Calling all gardeners

Communities abound with opportunities for green thumbs

Created date

June 21st, 2010

When Carl and Jo Shannon moved to Eagle s Trace in Houston from their home in Wharton three years ago, they left behind a Texas-sized yard. [caption id="attachment_12842" align="alignright" width="280" caption="Senior Grower Bill Smartt offers advice about container gardening to Jim and Norma Pickett. (Photo by Sara Martin)"] In terms of gardening, we were rank amateurs, says Mr. Shannon, but with a little water and sunshine, we had a beautiful yard filled with azaleas and antique roses. Starting with a fresh palette when they moved to their apartment home at Eagle s Trace, the couple set about creating a patio garden that would serve as an extension of their indoor living space. They selected knockout roses, popular for their low maintenance and resistance to disease, and red salvia to border the patio, while containers brimming with yellow alstroemeria punctuate the sitting area. I dug holes for 150 salvia plants, says Mr. Shannon. The effort was worth it.

Expert gardening advice

Like any relationship, the time you invest in your plants will reflect in how they grow, says Bill Smartt, senior grower at The Brookwood Community in Brookshire, Tex. Smartt was recently atEagle s Traceto offer tips on container gardening. One of the benefits of living in a community likeEagle s Traceis that you have the opportunity to talk with other gardeners and share ideas, he says. [caption id="attachment_12843" align="alignright" width="280" caption="Carl and Jo Shannon relax on their outdoor patio at Eagle s Trace, flanked by knockout roses, salvia, and alstroemeria. (Photo by Sara Martin)"][/caption] As it turns out, the Shannons neighbor Joan Robins is a prolific gardener. I grew up in England, where my father was a gardener for a living, says Robins, who enjoys working in her patio garden as well as in her section of the community s garden. Gardening has been a lifelong hobby. And a healthy hobby, at that.

Gardening: good for body and spirit

There is exciting new research that shows older adults who garden have greater hand strength and finger dexterity than non-gardeners, says Candice Shoemaker, Ph.D., a professor in the College of Agriculture at Kansas State University. It makes sense when you think about the activities involved with gardening digging, potting, deadheading. [caption id="attachment_12840" align="alignright" width="280" caption="Marie Hutto grows hollyhocks, a childhood favorite, in her garden at Highland Springs. (Photo by Sara Martin)"][/caption] Tiena Bothamley knows well the benefits of gardening, having lived on 30 acres near Caldwell, Tex., where she grew a variety of flowers and vegetables. It is a blessing to have a garden, but you have to know what you can handle, says Bothamley, who moved toEagle s Tracein 2008. The potted plants on my patio and in my garden patch are just enough for me to manage. The folks atEagle s Tracearen t the only ones who savor their time in the garden. Their neighbors to the north atHighland Springsare avid gardeners too. With an on-site greenhouse and a community garden partitioned into individual sections, there are no limits to what can be grown. Marie Hutto and her husband, James, moved toHighland Springsin April 2007 from their home near Cedar Creek Lake, one hour southeast of Dallas. We had a huge garden with 70-foot rows, and we planted just about every kind of vegetable imaginable, says Mrs. Hutto. With a family history of working the land, ' she credits her lifelong love of gardening to her experiences as a young child. I grew up on a farm in Shelby County that my grandfather John W. Permenter purchased in 1896 for 50 cents an acre, she says. My father was a farmer cotton was our money crop and most of my childhood memories revolve around life on the farm. [caption id="attachment_12841" align="alignright" width="168" caption="During a recent seminar on container gardening at Eagle s Trace, Bill Smartt, senior grower at The Brookwood Community, shared tips for creating beautiful containers like these. (Photo by Sara Martin)"][/caption] Not surprisingly, Mrs. Hutto has continued to exercise her green thumb since moving to thenorth Dallas community. She is currently growing cotton, peanuts, onions, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and radishes in a garden patch located close to her apartment home. Hollyhocks adorn the border of her garden, a nod to the perennial favorites that surrounded the farmhouse where she grew up. It s like coming full circle, says Mrs. Hutto. I ll be 88 this year, but every time I see a cotton boll or a hollyhock, it takes me right back to my childhood.

Container gardening tips

From Bill Smartt, senior grower at The Brookwood Community
  • Always start with a larger container than the plant the roots need room to grow.
  • Use a dense soil with plenty of organic matter to hold moisture.
  • Water in the morning. An early shower helps plants withstand the heat.
  • Use a time-release fertilizer to take the guesswork out of when to fertilize.
  • Let the sun vs. shade recommendations for your plants determine the location of your container.