N. 'Perry's Double
N. 'Star of
N. 'Red Flare'
For years, Texas gardeners have been taking advantage of a
unique gardening program, Texas Superstar.
Cooperative Extension, an agency of Texas A&M University, administers the
Created by Dr. Jerry Parsons, Texas Superstar
helps gardeners across our big state to select plants that readily
thrive where they live. He recognized the need to fill a void
in gardening information apropos the diverse Texas climates.
The program includes everything from small flowers to big trees.
Many books sold here are full of gardening information that does
not apply to Texas.
Jerry decided to include plants in TS that pass a rigorous
selection process. Not only must the plants grow well here, but
also they have to appeal to Texas gardeners. Once a plant survives
the review process, then it is field-tested.
Texas climates are so diverse that sometimes gardeners shovel
snow in one area while gardeners elsewhere wear short sleeve
shirts. As such, care is taken to ensure that plants readily
grow in as many parts of our state as possible. To accomplish
this goal, candidate plants are grown in four dissimilar parts
of the state. For a year or more, these trial plants are monitored
to see how well they perform. Those that "pass the final
exam" receive the respected Texas Superstar
Nobody in the TS program makes money on it, a novel concept!
Although Texas Cooperative Extension promotes these plants to
the state's nursery and landscape industry, TCE has no monetary
involvement. It serves solely to promote the chosen plants.
TCE goes to great lengths to assure that gardeners can find TS
plants where they shop. Failure here would be TCE's biggest nightmare.
To help prevent this scenario, TCE officials coordinate closely
with the state's professional plant growers.
You might wonder what all of this has to do with water gardening.
Well, to make a short story long, we're getting there. Texas
Superstar has gotten all wet.
In 2005, Jerry asked what I thought about adding water garden
plants to the TS program. I became furious. Not on the concept,
but simply that I had not thought of that earlier and asked HIM!
His idea excited me tremendously.
With several others, we proposed a list of water garden plants
for consideration in the TS program. It included hardy and tropical
waterlilies and a bog plant. The initial list included one selection
from each major color group. Obviously, the potential number
of plants was massive; we could select only a few for consideration.
We sent that initial list to water garden leaders throughout
Texas. An accompanying survey requested comments, negative or
positive; we wanted as much feedback as possible. Follow-up emails
and faxes went to those not replying to the first request.
Reviewing the comments, we made changes to the list. Several
months later, a revised list went out, again requesting comments.
The replies proved very helpful, and again we tweaked the list.
To me, the most important factor was input from the state's water
While our working lists were subject to changes, one plant was,
as the saying goes, "written in stone". We could not
exclude it. Jerry and I are both fans of the late Dr.
Clyde Ikins, and we just had to include N. 'Clyde
Ikins' *. A Dr.
Kirk Strawn hybrid, this plant has always been special to
us. All other plants, however, were fair game to the red pen
of criticism. Fortuitously for me, it survived each review solely
on its stupendous merits.
Interestingly, after it was all over, the owner of a retail store
said he did not like the list. I reminded him that he neglected
to reply to project emails. Then was his opportunity to offer
his opinion. He had figured we "did not really want the
input." Like elections in a democracy, if you do not vote,
DO NOT COMPLAIN!
Upon identifying the winners, we sought plant donations for the
TS trial stage. Four plants of each winner had to be tested at
varied sites across the vast land of our great state. WGI Charter
Member John Loggins of Lone Star Aquatics (a Truly
Named Participating Member) in College Station and Burt and
Sally Nichols of Water Garden Gems in Marion generously donated
all of the needed test plants.
Jerry transferred the plants from Water Garden Gems to College
Station. Luckily, that is the hometown of both Texas A&M
University and Lone Star Aquatics. Jerry picked up the remaining
plants from Lone Star Aquatics and took them to TCE at Texas
A&M. From there, one of each plant went to each of the four
trial sites for their "final exam".
Jerry had anticipated announcing the winners in 2008 or 2009.
Meanwhile we could field-test them and prepare a marketing campaign.
In 2006, Jerry called me on his way back to San Antonio from
a meeting at Texas A&M. He stated that the TS coordinating
committee was excited about our water garden plant program. They
decided to promote aquatic plants in 2007, a year or two earlier
than originally scheduled. WOW! Suddenly, activity on this project
Texans are very proud of waterlilies hybridized by two water
garden legends -- who happen to be Texans. Ken Landon (San Angelo)
and Kirk Strawn (then of College Station, now in Florida) originated
three of our Texas Superstar plants.
We promptly figured that Ken's N. 'Texas Dawn' must be
the lead waterlily! We did not envision a lead plant until that
waterlily made the final list. Something about the name struck
home with us.
Both Ken and Kirk are in Texas A&M's Heroes for Horticulture for their contributions
in the field. Clyde Ikins was the first person inducted into
the Hall of Fame while alive. Jerry jokes that dying used to
be the first requirement to enter the Hall of Fame. He says Clyde
was so big in his field they waived that requirement for him.
When looking at the list of Texas Superstar
water garden plants, you will see it contains not a single lotus.
Did we forget lotus, or save it for a TS encore? And how about
an Iris or two?