A Private Oasis

Peer inside the most beautiful private garden in Dallas.

The lake is equipped with aerators for the koi and includes two fountains that shoot 30 feet in the air. When the Simmons bought the property, the lake land was partially owned by the owners of the house behind them. When the house went up for sale, the Simmons bought the house, constructed a wall around the now 4.5-acre garden, and resold the house with its new lot dimensions.

Hidden Beauty
Harold and Annette Simmons 4.5-acre private oasis is a ravishing backdrop to their lives.

A Pride of Mobile azalea bush blooms in all its glory.

Stepping out of the house and into Harold and Annette Simmons garden is like going back in time. With each step, I could feel myself growing a little younger. I could feel my shoes getting too big for my feet. My shirt started to look like a dress. And suddenly that five o’clock shadow I can never get rid of is 10 years from needing a razor. I was surrounded by millions of petals of every color. My nose was overwhelmed with the bouquets of spring as I spied bridges waiting to transport me across the lake and down paths. I remembered what it was like to be 10 years old: nothing ahead but a summer’s worth of vacation and a new land to explore. Adulthood completely left behind, all I could think is: Am I still in Dallas?

A statue, original to the property, is surrounded by dogwood and azalea blooms.

This garden is an escape, says Jack Bubel, the couple’s property and landscape manager, who has overseen the garden’s progress for more than 20 years, along with assistants

Hundreds of azalea bushes dot the garden’s landscape alongside the many pond cypress trees. The azalea specimens are so spectacular that the Azalea Society of America and several arboretum societies have visited the garden to see the many varieties.

Steve Patterson (also a 20-year veteran) and recent addition Huey Mercadel.What
s incredible is that this, Bubel says, pointing to the garden as two black swans swim by amiably, is right in the middle of Dallas.

This is a 4.5-acre oasis carved right out of the Dallas landscape. We were both born and raised in East Texas, and we were accustomed to seeing azaleas and the like, so that’s what we tried to recreate, Annette Simmons says. The result is an ever-evolving paradise, dominated by a lake inhabited by 35 to 50 ducks (depending on the time of year), huge, ancient koi (some have been around longer than the couple can remember), and the Simmons two pairs of swans”black and white. Surrounding the water and filling out the garden are pond cypress, which are narrower than other varieties and a rarity in these parts, crape myrtles, dogwoods, wisteria, and countless azalea bushes. But that’s just for starters.

Green mound juniper and dogwoods surround the ornate gazebo where a scene from Dallas was once filmed. The dogwoods, which line one side of the lake, are a favorite feature of the Simmons. We like the placement of the dogwoods. When they bloom, they pull your eyes across the entire garden, Annette Simmons says.

Each spring, the garden gives birth to thousands of tulips by last year’s count, 17,000, to be exact. The result is an explosion of color that surrounds the bridges and paths that weave in and out of the wisteria and azalea blooms in an enchanting imitation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lothlorien.

And although it is private, the garden has hosted more than 300 groups “retirement homes, church groups, etc. It’s also witnessed some of the family’s most important days. Each of the Simmons’ three daughters were married here, and the couple’s 25th wedding anniversary party was held here last summer. The festive day was made complete with all-white flowers and white caladiums planted throughout the grounds.

Through it all, the garden continues its annual cycle. In spring, the countless plant and tree blooms burst forth in a kaleidoscope of colors. In summer, everything is lush and green as the crape myrtles, begonias, and hydrangeas put on a show. In fall, late-season blooms work in concert with the changing leaves. And in winter, the bones of the garden are exposed, taking a breath before the next growing season.

Harold Simmons walks the garden’s half-mile of trails every morning and afternoon. Here, a trail winds underneath cascading wisteria blossoms as azaleas and violets bloom. Pond cypress grow around one of several bridges that cross the water. The statue was bought at an auction, some 25 years ago.

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