Seabrook courtyard offers Southern charm of New Orleans’ Garden District
Ten years ago, Diane and Glenn Royal of Seabrook saw a house they wanted to buy, but some other buyers beat them to it. Fortunately, the Royals became friends with the owners through the Seabrook Rotary Club. And when those owners needed to move last year, the Royals quickly bought the house.
Diane Royal was most intrigued with the majestic oak tree — more than 100 years old — in the front yard, and huge pecan tree in the backyard. Although the front yard did have some landscaping, the backyard didn’t. So, Royal got busy. She had three requirements — minimal grass, easy maintenance and raised vegetable gardens. With the help of Jim Maas of Maas Nursery in Seabrook, Royal settled on a courtyard design.
Best viewed while standing on the upper level deck of the house, the compartmentalized backyard garden not only is full of edibles and blooms, it’s a delightful mix of textures — brick walkways, crushed granite paths, river rocks and stone.
“It’s like walking down a New Orleans alley, which is the feel I was going for,” said Royal, as she pointed to the meticulously designed areas containing native plants, fruit trees, vegetables and culinary herbs.
With distinctive areas set aside for butterflies, Royal’s yard is a registered monarch way station. A qualifying sign states: “This site provides milkweeds, nectar sources and shelter needed to sustain monarch butterflies as they migrate through North America.”
“I’m addicted to the monarchs,” Royal said. “They come through and munch down furiously on the milkweed — they are fascinating to watch.”
Touring the property, it becomes obvious the Royals don’t spend a lot of time going to the grocery store. The raised vegetable garden sandwiched between a rustic Old World Spanish fountain from Henri Studio includes potatoes, kale, asparagus, artichokes, bush beans, carrots, tomatoes, beets, lettuces and cucumbers — just a few of the healthy veggies that already have been harvested or will be ready for harvest soon.
“I am a big believer in farm-to-table,” said Royal, who ventures out into her backyard most evenings to pick everything needed for a salad.
Even desserts will be easy to assemble because citrus and fruit trees, strawberries and grape vines are growing just a few steps away from the kitchen.
The fragrance of cilantro, marjoram, thyme, basil and mint filled the air as Royal pointed out the many wonders of her yard, such as the leaves of a banana shrub that, when crushed, smell just like bananas; and the blooms of pineapple sage, which not only attract hummingbirds and butterflies because of their intense red color, but also can be used in cooking and baking.
“I find gardening to be an amazing form of therapy in our stress-filled world,” said Royal, who walks her yard daily to commune with nature and exercise her two rescue Yorkshire terriers, Daisy and Izzy.
With a new interest in teas, she has set aside a specific area for Jamaican hibiscus, stevia, camomile and mint for blending and brewing.
Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick is perhaps the most intriguing item in the garden — a curly, twisted tree with no leaves. Although bare now, this summer it will sprout elongated, drooping flowers called “catkins,” then drop them as winter approaches to expose its gnarled branches.
A variety of succulents and flowers — many in colorful, individual containers — are scattered among the courtyard beds.
“I keep many things in pots until I find a happy place for them,” Royal said.
A decorative jeweled bowling ball — with the name “Sluggo” engraved on the bottom — is a prominent piece of yard art that is meaningful to Royal.
“It belonged to a dear friend who bowled with it for 35 years,” Royal said. “She asked me to jazz it up with jewels and it sat on her coffee table until she passed away; then it came back to me. I keep it here in the garden to remind me of her.”
Royal is painting a 6-foot-tall fiberglass pelican, which will soon adorn her front yard and be one of the Seabrook Pelican Path structures in the city.
Royal is anxious for her yew trees and pittosporum to grow tall to give her a bit of privacy and provide a noise barrier from the street traffic alongside her home.
“Since my husband and I enjoy the Southern charm of the Garden District in New Orleans, we love how our courtyard takes us into a peaceful world inside the busy city,” she said.