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Houston Homeowners Share Their Gardens During Nationwide Program
By Barbara Canetti

After a massive flood and several days of freezing temperatures, Houston gardeners are cleaning up their plots and seeking inspiration for their spring plantings and designs. Four Houston-area gardens are open for public visits on April 28 as part of The Garden Conservancy’s national “Open Days” program. A portion of the proceeds from the local event benefits Peckerwood Garden in Hempstead.

“The purpose of this program is to celebrate the wonderful gardens in Houston and to educate people on the plants and garden designs available,” says Frank Brown, local coordinator for “Open Days.” “We hope people come and see some pretty gardens and take away ideas and innovations for their own gardens.”
Although all the local display gardens were affected by the freeze, they have recouped and are in bloom for the visits. None were flooded by Hurricane Harvey.

Four diverse local gardens part of this program include a multi-family landscape in Independence Heights; a three-acre habitat with numerous water features and a xeriscape in Spring Branch; a Heights “Pollinator Cafe” and shade garden; and a sustainable, naturalized cottage garden with ornamentals and edibles and aboveground and belowground rainwater collection units in West University.

The private gardens are open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for exploration. The Houston event, one of many tours across the country this year, helps support the national nonprofit conservancy’s efforts to preserve outstanding private gardens for public education and enjoyment.  

Since 1995, The Garden Conservancy has worked to fuel the public’s interest and passion for gardens and gardening through its “Open Days” program. Since its inception, it has welcomed more than 1 million visitors into thousands of inspired private landscapes — from urban rooftops to organic farms, historic estates to innovative suburban lots in 41 states. This annual program is produced almost entirely by volunteers, individuals who help showcase the rich diversity in American gardens.

Peckerwood Garden is a collection of more than 3,000 plants, including many rarities. It is also a conservation garden containing examples of numerous threatened species, many of which are no longer found in the wild, and it is a laboratory garden testing a wide range of “new” plants.

The cost to visit the gardens is $7 each, with funds going to The National Conservancy and a portion to Peckerwood Garden. Here’s a quick synopsis of Houston-area gardens participating in “Open Days.”

Selia Qynn’s Garden Habitat
10037 Hazlehurst Drive in Spring Branch
Water features, animal habitats, sitting nooks and art installations are woven together with lush plantings in this expansive landscape certified by the National Wildlife Federation. Highlights of the garden include a 12,000-gallon pond with bog, lily and koi areas divided by stepping-stones and an island. 
Steve Stelzer and Kathleen English’s Naturalized Cottage Garden

2709 Albans Road in West University
Pollinator-friendly plants, special plant collections and numerous green and sustainable features are found in this naturalized cottage garden. A custom green wall/fence adds about 135 square feet of vertical gardening with ornamentals and edibles. A 1,000-gallon aboveground tank collects rainwater runoff from the roof and belowground tanks collect rainwater, both used for watering plants. A naturalized dry creek works as a detention swale and a rain garden is created from porch roof runoff.

Sarah and Rich Doty’s Heights Pollinators Cafe and Shade Garden
414 W. 13th St. in the Heights
Updated in 2016, the front garden in this Heights garden is a study in designing and planting shade-tolerant plants. A struggling lawn beneath camphor trees was replaced with low-maintenance and attractive groundcovers and shade-tolerant plants. The side garden is filled with long-flowering, pollinator-attracting plants. Visitors will find the back deck is painted as an airplane runway.

Itchy Acres Artist Community
Entrance at 405 Martin St. in Independence Heights
This multi-family landscape is owned by Carter Ernst and Paul Kittelson, Dr. Karen Gerlach and Dr. Steven Lesser, Tim and Mary Glover, Brian Owens and Susan Meyers, Ed and Magda Wilson and Ray and Lourdes Balinskas. The informal neighborhood of artists, musicians and creative souls is tucked in the northern edge of Independence Heights. Ropes of poison ivy covered the heavily wooded lot Ernst and Kittelson bought in 1989. Therefore, the catchy name. But today, theirs and the adjoining gardens in this community are filled with plants, wildlife, sculpture, dogs and nature-inspired peace.
Itchy Acres also will host a Peckerwood Garden plant sale during tour hours.

In addition to the “Open Days” tour in Houston, Peckerwood Garden Open Day is set 10 a.m.-3 p.m. April 28 at Peckerwood Garden, 20559 FM 359, Hempstead, 979-826-3232. Register at Members are admitted free, with nonmembers charged $10 each.

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