HALLMARK MAGAZINE, Stonyridge Ranch – May, 2008
Springtime in Hill Country The annual blooming of Texas bluebonnets is all the excuse these friends need to celebrate the season with a simple, delicious meal. By William Jack Sibley. It’s late afternoon, usually a sleepy time at Stony Ridge Ranch. But today the bed-and-breakfast, located 60 miles northwest of San Antonio, is vibrating with activity as owners Rollie and Steve Devlin prepare for their spring party, finishing off the last few details before friends arrive. They slide herbed breads from the outdoor fireplace onto an old farm table; they dish fresh whipped cream into an antique crockery bowl. Nature has provided the decorations—not to mention the excuse to celebrate. It’s wildflower season in the Hill Country! The view from the terrace is bursting with color: There are fuchsia winecups by the roadside, Indian paintbrush swaying at fences and, everywhere you look, acres of bluebonnets.Throughout the year, Stony Ridge is a haven for travelers who’ve come to explore the Texas Hill Country—the rolling limestone hills that stretch west from Austin and into the northern suburbs of San Antonio. Visitors are drawn to the area’s state parks striped with lazy rivers (perfect for tubing), sprawling farms selling locally grown goods, and old town squares anchored by stately courthouses.
And Rollie, once a caterer, prides herself on providing a home base where couples can unplug and reconnect. But one day each April, she lavishes attention on her neighbors instead. A veterinarian, musicians, a nearby olive-orchard owner—the wonderful mix of guests reflects the region’s distinctive character. Some are longtime residents, descendants of German or Mexican settlers; others, like Rollie, who moved here from Dallas a decade ago, are former city dwellers seeking a quieter life. Today all are welcomed with a glass of champagne topped with a pretty sprig of lemon verbena.
Farm Fresh In true neighborly spirit, Rollie Devlin serves a medley of dishes made from local ingredients.
YOUR GUIDE In the Texas Hill Country, you can find everything from fresh produce to award-winning goat cheese. Bottles of extra-virgin olive oil from nearby Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard (sandyoaks.com) were infused with rosemary and given to guests as party favors, along with herbed vinegars. To make your own, click here.
Y’ALL come on down, NOW Devoted friends share a lovely afternoon and a toast…until next year!
YOUR GUIDE You can plan your own idyllic respite at Stony Ridge Ranch B&B (stonyridgeranch.com) or some other quiet corner of the Hill Country. Basic information Go to hill-country-visitor.com for a list of cities to visit, B&Bs, restaurants and a calendar of events and local market days. Vineyards There are more than 20 wineries in the Hill Country that join together in April to host a Wine and Wildflower Trail (texaswinetrail.com). Lavender farms During the summer blooming season, visitors can cut their own fragrant bundles (blancolavenderfest.com). State parks Lost Maples State Natural Area is known for its fall foliage display, but you can explore hiking trails, waterfalls and scenic overlooks at area state parks all year (tpwd.state.tx.us). Entertainment Dancing shoes are helpful but not required at Gruene Hall, the oldest dance hall in Texas and a great venue for live music (gruenehall.com).
Go Native Wildflowers provide plenty of reason to celebrate.
YOUR GUIDE Many of the gorgeous wildflowers you’ll see in Texas (and everywhere else) are in danger of becoming extinct, which is why Lady Bird Johnson founded her Wildflower Center in Austin in 1982. Wherever you live, you can help preserve native wildflowers by landscaping your own yard with plants that grow naturally in your area. Plants that are accustomed to the local climate require less watering and fewer fertilizers and herbicides to stay healthy. To get started, visit the Wildflower Center’s Web site (wildflower.org) for a list of the flowers and plants that are indigenous to your region, along with tips for cultivating. The Hill Country’s own Wildseed Farms (wildseedfarms.com) sells regional seed mixes for wildflowers and native grasses.