In the late 1980s Connoisseur of Malvern collaborated with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas to create a series of porcelain studies of American native wildflowers. Almost two years in preparation, the collection contains six open (non-limited) editions, four limited editions of 100, and a marvelous red, white and blue centerpiece in a limited edition of 50.
The Wildflower Center was co-founded in 1982 by Lady Bird Johnson, former First Lady and lifelong wildflower conservationist, and the noted actress Helen Hayes. It is the only such institution in the United States and is devoted to promoting the use and conservation of native plants and flowers. In today’s uncertain climatic times, this mission is an even more critical part of protecting our entire natural environment. As a nonprofit organization, the Center is supported only by membership dues, product sales, and grants from individuals and private corporations. The American Wildflower series was their first collaboration with a porcelain art studio.
The full collection was on display at the Wildflower Center at its introduction during the autumn of 1990; the sculptures were also available at Neiman Marcus and other select Connoisseur of Malvern retailers nationwide. The backstamps identify each study as a part of this collection; examples of the limited and open edition backstamps are shown below.
(The word “Research” was dropped from the institution’s name in 1998; it is now known as the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.)
Single Wildflower Studies, Non-Limited Edition
All of the open edition single-flower studies were priced at $695 at introduction.
Evening Primrose is 5.5” (14 cm) high. This is the flower that appears on the logo of the National Wildflower Center. The pink evening primrose, Oenothera speciosa, blooms from spring to summer. Despite its common name, the flowers are often open during the day. It is native to the prairies and open woods in the central plains of the USA from Missouri to Mexico.
The rich purple Aster is also 5.5” h (14 cm). This is Aster nova-angliae, the New England aster, which is the parent of a number of garden hybrids. Flower color ranges from white through deep purple, and blooming is in September and October, prime time for migrating butterflies. It especially likes moist soil and can be found along the East coast from Vermont to Alabama to as far west as New Mexico.
Black-eyed Susan, 5.75” (14.6 cm) high. A tough praire plant widely naturalized as well as popular in gardens, Rudbeckia hirta blooms for most of the summer. Many cultivars have been developed from this native plant.
The delightful pink Penstemon, 6.5” (16.5 cm) high, was designed by W. Green. This western native is widespread in mountains, prairies and gardens in a range of colors. Genus name means “five stamens”. Penstemons are fine plants for xeriscaping and are an essential part of any hummingbird garden!
Indian Blanket, 6.5” (16.5 cm) high Gaillardia pulchella is widely known as “blanket flower” and also as “firewheel” because of the pattern and color of the petals. Fond of sandy soils in open meadws, it blooms from late spring to early summer and is native to fields from Nebraska and Texas/Arizona and as far west as Colorado.
California Poppy, 6” (15 cm) high. Eschscholzia californica sets western coastal hillsides ablaze with orange throughout the summer. It’s also a versatiile garden plant, either for a wide swath of brilliance or weaving through taller sun-loving perennials or annuals.
Limited Edition Wildflower Studies
Each study showcases a pair of wildflowers and represents one of five different geographical regions of the United States: Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, Midwest, and West coast. These were limited editions of 100 each, and retailed for $995 at introduction.
Wetland Wildflowers is 9” h x 6” w (23 cm x 15 cm). Native to wet meadows and marshlands in the Northeast, these two plants span most of the gardening year. Iris versicolor blooms first (May–July) from the US-Canadian border south to Wisconsin and parts of Pennsylvania. The ivy-leafed morning glory, Ipomea hederacea, flowers July–Oct in moist areas all along the east coast.
Woodland Wonders, 8.5” h x 5.5” w (21.5 cm x 14 cm). Here we have two spring-blooming Southeastern woodland gems: the yellow lady’s slipper orchid (Cypripedium calceolus) and Catesby’s trillium (Trillium catesbaei). The trillium starts out white and gradually ages to red. There is well founded concern about the overcollection of many trilliums; it is always best to obtain them from a reputable nursery’s propagated stock, so that the wild populations can be left alone to re-establish their dwindling numbers.
Sunset Jewels, 6” h. Midwest. This pair of cheerful and drought tolerant Southwestern plants includes Melampodium leucanthum which is also called rock daisy because of its very mimimal soil and water requirements. The yellow “Texas dandelion” is Pyrrhopappus multicaulis; similar in appearance to the common dandelion Taraxacum officinale (the bane of all lawn tenders!) it also shares its exuberant reproductive characteristics.
Prairie Bouquet, 6.5” (15 cm) high and designed by Aileen Burton. Both of these well known rich purple flowers are found in the Midwest. The larger is Anemone patens, known variously as the pasqueflower or prairie crocus (the latter name derived from the flower shape and early bloom time; it is not in the crocus family.) It flowers from March to early June depending on location. The sweet birds-foot violet, Viola pedata, belongs to the widespread and reliable genus that has been beloved for centuries.
California Gold, at 6.5” (15 cm) high, represents the West coast. Very early west coast wildflowers with charming names: baby blue-eyes (Nemophilia menziesii) and goldfields (Lasthenia glabrata). Bloom season starts in Feb for blue, March for yellow. The genus name Nemophilia means “glade lover”. The common name “goldfields” seems particularly appropriate in view of the history of 1850s California.
The Pride of Texas
The stunning red-white-and-blue Pride of Texas Centerpiece was a limited edition of 50 sculptures; dimensions are 12.5” high x 5.25” wide x 11.5” deep (31.75 cm x 13 cm x 29 cm) and was priced at $3995 when introduced.
Lupinus texensis, the beloved “Texas bluebonnet”, thickly carpets acres of fields with blue in early spring. As a member of the legume family, lupines are nitrogen-fixing plants that help to enrich the soil. The low-growing white Phlox drummondii has naturalized through much of Texas and the surrounding states; although the genus name means “flame”, the early spring phlox are seen in various colors in the wild and in gardens. Red is represented by the Indian paintbrush, Castilleja indivisa, a brilliantly colored member of the snapdragon family.
The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is a very special and valuable resource for anyone interested in our native plant species and how to best use them in our public spaces and gardens, in preference to – or at least, in combination with – ‘imported’ varieties that are less able to deal with the increasing vagaries of climate and manmade environmental stresses. Wildflowers can not only survive but thrive without the dubious ‘benefit’ of chemical fertilizers and selective herbicides, thus reducing the overall toxin load on the biosphere as a whole.
Sincere thanks to Mr. Joseph Hammer, current Director of the Wildflower Center, for his invaluable assistance in obtaining photographs of the Collection sculptures and associated information. The Center is located at 2600 FM 973 North, Austin, Texas 78725; their website at https://www.wildflower.org is a fascinating compendium of all matters relating to native American wildflowers and plants.
Images of ©Connoisseur of Malvern porcelain sculptures are provided for informational and educational purposes only, not for reproduction, resale or advertising. All photographs are copyrighted by their owner (where known) as indicated via watermark.