Articles, Blog

Tom Peace garden: Central Texas Gardener

November 7, 2019

>>Tom and Diane peace are at home in Lockhart
when spring hits Central Texas. A nurseryman and designer, Tom also writes
about the challenges of layering a perennial garden in tough conditions.
It’s a topic especially close to home, since when the spring garden gives way to their
summer perennials, they head to Colorado until fall, where Tom continues his design work
and plant propagation. He brings some of them back to Lockhart, to
continue growing the plants he’s found on worldly expeditions, ones that can stand up
to Central Texas, even when you’re not around to tend them everyday.
His own garden is a test ground for some of the plants he sells to nurseries, and a testament
to layering for seasonal evolution. But in 1991 when he and Diane first settled
in, it was new ground to furnish.>>the backyard was not a garden yet.
It was a clothes line poles and shed and a row of oleanders and lawn and the big trees
that we have.>>over time Tom turned the standard backyard
into more than a privacy break between houses.>>the two forms of structure are the perimeter,
either done by plantings or fencing and then core structure of plants, the bones of the
garden, whether they’re palms or shrubs or AGAVES, yuccas, and those high profile flower
plants, you know the ones that you can do everything else around the garden, but they
hold their own, they’re center stage all year round.
>>against them he plays off the seasons, especially spring, with annuals and perennials
that favor the heavy black clay soil and tempered shade.
>>when I first came to live in Texas, I was here only seasonally and still am, so I was
here for the winter season, so what I noticed were those plants, the cool season bulbs,
the EPHEMERALS, the bluebonnets, the wildflowers, and how they filled that seasonal niche.
>>as a plant globetrotter, Tom is always testing the limits of what can grow in a Lockhart
backyard. As a gardener, he imagines how each space
will look in the seasons to come.>>and then I would layer under those plants
that would come up in the hot season so the garden wouldn’t just be a waste land, but
it would have something that would continue to progress and grow into it.
But it’s mostly based on this is when I’m here, this is when I’m outside enjoying the
garden, being in the garden, and it remains my greatest pursuit to encourage people in
Central Texas certainly to garden in the wintertime. I know there’s a huge excitement and thrust
to the garden now that spring’s here, but if you are out in October and November, you
can plant a world of things to enjoy all winter long and into the spring, and many times with
really wonderful weather, not so many mosquitos, fire ants are at bay.
It’s a different experience to be out in the garden.
>>this is my style, not that I invented it, but that I’ve adopted, and it is partly inspired
by what I see in the wild. If I’m hiking the mountains or in the woods
or travelling to other countries and looking at wild floral displays, even you know sometimes
what you’ll see in the Hill Country or in Central Texas,
In spring in good years, you’ll see both large palette expanse of color, and sometimes
you’ll see little exciting vignettes where you have a rainlily Up with a bluebonnet and an Indian paint brush,
and you see a combination of textures and colors that works.
And that’s inspirational and you’ll take that home and you recreate it sometimes with the
same plants, sometimes with others, but if I was to give the style of this garden a name,
I would call it controlled chaos. There’s a certain amount of both elements
and they’re not in opposition, but they kind of are both in play at any one time.
>>paramount to his style is endeavoring a habitat for wildlife.
Along with water and natural food sources, he plants tiered density for nesting and protection.
He values leaf cover, a natural soil amendment for heavy soil, but also to shelter insect
and lizards that take care of the garden when he’s away.
In his commercial greenhouse in Lockhart, Tom forges his travels, experiments and homegrown
experience to introduce gardeners at local nurseries to his discoveries.
Although some of his finds Are ephemeral, to be replanted next year,
others carry on through freeze and drought, ready and waiting when they return from Colorado.
>>I will coddle things to a point to give them the best chance, but then, you know,
I’m gone for half a year and they’re on their own.,
you know, survive with a You though, survive with a little bit of help
from our friends and they have to be tough enough.
There are aspects that are out of my control, there are times that I can control a little
bit and that I influence and try to finesse, but a lot of times it’s in the hands of other
forces, certainly.


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