Tablet Life & Arts

Show Us Your Garden: A rosy future for a starter garden

To see Katie Rose Watson’s garden is to see the beginning. Residing on the edge of Fort Worth where undeveloped ranch land meets suburbia, Katie Rose Watson is young, on the go and visionary.

She bubbles with enthusiasm, speaks of her plants with human pronouns and demonstrates how to create a garden from a blank canvas.

First, plan.

“I was worried about what would be developed [behind my home] so one of my big goals was to put in something that would grow tall, so those are crape myrtles in the back. I thought, ‘I don’t have a very big yard. When I start putting things in, it’s going to feel smaller,’ but it’s actually the complete opposite. The more things I put in my yard, the bigger the yard feels.”

No detail is too small to envision.

Case in point: the hammock that she says she enjoys sitting in almost every day.

“Some people have happy hour. I joke that I have hammock hour,” she explains. So Watson planted a fragrant wisteria next to her hammock, adding to the enjoyment.

On a flagstone patio sit potted grapevines. “I had this big idea that people could be wining and dining and reach over and grab a grape,” she says. “That’s very Italian!”

There’s a reason to hardscape.

“When you’re doing a starter garden, and you have the vision for what it’s going to look like, hardscaping is so important,” Watson notes. “The benches [in my garden] add interest. I love my little [stone] bunnies. I have different structural elements that make it more interesting while you’re growing your garden.”

Antique shops have provided her with a variety of inexpensive architectural pieces.

A garden evolves.

“We have a neighbor who goes out every morning in the summer and gets plums and cuts them up in her outdoor kitchen and eats them for breakfast,” she says. “I thought, ‘That is amazing! I have to have plum trees!’ ”

Anchoring the trees adjacent to the flagstone patio as Watson did will provide some much needed shade as the trees mature, benefiting both outdoor diners and the hydrangeas. Of course, Watson looked past the trees to consider what to plant behind them.

Grow your own food.

Watson says she loves tomatoes fresh from her garden in the summer, and eggplant, “especially the fabulous striped, baby varieties.” Winter vegetables are her favorite, however, and her list of backyard treasures is long, including lettuce, carrots, potatoes, beets, onions, garlic, spinach and kale.

“Lettuce and beets are probably my favorites to grow,” she adds. “I think tomatoes are way more complicated to grow than lettuce and yet, that’s the starter thing in Texas. I wish people would give lettuce a chance because it’s so easy. You can pick it when it’s young and tender. If you pick the outside leaves, it keeps replenishing them so you basically have an endless supply of lettuce until it finally bolts.

Frequently, Watson says, she comes home in the evening and “pulls up dinner.” A handful of beets, plucked, rinsed and wrapped in foil is a good start.

“I’ll put some herbs in there and throw them on the grill, and when they’re almost done I might [add] a little goat cheese in the packet and let that get all melty,” she explains. “It is divine. … I cut the tops off and saute the beet greens with garlic. I love doing that as crostini.”

And plant seeds.

Enjoying the wide variety of seed offerings on the market, Watson says she’s a fan of the 99-cent packets and their bountiful results.

“You have lettuce all fall and winter,” she says. “The best 99 cents I ever spent was on chives seeds. They go to flower in the spring, which I think are quite pretty. I love how those look in a vase with roses so I’ll cut them. … [The chives] completely made it through the harsh winter, bigger and better than ever.”

And finally, the roses.

With a name like Katie Rose, it seems a natural fit.

“I have 30 different varieties of roses,” she boasts, adding that she tries to find roses people haven’t heard of. Lamb’s ears, artemisia and daisies serve as companion plants, and she devotes considerable attention to placement decisions.

“My family and I are Disneyaholics,” she explains, so the official rose of Disneyland is planted between varieties named Cinderella and Dream Come True.

About two years ago, Watson says, she heard about a rose called Black Beauty. It seemed like a perfect fit because it is named for the Friesian horse, and, well, she owns one.

Tracking a nursery that carried it with the aid of, she recently added this new prize to her collection.

“I do joke now that I see Alice in Wonderland much differently. I think the Queen of Hearts was misunderstood. If some girl came in and hacked off my roses, I don’t think I would be so nice about it, either, because they become your babies almost,” she says. “You nurture and grow them.”