Creative and historic art forms enhance garden design

November 17, 2005

ANNETTE PARTAIN
Victoria County
master gardener

Every object seems to have a life and a place in that life in Joy Wehmeyer's garden.

She's on a corner lot in Port Lavaca where she has lived for more than 45 years. After teaching elementary school for 37 years she has devoted her interest and time to gardening in a refreshing and creative way.

The front yard is shaded with five live oak trees and a burr oak tree. The oak nearest the garden entrance has a ground cover of Japanese ardesia, an evergreen ground cover that does well in shaded areas, blooms with small white flowers and around Christmas will be covered with red berries. The large burr oak came from an acorn planted by her paternal grandmother. This acorn originated from a tree growing in Old Texanna in Jackson County.

You enter the garden through an antique iron gate onto a flagstone path created by a talented workman. The artwork on the fence is a window with shutters from old Camp Hulen in Palacios. An element of whimsy and surprise awaits you with every step as you wander down the paths.

The first of several themes is a serene Asian area with a soothing bamboo fountain stone and Buddha urns. Immediately to your left is a stone fish fountain with a cascading waterfall. This water pond is surrounded with Mickey Mouse tora, black tora and water celery. The backdrop for this area is the reverse side of the fence that features the entrance gate; three antique windows appear to open into the garden.

A gracefully winding path made of red brick nuggets with pebble stepping stones leads you past a variety of plants on both sides that include begonia, several varieties of gingers and traveler's palms. These plants are repeated in clusters throughout the garden, making a spectacular statement where lighting varies because of sunlight filtering through the oak tree limbs. An antique door that is gracefully entwined with the fragrant aromatic stephanotis provides texture for the surrounding plants. An antique wooden fireplace mantel provides another backdrop for the lush plants. Atop the mantel is an antique iron grate that was a gift from a friend. Staked hangers hold flowering baskets, offering height and interest.

The path leads you to a South of the Border area accented with pieces of Talaveria collected from Mexico. Vintage wrought iron railings are among the brilliant lollipop plants that are used extensively in gardens of Mexico. Maid of Orleans and lakeside jasmine plants provide a lovely fragrance. A table, chairs and umbrella provide a spot to rest and enjoy a collection of white and pink mandevilla. Varieties of crown of thorns help color the whimsical garden and colorful crotons add brilliance to the garden's greens. The area has ceramic lizards, chili peppers, tropical birds and decorative containers as well as electric lights to carry out the festive theme. A slow burning fire of pinion pine logs in a chimnea gives a delightful aroma in the evenings after a day of working in the garden.

A New Orleans courtyard features a wall fountain, which flows into a blue container. An old window and shutters give this corner the charm of the French Quarter. Across the path is a water pond with goldfish. The pond is surrounded with holly ferns, Aztec grass, Texas star grass and Asiatic jasmine and is built on a berm covered with white flat rocks to create interest on an otherwise flat terrain. Water splashes into the pond from a bronze fish.

Red coral vine and a cypress vine are the two plants in Joy's garden that connect her to her paternal grandmother. The vine brings back memories of helping twine the string on the side of the house for the beautiful lacey foliage to climb. Her grandmother always saved the seeds for the next year. Although Joy doesn't claim to be a grass roots gardener like her grandmother, she attributes to her grandmother her zeal for gardening and an appreciation for growing things.

You then pass a garden shed, a greenhouse and two more water features, arriving at the area called "Going to Texas." This small garden is the shade garden featuring hamelia, cannas and blue plumbago. Artifacts include a hand plow and tools that belonged to her dad.

This brings you to the original path Joy created in the garden. It is edged on both sides with Asiatic jasmine ground cover; the area includes a more than 50-year-old oak tree and a fountain with water bubbling over a stone statue. A black wrought iron fence encloses this area and has an entrance of a decorative iron gate enhanced with an oval arch of grapevines adorned with metal roses. The oak tree in this garden area has 14 hanging baskets of Boston ferns. A fence along the driveway backs a bed for sun-loving plants that include bird of paradise, Mexican bird of paradise, evergreen wisteria, rangoon creeper, hibiscus, two plumeria varieties, three varieties of ginger, and three varieties of roses.

Joy uses only clay pots. A discarded iron chandelier given to her by a friend adds fun to this eclectic escape.

All of Joy's watering is done by hand. To quote Keeyla Meadows, a landscaper from the San Francisco Bay Area, "Watering is a way to immerse yourself in the luxurious embrace a garden offers. At the same time, you'll find yourself starting to know and appreciate your plants better as they grow and change through the season." Joy often refers to "Making Gardens Works of Art" written by this author as a guide to her pleasurable hobby.

During the spring, numerous migrating warblers and other birds can be observed feeding in the oaks and splashing in the several water sources. Numerous birdhouses can be seen; ligustrum hedges provide a place to perch. Three varieties of hummingbirds visit in the fall and some have stayed all winter.

There is a place for almost everything in the life of Joy's garden.