AP NEWS

Houston, how does your garden grow?

March 18, 2019

Houstonians and visitors have the opportunity to see flowers and plants blooming nearly year round, but have you ever thought about the timing of the blooms, and what types of flowers will be seen?

Experts at some of Houston’s parks explain what park goers will see at different times in the season, and what they do for plant upkeep.

Caroyln White, conservation director at Memorial Park, says that the Conservancy is working toward removing non-native, invasive species and creating regional native habitats throughout the park.

“Our goal in creating diverse mid-story and understory layers within the forested areas brings many flowering trees and shrubs to the park,” White said.

Some of these blooms include: redbud, Mexican plum, fringetree, roughleaf dogwood, and two-winged silverbell.

White notes that most flowering trees and shrubs that are native typically flower in the spring and then set fruit that will emerge in the fall.

“There are some flowering shrubs that can be showy in the summer months, such as American beautyberry, leucothoe, and viburnum,” White said.

The Conservancy opened up the first phase of Eastern Glades last fall. According to White, this spring, visitors can expect to see Mexican plum, morningstar sweetspire, and coralberry, as well as basketflower, Black-eyed Susan, blue-eyed grass, and Texas coneflower.

“In preparation of spring growth, our horticulturalists are cutting back native grasses and perennials, weeding, mulching, and feeding the native landscape beds,” White said.

At the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center, located within Memorial Park, an ongoing restoration effort means more light and space for more flowering species.

“We have seen a big change in diversity,” Arboretum Conservation Director Emily Manderson said.

Some flowering plants that can be spotted right now include bluebonnets, Philadelphia fleabane, and dewberries and blackberries. Also spotted, sometimes year round, is the Indian blanket.

“The Indian blanket is a real rock star bloomer. We have some blooming now, we even had them blooming in January. Their natural season is late spring,” Manderson said.

Later this summer American beautyberry, black-eyed Susans and echinacea can be found.

Scott Allen, a member of the Arboretum’s conservation team, noted that a lot of flowers are seen blooming year round in the parking lot area, due to the heat of the pavement.

“It’s neat to see that micro urban heat island in effect,” Allen said.

According to Allen, people tend to forget that the trees flower before they produce leaves, which is occurring right now.

“As our allergies have noticed, we had the oak species and now the pines are waking up. They flower to catch the pollen. They only flower for a week or two at a time. Every two or three weeks the forests change color,” Allen said.

Inside the Arboretum’s visitor center is a botany display, where all of the plant species that are in bloom are shown.

“We highlight a plant of the week. It is a great teaching tool,” Manderson said.

Meanwhile, over in Hermann Park, gardener Jennifer Marino notes that the first flowers to appear in January, and depending on cool temperatures, through March, are tulips, daffodils, pansies and snap dragons.

The gardeners at Hermann Park have been working on planting new flowers.

“New roses were planted in February. Some perennials will be planted in March,” Marino said. “Currently in the rose garden we are watering the new roses, applying compost and pruning.”

Hermann Park Gardener Noreen Hoard notes that the center stage for flowers in the spring is at the Pergola, which lines the McGovern Centennial Gardens.

Blooming earlier this season were bulbs such as summer snowflake, paperwhite narcissus and various yellow daffodils.

“The Pergola is where you will find two all-time favorite Salvias throughout most seasons of the year: Salvia Amistad and Salvia Greggi. Amistad is a large, up to 5 feet tall, salvia with deep purple tubular flower. Greggi is a medium sized 3-4 foot shrub,” Hoard said.

Hoard continued, “After looking down at bulbs for a couple weeks you begin to look upward and notice the native red bud trees and the saucer magnolia and tulip magnolia in the Woodlands Garden, in addition to azaleas and Chinese ground orchids.”

While this past winter was wet, it was fairly warm, which did not harm the blooms in any way.

“Houston did not experience a hard freeze this year, so there seems to be little risk to more sensitive plants and fruit production,” White said.

Marino noted that the continuation of the cloudiness will be helpful.

“The rain has been beneficial for the plants. Cloudy weather helps keep temperatures down which could extend the spring bloom,” Marino said.

For more information about the parks, visit www.memorialparkconservancy.org, www.hermannpark.org, and https://houstonarboretum.org/.

rebecca.hazen@chron.com