Houston Open Days Tour 2014: West 11th Place Garden

Houston has one of the earliest Garden Conservancy-sponsored Open Days tours in the country. This year it was held on March 29, after a cold, drawn-out winter (by Texas standards) that saw two 20-degree dips even in subtropical Houston. I wondered how Houston would pull off a garden tour so early, when gardens in Austin were still looking sleepy. But my friend and fellow blogger Diana and I hit the road anyway, 2.5 hours southeast to Houston, eager to kick off spring with a tour.

Six private gardens were on tour, and as on Houston’s 2012 Open Days tour they were mostly estate-style, lawn-and-azalea gardens that would be particularly appealing to landscape architecture students because of their restrained plant palettes and emphasis on space and a seamless connection between house and garden. They were not gardeners’ gardens.

They were of course lovely spaces, with expansive terracing, tastefully planted borders, beautiful swimming pools, and expensive sculpture. While I enjoyed them, I still long to see more variety on a tour, though I appreciate the difficulty any organizer has in finding homeowner-gardeners willing to open their personal spaces to the ogling public. For that reason, I always applaud tour organizers — volunteers usually — for all their hard work and thank those willing to share their gardens.

I plan to show four of the tour gardens this week, starting with this classic space in the posh Museum District.

The boxwood and lawn of the entry court segues into a pool patio with a narrow border of potted boxwood and colorful annuals and perennials.

The flat, metal-sided building visible just over the fig ivy-covered wall is the Contemporary Arts Museum. What a location for art lovers!

Clipped boxwood in terracotta pots are underplanted with annuals.

The border is planted with golden-hued sedum and ‘Kaleidoscope’ abelia (I think), offset by silvery ‘Powis Castle’ artemisia.

Up next: The strikingly contemporary West Lane Garden.

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

14 Responses

  1. Alison says:

    That border by the pool with the boxwood in pots is very satisfying to look at. That look, for me, is hard to achieve. Somehow, because of the repetition, it manages to be both chaotically colorful and restrained at the same time. What a bummer that they weren’t gardener’s gardens, those are my favorite too.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I think it’s also hard to achieve because it relies on frequent pruning and/or changing out of plants over the seasons. It’s a beautiful look if you enjoy such maintenance. —Pam

  2. commonweeder says:

    In 2011 I visited my daughter and her family in Texas. We visited Cindy Tourneir in Katy, and went on the Open Days tour in Houston. Fortunately, for us there were a couple of ‘real’ gardens that were interesting and inspirational as well as those ‘estate’ gardens. One garden was so floriferous and stunning we asked the proud owner how long it took to create such beauty. His chest puffed out and he said two and a half years from bare lot to beauty. Wow. That Houston climate is something, but I think it relies on money as well as rain and sun.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I still have not seen Cindy’s Wit’s End garden, so I envy you that. She was out of town when we came through this time. I’m glad you enjoyed a more diverse tour in 2011. —Pam

  3. Kris P says:

    Can a garden be too neat and clean? After looking at this one, I think it can. I did like the border along the pool, though. It managed to be both orderly and pretty.

  4. Tante Mali says:

    Hi Pam,
    so much beauty and fabulous ideas.
    Thank you for sharing!
    All the best from Austria

  5. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    A beautiful space. The first sculpture picture looks like a carved piece of ice.

  6. TexasDeb says:

    Whew – that “ice” sculpture is sure a show stopper. But that border! I can’t quit looking at it. Somebody spent a lot of money to get (and spends a lot to keep) that. It is so carefully constructed to look casual! Hats off to the designer and maintenance crew both.

  7. Kelly Zuniga says:

    could you please send me the name of the landscape architect for the plan you describe above? thank you,

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I wish I could, Kelly, but I don’t have any more info than what’s in this post. Landscape architect Frank Brown III was the organizer of this tour, and if you can locate him he should be able to tell you. He used to be with Curtis & Windham Architects, but according to LinkedIn he is with Johnny Steele Design now. —Pam