| Plant Answers > Margaret Kane|
Margaret Kane, PDG and Horticultural Mentor
During the Twentieth
Century in San Antonio
It takes a lot of spadework to earn a PDG degree.
The honor has special significance if the candidate's studies
have been a never-ending test of turning the soil in a new
plot and venturing into new, and untried, territory.
This describes the life's work of a truly dedicated PDG,
Mrs. Paul Kane. Her specialty? Taking plants from
their proven natural habitat and wooing them with San Antonio
soil which, in most cases, turns out to be perfectly acceptable
to the species.
Mrs. Margaret Kane
Gardening is a natural outgrowth of Mrs. Paul Kane's background.
She was "planted" in an English family, and the English
are true gardeners. Actually, she was born as
Margaret Symes Foster in Concepcion del Oro, Mexico, where
her father, a mining engineer, managed silver mines.
She spent her first year in England, before her parents
moved back to Mexico. But there were many visits back to
England. When the revolution drove her
family out of Mexico, they moved to San Antonio where they
had "drunk of the water" on numerous visits. That
was in 1921.
After moving to San Antonio, Mrs. Kane, then known simply
as "Margaret Foster", the daughter of Mr. And Mrs. H. S.
Foster, enrolled in Main Avenue High School. While
a student there, she met her husband, Paul Kane. The Kanes
had two daughters, Mrs. Dean (Margaret) Smith, who resides
in San Antonio, and Mrs. Frank (Kay) Ennis of Alexandria,
Mrs. Kane and her friends
Mrs. Kane has always described her home as a "botanical
jungle". She has never been able to bear growing anything
without knowing its botanical name. Until just recently,
she continued to correspond with a great many horticulturists
throughout the world to keep abreast of the science.
Many of her plants have been acquired through exchanges
with friends. She studied journalism in high school and
took a course in magazine writing at Trinity University.
She has written many articles for such well-known gardening
books and magazines as McCall's Garden Book, Flower &
Garden, Houston Gardener, and Better Homes & Gardens.
Her weekly columns, "Pots, Plots and Plants", dispensed
gardening advice to readers of the North San Antonio
Times for 12 years.
Mrs. Kane's garden boasted a profusion of daylilies, but
her pride and joy was her collection of ginger plants, which
come in a variety of colors. It also included the
ginger plant used in cooking, although ginger-flavored dishes
were not her favorites. Always slim and attractive, the
pleasant Mrs. Kane's favorite foods were those of her British
ancestry-roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.
Margaret and Paul Kane had compatible hobbies. She
delighted in driving around the country, collecting plants
she could introduce to San Antonio. Paul, who retired
from San Antonio Armature Works, was a ham radio operator.
Whenever Mrs. Kane was struck with wanderlust, he simply
packed his equipment into the car and they were on their
way. He was also an accomplished photographer and
took many black-and-white pictures of the flowers that Mrs.
Kane tested and wrote about.
Mrs. Kane and her husband
Mrs. Kane's "addiction" always left little time for activities
that were not garden-oriented. She was a charter member
of the Hemerocallis Society and helped write its constitution.
She was also charter member of the San Antonio Council of
Nationally Accredited Flower Show Judges, a member of the
Amaryllis and Louisiana Irish Societies, and a member of
the Huisache Garden Club of San Antonio. She is a
life member of the San Antonio Garden Center and at one
time served as its vice president. Other memberships
have included the San Antonio Botanical Society and Garden,
the Native Plant Society and the Garden Writers Association
of America. She has also been honored
as a Fellow in the Royal Horticultural Society of England
and with an honorary membership in the Gaspart (England)
Garden Club. Her wonderful yard was featured in the
book, American Cottage Gardens, published in the 1970's.
Mrs. Kane has always held that gardening produces benefits
beyond the beauty of the plants and their physical conditioning.
She once said, "If people love flowers, they won't destroy
them, and if they won't destroy flowers, they will see that
which is good and will not destroy other people's property".
The PDG degree? Plain Dirt Gardener. Mrs. Kane
wore the title with pride. In 1968, the San Antonio
Express-News named her "Gardener of the Year". In 1984,
she received the prestigious Amateur Gardener Award from
the American Horticultural Society.
In the 1980's a reader of the San Antonio Light Newspaper
asked Jerry Parsons, a Professor and Horticulture Specialist
for the Texas Cooperative Extension Service, "Who
is the most knowledgeable authority on perennials in the
San Antonio area?" He didn't even have to think about
the reply. He answered, "That's the easiest question of
the year and indisputable as well. Margaret Kane is
the foremost Texas expert and one of America's most knowledgeable
perennial plant experts".
Dr. Parsons still has great admiration for Mrs. Kane. He
writes, "Margaret Kane is considered by many of us as the
premiere trainer of Texas' horticulturists.
She was the go-to person when you needed to know how a plant
does in the San Antonio area. I specifically remember
consulting with her about Hamelia patens before we popularized
it in this area and eventually all over the state.
She had a lot to do with the original information in the
article introducing firebush at:
Of course, at the Garden Center's annual plant sales, she
was always known as the ginger lady and always had some
available. Every year, that is where I would always see
When Parsons asked Dr. William Welch, Professor and Landscape
Horticulturist with Texas A&M, about the contributions
of Mrs. Kane, he replied:
"I believe that it was
you who introduced me to her back in the mid-80s and I thoroughly
enjoyed communicating, visiting and sharing plants with
her. The diversity of plant species in her relatively
small garden was amazing. The garden always was well
tended and attractive and she was always gracious in sharing
her plants and information. She was growing plants
like Japanese anemone that I would have said would not thrive
(in San Antonio). I obtained my first look at Cuphea
micropetala, in her garden along with many other perennials.
I utilized considerable information from Margaret in my
first book, Perennial Garden Color. She was particularly
helpful with the section on gingers. Her information
was always scholarly, but she backed it up with garden experience.
Margaret Kane was also a friend of Lynn Lowrey.
Many years ago, Lowery also suggested that I contact her.
She is an important part of our gardening heritage in Texas
and the South, and we need to "share her" with generations
of new gardeners who did not have the opportunity to know
her as we did."
After corresponding with Mrs. Kane in 1992, she wrote Jerry
Parsons the following letter:
Photo of Mrs. Kane's flowers
"Dear Dr. Parsons,
My garden is over fifty years of age and many plants have
come and gone in that time but I am always keen to try another
that is new to me. I believe I was the first to grow
Bells of Ireland (popular with flower arrangers).
I know I introduced chocolate plant (Pseuderanthemum
alatum) and perhaps was the first to grow the climbing
fern (Lydodium japonicum)
in this area. Porcelain vine (Ampelopsis
brevipedunculata) put on its many-hued berries for
the first time many years ago.
Native plants are a joy, especially those with colorful
fruit (white and purple beauty berry) or variegated foliage
(Mexican apple). Texas bluebells reseed happily among
daylilies and Louisiana iris. Blue-eyed grass and
lamb's lettuce furnish a border for other spring wild flowers.
Among other pleasures-working at the San Antonio Garden
Center's Annual Plant Sale and helping with classification
at the Center's flower show. It is always exciting
to see the new plants that are introduced at these events.
Among the highlights of my gardening years are the many
collecting trips made with The Garden Club of Houston to
find new material for their annual Bulb-Mart. I owe
many of my rare plants to the unfailing generosity of this
Everyone who knew Mrs. Kane agrees: No one loved flowers
Written by Jerry Parsons in January,
Listen to the Garden Show live!
Saturday & Sunday from Noon-2PM
Call (210) 308-8867 or (866) 308-8867
and have your gardening questions answered
- during show hours ONLY -
Milberger's Gardening South Texas
on 930 AM THE ANSWER
Hosts: Dr. Calvin Finch, Dr. Jerry Parsons, and
Milton Glueck, radio personality and host
Last weekend's shows ON PODCAST
On Sale This Week | Newsletter Signup
Local Gardening Events
Open 9 to 6 Monday-Saturday & 10 to 5 Sunday
3920 N. Loop 1604 E. San Antonio, TX 78247
Phone: (210) 497-3760
Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604.
Next to the Valero station.
Email Us | Map & Directions
|Copyright © 2017 PLANTanswers.com - All Rights Reserved. PLANTanswers and PLANTanswers.com are trademarks of Jerry Parsons.|