It seems that the WHCA Yard-of-the-Month sign has gone missing again! It's last known perch was on the 900 block of Merrill. 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.
Yard of the Month
I love wandering the neighborhood and admiring our fine old homes and the gardens that surround them. One of my favorite walks is Germantown, an area just east of Houston Avenue and bordering I-45 settled by German immigrants in the late 1800’s.
A few years ago, I discovered a wonderful Queen Anne cottage (c1915) and garden at 118 Alma. I knew immediately that the resident was an artist. The evidence is everywhere. The large picture of a beloved pet mounted on the wall of the front of the house protected by the porch, the planters made out of tires, the mosaics on the fence, the jars filled with various colored water that adorn the flower beds, and the amazing topiary that spells out the artist’s last name, H-A-Y-S-L-I-P.
Mary’s great-grandparents moved into the house on Alma in 1920. Mary has lived in the home since 1974. Take a walk and come to see Mary Hayslip’s garden and art. There are memories here among the flowers and trees in our Yard-of-the-Month.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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!
You can’t miss the burst of bluebonnets at 919 Ridge, home to Amy, Chris and Nathan Boyers. Bluebonnets here have been an annual occurrence for many years. Every year, bluebonnets drop seeds to produce plants for the following spring.
In 1938, Lorene and Herbert Smith purchased the new home and raised their two children there. Mrs. Smith always loved gardening and sowed bluebonnet seeds near the crepe myrtles by the street. After Mrs. Smith passed away in 2004, Mrs. Smith's granddaughter, Amy, and Chris bought the house from Amy's father. The Boyers have looked forward to the annual bluebonnets every year since. In 2013, Chris and Amy’s son was born in the midst of a bumper crop year of bluebonnets. Four generations of one family have lived in this house, so it has so many special memories. One memory is being entertained by the families that plop their kids among the flowers for bluebonnet pictures. The Boyers enjoy sharing the happiness from the bluebonnets with neighbors.
The rest of the landscaping, installed and maintained by the family, is a mix of natives and low-water plants. They are also experimenting with citrus trees, which have replaced the crepe myrtles planted years ago. Amy held on to several of Mrs. Smith’s roses, day lilies and Easter lilies, which begin blooming once the wildflowers begin to fade.
While their poppies didn't bloom this year, their seeds have blown across the street, sharing, as neighbors do, and are on full display. And bluebonnet volunteers can be found in other nearby yards.
It's a beautiful legacy that the Smith and Boyers families carry through generations, and our neighborhood is made lovelier for it.
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 email@example.com
Shawn & Dominique Rodgers, at 3002 Norhill, love supporting local businesses and love planting their own plants each season. Everything in their yard was sourced this past Spring from Buchanan’s Native Plants on 11th Street. Dominique spent several days researching to pick out just the right plants. They wanted hardy perennials that were heat and cold tolerant, drought resistant, good with full and partial sun areas of the yard, and ones that would mix well together for visual and textural appeal.
So far they have done the job, including:
Fox Tail Ferns
Regular Mondo Grass
Bronze Ajuga - ground cover, perennials (along the flower bed borders) - these are some of their favorites.
Queen Anne Lily of the Nile - perennial - around the base of the trees. These grew beautifully in their back yard, so transplanted to the front yard.
All Summer Gardenias - perennial (in the large pots.)
Baby Gem Boxwoods - perennials (in the medium sized pots) and regular boxwood in all the flower beds.
Black & Blue Salvia - perennial - around the street post and in the main flower beds. The bees & butterflies love these.
Salvia Amistad- perennial - in the main flower bed.
Angelonia - in the main flower beds
Cora cascade polka dot Trailing vinca - in the bed to the left of the house.
Graffiti White Pentas - perennial - all over the yard.
Zebra Hydrangea - on the porch in pots.
Living on the Norhill Esplanade means they have front row seats to the festivities every December, and are looking forward to celebrating with their neighborhood again this year!
- 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.
This Yard of the Month is special because, by the time you read this, the very thing that makes this yard so extraordinary may be gone. It's also special because to really appreciate this yard you will look up, and take your time in the shade to appreciate the century oak's quiet life, and now its death. The limbs reach far toward its nearly-as-old home, which it has guarded until now, and to me they look like wind, if you could see wind. To Telia Weisman, the tree wraps itself in a hug. Across the street, the mighty oaks reach out everywhere, locking arms in solidarity with their neighbors.
Telia and her husband, Mark Guzman, have tended to the tree for three years, but now after consultation with arborists, it's determined that the tree is dying inside, causing a danger to those around them as it drops its limbs. The City has marked it for removal as they search for some way to save it. Arborists have now warned that neighbors should take caution around it, and yellow tape moves admirers away.
As sad as this is for Telia and Mark, I think many in our community will miss its awesomeness, even if we did occasionally bump into its great limb that swoops over the sidewalk. Maybe as we dodged that limb we looked up and took it all in. It was there when soldiers returned from wars abroad, when all kids walked or rode their bikes to school, before freeways buzzed, and when everything was quieter and cooler. Time stands still on this corner. I hope others will have time to walk around Norhill and E 7th and enjoy the peace of the oaks all around here, find some acorns, and plant a tree. They can't be taken for granted in the Woodland Heights.
- Stephanie Riceman, VP-Beautification
Maximizing curb appeal in a cozy garden.
125 Payne is July's Yard of the Month. Lovingly maintained by owners Rachel Eddins and Mathew Zamzow, this compelling garden is nestled in the heart of historic Germantown, which features many beautifully maintained yards. What makes 125 Payne stand out from the rest is not just the way the front walk and historic porch are framed by the greenery from the featured crete myrtle, but rather, when viewing this home in the early evening, when the perfectly manicured beds are illuminated, giving a sense of warmth and welcome.
There is a lot to love about the yards horseshoeing our Norhill Esplanade: a jasmine arch, rose garden, two plank swings, flower-lined walkways, a Little Free Library, and little pops of color in yard chairs, yard art, and embedded in paths.
But the anchor to all that you find here is at 1102 Euclid. Artist Elena Cusi-Wortham moved here in 1992, building her unique home that is also her workshop and an expressive space for her craft, social passions, and gathering place. Her banca jardin is a lively community bench that draws children in to discover a handmade mosaic of nature's influences, which plays out all around the tile pieces.
Throughout her L-shaped yard you will find plantings that are both practical and simply pretty: persimmon, fig, tangerine, and a bay leaf bush are useful. For shade and flowers: magnolia and ash trees, orchid tree, African daisies, Mexican olive, palo verde, and bottlebrush. A raised bed forms an inversion of the arc in the bench, and has been a vegetable patch in the past, now home to milkweed, lantana, chives and more.
Elena's yard is a place of rich discovery for our neighborhood, but she has also shared her talents all over Houston, including four elementary school Spark Park and a Cotswold Project on Prairie St. downtown. She is currently working with the Community House on Avenue F and 72nd where she helps neighborhood children create their own tile mosaics, and discover art in nature.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 email@example.com. 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 Pat and James at 2624 Reagan. I have never seem a more beautiful garden than the one they have created on their triple corner lot over the last 30 years. It is truly magnificent! Pleasure your eyes and walk on by for some inspiration on how to create an oasis of green in the inner city.
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.
Craig and Katherine Vollmers, residents of Woodland Heights for over 18 years, get yard of the month for their corner lot at 404 Bayland. Although it is one of the few lots on lower Bayland with only one mature oak tree, it is rimmed with crepe myrtles. It has several lovely wisteria vines, Aztec grass, liriope, and azaleas for year round interest and color. There is also a beautiful mature sycamore tree in full fall color thanks to that dusting of snow the Woodland Heights received on December 8th.
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.
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.
Although Stacie Cokinos and Pam Redford have only owned 601 Woodland for a year, they have completely transformed their garden while renovating their 1930's bungalow.
Go by and peek over the conversation height white picket fence and be amazed by the pops of color, the butterfly friendly plants, and the huge old cedar tree that they painstakingly landscaped around without disturbing it. It's a beautiful space with 2 delightful people that have made our neighborhood even better.
WHCA VP Beautification
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.
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!