Hidden Gardens tour allows peek at private Fort Worth spaces

Sometimes the greatest outdoor spaces are the ones you can't see. In fact, some of the most lush, peaceful and appealing gardens in Fort Worth are so lush, peaceful and appealing because they're hidden away. Tucked into cozy back yards, protected by walls of blooming vines or obscured by tall fences or walls of shrubbery, these out-of-view gardens are private spaces of personal sanctuary.

Except during this weekend, that is. On Sunday, Historic Fort Worth's Hidden Gardens of Fort Worth Tour flings open the gates to seven gardens in west Fort Worth, offering the rest of us an afternoon glimpse. It's the seventh year for this popular tour, and this year's lineup offers a diverse collection of homes and gardens, from the cozy back yards of North Hi-Mount bungalows to a sprawling home in Crestline with an outdoor space so perfect for parties that the Star-Telegram once called it "the city's most famous porch."

We took a peek at a few of the homes included in this year's tour. Here are some of the hidden gardens you'll be able to see Sunday:

Wall of blooms

A Rivercrest home sprawls back all the way to the property line, splitting the yard into two parts. On the southern side is a "play yard" with simple space designed for kids and grandchildren. A pergola covered with two varieties of wisteria offers a shady, peaceful place to rest and listen to the trickle of water in a fountain by the fence. Nearby, swings designed for grandchildren move in the breeze under the graceful branch of a live oak. The other side of the house is decidedly more grown-up, and it sees more activity. A pool sparkles in the sunlight, adorned by splashing waterfalls. Several round dining tables fill the patio, allowing plenty of room for multigeneration family dinners. And the space is defined and protected by a half-dozen magnolia trees that tower above the home, providing privacy with a wall of blooms.

Cozy conversations

At a modest North Hi-Mount home, a wisteria-covered front porch is warm and welcoming. But tucked behind the house, just beyond a driveway lined with cedar trellises, a brick walkway leads to an even more inviting space in the back. Just past the picket fence, walk through an arbor covered with Lady Banksia climbing rose, and you'll find yourself in an irresistibly cozy area designed for eating and entertaining. A conversation area features a small fireplace and enough seating for an intimate gathering. And, attached to the back of the house, an outdoor room is the perfect place for a quiet meal or morning coffee. Sheer white curtains blow in the wind, protecting one side from the open air, and a Japanese lantern swings above a cafe table just inside.

Tangle of color

A few houses south on the same block, a white brick home is nearly obscured by a front-yard tumble of butterfly bush, lavender, poppies, yellow-blooming Kerria japonica and multiple varieties of roses. Fragrant rosemary mixed with southernwood fills the front section of the yard. Larkspur leans affably into the walkway, offering a splash of color that ushers visitors toward a cluster of rosebushes and fruit-producing pear trees. And near the front door, vines of Confederate jasmine wind their way up columns.

The front garden is a colorful, chaotic tangle, but the graveled back yard is more peaceful and private, protected on every side by natural walls of jasmine, wisteria, honeysuckle and Lady Banksia. It's the perfect space for entertaining, and it's arranged to accommodate a happy crowd. A circle of heavy iron chairs makes an inviting space for conversation. Nearby, a whimsical chandelier with votive candles dangles from the branch of a pecan tree over an outdoor dining table that seats 10. And long strings of lights crisscross overhead, stretching all the way back to a wooden swing on the far side of the garden.

Other offerings

Also on the tour:

A Hi-Mount bungalow on a large corner lot with a raised deck that offers a view of the spacious lawn.

A tidy gray brick home that offers a joyful mix of roses, larkspur, peonies, foxglove and Irish bells in the dappled shade of a beautiful burr oak.

A sprawling palace of a home in the Crestline neighborhood, built in 1911. Protected from the street by distance and vegetation, this home has an "outdoor living room" that offers a view of the Trinity River. The outdoor space is used to entertain guests year-round.

A contemporary xeriscaped haven that fills a corner lot with native and adapted plants that tolerate the sun and heat of a Texas summer. The new home -- built in 2000 -- and the waving native grasses make this stop unlike anything else on the tour.