Tuesday, June 18, 2024 Jun 18, 2024
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Explore A European-Style Garden In Park Cities

Explore a European garden in the heart of Dallas.

COTTAGE GARDEN: Carl Neels Park Cities home is surrounded by a riot of color and texture. 

Secret Garden
Carl Neels fills his European-style garden with delightful surprises.

Take an early morning tour through Carl Neels garden and you’ll feel as if you traveled to Europe for breakfast. Though his garden is not large, it can take an entire morning to explore, and even then you haven’t seen all of it. Somewhere along the way, an unfamiliar plant will catch your eye, tucked demurely under or behind a showier specimen, drawing you in for a closer look—exactly as Carl planned it. He designed his garden to surprise and engage his garden guests, rewarding those who take the time with unusual, exotic, sometimes even whimsical treasures. “I believe that gardens should have some mystery,” he says. “One shouldn’t be able to see everything from the street.”

Water lily

Carl is a gracious host who must have given hundreds of tours through his well-known and well-loved garden, but you would never know it. He is patient and courtly with guests, answering questions and recounting stories of gardens, flower shows, and gardeners he has known. His gentle, unassuming manner gives no hint that this is a man who has exchanged Christmas gifts with Prince Charles and traveled extensively with close friend Rosemary Verey, the legendary English garden writer and designer. His experiences living in Germany and traveling the world as a diplomatic courier in his youth solidified his European aesthetic as well as his understanding of the construction of a European garden. The result is a garden that is very much like a Fabergé egg—small and absolutely exquisite in every detail.

Adding Mystery to the Garden

Plant fragrant plants by a seating area to charm guests and encourage them to stay a while.

Deep beds (5-7 feet) allow for variety. Plants of differing heights, species, and blooming times create a rhythm for the eye to follow.

Place resting spots around corners and behind trees or large plants to give a sense of privacy. Carl has two water features and three seating areas in his backyard alone, but none can be seen from the others.

Orient your garden seats to present the most appealing views.

Water features need not be large. Even small ones provide a soothing sound and the opportunity for a variety of plants. Carl has one that is only about 30 inches around.

Create winding pathways through the garden to give the illusion that it goes on and on.

Occasional garden ornamentation creates focal points, adding interest and beauty that doesn’t have to be watered.

Artfully placed natural elements, such as moss boulders, can also be a charming garden component.

Break the rules. Though the design standard of tallest in back, shortest in front is a good rule of thumb, a smaller plant tucked behind and to the side of a larger one adds an element of surprise.

DOWN THE GARDEN PATH: Carl scatters seating arrangements, statuary, and water features throughout his garden to create interest and draw visitors along.

EMERALD ISLE: A moss-covered boulder adds a patina of age to Carl’s collection of annuals and perennials.

Create A Red Border

Blue Glory Bower

Carl created a magnificent border that is a study in red—red flowers, red foliage, red berries. Some examples of plants appropriate to a red border follow. Many of the plants listed come in other colors as well; be sure to check the variety.

Red Flowers

Perennials and flowering shrubs:
Antique roses: Kirsten Poulsen and Louis Philippe
Ground cover roses: Flower Carpet Red and Red Ribbons
Hybrid tea roses: Bob Hope and Chrysler Imperial
Salvia: Autumn and Pineapple sage
Azalea: Midnight Flare
Camellia: Yuletide


Red Spider Lily

Red Foliage
Nana Nandina
Japanese maple: Bloodgood and Crimson Queen
Dragon’s Blood sedum

Red Berries
Cotoneaster (upright and prostrate)
Possumhaw holly trees
Nandina domestica
Holly bushes