How a San Leon couple improved on inherited gardens
When not out kayaking or riding their Harleys, Mette and Thomas Hemmer spend a lot of time in their tropical San Leon garden, which is overflowing with a variety of exquisite plants and trees, especially hybrid hibiscus.
The Hemmers, originally from Denmark, moved to San Leon in 2011, having lived previously in Houston, Chicago, Seattle and Los Angeles. Mette and Thomas, who is professor at Rice University, have moved around a bit. But both agree that they, along with dogs Charlie and Rusty, have found their Utopia in San Leon.
With their children grown and off to college, the Hemmers wanted to live on the water.
“Denmark is all about water with a lot of coastline,” Mette said. “So, we started looking at property and found this great place where most of the gardens were already established and we just sort of moved in as caretakers.”
They have done more than their fair share of adding plants and their own personal touches to their 8,000-square-foot yard with swimming pool.
“The yard had sort of a jungle appearance when we moved in, but now has a more manicured look,” Mette said. “The original owner planted several plumerias, and told us how to care for them. We dig them up and stack them in the greenhouse around Thanksgiving and put them back in the ground April 1.”
The Hemmers have made vast improvements to the yard.
“After we moved in, we cut back a lot of overgrown brush and added new things,” she said.
She bought more than 100 hibiscus off the Internet last year and is busy planting them in special places.
“The yard did not have the color it has now, and it’s all due to Mette,” Thomas said. “She works in the yard daily, or she’s out shopping for more plants.”
Some plants and trees already in the yard include queen, pygmy, sago and California fan palms; ornamental banana, pittosporum and ligustrum trees; and plumbago, philodendron, plumerias, ginger and trailing daisy ground cover.
The Hemmers added a potted Mexican palm from their previous residence and transplanted into the ground. They also added queen palms and an orchid tree and a magnolia tree, along with Australian tree ferns, pink impatiens, ixora bushes, angel’s and devil’s trumpet vine, Turk’s cap, lime and lemon trees. You’ll also find in their yard a Texas star mallow, Brazilian coral tree and a Confederate rose hibiscus, among many other hibiscus, including rare hybrids in dual colors of dusty purple/deep red; pink with yellow tinged petals; and bright yellow/beet red.
“The yard has so many different factors, so, it is like having 10 different yards due to all the scalloped borders and rarities added by Mette,” Thomas said.
Among Mette’s finds is a Nong Nooch, native to Thailand, with blooms that form on the tips of its vining stems and hang down with yellow and creamy white flowers. Mette bought it at a farmers market in Chicago a few months ago.
The side yard of the property is just as spectacular as the backyard, with giant elephant ears, tall hibiscus tiliaceus, which boasts large leaves and yellow flowers with purple centers and will attain a height of 26 to 32 feet high. The side yard also includes bird of paradise, lantana, coral hibiscus, passion vine and more.
When not puttering in their garden, the Hemmers go out to the end of their 280-foot pier and watch the dolphins, sometimes seeing 15 at a time.
Details of note
• Mette uses: Miracle-Gro LiquiFeed for all plants as needed.
• Secret to growing the Nong Nooch vine: Love and water.
• Caring for hibiscus: Bayer Advanced All-In-One Rose & Flower Care. Also Epsom salt. Sprinkle around bottom of plants; then water. Use both monthly.
• Hybrid hibiscus source: Tezula Hibiscus and Plants, Miami, Fla., www.facebook.com/TezulaPlants.