Monet inspired garden is pretty as a picture – by Diane Morey Sitton
Even when the roses aren’t blooming (and this garden boasts a multitude of rose bushes), the garden is a sight to behold. Here, in the heart of Galveston’s storied East End Historic District, vines drip from pergolas, potted fruit trees cozy up to ferns, and you’re as likely to see a five-foot-tall Victorian-style bird cage as a cluster of colorful “flowers” artfully crafted from plates.
The “ten year labor of love” is the creation of Brent and Julie Baker.
“When we moved in, there weren’t any gardens … just grass and weeds,” says Julie. “We designed the gardens, added the garden structures, laid the slate floor in the back courtyard, created the slate pathways, and built the fountain.”
Like the landscape, the historic house (circa 1885) needed a facelift.
“We wanted the house to look light and bright, befitting the island” says Julie. Their color palette—pink walls, Kelly green shutters, and white trim—was inspired by Claude Monet’s house in Giverny, France.
The garden-friendly colors of the house are carried throughout the garden on fences, furniture, and garden art. In the side yard pergola — the Bakers’ “outdoor living room”– pink and white pillows (designed by Julie) sit atop green cushions on white sofas. Green, pink and white birdhouses adorn a pristine-white potting bench (designed by Julie, built by Brent). White birdcages dangle from the pergola’s grapevine-covered ceiling. Fig ivy envelopes the fence behind: it’s the perfect spot to showcase a collection of rose-themed plates and a wreath featuring pale pink silk roses.
“I’ve been drawn to the Victorian era and its soft, romantic color palette since I was a child,” explains Julie. “It started with my grandmother in Charleston, South Carolina, and our trips to plantation gardens when I was no more than 6 or 7 years old.”
For Julie, what began as a child’s discovery of color and texture developed into a mesmerizing garden style that she describes as “whimsically romantic with a Victorian touch.”
“I fill the garden with whatever touches my heart,” she says. To Julie, that means roses, primarily old roses with pink blooms. “If I find a spot of earth where I can plant a rose, I do it.”
In addition to Souvenir De La Malmaison (Bourbon rose, 1847), Duchesse De Brabant (Tea rose, 1857), Madame Alfred Carriere (Noisette, 1879) and other old roses planted in garden beds, some 40 Peggy Martin roses climb the fences and side porch pillars. “I find the old varieties handle the conditions on the island better than the modern roses,” she says. “I never have to spray for disease or insects. They thrive with minimal effort.”
Like Monet, Julie also plants climbing roses and grapevines together.
“We grow climbing roses and muscadine grapevines on the pergolas,” she explains. “The roses provide color and fragrance. The grapevines provide summer shade and fruit for jelly.” Other fruit-bearing plants in the garden include kumquats, oranges, grapefruit, satsuma and kaffir lime, all grown in large pots.
But soft colors, old roses and vine-covered pillars and posts are only part of this garden’s uniquely personal style. Whimsy is prevalent throughout in the form of teacup chandeliers and plate flowers. Julie crafts the crystal-clad chandeliers by revamping old-style brass chandeliers she buys at resale shops. The teacups come from the collection she amassed during her years as an antique dealer.
With so much originality intermingled with so much beauty, it’s not surprising that folks frequently stop on the sidewalk beside the Bakers’ rose-covered fence to take photos and snap selfies.
Like Monet’s garden paintings, perhaps one of these hurriedly-snapped pics will inspire another gardener along the way.
“It’s gratifying to share our garden with others,” says Julie.