Tag Archives: Austin

Geez, only bluebonnets are in bloom!

was my first thought upon entering the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin.

 Not true though.

It’s only that they have such a massive presence everywhere you look.

Other flowers also are poking up.

Most of them I don’t know by name, though the garden is if anything overboard with its signage. Now even I can recognize coral honeysuckle.

I know what I like. The shy kind of blooms. I feel that way sometimes too.

Trees flowering also. Mexican plum.

Other fetching amusements. Tiny lily pads in a discreet little pond. Tiny tadpoles, soon to be tiny frogs.

A hobbit door for children, unfortunately not open for visitors small or big at the moment.

Something else wonderful, a gazebo that has benches of repurposed wood, with each of the boards labeled. Live oak, harvested from Dell Medical School campus in Austin.

You can run your hand along the grain and know the tree that gave it to you.

Sculptures of wildlife dot the woodland trails.

This forest is wonderful, private, shady. A massive post oak.

But you always come back to the native beds.

What is the name of those wonderful flowers? Who cares? The air has a syrupy sweetness. There’s mountain laurel.

A few monarchs already float by, though many more will come to this pollinator sanctuary. I rest on a bench, and something tickles the back of my neck. Oh, wouldn’t you know, Anacardiaceae, in the sumac family. Should’ve recognized ya.

I’m leaving to fly home to New York, but will definitely come back when the beds are a riot of color.

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Here is what happened.

First off, seedlings are available at 79.95 a pop. They’re rare. They’re historic. They’re cool.

The story of their parentage goes back a ways.

Let’s start with the more recent history. A crazy guy in Austin was spurned by his would-be lover under a gracious old Southern live oak that stood downtown amid all the glass high-rise buildings. It happened in 1989. He took revenge by poisoning the tree, injecting it with the powerful herbicide Velpar—actually the amount that would kill 100 trees. The tree nearly died. A crew of arborists came together to save the magnificent specimen, bankrolled by Ross Perot (and aided with the unheralded expertise of tree company Bartlett, it is said). Dupont, manufacturer of Velpar, offered a 10,000-dollar reward to find the culprit. The crazy guy, who confessed he had been trying to cast a spell on his counselor at a local methadone clinic, went to jail for nine years for this heinous act (he’s now deceased).

The Treaty Oak, as it is known, still stands, surrounded by a protective metal chain.

It’s hard to kill an icon.

Just leafing out.

In the Lone Star State things are immense, and the Treaty Oak is no exception. Sturdy, husky, stout of trunk. Still, almost two-thirds of the tree went to tree heaven.

The story stretches back. The Treaty Oak had already stood for a century before Columbus landed in the New World, according to current estimates. The Comanches and the Tonkawas met in its sacred shade to hammer out agreements. Thirteen other equally magnificent oaks stood nearby, in a grove now called the Council Oaks. Legend holds that women of the Teias tribe would drink a tea made from honey and the acorns of these oaks to ensure the safety of warriors in battle. Dances performed there, war councils commenced, etc. Important stuff.

Also it is said that Sam Houston rested beneath the Treaty Oak after his expulsion from the Governor’s office (look it up).

In 1927, the city of Austin purchased the tree from a local family for 1,000 dollars. That same year, the tree obtained national status as the most perfect example of a North American tree, and was entered into the National Forestry’s Hall of Fame. Downtown surges all around it.

So many years passed. The Treaty Oak nearly perished, as we have seen. The intensive efforts to save the historic, even mythical tree included applications of sugar to the root zone, replacement of soil around its roots. the installation of a system to mist the tree with spring water. Although the more negative-minded expected the tree to die, the Treaty Oak survived.

Finally, in 1997, this legend once again bore acorns. Hence the 79.95 dollar saplings. “The creation of a thousand forests,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson, “is in one acorn.” A Texas company called Legendary Trees markets youngsters along with the offspring of 10 other famous trees, including Texas A&M University’s Century Tree (the most popular one, reports the company), Comanche’s Fleming Oak and New Braunfels’ Church Oak.

What would make a man, even a crazy guy, poison a tree?

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Life being somewhat complicated and challenging

at times, it is awfully good to focus on the basics: coffee, tacos, and dogs. Fortunately there is an abundance of all three in Austin, Texas, where I happen to be sojourning for several days. I knew good things were in store when I spotted the taco food truck actually inside the airport terminal. It was 11pm and the place was hopping. The millennials seemed all to be heading back from Las Vegas.

Nothing too weird yet, but I feel something could be about to spring up.

Until then, got a jump on the caffeine thing with a cosmic coffee, a spring specialty at Maud’s favorite joint that pairs cold brew with Mexican vanilla, orange honey and oat milk. Pretty decent. Next time might go for the root beer latte.

Texas mountain laurels have just come into bloom and it seems every little old fashioned bungalow has one out front.

The western redbuds are popping too.


Now a latte and a stop at the Korean nail salon. The man getting a gel manicure next to me wants it to be known that he is getting a special design on each of his pinkies: a peace sign rendered in yellow and blue.

Not quite a Rothko, but very much in keeping with the spirit of the times.

Canines run free in the dog park except when they pause awaiting the flight of a ragged tennis ball.

I wish our lives had the simplicity of Fetch under the live oaks. Everyone here wears flip flops, so I got a pair. Ahhh, instantaneous simplicity.

Are you hungry yet? You’re in luck.

Criispy pork belly tacos with fried parsley and mandarin orange pico.

Extra fat included at no charge. Fingers are for licking.

Two of my favorites come intermixed in a dirty horchata–horchata and coffee, silly. You knew that.

Home again, home again. Baths and naps all around. The simple life.

No freak show.

Perhaps that will come later. It is Austin, after all. I feel we’re just gearing up.

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