OutSmart at Home

?This spring, make living outdoors better. 
 By Marene Gustin
Thompson + Hanson's garden emporium

What would springtime be without blooms? Over at Thompson + Hanson’s garden emporium, the bulbs are pouring in. Manager Steve Crowson recommends anything that is bright and sassy and smells good: hyacinths, tulips galore, and daffodils. “They’re seasonal,” he says. “They bloom and then they’re gone, but while they’re here they are beautiful, and people love them.” Among the nursery greenery, you’ll also find English boxwoods and red-leaf maples and a newly refurbished shop and a charming little café on the premises called Tiny Boxwoods. Grab a chorizo-egg taco in the morning as you stroll through the plant selection.

Thompson + Hanson, 3600 W. Alabama, 713/622-6973



Pebble pots at the Blair House

Greg Mouser at the Blair House does a bustling business in the spring months as some clients with huge yards are looking for outdoor living arrangements with his versatile teak furniture, while Heights- and Montrose-neighborhood folk look for smaller yet quaint porch swings for the warmer months. But everyone, it seems, is wild about his pebble pots. Handmade in Indonesia, these concrete planters are set with hundreds of polished river stones, creating a serene yet fashionable façade. The pots start at $65 and go up depending upon size, and, yes, you can request them any size, although getting custom pots may take a while. Best of all, these gorgeous planters make superb outdoor statements, and they work indoors as well.

The Blair House, 4901 Rose, 713/869-5558,


Give yourself a wedgie.

Trash that trowel and pick up the hottest new gardening tool around: the Wedgie. Not a cool shoe, but a nifty gardener’s gadget, this simple tool, available only at Buchanan’s Native Plants, allows you less wrist strain and more ergonomically correct action for digging and planting. The seven-inch bright yellow high-impact plastic wedge is easy to use and hard to lose, and makes for the perfect gardener’s gift. Under $15.

Buchanan’s Native Plants in the Heights, 611 East 11th St., 713/861-5702, www.buchanansplants.com


You may have a beautiful garden and patio, fine flowers and furniture. But come sundown, how do you enjoy it? Tim Turner with Windswept Landscape Studios has the bright idea: outdoor lighting. “For as little as $1,500 and up,” he says, “you can create a lighting scenario for your garden and patio that will illuminate your yard.” Why waste the hard work and fantastic foliage just because it’s nighttime? Showcase your handiwork at night with serene and beautiful lighting. And it need not cost an arm and a leg. Turner says low-voltage lighting and timer photo cells will save a bundle on electric bills while still making the exterior of your home a showplace.

Windswept Landscape Studio, 1356 Chippendale Rd., 713/263-7771,www.windsweptlandscape.com

By local naturalists John and Gloria Tveten

Buchanan’s Native Plants in the Heights has everything you need to turn your garden into a haven for hummingbirds and butterflies. Check out the plethora of bottlebrushes, flowering yarrows, black-eyed Susans, and milkweed, which is nectar for monarchs. While you’re there, pick up a copy of

Butterflies of Houston and Southeast Texas by local naturalists John and Gloria Tveten (University of Texas Press, $21.95) for a lively garden.

Buchanan’s Native Plants, 611 East 11th St., 713/861-5702, www.buchanansplants.com)


If you need inspiration, look no further than Bayou Bend, the landmark residence and gardens created by philanthropist and arts patron Ima Hogg. Located just off Memorial Drive, Bayou Bend houses the Hogg-assembled collection of American decorative arts, now part of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The grounds designed by the landscape architect C.C. “Pat” Fleming provide sterling examples of plantings, both classic and more informal, as well as ideas of ways to place art and furniture in a verdant setting. The recent book Bayou Bend Gardens: A Southern Oasis, by Bayou Bend founding director David Warren (Scala/MFAH, $45), provides a history of this Houston treasure. It’s a companion volume to the new American Decorative Arts and Paintings in the Bayou Bend Collection, by curator Michael Brown (Scala/MFAH, $45). There is no better time to view the Bayou Bend gardens than during the March 7–9 Azalea Trail, presented by the River Oaks Garden Club (details: www.riveroaksgardenclub.org).

Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, 1 Westcott, 713/639-7750,www.mfah.org



Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and Gayot.com, among others.

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