The following is a reproduction of the article which appeared in "Home Impressions", a special advertising feature of the

Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 26, 1994, about Weston Gardens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In May, when everything in your landscape is green, it’s hard to remember how dreary it was in February. But now is the time to plan how to avoid another drab winter in late 1994. It’s time to plan an English garden – Texas style.

 

            “English-style gardening” is a term that people define differently. Also known as “cottage gardening,” Randy Weston
of Weston Inc. defines this method as using native Texas perennials in a garden that is a mixture of foliage, grasses and flowers.

 

Dating back to medieval Europe, cottage gardens employ hardy plants that can be passed down from generation to generation,

said Dr. William C. Welch, a horticulturist with Texas A&M University and author of several books, including “Perennial Garden

Color for Texas and the South.” A variety of European settlers brought cottage-style gardening to Texas, where they grew

native plants that were plentiful, beautiful, often edible or medicinal, and could survive without a sprinkler system.

 

            “I think a lot of people are trying to go back to the old ways of doing things,” said Jan Hoelscher-Cox of the Texas

Agricultural Extension Service. “There are lots of plants that we’re going back to that we should, because they do so well,

because they’ve always lived off the land.”

 

            She sees the interest in perennials as being part of the growing concern about the environment. By using plants that

grow naturally in North Texas, gardeners save themselves time and the environment’s resources.

 

            The advantages of perennials, Hoelscher-Cox said, are that they are hardy plants with few bug problems and require

little water.

 

The idea of a cottage garden, Weston said, is to plant a landscape in which something is always happening. Even in winter, the

garden is decorated with colorful berries and the barks and stems of grasses and foliage.

 

            Weston finds it exciting to watch his perennial garden evolve over the changing season. He said he views gardening as a

relaxing and escapist activity, so he finds perennial gardening much more exciting than fighting with a boring, annual landscape.

 

In a North Texas perennial garden, about the only months of the year that don’t have color and growth are August, December and January, Weston said. Manmade aspects that help create the ambience of a cottage garden include gravel or cobblestone walkways; stone walls; still, formal pools; and ponds fed by a waterfall. Water, Weston said, is important for adding a cooling aspect to the garden, especially in the heat of summer.

 

            Another creative perennial avenue is water gardening. A still pond can come alive with plants such as lily pads, fish and snails to maintain an active (and surprisingly low maintenance) ecosystem, Weston said.

 

            Fences, walls, hedges and walks provide design continuity to a cottage garden, keeping the garden from being so informal that it would be confusing, Welch said.

 

            Another advantage of native plantings is that they will often attract “native” wildlife – butterflies, bees and birds, Weston said. The plants provide shelter and food for the animals, and the creatures proliferate the garden by performing services such as pest control and cross pollination.

 

            For example, Weston has a list of plants he recommends for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds. It includes perennials such as Buddleia, Turks Cap, Rock Rose, Veronica, Moonbeam Coreopsis and Coral Honeysuckle.

 

            Along with purchasing the native plants, Weston encourages people to try a more natural style of gardening. Instead of arranging and planting in symmetrical rows, Weston plants his gardens to look more like natural grasslands and woods.

 

Cottage gardens seem appropriate for older or authentically restored buildings, Welch said, while they also can make modern structures less stereotypical. These gardens work especially well for homes with small landscapes, such as town homes and condominiums.

 

            One reason why so few people use perennial plants in their landscapes, Weston said, is that few nurseries carry them. From a retail point of view, perennials don’t bring in customers yearly the way that annual plants do.

 

            Weston also warned that some nurseries carry plants that are not true perennials in the North Texas climate. These borderline perennials should only be used in parts of the landscape that are well protected from the elements.

 

            Annuals with their showy flowers have their place at eye-catching places in the landscape, such as the entry to the home, Weston said. But there are many showy perennial flowers that can also be used for decoration. For example perennial lantana, which comes in pink and yellow or orange and red, loves heat and will bloom throughout the heat of the summer

 

            The first step in creating a perennial garden is to map out a master plan of what the garden will look like

eventually, because most people gradually convert to a perennial landscape. New perennial plants can be added to the

landscape each season.

 

            Before planting perennials, Weston recommended carefully accessing and preparing the soil so that it has proper

drainage. North Texas soils tend to retain water, which is good for dry summers but can literally drown plants in the

spring rains. Because native perennials are naturally xeroscapic, too much water will kill them more quickly than too

little.

 

            If you plant perennials in the late summer and early fall, you’ll avoid spring flooding and you will have a good

root system established before next spring, Weston said, which will give you a colorful spring. When planting in the

middle of the summer, you just have to be careful about watering plants religiously.

 

            Although perennial plantings do not require the yearly planting and digging out that annuals require, they do

require some maintenance. Besides routine watering, mulching and fertilization, perennials should be divided and

thinned  every two or three years so they do not become overgrown and stagnant.

 

            Perennials require the most care during their first two years in your landscape, Weston said. But the beauty of

perennials is that they multiply themselves, so you can pass on these plants to friends to enjoy after you divide them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Robyn Adams Schmidt

 

Fort Worth Star-Telegram Special Advertising Feature "Home Impressions"

 

Thursday, May, 26, 1994

 

Reprinted from Abode Magazine (c) February 1994

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