3965 Del Monte Garden. Image courtesy of Hester & Hardaway Photographers, provided by the Garden Conservancy
Garden tour season kicks off early in Texas, and even earlier in near-tropical Houston. If this lingering winter has you longing for palms, green hedges, garden rooms, and the occasional elephant fountain (see above), mark your calendar for the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days tour in Houston on Saturday, March 29. Six gardens will be open to the public from 10 am to 4 pm. There is also a free public community garden participating that will have information about the Garden Conservancy, directions to each private garden, and discounted tickets for sale ($35 for six tickets). Alternatively, you can pay for admission at each garden for $7 each, cash only.
The Houston Open Days tour is one of many private-garden tours held in cities across the U.S. throughout the year in support of the Garden Conservancy, whose mission is to preserve exceptional American gardens for the education and enjoyment of the public. Here in Texas the Garden Conservancy is working to preserve the remarkable collector’s garden Peckerwood in Hempstead. (Peckerwood will be open to the public for guided tours on March 22 and 23; see Peckerwood’s website for hours and other information.) By attending an Open Days tour, you’re helping to save worthy gardens. Like you needed an excuse, right?
I attended Houston Open Days two years ago. Regular readers may remember that I expressed disappointment that fully half of the featured gardens were formal, lawn-centric, estate-style landscapes rather than highly personal, even quirky, gardeners’ gardens. My critique of Houston Open Days centered on my feeling that Houston surely offers a whole lot more garden diversity than what we saw on tour. I hope we’ll see a little more diversity this year. At any rate, a garden tour always offers inspiration and beauty, and it is, as I said, all for a good cause. Moreover, I am always grateful to the volunteer organizers who put on these tours, and to the generous homeowners who share their gardens with the public.
As a side note, Houston is the only Texas city offering an Open Days tour this year. Austin usually has an excellent Open Days tour in even-numbered years but currently lacks a volunteer coordinator. So no fall tour for us — sob! Neither Dallas nor San Antonio is hosting a tour this year either, and the coordinators in Fort Worth have decided to host in odd-numbered years. So this is it, folks!
Following are descriptions of each Houston garden provided by the Garden Conservancy:
Studio and Community Garden: 1236 Studewood Street (no photo)
“This public community garden (free admission) is located in the Norhill neighborhood of the Houston Heights. The studio is housed in a rehabilitated convenience store surrounded by foundation plantings of xerophytes and native plants. A small community garden is located in the corner of the parking lot. Giant mushrooms, martin houses, and example of folk art are scattered around the complex. The studio will have exhibits on the Garden Conservancy and its local preservation project, Peckerwood Garden in Hempstead. Open Day tickets will be available for purchase here.”
18 West Lane
Image courtesy of Hester & Hardaway Photographers, provided by the Garden Conservancy
“The tone of the contemporary garden at 18 West Lane is set by the late 1950s mid-century modern house by the award-winning Houston architectural firm of Bolton and Barnstone. The garden was recently renovated with the house by Curtis & Windham Architects. Designed by the renowned landscape architect Thomas Church, the original landscape plan was lost after several generations of renovations. Currently the garden reflects the rectilinear forms of the house and harkens back to Church-era design. The original, strong north–south axis remains, running from the front of the property, through the house, ending at a focal point in the rear. This axis is visually reinforced not only by the brick walk but a series of landscape elements including a crepe-myrtle bosque, fountain, fastigiate pear allée, and pleached live oaks. The large lawns feature a contemporary sculpture collection and are bordered by beds of perennials, flowering shrubs, and exotic plants. The garden also features an original courtyard with shade-tolerant plants, an azalea walk, an herb garden, and a small pool.”
3640 Del Monte Boulevard
Image courtesy of Johnny Steele Design, provided by the Garden Conservancy
“Centered in the garden at 3640 Del Monte Boulevard is a negative-edge pool whose dark and mirror-like surface draws one into the outdoor space. From this vantage point many of the axial relationships between the house and garden are subtly revealed. The entry pergola, Victorian fountain, pool, sculpture, and main house precisely align along a north-south axis. Equally important is the east-west alignment of the garden pavilion, pool, and garden walls. While much of the garden’s hardscapes express a certain formality, it is the loose and unstructured placement of many of the plantings that adds that wonderful element of surprise. The unusual palette of plant materials, not typically found in Houston gardens, makes this garden truly special.”
3965 Del Monte Boulevard
Image courtesy of Hester & Hardaway Photographers, provided by the Garden Conservancy
“The gardens of 3965 Del Monte envelop a neo-French-style house in the River Oaks neighborhood of Houston. The extensive gardens are divided into a series of formal and informal outdoor rooms integrally associated with the architecture of the house, both designed by Curtis & Windham Architects. The climax of the rear garden space is a life-size statue of an elephant, which sprays water into a circular pool lined with large palms at the end of a long lawn. There are over twelve varieties of azaleas in the beds around the house, particularly the mass plantings flanking this lawn. The western section of the rear garden, or the ‘menagerie,’ is home to numerous animal sculptures located in informal, naturalistic settings. Other garden spaces include parterres, motor courts, a wooded lawn, herb garden, and a hidden folly.”
Museum District Garden: 1 West Eleventh Place
Image provided by the Garden Conservancy
“Both the classic architecture of this historic house and the owner’s interest in contemporary art inspired the development of this garden. When the adjacent lot became available and was acquired in 2011, architect Sophia Malik of Local Design Office designed the new ancillary building and the covered walk/grill terrace. Tellepsen Landscaping developed the existing and new gardens into a series of outdoor garden rooms. The front entry garden was completely renovated, providing a larger landing, entry walk, and low walls creating flatter lawn pads that are more in keeping with the scale of the house. New terraces off the living room feature a koi fountain that anchors a clipped Mexican white oak allée that provides a wonderful setting for the garden’s recently installed and ever-changing crystal sculpture. A sunken side garden for required water retention was planted with native plants that attract butterflies and birds seasonally as well as provide a planted screen from the street. The pool garden continues simple lines off the grilling terrace and maintains a large flowering border along its entire length. The Mediterranean medjool date palm anchors the other end of the pool garden, bringing down the scale of the house to help create a more intimate dining area. A small wall fountain helps diffuse the noise from the adjacent street and animates the small garden off the kitchen with light at night. The sunny motor court is lined with various fruit trees and has a small vegetable/herb garden. Each garden room has the opportunity to feature and add sculptural pieces over the years to come.”
William F. Stern Garden: 1202 Milford Street
Image courtesy of Frank Brown, provided by the Garden Conservancy
“One way to describe the modern outdoor spaces at 1202 Milford is that it is an ‘architect’s garden.’ The two courtyard spaces were designed by the prominent late architect Bill Stern in association to his contemporary house. A few well-chosen plants, fences, clipped hedges, and modern sculpture form the well-defined spaces and imbue these shady, gravel-floored gardens with calm.”
2109 Quenby Street (no photo)
“This garden is a beautiful combination of uncommon native and more familiar ornamental plants. Plant compositions highlight the species’ individual textures and forms. A linear garden, raised from the street level, runs along the front of the cottage. In the rear, plant beds surround a small lawn and covered outdoor space. Additional plants spill over onto a back alley. The garden is located in Houston’s Southampton neighborhood, which is itself worth exploring. Many nice plantings can be seen from the sidewalks.”
All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.