Kemah couple creates English garden with a twist
Three years ago, Leona Pleasant and husband, Neal, purchased a vacant lot next to their home in Kemah’s Waterford Harbor community with plans to expand their backyard.
Leona Pleasant knew exactly how she was going to do it.
“As an artist, I knew I wanted a lot of color, but I did not want a manicured look,” she said.
She always admired English gardens and wanted something similar, but without the dense hedges, she said.
“I decided the theme would be a ‘confused English Garden,’” said Pleasant, who envisioned a different color palette in all directions.
As she pondered her design, she decided the focal point would be a walking path made of flagstones, but with an irregular curve.
When the Pleasants initially moved to their home five years ago, a few palm trees, crepe myrtles and three distinctive flower beds were already there. The beds, bordered by several layers of stacked bricks in a half moon design, didn’t sit well with Pleasant, so she used the top two layers of bricks to make them complete circles.
With the help of a landscaping service, she added a vegetable garden and a variety of colorful blooming plants and trees. She also took chances.
“A neighbor re-landscaping her yard gave me an armful of bulbs,” Pleasant said. “Neither one of us knew what they were, so I just scattered them everywhere. They turned out to be spider lilies that bloom in vibrant shades of white, pink, lavender and deep purple.”
Pleasant’s idea of mixing and “confusing” her plants and trees worked out; she’s now surrounded by a multitude of colors and textures year-round.
Split-leaf philodendrons with giant trunks were overflowing in the revamped circle beds, so Pleasant chopped several of them off and replanted them against the back fence. The landscapers told her it was a big mistake and that they would never grow. She proved them wrong. Today, they’re 6 feet tall and live happily next to giant bottle brush trees abloom with red spikes.
Having nurtured several gardens on the grounds of her previous homes, Pleasant is pretty sure that her love of gardening is what got her interested in art.
“I’ve always done something creative,” she said. “My father bought me a sewing machine when I was in high school, and I made my own prom dress. I even entered it in a Singer Sewing Machine contest and took first place in the state of Texas.”
Tapping into her creative side while enhancing her backyard, she has added several pieces of yard art and built a pergola. And she’s learning how to compost while taking on the task of staining some of the darker pieces of flagstone a lighter color.
A collection of rocks from the Pleasants’ travels are displayed on a fence ledge — petrified wood, quartz, crystal and granite.
“I’ve combed a lot of beaches and even picked them up along the highway,” she said.
Scattered plants, driftwood, wind chimes, birdhouses, birdbaths and molten silver sculptures add to the confusion of what Pleasant set out to accomplish.
The walking path, with its curvy, irregular shape, required two pallets of flagstone and is definitely the center attraction. Pleasant strolls it daily, admiring the fruits of her labor, but the path is best viewed from the balcony, looking down.
“The balcony is our favorite spot,” Pleasant said. “I love looking at the path, and I can also keep a watchful eye on my winter vegetable garden. Bumper crops are already sprouting.”