Dallas Open Days Tour 2011: Blue Lotus Garden

As if there weren’t enough garden tours in Austin this spring, I drove up to Dallas on May 21st for that city’s Open Days tour benefiting the Garden Conservancy, accompanied by my daughter. Undaunted by the 3-hour drive, we arrived first at the exotically named Blue Lotus Garden as a morning fog lifted. Do you sense a South Austin vibe going on here?

But before we get to the back, here’s what you see streetside: a large, gravelly berm taking up half the front yard and planted with a xeric assortment of prickly pear, agave, yucca, cholla, and sotol. Well! This is not what I expected to see in Dallas, which I imagined as a sea of manicured lawns, foundation azaleas and hydrangeas, and shade trees.

I admired the water-conserving beauty of the front garden, but I couldn’t help wondering, where was the exoticism hinted at in the name?

Here it is. On the front porch painted Indonesian furniture and colorful pillows provide a cool retreat. Eastern decor meets the western-style garden, and somehow it works.

Charming pots of cacti add a contemporary note.

Walking around to the driveway, which leads to the back garden, we passed this shimmering Yucca rostrata juxtaposed with moisture-loving, invasive horsetail reed, neatly contained by the concrete drive.

In between the two stands a blue door framing a banana tree. Can you tell this is going to be a bold-foliage garden?

Interesting details pop up even along the drive.

And then you enter the Blue Lotus Garden proper. First impressions: this is an open garden where you can see pretty much everything all at once; the owners didn’t go for the “garden room” effect. And yet there are different areas to explore, each with an inviting focal point. Also, the lawn has been shrunk to an easily managed yet still cooling handkerchief of green, with a generous gravel patio spreading into the garden from the back door—great for entertaining. And wow! Look at those corrugated-steel panels covered with graffiti. More on that in a minute.

A beautiful steel bowl with a purple water lily greets you at the entrance. Goldfish dart under the leaves. (Can they survive in this shallow bowl during the heat of summer, I wonder?)

Beautiful Asian statuary, like this Buddha on a carved-lotus pedestal, graces the garden.

The owners have a flair for succulent containers.

Against the back of the house, a trough-style water feature spouts streams from three copper pipes into a small, sunken pool. A trellis planted with what looks like Clematis armandii rises above the trough.

A casual, colorful seating area on the gravel patio is accented with bright annuals planted in Wooly Pockets.

I must admit that I don’t really get the Wooly Pocket craze; they aren’t nearly as pretty as other sorts of containers. But this garden made them look better than any I’ve seen.

In the background, screening the corner and a large rainwater cistern, stands the most unique piece of garden art I’ve seen in a long time. I asked one of the owners about it, and she said they’d commissioned a 19-year-old graffiti artist to paint it. That’s his signature on the bottom left. The winged horse on the right represents Dallas, the octopus their love of the ocean, and the sunset city skyline Los Angeles. The blue lotus is, of course, their garden and their landscape design business. I love it.

Nearby an Indonesian-style pavilion offers a shady spot to rest.

This pretty lamp hangs from the rafters.

A weathered stone Buddha head ornaments a bed of succulents.

Behind the pavilion, a chicken coop shelters these peeping pullets.

At the back of the garden, a large edible garden with corn and other vegetables grows behind a charming iron bedstead planted with a coverlet of thyme and other herbs, with pillows of Mexican heather. The bedside tables are actually…

…working beehives! Honeybees were buzzing around the hives but tolerated close-up looks from those of us curious enough to get pictures.

Each zinc-covered “tabletop” is decorated just-so with a lace doily and a potted cactus.


Near a grove of bamboo (had they battled it back to this corner?) stand several tiered fountains and a seahorse birdbath planted to overflowing with succulents.

I’d love to have this in my own garden.

Ganesh relaxes nearby.

Another look at the graffiti wall over the head of a striped canna.

One last stunning feature grabs your attention as you depart: a shiny, galvanized-steel wall lined with a long, skinny water garden filled with ‘Holy Fire’ lotus.

The lotus were in bud, and the owner said they typically bloom in early June. I was sad to have missed them. But even the leaves are lovely.

At the far end, a granite bench beckons, backed by a fringe of inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium). A Wooly Pocket wall planter elevates the garden to eye level.

What a great start to our tour. I felt very at home in this garden and could easily imagine it in Austin. To read more about the owner-designers Trey and Brianne Denton, click for a story from the Dallas Morning News.

Tune in tomorrow for a look at our next stop, the English-style Rister-Armstrong garden in the Knox/Henderson neighborhood.

All material © 2006-2011 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

28 Responses

  1. Awesome photos! I love the McCoy Flower pots, seems antiques are mixed in everywhere!

  2. Weeder says:

    Love the long, skinny water garden full of lotus! The steel walls are interesting too. I’d like to do that on a smaller scale. Not a fan of Wooly Pockets myself.

  3. Darla says:

    Pam this is a very impressive garden…I see a lot of things I would love to have in my yard. I have never heard of wooly pockets before. Also the best planting of horsetail I have ever seen.

  4. Gail says:

    What a fun garden. It’s a great showcase for their creativity and style. I love the bed and the bee hive side tables. gail

  5. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    At first glance that big white rock area doesn’t appeal to me but when you delve further into this garden it transcends into a plant lovers paradise. Those fountains are great. I love the big graffiti painted wall.

  6. Michael says:

    It is interesting how we all notice different things in a garden. You photographed a few things I do not recall seeing. Of course, I walked by the herb bed twice before I noticed that the night stands were bee hives. I will have pictures of this garden posted on my blog tonight or tomorrow. I already posted pictures from the Oak Cliff gardens if you want to see my perspective. http://planobluestem.blogspot.com/2011/05/garden-conservancys-open-days-dallas.html

    Come back to Dallas in a couple of weeks for the Water Wise Landscape Tour and you can see even more atypical Dallas landscapes. http://savedallaswater.com/wwlt/

    I’d love to see it, but I’m afraid one Dallas road trip will have to suffice this season. I hope to read all about it on your blog! I enjoyed getting your perspective on the Open Days tour and added your link. —Pam

  7. David C. says:

    Very cool and eclectic! That garden design also has bits of Austin Hipster, the Hotel T-bird in Marfa (West Austin), and a number of other vignettes I’ve seen, from Phoenix, to Nob Hill in ABQ, to Texas. And some nice desert-envy scenes…I like it! Thanks for saving me yet another LONG drive.

  8. Carola says:

    What a great ans unusual garden! so creative!



  9. Donna B. says:

    … This is like the garden of my dreams.
    I am LOVING these tour posts…
    [Ugh, why do I live in the northeast…?!] hehe!

  10. Thanks for the tour. Dallas was my old stomping grounds. There are some beautiful gardens there.
    And, the ‘funky’ areas can give Austin a real run for its money.

    Looking forward to more gardens, through your lens.

    Great photos, as usual.

  11. Katie Myers says:

    A very interesting garden. I loved the “bed”. Very fun and funny. Thanks for allowing all of us to vicariously experience all these cool gardens.

  12. This is probably one of my favorite gardens EVER! I can’t believe how many super cool and super unusual gardens are in your area – lucky YOU, Pam!!

  13. Bonnie says:

    Amazing, I’ll have to put this tour on my calendar for next year. Fun to see things in a totally different city and I’d love to take my parents.

  14. Denise says:

    Wonderful ideas, especially their use of water and water plants. (Really, in that shallow bowl?!) I’ve been wanting to “galvanize” my wood fence for sometime but wonder about the heat and glare, but I think those last two photos are resolving any indecision. Like you, I don’t get the woolly pockets — too slouchy for me. I like hard angles or curves. But that’s just quibbling — this is a stunning garden, Pam. Thanks so much for posting.

  15. Jenn says:

    Oh, my heart.

    This, and this, and this…. so much I will ‘borrow’ the feel of…
    (not so much the bed and bees, but I’m allergic)

    Holy moly what a beautiful space.
    Love the artichokes, did you notice the artichokes? Fun!

    Seriously drooling over some of these vignettes.

    Goldfish – I have a 100 gallon and a 160 gallon stock tank that is half shaded in Phoenix. I lost one goldfish of three in the large, but the two remaining seemed fine through the summer. The 100 tank has two golds and three minnow types, all came through okay (I think the minnow types are one gambusa – tropical, and two fathead minnows – temperate)

  16. Sara says:

    I love this! Your blog is so inspiring! Thank you for sharing. I absolutely LOVE those succulent filled fountains. What a great idea!!

  17. Mamaholt says:

    I hate them. I love them. I want to be them. I want my yard to look like that. Is it possible to just start over? SIGH. I’m depressed.

  18. Too wonderful! What a wonderful trip!

  19. Thank you so much for the blog post of our yard! The pictures look amazing, wow!! Thank you for all the kind words as well.
    Our next tour is on June 4th (Water Wise Tour) if anyone wants to stop by and say hello.

    Thank you for opening your beautiful garden to the public, Brianne. Yours was one of our favorites on the tour! —Pam

  20. […] Munsterman garden in the Kessler Park/Oak Cliff neighborhood. For a look back at the exotic Blue Lotus garden in the Casa Linda neighborhood of east Dallas, click […]

  21. Juliet says:

    I know which city I’m doing garden tours in next year, and sadly it probably won’t be Austin. This place is amazing!

    Why stop at one city, Juliet? :-) It would be worth investigating whether the Dallas Open Days will be held every year. Here in Austin, our Open Days is held every other October. Perhaps Dallas will be the same, and you can alternate! In any event, the Blue Lotus garden (9347 Angora St) is on tour again in just a couple of weeks for the free Water-Wise Landscape Tour. Maybe you’ll see the lotus in bloom, if you go. —Pam

  22. laguna dirt says:

    coolest garden in the world! okay, that’s a bit hyperbolic, but geez!!! i LOVE EVERYTHING!!! my favorite, too, is that grafitti wall. i need to start networking to find my own local spray paint artist. this place is simply packed with ideas, and such a fabulous sense of texture, humor, imagination, design, on and on. so i guess austin isn’t the only cool town in texas!

    Ha! Apparently not! :-) —Pam

  23. Juliet says:

    Aww I’m gonna be in Arkansas during the Water-wise tour or else I would SO make the trip to Dallas – but at least I’ll be dancing instead (I’m going to a music festival). You’re right, one city really isn’t enough, but between working 6 days/week and trying to take care of my own garden (oh yeah, and sometimes have a life), doing lots of garden tours really just isn’t feasible. Maybe some day when I have weekends off again, and have graduated college…… lol. I think the chickens and bee hives! really just put me over the edge with envy. Thanks for sharing :)

  24. Caroline says:

    So freaking cool! Ultimate Super LOVE! This garden makes me want to go in my backyard with 10 cans of MTN Colors and douse Everything I see in purple, orange, fuschia, blue, yellow: my shed, my patio furniture, my wood veggie bed frames, ahhhHH, GRAFFITI WALL! Next Big Thing–in Dallas of all places! Totally stealing it, I swear!

  25. renee says:

    Wow! Coolest garden I’ve seen in a while. And in Dallas of all places. Thanks for sharing your visit.

  26. […] garden and the Blue Lotus garden were my favorites on the tour, which is interesting because they couldn’t be more different […]

  27. jess s says:

    this garden is amazing, and your walk-through is wonderful. thank you for posting it!

  28. Nancy Norwood says:

    Trey and Bri……ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL!!! ….as a real amateur with gardening, I can REALLY appreciate all the hard work & wonderful ideas you all have done here!….Now come give mine a creative twist :)