Friday, July 1, 2011

Texas Bluebells

Summer in Texas is not my favorite season, especially this already too hot and dry one, but the appearance of the bluebells certainly sweetens it for me! They seem totally unpredictable to me -- some years we have almost none, some years an abundance. This is a pretty good year for these beauties!

Our native Texas bluebells (Eustoma exaltatum), also known as prairie gentians, like lots of sun and fertile soil. At our place the soil is heavy clay, and they seem to come up where it has been hard-packed, like where the tractor has been. Their blue-green foliage is not eaten by grazing animals, but these flowers have become more rare by being over-picked, and thus not able to re-seed. It's easy to see why people like to pick them!

The tulip-shaped blooms are single, ranging from blue-violet to red-violet, with a dark center and beautiful yellow-orange stamens. I saw some gorgeous bluebells in the floral section at HEB, but they were double, so were not our natives. I read that lisianthus (yet another name for bluebells) are bred in Japan, where they can be purple, pink, or white. We usually have a few white ones pop up here, but they are rare.

The flowers grow in clumps that can get as tall as two feet. They make excellent cut flowers as they are tall and showy and last at least a week. It's a good idea to not pick more than one stem from each clump so there are still plenty of seeds for next year. I read that the stems can be cut back after the seeds have dropped, and that will yield a vigorous plant for next year. I haven't ever done this, but I'm going to try it this fall and see what happens.

Each clump will usually have blooms in all stages, from buds to barely open, to fully open, to spent. This makes the display last weeks and weeks. If you just have a few in the garden, deadheading the spent blooms would make the plant really attractive, but with hundreds in a pasture, it's not really my gardening style!

Mostly I just like to walk down there in the evening with a glass of wine and marvel at their beauty!

In spite of the drought we're in, the bluebells are doing well this year. Unfortunately I can't control the amount of sun or rain they receive, but I'm sure they'd like a little more rain. We had a little rain last night and they looked awfully perky this morning!

Half our property has trees and is very shady and we never see bluebells there, but sometimes one plant will pop up in a spot closer to the house, like this one by the pond.

Sometimes a lone bluebell will appear far from any others...

...and sometimes they appear in pairs.

Several beautiful clumps appeared in the vegetable garden, where they received extra pampering and water, and so are especially vigorous and multi-bloomed.

Sometimes they come up surrounded by friends of different species, and don't these bluebells and rudbeckias complement each other!

We appreciate them wherever they come up!

I love bluebells!!!