Green Thumbs in the Garden

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I remember my childhood garden in my family's Midland home. Lush Bermuda grass, a lovely old pear tree, masses of roses, four o’clocks, and lots of flowers. All very beautiful. And I remember the continual watering that kept these newcomers to the desert alive.

That was the 1970s. Midland was a much smaller town. Fast forward to my Austin area garden in the 21st century. Experiments with gingers, citrus, hostas, and even hydrangeas came face-to-face with single digit cold spells and years long killer droughts. The water bills alone were enough to wilt the hardiest gardener! That reality prompted a change.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center opened in 1997 and highlighted the value and practicality of native plant gardening to Texans. Soon the beautiful native plants of the hill country began showing up in local garden stores, and gradually my own garden began to change.

Gone were the ever thirsty non-native plants more suited to the East Coast and the Deep South. Agaves, native fruit and nut trees, flowering acacias, and tough as nails native grasses began to take root and thrive. Lo and behold, as these Hill Country natives began to grow, I noticed how healthy and attractive my garden had become, and how little water and maintenance these local beauties required.

Today, as I rekindle my love of West Texas through my garden in Fort Stockton, I've discovered a new gardener's passion: the truly remarkable and wildly diverse plants of the TransPecos. Now, when I drive west from Austin, I eagerly wait for my first sightings of the Goldenball Leadtree in glorious yellow flower. I wait for the sotol stalks on the mesa slopes just west of the Pecos River. And hope to be lucky enough to see the ocotillo in bloom in late spring. The smell of creosote bush after the rain brings my childhood in West Texas back like nothing else.

As you think about your own garden, yard, or even apartment, remember the tough, local beauties that are right here in Fort Stockton. The practical results of using less water and less maintenance are clear, but growing native also keeps a sense of place. An Ocotillo, or Yucca in front of an adobe wall says Fort Stockton is a town with a unique history and environment. Celebrate what you have. It's pretty great.

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