Although hundreds of visitors have ambled through Dave and Teri Flanagan’s garden in the past month, the flower beds look none the worse for wear. As one of the properties featured on this year’s Hidden Gardens of Fort Worth tour, the predominantly shady, but colorful, space speaks volumes about its caretakers’ green thumbs.
This Ridglea North property is very special to its owners. The 1946 cottage was Teri’s childhood home, and through the years, the Flanagans have infused the garden with heirloom plants and mementos from their families’ homes and travels.
For example, in the central bed that encircles an original red oak tree, wood ferns dancing around the perimeter are descendants of ferns planted by Teri’s mother, while bearded iris hybridized by Dave’s father populate a large crescent of the bed. Dave transplanted them from his childhood home in east Fort Worth.
“My father had a greenhouse,” Dave explains. “He and another fellow in the ’50s founded the Fort Worth Iris Society. He would pollinate [iris], then put a little bag over them. Seeds would develop and then he’d grow them.” Dave credits his father with nurturing his own love of gardening.
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Broad swaths of ‘Texas Gold’ columbine have naturalized within the bed, and the red oak is tall enough now to provide an upper canopy to shelter Japanese maples, a dogwood, and a Japanese yew. A chippy white signpost, which reads ‘Flanagan’ also hails from Dave’s family home and emphasizes the garden’s lineage.
In a partly sunny corner the couple has dubbed the ‘Serenity Garden,’ several containers of tropical red hibiscus started from cuttings gather under an arbor adorned with a quilt of coral honeysuckle and Carolina jessamine, allowing two distinct bloom periods. The hibiscus, and other tropicals from around the property, winter in Dave’s greenhouse.
Ajuga and Georgia Blue speedwell, a ground cover with dainty blue flowers, shroud the ground with texture and color, while patches of daffodils pop in early spring under a redbud — proving that the Serenity Garden’s showiest time is spring.
An outdoor painting from Grandin Road (www.grandinroad.com), framed in a vintage window the couple found at Old Home Supply, provides an unexpected focal point by a bistro table and chairs.
Dominating another quiet corner, a pond populated with a school of 12-cent goldfish from PetSmart creates its own kind of serenity. Lizard tail, Louisiana iris, and pickerel grow at the water’s edge, while two kinds of sedum graze the rocks surrounding the pond. On one side, a desert willow weeps gracefully over the water; on the other, Lady Banksia roses drape lazily from a trellis.
When the Flanagans dug out the water feature years ago, they piled the dirt adjacent to the pond, intending to spread it around the garden. Soon, however, they discovered they had too much to spread and opted instead to create a raised patio with benches and a table. Now, three Rose of Sharon bushes put the finishing touch on the secluded area’s backdrop.
Behind the patio, a border made from salvaged Highway 80 (Camp Bowie) bricks outlines a bed of purple and pink speedwell. In the adjacent corner, rosemary, salvia greggii, mealy cup sage, Mexican sage, and plumbago front forsythia and spirea bushes.
The Flanagans happily admit there’s no rhyme or reason to their garden plantings.
“We go to a nursery, and I say, ‘I like this. I want it,’ says Teri. “And he says, ‘There’s no room for it,’ and I say, ‘We can always find room for it.’ And that’s how everything ends up here.”
These indefatigable gardeners do make sure that the plants they fancy will thrive in North Texas’ growing conditions. Mostly, they rely on perennials — the occasional begonia is the only annual that makes an appearance.
No matter where a visitor wanders in this garden, the sound of burbling water follows, as the Flanagans have tucked small fountains into several areas. In addition, sculptural pieces of wood and rocks found on their travels and whimsical yard art add interest — as does the garden’s most surprising feature: an aviary that is home to seven cockatiels.
“As small as it is, I like having little destinations,” Dave says as he contemplates the merits of his garden. “You can go here and sit, or there, or there. It has wound up having four or five places you can actually go visit.”