Photo Credit: Lon Smith, Devereux
Adult clients work in planting, watering and maintaining healthy plants in the greenhouse horticulture growing center on campus at Devereux Gardens.
'Tis the season
to believe

Devereux Gardens horticulture program for adult residents builds self esteem

December 18, 2008

Victoria County Master Gardener
Introduced last year, amaryllis in five varieties are available this holiday season at Devereux Gardens. There are normally two to four or more huge blooms (up to six inches across) on a 12- to 24-inch stalk. Some larger bulbs will even have two stalks of flowers. The range of dramatic colors are brilliant red, orange, salmon, pink, white, striped or variegated.
Renowned holiday gift baskets from Devereux Gardens contain a mixture of plants, homemade bakery items, greenery, ornaments and whimsical gardening picks.
Known for outstanding selections of tropical plants, Devereux Gardens also grows numerous varieties of hibiscus plants for its annual hibiscus fest every summer.
It's that time of year when believing makes things happen. Belief in the spiritual significance of Christmas, Hanukkah or even in the existence of Santa Claus makes for a meaningful and joyous holiday season. There is also reason to believe in certain causes, programs and projects that make a difference in people's lives.


Every so often as editor of this column, I write on topics that have provided inspiration to me or friends in the gardening world around me. Many of the more experienced gardeners I know are still inspired each time Mother Nature provides a sight to be seen in a plant surfacing from the soil or bearing fruit to provide food. There is the marvel of a fabulous bloom that only a source more powerful then we could have created. And then there is the reward to be had from digging in the dirt to ease the mind and heart of heavy challenges or provide opportunities for those with various levels of abilities. I believe in these occurrences because they really do happen.


Devereux Gardens is one of those inspiring programs that makes a difference in the lives of clients at Devereux -Victoria - and in turn, provides a source for believers in gardening. Having begun residential behavioral care programs in Victoria in 1959, the adult program grew from five residents to more than 40 in the early 1990s. It was during this time it was determined the adult residents could benefit greatly from opportunities of "real work" that had cultural value.


Believing in the possible, staff developed a horticulture program for adult residents modeled after the Brookwood program that has an extensive gardening operation located northwest of Houston. In 1996, funding became available, and one large greenhouse was constructed at Devereux to provide opportunities for clients with different levels of abilities in washing or filling pots and planting plants. It was moved in 1998 to its current location, which can be seen going south on U.S. Highway 59 from Victoria. An additional greenhouse was added in December of that year to specifically house the poinsettia crop.

In July 2001, Devereux opened the first Devereux Gardens retail store in Goliad. It came equipped with a greenhouse and was ideal for retailing horticulture products. In May 2002, Devereux Gardens held its First Annual Hibiscus Fest with more than 1,000 homegrown hibiscus plants being sold in one day. That project has continued with great success. Two a-frame greenhouses, providing more than 3,500 square feet in additional growing space, were added in August 2002 with a covered shade area added about one year later. All of these greenhouses are heated and climate controlled for optimum growing conditions. Mother Nature showed her strength in taking the covered area with her in the snowstorm a year later.

In July 2004, two cold-frame greenhouses added another 3,000 square feet of covered growing space for varieties of banana trees and tropicals. Also that month, Devereux Gardens opened on Navarro Street in Victoria across from DeTar Hospital, occupying the original House of Flowers location.

A single green house grew into a large multi-faceted horticultural growing center because there was belief in the opportunities for clients to convene with nature, resulting in outstanding therapeutic results. One can see from the enjoyment and self esteem on the faces of the Devereux clients, the results of a program that is truly believable.


According to Lon Smith, business development director for the adult vocational program who oversees all growing operations for Devereux Gardens, there are infinite horticultural projects where Devereux can collaborate with the public and other organizations. I, too, believe in this synergy, because I have witnessed Devereux's involvement and support of Master Gardener plant sales and symposiums.

Likewise, Smith coordinated Devereux Gardens' first Spring Fling last March that provided an educational day on gardening with horticultural specialists and vendors that included the Victoria County Master Gardener Association.

In 2009, the Master Gardeners will embark on a jointly-taught Junior Master Gardener Program for youth clients at Devereux. As a founding member of the Devereux - Texas Treatment Network South Texas Advisory Council, I also have an inside track to Devereux's programs and successes. Its increasingly popular Sneak Peek and a Bite to Eat day in the garden and plant style show brings laughter and enjoyment to all who attend - and especially to plant aficionados. My involvement in both organizations enforces my shared belief that each admirably serves its respective mission.


Known for outstanding tropical plants, Devereux Gardens aims to have varieties that are hard to find and never heard of in this area before. Smith says, "I search tirelessly for these plants that require growing conditions possibly to be replicated locally." Plants from the jungles of Africa and South America show up at Devereux and are first tried and sold on the premise that they could be the newest and best things going. After they are known to grow well, they are stocked, propagated and grown as mainstays. "Many are beautiful and incredible examples of the plant kingdom," Smith said. "I can't wait to see what we have planned for this coming spring and summer."


Of note this time of year are the fabulous holiday gift baskets with plants: Devereux's renowned homemade buttermilk brownies or cookies, with greenery, ornaments or whimsical picks.

Introduced last year, Devereux has five varieties of amaryllis plants in greenhouses still available for the holidays, along with traditional poinsettias in pink, marble, white and red in three sizes.

If purchased on campus, a gold sleeve is available to embellish the pot. If at the two retail centers, they are dressed up with holiday accents.

It's not too late to make a believer out of a friend or family member with a gift from Devereux Gardens on campus or in Goliad and Victoria.

The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or, or comment on this column at

Devereux Gardens has been extremely generous in supporting Victoria County Master Gardener Association programs with donated plant materials for plant sales, donated signage space for the Annual Garden Tour and the sharing of horticultural education by plant expert Lon Smith.

In the spirit of collaboration, the Victoria County Master Gardener Association reminds you that Devereux Gardens is a wonderful source for holiday gift items.

At Devereux Gardens greenhouses
Poinsettias - Red, pink, marble and white (in 3 sizes each)
Amaryllis - 5 varieties in single and double stem
Sold in a pot with gold sleeve

At Devereux Gardens retail stores in Goliad and Victoria

Poinsettias and amaryllis in dressed up presentation
Gift baskets
Homemade bakery items
Gardening gift items

547 E. Pearl St., Goliad
120 David Wade Drive, Victoria
1313 N. Navarro St., Victoria