Nursery visit: The Arbor Gate near Houston

My sister, who lives in Houston, expressed amazement at how many gardens I managed to squeeze into my visit to her city a couple of weekends ago. It’s true. I’ve shown you four Open Days tour gardens, plus four drive-by gardens that were pretty fabulous, plus a nursery visit to Thompson+Hanson, plus wildflowers in Brenham along the way. Whew!

But I have one more nursery visit to share with you, The Arbor Gate in far northwest Houston (Tomball, to be exact), a lively, customer-oriented, garden-art-packed destination nursery for Houston-area gardeners.

I was touring with my friend Diana of Sharing Nature’s Garden, and we popped into the shop first just to say hi and make sure they were OK with us taking photos. I spotted this congregation of bluebirds on the porch rail. It was my first taste of the fun garden art placed whimsically and en masse throughout the nursery and display gardens.

Like these ceramic koi splashing through the chard.

See how they color-coordinated the orange and red fish with the hot-colored stalks of the chard?

And the poppies

Painted metal birdhouses and flying pigs were hung from seemingly every tree and arbor.

Signs, suns, and winged hearts galore decorated a painted fence.

A whole flock of parrots and cockatoos festooned the nursery aisles.

This is the place to go if you need to brighten your garden with art…

…or give a bird a home.

The pottery selection is nice too, with shade from the intense Texas sun.

A ceramic owl stool amid the blue pots

There were, of course, plenty of plants tucked among all the garden art, like these azaleas, which grow well in East Texas.

Plus lots of flowering perennials…

…and hanging baskets. The sales staff was helpful when needed, and Diana and I found a few new plants to bring home. Not azaleas though.

The Arbor Gate offers lots of talks, and I think this elaborate copper arbor is probably where speakers are set up.

Two gift shops at opposite ends of the nursery offer housewares, books, and gifts of all kinds. The front shop, pictured here, is packed with home accessories and garden-related goodies.

Even table settings

This was a fun stop on the way into Houston, requiring only a slight detour to the north as we drove in via Hwy. 290. So, would any of the garden art have tempted you? I loved those ceramic koi but resisted — this time anyway.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Visit to Thompson+Hanson nursery and Tiny Boxwoods cafe

Can you travel to another city to see gardens without visiting a local nursery? Yes, but why in the world would you? While Diana and I were in Houston last Saturday for the Open Days tour (pics coming soon), we stopped for lunch at Tiny Boxwoods cafe, which is operated by and located on the beautiful grounds of boutique nursery and elegant garden shop Thompson+Hanson.

Thompson+Hanson’s reminds me of now-closed Gardens in Austin. As with Gardens, T+H’s primary business is a design-build landscape architecture firm (which, I was surprised to learn, has an office in Austin too). Their retail nursery, located on Alabama Street, invites you in through a massive arbor topped with what appears to be a rainwater-collection tank. It’s playfully adorned with a collection of sparkly disco balls.

I’m a little infatuated by the idea of disco balls in the garden now.

This is central Houston, mind you — land of urban infill, no zoning, and less parking, but look at the spaciousness of this nursery!

And the classic elegance of its structures and decor

Perfuming the air, a white wisteria is carefully trained along an arbor by the garden shop’s doors.

Elegant pots of flowering plants occupy tables set up throughout the nursery, along with classic or tastefully whimsical garden art and decor.

Everything is beautifully displayed.

The nursery grounds feel surprisingly large for inner Houston, but with a limited selection of plants this is not a nursery for all your gardening needs. It’s where you go to “freshen things up” or add a striking focal point or make your front porch the envy of the neighborhood.

All the plants I saw were healthy and happy — not inexpensive, mind you, but well cared for and temptingly beautiful, like this flowering broom.

Their pot selection is simply stunning…

…with planted examples on display to purchase or just jump-start your own creativity.

There is even a small succulent table…

…and this striking potted aloe for sale.

I’m not sure what this structure is for — maybe classes, maybe parties? The grounds are rentable for weddings and other events.

A gift from my sister, I have a couple of smaller grapevine balls like these.

I noticed a nest-building house finch was treating them like a Home Depot.

More nursery views, with burgundy-leaved Japanese maples standing out amid the fresh greens

What a backdrop the Japanese maple makes for this Quadricolor agave.


This orange-spined potted cactus is pretty cute too.

Potted herbs

And potted, pettable moss

I was quite taken with this fiberglass, faux-concrete star but couldn’t bring myself to splurge on it.

Three sizes included this small one on the brick terrace, artfully surrounded by fallen wisteria petals.

Perfect for the Sissinghurst-inspired white garden

Adirondacks by the door invite lounging. Two women were sitting here with glasses of wine when I first walked by. Now that’s the way to garden shop!

Inside, cool elegance and friendly salespeople

Table settings for garden parties…

…playful decor…

…timeless ornament…

…and pretty faux flowers.

At the other end of the nursery from the garden shop, an inviting lawn surrounded by cafe seating had attracted casual Saturday brunchers, some with small children and smaller dogs, and a line stretched out the door for the upscale cafe Tiny Boxwoods.

Diana and I dithered about it but then got in line. We envied the lucky loungers with their mimosas on the patio on this perfect day.

We feared no one would ever leave so that we could get a seat.

But at last we got through the line, ordered our salad and sandwich, and even found a table indoors by the window. Each table was set with a tiny boxwood, naturally.

Lunch was delicious — totally worth the wait. Although I mostly window shopped, I enjoyed this place. It’s an elegant fantasy, as the Open Days tour gardens were, but it’s fun to dream. And you can enjoy a nice lunch on a beautiful terrace while you’re at it.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Nursery visit: Redenta’s Garden in Dallas

Don’t you love it when you discover a new garden shop in a city you’ve visited many times before? Every time I’m in Dallas (about 4 hours north of Austin), I try to make time for the Dallas Arboretum. Last Saturday, after admiring the flowering cherries during the Arboretum’s Dallas Blooms festival, I popped over to Redenta’s Garden, just a couple miles away at Skillman and Oram, in a hip, Austinesque neighborhood of bungalows, shops, bars, and restaurants.

I knew as I drove up it was going to be good. Colorful, contemporary Fermob bistro tables and chairs brightened the sidewalk and perfectly matched the colors of the screening wall around the nursery. A Corten planter box and dish container at the street corner was filled with agaves and other succulents. Since the planter was a little winter-weary in the wake of the ice storm that Dallas endured recently, I didn’t get any good close-ups. But I bet it’s a show-stopper in summer.

For gardeners looking to freshen their own winter-weary succulent containers, Redenta’s offers a tempting selection.

Not to mention some fabulous containers. Check out this succulent-filled “console table.”

And this unusually shaped, rusty metal container planted up with a striped agave.

Inside they carry Shannon Lester’s excellent Steel Life collection! I love these contemporary, crazy colorful dishes, which beg for succulents and tillandsias to fill them up. Redenta’s also carries the Fermob double-top side table that I’ve been coveting but just can’t bring myself to splurge on (and which I’ve never seen offered in Austin).

Shelves display a nice selection of small to medium containers and pots, especially if you like modern or rustic-retro design.

Tillandsias, which are still riding a wave of popularity, are given a good deal of shelf space, as are modern vessels and hanging glass globes in which to display them. Catching the light from a nearby window, chunks of slag glass in various colors are available for accessorizing your succulent containers.

I seriously considered getting a couple of these crimped metal pots, which I’d admired recently in a post on The Outlaw Gardener. (Now that I look back at his pictures of these pots, I’m wondering why oh why I didn’t buy a couple.)

I did fall hard for the fluted Mike Cone pots along the front of this shelf. I brought home a red one that I’ll be potting up this spring.

These license plate cylinders would also make fun succulent planters, or even a pencil holder for your desk.

A metal-mesh flower for a big, blank wall?

If you’re into miniature or fairy gardening, Redenta’s carries a colorful assortment of wee accessories.

I have one of these! I call mine Audrey after the man-eating plant in Little Shop of Horrors.

A covered, open-air seating area is where the nursery holds speaking events and potting demonstrations. With that bar, it would also make a great spot for a garden party, don’t you think?

This is an urban nursery on a small lot, with a limited amount of space. Even so, Redenta’s has managed to cram in quite a lot. Plant prices reflect the convenience of a neighborhood shopping experience, but the plants looked healthy and happy, even though it was still quite early in the season when I stopped by.

Redenta’s prides itself on maintaining its stock organically and on selling only organic products. They also focus on native and well-adapted plants from regional growers, insuring that their plants are Texas tough.

Of course they carry fun annuals too, like frilly ranunculus, and lots of tender succulents for all those fabulous pots they sell.

I admired this star-shaped purple dyckia underplanted with silver ponyfoot in a purple pot.

And I smiled over this pliers parrot on a metal stand. The pliers that make up his head are still functional, so you can open and close his beak.

Inside by the cash register, an old chicken feeder has been transformed into a whimsical succulent container.

And what local could resist a six-pack of succulents planted in Dallas’s own Deep Ellum IPA beer cans?

Redenta’s Garden reminds me of equally tiny but stylish Potted in Los Angeles. I wish we had a modern-design garden shop like this in Austin. Ah well, it gives me a reason to revisit Redenta’s the next time I’m in Dallas.

Redenta’s operates a second location in Arlington, Texas, and offers a modern landscape design service as well.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.