HOUSTON – The front yard is neat and trim, but it is Mark and Lisa McCary’s backyard that shows their love of home and neighborhood.
The older clapboard home at 555 South Jackson sports a St. Augustine lawn and manicured shrubbery, but it is the backyard — complete with pool and a water garden – that wows friends and guests.
“We moved here in 1993 when it was two apartments and later bought the house,” said Mark McCary. “We’ve done a little something each year to get it the way we like it. And I’ll add we change our minds and try new things every year.”
He said they started with the front yard and one of the first things they planted was a Hollywood juniper that has now grown tall and sports Christmas lights every Holiday season.
McCary said that juniper at the corner of the house has welcomed them home and seen a lot of family firsts, but it’s not the only tree that knows the home and neighborhood’s history.
“Olivia Rhodes was born in this house and told us the oak tree on the south side was big then,” said Lisa McCary. “We’ve had people tell us it is probably more than 125-years-old. It’s got this giant wisteria vine that is so beautiful when it blooms each spring.
“You can smell it all over the neighborhood and even when you drive down the street,” she added, “It smells so sweet.”
The home is edged with flower beds sporting nandina, azalea, hosta, hydrangea and a special type of monkey grass that only grows in tightly formed clumps.
But it is the backyard that is the McCary’s pride and joy.
Fenced and gated, guests walk out a backdoor into a yard with almost a tropical garden feel.
A water garden with bubbling fountain and gold fish swimming around grows miniature lily pads and blossoming lotus flowers. A pomegranate bush provides colorful blossoms and fruit.
And the crowning jewel is a large swimming pool edged with a variety of exotic plants and flowers.
Big green banana trees are the first plant to catch the eye and several have recently blossomed. Just off the concrete, stella de ora, knockout roses, hosta and a trellis with domesticated pink-lemonade honeysuckle add color.
The pool is framed with majestic palm and several variety of blooming shrubbery.
“People look at all this and say it must be a lot of work,” said Lisa McCary. “It really isn’t. We take pride in our yard and enjoy working in it. Once you learn when things need to be trimmed and done, and do it year after year, it gets a lot easier.”
Both said having 17-year-old son Nicholas around the house to do the heavy-lifting helps a lot.
Mark said the yard is not perfect and he pointed to a Stewart pecan tree and mulberry tree that provide mid-day shade but also drop pecans into the pool and make growing grass under them difficult.
“I had a good stand of grass under there at one time,” he explained. “It sort of comes and goes and we’ve just learned to live with it. Besides we like having pecans that we can give to our friends and they make great pies.”
And the backyard is not the last little outdoor treat at the McCary home.
“We love our patio in the wintertime,” said Mark. “It’s blocked in on three sides and that keeps the wind out. On sunny days, it’s the perfect place to be.”
The patio has pots with peace lily, begonia and airplane plant growing strong. They also have a rubber tree that has grown to a ripe old age.
“We bring them all in the house in the winter and enjoy our yard inside the house,” Mark added.
Both Mark and Lisa grew up in Okolona but moved to Houston when they started work at Franklin.
“We are proud of our home and proud to live in Houston,” said Mark. “Keeping your home nice is part of what you do for your neighbors and your community. Being named Prettiest Place in Houston means a lot to us.”