An urban craftsman getaway

A wide front porch and garden welcome visitors to the home of Don and Sandi Neese. PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE SPRING LAKE GARDEN CLUB

November Yard of the Month

A 1920s craftsman home and garden updated for today’s urban living is November’s yard of the month for Spring Lake Garden Club. Now the home of Don and Sandi Neese at 614 Blanco Street, the house welcomes visitors with a shady full-length front porch and a panoply of plants in the garden area between the porch and curb. Grass is restricted to a wide side yard where grandchildren of both the Neeses and their next-door neighbor have ample room to play.

Sandi Neese treats her front yard garden as an ever-evolving canvass of colorful blooms against a background of deerresistant plants. She recently replaced most of the blackfoot daisies with fall blooming red and pink periwinkle, joining red sage, snapdragons and shrimp plant – both red and yellow. Bat faced cuphea with its purple and red blossoms and white trailing lantana add to the colorful show, along with a few yellow flowers from volunteer plants.

Taking a step back from individual plants, Sandy pointed out larger elements of the front garden, including a small desert willow, a crape myrtle, and a handsome Mexican orchid tree (Anacacho) next to one end of the porch. Sandi admits to an annual “crape murder” as she prunes the popular summer bloomer to keep it in scale with the garden space, and will transplant offshoots appearing at ground level. She praises the Mexican orchid for its feathery white blooms and easy maintenance, and for sheltering a spread of bushy foxtail fern at its base. In other protected areas she has planted firecracker fern and skullcap.

The water fountain in front of Mexican orchid tree highlights the west side of the front garden.

A two-tiered fountain graces the garden near the Mexican orchid tree, offering visual balance to the small trees on the opposite side of the front garden. Sandi enjoys the fountain but has to keep it shut down and drained most of the time because it attracts deer that trample plants around the base. But even as a simple sculptural element in the garden, the fountain is a handsome piece of garden art.

Curbside plantings continue eastward towards the nextdoor house, with a blooming pride of Barbados anchoring smaller plants such as Mexican petunia, September lilies, and society garlic. But the standout plant in the narrow strip of curbside garden is moonflower (Ipomoea), a hardy low-growing vine with long corolla tube blossoms which open into striking white flowers, usually at night. The moonflower’s distinctive seed pods (toxic) are round and prickly, and the plant is related to morning glory and sweet potato vine. Plantings by the carport at the end of a drive between the house and grassy play yard include blooming blue plumbago and Turk’s cap, below hanging baskets of ferns under carport eaves.

Crape myrtles and a variety of plants edge the sunny playground for grandchildren.

The Neese’s property slopes uphill from the street, creating a drainage problem in heavy rains. Sandi reports that flooding has caused significant damage on three occasions in the last 25 years. Recently Don and Sandi had a rock-lined drainage channel constructed along their west property line to divert floodwaters in a straight course downhill to the street instead of across their yard. Edging the drainage channel, a ligustrum hedge along the property line is festooned with delicate pink blooms of coral vine or queen’s wreath. Feathery grasses at the end of the planting bed partially screen the culvert from view at the entry.

Next to the house’s foundation, Sandi has filled a narrow trench with small gravel to keep soil from migrating under the porch if water runs through planting beds. Sandi is keeping her fingers crossed that these water management measures will solve the flooding problem, so she can concentrate on tending her amazing collection of plants.

San Marcos Daily Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666