JOHN TEAS, 1934-2009 That 1916 house on Teas Nursery property at 4400 Bellaire Blvd. — now home to the company’s landscaping business — was his birthplace. He died yesterday. “His grandfather, Edward ‘Papa’ Teas, Sr., whose family had been in the nursery business since 1843 starting in Indiana, moved his family to Bellaire from Missouri in 1910 to grow and sell produce, but turned to landscaping when a freeze in 1913 wiped out his business. He was responsible for introducing azaleas and crepe myrtle to the area, so legend goes, and for planting some of Houston’s enduring natural beauty, including Rice University’s oaks. John Teas helped plant the oaks along the Rice campus on Fannin Street as a boy. The family’s nursery businesses extended from Fort Bend County through Conroe, but the roots were sunk the deepest in Bellaire, where the nursery and landscaping business continue to this day.” [Bellaire Examiner]
Some people don’t realize that at one time, all the oak trees along Main and Fannin and all over Rice U were just little saplings planted by man. Very few were natural and the natural ones were most likely chopped down.
Kjb434 is right. That whole area used to be more or less prairie and swamp. Not all that long ago, either, if you look at old photos.
But I can’t just stand by and see a reference to “along the Rice campus on Fannin Street.” Fannin Street does not touch the Rice campus, although it parallels Main at that point. Autry House is between Main and Fannin, shaded by lots of Mr. Teas’s trees.
In the 1950’s my parents designed and built a unique house in Bellaire. It was on a large lot that had been part of the property used by “Papa” Teas for holding some of the oak trees he had shipped in by rail for planting around the Rice campus. A few of the scrubbier ones that hadn’t been planted were left there and by the time we moved to Bellaire, they had grown to a nice size. For a half century those trees were well cared for – watered, fed and professionally pruned. In return, they shaded our house and garden and provided nesting sites for birds and food for squirrels. A few years ago, the property with its five magnificent live oak specimens was sold for lot value and the house was demo’ed. All the trees were cut down to make room for a huge, custom-built, turreted faux-European mansion with attached garage up front and swimming pool in the back. My secret hope is that, in return for sacrificing those trees, the ghosts of “Papa” Teas and my parents haunt the place. They took pride in being “green” because it was a good thing to do, long before “green” became chic.
I used to work for an ad agency that handled the Teas Nursery account. John was a great guy with somewhat of an ethereal personality, very calm, soft-spoken and laid-back. He often attributed this quality to the fact that as a toddler, he actually FELL out of a second story window of the house on Bellaire where he grew up, hit the roof and then rolled off to the ground. He was definitely a pioneer of modern Houston horticulture. John Teas will be missed and should be honored and remembered for all of his contributions.
Back in the mid 90s I organized an event for the corporation I was working for to publicize a new location in the Bellaire area. John Teas was the draw — and boy, did he draw the crowd. People loved talking to him. He had so many great stories to share and he knew how to tell them. He was nice to everyone and very patient. Rest in peace, Mr. Teas.
All the trees were cut down to make room for a huge, custom-built, turreted faux-European mansion with attached garage up front and swimming pool in the back.
But magnificent old trees don’t convey “wealth” like the huge, custom-built, turreted faux-European mansions do.
Many people didn’t know about the oak trees around Rice. He must have been horrified when Metro was planning to cut quite a few of them down for the rail when they planned to run it down Main Street instead of Fannin. He was probably horrified by this if he knew about it.
I think everyone who grew up in the area who actually gardened knew John Teas and learned from him. He knew what to plant on the north side, the south side, the east side and the west side. And if you encountered him he would ask where you were planting what you were buying. And sometimes would suggest something else.
I’m sad to hear of Mr. Tea’s death. We always bought our treas and plants from him and he has saved many of our trees over the years. I’ll treasure, even more, the three Crape Myrtles he helped us select for our bungalow in the Heights. We’ll miss you Mr. Tea’s and we send condolences to your family and your Tea’s Nursery family also.
The nursery’s website has a good summary of Teas’ life and information regarding services and donations.
If any of you subscribe to Randy Lemon’s (Gardenline Host on AM 740 KTRH) weekly email tips, he wrote a wonderful remembrance of Teas. Lemon is always a supporter of local nurseries across Houston and Teas Nursery was no exception.
Mr. Teas will be missed by many, especially of those that were close to him. Mr. Teas professional life was exceptional, but his relationship with his community, priceless!
I will miss our discussions about God, family and community. He inspired me in many ways, but the one thing that stands above the rest, was his Love of God.