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.

Dave and Tracy Lamar’s man cave adjoins their historic home which was built in 1868. The house was moved to its current location prior to Galveston’s devastating 1905 hurricane. At one time a tailor’s shop occupied the first floor. The tailor and his family lived upstairs. All images by Diane Morey Sitton. Click image for larger view.

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.

Bougainvillea is a favorite of Galveston gardeners who grow in on arbors, along fences and in pots and hanging baskets.

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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 man cave, an arbor-like roof and sun shade sail keep the rain out; bold black-and-white-striped curtains insure privacy, as does a jasmine covered privacy wall.
No man cave is complete without a dart board.

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.

Hibiscus number among the sun-loving beauties found in Galveston gardens.

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.

The antique wrought iron fence (festooned in foliage and ribbon for the holidays), a turret, and an outdoor winding staircase number among the features of this historic home, but gardeners are most interested in the Grecian-themed landscape in the back yard.

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.

You don’t need a sign to know the Burchett garden is in Galveston; the mural, palm trees, pastel colors, mermaids, seahorses, and other beach art give the location away.

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.

Roy Burchett found a way to bring Galveston attractions into his garden: he painted a whimsical mural.

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.

A turquoise and white table strengthens the festive atmosphere at the Burchett garden.

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.

Garden art creatures scurry up a palm tree at the Burchett garden.

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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.

This Greek-inspired yard features a fountain, tall white columns, urns, pedestals and a swimming pool.

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:

Posted by Diane Morey Sitton
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