The last stop on my recap of the Garden Conservancy-sponsored Houston Open Days tour on March 29th is a New Orleans-esque mansion in the tony River Oaks neighborhood, at 3640 Del Monte Drive. From the front walk you see a veranda with wisteria dripping from the wrought-iron railing and a narrow foundation bed filled with delphinium, blooming ornamental cabbages, and boxwood. Pleasant enough but with little hint of the extravagant space and beautiful features of the back garden.
Let’s walk through the inviting side gate, propped open by a stone frog…
…pass through a classic Southern shade border…
…past a pair of rearing horses mounted on the wall…
…and into the park-like back garden.
A large lawn spreads out beneath a venerable oak, with terracing and beds of boxwood and crepe myrtle marking the transition between house and garden.
Along one wall of the house gurgles a trough-style water feature with multiple spouts. Orange and gold fish add flashes of color in the basin.
A second frog sculpture perches on the edge of the basin, offering a basking spot for a little lizard.
And now the garden truly begins. A hedge on the left and clustered trees on the right narrow the perspective at the far end of the lawn, focusing the eye on a spectacular, cross-shaped, negative-edge swimming pool.
At the four central corners, potted palms mulched with gray river rock add tropical flair.
A large pool house anchors the right side of the pool.
On the left, a sculpture of a Rubenesque woman lounges in front of a precisely clipped panel of fig ivy on a brick wall. A white wisteria “tree” scents the garden.
And straight ahead, a Victorian fountain in a brick-edged pool is backed by another wall panel of fig ivy.
Turning to the left, let’s stroll through a more naturalistic area, stopping to smell the only Texas mountain laurel I’ve seen in bloom this spring (those in Austin got zapped by a late freeze).
Bold, tropical-style foliage makes a statement here.
And at the very back of the garden, a surprising discovery — a large rhinoceros statue, seemingly escaped from the menagerie at the garden down the street!
Walking around the brick wall that backs the Victorian fountain pictured earlier, you discover a rear parking court and brick-and-steel arbor structure.
Wow, what an entrance! Dramatic ferns spring from a container seemingly balanced on a sculpted-bust plinth. Another panel of fig ivy on the brick wall frames the scene with greenery. Overhead an arched-grid arbor supports a wandering vine.
A closer look
Wrought-iron doors open on either end, leading to the garden and eventually to the house. This entry is like something you’d see at a public botanical garden, and quite impressive. It’s rare to end a garden tour with a back entrance that’s even better than the front, but this one did.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my recap of the tour. For a look back at the jungle safari garden of 3965 Del Monte Drive, click here. Stay tuned for one more nursery visit from the Houston area: The Arbor Gate.
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