Texas Treehugger | "Patient and Persistent Nature" | Photos and Text by Christy Ilfrey

Life is funny. Parenthood has transformed me into a far more patient person than I was Before Sage. My university education trained me to set goals, strive toward them ambitiously, and set future goals just as I was grasping current ones. Entrepreneurial experience has taught me to balance Vision with Details, with a heaping serving of Creativity. And Nature continues to remind me that regardless of my plans it will always persevere. When you think about it, these lessons persist throughout our lifetime. Someday, maybe, we will remember them. Someday we will “get it right.”

But for now, we rap our fingers on our laptop, impatiently awaiting the call that the mechanic has finally finished the repairs to our truck. Each morning we start in one direction – usually checking vehicles and equipment, loading truck and trailer with appropriate tools and plants for the day. Suddenly the phone rings and we are off in another direction making plans for next week, next month. Vision and details, patiently juggling. At the end of each day, we check the level of the floodwaters. Nearly one million gallons have been relocated to other ephemeral ponds on our property: when will the remaining water drain or evaporate? Watering the smallish plants of recent projects, we are eager to see them mature and bloom and dance on the breeze.

The first half of 2016 has been quite challenging for our team and family. Before and since The Flood, we have been met full-faced with a number of obstacles. My friends and acquaintances call me “strong” and “resilient”, and until now I just chalked these experiences up to “life.” I think I understand better what they mean. I think I have been in crisis mode and, now that the dust is settling, am feeling a bit amazed at all that we have endured and accomplished so far this year. Through it all, we have maintained our sense of humor. We continue to smile and find joy in the smallest of victories. Come what may, we persevere.

But this is not about me or my family or even our team. This piece is about humans and Nature (especially plants!)

As humans, we seek to impose our ideas upon Nature. We build at water’s edge, below sea level, atop active volcanoes, in Tornado Alley, along faultlines, etc. For a time, we feel secure. Then natural processes erode the soil beneath us or storm surge envelops our home. Our peaceful paradise on the mountain, the beach, the desert, or in the forest erupts into disaster. Why do we continue to believe we can control Nature? Wild animals will indulge their instincts to eat and protect themselves; plants will grow at their natural rate and into their natural shape and size. Let them be.

My articles here suggest plants for drought, for deluge, for attracting hummingbirds and/or butterflies. All of the plants I have mentioned in previous articles are native and genetically coded to our local ecosystem. They are the plants that persist, patiently, whether we water, fertilize, prune, or groom them. They are the plants the hummingbirds and butterflies recognize as primary sources of food and shelter. But the list of plants about which I have written is incomplete. I have taken a couple of walks today with Sage and the dogs to find plants that are still alive and kicking despite the recent extreme conditions. The good news is, I found a few good specimens. Bad news is, I only have a few of each, not nearly enough to hold a plant sale. Yet. J More bad news: my photos depict the plants as they are today not the lovelies they will become. Try to use your imagination, if you please…


Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) It is not native but Lemongrass has a lot of appeal for gardeners in Texas’ Coastal Bend. It is edible in stir fry or as a tea. It is easy to grow. It reportedly repels mosquitos. It smells citrusy – excellent for diffusing or in potpourri. Care and maintenance: plant it roots-down. Water it occasionally. Clip leaves for cooking and steeping often.

Coastal Bluestem

Coastal Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium var. littorale) Perhaps the most important ornamental grass of the Coastal Prairies, this silvery to green Bluestem attracts numerous birds and butterflies. Excellent alternative to shrubbery if planted in large swaths and allowed to mature into its natural shape, size and form. Prefers dappled light to full-sun and dry to well-draining soil, but will tolerate temporary flood inundation.


Manfreda (Manfreda maculosa) Short succulent-looking plant with purple spots and white-to pink-to dark red blooms. Primary host plant for caterpillars of manfreda giant-skipper butterfly (rare.) Full-sun to dappled light along edges of forest.

Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) Primary host plant of monarch butterflies! Our plants are smallish but will be just fine after they make their escape from the growing containers. Definitely prefers full-sun but has been in dappled light for eight weeks and is doing fine. Orange-red blooms.

Scarlet Sage

Scarlet Sage (Salvia coccinea) Loves shade, sun, and mostly dry soil. Gorgeous red blooms. Seeds easily here and there, and just about everywhere.

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) (see top of article for image) White, delicately fragrant blooms that almost resemble cottonballs. Butterfly attractor. Prefers full-sun to dappled light and moist soil but will also tolerate drought and deluge conditions.

Christy Ilfrey and her husband David own and operate NativeDave.com. Their mission: "To make positive changes in our community by way of sustainable landscape design and consultation services, speaking engagements and writing projects. We strive to educate, entertain and empower audiences to conserve, preserve, restore and celebrate Nature."

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