Highlights from Nacogdoches – Tour of Home Gardens – by Diane Morey Sitton

A vibrant mural depicts Nacogdoches’s status as the official “Garden Capital of Texas” as designated by the 83rd Legislature of the State of Texas in 2014. Painted by Michelle Filer, the mural decorates the corner of Main and North Streets. All images by Diane Morey Sitton. Click image for larger view.

It’s easy to see why Nacogdoches is officially known as the Garden Capital of Texas. The oldest town in Texas is rich with parks, native landscapes at historic sites, and farms overflowing with blueberries, blackberries, plums and seasonal vegetables.

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The Stephen F. Austin State University campus is itself a horticultural treasure trove, boasting an extensive network of gardens and nature trails including Mast Arboretum, Pineywoods Native Plant Center, Kingham Children’s Garden, Jimmy Hinds Park, and the Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden, the largest azalea garden in Texas, among other horticultural attractions.

But private gardens, too, flourish here.

I recently attended the Tour of Home Gardens, an annual event organized by the Nacogdoches Garden Capital of Texas Committee to showcase the landscapes of some of Nacogdoches’ most dedicated and skilled gardeners.

Lilies and yarrow create a vibrant color palette at the Abbott/LaRue garden.
Pink and white lilies thrive in a sunny bed at the Abbott/LaRue garden.
‘Flame Thrower’ redbud shimmers in the sunlight at the Abbott/LaRue garden. The heart-shaped foliage emerges burgundy before turning red, then yellow, and then green as it matures.

Lilies of all kinds (daylilies, Oriental lilies, Asiatic lilies, trumpet lilies, crinum lilies, among others) in colors ranging from vibrant red to luscious pink to bright yellow, dazzled tour-goers at the Judy Abbott and Ralph LaRue garden, a spacious landscape featuring beds and borders filled with easy-care perennials and flowering shrubs. But small trees, too, added to the year-round color show with both foliage and flowers. Selections included Japanese maple, crape myrtle, ‘Forest Pansy’ redbud and the scene-stealing ‘Flame Thrower’ redbud.

Hydrangea and hosta are among the plants that thrive in shady sites at the Abbott/LaRue garden.
Pollen-rich, sun-loving flowers surround an eye-catching tool shed at the Abbott/LaRue garden.

In the large, sun-splashed side yard, the focus shifted to a bee- and butterfly-luring garden featuring zinnias, yarrow, coneflowers, iris, and more lilies. A large, picturesque tool shed anchored the setting which also included a birdbath and bird feeders.

A bottle tree catches the eye at the Van Kley garden.
Who wouldn’t want to step out of the swimming pool and soak up some sun on the Van Kley’s colorful patio. Click image for larger view.
Hand-hewn furniture adds a rustic vibe to the Van Kley’s large covered patio. Click image for larger view.

The theme switched to outdoor recreation and relaxation at the Alexandra and James Van Kley low-maintenance “green retreat.” Divided into garden rooms by naturally wooded areas, the eclectic back garden featured a swimming pool with an adjoining sauna, an open patio showcasing a cacti collection, green space, and a covered patio that was partially furnished by primitive benches and low tables made from the cross sections of a felled hackberry tree. The exterior back doors of the house added flamboyant color. Painted in streaks of blue, gold and red, they gave a retro-hippie vibe to the setting.

Potted geraniums, coleus and ferns create a street-side welcome at the Perry residence.
Gravel paths wind through flowering shrubs and trees at the Perry garden. Click image for larger view.
Towering trees add to the park-like beauty at the Perry garden. Click image for larger view.

At the Cindy and Ray Perry garden, tour-goers strolled some 400 feet of granite pathways that wound through a carpet of Asian jasmine. In addition to the massive trees that towered overhead, the sloping, park-like setting featured camellias, tulip tree, azaleas, dogwoods and hydrangeas, among other flowering selections. Focal points of the garden included a koi pond, fire pit, and patio with a shade-sail type canopy.

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Proceeds from the Nacogdoches Tour of Home Gardens are used to help fund beautification projects. Learn more about the Garden Capital of Texas at: Visitnacogdoches.org.

Posted by Diane Morey Sitton
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