Show us your garden: Private park in Parker County

07/26/2014 12:00 AM

07/24/2014 12:32 PM

After years of service to the community, Nancy and Richard Neuhaus of eastern Parker County have turned their attention to stewardship of the land as they thoughtfully cultivate the 3.5 acres of meadow and woodland that they call home.

On one side of their long driveway, a profusion of 5-foot-tall zinnias in jewel tones salutes the sky. A Neuhaus favorite, they’re heat-tolerant and inexpensive to start from seed.

“You just love a plant that stays happy,” Nancy says.

On the other side, coneflowers, daisies, butterfly bush and Rose of Sharon tempt local butterflies. In the spring, clematis scrambles up through the Rose of Sharon, providing color to the shrub before its own flowers bloom in the summer. Clematis is one vine that won’t hurt a host plant; at summer’s end, it dies back and is cut to the ground.

Nancy’s well-traveled irises decorate this bed, too. Transplanted from Illinois to Tennessee to Texas, these ruffled purple and yellow irises are descendants of some that belonged to Nancy’s mother.

The couple’s log cabin home sits in a shady dell. Richard is slowly clearing underbrush in front of the cabin to create a quiet, parklike setting. He envisions islands of trees, naturalized nandinas and English ivy surrounded by wide paths for meandering.

Of the many trees, Richard says he favors the blackjack oaks because they grow well in rocky or sandy soil and their distinctive large-lobed leaves are eye-catching.

Behind the cabin, the couple has left the property’s large wooded area in its natural state except for several paths that Richard maintains so that he and Nancy can enjoy nature walks each morning. Deer, armadillos, birds of prey and bobcats make frequent cameos.

Along the paths, Richard has stationed tree stumps for moments of respite while he and Nancy wait for their two Labs to catch up following their own explorations.

Similarly, Richard allows a meadow to flourish without interference. He enjoys the native bluestem grasses and wildflowers. Several years ago, a large patch of blanket flower appeared, courtesy of the many birds that call this property home.

Around the cabin, a shade garden features a small pond with a waterfall, installed for its soothing burbling sounds. Cardinals and raccoons are particularly fond of it. Ferns, caladiums and aloe vera dot the ground, while hanging baskets of variegated spider plant dangle from tree limbs.

These dedicated gardeners also maintain several raised beds of fruits and vegetables.

Tall fencing around the beds deter deer, shade cloth protects plants from the blistering sun, and basil planted as a companion to tomatoes seems to be keeping away destructive spider mites. Richard plans to trench the fence to keep out marauding rabbits.

Having a large property could require a sizable budget to keep it in flower, but the Neuhauses have learned to propagate plants and say they rarely have to buy them.

“We have enough different kinds of flowers and so forth, so we bought a propagator,” Richard says. “Nancy comes out in the spring before things bloom and takes cuttings and puts them in the propagator.”

A cutting from an established plant is inserted into one of several cells in the propagator, where the cut end is constantly misted with water and nutrients. Roots develop and multiply. Then, plants can be potted and hardened off before they’re transplanted into the ground.

The Neuhauses have propagated oak leaf and mophead hydrangeas, Rose of Sharon, and butterfly bush.

When one of them says, “I wish we had another one of those,” the other responds, “Well, let’s make one.”

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