A getaway all your own can be found as near as the back yard

April 22, 2004
Victoria County
Master Gardeners

The solitude and comfort of home spells relief for today's hectic lifestyles. Creating a backyard living space that exudes the ambiance of a permanent vacation is not only pleasing to the eye but can also be a sanctuary for those with that end-of-the-work-day fatigue.

Contrary to popular belief, a homeowner does not have to be a design expert or master gardener to create an exterior living space that is functional and fashionable. A few select amenities with personal touches that reflect individual style is all you need.

If you don't have a privacy fence around your yard, the addition of a garden trellis, (available at most local garden centers) or decorative screen maximizes outdoor solitude where neighbors reside in close proximity. Planting climbing vines for your trellis or planting bamboo will shield your area from unwanted sights and sounds. Container-grown climbers are tough and adaptable so you can add them to your garden any time during the growing season. Spring and fall are ideal, however, since the plants will develop a more spreading root system during cool, moist weather.

Another way to shield your retreat is to plant flowering deciduous shrubs. You can accomplish many tasks going this route. For instance, you can separate different parts of your yard, provide shelter and/or privacy, and liven up dull buildings and fences. In addition to their practical benefits, flowering shrubs also offer beauty in colorful blooms as well as height and form.

Your local nursery can assist you in choosing which shrubs are best for this area. If you like the look of flower gardens more, the choices, too, are unlimited. Blooming plants and those with colored and even variegated foliage provide interest and often reflect one's personality in design. Wildflower gardens have gained in popularity in part due to their reliable, beautiful blooms year after year. The fact that this type of garden is easy to care for is an added incentive for busy lifestyles. Full sun is required along with well-drained soil. Of course, choosing flowers that are native to our region is key. Another advantage to this type of garden is that it can be as small or large as space allows. Small plots are of course the most manageable.

Consider furnishing your outdoor retreat with welcoming amenities, a small accent table or airy, open-back chairs or bench - and don't forget the overstuffed cushions for comfort (also available at local garden centers or tropical outdoor merchandise stores.) If you are more of a container gardener, these can be placed around your sitting area for the added color and softness. Such items draw you and your friends to sit back, relax and enjoy in your very own nature sanctuary.

Several gardens on the upcoming Annual Garden Tour on May 1-2 illustrate the owners' delight in creating their own getaways. Nature's Beauty Beyond the Gate is an understatement for what beholds in the gardens of Jim and Carol West. Carol, a Victoria County master gardener, plans her whole garden with various accent areas throughout the yard. She has bright, vivid pocket flower beds with garden art, soft and subtle blooms around the pool with inviting, lounging outdoor furniture and dcor. Climbing passion vine and beds of oversized variegated ginger are spectacular adornments to the physical structure of the home. One bed in particular is host to various blooming plants including angelonia, duranta, esperanza, hibsicus, plumbago, society garlic, roses, and more, with a small garden bench and reflecting globe. Carol says she loves trying new plant varieties for added color, height and texture.

Richard and Laura Nolen also design, plant and fully maintain their garden getaway. A new garden for fairly newcomers to Victoria, it is the product of their tender loving care of each and every specimen illustrated by the selection, placement and care of not just plants but other garden amenities. A tidy storage building with window boxes, a self-made compost area, a couple of blooming arbors nestled amongst other groupings, and a small, cozy backyard porch with welcoming outdoor furniture all reflect the peaceful home created by the Nolens themselves for many butterfly and bird visitors to the yard.

Known gardening experts, David and Joyce Goris are not only "do-it-yourselfers" but can identify most every specimen throughout their front, side and back gardens. Former national flower judges, they plant their gardens with profound knowledge of selections, mark each and every specimen and can just about tell you the span of days that their plants will bloom! A noted rosarian and fan of exotic plumerias, David's numerous varieties offer enchantment to all. Joyce takes pride in her patchwork garden of many colors and varieties, which remind her of her quilting projects.

A true self-starter, Pat Plowman is eager to try most anything in her garden. She often travels to gardening seminars associated with the master gardener program of Texas Cooperative Extension and more often than not, brings home a new plant variety from some known or back road nursery. Her choice and placement of plants singly and in groupings illustrate her passion for her garden getaway. She and her husband, Donald, not only design and actively work in their garden, but Donald can often be found constructing arbors and trellises, and working on garden amenities like the arbor and benches he constructed and donated to the Victoria County Master Gardeners' premiere project, Victoria Educational Gardens.

Consisting of five mini-gardens within the larger Children's and Vegetable Gardens, VEG (at Victoria Regional Airport) was completely designed, plotted, constructed, and planted by master gardeners with self-made and donated arbors, benches, trellises, a gazebo, gated ironwork, and ground and wall garden art. On the tour you will see a butterfly habitat, a birding area, a sensory garden, and a native plant area with beautiful Texas foliage and garden art selections.

Community financial support to this nonprofit project provides the most intricately designed and encompassing garden on the tour. VEG (Phase I) is the first of six phases of the educational project provided to the community by the Master Gardeners of Victoria County, a co-sponsor of the Annual Garden Tour, which will be from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 1 and 12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 2. Look for "Annual Garden Tour Tickets Available Here" signs at most local garden centers, Trinity Episcopal School and the Extension office.

Join the Master Gardeners in celebrating National Gardening Month this month of April. Give your own garden getaway a rejuvenating face-lift; observe Earth Day today, April 22, and National Arbor Day on April 30.

In preparation for the Annual Garden Tour, the garden owners have nurtured their surrounding gardens for the enjoyment of you, our readers. Watch for upcoming printed material in the community highlighting gorgeous plant varieties from the gardens, some of which will be available for purchase.

Don't miss the popular master gardener plant sale in conjunction with the Annual Garden Tour on May 1 at the 4-H Activity Center (next to VEG at Victoria Regional Airport) offering master gardener propagated and grown plants. ... All upcoming in the week ahead in observance of National Gardening Month and for the Annual Garden Tour.