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.

22 Responses

  1. Jenny says:

    What fun places you enjoyed on your visit. A gardeners’ dream couple of days. I had no idea quadricolor agave got so big. I need to think placement although my soil is pretty poor and wouldn’t encourage anything to grow that big- except whale’s tongue.

  2. Alison says:

    This nursery looks like it is full of character. And the cafe looks like a wonderful spot for lunch. I would have had a hard time resisting that faux concrete star. And the gray pots with gray plants (Agaves? Aloes?) are perfectly matched.

  3. melanie says:

    What a cool nursery.

  4. I am so happy you treated yourself to a visit to Thompson + Hanson’s. I love to go to eat outside at Tiny Boxwoods. It reminds me of a cafe you would find in southern California. I love the bird helping himself to the grapevine…great shot!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I accused my sister, who recommended it to us, of holding out on me all these years. I had no idea this place was here, and we had such a nice time exploring the nursery and garden shop and eating lunch there. —Pam

  5. peter schaar says:

    Cool looking place, Pam. Is it in the Heights? I’ll be visiting Peckerwood and my cousin in the Heights in early May. If it’s close I’d love to drop by.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      No, it’s not in the Heights, Peter, but it’s not too far away. It’s between the Heights and the Rice University/Museum District area. —Pam

  6. TexasDeb says:

    Another vicarious treat! What a lovely spot – and you were there at a great time of year – before the heat and humidity render those spaces best viewed from the safety of air conditioning. I can understand why you’d wonder if you’d ever get seated. If I’d secured a chair and a mimosa I’d certainly be in no hurry to go.

  7. Diana says:

    It was a delight to wander through the nursery, the shop and relax over a wonderful lunch at the restaurant. It was clear why there was such a crowd in line to order food after 2:00 – normally past lunchtime.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I know, right? If we’d just been a little later I think we’d have avoided the line altogether. It seemed to clear out around 2:30 pm, didn’t it? —Pam

  8. Tamara says:

    Thanks for the tour, Pam – a beautiful nursery! A bright spot in this gray Portland day…I needed it ! :)

  9. A destination nursery, for sure. But a bit too much of a drive for me. Thanks for the tour!

  10. How lovely to see a really good nursery. Wish we had one like that close to us. But it wasn’t the disco balls I wanted for my garden, it was the wisteria arbour. Thanks for the virtual visit.

  11. […] 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. […]

  12. […] friend Diana/Sharing Nature’s Garden and I visited the nursery last spring (click the link for my post), on a warmer, sunnier day, and had lunch at its cafe, Tiny Boxwoods. […]