Island gardener finds relaxation in the beauty she creates
Suzanne Little is passionate about gardening. She loves to decorate the front of her house on Eckert Bayou on Galveston’s West End. The back of her house overlooks a protected wetland, so Little can only be creative with the gardens that face the street, she said.
Little, a third-generation Galvestonian whose family has owned gift and souvenir shop Murdoch’s on the Seawall since 1910, begins her annual garden ritual in early March, planting more than 100 assorted flowers of all varieties. Little favors red, orange, pink, yellow and white colors and selects sun-hungry bedding plants such as begonias, impatiens, coleus and petunias. Because her home faces east, the plants thrive in the morning sun.
To ensure the beds are prepared for the new growing season, Little mixes 40 bags of garden soil with rose soil, mushroom compost and sheep manure to feed the new crop of plants. She also trims and treats the hibiscus, oleanders and caladiums, which had been dormant over the winter.
“Gardening can be very therapeutic,” she said. “It makes gardeners feel happier and more relaxed. Working in the soil has a tranquil effect on the mind and body.”
For the past eight years, Little and her husband, James, have lived in their Lafitte’s Cove home, which borders large protected wetlands. From their wrap-around porch, they drink coffee and watch the white egrets and blue herons fish and dive in the marshes and bay waters. At sunset, the Littles regroup and over cocktails enjoy the serenity of the area. A large camphor tree gives them some shade, and the deck is decorated with a few potted plants.
The focus is on their front yard. Although they have planted a lime tree and two lemon trees in the back near the marsh, there’s no yard for any additional plants. In the front, two garages are outlined in blooming white Asian jasmine, and hefty palm trees anchor each of the front garden beds. A combination of orange and yellow hibiscus behind the flowers give mid-range color to the garden and the towering oleanders top off the canvas of color.
As the summer heat intensifies, Little replaces the polychromatic garden with crotons, a tropical perennial green shrub with stunning leaves in yellow, green, pink, orange and red. Crotons love humidity and the more sunshine they get, the more the colors intensify.
“They love the heat,” Little said.
The rainbow of colors on the hibiscus in the garden can be attributed to a gardening tip Little was given years ago, she said.
“Dig four holes around the hibiscus plants,” she said. “In each hole, put one tablespoon of Epsom salt and cover up the hole. Water thoroughly.”