While there are many lovely flower-filled front beds to choose from in our neighborhood this month, I am overwhelmed with the variety and range on offer in our own elementary school garden! Many of us shuttle along the garden path five mornings a week to see our kids to school, but it's worth taking a few extra moments to absorb the nature there.
The Travis Garden has been under the guidance of neighbor, teacher, grandmother, and Army veteran Christina West for nearly two years, with the help of volunteers, teachers, and students. When I asked her if we could choose the Travis Garden for May Yard of the Month, she was delighted!
Ms. West says every morning she loves riding her bike to Travis Elementary School along the leafy streets past her neighbors' flowering gardens. The Travis gardens are at the east end of Redan and have a fence covered with muscadine grapes and bordered by fig trees. Inside, there are 30 beds, one for each class at the school and five others that are filled with wildflowers and small trees.
In the fall, as soon as it is cool enough, students plant vegetables and herbs, and continue planting throughout the winter months. They plant broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, chard, beets, lettuce, arugula, bok choi, cilantro, onions, potatoes, chives, dill, and carrots. Many are planted from seed and students watch them grow week by week until they can harvest and eat them. Their favorite eating experiences are: kale smoothies, broccoli pasta, blanched broccoli, salads of cabbage, carrot and lettuce, herb butter with chives/rosemary/oregano, mashed potatoes, chard roll-ups with apples and sun butter, and, of course, raw carrots. In spring, each class garden plants a tomato and some peppers, cucumbers, and beans.
Ms. West tells us "Perhaps the students' favorite part of the garden is the pond, that has a small cascade of water and a marshy area with purple lotus flowers and a slightly deeper pool visited by toads each spring that leave hundreds and hundreds of eggs in long strands. Turtles also visit our pond, as well as many migrating birds, such as American goldfinch, Cedar waxwings, and American robins.
"Around the edges of the Travis garden are "pollinator gardens", sometimes called "insectiaries". Many of our vegetables depend on pollination, so it is important to invite bees, wasps, and butterflies into our garden. Students enjoy watching these insects that are so helpful to our community. Gardens also need compost piles which can manage the waste from gardens and then provide rich soil. Students love running over to the compost bins and tearing up the spent leaves of our broccoli, kale, and chard. (Just a reminder: tomato and potato leaves should never go into compost piles)." - Christina West
"A garden is a grand teacher," naturalist Gertrude Jekyll wrote. We are so fortunate to have this rich resource here in our neighborhood, for our kids, birds, beetles, butterflies and more.
Stay tuned for an opportunity to tour the garden with Ms. West and learn more. The Travis Elementary Garden is supported by the school's PTA, grants, donations, and volunteers. If you are interested in helping in some way, please contact email@example.com and we will put you in touch.
And an honorable mention goes to 923 Teetshorn, nominated by a neighbor for their nice flower beds. Well done!
It's azalea season, and Mary and Brad Robbins' yard at 411 Bayland is blooming! Some of their bushes were thriving before they moved in nearly 30 years ago - wow! The massive, classic oaks nearly dwarf the Wilson four-square, and host resurrection ferns on their sprawling limbs. The effect is quieting.
The shade across the front meant their landscaping had to transform over the years with their family, and was rebuilt in 1997 with design and construction help from Bill Salario, incorporating a brick kitchen garden, a 'Secret Garden' with fountain, and river rock. But the front porch has always been lined by the azaleas that don't seem to mind the shade.
Raising a family of four boys meant creating spaces for them to play, including a long zip line, now replaced with a swing set for the grandkids and raised garden beds to take advantage of the sunshine away from the arching oaks. Around the pathways and stonework can be found gardenias, camellias, agapanthus, aspidistra, hidden ginger, ligularia, brunfelsia, maidenhair fern, and spider lily. A stone path with dwarf mondo grass leads away where Brad's plumeria collection enjoys the sun.
Thanks to a tip from my friend and neighborhood volunteer, Pat Schaper, who noticed this yard and suggested I have a closer look. So glad I did! If you have a yard you would like to nominate for Yard of the Month, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Brian Walker and Lorenzo Rodriguez have been lovingly tending their garden at 1126 Highland for over twenty years.
With midwinter taking a toll on many yards, theirs stands out as it continues to bloom, now with deep roots and a history surrounding their home. It’s a treat for neighborhood wildlife and insects, with diverse plantings including azaleas, bottlebrush, irises, lilies, lantana, succulents, and hibiscus, as well as the more common crepe myrtles, muhly grass, boxwood, and sago palm. They even incorporated a small yard art hydrant to welcome dogs!
The bricks imprinted with Mexia that make up part of their walkway were salvaged from their home’s original oven. When I asked about a pretty tri-leaf filling around their lilies and azaleas, Lorenzo said “That may be a weed. But it’s nice and grows well, so I left it.” I love that approach, and it’s so pretty.
WHCA, VP Beautification
It seems that the WHCA Yard-of-the-Month signs has gone missing. It's last known perch was 528 Bayland. We need it back! If someone grabbed it, perhaps to prank a neighbor, we'd be happy just to see it returned to where they found it. No questions asked. Michael Graves VP Communications, WHCA
My friend and I have loved this sweet, expansive yard for a while! Watching it transform through seasons only seems to bring out the beauty in its evolution.
Looking over the fence you see nicely manicured space, but what is really cool is all along the sidewalk: an antique water fountain with a little bowl for neighborhood critters to have a drink on hot days, benches for big and little kids to have a rest and meet neighbors, and a thoughtfully designed sidewalk that lofts over giant oak root mounds and also easy for those of us on wheels. It's a lovely merger of urban and wild - how fitting for our Woodland Heights, so close to downtown.
- Stephanie Riceman, VP-Beautification
This month's Yard of the Month fittingly celebrates the harvest! It may not be the most beautiful (because that might be the yard three doors to the west, at 946 Euclid), but it is the most BOUNTIFUL.
According to the current resident, Jeff Shell lovingly cultivated the yard in the early 2000s, so now the massive persimmon tree dominates and fruits generously, along with pomelo and pomegranate. These juicy trees provide a buffer to the equally abundant butterfly gardens closer to the house. It's all looking a little wild and fun, yet somewhat low maintenance, and absolutely delicious.
418 Byrne is the vibrant, yet subtle and pretty yard of Megan Mastal, who has nurtured her greens and flowers here since 2001, and in the neighborhood for 25 years. The white, lime, and yellow hues come through in potato vines and fig ivy, hugging the brick, tracing up little statuettes, and bringing the century home to life.
While I think her delicate yard shows the cool and calm charm we love in our historic neighborhood, Megan says she and her neighbors have big decorating plans for Lights in the Heights! I’m so happy to have Byrne on the LITH route this year!
- Stephanie Riceman, VP-Beautification
The first thing you'll notice is the lovingly restored Craftsman home of Karen Merriam and Thomas Bevilacqua, who has lived here for about 30 years. But take a closer look at the thoughtful landscaping and you'll see what makes it extra special. The yard has weathered flooding from storms so they've taken a survivalist approach, now thriving with variety: flowering with gardenias, drift roses, loropetalum, dianthus, vincas, day lilies, and liriope; oregano, thyme, basil, rosemary, and satsuma tree for flavor; crepe myrtles for shade; and Asian jasmine for ground cover. This tidy no-grass and low-fuss yard was arranged by local design architect Pam August, and installed a few years ago by Bella Terra's Humberto Bolanos.
Honorable mentions received from neighbors this month go to 601 Woodland and 528 Bayland. Thanks for sending nominations! If you see a lovely yard you would like to nominate, please email the address to email@example.com. Thank you!
802 Woodland Street, home of Janet and Harry Tallichet, is absolutely popping in our spring sunshine and showers! Janet is a "semi-retired" landscaper. Harry is a home builder and did the add-on to the original home in 2009. Moving from Memorial, Janet welcomed the chance to just play with a smaller garden in a neighborhood that didn't dictate plant material and minimum sod areas or maximum cutting heights. Her garden is for the birds and the bees and one dog, one cat. Always with natural habitat in mind, the garden has evolved through the years and Janet enjoys (in a mad scientist sort of way) experiments with wild flowers from Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg, TX. She hopes to encourage the love of nature and beauty to all residents.
Nods to two also very lovely and playful yards nominated by neighbors: 711 Euclid and 506 Euclid. If you see a yard that you would like to nominate, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hope to meet more neighbors out for walks enjoying our community - there is so much to enjoy here, especially this time of year.
- Stephanie Riceman, Beautification
Yard of the Month goes to 1026 Omar St. This is a new house, with new neighbors, and a new kind of lawn that is gaining popularity in the Woodland Heights, artificial grass. The Woodland Heights has always been a diverse neighborhood where we celebrate and embrace different ideas. On my street alone, Omar, there are now 3 houses with front lawns made up of artificial turf. While most yards are looking pretty sad in our neighborhood after 2 hard freezes this month, 1026 Omar looks vibrant.
Artificial grass has been growing in popularity because it doesn’t have to be mowed, and has the eco-friendly quality of not needing fertilizer or water. Lawns use 1/3 of all residential water consumption. Some of the new artificial grasses are even partially manufactured out of recycled materials.
Beautifully done garden at Kurt and Jackie’s bungalow at 707 Wendel. The purple plumes if the salvia leucantha with it’s silver foliage is beautifully offset by several different native grasses and fox tail ferns. Lantana and moss rose add more color. All of their plantings have low water needs which is perfect for our Texas heat.
The very attentive among you may have noticed that the most recent Yard-of-the-Month story differs from past YOTM stories. It's the first showing of a new Yard-of-the-Month sign.
The WHCA wanted to let the neighborhood know that our old Yard of the Month sign for the neighborhood, which served us so well for many years, has finally given up the ghost. The new design is based upon an arts and crafts drawing featuring the Dard Hunter rose that was so popular at the turn of the century when our neighborhood was built.
If you have any ideas about homes to be considered for Yard-of-the-Month please send your suggestions to email@example.com.
Yard of the month goes to Eric and Bianca at 931 Bayland for their sculpted shade garden. It is filled with English ivy ground cover, mature well trimmed live oaks, and artfully arranged river stones, sand stone pavers, and gravel. The curved front sidewalk and cleverly constructed raised beds only add to it's Zen simplicity.
Yard of the month goes to Mary and Peter at 402 Euclid at the corner of Florence. Their yard is a beautiful blend of old and new with a mature Yaupon Holly with old fashioned Aspidistra underneath, several blooming crepe myrtle trees, holly ferns, and some great climbing fig ivy. The wisteria on the front fence is in vibrant bloom which stands out beautifully next to the foliage of their cypress tree. Looking forward to going back in the fall when the maple tree turns colors along with the red fruit of the nandina.
211 E Woodland Street located in historic Germantown is the yard of the month. The emerald green zoysia grass looks fantastic along with the thriving bur oak, liriope, ferns, Japanese maple, and boxwood hedges.
This months yard of the month goes to 501 Highland St for their fantastic bird and butterfly garden. Denise and Todd Liebl spent 2 years painstakingly renovating one of the few original stucco homes in our neighborhood and their garden is a pleasure that the whole neighborhood gets to enjoy. Hats off to them for bringing this old house and garden back to life. Welcome to the neighborhood!
The yard of the month goes to Donald Clay and his long time partner at 626 Omar St. These guys have been making this bungalows' garden beautiful for the last 22 years. Their emerald green lawn and perfectly manicured plantings are truly magnificent.
Yard of the month goes to Jennifer Beard at 522 Merrill who has been tending her azaleas there for over 29 years. Jennifer had the best looking azaleas in the entire neighborhood this month so hopefully she'll share her secret with the rest of us!
It was a tough month for anyone in our neighborhood to have a good looking yard after the hard freeze a couple of weeks back. However, Randy McBrides' yard at 935 Ridge looks fantastic!
Randy has been in the Woodland Heights for over 19 years and tells us that the reason his yard looks so good is that he has endeavored to make it low maintenance. The two deciduous bur oaks out front with their unusual bark and huge acorns are a knock out along with ground trailing juniper, azaleas, and African iris. It really looks good!