A League City family of gardeners transforms a once barren acre of land
It’s clear Gilbert and Aimee Jackson and family are serious about yard work.
Signs at their League City home are everywhere and include 65 bags of pine bark mulch bulging out of Gilbert Jackson’s truck bed. The mulch soon will be spread within the confines of the many flower gardens occupying this magnificent 1-acre property that’s bursting with colorful blooms amid a variety of trees. Among the notable trees is the “Jackson,” a live oak registered as “Mature,” or still growing, with the Live Oak Tree Registry maintained by the League City Historical Society.
“When we bought the property in 2003, it was just a barren field with a few water oaks and the historic oak,” Aimee Jackson said.
The land was originally owned by the late Walter Hall, a prominent banker and generous benefactor in League City and Galveston County.
The Jacksons have transformed their front yard into a picture-perfect haven that includes 120 azaleas. And their backyard, where flagstone pathways lead the way to a grove of 20 citrus trees, a salsa garden and more azaleas, is something to behold. There, an enormous prickly pear cactus with pink buds is about to blossom into robust yellow flowers.
The Jacksons’ love affair with azaleas came five years ago when they visited the Azalea & Spring Flower Trail in Tyler in East Texas.
“It really inspired us,” Gilbert Jackson said. “Plus, the soil there is very acidic due to all the pine trees, so we ended up planting several loblolly pines in our yard.”
Although the colorful azaleas are the main attraction, the massive amount of stonework used throughout the yard is quite remarkable.
“We literally used about a thousand pounds of landscaping stones,” Aimee Jackson said.
The Jacksons did all the work themselves, and they’ve got the tools to prove it, including “his and her” shovels, weed eaters and wheelbarrows. Because they’re both working professionals, they had only weekends and evenings to get their yard in shape, often stringing up lights so they could continue to dig and plant in the dark. Their two children pitched in, too.
Daughter, Alivea, 10, and son, Garrett, 8, are avid gardeners in their own right. The children particularly like digging for worms to feed their seven pet turtles that live inside their home in aquariums.
The Jacksons beam with pride when they talk about their “do-it-yourself” yard that could easily fool anyone into thinking it was professionally landscaped. Aimee credits her mother, a Master Gardener, for giving her the knowledge about landscaping and yard work. Gilbert grew up around a father who was “always planting something,” he said.
With those respective backgrounds and their mutual attraction to azaleas, it seems only natural the Jacksons refer to the theme of their yard as “East Texas/Southern.”
Azalea varieties include: Formosa, George L. Taber and Judge Solomon, all abloom in shades of pink, burgundy, coral and white.
Other attractions include saucer magnolia trees (cup-like fragrant blossoms that are white with a purple blush) and Jane magnolias (large, reddish-purple flowers); camellias with hot pink ruffled blooms; a Chinese fringe tree with red fringe-like petals resembling pom-poms; and four kawakamii flowering pear trees. The Jackson live oak is surrounded by a bed of foxtail ferns, diamond frost ground cover and perennial spring snowflake plants.
“The snowflake bulbs were given to me by my grandfather, who just turned 100 years old,” Aimee Jackson said. “He brought them to me from his yard in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2012, so they are very special.”
Red oaks and white oaks occupy both front and backyards, plus another live oak planted by Gilbert when the family first moved to the property. Planting the live oak was a challenge.
“With the 200-gallon tree in my truck, I drove around to the backyard, dug a deep hole, eased over to where I wanted to plant it, then wondered how to get it out,” he said. “I took some tin snips, cut down the sides of the container, and eventually rolled it onto the ground and into the hole — right at dead center.”
There are hundreds of flora species growing everywhere on these impressive grounds.
“We love our yard,” Aimee Jackson said. “It’s like having our own private park.”
Turns out, the 65 bags of mulch is just the tip of the iceberg. Gilbert Jackson will be putting out many more bags before the spring season is over, he said.
“More azaleas,” he said.