Island yard resurges with artful tree, bounty of plants and seasonal produce
Helen Bashline is the sort of person who likes things balanced, and that applies to her yard.
Her circa 1925 Galveston home is surrounded by the symmetrical gardens she worked hard to revive after Hurricane Ike struck in 2008. Most prominent is the handiwork of wood sculptor James Phillips, who carved hibiscus flowers, sand dollars and sea shells into the remaining trunk of a damaged Japanese yew tree.
Curious onlookers stop by often to photograph the tree, which has sprouted a lot of new growth over the last seven years, and soars to the top of the two-story house.
Bashline, who refers to her yard as self-propagating, does some of the work when needed. Still, the yard pretty much takes care of itself. But she reflects back on how long it took the yard to get to that stage.
“When we moved here in 1983, the yard was not much to look at,” she said. “The yew and a large palm tree were here, a falling-down chicken coop, and some Chinese tallows that I immediately cut down.”
Bashline, who has been a Master Gardner since 1992, grew up with a love of gardening, she said.
“When I was a kid, my father would give me money, and I would rush off to buy flowers and plants at the old Seaside Nursery,” she said.
Her yard reflects that passion with its manicured beds, brick borders, statuary and a beautiful assortment of plants, shrubs and fruit trees that encase the 2.5 lots.
Six live oaks, planted after Hurricane Ike, have grown rapidly. Two are along the curb; the other four are in a side yard surrounded by periwinkles and holly fern.
“I love the bounty that I get from my yard and the ability to share it with friends,” Bashline said. “I particularly like the abundance of tomatoes, mangos, avocados, lemons, limes, kumquats and star fruit when they are in season.”
The beds that run along the fence line are full to the brim with lilies, Knock Out roses, antique roses, hibiscus, bougainvillea, Rangoon creeper and enormously tall philodendrons. Several ornamentals grow in harmony with a variety of tomatoes.
“I’m very fond of the cherry ones,” Bashline said. “I have them growing everywhere.”
An attention-getting blue heron fountain sits prominently in the sword fern garden.
Bashline never thought about her garden having a theme, she concedes.
“If I see a flower that fascinates me, I buy it,” she said. “I try to stick to tropicals, but I do like the lush look of a Southern garden, with a mix of other things.”
Bashline, often with her rescue dog Annie at her side, gardens with bare hands.
“No garden gloves for me,” she said. “I like the feel of dirt between my fingers.”
Summer months are perfect for backyard entertaining, yet Bashline and husband, J.D., are always mindful of the heat.
“I put out fans and umbrellas to keep everyone cool,” she said.
Having something blooming all year round is Bashline’s goal. She plants annuals each season, but not from seeds.
“Just like when I was a kid, I rush to the nursery and buy new plants,” she said.