A trip to Japan inspires a Galveston gardener
A trip to Japan and a tour of the gardens in that country inspired Kathy Thomas to create a tranquil, low-maintenance yard at her Galveston home.
“I have finally gotten to where I am no longer creating; I am now maintaining,” said Thomas, a communications consultant. “See this big tree? No grass will grow here, so I have taken the path of least resistance.”
Thomas doesn’t see the point of fighting when she can have a xeriscape garden that requires little to no irrigation or maintenance, she said.
Thomas visited Niigata, Japan, which is Galveston’s sister city, and the gardens she saw there resonated with her, she said.
“I was looking for something I could enjoy that was not so high-maintenance,” she said. “The Japanese gardens seemed to be it for me.”
Thomas’ home is in a neighborhood adjacent to the University of Texas Medical Branch campus. The home is set back from the street with a lovely patio and fish pond and dozens of gold fish, a pergola covered in evergreen wisteria with purple blooms, and two dozen sparrows that eat the nearby berries and live in the leaves across the pergola. A happy Buddha presides over the pond, filled with floating water lettuce and lily pads. Nearby, staghorn ferns and night blooming cereus plants hang from the branches of a large tree. Two large barrels catch rain and keep the pond level constant.
“This is all about balance and a connection,” Thomas said. “The glass doors in the house connect the garden to my home. I have a balance with nature here.”
Even when it’s raining, Thomas can enjoy the outside under a covered area where she can revel in the peacefulness, she said.
“Your garden should work for you,” she said. “You shouldn’t have to work for it. It’s all about balance and time.”
Thomas has taken advantage of all parts of the yard, even creating a mini-garden along the side of the house. She has filled this area with a rapidly growing Mexican heather, which blooms frequently with deep purple flowers. Once in the yard, the true example of the Japanese garden is evident by the multiple Buddhas, water features, the layout and design of the rocks and pavers and the minimal selection of plants.
“I used to have a garden here, but it was just too much work,” she said. “I just could not take care of it, so I got rid of everything except this white, large bird of paradise. I wanted to replace everything, but wanted to have a garden where something is blooming all year.”
The pink and red camellias bloom in the winter, the white gardenias in the spring and the pink roses and vibrant bougainvillea come alive in the summer. Thomas has a small bromeliad and succulent garden, where the plants are extremely drought-tolerant, and she provides her two dogs with treats from the garden with a lemongrass plant, which they can safely eat.
Near the back door, Thomas has planted her kitchen garden of eggplants, basil, tomatoes and mint — in a pot to keep it from becoming invasive — rosemary, peppers, garlic chives, parsley and thyme.
“Its convenient here for me to remember to water and use the herbs and vegetables,” she said.
In keeping with the Japanese garden theme, she has placed a large rock at the end of the path, and a variety of lovely mosses are growing on it. A water fountain serenades her with the gentle gurgling sound of calming water and small lanterns light up the path, which resembles a river running through the garden.
“I could be out here every day, all day, but I have to work,” she said. “I come out in the morning for about 30 minutes, piddle around, have some coffee and get ready for my day. Sometimes, when I am working, I can take a break, clear my head and walk outside. It is my happy place.”