Partners Tom Lloyd-Boyd and Patrick Boyd-Lloyd, below, are putting Dallas on the map for impressive gardens like this green masterpiece at the Oak Cliff home of Ken Row and Sergio Remirez.

Three gay gardens make elite 5 highlighted in this year’s Garden Conservancy Tour

By Jef Tingley

Some people travel the U.S. looking for historic landmarks or quirky tourist traps like “the world’s biggest ball of twine,” but for Patrick Boyd-Lloyd, along with husband Tom Lloyd-Boyd, it’s the pursuit of the perfect petunia that fuels their vacations. To be more specific: the perfect garden. And as a result of their love of landscape, Dallas is now on the national garden circuit radar.

“We’ve been to [garden] tours in Upstate New York (seeing a couple of gardens owned by people who worked for Martha Stewart Living was a huge highlight), California, and, of course several, in Texas,” says Boyd-Lloyd. “This year, we’re going to Portland, Oregon and Brentwood/Santa Monica, California for a [tour] that features the garden of Julie Newmar of Catwoman fame.”

Mike Munsterman’s oasis, above, also includes a custom-built chicken coop. Row and Ramirez also included architectural details such as this fountain.

Through this green-thumb obsession, the Garden Conservancy was made aware to add Dallas to its list of Open Days Program. As Boyd-Lloyd tells it, “after returning from a Sonoma, California tour [in 2008], I contacted the Garden Conservancy to ask why Dallas wasn’t represented and walked right into being chairperson — open mouth and insert garden boot.”

This year marks his third time chairing the event.

In his role, Boyd-Lloyd helps to select the gardens that will be featured on the tour which, according to the organization’s website has, “unlocked the gates to hundreds of America’s very best private gardens.” It also raises awareness and finances to protect and maintain some of America’s best-loved historic properties. Boyd-Lloyd credits his passion for gardening and his 15-year history in the landscape design industry in helping him to find some of North Texas’ best-hidden treasures for Open Days.

“I look for gardens that are not ego-statements, but ones that the homeowners are actually a part of [and who] really get their own hands digging in the dirt. The point of the tour, to me, is to show the average homeowner that there are really interesting ideas and plants out there,” he says. “With our dramatic climate changes and alkaline, rocky and gumbo soils, this part of Texas is not an easy place to garden, but with a bit of knowledge and patience one can have a really special garden for their home.”

The May 21 Open Days Tour is a self-led experience through five gardens throughout DFW. This year, three of the gardens belong to members of the LGBT community.

The leadoff garden is located in Kessler Park and owned by Ken Row and Sergio Ramirez. It features terraced areas with views of the surrounding hills and trees, stone staircases, ponds and outdoor living spaces. According to Boyd-Lloyd, it’s especially known for its glorious display of hydrangeas and roses. Also in Oak Cliff does horticulturist Mike Munsterman own an impressive garden. In addition to the stunning flora, the “must-see” of this stop is a custom chicken coup built by Munsterman and his partner.

The Blue Lotus Gardens in East Dallas, owned by a husband and wife team in the landscape business, is a balance of arid plants like yuccas and agaves in one space countered by a water garden filled with Lotus flowers in another. The grounds also include honeybee hives and a turtle sanctuary.

Near Knox-Henderson, Alan Rister and partner Greg Armstrong have created an English-inspired garden mixed with Texas-native and adapted plants that play a large role in the landscape. The owners do all the planting and organic maintenance themselves.

The final stop on the tour is in Preston Hollow at the garden of Sharolyn and Stan Herndon. Here, the couple has transformed an unused backyard pool into a koi pond with multiple rills and streams.

But whether attending Open Days or just browsing at your favorite nursery, Boyd-Lloyd says it’s easy for anyone to get involved in gardening in North Texas. “Join a local garden club, hire a professional for a consultation, read books…[or] just start digging!”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 15, 2011.