Photos by Jeremy Enlow Garden Guardians In July, Steven Chamblee jubilantly posted on his Facebook page: “Two Foo Dogs original to Chandor Gardens came home today. Repatriation is a beautiful thing!” The horticulturist at Weatherford’s remarkable public garden uploaded a photo of a fiercely carved granite rendition of what might be the world’s earliest garden monument: the Chinese foo dog. The “dogs” — actually lions — were first installed in gardens centuries ago, set as sentries at temples and palace gates, mouths open in a traditional snarl. Chandoor’s foo dogs were pet objects of Douglas Chandor, an Englishman with a soft spot for chinoiserie. The famed portrait artist met Ina Kuteman Hill, of Weatherford, at a dinner party in New York City in 1932. Marriage followed two years later, and soon after they began building a home and gardens on a caliche hillside on Ina’s hometown property. Originally called White Shadows, the 3½ acres were slowly transformed into a series of “garden rooms” filled with hundreds of trees, mounds of flowers and tangles of wisteria, not to mention ponds, fountains, stone walls and terraces featuring English and Chinese motifs. The 19th-century, 140-pound foo dogs are believed to have been purchased by Douglas in New York City’s Chinatown in the ’40s. Exactly when they took up their watchful spots in the garden is unknown, but an undated archival photo shows the pair — a male and a female — perched on small pedestals on either side of a footpath, steps from the home’s porch and a koi pond. The house, built by the couple as their winter accommodations, was finessed and enlarged over the years, becoming as lovely as the gardens themselves. When Douglas died in 1953 (after a stroke brought on by a night of square dancing), Ina memorialized him by changing the property’s name. Chandor’s grounds remained opened to the public until just before her death in 1978. When relatives were unable to sell the property, treasures from the house and gardens were sold. Eventually abandoned, the home and gardens were left to ruin until Melody and Chuck Bradford purchased them in 1994. A restoration of the structures and landscape became a long labor of love. Reopened to the public in 2002, when the city of Weatherford purchased it, the gardens are magical and bountiful again. And the foo dogs? Jeff Barnett, a Weatherford native with a deep affection for local history, bought the antiques at an auction held at Chandor in the mid-’80s. This summer he decided the time was right for the guardians to return home. He gifted them to Chandor in memory of his parents, Worth Wilford Barnett and Lou Ola McEntire Barnett. And so, once more the sentinels stand watch at the very spot where the Chandors first placed them. We think Douglas would be pleased. — Babs Rodrigu THE DETAILS Chandor Gardens Both the gardens and the restored home/ studio are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Paths for rambling and spots for musing are plentiful. Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and noon-4 p.m. Sunday. $5 for adults; children under 12 are free but must be accompanied by an adult. 711 W. Lee Ave., Weatherford, 817-613-1700, chandorgardens.com. EVENTS Garden Conservancy Open Days | Oct. 8 There are private spaces so inspiring that even folks lacking verdant digits give them a green thumbsup. The Garden Conservancy’s Open Days tour is a nationwide invite into such properties. It’s an alternate-year tour, and this fall’s round-up includes five northeast Tarrant County residences that show bountiful evidence of having enjoyed a rainy summer. From a former Westlake dairy farm transformed into a wonderland of trees, ponds and fountains to a manicured 4-acre Southlake estate filled with sculpture, expansive plantings of perennials and trees of all varieties, there’s landscape and hardscape diverse enough to impassion anyone to dig in the dirt. More than 65 mature post oaks and 25 ornamental understory trees at a sloped north Keller property are as delightful as the home’s intriguing mix of perennials. Blackberry lilies or African false hosta, anyone? Wanda Stutsman, a master gardener and sprout whisperer, has an artisan’s eye for unusual plants. Some of them are not known to thrive in North Texas; many are gifts from her mom in her home state of Tennessee. Don’t miss Wanda’s steel flower sculptures as well as her husband’s laser-cut metal solar-powered path lights. Bonus: Her purple toad lilies should be in bloom by October. Nearby, a home that was surrounded by dirt and pasture when the Morrison family moved in nine years ago has become a 31/2-acre monument to gardening passion. Kansas native Debbie Morrison says she dreamed about showstopper beds for years; today they are joined by a stone walkway in the front yard that’s bracketed by caladiums, elephant ears, coneflowers, hawthorn and dwarf Japanese yaupon. The walk ends at a meditative fountain accented by begonias. Out back you’ll find more beds and a madly productive walled vegetable garden. Bonus: chickens, a burgeoning orchard and an apiary. Debbie has spent nine years cultivating the beds, with help from her husband and four children. Be sure to check out the sizable crape myrtles around the pool, now revealing velvety pink trunks beneath peeling bark — an elegant sign of their age. And, yes, at both previewed gardens there are flowers, flowers everywhere. Pull on comfy shoes and head out to all five properties. Tarrant County master gardeners will be on hand to strew seeds of wisdom along the way. — Babs Rodriguez THE DETAILS Open Days Tour five gardens with proceeds benefitting tour partner the Tarrant County Master Gardener Association. For garden directions, go to opendaysprogram.org. For more information, call 888-842-2442 or visit gardenconservancy.org. Purchase tickets at any garden the day of tour, $7 per garden. Advance books of six tickets (good for any garden), $35; books of six for members, $21. Open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 8, rain or shine.
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