Friday, April 3, 2009

Parkie Pic of the Week

For those of you who live outside the area, University Park and Highland Park are together called Park Cities. Citizens of these fabled towns are called "Parkies". Hence, my weekly fun feature which I call "Parkie Pic of the Week" in which I like to highlight an unusual or spectacular feature of my neighborhood.

You can tell it's spring, because the Azealeas are in full bloom!

Park Cities unwavering desire for azaleas dates back to the mid 1930s. According to legend, Ruth Lechner, wife of oilman Walter Lechner, wanted to reproduce the breathtaking beauty of Tyler's residential azalea gardens at their new home at 6921 Lakewood Blvd. and the adjoining vacant lot. More than one local landscaper, however, told her it was not possible to cultivate acid-loving azaleas in Dallas' alkaline black clay.

On a transcontinental vacation in 1935, the Lechners and friends Janet and Ray Hubbard (as in the future Lake Ray Hubbard) were motoring toward Portland, Ore. and seeing billboards advertising the scenic wonders of a place called Lambert Gardens, with camellia and azalea displays. The travelers toured the nursery and visited with the owner, A.B. Lambert, Sr., according to An Oilman's Oilman: A Biographical Treatment of Walter W. Lechner by James Anthony Clark and Judith King (Gulf Publishing Co., 1979). Lambert put them in touch with a brother who was in the landscaping business in Shreveport, La., Joe Lambert, Sr.

The couple met with Joe Lambert in their Lakewood living room, and he assured Mrs. Lechner she could have her azaleas if his men dug trenches 2 feet deep and replaced the heavy clay with peat moss and sandy loam. Three of Lambert's sons, Edwin, Henry and Joe, Jr., worked on the Lechner project. Within three years, according to the biography, "police were needed in the streets outside to direct the traffic that piled up as motorists paused to admire the magnificent blooms. One Sunday Walter counted the crowd. Over 5,000 people went through their yard." "Even the firemen would come out in fire wagons to look," reads the biography. "It drew people from all over the state and country."

Southern ladies love their gardens and their flowers. All you need is a green thumb. Or if you live in Park Cities, a great gardener.