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Gaillardia of the Outer Banks, NC - Jobell Flower

Updated on January 12, 2018
cclitgirl profile image

Cynthia is a writer, artist, and teacher. She loves studying language, arts, and culture, and sharing that knowledge.

A beautiful gaillardia flower on Ocracoke Island.
A beautiful gaillardia flower on Ocracoke Island. | Source

The Jobellflower

If you ever have the opportunity to visit the Outer Banks, it’s well worth the trip. They are barrier islands along the Atlantic coast of North Carolina.

If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see a beautiful flower blanketing the landscape: gaillardia. This flower normally blooms in summer, but on a recent visit to the Outer Banks, I found clumps of them blooming in early spring.

They seem to thrive in the most inhospitable of conditions. I found them growing near the ocean amongst the straggly grasses of the sand dunes. I also found them growing along the side of the road. Every gaillardia flower I found, though, grew in the wide open sun, and grew best surrounded by sand.

The locals have a story for how all those gaillardias got to be all over the sand dunes and along the sides of the road.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Jobell Flower is two-toned.Jobell Flower can grow in clumps or as a single flower.Joe found these flowers - which weren't growing anywhere else in the area - unexpectedly where Josephine used to garden.The striking beauty of these flowers were Josephine's favorite. Gaillardia perfers sandy soil.
The Jobell Flower is two-toned.
The Jobell Flower is two-toned. | Source
Jobell Flower can grow in clumps or as a single flower.
Jobell Flower can grow in clumps or as a single flower. | Source
Joe found these flowers - which weren't growing anywhere else in the area - unexpectedly where Josephine used to garden.
Joe found these flowers - which weren't growing anywhere else in the area - unexpectedly where Josephine used to garden. | Source
The striking beauty of these flowers were Josephine's favorite.
The striking beauty of these flowers were Josephine's favorite. | Source
Gaillardia perfers sandy soil.
Gaillardia perfers sandy soil. | Source

Facts About Gaillardia

  • Nicholas Sparks popularized the story of the Jobell flower in his book The Rescue.
  • Gaillardia is native to North and South America. It prefers sandy soil.
  • The plant grows from 1 ½ to 2 feet tall, sometimes with single flowers and sometimes in clumps.
  • The flowers usually have two colors, ranging from red and orange to yellow.

Meet Joe and Josephine Bell

In the early part of the twentieth century a middle-aged couple was very much still in love. Their names were Joe and Josephine Bell.

Joe doted on Josephine. You could tell it was true love that they shared.

They loved to frequent the Outer Banks in the summers. At that time, the Banks weren’t very developed and the Bells loved the rustic appeal of life near the ocean. They found friends among the fishermen, groundskeepers and hunters that lived there.

The Bells stayed in various vacation homes when they went to the Outer Banks. They always paid their way, but enjoyed meeting all the different people who frequented the area. They enjoyed helping to keep house in the places they stayed and loved helping people who crossed their path.

Josephine’s kindness was known all over the Outer Banks. She would even take on the role as a midwife if needed, though she wasn’t a midwife by trade. Joe was never far away, and always willing to help. He willingly ran errands for Josephine, helped expectant fathers and was a great handyman.

Time passed and the Bells grew older. One winter, at their home inland, Josephine fell very ill. She made Joe promise to return to the Outer Banks to continue their tradition of staying there in the summers and helping people. She died, not long after Joe made his promise.

Joe indeed returned to the Outer Banks the following summer. But after sharing so many fond memories with Josephine, it was almost too much to bear. The sunrise was beautiful, but filled him with an empty longing for the love of his life. The beaches were peaceful, but lonely without Josephine.

Distressed and sullen, Joe returned inland.

North Carolina Outer Banks

Outer Banks, NC:
Outer Banks Visitors Bureau: Roanoke Island Welcome Center, 1 Visitors Center Cir, Manteo, NC 27954,

get directions

Will You Plant the Jobell Flower in Your Garden?

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A Sign From Josephine

Unexpectedly, he found a clump of gaillardia flowers growing in a garden where Josephine often liked to work. These flowers surrounded a large seashell that Josephine had once brought back from the beach. He didn’t plant those flowers; they had never been there before. He knew, however, that they were Josephine’s favorite type of flower. They were fiery orange with a reddish center.

He knew what he had to do.

Carefully digging up the flowers and tediously keeping the roots moist, Joe journeyed back to the Outer Banks. He started in Nag’s Head, he planted those flowers one by one all along the sand dunes. When they seeded, he took them and scattered them wherever he went.

He was sewing the seeds of his true love.

The locals liken Joe Bell to Johnny Appleseed. He spread that flower all over the barrier islands so that now, they blanket the landscape as if they were native flowers. They grow amazingly well and don’t seem to mind the salt spray from the ocean.

The seeds happily ride the ever-present winds in the Outer Banks and thrive in the sandy soil.

Now, the locals fondly refer to Joe’s flower as the Jobell flower – often as one word: Jobellflower.

I first heard this story courtesy of Charles Whedbee in his book Outer Banks Mysteries & Seaside Stories. When I visited the islands recently, a National Park employee re-told the story to me and I share it with you.

© 2012 Cynthia Calhoun


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    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      17 months ago from Western NC

      Hey, hey, RTalloni! Great to see you. I was just in my garden this morning admiring the gaillardias I'd planted. I was at the beach earlier this week also appreciating the wild gaillardias growing wild along the road. I love this flower! I'll also take your advice about cutting them back in the winter. :) Thank you for teaching me something, too! Have a wonderful weekend.

    • profile image


      17 months ago

      Glad to find this hardy flower's back story. I will smile more every time I see my gaillardia growing so faithfully by the front walkway. They are real survivors and after finding this post a little research revealed there are several varieties. Now to find them all... :) I learned from experience that cutting them back to about 6" in winter is a help to them going into the next spring.

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      7 years ago from Western NC

      Vicki - hehe, I'd never heard of it until I went to the Outer Banks last year and heard this story from a shopkeeper. Then, I was hooked. ;)

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 

      7 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      I've never even heard of this flower! Well done hub. I love the photos! Many votes!

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      8 years ago from Western NC

      Mvillecat - you have them in your garden!? Beautiful! I want to, but I'm afraid it's waaay too wet and loamy for these flowers where I live - those that thrive in bogs are what seem to go best where I live, lol. I'm glad you got to see them on Tybee Island. I would love to go there. :)

    • mvillecat profile image

      Catherine Dean 

      8 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      They are one of my favorite flowers and love to have them in my own garden. I saw some in the dunes on Tybee Island, GA a few weeks ago while on vacation. Very nice Hub.

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      8 years ago from Western NC

      Thank you, Kelley! Enjoy your evening and thank you so much for commenting. :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      What a fascinating hub. Enjoyed this thoroughly! Voted up, tweeted :) Kelley

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      8 years ago from Western NC

      Dahlia Flower - that's awesome! I actually didn't know that it looks like the passion flower, but you're absolutely right. I love the comparison. :)

    • Dahlia Flower profile image

      Dahlia Flower 

      8 years ago from Canada

      Very nice story of love. The flower looks a bit like a passion flower which is quite apropo to the story. Voting up.

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      8 years ago from Western NC

      alocsin - it's crazy how flowers have been blooming a little off kilter lately. Of course, it was a very mild winter. Thanks for stopping by. :)

    • alocsin profile image

      Aurelio Locsin 

      8 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Wow, I like that the flower has two contrasting colors. It may be this is blooming earlier because our climate is getting out of whack. I've noticed flowers blooming earlier and earlier here in Southern California as well. Voting this Up and Useful.

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      8 years ago from Western NC

      randomcreative - aw, shucks. Thank you so much. I appreciate your kind feedback and wonderful insights. :)

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      8 years ago from Western NC

      Tammy! (HUS) Great to see you! Since you haven't seen them, here's a virtual bunch of gaillardias ('"*"') hehehe. Thank you so much for your feedback and kind words. :)

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 

      8 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Gorgeous flowers and it was great learning about the story to go with them!

    • tammyswallow profile image


      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Fabulous hub. The flower is gorgeous. Every time I have gone to the Outerbanks it has been in late summer or fall, so I have not seen these beauties. Gorgeous and well written!

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      8 years ago from Western NC

      catsimmons - thank you for your feedback. :) I am really glad that you found the map helpful - that gives me some ideas on some future hubs. Thanks again! (HUGS)

    • catsimmons profile image

      Catherine Simmons 

      8 years ago from Mission BC Canada

      Lovely hub and a beautiful flower:-)

      I really liked that you included a map so that we can see where the place is that you're referring to...

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      8 years ago from Western NC

      xstatic - thanks for stopping by! I'm glad you found this interesting and I appreciate your feedback. :) This was a very beautiful place to visit, and I especially love little stories like this that are uplifting.

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 

      8 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      What a beautiful love story and interesting HUB! Sounds like a very interesting place to visit for sure. I will certainly read more of these great Hubs.

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      8 years ago from Western NC

      Happy Sunday and Easter to you! Hehe, yes, a hub about a flower. I didn't even really realize that until you pointed it out. I am fascinated with gaillardias. I might have to try to grow some, but I'm not sure how they'll do in our not-so-sandy soil. In any case, great to see you and hugs to you!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      8 years ago from Olympia, WA

      What a great hub! You wrote an entire hub about one that is talent! I'm pulling for you and in your corner all the way. Great job and Happy Easter!...unless you don't care about Easter in which case Happy Sunday!


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