My next stop on the Houston Open Days tour on March 24 was an Old World-style home in the well-heeled River Oaks neighborhood. While their garden included the sweeping lawns, classic hedging, and emphasis on outdoor architecture commonly seen on this tour, I have to admit that the garden was beautifully designed. But what stopped me in my tracks surprised even me: this walled garden under a “bosque of hornbeams.” More on this below.
Let’s start with the official description:
This gracious house and garden evoke the restrained elegance of the original houses built in River Oaks. Designed by Curtis & Windham Architects and completed in 2002, the stucco house and its garden were inspired by the work of architect Charles Platt who built many fine residences in the 1920s. The original expanse of lawn was preserved and enhanced with additional perimeter, canopy, and ornamental trees. A subtle drop in grade across the property enabled the formation of a sunken oval lawn framed by layered plantings of azalea, viburnum, camellias, and ornamental trees beneath the existing canopies. From there, a path winds through a woodland garden comprised of native and ornamental plantings beneath a grove of Mexican plum trees. While tucked behind the house one discovers a walled parterre garden under a bosque of hornbeams and, next to it, a wisteria-covered pergola from which to enjoy the pool set in a lawn of zoysia bordered by gardenias with views to the woodland garden beyond.
From the front driveway we rounded the side of the house, enjoying two water features along the way.
Everything was meticulously maintained and beautifully designed.
Dwarf mondo grass surrounds bluestone paving at the side entry.
The afternoon sunlight glows through the leaves of potted citrus set in a parterre of boxwood. It was all very nice, but I didn’t expect too much from the tour at this point. We’d seen a number of gardens that were well designed but not full of personality or even particularly interesting plants.
Across from the side entry, this walled garden caught my eye. Diagonal paving of decomposed granite was segmented by triangles and rectangles of emerald dwarf mondo grass. Rows of hornbeam trees in exact alignment supported a leafy roof over the enclosed space, in which a lacy iron table and fold-up, park-style chairs offered relaxation.
I took a few pictures and walked on by, then stopped and went back to look at it again.
I became fascinated with the space, which irresistibly drew me in.
Being enclosed by the hedges, but not hemmed in, with space to sit and read or gaze about or even stroll along the diagonal paths, the way the trees caught the light and made intricate shadows with the table—I knew if I lived here, this is where I’d spend a lot of time.
I had no idea this sort of geometry and enclosure could inspire so much delight, but it did. I loved this garden room.
Around the other side of the wall stood a tall pergola overlooking a swimming pool…
…and with seating for…well, the whole garden club. I couldn’t help peeking through circular windows in the wall…
…for a framed view of the parterre garden I’d just left.
I finally tore myself away and continued around the house to this pretty terrace. My camera ignored the large back lawn and strolling garden of azaleas, though I’m sorry I missed the grove of Mexican plums. Ah well.
And that’s it for the tour. I did visit one more estate-style River Oaks garden, but the owners did not allow photographs, so I won’t bother writing about it. For a look back at the classic Tudor Garden, click here. You can follow links back to all of the gardens, and I hope you enjoyed my series on the Houston Open Days tour.
All material © 2006-2012 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.