Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Demonstration Gardens at Weston Gardens In Bloom

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Fort Worth and stopped at Weston Gardens In Bloom. It is not often that I am in Fort Worth, but when I am, I usually try to find the time to stop at this nursery. 

Weston Gardens has a large selection of native plants and is the nursery where I found my Pine Muhly grass. On this visit, I bought a new Muhly grass that I was not familiar with, Bull Grass, Muhlenbergia emersleyi. This particular grass sells under the trademarked name, El Toro. More on this grass in the future. 

Pam Penick at Digging declared October Support Your Independent Nursery month a few years ago and, during the month, she posts about nurseries in the Austin area. Since I took some pictures on my visit to Weston Gardens, I thought I would participate by featuring their demonstration gardens across the street from the nursery.

Before going through the gates to the demonstration gardens, I stopped for a look at this Retama, 
Parkinsonia aculeata, growing along the fence. 

The thorny tree is not commonly grown in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I think it is interesting because it kind of looks like a blooming pine tree from a distance. I collected a seed pod on one visit, but none of the seeds sprouted. Now, on to the demonstration gardens... 

This is the entry into the former estate of Leon and Peggy Bandy which was developed during the 1930s and 1940s. When Randy and Sue Weston, the owners of Weston Gardens, purchased the 10 acre property in 1988, it was overgrown and in need of care. The Westons spent the next several years removing overgrown vegetation and replanting the gardens. My first visit to the gardens was probably in the mid 1990s, and I was in awe. I particularly liked the of the use of native plants, which was still uncommon at the time. This was also way before I even considered going lawnless. Another feature of the gardens that caught my attention was the stonework around the property. Where else will you find a rock ship docked next to a creek? The garden is still impressive, but some areas are showing signs of their age and could use a little rejuvenation.

To the left of the driveway is large lawn and a flowerbed planted with Caladiums and lined with pumpkins.

To the right are flowerbeds and an in-ground fountain gurgling with dirty water. This water in this fountain is dirty every time I visit. I assume muddy water washes in when it rains or the surrounding sandstone is decomposing and clouding the water.

Signage in the flowerbeds provides information about many of the plants growing in the gardens.

This stone pathway leads to a house on the property. I think the Westons live there. Even though this is a display garden, I avoid venturing too closely to the house out of respect for the owner's privacy. Cats, like the one sitting on this bench, are everywhere around the house.

I interrupted this cat while it was playing with a grasshopper.

Meanwhile, this big cat was guarding several pumpkins.

Even more pumpkins are around the corner awaiting selection.

To the left of the driveway is a large flagstone patio opening to an arbor that is covered with Wisteria.

Up the steps and beyond the wall is a large grassy area with mesquite trees. Wouldn't this area look nice if it was planted with prairie grasses and flowers?

Passing under the arbors and off to the left is the rose garden.

Down the center of the rose garden is a lily pond. The garden is frequently rented out for weddings and other events. Photos of some of the events are posted on their facebook page.

I am not sure what this big, strapping, grass-like creature is. I did not see a sign.

Looking back toward the arbor. A few antique rose bushes can be seen in the background. I think there are more perennials, native and adapted, in the rose garden than rose bushes.

In the background is the house where I believe the Westons live.

At the opposite end of the lily pond, under the arbor, is a statue that seems to have some form of leprosy. Each time I see her, more of her body is missing or piled next to her.

Back to the flagstone patio next to the arbor. Next we move down the stairs and toward the creek.

A large, multi-tiered koi pond begins near the arbor and travels down the slope of the property. At the top center of the photograph, behind the turk's cap, you can see water flowing over the first tier of the pond.

This is known as the Wedding Court. The main stonework dates to the 1930s and the fountain was added in 1992. It is said that Mr. Bandy paid his stone masons 50 cents a day during the Great Depression.

Looking back toward the flagstone patio at the top of the stairs.

A brick patio dominates this level of the garden. The white building in the background appears to be a garage with living quarters above.

This is the last level of the garden before approaching the creek. Notice the rock walls and steps extending into the background of the photo.

There is a fairly steep drop to the creek, so a fence keeps visitors from getting any closer or falling into the creek. More stonework lines this side of the creek, including a changing house and a stone fireplace. I could not get get good photos due to limited access and plant growth. A bridge crosses the creek and leads to the rock ship, known as Old Ironstone.

The stone ship was completed in 1942 and was used for dances and parties. I wonder how many intoxicated partygoers fell into the water over the years? In 1972, the wooden cabin of the ship was destroyed by fire and was not restored until recently. Access to the ship is now limited to special events. There is a little kid in me that really wants to cross that bridge and take a look around.

This is a side view of the ship from the mid 1940s.

The photo above and the next three were taken on a previous visit on 11-11-06. I thought I would include them to show some of the fall colors along the creek.

Weston Gardens and their historic demonstration gardens are interesting places to visit. If you are interested in the historical aspect of the demonstration gardens, there are several newspaper and magazine articles on their website in the "In the News" section. Here is a link to a Power Point document with some old photos and information about special events at the gardens. 


  1. My first visit to Weston Gardens jump-started a firm commitment to native and xeriscape plantings in the English garden style. Thanks for reminding me how great it is, think I'll head over this weekend.

    1. Carolina, this was the first time that I had seen native plants used in large numbers and the nursery had many hard to find natives. One negative about the nursery now is that some of the plants have been in stock for quite a while and it shows. The grass I bought looked to be a new arrival, however.

  2. Wow, I'll have to check them out next time I am back in Ft. Worth. I'm from FW but had never heard of them before. Very cool and interesting place.

    1. You should go there some time, Misti. It is a fun place to visit and there is always the possibility that you can bring home an unusual plant, or several, from the nursery.

  3. I haven't been there in a long time. We used to live the Arlington area, so the trip over to Weston was not so far.
    There were few places back then, that carried native or xeric plants. Weston's was the first place I saw Salvia greggii. I liked it's looks, bought some and years later, brought some of those same plants to Central Texas, when we moved here.
    I think it's great that they brought this old estate back to life. And, we all get to enjoy it.
    Thanks for the tour.

    1. It is hard to believe that Salvia greggii was a very uncommon plant not too long ago. Weston's was one of the pioneer nurseries for native plants in DFW. They had a great idea to create demonstration gardens so people could these uncommon plants used in a landscape setting. They often referred to it as "English gardens - Texas style".

  4. Beautiful setting for a demonstration garden. I enjoyed seeing all the rock work and especially the rose garden with lots of perennials the way we often see them in Central Texas. That ship does look like fun.

    When I attended the White Rock East garden tour I noted that many folks had still not heard of salvia greggii so it's still a slow process in DFW. Bull or Toro Muhly was often available at The Antique Rose Emporium and I was disappointed that they were out when I went to the closing day or I would have purchased it then.

  5. Shirley, you may want to take a detour through FW the next time you come to Dallas. They may still have some bull muhly and the gardens are a unique experience.

    Salvia greggii is everywhere these days. It is sold at all of the garden centers and home improvement stores and it is frequently used in parking lot plantings. I guess other people don't notice these things like we do or the ladies on the garden tours just allow their gardeners to handle such things.


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