Old-world patina of New Orleans style captured in inviting Houston tour garden…

Old-world patina of New Orleans style captured in inviting Houston tour garden…

Last weekend,  my friend and fellow blogger, Pam Penick, traveled to Houston for the Garden Conservancy’s Open Day’s Tour.   This was probably my favorite house on the tour.

Located in the posh River Oaks, the New Orleans-style theme of the home was carried throughout the multi-layered gardens surrounding it.  The old brick, wrought iron and garden charm of plants typically found in old gardens really appealed to me.

 Not only was the wisteria cascading down the front balcony beautiful, its heady scent helped to set the mood for the tour visitors.

This garden incorporated many different garden elements of style.  There were several areas with cottage-style layering like this front bed.

Houston gets much more rain than we do here in Austin.  While tour volunteers told us that they’d had temperatures down to 20* this winter, the gardens sure didn’t show it.  Most of them were filled with stunning azaleas, one of the hallmarks of the tour, but we also saw gorgeous delphiniums in many of the gardens.  Tall and majestic, and blue — they stood tall and proud — like exclamation points.

As ubiquitous as the azaleas, the sweet smell of citrus greeted us in almost every garden.  Lush with blooms or fruit, they made me long for a more tropical climate — and an orange or a lime or a kumquat!

An amazing pool was the centerpiece of the back yard.  With its palms, negative edge and geometric shape, it provided a different aesthetic in this part of the garden.

Several interesting statues and works of art were nestled around the grounds, like this camel carrying an obelisk.

This rhino was tucked into a far corner of the garden, down a long, winding path.  He seemed oddly out of place to me, but perhaps he represents something special to the owners.  That’s one of the joys of gardening – creating a space that reflects your personality and style, but also creating a space that is intentional and has meaning.  So, I decided to embrace the rhino.

And then across the grounds, another area with that French quarter feel – the foliage covered brick wall and the dark iron fountain as a focal point from afar.

There weren’t as many people on the tour when we started – we’re always tour-eager early birds.  These two volunteers had finished their work at another tour site and sat down to chat when they arrived to see this garden.  It certainly was the kind of peaceful garden that invited you to sit and admire it.

On the side lawn, another vine-laden fence — this one serving as the backdrop for a piece of sculpture.  The garden was so inviting, even the sculpture felt welcome to lounge on the grass.

 Another view of the fountain – beautifully crafted space with layers of color, texture and contrast.

This is the view from the sculpture side of the garden across the pool – looking into an enclosed pavillion-like space for entertaining.

The garden was also filled with several lush, plant-lined paths, leading mysteriously to another garden nook.

 Behind the wall and fountain is another treat — a more elaborately-designed space.

This aged king of the jungle was guarding the area – his mossy patina as inviting and interesting as the walls he was protecting.

 A closer look at the fountain on the other side and its little orange occupants, who all seemed to be very happy with their home in this beautiful garden.

Back through another secret pathway, lined again with a mix of plants — including this striking and sculptural agave.  It seemed to lure visitors in, while at the same time warning them not to get too close.

 This bucking horse seemed to be ready to romp around the garden.

 I love the look for old New Orleans gardens, with their old, mossy brick courtyards, fountains and wrought iron.  Although this estate was huge, it was designed with inviting spaces and elements that gave it a more personal and intimate feel.

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