Fritzy Dean of 8319 W. T.C. Jester and her husband, Russell Sullivan, moved into their Lazybrook home in 2001. Fritzy was no stranger to the area – she owned an antiques business on 19th Street for 25 years.
After moving in, Fritzy and Russell cut down a large tree in the front yard that was dying and left the stump, thinking that they would be able to landscape around it. Eventually they removed the stump and established a garden island in the yard with flowering shrubs.
Sadly, Russell, a U.S. Navy engineer, passed away in 2007. Fritzy says that Russell always hoped their yard would be recognized as a Lazybrook yard of the month.
It’s a Sign
written by Fritzy Dean
I wish I could find the picture we took of this house when we first moved in. That was in October of 2001. If I had that picture I could show you how minimal, even desolate, the yard looked back then.
Up close to the front wall was a row of boxwood shrubs. They were unkempt, looking as if they had not been trimmed in a long time. That was it for landscaping. The grass was patchy with brown spot. On the left hand side of the front yard was a really tall, really ugly tree. My husband realized the tree needed attention. It looked diseased.
The tree people were called. Money was spent. Lots of money. The tree was still ugly and still diseased. But because we had spent all that money, Russell was reluctant to give up on it. So it hung on. In fact, we used it as a landmark for people coming to visit us for the first time. After giving them directions, we told them to look for the ugliest tree in the neighborhood. I secretly thought it was the ugliest tree in Houston.
On the right hand side of the yard, in contrast to the giant ugly tree, was a dear little baby tree that Russell had transplanted from our old yard. A bird or squirrel had planted it there and he rescued it from the mower. It was a tiny seedling, maybe 4 inches high, when he moved it to this yard. CONTINUED ON PAGE 14
It’s a Sign continued….
Russell also planted knockout roses in the vacant planter in front of the dining room window. He was always the gardener. He had a lovely rose garden at our Heights house. He was planning one here, too.
But before he got around to fulfilling his plans he got sick. His plans were put on hold until he felt better. After a couple of years he decided to have the yard professionally landscaped. A nice yard was important to him—and so, to me as well.
The landscaper made proposals. We amended them. This back and forth took awhile. The ONE point on which we would not waver was the baby tree. It stayed. He would work around it, or we would find another guy. Finally, it was decided that an “island bed” around the tree would look nice and set off that side of the yard.
It took only a few hours to rip out the old boxwoods. It took an entire day to put in the new plants. And, of course, lots of money. Now all we had to do was water—and wait. Water every evening and wait for Mother Nature to take over and make the new plantings flourish.
Flourish they did. Little by little the plants filled out and filled in. Once again we had a “nice” yard. By that time, Russell had noticed that the civic association awarded a “Yard of the Month” sign to homeowners to recognize “nice” yards.
He decided by some kind of magical thinking that OUR yard would be next. He was sure of it! Every time we left the house for any reason, when we were driving back home, he would declare, “I bet the sign is there when we get home.” Even if I pointed out that the signs were planted on the first of the month and it was now, say the 17th, he was SURE. That sign would be HIS!
Month after month with without the sign did not seem to discourage him. He was always optimistic. Russell passed away in January 2007, still expecting that damned sign to the very end.
In 2008 I finally had the ugly tree taken down, and just in time, accordingly to the tree guy. It was rotten to the core. One big wind and it would be in my bedroom. The big stump was there for another year or so, but finally I was able to have it ground up for mulch.
About two years ago I gave in and hired a yardman, a good one recommended by friends. Mario is knowledgeable and efficient. If we have a disagreement about how something should be done, Mario cheerfully does it his way. After all, as he pointed out, that’s why I pay him.
Under Mario’s weekly care, the yard looks good—even during the extreme drought and heat conditions. He put in heat tolerant flowers a few months ago. Now they are blooming their happy little hearts out.
And guess what else is blooming in the front yard” Yep, it’s the sign. Look at the base of the tree. That tree, by the way, is the 4-inch seedling that Russell planted in 2001. It is at least 40 feet tall now and growing taller every year. It’s a tribute to Russell’s green thumb.
And, Russell, this is for you.