Willow City Loop wows with Texas wildflowers

March 29, 2024

I headed west to the Hill Country on Wednesday on a THIRD wildflower safari, cruising the Willow City Loop between Fredericksburg and Llano. This famously scenic, 13-mile ranch road winds through rugged canyons and over rocky hilltops offering spectacular views, with low-water crossings and free-range cattle to watch out for. Bluebonnets, white prickly poppies, and other native Texas wildflowers puddle thickly along the roadside and in pastures.

If you go, I recommend avoiding Easter weekend if you can and waiting until Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. Otherwise you’ll likely find yourself in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Many of the ranch owners along the Loop are, understandably, tired of all the traffic during wildflower season and have posted signs warning visitors not to stop, park, or trespass, so keep that in mind. It’s easier to crawl the Loop and gawk at flowers without becoming a nuisance on a quieter weekday.

Mom and her pup Lola accompanied me on this wildflower expedition. We drove north from Fredericksburg under bruised skies rumbling with thunder. The new mesquite leaves and wildflower fields were even more beautiful under that threatening sky.

Verbena made a strong early showing as we headed into the Loop.

Grazing sheep added to the springy Eastertime scenery.

At the TK Ranch (which changed hands in 2023), old boots upturned on fenceposts lined the road for a half mile or more. It’s always fun to see them.

Beyond the TK, as spattering rain alternated with bursts of sunshine, we started seeing thick clusters of bluebonnets.

I’d been on the lookout for a rainbow, and as we crested a rise, there it was — a big, double arching rainbow.

It spanned the road ahead, with one end dropping into the valley, seeming to point to the legendary pot o’ gold.

Or maybe the gold was over this ridge.

A haze of bluebonnets spread around exposed pink granite. The rocky cliffs beyond reminded me of the Fort Davis area in West Texas.

Big, blowsy white prickly poppies are Mom’s favorite. We both were dazzled by the neon green of newly leafed mesquite.

Bluebonnets will always be my favorite, pictured here with grand live oaks sporting their own brand-new, yellow-green leaves.

Cows and flowers

Everywhere, really

It’s all so good this year!

Bluebonnets alternated with golden groundsel under mesquites.

A wire fence in the foreground made a flag effect.

Golden groundsel beyond the wire fence

And white prickly poppy

A wider scene with white prickly poppy, bluebonnet, and golden groundsel

Golden groundsel began to steal the show.

Although bluebonnets made a brave stand along the fence line.

“Diamond” in one ranch’s name was represented by a diamond in their fence design.

Another charismatic old live oak with a lapful of bluebonnets

White prickly poppies and bluebonnets

The black limbs of live oaks along the road framed green fields.

But it’s really all about the blues at this time of year.

Bluebonnets with a single white poppy — like the full moon over ocean waves

More prickly poppy, backlit by the afternoon sun

Mom spotted a cardinal in a low branch, and I leaned out the window to try to get a shot. Well, the leaves are in focus!

Another field of blue. It never gets old.

Bluebonnets with prickly pear

*Angels singing*

Longhorn cattle in a wooded pasture — what an iconic Texas scene.

Baby longhorn

Just up the road, I spotted a wild turkey moseying through bluebonnets.

And a few deer too

Another good patch of blue

And another

The sun was playing hide-and-seek in the clouds, creating moody light that intensified blue wildflowers and fresh green leaves.

Mesquite and bluebonnets

A shaman sculpture with arms aloft beckoned to visitors at one ranch. An agave echoed his headdress.

Toward the northern end of the Loop, white prickly poppies were making a big show.

Bluebonnets still favored the roadsides, including along this gated driveway.

A few pink phlox joined the show near a chimney-like butte.

The blues, however, have my Texas heart.

Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate! And if you’d like to see wildflower safaris along Willow City Loop from years past, click here for more flowers.

I welcome your comments. Please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading in an email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each postAnd hey, did someone forward this email to you, and you want to subscribe? Click here to get Digging delivered directly to your inbox!


Digging Deeper

March 30-31: Come see the Austin Cactus & Succulent Society Show at Zilker Botanical Garden on 3/30 and 3/31, from 10 am to 5 pm. Includes a plant show with specimen cacti and succulents, handcrafted pottery, daily silent auction and hourly plant raffles, and expert advice. Admission is included with paid admission to Zilker Garden, $5 to $8 for adults, $3 to $4 for children (under 2 free).

April 6: Come out to Austin’s Mayfield Park on 4/6 for the Mayfield Park Gardening Symposium & Fundraiser, 8:30 to 11 am. This annual benefit for the park includes a raffle, plant sale, and garden speakers.

May 4: Explore “brilliant backyards, perfect pools and pergolas, and outdoor rooms and gardens” on the ATX Outdoor Living Tour on 5/4, 10 am to 3 pm. Landscape architects, designers, and builders will be on hand to answer questions. Tickets are $33.85 for adults, $17.85 for kids age 10-17.

May 11: Save the date for Austin Home’s Great Outdoors Tour on 5/11.

May 18: Pop up to Dallas for the 2024 DCMGA Garden Tour on 5/18 from 10 am to 5 pm. Tickets are $18 if purchased online prior to 6 pm on 5/17, or $22 after 6 pm on 5/17 or at the event. For a sneak peek, click here.

June 1-2: Take a self-guided, 2-day tour of ponds and gardens in and around Austin on the annual Austin Pond and Garden Tour, held 6/1 and 6/2, 9 am to 5 pm. Tickets are $20 to $25.

Come learn about gardening and design at Garden Spark! I organize in-person talks by inspiring designers, landscape architects, authors, and gardeners a few times a year in Austin. These are limited-attendance events that sell out quickly, so join the Garden Spark email list to be notified in advance; simply click this link and ask to be added. Season 8 kicks off in fall 2024. Stay tuned for more info!

All material © 2024 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Shopping cart