In the past 10 years, Barbara Lopez has transformed her home into an amazing collection of unique flowerbeds and garden areas that she opens to the public each May.
By Brad Meyer  05.04.09 Conroe Courier

For years, Barbara Lopez dreamed of transforming her yard into a lush botanical garden of flowering plants and hearty greenery accented with unique artifacts and artistic touches. Weekends in May, the public is invited to see what she has accomplished. The tenth annual Hope Farms Gardens Open Yard and Plant Sale by Texas Master Gardener Barbara Lopez takes place at her residence from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through the end of May.

“It started out as a casual event to show my yard off to friends who like gardening,” Lopez said. “But over the years it has taken on a life of its own and has become a public event with a big following.”

That’s because Lopez has devoted her retirement to transforming nearly four acres of her ranch in Conroe into a horticultural haven that is marvel to all who see it. The property is awash in colorful blooms, lush flowerbeds and islands of greenery with unique, whimsical artifacts that accent the meticulous landscaping.

Because so many visitors were asking for cuttings from her lush gardens, Lopez began offering smaller versions of the mature plants that populate her landscaping. The plant sale became a mutually beneficial way to defray the cost of her ambitious pastime.

“My focus is on plants that thrive in local conditions,” she said. “A lot of nurseries import plants that look good for a short time, but don’t do well with Texas heat and humidity.”
 

Lopez is committed to long term viability in her gardens. While not all of her plants are native to Texas, she is committed to varieties that can thrive in Montgomery County.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’ve experimented with a lot of different plants,” she said. “I have a good understanding of what works for people and what doesn’t.”

The Peggy Martin Rose is a good example. While many novice gardeners are leery of dealing with roses, Lopez says this variety is extremely hearty and easy to grow. At the center of one flowerbed is a large archway covered with Peggy Martin Rose blooms – with smaller containers of the plant for sale.

“Some plants are easier to grow and need less care,” she said. “What you choose for your beds is sometimes as important as the care you give them.”

Variety is a big part of Lopez’s approach to gardening. She has a wide range of plants including euphorbias, citrus, fruit, vegetable, nut and other varieties that offer both colorful accents as well as a nutritional bonus.
 

“Mixing vegetables with flowering plants in garden is unique way to add interest and variety,” Lopez explained as she pruned a large artichoke plant in the center of one of her colorful beds. “One of the joys of gardening is having variety.”

And because virtually every plant Lopez offers for sale is growing in her yard, novice gardeners can be confident the plant has a chance of surviving in their yard as well. To assist visitors to the annual Open Yard event, she has experienced volunteers on hand to offer advice and expertise on gardening questions.

“A little knowledge and common sense goes a long way in gardening,” she said. “You can start small and expand as much as you want.”

In addition to her expertise as a Texas Master Gardener, Lopez has many contacts throughout the state. If she and her expert volunteers aren’t able to answer a question, it’s likely she can find someone who can.

Lopez recommends novice gardeners invest in perennials – flowering plants that return year after year – instead of annuals that die at the end of the growing season.

“In this economy, you want to get the best value for your money,” she said. “Perennials also offer the advantage of continuity so you’re not starting over from scratch each spring.”

Accenting the lush landscaping and colorful flower beds throughout the property are a variety of eye-catching artistic touches. Human figures made of flower pots, a china tea service and colorful statuary are all part of creativity.

“I enjoy a little yard art here and there,” she laughed. “It can be a nice change of pace in the garden.”


 

While Lopez does not sell yard art or commercial accents for landscaping, she does offer potted versions of most plants found in her numerous flowerbeds. And because prospective buyers can see what the mature plant will look like, she says buyer get the added benefit of knowing what they are dealing with.

“It’s a little hard to plan your ultimate garden or flowerbed when you don’t know what things are going to look like a few months down the road,” she said. “Plus it’s fun to see different ways to combine various plants.”

The tenth annual Hope Farms Gardens Open Yard & Plant Sale, located at 18750 FM1484, takes place 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends through the end of May and Wednesdays for groups by appointment. For information on the public event, call (936) 264-1499 or visit www.hopefarmsgardens.com.

A number of "pot people" decorate several of Lopez's flowerbeds and garden areas throughout the property.



Artichokes are among the unique plants available at Lopez's Hope Farms Gardens

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