Pied Beauty

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.

Monday, October 11, 2010

San Antonio Botanical Garden

Friday I had the good fortune to visit the San Antonio Botanical Garden with the Fort Bend County Master Gardeners.  It was a beautiful fall day: cool in the morning, bright and sunny in the afternoon.  I arrived just before they opened at 9:00 am.

Chir Pine (Pinus roxburghii)
There were so many beautiful things to see, photograph and write about!  Today I'm going to limit myself to plants that were unfamiliar to me.  The tree you see above struck me as perhaps the most beautiful pine tree in all of Texas.  It's a Chir Pine, native to the Himalaya.  Although the tree I saw is small, perhaps only 25 feet tall, the Chir grows to a height of at least 100 feet, with a trunk diameter of 6 feet!  It's hard to imagine trees that big growing at high altitudes.  It's widely used for timber and resin in its native environs and is fire-adapted:  the seeds require the heat of a forest fire to open and germinate.

Flame of Jamaica (Euphorbia punicea)
This is the beautiful Flame of Jamaica tree, another brightly colored member of the Euphorbia family.  It's sometimes called Jamaican Poinsettia, and the specimens we saw were in the Conservatory, protected from the cold.  In this sheltered area, they had grown into trees, from which baskets of orchids were  hung.  Stunning!

While we're talking about trees, let me just mention the handsome Mexico Sugar Maple, or Acer skutchii.  It's not a common tree around here.  I thought it was notable for its beautiful smooth bark and true sugar maple-style foliage.  My photograph didn't come out, but I've made a note to look for that lovely tree.

Giant Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum formosum)
I know many of you remember my rant about Maidenhair Ferns.  As if to taunt me, they were everywhere on this trip!  To add insult to injury, I discovered there's a Giant Maidenhair Fern, which you see pictured above!  A giant!  I don't even know what to say about that.

Silvery blue cycad
I don't know what sort of cycad this is.  It's very large but the leaves are not spiky like the Eastern Cape Blue Cycad.  There are silver forms of Siamese cycads and maybe this is one.  In the photograph, it appears washed out, but the foliage was very bright and silvery-blue.  The fruits were huge and the tree overall was a monster - and quite impressive.  It was also growing inside the conservatory, so perhaps it is tender even in zone 8B.

Datura seedpod
Of course, I am familiar with Datura, the lovely but poisonous member of the Nightshade family.  I just never noticed how handsome the seedpods were before.

Common Myrtle (Myrtus communis)
Isn't this pretty?  These shrubs were all in their full fall glory, covered with blue berries. We have different myrtles in my part of Texas, but I don't recall seeing these.  Perhaps we have too much rain.  True myrtle is a Mediterranean plant which perhaps prefers a drier climate than Houston's.

Variegated Spiral Ginger (Costus speciosus)
This is a variegated form of Spiral Ginger, or Crepe Ginger.  The white variegation was so bright in the shady Sensory Garden.  It was growing in the ground, so I'm hoping it's at least root-hardy in zone 8b, although it certainly has a tropical look about it!

Rose 'Lavaglut'
And finally, three wonderful red roses.  I had not heard of any of these, but they were blooming beautifully, with no sign of end-of-summer stress.  First, above, is Lavaglut, a Floribunda rose.  'Lavaglut' means Lava Glow in German.  Try to think of it like that!

Rose 'Trumpeter'
Next, another lovely Floribunda called Trumpeter.  This one was bred for disease resistance and heavy blooming.  It shows!
Rose 'Dame de Coeur'
To wrap it all up, a hybrid tea named Dame de Coeur, the child of 'Independence' and 'Peace.'  The color will remind you of black cherry.


  1. Very nice post and I was interested to see what is happening at a botanical garden in what has to be a hot climate. Of all the photos, I think I like the variegated ginger (I am partial to anything variegated).

    I hope to visit some gardens in North Alabama and in Georgia next year.

  2. Thanks for introducing some new plants to me. it is always interesting to see what grows in other areas. I would LOVE to have a giant maidenhair fern, though I have yet to have success with the smaller ones!

  3. They are all unfamiliar to me too. I haven't seen any Datura Seedpods before. As for the roses, I really can't tell the difference between a Lavaglut, Trumpeter and the Dame de Couer. They all look like red roses to me. As I am commenting, I remember others commenting in my blog that a bug is a bug. They are all the same but I didn't think so. :)

  4. Elizabeth,
    So nice to see some of the plants that stood out to you on this tour. I just love botanical gardens for their individuality and typically lush plantings. That pinetree IS beautiful as are the roses and wow... that cycad!!... as are all the details you highlighted.

  5. I love visiting the Botanical gardens here in Western New York, but it is always fun to go to other botanical gardens on a virtual tour as well.So many new plants to see. Thanks for taking us along.