Angels and other statuary tell stories in Texas City backyard
Donna Newding’s American elm tree spreads its limbs mightily over her Texas City backyard. Planted in 1952 by the previous homeowners, the tree has given her and her husband a lot of pleasure, but also some grief.
“Its roots have spread out so far and wide that my brick pathways are totally uneven,” Newding said.
But the majestic tree soon will be lush with leaves offering cool shade from the summer sun and a playground for squirrels.
“One year, I planted a bunch of tulip bulbs and the squirrels, thinking they were nuts, dug them up and hid them in the tree,” she said.
For 26 years, Newding has spent countless hours creating what she calls her “cottage garden.” She prefers to mix blooms of purples, blues, whites and pinks and occasionally a bit of yellow, but isn’t a big fan of vibrant colors.
A wrought iron gate with a welcome sign and rosy pink geraniums in a hanging basket greet Newding’s guests, many of whom have attended her backyard gatherings over the years for luncheons, cocktail parties and holiday soirées. This time of year, knockout roses, pink hydrangeas, bridal wreath and hibiscus, in shades of salmon, yellow and pink, dominate her yard. Trumpet plants of white and pink are about to burst open. A variety of ferns share garden space with everything that blooms, as well as a statue of two children — representing Newding’s own two children who are now adults — all in immaculately defined flower beds.
“I laid every brick in the backyard by myself, including the pathways and the garden dividers, but I was younger then,” she said.
An abundance of concrete statuary and garden accessories add to the cottage theme. Angels, animals, garden globes and birdbaths all have a back story. And Newding, a Realtor, can recall every one of them, including the one about the statue of a woman holding a jug and bowl in the far corner of the yard.
“I helped a client sell her nursery in La Marque and she gave me this wonderful statue that I just love,” Newding said.
A birdbath from 1890 is another special gift from a client who relayed how it had been a wedding gift to his great-grandmother.
Every angel hanging on a wall, in a tree or just standing among the flower beds, all have a story to tell.
Rusty grates from a rake that once belonged to her father do double duty as hangers for garden tools on the back side of the garage. A collection of Guy Wolff pots are displayed on a wall facing the backyard patio.
A side yard is full of knockout roses, sweet alyssums, irises, lamb’s ear and purple salvia. A tall ash tree is nearby.
An oak tree in the front yard, planted in 1952, adds eye-catching curb appeal, along with Dusty Miller shrubs, lamb’s ear plants, violet petunias, snapdragons, yellow roses and aromatic herbs. A young oak was planted just last year in memory of Newding’s two brothers.
The wicker furniture on Newding’s front porch offers a relaxing place to sit in the late afternoons. The azaleas already have bloomed, and more trumpet vines are about to be full of yellow flowers.
Growing up around gardening, Newding has fond memories of her mother, who had a magical green thumb.
“She could put a leaf in a hanging basket and it would be a trailing vine in no time at all,” she said.
Obviously, that talent got passed onto Newding, who has been awarded “Yard of the Month” in her neighborhood numerous times.
Although her entire yard is bursting with beauty, the backyard is most therapeutic to Newding.
“I come out here in the evening with my dog, Honey, and I look at the concrete plaque in one of the flower beds inscribed with this quote: ‘One is nearer God’s heart in a garden than anywhere else on Earth.’ That’s how I feel about my yard,” she said.