Dickinson yard reflects personality of period home
Just off Interstate 45, as Dickinson Bayou winds its way under an overpass, is a house built in 1897 surrounded by 3.5 acres of wild brush, overgrown vines, a variety of tall trees and an abundance of ferns.
An arbor, constructed from 100-year-old shutters, vintage windows and French doors, is heavily laden with wisteria, trumpet, sweet pea, pandora, mandevilla and passion vines.
Vine tendrils climb up the stair handrails of a nearby two-story carriage house and onto the roof trellis of the upper deck.
To the right of the carriage house is a gardener’s cottage, originally an old barracks from Ellington Field.
Jeff and Tanya Nuss, owners of the property for 21 years, call this their old-fashioned vintage backyard.
“When I walk around here, I feel like I’m stepping back in time,” Tanya Nuss said. “I like the way everything looks aged and overgrown.”
There are so many types of vines and foliage growing in so many places, the Nusses can hardly remember what got planted first, they said.
“We’re the only ones who have planted a single plant or mowed a blade of grass since we moved here — we’ve done it all ourselves,” Jeff Nuss said. He uses a push mower on 1 acre of the yard, because it just looks better, he said.
A collection of yard art — driftwood, birdhouses, birdcages, statuary, pottery and chandeliers — as well as fountains, fire pits and fireplaces, all possess a vintage look.
“We’ve gotten a lot of items from Antique Warehouse and Modern Vintage in Galveston,” Jeff Nuss said. “We also take occasional trips to the Texas Hill Country, looking for anything eclectic to add to the mix.”
When the Nusses decided to put in a saltwater swimming pool in 2003, Tanya designed it herself. A friend in the pool installation business helped with construction, but Tanya painted the bottom of the pool, as well as the various designs and scripted quotes in Spanish, including “La Buena Vida,” which means “The Good Life,” and “Mi Vida Loco,” which means “My Crazy Life.”
Deciding against traditional pool decking, the Nusses wanted something with a distressed look, so they ordered antique bricks from Chicago.
“We wanted the pool area to look aged,” Tanya Nuss said. “My grandmother’s house in Mississippi was built 29 years before the Civil War, and ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed of having an old house with this kind of yard.”
Tanya, who is an artist, and Jeff, who is an operations supervisor for an industrial waste water treatment facility, feel very privileged to be living on the Dickinson property, they said.
“As a kid, I grew up on property three lots away, so I’d sneak into this yard with my friends when no one was living there,” Jeff Nuss said. “I’d crawl under the house and go up through the fireplace — I was skinny as a rail. Then, I’d unlock the door and let my friends in. The upstairs had a massive beehive, and we’d take the honey out of the comb and eat it. I never thought I would end up living here.”