Open the gates to the spring garden tour


April 7, 2005


Victoria County Master Gardener


Have you ever been intrigued with what lies beyond a partially open gate? Do you enter, or do you not? With inviting surroundings, I just might step forward beyond the gate. In fact, being a lover of springtime and with an ongoing garden tour theme like "Nature's Beauty Beyond the Gate" I know I will enter the gate!


It is April and that indicates a number of things in the gardening world. This month marks National Garden Month with home gardeners, schools, businesses and communities across America encouraged to make a difference through gardening. The National Gardening Association with several other not-for-profit organizations like the American Horticultural Society and green industry sponsors has chosen the theme "Give a Garden - Add Beauty to Life" this year. The theme suggested participation levels of simply giving a container of flowers to a neighbor, planting a garden or even helping a local school create a garden.


The Annual Garden Tour, co-sponsored by Trinity Episcopal School and Victoria County Master Gardener Association - Texas Cooperative Extension, is the best of efforts to provide education and share the pleasures of gardening throughout the Coastal Bend. It is planned for 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 30, and Sunday, May 1.


This year the tour is "Nature's Beauty Beyond the Gate." It will provide inviting surroundings to welcome visitors through each gate leading to beautifully planned and kept gardens. Without exception, each of the gardens on the tour has a gate through which you enter to a perfectly pleasing garden setting. Some are hidden treasures, others are expansive; all will provide more than satisfaction that the gates were entered.


Typically devoted to publishing "ground rules and tools" on the first Thursday of the month, the most significant rule for this month is to attend the Annual Garden Tour. As co-chair of this event with local gardening expert John Fossati, I can assure you that beyond each gate at all five locations, there will be something to see for anyone interested in gardening, even those who just want a spring weekend outing on both days. Numerous gardening tool ideas will be visible in the gardens on tour.


The garden beyond the gate at the Robby and Tami Burdge residence on Willow Way in Colony Creek subdivision brings the tropics in clear and expansive view. Nine distinctive varieties of tall and squatty palms are strategically planted in this garden of three years. Banana trees, Hawaiian Ti, blooming white and orange birds of paradise, variegated ginger and cannas provide abundant leaf color. Twelve urns planted with bougainvillea and other colored blooming plants accent the garden with a pergola, washer court, and tree house court all designed for a young family. Privacy screens are planted from Japanese blueberry and golden bamboo placements. The enticing swimming pool, flanked by the open tropical garden, places you somewhere between home and paradise. A large fountain bed planted in seasonal color welcomes visitors to the circular drive at the Italian villa home.


Designed and planted in 1973, the Averill Duson gardens on North Wheeler Street entice you behind the side gate entrance. Tucked away in the French chateau patio garden and on balconies are numerous colorful container plants. A glacier ivy topiary trained by the owner herself, rain lilies planted from seed, violets, agapanthus, and ground orchids are part of the surroundings.



Of note is the dichondra, known by some as a weed, creatively planted in the stone cement sectional cracks on the patio. Small raised garden beds of vegetables, herbs and roses are hidden behind a decorative brick wall. A garden equipment workstation leads into yet another secluded garden of only green and white plantings as an extension of the inside formal dining room. Two garden structure dogs with mouth-held baskets offer flowers on the small patio flanked by callas, caladiums, begonias, and hostas. Dwarf mondo grass is strategically planted in between stepping stones for soft, dark green texture. These various small gardens behind several gates are compactly planted with design and flare. Container gardening training will be offered at workshops at this location during the weekend of the tour.


Two of this year's featured gardens exist in Old Victoria within two blocks of one another. Both home structures have been restored and owners noted for their preservation efforts. Descendants of the original owners of their now restored home, David and Kathleen Edwards have devoted equally as much effort to designing the surrounding gardens as they have in preserving the home.


The gardens on Convent Street are a combination of old and new with various structures and plants reminiscent of Colonial Williamsburg combined with South Texas history. Significant to the home are restored fern-laden window boxes, lavishly planted beds with English ivy ground cover, various blooming fruit trees and a kitchen garden that bears produce for Kathleen's use, a mix of trees including newly planted palms, and antique and Texas Superstar roses.


Hidden behind backyard gates is a peaceful, tropical pool garden with bird of paradise, jasmine, a lemon tree, and a huge staghorn fern. A collection of bonsai plants is displayed on the driveway where bonsai workshops will be conducted during the weekend of the tour.


The gardens of Gary and Mary Hall on Santa Rosa Street date back to the known origin of the house with an authentic brick walkway and two containers with original ferns more than 100 years old. History has been preserved with artifact pieces like chips of children's china and buttons unearthed from around the house, now secure in a shadow box frame.


The backyard garden beyond the picket fence archway gate has evolved over time with design elements created by the Halls. A quaint greenhouse designed and constructed in keeping with the turn-of-the-century home is a focal point. A newer brick patio and flagstone walkways invite visitors to a colorful setting of planted beds and containers. All are aesthetically in place amidst four water features.



"A little taste of a lot" best describes the Sawyers gardens on Champions Row in Benchmark. Master Gardener Martha Sawyers has designed and planted an array of color, size and variety of plants that have come to life in recent weeks. The list could resemble a plant catalog, so only a few will be mentioned. In the front are prolific foxtail fern, bulbine, a red yucca and several varieties of dwarf nandina. Beyond the side gate is an expanse of color and texture. Ten Texas Superstar plant varieties can be identified including several hibiscus, esperanza, bluebonnets, and Belinda's dream and knock out roses. There are fruit trees, four varieties of crape myrtle trees, striped cannas in the Bengal and Tropicana varieties, fringe bush, and prolific gazania daisies. In her kept and large vegetable garden are mostly seasonal tomatoes and herbs. When resting after a day's work in the garden, Martha and Norman Sawyers enjoy the large flagstone patio and flowing water fountain underneath an expansive wooden arbor covering shade-loving plants, patio furniture and an outdoor eating area.


So are you ready to step through the gates and take a look? Mark your calendars and make sure you can do so by purchasing advance tickets available this week from any of the five locations: Earthworks Nursery, The Foliage Shoppe, Fours Season Garden Center, McAdams Floral and Renken's Nursery Inc. Look forward to seeing you on the tour.