A Wildflower Lover’s Dream: the Bluebonnet Trails in Ennis, Texas

“The bluebonnet is to Texas what the shamrock is to Ireland, the cherry blossom to Japan, the lily to France, the rose to England the tulip to Holland,” – Jack Maguire

It is often said (by Texans of course) that if artist Claude Monet had lived in Texas instead of France, he would have painted bluebonnets in his impressionist masterpieces instead of water lilies.

While this sentiment may seem as grandiose as Texas itself, it is totally believable for anyone with an appreciation of art lucky enough to step into a bluebonnet field at peak bloom.

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Texas is home to a wide variety of wildflowers. But no wildflower is as beloved or iconic in the state as the bluebonnet.

Texas icons certainly helped to grow the legend of the bluebonnet. Former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson encouraged the planting of wildflowers such as bluebonnets alongside Texas highways, as a beautification effort.

Her legacy lives on at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, which encourages people to grow their own bluebonnets by planting the first seeds in early October in a sunny, well-drained location.

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“Ugliness is so grim,” Lady Bird once said. “A little beauty, something that is lovely, I think, can help create harmony which will lessen tensions.” She wrote in her diary that her goal was “masses of flowers where masses pass.”

Today, former First Lady Laura Bush carries on that effort with her own wildflower garden at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas, where free bluebonnet tours are offered of the 15-acre Native Texas Park.

Indeed, the bluebonnet is the state flower of Texas. However, Texas A&M notes that there are actually five varieties of bluebonnets (lupinus) from different parts of the state, which are all designated the state flower.

A&M states that the Lupinus Texensis – or Texas lupine – is the most beloved variety and “provides the blue spring carpet” of Central Texas, with a flowering stalk tipped in white and with a bloom peaking in late March and early April.

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One of the best places to see classic Texas bluebonnets every spring is the city of Ennis, just outside of Dallas. In Ennis, fragrant fields of undulating bluebonnets blanket the ground for several weeks in April.

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The city proudly touts that the Texas Legislature designed it as home of the Official Texas Bluebonnet Trail and as the Official Bluebonnet City of Texas.

A website dedicated to bluebonnets offers updates on the bloom. The 67th annual Ennis Bluebonnet Trails Festival is scheduled for April 20-22, 2018, in downtown Ennis.

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The most impressive area for photo ops in Ennis with family or pets is the Meadow View Nature Area on Lake Bardwell, which is also dotted by several trees that create a dramatic backdrop.

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Many photographers juxtapose the trees at sunset or sunrise, creating dramatic vistas shared widely on Instagram. While I have never visited at the “golden hour,” it certainly seems to be a visually stunning time to photograph the site.

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This year, during the second week of April, the meadow was crowded with families squatting in the flowers for their photo ops. Ennis offers some tips on posing in bluebonnets, such as avoiding direct sun in the face of your subject.

They also offer the helpful reminder that it’s nice to have some Texas scenery beside the bluebonnets, such as an old barn or fence.

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I took advantage of the beautiful scenery to attempt to take photos of my five-pound chihuahua Jack in the bluebonnets. He tried to eat a flower, but quickly gave up on that endeavor.

While people can be difficult to photograph in the full sun that bluebonnets thrive in, dogs have become a popular photo subject in the bluebonnet fields.

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I was far from the only dog-owner who found Ennis to be the perfect site for pet portraits.

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Texas is pretty.

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Beyond the meadow, there are also winding roads that visitors can wander — although they are advised not to trespass onto private property, and plenty of signs serve as this reminder as well.

Visitors can download an “Ennis Y’All” phone app that provides driving directions for the trails, while signage certainly helps as well. The Ennis Garden Club sponsors the trails, and members drive the routes to provide bloom updates throughout the spring. While peak bloom is typically the third week of April, it can vary depending on weather.

You may be lucky enough to spot horses or longhorn cattle amidst the sea of blue. Although, Ennis officials do warn visitors that they should not pet a longhorn.

I captured the photos of a horse and cattle in bluebonnets a few years back.

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My goal is to one day grab an elusive longhorn-in-bluebonnets shot. But for now, I’ll settle for linking to such a scene on Instagram!

There also are some beautiful pastoral scenes along the back roads, including plenty of horses.

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The most popular horses by far (even though there were not many bluebonnets in the backdrop) are several beautiful Belgian horses along the route (and their small donkey friend).

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There is a barn with a  large Texas emblem on the way to the meadow.

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We also came across the stately old house below. When we last drove past it, a woman was sitting out front painting an image of it.

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If you arrive after the bluebonnets peak, don’t despair. Last year, my husband and I arrived on the tail end and saw quite a bit of vibrant orange red Texas Indian paintbrush (castilleja indivisa) wildflowers.

Arriving after the peak bloom for bluebonnets offered more of a mixed blue and orange red landscape. The colorful scenery created a nice backdrop for photos as well.

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Here, you can see the Meadow View area after the bluebonnets had mostly moved on, with Indian paintbrush more prevalent.

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This year, the paintbrush is just starting to poke through.

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Remember: Texas Indian paintbrush is beautiful in its own right, and certainly worth seeing if you miss out on the bluebonnets! Don’t forget to use your macro camera lens to detail the beauty of the flowers.

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If you visit Ennis, I hope that you gather all the bluebonnet photos with and of loved ones — whether human or pet — that your heart desires.

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