Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Back from vacation in (sometimes) sunny San Antonio

Another snow storm this afternoon here in Iowa, and luckily we made it home from San Antonio last night. We were connecting through the airport in Atlanta, Georgia where there were ice storms that delayed most of the flights and we didn't think we would make our connecting flight, which was the last flight of the day to Iowa, but it was delayed too, so we lucked out.

We greatly enjoyed our five days in San Antonio, a city that we've been to several times, although not for nearly ten years. My next few posts will be about the beautiful gardens we visited while we were there (there's still not much going on in my own gardens, so rather than just post photos of last year or of dreary snow, I'll share some of the lovely spots we saw down in Texas).

The first two days we spent there were sunny and warm, just what we were hoping for as a break from Iowa cold and snow. The next two days were overcast but in the 60s (which still felt great to us!) and only the last day was in the 30s, which apparently is not uncommon in south Texas winters. But those first sunny days were sublime and we spent most of our time outside enjoying the warmth and greenery.

As we were staying downtown at the historic Menger Hotel (built in 1859, more about it in upcoming posts), just steps away from the Alamo, we had to visit it, and not having been interested in plants the last time we went, I was surprised when I noticed on this tour how lovely the grounds are.

One of the incredibly large live oaks in the hauntingly beautiful front area of the walled garden.

It's hard to see in this photo, but the redbud in the center is beginning to bloom, which really made me look forward to spring in the Midwest.

A small fountain sits behind colorfully planted annual beds.

I believe this might be a Datura or Angel's Trumpet, but not being familiar with warm-climate plants, I could be mistaken.

This is a papaya tree (I guessed this only because I overheard a Spanish-speaking
family exclaim the word "papaya" as we were passing by the tree).

I believe these are Leucojum (Spring Snowflake). I have never grown these in my own gardens, but seeing how pretty they
are, I think I might try to find some shady spots for some of these "minor bulbs."

I confess I'm not sure what this is. It looks familiar. Anyone?

This may be Loropetalum chinense or Chinese fringe flower. It seemed like a very bright
thing to be blooming in February, the sort of thing that blooms here in August.

This live oak was 40 years old when it was transplanted here in 1912 (using a wagon pulled by four mules!), making it over 140 years old (1872). The trunk is more than 12 feet in circumference and the main branches are more than 50 feet long.
Very impressive.

Hasta la vista!

I suppose most visitors to the Alamo pay more attention to the military history of the place (there was a large display of historic firearms inside the main building that seemed to generate great interest). But I couldn't wait to spend some time outside enjoying the lovely plantings that the gardeners maintain there. Many kudos to the hardworking gardeners and groundskeepers! (Here is an interesting short article, "Remember the Alamo Gardeners," that describes the difficulties in maintaining the plantings in the face of so much foot traffic -- 1.6 million tourists per year!)

It was wonderful to see flowers in bloom and green foliage all around us during our temporary escape from the white-on-brown of Iowa winter. I'll cover some of the other, even lovelier, gardens we visited while in San Antonio in my next few posts. Thanks for reading! -Beth


  1. What lovely plants. The Snowflake is Summer Snowflake Leucojm aestivum, the Spring Snowflake: Leucojum vernum is shorter with prettier flowers like little lampshades.
    The pretty pink flower is Bletilla striata.

    1. I knew you would know what those were, Chloris -- I should simply have emailed you before posting! I'm excited to grow the Leucojum, and I'll try the prettier kind you recommend, which seems to be available through John Scheepers, my usual bulb company. The Bletilla seems much harder to come by here, and may be only marginally hardy in this part of the country, so perhaps I'll just enjoy it on my trips south. Thanks for reading, and for your aid in botanical identification! -Beth

  2. Replies
    1. Yes, it was -- but back to the snow it is... How many weeks 'till spring?? Hope you're holding on in your even snowier winter up north. Thanks for reading, Larry. -Beth

  3. Hi Beth, How nice to get to a warmer climate for a few days! I'm sure you really enjoyed not only the warmth, but the gardens. The live oak is amazing! I enjoyed the flowers as well. Thanks for sharing; I look forward to reading more about your journey!

    1. Hi Beth -- yes, it was certainly nice to get away for a few days to green grass and plants. But more snow again for us! I'll sure be glad when spring comes. Thanks for reading! -Beth

  4. It's so refreshing to get away during winter. :o) San Antonio is a great city. I really wish northern VA had the live oaks that thrive in TX and CA. Such majestic trees. :o)

    1. Casa, Those live oaks are truly incredible. I guess they must really not like any cold at all if you can't grow them in VA. I know they sure looked happy down in Orlando when we visited the Botanic garden there last winter. Hope your spring is arriving on schedule -- thanks for reading! -Beth

  5. I visited the Alamo in high school, and I remember being astounded seeing my houseplants being grown as garden plants. It was the first time I ever saw a banana plant, too. Nowadays it is easy to visit gardens all over the world, thanks to garden blogs.

    1. I agree, Kathy; I love being able to visit lovely gardens worldwide -- all from the comfort of my armchair, and for virtually no money at all. Thanks for visiting! -Beth