In a secluded neighborhood on the outskirts of Aledo, there’s a little bit of England — and Phoenix and Charleston — amid the Parker County hill country. As seasoned travelers, Mary and Mark Hojnacki bring ideas home to incorporate into their sprawling 2-acre landscape.
Their home resembles an English cottage, and thus, sets the stage for a tapestry of color and texture planted around the entrance that mimics an English garden.
A vigorous climbing rose, ‘Pinkie,’ arches gracefully over the front door, while under the elegant native oak and ash trees, a quince, pale Earth-Kind roses, and masses of pink salvia greggii, purple heart, and oxeye daisies frame the walkway.
Several ‘Blue Point’ junipers selected for their stately, pyramidal form are neighbors to elements like phlox, Russian sage and catmint, and ‘Belinda’s Dream’ roses.
Aware of the challenge of creating an English garden in a hot, dry Texas landscape, Mary Hojnacki has learned to substitute similar plants for English staples. For example, instead of delphiniums, she sows larkspur seeds, which self-seed extravagantly each year. Anchoring the beds, elaeagnus stands in for boxwood, as it tolerates the rocky, alkaline soil.
In the back, the Hojnackis recreated a Charleston scene, visible from the outdoor patio and through the kitchen’s new picture window. Here, “behaved plants,” like low-growing drift roses; tidy, compact germander; and yaupon holly (standing in for boxwood) form the garden’s backbone as blue mistflower, purple basil, sweet autumn clematis, abelia, and Virginia creeper are allowed to sprawl.
Ornate, rusty wrought-iron accents lend a Southern courtyard ambience.
The property slopes away from the house, and garden beds follow the natural geography. A sunny, steep hillside to the west required a xeriscaping approach, so Hojnacki kept the native look with variegated green artemesia, yucca, rock rose, ‘Little Bluestem’ grass, Mexican feather grass, and blue juniper sprouting among boulders with disciplined precision.
Farther down the hillside, a verdant expanse is being cultivated. The soil here is loamy and thick, full of organic matter that the abundant trees keep cool.
Brave as well as devoted, the Hojnackis cleared poison oak and weedy grasses in order to encourage understory trees like redbud, sumac, wax myrtle, and Mexican buckeye. In addition, nandinas and hollies provide winter foliage and colorful berries.
A former florist, Mary Hojnacki traded hours creating wedding flowers for the help of a neighbor with a Bobcat, who cleared a serpentine path and spread gravel. Hojnacki has let natural groupings of trees determine bed placement, and hauled in weathered trunks of fallen trees for edging.
The shaded beds are dotted with frogfruit, rosemary, and sage — plants in cool greens, grays, silver, and white. Frostweed is a favorite performer, an unfussy, naturalizing native with white autumn flowers similar to hydrangea. In a winter freeze, ice forms in otherworldly shapes along the stems — hence, its name.
In small, sunny islands that escape the canopy’s reach, color erupts with coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, penstemon, oxeye and Copper Canyon daisies — plus asters, which survive with occasional watering from the aerobic septic system.
By a pool, an Arizona cypress, desert willow, sumac, wax myrtle, and pyracantha create an organic privacy screen. The soft purples and silvers of Mexican sage and cenizo contrast with the sherbet colors of lantana, coral honeysuckle, and ‘Living Easy’ roses.
Great mounds of silver ‘Powis Castle’ artemesia mingle along the fence with more sherbet shades of ‘Tutti Frutti’ agastache and tri-colored ‘Mutabilis’ rose.
A current challenge for this lovingly-tended garden is maintenance, since the couple travels several times a year. Hojnacki says the key will be a tip acquired from the botanic garden in Phoenix — planting more en masse — which is easy on the eye as well as weed-whacker friendly.