It’s 9:30 in the morning, the sun is bright, and about two dozen ladies from the Ennis Garden Club have hopped on a bus.
They’re taking a tour of miles and miles of bluebonnet fields. These flower detectives are on a mission: Spot as many blooms as possible.
“Oh my gosh. Look in the distance,” said Sandy Anderson, who’s guiding the tour. “Look straight ahead. Up on the hill. Straight ahead through the trees.”
The gently rolling hills are covered with thousands of budding bluebonnets, but they won’t peak until Easter weekend. Nearby are longhorn cattle, horses, fences, hay bales and ponds.
Can it get any more Texas than this?
“Look here on the right -- another little patch!” Anderson said.
Snapping pictures of the family in a field of bluebonnets: It’s an iconic springtime image in North Texas. And Ennis is Bluebonnet Central. The Texas Legislature has named Ennis the official Bluebonnet City of Texas.
Every April, up to 100,000 people flock to the Ellis County town. It’s home to 40 miles of roadsides covered with wildflowers. This weekend, Ennis holds its annual Ennis Bluebonnet Trails Festival.
‘I may be biased, but it’s the truth’
Anderson is the chairwoman of the Ennis Garden Club. Since 1951, the group has provided the flower power for the month-long Ennis Bluebonnet Trails. They drive the roads, scouting the best sites. They update maps and pass along tips to visitors.
Naturally, Anderson can’t get enough of the state flower.
“I told my family the other day: I want to be buried in the bluebonnets,” she said while riding the tour bus. “I want a bench beside my stone. And I want there to be a sign that says ‘Don’t mow.’”
Anderson declares the Ennis bluebonnets are the best in Texas. But of course she’d say that, right?
“I may be biased but it’s the truth,” she said.
She stopped, turned around and yelled out: “Ladies, do we have the best bluebonnets in the state?”
“Yes!” they shouted.
The Ennis gardening grandmas take a break for lunch …
Anderson announced: “We’re going to stop right here and let everybody off the bus.”
Meet the Bluebonnet Man
Keep driving north on the bluebonnet trails and into the town of Palmer. There you’ll find a big blue house with a huge field. This is where Doug Dickinson lives.
Folks call him the Bluebonnet Man.
He opens his front yard to thousands of tourists.
“It makes me feel good and to think that I am doing what I think what the good Lord wants me to do – share with other people,” Dickinson said.
Visitors send him tokens of appreciation – a bottle of wine, pictures, and emails, like this one:
“You’re a blessed man as you allow us to share the beauty of God’s creation on your property,” he read from his computer.
Notes like that keep him going.
“I’m 77 years old and the good Lord has kept me here through three heart surgeries, staph infection, an aneurysm that almost killed me,” he said from his home. “And I said ‘There’s got to be a reason.’”
Four generations in the flowers
Stop along the bluebonnet trails and you’ll run into hordes of families snapping photos in the flowers.
There’s one family with four generations. Jim Terry has brought his wife Rosa, who’s holding their great-grandson Ryan Oliver, who’s 19 months old.
“Say ‘pretty,’” Rosa told Ryan.
“Pretty!” Ryan cooed.
“Pretty flower,” Rosa said.
Along with them are Laura Oliver with her niece, 7-year-old Natalie Ball.
Natalie’s having a grand time.
“They’re blue and they smell good,” she said. “They kind of smell like lavender.”
The winds are strong, and the kids’ attention spans are short, but they’re going to do whatever it takes to get the perfect picture.
Natalie sat on a chair in the field as Jim Terry took pictures: “There you go. Put those boots up. Show me your boots.”
And don’t leave Natalie’s special friend out of the shot – Saige, her American Girl doll.
After all, she’s wearing a cowgirl dress and cowgirl boots and has a horse, Natalie said. A perfect addition to the wildflowers.
For Natalie’s Aunt Laura, the Ennis bluebonnet fields are a rite of spring.
“Getting away from the city, getting away from everyday responsibilities and challenges and just spending time together in a beautiful location,” Oliver said.
It’s not just about getting the perfect picture – it’s about creating memories as vivid as the bluebonnets themselves.
More about Ennis bluebonnets
Check Ennis’ bluebonnet page for daily updates on the best trails to tour.
Ennis’ annual Ennis Bluebonnet Trails Festival takes place 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free. The festival includes live music, food, arts and crafts, bluebonnet souvenirs and activities for kids.
An online bluebonnet celebration
Explore all things bluebonnet with KERA's 15 Amazing Things About Texas Bluebonnets. Learn some fun facts about bluebonnets, and read up on bluebonnet history. Look at fun pictures of kids and animals in the fields. Watch bluebonnet videos. Listen to bluebonnet music.
PerriAngela Wickham, a bluebonnet addict, posts regular bluebonnet updates on her website, bluebonnetlove.com. Learn more about Texas wildflowers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Also, check out widlflowersightings.org. And the Texas Department of Transportation has its own sightings page.