For 33 years, Leslye and Mike Mize have been creating an eco-friendly horticultural oasis on their 5-acre property in League City. The couple set aside 1 acre in particular as a “wildscape,” which surrounds their 1910 farmhouse.
Old majestic oaks and more than 500 species of mostly native plants, trees and shrubs occupy the premises where birds, bees and butterflies enjoy a year-round feast. Several of the oaks are registered with the League City Historical Society Oak Tree Registry.
A multitude of flower and plant beds surround the house and hug portions of the fence, all with a purpose — to be sustainable, functional and environmentally sound. Clear Creek is across the road, offering the best of both worlds to nature’s creatures. The 1-acre sanctuary is a Texas Parks and Wildlife Certified Wildlife Backyard Habitat.
Leslye Mize is a practicing psychotherapist/family therapist who teaches at University of Houston-Clear Lake in the Marriage and Family Therapy Program on the graduate level. She also is a Galveston County Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Mike Mize is a retired psychotherapist/family therapist, who is a Galveston County Master Naturalist. Both are avid environmentalists and proud stewards of the earth. They get a little help from Abby, their rescue German Shepherd.
“My interest in landscaping and gardening is genetic,” Leslye Mize said. “My mother was a gardener and so are several relatives.”
The couple removed all the tallow trees and planted all native plants when they moved to the property.
“There were indigenous species like hawthorn and yaupon, so we preserved those and slowly took out some of the invasive species, which began to foster a habitat for local wildlife and migratory birds,” he said.
There is a myth that a wildscape does not take much maintenance, but the couple begs to differ. They are constantly working on the wildscape. Once established, the plants need trimming and care.
There’s always something blooming, and if something hibernates in the winter, it reappears in the spring or summer. It’s a very diverse garden with tropicals as well as native plants.
The front of the property is teeming with azaleas that bloom in brilliant colors of white, red, pink and orange during the spring. Statuary and birdbaths are peppered about the yard.
There are wonderful species like ligularia, which soon will be blooming yellow flowers; giant red turk’s cap that butterflies and hummingbirds adore; shrimp plants; banana magnolias that smell exactly like bananas; and a Dutchman’s pipe vine full of impressive purple, paisley flowers the size of a hand. It is the host plant for the pipevine swallowtail.
Mexican marigold mint with tiny yellow flowers is not only aromatic, but has an anise flavor bees love.
Wright acacia is a native tree that needs good drainage. Drummond red maples, cypress and red oaks, planted as saplings, are now fully grown. Two Eastern red buds will bloom in the spring with showy pink flowers.
Chi long han zhu roses in dark pink and easy living roses in peach are now blooming. Pink jatropha, a buddleia butterfly bush, and penta plants, await more butterflies.
The Buddha garden is surrounded by inland sea oats, native grass and ferns. Other nearby species include bottle brush, yellow candlestick trees, mealy blue sage, honeysuckle, blue daranta, false indigo (purple spike flowers), blue agave and more.
An Arabian lilac tree is budding. Porter weed, orange esperanza, almond verbena (bee magnet), clerodendrum (attracts birds and butterflies), green milkweed (another butterfly bush), purple verbena, yellow firecracker plant (hummingbirds love these), sky flower vine, fox fern, yellow senna (attracts the cloudless sulphur butterflies), coral bean tree, musical note clerodendrum, datura (trumpet) plants, bay leaf tree, rosemary, mint, and chile pequin all have their purpose. An American beautyberry attracts mockingbirds, cardinals and an abundance of other birds during migratory season.
Several beds surround the swimming pool and a nearby stream lined with natural rock formations runs underneath a wooden bridge that ends up in a pond full of water lilies and comet fish. A bird sculpture made of old car parts accentuates the area, as does an arbor, with a nearby Barbados cherry tree and Peruvian mallow.
The bog garden is adjacent to the pond that is constantly wet for the plants, including the lizard tail bush, which needs to stay moist.
Fig trees, Meyer lemon, Mexican lime, Republic of Texas orange, satsumas and kumquats feed the wildlife and the Mize family.
“We do our own composting and have a rain barrel, as well as an air-conditioner water barrel,” Mike Mize said. “It doesn’t rain during the drought, but a lot of water can be collected from the air-conditioning condensation.”