Flowering plants become obsession for islander
When Laura Makris was given two stalks of plumeria 18 years ago, little did she know the plants would become an obsession.
Makris, who has worked as a dental hygienist for Dr. David Colombo since 1996, moved from Friendswood to Galveston in 1999 to be near her job. Plus, she and husband, Alex Makris, fell in love with a cozy bungalow on the island.
The couple got busy building flower beds and planting things all around the property.
Laura Makris also transplanted some plants from her home in Friendswood and took them to Galveston.
“I grew up in Orange, Texas, with parents who had amazing green thumbs,” she said. “So, after my mom and dad passed away, and before we sold their house, I dug up a lot of things that were special to them.”
The sweet olive tree, pony tail palm, shrimp plant, althea bushes, dracaenas, red bird plants and an orange tree have been on quite a journey since then — from Orange to Friendswood to Galveston.
And then, the plumeria mania began.
“Dr. Colombo gave me two stalks of plumerias several months after we moved in,” Makris said. “Since he had several in his own yard, he said ‘just plant them and leave them alone,’ so I did and that’s how it all began.”
Today, Makris, has about two dozen of them growing in both her front and backyards — all offshoots of the two free stalks.
Although the plants with fragrant blooms of white and pink are tropical favorites for many growers, they do require some seasonal maintenance.
“We watch the weather closely when winter sets in,” Makris said. “About mid-December, we make the decision of whether to leave them in the ground or winterize them.”
Winterizing means snipping them at the base, wrapping them in drop cloth, then plastic, rolling them up and stashing them in the garage for a few months.
“That’s our method, although some prefer to dig them up and put them in pots, then store them, but we’ve had good luck so far,” she said. “Then, about late February, we bring them out of the garage, dig a new hole and replant them. New growth will also come up sometimes from the roots that were left.”
Because the most recent winter was mild, Makris chose to leave the plants in the garden and not store them. Even with a freeze in January, the plumerias did fine. The plants also remarkably survived that snowy Christmas Eve in 2004.
“More often than not, we do put them away for the winter,” she said. “It just all depends on the weather and how well we can predict it. Of course, sometime, there are surprises.”
Other backyard plants include lantana, hibiscus, daisies, periwinkles, petunias, butterfly bush, zinnias and night blooming jasmine.
The front yard shares space with more plumerias, including knockout roses, and an interesting orange tree — the one that came from her parents’ yard.
“It was in a small pot initially and is now about 15 feet tall,” Makris said. “The fruit is not edible and is terribly bitter, but the tree has a nice round shape with lovely leaves. We’ve been told that it is a medicinal orange tree — the kind where the juice is boiled for medicinal purposes.”
Alex Makris, who has developed his own green thumb of late, keeps it trimmed.
With a busy work schedule and raising a teenage daughter, Laura Makris finds her plumeria habit and gardening, in general, therapeutic, she said. Especially the plants that came from her childhood home in Orange.
“When I see them, it reminds me of my parents and brings a little bit of them into the yard since they aren’t here to enjoy it,” she said. “I also like to watch the birds and our dog, Coco, scamper about the gardens.”
Makris has cultivated a soulful outdoor atmosphere in which her beloved heritage plants intermingle with all those plumerias that began as two stalks.
“They are very beautiful plants with delicate flowers, yet they are strong and hardy,” said Makris, who generously snips cuttings, puts them in pots and gives them away as gifts or to nonprofits for fundraisers.
On those occasions when she stores them for the winter, she doesn’t fret.
“You can see them budding out with leaves while in the garage,” she said. “I don’t worry about them — they’ll be fine.”