by Loralyn Bailey Dennis
Here in the beautiful Texas Hill Country, over an hour northwest of San Antonio, we look forward to the spectacular wildflowers each Spring.
In the 1960s, First Lady Ladybird Johnson worked to improve the beautification of Washington, D.C. by having bulbs and trees planted along roadsides to call attention to the growing crisis of habitat and species loss. This led to the first major legislative campaign launched by a first lady: the Highway Beautification Act of 1965.
Her love for native wildflowers inspired her to create the National Wildflower Research Center in 1982, near Austin, Texas. It was renamed in her honor in 1998.
My husband Jack interviewed and met Mrs. Johnson several times in the 1970s. He found her to be very focused on the beautification of America.
“She lit up explaining how trees and parks, even architecture that meshes with nature, can help in both urban development, design and even fighting crime.”
When Jack was head of Facilities Management at H-E-B (major retailer in Texas and Mexico) he emphasized how the landscaping, appearance and quality of each store can uplift customers, employees and even a neighborhood.
“Good landscaping and a well lit environment is a strong deterient against crime, shoplifting and safety,” he would say.
One of his assigned attorneys at H-E-B was Lyndon Nugent, the grandson of President and First Lady Johnson. Jack would tease him during conversations by saying “I learned that from your grandmother way back in the 70s.”
Now that he is retired, besides writing, Jack has taken a keen interest in organic gardening. Knowing how much I like butterflies and birds, this Spring we are planning on expanding our gardening to include plants and flowers that attract hummingbirds.
We live in Zone 8 for gardening. Here are some plants and flowers we are considering for incorporating beginning this year.
Also known as larkspur, delphinium is a vibrant perennial that can grow from 2 to 8 feet tall. This plant is winter hardy to USDA Zones 3 to 7 and not recommended for hot, humid climates. Butterflies and hummingbirds find them irresistible, and you’ll love them as cut flowers, too.
Recommended for zones 4 to 8, foxglove is easy to grow and can top out at 5 feet tall. While the tubular flowers are appealing to hummingbirds, keep them away from children and pets as they can be highly poisonous.
3. Pride of Madeira
This drought-tolerant evergreen is recommended for zones 9 to 11. It grows fast—up to 6 feet tall and can spread to 10 feet wide. Hummingbirds and butterflies love the showy flowers.
4. Cardinal Flower
This perennial (recommended for zones 3 to 9) has long tubular flowers difficult for some pollinators to navigate, but not hummingbirds! The flower needs full sun to partial shade and soil that is never dry.
Salvia has the high nectar count that hummingbirds are looking for. It’s a perennial that is winter hardy for zones 8 to 10.
6. Red Hot Poker
This vibrant orange-and-yellow flower will add pizzazz to any garden. The flowers are packed with nectar, which attracts hummingbirds. Recommended for zones 5 to 9, it needs full sun and well-draining soil.
7. Trumpet Flower
Also known as hummingbird vine, it’s no surprise the birds love this flower. Plant in full sun for best flowering. This easy-to-grow vine does best in zones 4 to 9.
Chances are this popular, inexpensive flower (a perennial in zones 10 to 11) is growing in your yard already. Choose brightly colored blooms and plant them in a hanging basket to attract hummingbirds.
9. Bleeding Heart
It’s easy to see where this plant got its name. Recommended for zones 3 to 9, this perennial likes partial shade and well-draining soil. The flowers are a rich source of nectar.
Raised in San Antonio, Jack Dennis’ early experiences were as a newspaper reporter and private investigator. With a Texas State University bachelor’s degree, Jack studied journalism, education and psychology. He was the founding vice-president of Sigma Delta Chi, the Association of Professional Journalists at the University. Jack has received numerous awards, including Investigative Reporter of the Year from Rocky Mountain Press Association, David Ashworth Community Award, and Leadership in Management.
Some of the people and groups Jack has interviewed include:
Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Willie Nelson, B.B. King, George Strait, Roy Orbison, Justin Timberlake, Steven Tyler, Freddie Mercury, Kenny Rogers, Kenny Loggins, Jackson Browne, Steve Wariner, Tanya Tucker, Scotty Moore, Fats Domino, Patty Page, Tommy Roe, Emmy Lou Harris, Johnny Rivers, Charly McClain, Kinky Friedman, John McFee, Guy Allison & Patrick Simmons (Doobie Brothers) , Randy Bachman (BTO), Jim Messina, Todd Rundgren, Alvin Lee, Gary Puckett, The Ventures, Freddy Cannon, Augie Meyer, Christopher Cross, Whiskey Myers, Sha Na Na (John “Bowzer” Baumann), Flash Cadillac, Jerry Scheff, John Wilkinson, Darrell McCall, and more.
Politicians & News
George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Lady Bird Johnson, Greg Abbott, Rudolph Giuliani, Larry King, Jack Anderson, Tom Bradley, Connie Mack, and more.
Clint Eastwood, Mike Myers, Taylor Lautner, Cameron Diaz, Jerry Lewis, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, Selena Gomez, Tippi Hedren, James Earl Jones, James Woods, Jim Nabors, Martha Raye, Rosalind Russell, June Lockhart, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Howie Mandel, Meg Ryan, Cheri Oteri, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, James Drury, Melanie Griffith, Nathan Lane, Alan Thicke, Lou Diamond Phillips, Clint Howard, Tony Sirico, Cesar Romero, Michael Berryman, Tracy Scoggins, William Windom, Warren Stevens and more.
Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean, Wally Schirra, Dave Scott, Gene Cernan, Walt Cunningham, Scott Carpenter, Gene Kranz (NASA Flight Director), Ed Mitchell, Richard Gordon, Bruce McCandless, Vanentina Treshkova (first woman in space, Russia), Alex Leonov (first man to walk in space, Russian), Al Worden, Dee O’Hara (nurse to astronauts) and more.
Sports: Joe Torre, Roger Staubach, Bob Hayes, Billie Jean King, Manuela Maleeva, Drew Pearson, Bob Lilly, Tim Duncan, David Robinson, George Gervin, Tony Parker, Shannon Miller, Cathy Rigby, Bruce Bowen, Wade Boggs, Fernando Valenzuela, Bernie Kosar, Dale Murphy, Jim Abbott, Dick Bartell, Mike Schmidt, Dan Pastorini and more.
May Pang, Bob Eubanks, Vernon Presley, Vester Presley, Charlie Hodge, Joe Esposito, Rick Stanley (Elvis’ step-brother, Harold Lloyd (Elvis’ first cousin), Doyle Brunson, Kara Peller, Hank Meijer, Norman Brinkler, Stanley Marcus, Jerry King, Mac King, Nathan Burton, Zach Anner, Louie Anderson, Owen Benjamin, Steve Byrne and more.
As head of Facilities for a major retailer (H-E-B Food/Drugs) for 20 years, Jack co-founded Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association (PRSM) and was elected President to establish PRSM magazine. Jack is a writer, speaker, golf-concierge and happiness coach. He has researched and studied happiness for over 40 years.
Jack was a prolific writer for Examiner.com, with over 1,900 articles written in six years. His articles and stories have appeared in AXS Entertainment, The ROWDY Country Music, Memphis Flash, and numerous magazines.
He is author of “Miracles of Justice,” a true courtroom drama novel about social injustice and miracles.