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  • Writer's picturehawaiichocolate

A Day at the Zilker Botanical Garden

In the late 1970’s my husband and I bought a house in Albuquerque. I was excited to work on the yard and we built a trellis, added a greenhouse and a small vegetable garden, along with Russian olive trees. But what excited me most was being able to plant flowers. This is a love I have been passed down from my father. Growing up in NJ we had pink flowering azaleas and rhododendrons, bowls of colorful pansies and purple, white striped petunias and abundant daylilies. I learned to identify the trees and evergreens in our yard and once we had a fascinating tree surgeon come out to identify a fungus growing on a big tree that had been hit by lightning. I thought he had the best job in the world!

I looked forward each spring to trips to the “hothouses” with my father. To step from cold spring air into these damp, earthy glass houses alive with all their early spring scents is a memory and smell I will never forget. It’s interesting that the only plants inside our house were a few potted African violets my mother grew in the kitchen window, but the yard made up for it.

I joined the Albuquerque Master Gardeners and learned more about caring for soils, yards, and plant diseases. I planted daylilies in my yard and became obsessed with them. I tried my hand at hybridizing them and grew out my new varieties from seed. Added to that was an ever-growing cactus collection that bloomed profusely in March and won ribbons at the New Mexico State Fair. Life moves on in unexpected ways and I’ve lived a varied horticultural life since then- farming cacao and vanilla in Hawaii, and growing orchids and anthuriums there. I’m back in the mainland now, outside of Austin Texas and recently went to the Zilker Botanical Garden. Botanical Gardens are a great way to see what grows in your area and what a particular tree or shrub might look like when it is mature. We are USDA Zone 8 a/b here, depending on your elevation and can grow an interesting mix of deciduous and semi-tropical plants. The Zilker garden has a spectacular “Prehistoric Garden” filled with palms, cycads and beautiful trees like gingkoes and dawn redwoods. I happened to go there on a day the local Daylily club was having a show and sale. I had wanted to go the week before to see a bonsai exhibit but ended up sick in bed from my Covid booster. The daylilies were gorgeous as usual. From huge 7” flowers, to dainty teacup varieties, fabulous twisted spider- like lilies and double ruffled flowers. It reminded me why I have always loved this hardy plant. What has been bred into them since I first loved them in the 70’s is more re-blooming, sturdier flowers, more colorful eye zone patterns and even more developed fragrance. I bought three clumps, 3 varieties that were dependable Stout Medal winners, proven to withstand the Texas summer, and look forward to seeing them bloom next year. I think it may be the start of another love affair with these timeless blooms and the idea of garden full of flowers is slowing taking shape. In addition to the flowers, I am enjoying the ability to grow ferns. I have beautiful birds nest fern and was impressed with the giant staghorn ferns I see everywhere; I know at least a smaller wood mounted one is on my wish list.

Have you been inspired recently by a landscape? Share your experience in the comments.

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