Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

In a Pickle, literally but not figuratively

with 54 comments

On March 18th I took what I think were my first pictures ever on the grounds of the West Pickle Campus of the University of Texas in north Austin. The fact that the place had shut down, like almost everything else, made my work easier, and at one point I even sat in what would normally have been the busy entrance road to take closeups of bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) right by the curb. I was standing, though, for this post’s two colonial views, the first atypically vertical. This floral density is common in a bluebonnet colony.

Oh well, might as well include one of the closeups I sat in the road for.
It has nothing in common esthetically with the first two views.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 27, 2020 at 4:40 PM

54 Responses

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  1. If you have to be in a pickle, that’s the way to do it, Steve! 🙂


    March 27, 2020 at 5:01 PM

  2. Fantastic colour, bountiful beautiful blue 🙂

    Ms. Liz

    March 27, 2020 at 5:22 PM

    • Your 3Bs have been out in force for a while. The bluebonnet is the official Texas state flower.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 27, 2020 at 5:27 PM

  3. Yup, that third one’s a dilly!


    March 27, 2020 at 5:25 PM

  4. 1. Sir, I know where you’re at.

    2. A dilly in a Pickle.

    Michael Scandling

    March 27, 2020 at 5:32 PM

  5. It reminded me of a children’s rhyme
    “Bluebonnets blue, dilly dilly, bluebonnets green…”
    I looked up that campus name, I was a bit disappointed it wasn’t a big research place, dedicated to those sour treats, that I really love. But that’s my kind of colonization, beautiful.

    Robert Parker

    March 27, 2020 at 7:12 PM

    • What, no cute little armadilly in your children’s rhyme about Texas?

      As you learned, the Pickle in question was a longtime Texas politician. Whether any institutions exist that carry out research on pickles is another question.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 27, 2020 at 9:04 PM

    • Have you ever heard the song “Lavender Blue? I suspect that you were playing off the words of the old English rhyme. “Lavender’s Blue” dates to the 1700s, and “Lavender’s Green” to the 1600s. As for the song, it was a favorite slow dance back in the day, although “the day” was only the 1950s.


      March 28, 2020 at 8:33 AM

      • I remember the Sammy Turner rendition, which I see from the Wikipedia article about the folk song reached #3 in the Billboard charts in 1959. (Yesterday Michael Scandling referred to another song from 1959, “What a Difference a Day Makes.”) The same article points out that “A version of the song, titled ‘Lavender Blue’, was featured in the 1949 Walt Disney film So Dear to My Heart, where it was sung by Burl Ives. This version was nominated for Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1949 (it lost to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” from Neptune’s Daughter).” You may recall that that other song caused controversy in some circles in 2018:


        Steve Schwartzman

        March 28, 2020 at 9:02 AM

      • I was indeed thinking of an old English rhyme, but I had no idea it was a dance tune in the 50s! that’s fun, I’ll look it up!

        Robert Parker

        March 28, 2020 at 9:14 AM

  6. Both images are lovely!💙


    March 27, 2020 at 7:14 PM

  7. I probably mentioned that I have not grown these yet. I tried twice, but . . . something happened . . . both times. Seriously. I probably will not grow them this year. Otherwise they would be doing their thing by now. I do intend to do so though. I sort of owe it to them. I considered trying the Texas A & M Red too, but I will stick with the traditional blue.


    March 27, 2020 at 8:56 PM

    • Given your two failures, someone could sing “The curse of Texas was upon you.” Perhaps next year you’ll succeed.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 27, 2020 at 9:08 PM

      • What?! No curse involved. I could explain, but won’t.


        March 28, 2020 at 1:31 AM

        • Check out Lori’s advice in the next comment.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 28, 2020 at 8:16 AM

          • Oh, I did that. I was instructed to scarify them prior to planting. They started growing, but something else came up.
            I sort of thought it was odd that they needed to be scarified. I know that seed of some of the natives here does better if scarified, either because it prefers to germinate quickly after the outer coat has been cooked by fire, or because it lays in the soil until the outer coat deteriorates from weathering, particularly after unusually cold or rainy winters. That is why the Mojave desert does not always bloom as colorfully as it does during a supper bloom. Some seeds lay around for years before the conditions are right for them to germinate.


            March 28, 2020 at 3:54 PM

  8. I could relate to Tony’s difficulty growing them. I was successful, finally, after a very old gardening friend told me the secret to germination. I had to soak the seeds for 24 hours, then gently scrape the seed on a brick or some type of rough surface. It worked, for a couple of years I managed a small patch of these beauties. But, they never did reseed themselves as I hoped. I think you must have the perfect conditions for germination in Texas, or there is some kind of fairy that goes around scraping seeds after a rain.


    March 28, 2020 at 7:32 AM

    • For the last few years, a front yard a few blocks away from me sported lots of bluebonnets each spring. This year the house is up for sale, and relatively few bluebonnets have come up, so the neighbor apparently didn’t do whatever he’d been doing before that worked. I’ve told Tony to check out your comment.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 28, 2020 at 8:19 AM

      • I wonder if mowing took place too soon last year. Mowing has everything to do with reseeding. And, since it’s unknown what treatments might have been applied to the yard, it’s hard to say what happened or didn’t happen.


        March 28, 2020 at 8:23 AM

        • Because he’d been successful with his bluebonnets year after year, I’m assuming he continued his practices and didn’t mow too early last year, but I don’t actually know. We do know that even without human intervention nature itself often varies a lot from one year to the next.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 28, 2020 at 8:32 AM

  9. I’ve always enjoyed driving along Burnet Rd. past the Pickle campus when the Bluebonnets were in bloom. It’s a great example of allowing a native plant meadow alone, instead of mowing and scalping it to bits. Wish more organizations would follow their example. I like the vertical landscape and close-up views provided in this post. Good job!


    March 28, 2020 at 7:46 AM

    • I’m with you: down with the mowing and scalping. One spring I asked a guard if it was okay to go in to photograph that great wildflower display on the main Pickle grounds, and he let me in. When I drove past there a couple of weeks ago the wildflowers looked unusually sparse, for whatever reason.

      As for the vertical picture of the colony, I do occasionally go for unconventional framing just to see if I get something that I like.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 28, 2020 at 8:33 AM

  10. So, so beautiful. Their location and your title reminded me of a gem I haven’t listened to in years: Arlo Guthrie’s “Motorcycle Song,” which is as much about a pickle as a motorcyle. In fact, the first lines are:

    “I don’t want a pickle
    Just want to ride on my motorsickle.
    And I don’t want a tickle
    ‘Cause I’d rather ride on my motorsickle…”

    I’d forgotten how amusing the song is. I couldn’t find a date for the concert, but the first YouTube commenter mentioned that he shot four rolls of film with his 35mm Nikkormat camera. It was a while ago.


    March 28, 2020 at 8:09 AM

    • How well I remember that song. I like Arlo Guthrie’s comment to the effect that he was amazed he could get away with singing a song like that for eight years—and making a living doing so. One word that rhymes with pickle is mickle, which unfortunately has dropped out of English except in Scotland. It means ‘great’ and greatly.’

      I remember 35mm Nikkormats, even if I didn’t have one myself; I went with Pentax first and then Canon, which as you know I’m still with in the digital age.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 28, 2020 at 8:48 AM

  11. Your green-and-blue carpet was already a delight to see, but when I viewed your macro it was pure joy. Have a great weekend, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    March 28, 2020 at 9:12 AM

  12. Just up the the street from me. I love to glance at the ocean of blue in those fields when I drive by. Great shots, Steve–you captured the essence of the bluebonnet!


    March 28, 2020 at 10:23 AM

    • Ah, essence of bluebonnet: sounds like the name of a perfume, which would be appropriate for a bluebonnet colony. I was glad I could include so many of the leaves, and not just the flowers, in the first two pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 28, 2020 at 10:27 AM

  13. The pictures are really beautiful. You can feel spring coming.


    March 28, 2020 at 12:59 PM

    • Spring has been in Texas for some time, even if we’re more constrained than normal in going out to greet it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 28, 2020 at 1:11 PM

  14. Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever seen quite so many flowers all packed into one place! 🙂


    March 28, 2020 at 2:11 PM

  15. So much. So many. And just one. I think that ties it all together aesthetically. A crowd and an individual amongst them all.

    Steve Gingold

    March 30, 2020 at 4:04 AM

    • That’s a concise three-sentence summary. It reminds me of Leigh Mercer’s four-element palindrome “A man, a plan, a canal — Panama!”

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 30, 2020 at 6:25 AM

  16. Love your first image! Sort of a lupine gradient the way the color goes from green to more purple.


    March 30, 2020 at 12:33 PM

    • Gradient’s an apt word for it. I was pleased to have so many leaves in the foreground, gradually giving way to the dense flowers that people know bluebonnets for.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 30, 2020 at 4:15 PM

  17. The large masses are impressive, of course, but I love the close up.


    May 4, 2020 at 9:33 AM

    • All in all I do a lot more closeups than broad shots, so I’m happen when a good overview offers itself. Today on the prairie broad swaths of wildflowers drew my attention.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 4, 2020 at 4:07 PM

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