Bay tree, Garden Art, herbs, International Year of Soil, Laurus nobilis, Madeline Hill, old roses, Old Roses Texas, The Arbor Gate, The Southern Kitchen Garden, Tomball Texas
The Heights Garden Club gathering for February was a tour to The Arbor Gate, a family owned retail nursery in Tomball. It was one of those warm winter days with temps in the mid 70’s, beautiful clear blue skies and just the perfect gentle breeze. Winter in Houston almost makes it worth suffering through the summer! After some back ground and history by the owner Beverly Welch, we broke into two groups to walk around.
I have been receiving their newsletter for years and trying to fit in one of their great classes. They are usually given on Saturday mornings. Saturday’s are a work day for us and we find carving out time for our monthly garden club gatherings difficult. Arbor Gate has been in business for 19 years. Ms. Welch told us she has been dedicated to being an all organic nursery from the beginning. They are also there as a resource to help educate on best organic practices to keep your plants healthy and happy along with all other gardening related subjects. They bring in guest speakers and leaders in specialty areas of gardening from around the United State, to help give the classes too.
She spoke a bit about 2015 being the International Year of Soil. Arbor Gate has their own soil blend that is designed for the local area. Soil health is something we are passionate about and have been working on from the beginning of our business too! As you turn into the front parking lot you find the main shop of Arbor Gate. It is painted a pale green with purple trim. I thought I took a picture but must have got distracted.
From their website I learned it is a 1930’s cottage that was moved from the Heights. They did a charming renovation and today it is surrounded by inspirational display gardens that wind throughout the property. Here is a shot of the back of the main cottage with one of the many employees helping a customer. As I walked around I heard many questions being answered and it was clear this is much more than a place to buy plants!
Inside the cottage where you find the cash register, you also find all kinds of organic products for your garden, garden clothing and a great library of gardening books. One book she recommended was “The Southern Kitchen Garden: Vegetables, Fruits, Herbs and Flowers Essential for the Southern Cook” by William D. Adams (Author), Tom LeRoy (Author). She pointed out Mr. Adams, who works at Arbor Gate and was available that morning for questions.
I saw him later talking to some customers over in the vegetable plants. I really like the way the plants are grouped by types and clearly labeled with useful information.
They have a large variety of herbs and veggies ready to plant!
Arbor Gate is also known for their collection of garden art. There is art from around the world, like pots and vessels imported directly from Vietnam. They come in a rainbow of colors and a variety of sizes. Luckily when I am presented with so many choices I get overwhelmed and can’t make my mind up. I do need a few big containers. I loved seeing the pots grouped by color.
Usually I gravitated to the deep blues and indigo shades but those turquoise and green ones where very tempting. And who could have just one after seeing them grouped together like this. Ms. Welche told us that these pots are fired at 1400 degrees for 10 days to make them very sturdy and able to deal with our heat and occasional frost.
Arbor Gate also support local artist and you will find so many unique items that you want to bring home to your garden that you will have a hard time choosing among them as I did with the containers. I know Shawn and I will be back for one of the eclectic bird houses.
They have an little back cottage that is being remodeled will be a gift shop. She mentioned her son-in law who is a chief, talked about turning it into a tea house. Not too far from there among the display gardens is a garden dedicated to Madeline Hill. She is a well know Texas herbalist that is the author of a very useful herb resource book “Southern Herb Growing” and she even has a variety of rosemary named after her. Yes, you can buy this rosemary at Arbor Gate.
Near this dedicated garden is a large Bay tree, Laurus nobilis. I only came across them recently from one of our growers. We bought one over a year ago. It is doing well and has grown quite a bit, still in its original black bucket, in our back garden holding area. We have been using the leaves for cooking soups and sauces. Now I see it does well in the ground too! I will keep this in mind while designing.
The art is endless and the combinations of metal and glass is very enticing. I love rusted metal but I don’t think it works in our garden. I am not much into metal animals but I prefer these pink flamingos to the plastic versions. I do have a bed in my garden that is calling for some glass sculptures. The way they catch the light is beautiful. I was thinking how fun if they were lighted at night!
Here are a few of the display gardens we wandered through. They mix in edibles with flowers and art. I love the planting compilations in color themes. Each one was delightful and charming and did stimulate my imagination!
I found this an amusing shot!
Next our tour headed to the Rose House. Arbor Gate sells old and antique roses that do well in Houston and surrounding areas. These roses have survived the test of time because they are resistance to diseases and pests. The roses they sell are grown on their own root stock, born in Texas (so naturally acclimated) and have been grown using all organic conditions and fertilizers from day one. Arbor Gate has been one of the test areas for Earthkind roses, done by A&M. The next class they are giving is on pruning roses. The roses in the rose house are displayed in alphabetical order. One of Ms. Welches favorites, that she has growing in her own garden because she can enjoy its white glow when she arrives home late in the evening, is the Ducher rose. It is a fragrant re-bloomer that works well in beds with full sun, as long as the soil is well drained. Two others she mentioned where Delightful Phyllis and Julia Child. Then we looped back around past the large back parking lot to all the plants.
I can’t believe it took us so long to finally visit this little gem. It is worth the half hour drive from the Heights. I think it is a place kids would enjoy. There is a stream along one side and most of the beds are low and easy to view. I even saw a couple walking through with their dog! We will definitely be returning to Arbor Gate very soon!
Funny, I don’t remember many of those 70º winter days in Houston, I mostly remember freezing walking to school in the Heights. It looks gorgeous. I liked the red seaweed and the orange fish swimming in the anemone-like flowering kale. Cute glass and other garden art.
Laurin Lindsey said:
Hi Weeding… Sorry for delayed reply. I just found you comment in the spam folder : (
Yep not the norm but our Houston weather is pretty crazy and unpredictable most of the year, except summer when it is just darn hot. This week it is freezing with icy rain. I don’t imagine it was much fun walking to school in the winter. The art at Arbor Gate is very imaginative and fun! Thank you for commenting!
Bay trees grow well over here – southern England. They have a tendency to develop into a large shrub unless otherwise confined. Quite often people, or nurseries, will grow them as mop heads – keeping one stem to grow to a certain height then allowing a ‘ball’ of small branches and leaves to form.
More ambitious growers might grow three bare stems which they braid, then have leaves at the top. Other growers twist a bare stem into a corkscrew shape before allowing a ‘head’ to form. It can take a while but it looks interesting. Whether such ‘contortions’ would stand up to a Texas summer is another matter.
Laurin Lindsey said:
Thank you for the fun information. I guess I am letting mine be a shrub. I don’t have room to put it in the ground so it will have to stay in a container. These other ornamental shapes sound like fun but quite a lot of work!
Nice tour, I’ve heard of Arbor Gate but haven’t visited yet. It looks like a very good nursery. My Bay Laurel has been in a pot for about 5 years now and I keep moving it up. This year it will go in the ground. I like the idea in the comment of keeping it “mophead” low so it is reachable.
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What a fun looking nursery! I have a bay tree in pot too. I’ve been nervous about planting it in the ground because of this drought that just won’t end. It actually took me a while to find a good-sized specimen, so I’m keeping it safe in a nice container.