League City couple creates critter-friendly backyard
It started out as a barren backyard of sandy dirt.
“I put big umbrellas and seashells out for the kids, and we pretended it was a beach,” said Cindy Price, referring to how her League City backyard looked 13 years ago.
Today, Price and husband, Marty, enjoy defined flower beds, shrubs and trees, a fish pond and a grassy area where they often play croquet and bocce ball.
It’s important to Price to maintain a healthy yard, not only for the environment, but for the critters, she said.
“Every tree, plant and shrub is something’s food or shelter,” she said. “We focus on shade for energy consumption, and we are big into water conservation. We work with nature, not against her.”
A variety of foliage grows in this yard, especially anything that blooms blue, which is Price’s favorite color.
“Among the blues in my garden are African iris, Dutch iris, Texas vitex, plumbago, French lavender, blue sky liriope and blue flowering spiderwort,” she said. “Blue is also a cool color for our hot summer months and is a great attractor of bees.”
With so many coastal gardeners concentrating on tropical themes, Price prefers a Southern garden.
“I think we’ll see a trend back to more heirloom Southern gardens that can better withstand our temperature extremes,” she said. “Besides, who can resist the heavy, sweet perfume of magnolia, gardenia, azalea, rose and camellia suspended in our humid air?”
Price is particularly partial to her “souvenir” and “reminder” plants.
“A cotton plant I bought at a county fair reminds me of my grandfather who grew up in the Texas Panhandle,” she said. “A tea plant is a souvenir of the tea plantation I toured in Charleston, S.C. My San Diego red bougainvillea that I’ve had since 1988 is a reminder of an enchanted stay at a private villa in Las Hadas, Mexico.”
Price’s mauve Santa Rita cactus brings back visions of her many trips to Arizona. Japanese lantern plants bring to mind her grandmother’s garden in New York. Grapevines on her fence are cuttings she was given while helping trim a 4-acre vineyard.
A Peggy Martin rosebush grown over an arbor will be solid pink soon. Cuttings will be used to feed Mr. Gracy, the couple’s iguana.
“He likes to eat the soft new growth,” Price said.
Native trees, plants and vines provide food and shelter for the many birds and animals that come into the yard. Milkweed is grown for the Monarch butterflies because they are endangered. A compost bin recycles kitchen waste, which will become plant food for the garden; a 65-gallon rain barrel provides water during a drought.
Koi fish and a plecostomus catfish swim happily in the nearby pond that is shaded by Southern wax myrtles, a native plant that attracts finches.
“There are so many simple things people can do to work in harmony with nature,” Price said. “Reroute downspouts into beds instead of on concrete; use a mulching mower; buy battery-powered box fans for mosquito control; and use household vinegar for weed control instead of pesticides.”
Both Price and her husband work full time for Fortune 500 companies, so spending time in their backyard is therapeutic. It’s a place they easily unwind and enjoy a glass of wine at twilight under the soft glow of lanterns near the fish pond. Their cats, Millie and Church, are usually nearby, as is their dog Chester. Mr. Gracy, the iguana; Philip, the leopard gecko; and Roo, the crested gecko, prefer to be indoors.
Soon, Price’s new granddaughter will be old enough to venture out into the backyard and explore.
“I am looking forward to us watching for caterpillars that will turn into butterflies,” Price said.