 ext. 331;

A major park with public gardens and expansive green areas.


Administrative Office: 3701 Kirby Drive, Suite 992, Houston, Texas 77098; 713-715-9675; Email:; Claudia Gee Vassar, Interim Executive Director:; Jose Leal, Office Manager:

The future site of the Houston Botanic Garden is a 120-acre site with a mature tree canopy located on Sims Bayou. The natural oxbow and the channel create an island that, along with the southern gardens across Sims, will host a variety of collection and display gardens, event spaces, educational exhibits, and research facilities. The Houston Botanic Garden strives to enrich life through discovery, education, and the conservation of plants and the natural environment.


3875 N. St Mary’s Street, San Antonio, Texas 78212; Phone: (210) 735-0663

This is a Japanese-style garden, with large lily pond and lush semitropical planting. Contains many more flowering plants than most gardens of this type, incorporating native perennials and colorful annuals throughout. This site is designated as a Texas Civil Engineering Landmark and a Registered Texas Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


22306 Aldine Westfield Road, Humble, Texas 77338-1071; 713-274-4160; Emails: Darrin Duling, Director at; Anita Tiller, Botanist at; Jeff Heilers, Greenhouse Manager at; Chris Ludwig, Horticulturist at; Jamie Hartwell, Volunteer Coordinator at; Maryanne Esser, Board President of The Mercer Society at

Mercer Botanic Gardens is over 325 acres of beautiful public gardens.  The gardens feature an outstanding collection of gingers, bamboos, and trees and shrubs adapted to the Gulf Coast region.


One Hope Boulevard, Galveston, Texas 77554; 800-582-4673; Email: Danny Carson, Horticulturist; Donita Brannon, Rain Forest Horticulturist

A ten story glass conservatory, re-creating conditions in the world’s rain forests. It is home to thousands of flora and fauna. The conservatory includes plants, fish, butterflies, birds, bats, and insects from American, Asian, and African rain forest.


2503 Westheimer, Houston, Texas 77098; Phone: 713-523-2483

Several acres of classic old world formal garden. Bayou Bend Collections and Gardens is a new LEEDS Silver building worth a trip and is part of the


555 Funston Place at North New Braunfels, San Antonio, Texas 78209; 210-536-1400; Executive Director Bob Brackman Email:

This botanical garden is planted and maintained for the purposes of education and research, as well as the conservation and display of plants from around the world. Includes a conservatory, display gardens, formal beds and native planting. The garden covers thirty-three acres.


Route 1 Box 40, Alamo, Texas 78516; 956-787-2040

This is a five acre wholesale and retail nursery. Thousands upon thousands of desert plants live and thrive in this natural rock garden setting, representing about 2,000 different kinds of cacti. The gardeners propagate them on site, thus preserving rare and endangered species. Harry passed away June 4, 2010 and we are not sure of the status of his amazing collection.  No link to a website specific for this garden but I’ve included a description.  Needs checking.


301 South Border, Weslaco, Texas 78599; 956-969-2475

A five acre educational nature park featuring native flora unique to the local ecosystem. “A secret garden in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley.”


1400 Streit Drive, Amarillo, Texas 79106;  806-352-6513; email:

A four acre garden designed to provide horticultural education for the region. It includes display gardens, a conservatory, a gallery for exhibitions, classrooms and a 1,600 volume library, making it a valuable resource for the community.


HC 70, Box 375, Terlingua, Texas 79852; Phone: 915-424-3327

The environmental education center is a two-acre botanical garden set within 99.9 acres of natural area. The garden features plants native to the Chihuahuan Desert.


Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, Texas 79968-0533; John M. White, Garden Curator, Chihuahuan Desert Gardens, University of Texas at El Paso, Centennial Museum Rm. 305, 500 W. University Ave., El Paso, TX 79968; (915) 747-5335 Office; (915) 747-5411 Fax; email:

A two acre teaching and research garden open to the public for both formal and informal education in the use of native plants in the low-water landscape. This assemblage of 430 species is one of the largest collections of Chihuahuan Desert plants in the world.


Xeriscape Demonstration Display Garden, Texas A&M University, 1380 A&M Circle, El Paso, Texas 79927

A demonstration xeriscape garden, using plants native to the Chihuahuan Desert, as well as other arid regions, for research and education. The High Desert Cactus Garden is outstanding.  I’m not sure of the status of this garden.

Texas A & M University, College Station, TX Feb 2018

Grapevine, Texas Feb 2017


Moody Gardens 2016


Chandor Gardens 2014



Bayou Bend 2012


Zelker Botanical Gardens, Austin, TX 2009


San Angelo, TX 2007