Spring settles into Texas effortlessly—our mild winters fade away without a fuss. Bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes create impressionistic art along the highways, thanks to Lady Bird Johnson. And our own gardens offer floral gems that relish the cooler days before the blazing summer heat dares them to survive.
If you are a home gardener, wish to become one, or just enjoy seeing flowers, shrubs and trees in bloom, you are in for a treat. The Plano Garden Club invites you to enjoy five beautiful home gardens featured on their Spring Garden Tour.
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The tour is Saturday, April 28 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, April 29 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The theme this year is "Great Inspirations for Gardens Large and Small: Living With Water Restrictions."
As you know, North Texas has been experiencing a drought, and water restrictions have been put in place. But that doesn't mean your gardens can't be lush and lovely. Come see for yourself.
You may purchase tickets at the homes on the day of the tour for $15. Children under 12 are free. Advance tickets are $12 and may be purchased until Monday, April 23 at these Plano locations: Appletree Florist, 6324 Custer Rd.; Calloway's, 1621 Custer Rd.; Calloway's, 2460 State Hwy. 121; and Wells Brothers Farm Store, 5001 Ave. K. In Frisco, buy tickets at Shades of Green, 7401 Coit Rd.
For more information, visit planogardenclub.org.
Experience Southern living at its finest at the Van Hootegem home. Meticulously manicured grounds envelop a stylishly appointed entertaining area.
This exquisite retreat has been 23 years in the making, with the most recent addition last year of an extended patio completing the dream garden.
Diana Van Hootegem shares, "We love to entertain on our patio. When our family and friends are here, we always find ourselves outdoors. Tom and I enjoy having coffee on the patio in the morning, and unwinding out here in the evening."
The list of flowering plants found in the garden reads like poetry...gardenias, hydrangeas, peonies, camellias, and azaleas. First used in the front yard landscape, Diana explains, "we loved these plants so much that we wanted to enjoy them in our patio garden space as well. They provide both visual and fragrant appeal."
With an eye for style, Diana has added her own touch. "We love the texture that the pottery, angelic fountain, and patio decor brings to the space. It makes it fun and lively."
Diana grew up in Houston, where azaleas commonly grace landscapes. She recalls, "Every spring we had the most amazing Shocking Pink azaleas, perhaps 75 bushes, blooming for almost two weeks."
Husband Tom is from Chicago, where his dad grew snapdragons, roses, cannas, carnations and many more flowers that he would gather and present as bouquets to the young couple.
Clearly, their love for flowers is deep-rooted. As Diana says, "To this day, we are passionate about plants, especially the beautiful blooming ones."
"The beautiful Victorian greenhouse in my backyard was designed by my husband, Gary, and was a gift to me," Debbie Berman says. "We had it built in the late '90s, as I remember celebrating the turn of the century by having champagne and dinner in it under the stars. Luckily, our Texas winters are mild."
She continues, "When we first had the greenhouse built, I envisioned it full of orchids, which I love. It became apparent that my orchids really liked to be in my house better, as they are not big lovers of humidity, contrary to once-popular belief."
Also unexpected, Debbie found the greenhouse to be quite versatile. "The most surprising part of the greenhouse is that it became a private getaway of sorts, and many great greenhouse parties have been had there. In the spring I like to watercolor in it, as the light is so good. In the fall and winter, it is dressed for Halloween or Christmas, and once was host to Thanksgiving dinner. In the summer, it is completely empty, as no living thing could bear the intense heat of our summers!"
A natural, self-taught gardener, Debbie shares, "I like to dig in the dirt, select my own plants, and can be seen unloading my car with a new crop of something beautiful from the garden store—even lugging bags of soil and mulch around. I plant most things myself. Although I don't do it anymore, there was a time when I did my own mowing, and looked forward to it! I also love the sound of an old-fashioned sprinkler hooked up to the hose.
"I think I come by my love for gardening from my grandmother Amy, who lived on a farm in Nebraska. She always had a flower and a vegetable garden, and had a reputation for having such a green thumb that even when she pulled something up and threw it in the creek, it grew.
"I also remember, as a child, living next door to an older couple who had the most glorious grass, flower gardens, and window boxes. In El Paso, where I grew up, this was a rarity. I remember thinking then, This is what I want in my life!"
In 2005, Dave Nobles photographed the construction of a Habitat for Humanity Women's Build, where many of his co-workers were volunteering. His wife Cathy explains, "Keep Plano Beautiful sponsored the landscaping, and Dave and Christy Illfrey (of NativeDave.com) designed the landscaping with water-wise native plants so the new owners would not have to worry about watering and replacing the plants every year."
Both Dave and Cathy were impressed with this water-conserving concept, so they hired Native Dave to redesign their yard. The two-year conversion began in 2007. "We had the typical Indian hawthorne, holly bushes, Asian jasmine and photinias," Cathy describes. "All of that was removed, and the turf area was significantly reduced by adding lots of beds."
Today, they are extremely happy with the results. Not only do they conserve water, but they enjoy seeing trees and flowers bloom in a variety of colors through most of the year. Cathy adds, "The salvia is always buzzing with bees and visited by butterflies. The trees provide homes for a number of birds. We love to sit outside after work and on the weekends enjoying the view of the backyard."
To be sure, there are some special considerations when maintaining a water-wise garden. They advise: "Be very aware that when you start running the sprinklers a lot less that you MUST have soakers around your foundation and pay close attention to soil moisture near your house so you don't wind up with foundation problems."
They have also noticed that the perennials do a great job of seeding new plants. Cathy shares, "It's a challenge to keep some of the more aggressive growers from taking over everything. We find ourselves pulling out plants regularly to give others room to grow, but I'll take that over spending tons of money at the nursery every year on annuals."
Cathy was raised in the country in Burleson, where her mom was a longtime member of the local garden club. She inherited her mom's green thumb. But Dave, she says, "was not big on gardening until we re-landscaped the yard. I think that is because 'gardening' was mostly mowing and trimming, over and over again. His interest initially came from an effort to be as 'green' as we can, but now he really likes shopping for a few new plants every year and working to move and thin plants to get a really nice look to the yard."
It does look nice, and it gets noticed. "We enjoy it when people stop and ask about the plants, and hopefully we have inspired a few to try something in their own yards."
When Texas showers move through, Carrie Dubberley welcomes the nourishing water and invites it to stay. It's a natural thing to do. Carrie has designed a rain garden in the front yard, set up a rain barrel to capture water for future use in her native landscape, has a livestock tank with goldfish, and is putting the finishing touches on a small pond.
For the 16 years she has been gardening in Texas, Carrie has gravitated to natural gardens. In fact, her company, Dubberley Landscape, Inc., specializes in low-maintenance, low-water use plants. The few high-maintenance things in her lawn include the bermuda grass and ash tree, both put in by the builder.
What she loves most about gardening is the sense of renewal. "I love to go out in my garden every day when things are coming out of dormancy from winter to see what is starting to grow and flower. Every day something new happens."
Because she works from home, Carrie explains that she can "take gardening breaks to look around, plant something, pull a weed here, or plant a volunteer tree there. ..."
She also grows vegetables and fruit trees—but not at home. "I garden at my church's community garden. We donate 50 percent to charities, and that feels great."
Carrie earned a horticulture degree from Colorado State University and a landscape design and management degree from Richland College. However her interest in plants is rooted in childhood.
The Oak Cliff native says, "My mom is an artist and my dad an engineer. They love to garden—always have. I remember digging up a Mimosa tree with help from my mom and dad, transplanting it away from the house. I enjoyed climbing that tree for years. I grew up with a love of gardening, and I hope to pass it on to my kids."
"We have lived here for 25 years, and I have a flower bed everywhere you can have one," says Becky Cavender.
They create a beautiful scene, since something is blooming 10 months of the year. That may sound impossible, but she explains, "In Texas we have three growing seasons: early spring, late spring and summer, and the fall. Last year I had roses blooming as late as December, and plants began budding out in February this year."
The centerpiece of the backyard is the circular brick patio, a design Becky thought of herself. "I designed it like this because there are a lot of curves in the yard; I wanted it to have an organic flow. And, I wanted to have flowers 360 degrees around me!"
Becky isn't the only one attracted to flowers. Butterflies and honey bees have found their paradise.
"Everything I plant is to attract and nurture butterflies and bees because their numbers are really down. That's due to loss of habitat, chemical use, and harsh weather."
A garden this lovely surely requires a lot of work, right? Wrong. Becky uses primarily native plants and adapted perennials that are low maintenance and require very little water.
She explains, "The first two years you need to water these plants like any new plant; but once the roots are established, you don't have to water them as much. Same with trees. They are pretty self-sustaining now."
Growing up in Fort Worth, Becky's grandparents on both sides loved flower gardening. In fact one of her grandfather's overseeded their entire yard with bluebonnets. It literally looked like a sea of flowers.
Did her grandparents put her to work in their gardens? "Oh, I didn't think it was work!" she sets the record straight. "I watered, deadheaded flowers, cut flowers to bring in the house...they gave me a love of flowers."