Last spring Smith County Master Gardeners, along with others from across the state, attended a two-day workshop in the historic town of Granbury. For me, a highlight of the trip was a tour of the Brazos House garden. The owners, Charles and Dominique Inge, delighted in sharing, not only the beauty of the grounds, but their organic gardening secrets.

The approximately two acre garden is on a bluff overlooking Lake Granbury. It is a lovely natural garden, featuring native Texas plants and trees and antique roses. Everything is in harmony–a heavenly kind of place. Crushed pecan shells cover the path alongside the lake; rough-hewn logs support bird feeders and serve as benches; and a “dead” crape myrtle forms a trellis for a climbing rose.

Charles and Dominique are willing to try new techniques and have a relaxed, tolerant approach to gardening. For example, they practice what they call “creative mowing.” A large patch of vetch was left standing in a large, open area of the garden as a welcome mat for visiting butterflies. “Volunteers” (which the uninitiated sometimes call weeds) were left around some of the trees, forming a living mulch.

In future columns, with permission from the Inges, I will share some of their secret recipes for a chemical-free garden.

Geneva Thomas, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service


Bright yellow daffodils are the true harbingers of spring. East Texas is fortunate to have a wonderful place to view these flowers. Mrs. Helen Lee’s Garden south of Gladewater is a daffodil-lover’s paradise.

The garden is a 700-acre working cattle ranch/nature reserve. Mrs. Lee planted more than 1 million daffodils in the early 1960s. She purchased an entire boxcar load of daffodil bulbs from Holland and then helped her workers plant
them. The bulbs have since multiplied to produce about 20 acres of blooms each year. When Mrs. Lee died in 1984, she endowed a foundation to care for the estate. This organization maintains the gardens, paths and ponds.

The gardens are viewed by car as you drive along a four-mile dirt and gravel road. There are various stopping places along the route where you can get out and take photos. Many parents bring small chairs and other props to pose their
children for portrait-like shots. The views are spectacular.

The garden is free and is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. from mid-February to mid-March. Vehicles larger than a standard van are not allowed (and you might not want to take your best car on the bumpy roads).

Mrs. Lee’s Garden is located about 5.6 miles south of Gladewater off of US 271. Follow the signs at CR 3104. You can phone in advance for flower condition: 903/845-5780.

Sherri Watts, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service


I’m about to let you in on Mt. Pleasant’s best kept secret. If you haven’t visited Tankersley Gardens, you have missed a gem. This five-acre garden was carved out of a swampy creek setting by Jim and Narlene Capel, which they began in 1985 as a retirement project. They designed the plantings to enhance the native vegetation, planting various flowering shrubs among the dogwood, redbud and buckeye. A variety of annuals and perennials provide seasonal color, including an iris garden which contains 125 varieties.

Along the walking paths, nine foot bridges crisscross the creek; and several sitting areas invite visitors to linger as they stroll through the gardens.

Tankersley Gardens is now owned and operated by Dana and Marianne Havon, who continue to augment the area with plantings and facilities. Located at Loop 271 and I-30 on Tankersley Road, the gardens are open March 1 through October 31. There is a small fee for the garden walk. Guided tours, which include a slide presentation, are also available. For those wishing to shop, there is a greenhouse with potted plants and statuary, and a gift shop. Facilities include a wedding chapel with ornate oak pews and stained glass windows from a church built in 1915. Tucked into a corner of the lawn near the pavilion, there is a gazebo for brides who choose an outdoor setting.

Nita Wood, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service


If you love gardening or are interested in conservation of natural resources while maintaining a beautiful landscape, include a trip to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center the next time you are in or near Austin. You will gain inspiration and information. This awesome botanical garden was established in 1982 by the former First Lady and Helen Hayes to serve as a demonstration garden on the use of native plants in the landscape and to promote good
ecological citizenship.

My first visit just happened to coincide with the beginning of the bluebonnet season. Breathtaking hardly describes the beauty of fields of native flowers in full bloom. A path through the woods offers close-up viewing. Lots of local
residents obviously decided to visit that day also, but the grounds are so spacious that we never felt crowded.

The center includes sixteen unique gardens, including Hill Country, Stream, and Butterfly. My favorites were three Homeowner Inspiration gardens that showed different backyard rectangles landscaped with native plants. One showed
native plants in a formal design, and the others showed them in a less structured design. If you are among those who are landscape-design challenged, these really help give a picture of just how satisfying and beautiful it can be
to use native plants that can survive and flourish with minimal care.

“A little beauty can create harmony,” Mrs. Johnson has said. The center strives to show visitors how to live in partnership with the natural world rather than to attempt to contain or conquer it.

There is an admission charge, but groups receive a discount. Located southwest of downtown Austin, the center is about a twenty to thirty-minute drive from the state Capitol. If you cannot make it to Austin soon, take a
virtual tour at

Susan Holloway, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Posted in Area Gardens