In Lorena, Texas, Elizabeth Simcik
DeMaria’s dreamy garden charms abundant wildlife and imaginative souls.
Her desserts are just as popular when she joins husband Jeff and son Blake at the family’s
Waco restaurant, Tony DeMaria’s Barbecue. When she and Jeff married,
they also fell in love with five acres of pasture land. -We moved out here July of 1986,
and I had wanted it since I was a little girl. My mother’s best
friend lived on a farm out in the country and then my best friend lived on
a farm in the country, and I just fell in love with being out in the country,
and my husband felt the same way because he had relatives that owned a farm in
Louisiana and he used to bottle-feed the cows and he loved it as well,
so that was my goal from the time we got married was to build a place
out in the country, and I wanted a Victorian-style because that’s what I’ve
always loved and still do. There was just nothing just open pasture and little
bitty teeny tiny cedar trees and now it has grown into this beautiful –
what I call my little patch of heaven. -The heavy clay soil wasn’t as heavenly as it is now.
– You can make pottery. You can throw it on a wheel and just
make you a beautiful piece of pottery. Every year she topdresses with thirteen yards
of turkey manure compost along with mulch. – It will totally change the
composition of your soil. In the fronts of the beds I used pine straw
because I love the way it looks, and then in the backs of the beds I used leaves
because it’s free – because they’re free, and pine straw is not free.
That’s my secret to having beautiful healthy plants, and I try to do everything
organically as much as possible. -Against the open fields, she carved out an island
near the house where she patterned seasonal color schemes against evergreen structure.
They built a natural stone retaining wall that elevates the view
and improves drainage. – We have it rigged up with what’s called a jet system.
Instead of a septic system, we have what’s called a jet system because we
don’t have sewer out here, and what it does is it takes everything from one
holding tank, all the water from the house, and puts it through a purification,
and then the sprinklers come on and water that retaining wall. Then, of course, drip irrigation for all of my
pots which makes a huge difference as far as saving water as well. And then the
leaves and pine straw make a huge difference. If you’ll pile them up thick,
which is what I do, it amends the soil, it suppresses the weeds,
and it helps so much with watering. – In late spring, cool weather annuals join warm weather plants that she started in her greenhouse. – I always like to have annuals
in the areas that I see from the house: out my kitchen window or from my back
porch when I’m drinking my coffee in the mornings because I want color all season.
I really love color. That’s my thing. So I’ll replace all those with moss rose,
the portulaca as they call it. I use a banana and rosita and fuchsia because I
like brilliant color, and then I’ll do behind that periwinkles in violet and white
because that makes the colors pop as well, and then I also like to use angelonia.
I use quite a bit of angelonia for summer color. And then coleus.
In the fall I can’t wait because violets and pansies are like my favorite. I love them
so much. I’ll do dianthus, pansies, violas, and I’ll do ornamental kale and snapdragons.
Down the hill, Elizabeth framed walk-around beds against the fields.
To create energy through diverse height and texture, she layers annuals,
fragrant roses, and native perennials and grasses. Her companion plants for cool
and warm seasons guarantee nectar and pollen all year round for
resident and migrating wildlife. There’s always protective cover for
ground dwelling wildlife like lizards. Although her next project is to seed
more native wildflowers in the prairie, it naturally grows its own waves of
color and even a few native milkweeds. – And I feel like our pasture is my framework.
I can do more of my color because I have the foundation out around us.
– In front, she enlisted a designer to build a curving stone wall planter.
– The land just came straight down and then straight out, and so it was just nothing
but a hill of grass, and I just had a vision for wanting to have a beautiful
garden there, and I knew that that raised wall would be the only way to accomplish that.
– Again, partly it was to provide hospitable quarters for clusters of color.
It also slows down rain water flow on the incline from the street.
– The front yard does tend to hold water more so than we would like, but we have it
trenched so that it goes around the house as much as possible,
and so that does help quite a bit. – Perennial salvias like Genry Duelberg
join self-seeding annual larkspurs. Naturalizing byzantine gladiolas add
magenta hues to the mix. Evergreen irises, some hybridized by brother Steven Simcik, sport rich colors against structural leaves. Bird-of-paradise and red yucca have their bid
for hummingbird and bee attraction. – It smells wonderful. The hummingbirds and
everybody loves that tree, loves those trees. So when I found out one did well, I planted three more.
and that’s really my gardening way. You kill plenty of things to figure out what
doesn’t work, and then you figure out what does, and that’s what
you plant more of. – She trellised a royal purple clematis near the entry
to give it standout attention. Throughout, Elizabeth boosts her
personal touch with pop-out attractions. – I buy things I love. I bring them home,
and I live with them for a while, and then I decide
where they belong. And I’ll move them sometimes three or four or five times til I find their perfect little home. – Her brother Steven led her
down the fairy garden path. – I’ve had a fascination with fairies
and gnomes before they were cool. Back when I was a teenager, I had books
and I had fairies and gnomes then. I just love them. I think they’re sweet.
I love anything whimsical. I’m very much about whimsical and sweet.
I just think it makes it more fun. I like it to feel magical in the garden. – Her handcrafted birdhouses were
gifts from her brother, David Simcik, a Dallas-based assemblage
artist of found objects. – For Christmas he just built me this beautiful
birdhouse with the little statues and things on it. – Steven gifts her with some of his
garden-inspired watercolors. Elizabeth’s garden reflects both Simsik and DeMaria family traditions of hard work, creativity, foresight, and eagerness to forge ahead.
– You know, when you first start you don’t know what you’re doing.
You’re just beginning, and I planted my first little flower bed and then
I started seeing butterflies. Then I started seeing bees and lizards and dragonflies, and then I was totally completely hooked. And so that’s when I just started saying,
“Well we need a bed here. We need a bed there. Of course,
the problem is then you’ve got to take care of all those beds, but I’ve learned
that the taller things in the back, of course, is prettier and then get shorter
as you come forward. It’s a passion. If you don’t have a passion for it,
you can’t do this. You can’t. I mean if you’re somebody who just wants to dig a hole
and stick something in it and forget about it, you’ll never have beautiful gardens.
You might be able to have a few pretty flowers here and there, and if you’re
lucky they’ll survive, but if you don’t love them and nurture them –
it’s a commitment. You’re nurturing life. You have to be committed to it.
You have to be passionate about it. And as I said, when I started seeing the
little lizards and the tree frogs and the butterflies and the dragonflies,
then I was just completely hooked. And then you feel like you have to do it for them.
You have to continue to nurture that life as well. So I guess nurturing is a whole lot of it.
It’s that feeling of wanting to nurture life.