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.