A Texas gar­dener uses land­scape-paint­ing tech­niques to make her small back­yard live large.


De­spite the heat of San An­to­nio sum­mers, a nona­ge­nar­ian ap­plies a trained painter’s eye to cre­ate depth and beauty in a small yard.

De­tails to en­ter on page 5

“There are all kinds of tricks you can do to make a gar­den look larger,” says Coun­try Gar­dens¨ award win­ner Eva Tem­ple­ton. “My back­yard isn’t that big. It’s what I did to it that makes it look big.” Eva, a re­tired art teacher, started putting her clas­si­cal train­ing and artist’s eye to work on her blank-slate back­yard 40 years ago. Us­ing vis­ual tricks and am­ple el­bow grease, she coaxed her sub­ur­ban rec­tan­gle of lawn into a lush haven for birds and con­jured the il­lu­sion of a more ex­pan­sive land­scape.

As a young art stu­dent in Ger­many, Eva stud­ied the Old Masters. From their at­mo­spheric land­scapes she learned to use per­spec­tive, color, and bal­ance. Af­ter im­mi­grat­ing to the United States and mov­ing into a new home in San An­to­nio in 1978, she trans­lated these tech­niques from the can­vas to her land­scape. Play­ing with per­spec­tive gives her shal­low gar­den a greater sense of depth. “In a land­scape paint­ing, a dark shape in the fore­ground makes the brighter land­scape in the dis­tance seem end­less,” she says. “That works in your gar­den too. Put a dark shrub or a big dark pot in the fore­ground to make the other side of your gar­den look far­ther away.”

Eva is gen­er­ous with color in her gar­den beds, adding dashes of red,

pink, and pur­ple flow­ers, but she wields her paint­brush with re­straint when choos­ing ac­ces­sories, opt­ing for dark pots and gray-green paint for her cus­tom gar­den shed. “It’s not fair to the flow­ers to com­pete with brightly col­ored pots,” she says. “It’s the flow­ers I want to see.” Sym­met­ri­cal el­e­ments, such as a fo­cal-point trio of shapely tu­teurs and a large bird­cage flanked by match­ing box­woods, help her achieve a pleas­ing bal­ance. “Ev­ery­thing has to be or­derly,” Eva says with a smile. “I think that’s the German in me.”

Still a vig­or­ous gar­dener at 96, Eva has found ways to make phys­i­cal tasks easier. “To move pots around, I use a dolly, not a wagon. And move pots be­fore you wa­ter them,” she says. The right tool also helps. Eva has more than 30 box­woods, which re­quire trim­ming twice a year. When her elec­tric trim­mer be­came too heavy for her, she switched to man­ual box­wood shears and kept on clip­ping. “To me, gar­den­ing is the best ex­er­cise you can do,” she says. “With­out my gar­den, I don’t think I’d be here. It’s my par­adise.”

TOP Eva Tem­ple­ton trims box­woods with English box­wood shears, which she finds easier to han­dle than her old elec­tric hedge trim­mers. ABOVE A sin­u­ous bed along the fence is deep enough for clus­ters of Eva’s box­woods as well as a col­or­ful as­sort­ment of an­nu­als and peren­ni­als, in­clud­ing red wax be­go­nias, Knock Out roses, lily of the Nile (Aga­pan­thus africanus), and a bor­der of dwarf Mex­i­can petu­nia (Ruel­lia brit­to­ni­ana).

ABOVE One of 16 bird feed­ers in Eva’s gar­den, this el­e­gant gazebo-shape feeder an­chors a shady corner with sym­met­ri­cally ar­rayed box­woods and me­tal tu­teurs. A flag­stone path gives ac­cess for feeder re­fill­ing. “I love birds, and that’s why I never use pes­ti­cides,” Eva says. “The birds feed bugs to their ba­bies.” BE­LOW Eva’s sum­mer gar­den stal­warts, left to right: ‘Katie’ Mex­i­can petu­nia (Ruel­lia brit­to­ni­ana ‘Katie’), Phlox pan­ic­u­lata ‘Bright Eyes’, sun­flower (Helianthus an­nuus), and moss rose (Por­tu­laca gran­di­flora ‘Mo­jave Pink’).

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