Story and photographs by Pamela Price
This story originally appeared in the Leon Springs Community News, August 2010 edition.
In a quiet neighborhood off of IH-10 West at the very point where the highway climbs into the Texas hill country, a local grower cultivates a variety of succulents, edible and ornamental plants to sell at San Antonio-area markets.
Because Rosslyn St. Clair’s home is also her private nursery, there’s a delightful tumble of pots, beds, greenhouses, and containers surrounding the modest house. Herbs, hanging baskets, flowers—one finds a little bit of everything in the yard. There’s visible evidence of her commitment to growing organically, too. For example and on a recent evening, bags of leaf mulch sat near the home’s entrance, waiting to be distributed.
“I started Flor Hermosa Nursery in 1999,” says St. Clair. “My first greenhouse was my garage. I would move plants and drag them out during that first winter. I now have five small greenhouses of varying shapes and sizes.”
She also sells cut flowers–as well as the hanging baskets and other plants–at the Leon Springs Farmers Market and the New Braunfels Farm to Market. In Boerne, the Little Nature Store carries her bouquets. She will soon open a stall at the Helotes market, too.
Each season brings a new round of fresh flowers at the nursery. Over the course of a year, St. Clair sows fragrant sweet peas, colorful snapdragons, spiky gladioli, assorted gomphrenas, gloriosa lilies, and many others.
“I’m still searching for more varieties to add to the list,” she says. “And having a lot of fun doing it!”
St. Clair grows her plants from seeds, cuttings and divisions. She purchases most of the seed, but she also gathers some from her own plants.
Currently, she’s experimenting with hopes of discovering which types of sunflowers and zinnias grow best in our harsh climate. And so it’s the colorful cut-flower garden hidden at the back of her property that merits the closest inspection, especially this time of year.
On a typical summer evening at St. Clair’s home, bright sunflowers, marigolds, and zinnias bob their heads in the Central Texas breeze, waiting to be harvested and hand-tied in sunny bunches. The tallest plants—the golden sunflowers–tower over the gardener as she moved about the beds.
As she walks, St. Clair pauses periodically to hold the largest, most vivid blossoms in her outstretched hand. Bees and butterflies buzz around both her and the flowers, stopping momentarily to collect nectar and then moving to the next blossom. The bees make the garden hum just loud enough to compete with noises coming from the nearby interstate traffic.
It is only in the cool of the evenings that St. Clair cuts her flowers and arranges them for sale. She will harvest and sell them right up until the first freeze this fall.
When asked, she does not hesitate to name her favorite flower in this year’s cutting garden. “I’m really loving the Mexican zinnia this year,” says St. Clair. “To me, the flower is so lovely, it almost looks unreal.”
The gardener’s horticulture roots run deep. While living in Albuquerque as a child, her family had a rose of Sharon plant, a type of hibiscus, blooming in the yard. Fascinated by its beauty then, St. Clair says that she still smiles when she sees one.
Her family moved around a great deal when she was growing up, and St. Clair recalls her mother
planting flowers and bulbs in Las Vegas and El Paso, too. “It’s a wonderful connection that I carry with me. When my mother passed away, one of my sisters gave me my mother’s gardening gloves in a shadow box. I will always cherish them.”
For someone so dedicated to the care and nurturing of plants, it’s no surprise to discover that St. Clair has an artistic bent, too. Yes, when not tending plants or preparing for market, St. Clair writes poetry. Or, as she puts it, “Being a poet and a gardener are one and the same. I don’t know where one starts and the other begins.”