Home & Garden

Gardener’s oasis is about more than just its blossoms

“This is my sanctuary,” Tammy Gill says of the garden surrounding her North Richland Hills home.
“This is my sanctuary,” Tammy Gill says of the garden surrounding her North Richland Hills home. jlmarshall@star-telegram.com

Tammy Gill’s gardens are something special. Enveloping her North Richland Hills home on all four sides, the lush, four-season beds brimming with variety and interest are tributes to important influences in Gill’s life.

She shared her private Eden with tourgoers on Colleyville Garden Club’s Promenade in May.

“I always have gone to the Promenades. I couldn’t wait to go to the garden shows every year,” she says, as they’re always a source for ideas she repeated at home. “Because of that, I thought about what an inspiration [Promenade] was to me.”

“This is my sanctuary,” she continues. “You give a lot of yourself to [a garden]. But it’s really beauty from God. All I do is tend it. And I tend it so anybody can see it.”

Indeed, sidewalk strollers revel in deep beds of tall, billowing perennials like coneflower and Henry Duelberg sage and note the complementary silver-greens of mounding catmint and lamb’s ears.

Pink and red pentas peek out from the bases of plants. Gill welcomes strollers to pluck seeds from the waves of larkspur.

You give a lot of yourself to [a garden]. But it’s really beauty from God. All I do is tend it. And I tend it so anybody can see it.

Tammy Gill

Tucked in here and there are spikes with bits of garden trivia: Did you know … Bees cannot recognize the color red ... There are about 24,000 species of butterflies.

“Maggie McNeely is who inspired me to make my garden a living, walking garden,” Gill says. Readers may remember McNeely, a garden writer for the Star-Telegram for many years. “She has the most lovely garden in Fort Worth. I had gone on a private garden tour of hers, and I was in awe of her garden. I fell in love with her as a gardener, as a person.”

An important lesson McNeely shared with Gill was the reality that gardens evolve over time. “So she said to just give your garden time. None of her [25-year-old] garden was planned. She just did it by sections. And that’s what I did.”

Gill started on the east side with the Cottage Walk. Ducking through an arbor gate consumed with neatly tied crossvine, guests enjoy the shade of cherry laurels and crape myrtles underplanted with violet foxgloves, pink and red caladiums, oregano, and other herbaceous perennials.

Around back in the Courtyard, a flagstone patio hosts seating to quietly reflect under the canopy of shade trees that quiet the southwestern sun. Burbling water from a koi pond serenades the space. Redbuds and Japanese maples provide seasonal color. Branches of oakleaf hydrangea ‘Alice’ bow to the ground with the weight of huge leaves and flower heads.

Foliar feeding is real healthy. It’s like a big dose of vitamins.

Tammy Gill

“I’m a firm believer if you plant around [the tree], if you fertilize heavily, it’s a happy camper,” Gill explains. Her favorite feed is organic Lady Bug all-purpose fertilizer, but another stalwart is Garrett Juice.

That, liquid seaweed and fish emulsion are sprayed on leaves to intensify color. “Foliar feeding is real healthy,” she shares. “It’s like a big dose of vitamins.”

Plants such as the multistemmed bear’s breeches, a leopard plant “on steroids” and the startling hot-pink leaves of a ti plant are testaments to Gill’s care.

The Japanese Garden soothes with its purple shades of oxalis, persicaria and maples. Bronze fronds of autumn ferns dance around small terra-cotta statues of unclothed nymphs. “I planted them around my girls so they could dress them,” Gill says playfully.

I would love for [McNeely] to see my garden someday so she could see what she inspired.

Tammy Gill

A sprawling rose garden on the west side honors Gill’s husband Edwin’s parents.

“My husband likes roses. His dad liked them, and his parents had died. We were garden shopping and he found some roses. I said, ‘I don’t have a place for those roses — we’re running out of sun.’ 

And so the Rose Garden was born. A trip to Brenham with a trailer allowed Edwin to indulge himself and return with 82 rosebushes, mostly hybrid teas with some Bourbons and floribundas, and most of them fragrant.

“I would love for [McNeely] to see my garden someday so she could see what she inspired,” Gill says.

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