The story has it that when The Great Lady led her nomad band into the Nile valley, they abandoned the wandering life of eating catch-as-catch-can and took to growing food crops. Prosperity followed, then drove the one-upmanship urge in Egyptians, who wanted to gussy up their garden plots.
Pharaoh dispatched plant hunters far and wide to bring back appealing flowering herbs, shrubs and trees that would survive at home in east Africa. As a result, we also credit this famous pyramid-building civilization with the lesser-known invention of flower gardening. Who knew?
And, did you know that North Central Texas rests on same latitude in the earth’s temperate climate zone as ancient Egypt. If that’s not enough, it even hugs the east edge of a desert.
However, temperate region weather and geographic variations mean one size does not fit all the plants that can grow between the poles and the equator in the temperate belt that circles the planet.
Take, for example, apple trees, also known as malus domestica. In North Texas, gardeners need to choose trees that produce fruits with light “pink” blushing skins. Those malus varieties require a low number of annual chilling hours, or a short winter, each year in order to bear a bushel of Mother Nature’s fruity treat. Good luck if you buy a sapling malus that will produce deep red Winesaps that flourish in Washington State for a chilly good reason.
With our climate in mind, the modern cowboy version of Pharaoh’s plant hunters at the Texas Department of Agriculture have a research program to find and develop flowering plants, fruits, and vegetables they call Texas Superstars.
Every variety of Superstar plant has survived several years of tough field trials by an A&M AgriLife research team and has shown superior performance under Texas’ own tough temperate growing conditions. Next time you cruise the plant nursery aisles looking for some garden color or flavor, look for the Texas Superstar label to get proven winners.
Annuals include Angelonia Serenas, Whopper Begonias, the iconic Texas Bluebonnets (that also come in maroon), Gomphrenas, several Petunias, Vinca Coras, a number of Hibiscus varieties, some Lantanas, Turk’s Cap, Phloxes, and Salvias.
If you want to try out some tropical, that will probably only last one season here, look for sassy stuff like Brazilian Red Hots, Pride of Barbados Caesalpinias, Gold Star Esperanza and Firecracker Jatrophas, among others. Several roses including Knock Outs have become Texas Superstars, but don’t buy until you are sure the specimens for sale are not infected with Rose Rosette virus.
Why stop with flowers? Check out the lists of trees, grapes, and garden fruits and vegetables at www.texassuperstar.com.
If you don’t see Texas Superstars on sale where you buy plants, ask for them by name.