Island Vibe … it’s alive and well in Galveston gardens
Whether it’s the slant of the sun, the salt air, or the pull of the tides that stirs the creativity of Galveston gardeners, there’s no denying that many of Galveston’s outdoor spaces share a unique Island vibe.
Recently, six private gardens (as well as two neighborhood parks) were showcased during the East End Historic District fall garden tour, an annual event that invites folks to stroll the flower-lined streets as they explore the gardens. The 58-city-block area is known for its grand Victorian “painted ladies” and for its storied past. And this year, more than ever, color, creativity and expressions of individuality were prevalent.
Besides the vibrant show of bougainvillea, croton, hibiscus, yellow bells, periwinkle, sweet potato vine, and other colorful plants, there were glitter-filled plastic beach balls afloat in a swimming pool (no less stunning than a Chihuly exhibit of floating glass globes), handcrafted “teacup” garden chandeliers, and enough pink flamingo art to give Florida a run for its money.
At Dave and Tracy Lamar’s backyard man cave, it’s game time whenever the Houston Astros are playing. Surrounded by banana trees, ornamental grass, potted crotons and other easy-care plants, the outdoor room boasts a wall-mounted television, gas grill and mini-fridge. Astros team logos, beach theme memorabilia and assorted collectibles enliven walls, tables and shelves. In keeping with the Island vibe, there’s always room for neighbors — and other sports fans – on the two couches and the love-seat-sized swing that is suspended by ropes from the arbor-style ceiling.
A few blocks away, a festively-decorated, antique wrought iron fence opens to a grand staircase and porch fringed with hibiscus, succulents, crotons, roses and other Island-friendly plants. But the front yard was but a preview of the memorable landscape to come. The verdant oasis that is hidden behind the historic house is reminiscent of a Grecian spa.
There, enclosed by a forest green lattice fence punctuated by tall white columns, a life-sized figure of Poseidon (god of the sea) and urn-topped pedestals intermingle with poolside plantings of banana trees, hibiscus, sweet potato vines, and elephant ears. Potted ferns and plumbago share the space with baskets of petunia. A small wrought iron patio set with a red umbrella and red seat cushions adds a color accent.
Nowhere is the Island vibe more creative than at Roy Burchett’s garden, at the far eastern boundary of the East End Historic District. For starters, there are large cactus plants growing alongside banana trees just outside the turquoise gate.
Inside, a colorful mural depicting Galveston attractions and iconic beach symbols spans an entire wall. Roy’s artwork includes a likeness of the 1877 Tall Ship Elissa, the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier amusement park, surfboards, and palm trees, among other illustrations. Below the mural, pink and turquoise metal cacti “grow” from a bed of rock. Talavera pots and pink flamingo art share the space.
The whimsy wraps around the house to a covered area (formerly the carport) that boasts a turquoise and white table and benches, gold fish pool, and beach-themed art including mermaids and fish. Assorted artfully-crafted “creatures” scurry up the trunk of a palm tree.
As you stroll through the East End Historic District – Galveston’s first residential neighborhood – it’s fun to imagine what the 19th century tailors, merchants, entrepreneurs and other former residents would think of the tropical poolscapes, Greek-inspired retreats, whimsical landscapes, cottage gardens, and other creative spaces that surround the houses where they once lived.
I can’t help but think that these enterprising folks would look around, take a deep breath of the salt air, and smile in approval.
The East End Historic District is a National Historic Landmark. It occupies a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
Each year the East End Historical District Association celebrates the heritage and beauty of the District with a Fall Garden Tour (and craft fair) held in October and a Christmas Tour of Homes (December 2, 2022), among other events. For more information, visit the EEHDA website: www.eastendhistoricaldistrict.org.