Foliage, fountains and design give this Seabrook yard a fairy tale feel
The allure of Tom Allen’s front yard in Seabrook often inspires those driving by to turn around for a second look, many stopping just to take in the view of the nine tall oaks with thick jasmine climbing up their trunks. Beyond that, a multitude of other trees, plants and a long row of ligustrums border the front of his English Tudor-style home, estimated to be almost 100 years old.
Brick pavers curve along each side of the property into the spacious backyard, where a virtual arboretum is thriving on his 3⁄4-acre enchanted forest.
Allen, who has lived there for 45 years, recalls how much things have changed.
“There was a lake across the street that I could see from my kitchen window, and nothing much else was around,” he said. “Now, there are new houses blocking my view.”
Still, Allen’s property remains a real hideaway and the shingle-style architecture of his home, the surrounding foliage, fountains, birdbaths, ponds and arbors, are reminiscent of a fairy tale.
“Some of the trees were already here, like the nine big oaks out front,” he said. “I planted new ones, added various beds and had English ivy everywhere. But after losing two big trees, most of the ivy succumbed to too much sun.”
A concrete fountain surrounded by a statue of children, wooden barrel, butter churn, watering can and pottery greet visitors who arrive at the front door, to the left of the house. The side entrance, to the right of the house, takes you through an arbor, built by Allen, where statuary and a two-tiered fountain add to the peaceful ambience.
Things to observe along the pathways include a goldfish pond covered with a teepee pergola built by Allen and encircled by ferns; hanging baskets; birdhouses, also built by Allen; and various beds lush with Elephant ear, umbrella palm plants and ground cover galore.
“Aside from the golden rain trees that have invaded my yard, most of my trees are camphor and oaks, mixed with yaupon, cedars and a massive sweet gum tree that’s the base for the backyard tree house,” he said. “One of its giant limbs crashed down onto the yard a while back and took away most of the shade.”
The gentle sounds of water fountains can be heard in several places while strolling throughout the property, and it’s evident the yard is lovingly tended.
“Mostly everything I’ve planted does well here due to climate, plus I’ve got good soil,” he said. “My yard is therapeutic and I totally enjoy it — even the work part. It exercises mind and body.”
As the pathway to the backyard ends, two tall, wooden pillars with imposing lion statues beckon visitors to enter where much of Allen’s handiwork is evident. Especially the outdoor kitchen he calls the “cookhouse.”
“I have a lot of treasures inside, including a 1920s AB Battle Creek gas stove — in working order — antique cookware, utensils, scales, old bottles and a vintage Clydesdale-drawn Budweiser lighted sign,” he said.
A 9-foot-tall fence stretches the length of the backyard, adorned with rustic signs, ship’s wheel, lanterns, oars, washboard and collectible relics. Chairs around a fire pit provide comfort and privacy thanks to Allen’s undisturbed view.
A 12-foot-wide stock tank is nearby, which has turned out to be a favorite swimming place for his grandchildren, he said.
Allen, a retired football coach, is well known in Pasadena Independent School District, where he taught and coached for 32 years. He even has a football field named after him at Parkview Intermediate School.
These days, fishing, boating and hanging out with friends and family takes top priority, he said. His three daughters and their offspring visit often, sharing memories of growing up in what they call, “a magical place.”
“I have a lot of coach friends, so the cookhouse has become a gathering spot of choice,” he said. “I thought they might want to meet somewhere different once in a while. ‘No, no. We like it here,’ they said, so we’ll keep the tradition going.”