National Wildflower Awareness Week

While many of us will stop to smell the roses, how many of us will take the time and go to see the wildflowers? Sure, a trip to Brenham, TX along the bluebonnet trail is always a high, but what about seeking out our own Texas Panhandle native wildflowers?

I hope you haven't become discouraged in wildflower viewing since 2011 because of the great heat and drought. I'll have to admit, the wildflower display was meager throughout 2011, but last year's early warmth and winter rains brought them back. This year, wildflowers have been blooming in fits and starts due to the month long, prolonged and untimely weekly freezes experienced in April. Just when the plants thought it safe to open up, along came another cold front. Hopefully, freezing temperatures are past us until November.

The State of Texas boasts 5000 native wildflowers throughout it varied ecological regions from western mountain peaks over 8000 ft. and the desert community of the Chihuahuan Desert, to the Gulf coastal habitats, the Piney Woods of East Texas, the rugged range of the Edwards Plateau, Cross Timbers and Blackland Prairies of North Central Texas and our own Llano Estacado on the Texas High Plains. In 1988, the American Wildflower Society first celebrated National Wildflower Week. By 2003, The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center became the home of NWW. "The Wildflower Center was intended to help preserve and restore that beauty and the biological richness of North America. Since then, the Center has become one of the country’s most credible research institutions and effective advocates for native plants." With a database of nearly 7500 native plants, for information, LBJ Wildflower Data Base is the fist place to visit. The LBJ Wildflower Center celebrates National Wildflower Week with a week long celebration. This week, May 4th -12th, is National Wildflower Week. Texas, being bigger and bolder, celebrates wildflowers again in October with Texas Native Plant Week, October 20th - 26th.

As part of the national spring celebration, two events kicked off the week in the Texas Panhandle. The Wildflower Workshop, sponsored by the Native Plant Society of Texas (NPSOT), Amarillo chapter was held at the Mack Dick Pavilion in Palo Duro Canyon. It was a full day of fun and informative talks that covered the gamut of wildflowers including how to recognize habitats and plant communities as you walk the trails, wildflower recognition in the wild, uses of wildflowers including edible, medicinal, building and gardening – in other words, Walmart in the wild. As the participants listened to the speakers and viewed the stunning photography of our own Panhandle wildflowers, deer browsed right outside the windows. This was the first day long wildflower workshop for our Amarillo chapter, I hope it won't be the last.

Also on May 4th, GardenFest was held at the Amarillo Botanical Gardens. GardenFest is an open admission day designed to bring gardening clubs and gardening enthusiasts together in a fun time of camaraderie and exchange – that is exchanging dollars for plants and anything gardening, including edibles. Neal Hinders of Canyon's Edge Plants was there with a selection of native and drought tolerant as well as butterfly/hummingbird friendly plants, the Herb Society sold a superb selection of garden herbs, vinegars, potpourri and mixes, Amarillo Botanical Gardens offered geraniums for sale and the master gardeners, Southwest Garden Club,North Plains Iris Society and the Daylily Society and others had plenty of plants and information about gardening. These were just a few of the many booths and activities people annually enjoy at GardenFest.

Still to come is National Public Gardens Day, Friday, May 10th. Plan time in your schedule to visit and support Amarillo Botanical Gardens or any other public garden, most of them depend on donations for their existence. Quite a few Texas wildflowers beautify the gardens at ABG.

And visit Palo Duro Canyon, Wildcat Bluff or other areas set aside for the public to enjoy by the national government, states or counties to view wildflowers in bloom. We've been cooped up too long inside, it's time to get out and enjoy nature. The Texas Panhandle is entering the time period for seeing many different flowering plants throughout its varied habitats, quite of few that make great garden plants. Stay tuned tomorrow for some of my top native selections for gardening.

Angie Hanna, May 6, 2013