Keeping Houston weird at Joshua’s Native Plants

Shoehorned into a corner lot in the historic Heights neighborhood of Houston, Joshua’s Native Plants and Garden Antiques is a treasure trove of interesting plants and unusual garden art that you won’t find at every other nursery you visit. Despite a downpour that had me huddled under an umbrella last Saturday, I lingered over the eclectic inventory, pawing through bins of funky garden decor and admiring the variety of plants.

I loved the place. I have to point out, however, that the nursery’s name is a bit misleading. For one thing, I didn’t see a specialization in locally native plants. Instead the tables were packed with a world-ranging assortment: perennials from Australia, agaves from Mexico and the desert Southwest, succulents from Africa, tropicals from South America, Southern-adopted Asian natives, and grasses and trees from Central and West Texas, as well as traditional annuals.

If there was a table of plants native to southeast Texas, I didn’t see it.

Also, “Garden Antiques” might lead you to expect classical statuary, and there is some. But there’s also a crazy-wonderful collection of contemporary sculpture, funky yard art, Asian statuary, and, inside a cavernous warehouse, a mish-mash of architectural remnants, recycle-worthy junk, and old signage that Joshua, the owner, has found on buying trips around the world.

The owner’s eclectic tastes have made Joshua’s a funky Heights favorite and a place where you can find the perfect plant or ornament you never knew you needed.

One Southern native that caught my eye was a collection of baby longleaf pines. At this size they resemble a Dasylirion or Xanthorrhoea, don’t you think?

Here’s a bigger one. I love that foliage!

There were nicely potted agaves for those who don’t want to pot their own.

And cubbies of colorful pots and other small garden decor…

…like these fun monkey hooks…

…and carved Buddha heads, each one slightly different.

Amid the plant tables, Asian statuary…

…classical statuary…

…and modern sculpture — garden art for every taste and style.

I asked Joshua about these colorful, ribbon-like pieces, and he told me they are made by a sculptor from Galveston who got “Iked” out by Hurricane Ike and now lives in Houston.

‘Sticks on Fire’ euphorbia in a Southwest-style glazed pot

Inside the warehouse stuffed with all manner of garden decor, let the hunt begin.

Architectural remnants from Indonesia

London Underground signs keep company with a metal steer head.

These lighted circus signs might be fun in a cabana or on a covered porch.

Or how about these oversized panels, from India perhaps?

This would add an element of bohemian fantasy to the garden, wouldn’t it?

And here’s the man who treasure-hunts for Houston and has the stories to prove it, the nursery’s namesake owner, Joshua. What a fun place to poke around. I’ll definitely be back the next time I’m in Houston.

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All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

29 Responses

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Oh my gosh. I would come away from there with a loaded truck and Credit Card. WOW. What color. Form and fantasy. Not to mention the beautiful plants. I REALLY like that ribbon sculpture. I don’t normally go for that sort of, to my eye, modern clean lines but these sculptures do take your mind for a roller coaster ride. Love it.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      The owner said he has a ribbon sculpture in his agave garden, which I bet looks great. But I can envision them in all kinds of gardens. It was so nice to see contemporary garden art offered, as most of what’s for sale is traditional, cottagey, or kitschy. —Pam

  2. Jean says:

    When I was there I bought one of those small Buddha heads. And a beautiful glazed pot. And a plant or two. :-) I loved poking around their warehouse – so many unusual antiques.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I wish I’d bought a whole row of those Buddha heads, Jean! Weren’t they great? I thought they’d look nice lined up on an outdoor shelf. The price was good too. —Pam

  3. Cool pics of hot stuff. Didn’t we visit here on our first trip to Houston for the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days? The layout looks familiar, as does the eclectic collection of art and statuary. I might have to find time to pop in there when we go to Houston in 2 weeks. Afterall, what’s a travel itinerary without a nursery, right? I know YOU’ve never been on a trip that didn’t include at least one or two! That’s what I love about your travel posts. P.S. I’m still writing!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I’d never been there before, Diana, although my sister was sure she’d taken me there a few years ago. But it wasn’t at all familiar to me. We went to Buchanan’s the year you’re thinking of, which is also in the Heights. BTW, yay for you for still writing! —Pam

  4. Kris P says:

    I’d have persisted with exploration despite the rain too. I love the turquoise metal sculpture!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      We gardeners, set loose in a nursery, are like the postal service in that “neither snow, nor rain, nor heat…” Well, maybe snow. —Pam

  5. Cheryl Hawes says:

    Everything is “native” somewhere isn’t it!? I want one of those mermaids! The spirals are very cool too and that long leafed pine… OMG. Visiting nurseries is my FAVORITE thing to do.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      You bet, Cheryl. Every plant is native somewhere. Still, putting “Native Plants” in the name implies a certain regionality, a specialization in plants native to the Houston area. Who knows, maybe that’s what Joshua’s started out with, and expanded over time. It’s a wonderful nursery. Simplifying the name to just “Joshua’s” would, to my mind, make perfect sense. :-) —Pam

  6. Wow, that place looks like a lot of fun, did you buy anything? I kept expecting to read that you had but unless I missed it…

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I hesitate to tell you, Loree, o-abstainer-of-garden-art-especially-kitschy-garden-art, that I bought a small, cast-iron alligator there. Yup. —Pam

  7. Lori says:

    Oh mannnnnn. I am making grabby hands at so many things in your pictures. I love the ribbon sculptures, and those Buddha heads are great too. They picked the perfect colored pot for that sticks-on-fire!

  8. Cynthia Miller says:

    Hi Pam.
    I was wondering if you could blog on how to deal with agaves that might (or DO!) have a burned/dead spot on a leaf or leaves. I get so tempted to cut it out in my earnest to keep things looking tidy, but fear that it will kill the plant.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Thanks for the post suggestion, Cynthia. I wrote a post about freeze damage to agaves and other succulents a few years ago (click the link). I wouldn’t do anything until the weather is consistently warm, and if the leaf is one of the lower ones you can probably saw it off without harm. If it’s in the center of the plant, I’d be inclined to leave it alone and see if the plant recovers. —Pam

  9. Pam, so happy you did a post on Joshua and his nursery they are fixtures in the Heights! Your photos really capture the fun, eclectic atmosphere! Joshua has been a big supporter of our Heights Garden Club. I have been shopping there for years. He goes himself to find great plants that will work here in Houston and his vessel fountain kits are the best deal in town. He does have more native plants come later spring when they are prettier. He and Joel, who has been working there as long as I can remember both know a lot about plants. We now have 7 retail nurseries, (one opening this weekend)all locally owned, right here in the Heights, each with their own personality. This is great for us consumers but I imagine it is hard on the businesses. Many have now branched out with art and gift shops. Shopping local is easy : ) Hope you do have more time next time…you have an open invitation for wine and nibbles on my big front porch : )

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Laurin, it was such a fun surprise to discover Joshua’s. It’s my sister’s favorite nursery. He and his staff were ready to help us find anything we needed, and it was fun to chat with Joshua about his buying expeditions. I know I’ll be back. And I’d love to take you up on your invitation for porch noshing too! —Pam

  10. Ginny says:

    What a splendid place! I guess all his plants are ‘native’ somewhere in the world, huh? Wish I weren’t so far away (in MD) so I could come check it out. I enjoy your posts so much!
    – Ginny

  11. Lucy says:

    Pam, very happy to see Joshua on you post today, the people that work there are always happy and ready to help you, I have being buying at his nursery for a long time and I also extend a invitation to see my little jungle when you are in town.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I would love to see more Houston gardens, so thank you for the invitation, Lucy. We need to organize an Austin-Houston blogger/gardener meet-up one day.

  12. Nice find! Agreed on the use of “native plants” where there are few, not sure why that is. But good stuff anyway.

    I must visit Houston, as that large of a city must hide more treasures like this. Nothing close in the Desert SW that I know of, unless one starts their own – a fun nursery on many levels…

    • Pam/Digging says:

      David, every time I go to Houston I discover more interesting shops, restaurants, and art. It’s a vibrant city, despite the bad rap it gets, especially, I’m sorry to say, from Austinites. I love their new tongue-in-cheek slogan: It’s OK to love Houston. One thing they don’t have, however, is a botanical garden. Maybe one day! —Pam

  13. TexasDeb says:

    We lived in Houston for a span of years and found it one of the most consistently entertaining cities around. It has an exciting (multi)cultural scene and is especially great for young people living on the cheap. There was always a festival or other free event going on, often more than would fit into one weekend.

    That moniker “Native Plants” does seem a bit misleading (perhaps not intentionally so) but I can’t imagine anyone who enjoys gardening or plants not being happy to spend time amongst so many treasures. Houston in general (and Joshua’s specifically) really have it going on!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Houston was the first big city I ever lived in, and I still have a soft spot for it. You are right, Deb — there is always something interesting going on. —Pam

  14. Les says:

    This looks like a very dangerous place. In my last job I would use longleaf pines in mixed container plantings, and no one ever knew what they were.

  15. […] my birthday, my sister and her wife gave me this dynamic ribbon sculpture from Joshua’s Native Plants in Houston. I hung it from one of the live oaks, where I can admire its bold color and form at eye […]