12/17/15 3:45pm

SUBTERRANEAN GARDEN UNDERGOING LABORATORY TESTING IN NYC Meanwhile, under Manhattan: In a dense urban environment where natural settings come at a premium, a team of designers is following the lead of the High Line (which repurposed an elevated rail line track to create a linear public greenspace). The new plan: to turn a former trolley terminal into a sunlit underground park. The most obvious problems facing the Lowline project revolve around getting enough natural light underground to enable plants to survive and thrive — the designers have now opened the Lowline Lab, a laboratory-slash-community-center in which they will test out technological and horticultural ideas, while getting the public involved. [arch daily]

04/30/15 1:00pm

New Trees at Wendy's Drive-Thru Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

New Trees at Wendy's Drive-Thru Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, HoustonA row of 5 already-growed-up oak trees took up their new home along the North Blvd. flank of the Wendy’s drive-thru at 5003 Kirby Dr. last weekend, to replace the same number along the public right-of-way that went missing after dark last Halloween on account of they were chopped into pieces by order of the franchise owner. “The new trees at Wendy’s are so big they had to close the road to install them,” writes the reader who sent in these photos. “. . . almost as big as the ones cut down.

One more tree is still to come — for this spot on Kirby Dr., right in front:


Fast Landscaping
04/27/15 4:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHY THEY WON’T BE LINING POST OAK BLVD. WITH POST OAKS Post Oak Forest“So close! Just imagine how impressive it would be to have a forest of 800 post oaks on Post Oak Blvd. Unfortunately, post oaks don’t tend to transplant well compared to live oaks, which is why we use live oaks in our landscaping instead of post oaks. (Source: Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center)” [GoogleMaster, commenting on Boxed Forest of 800 Trees in Tomball Preparing for March Down Post Oak Blvd.] Illustration: Lulu

04/10/15 2:00pm

Future Home of Farmstead, 6640 W. Montgomery Rd., Highland Heights, Acres Homes, Houston

Crews are hard at work converting the former hair salon (with 2-bedroom apartment upstairs, pictured above) at 6640 W. Montgomery Rd. in Highland Heights (aka the east side of Acres Homes) to an “edible garden center.” Farmstead is meant to become “the go-to spot for Houstonians wanting to grow their own food at home.” It’ll offer fruit trees, vegetable transplants, and herbs for purchase, along with seeds appropriate for this region. Plus gardening tools, supplies and DIY kits for raising your own garden bed above the gumbo line.


Grow House
02/10/15 1:45pm

Greenleaf Gardens, 803 Kipling St., Audubon Place Historic District, Houston

The community garden at 803 Kipling St. in Audubon Place listed for sale earlier at the end of last month is set to be purchased by the City of Houston and turned into a neighborhood park, according to its owner. William Winkler tells Swamplot he and the city have settled on a price and he’s signed off on a letter of intent; he says he’s now waiting for a formal purchase contract. The 8,400-sq.-ft. lot at the southwest corner of Kipling and Stanford, known as Greenleaf Gardens since Winkler first built raised beds and leased them out in 2012, was previously the site of a 2-story home that burned in 2008. It’s still listed on MLS for $630,000.


Greenleaf Gardens
02/04/15 1:00pm

Greenleaf Gardens, 803 Kipling St., Audubon Place Historic District, Houston

Greenleaf Gardens, 803 Kipling St., Audubon Place Historic District, Houston

Last week a for-sale sign went up at the 8,400-sq.-ft. vacant lot at the corner of Kipling and Stanford that’s been used for the past several years as an Audubon Place community garden. And there it was on MLS, available for $630K: the former homesite William Winkler had bought in 2012 and parceled out for neighborhood veggie-growing efforts, now offered as “the only lot in the Audubon Place Historic District that’s available to build a new construction home.

Greenleaf Gardens began operating on the site in May 2012, after Winkler purchasing the lot for $300,000. Subscribers rented out 4-ft.-by-20-ft. raised-bed plots on the property.

Winkler considers the garden operation a success; he says he’s selling only because of a change in his personal financial situation. Several users of the garden have indicated they’d be willing to pay significantly higher annual subscription fees. Earlier this week, Winkler sent out an email indicating he’s open to another option: selling the property to a nonprofit that would keep the garden running.


Greenleaf Gardens
01/12/15 12:30pm

Interior, 13630 San Martin Ln., Pheasant Trace Village, Houston

13630 San Martin Ln., Pheasant Trace Village, Alief, HoustonLast May, photos of what appeared to be an intensive indoor plant-growing operation appeared with the MLS listing for the 1992 5-bedroom home at 13630 San Martin Ln. in the Alief-area neighborhood of Pheasant Trace Village. All horticultural-themed photos were removed from the listing, however, after one of the images (above) was featured on Swamplot. The home sold in October for $125,000 — $10,000 above its asking price.

After a “remodeling from top to bottom,” according to a new listing, the new owners have placed the property back on the market, with nary a hint as to what may or may not have been photosynthesizing inside previously under the stares of all those grow lights. New AC units and coils come with the property now too. Offered for lease at $1,995 a month, or for sale for a quick $219K.

Grow House Price Grows
01/05/15 12:15pm

2042 Forest Oaks Dr., Meadowcreek Village, Houston

2042 Forest Oaks Dr., Meadowcreek Village, Houston

Juxtaposed “before” and “after” pics (recreated above) of the 1963 used-to-be-Mod house at 2042 Forest Oaks Dr. in Meadowcreek Village have garnered a mere 1002 comments (so far) on a Facebook Mid Century Modern fan page. Many of the comments decry the roofing and landscaping changes made to the home, explaining that the renovator doesn’t appear to “get” the style of the original. Others wonder whether some sort of Photoshop trickery might be involved. But a few commenters note that the home, whose Houston Mod open house was featured on Swamplot in 2012, was a foreclosure, that many of its modern features had been altered before its most recent sale, or that the 4-bedroom, 3-bath, 2,650-sq.-ft. home appears to be much more livable in its current state.

Unfortunately, the earlier listing included only a few additional photos, making direct before-and-after comparisons of the extensive changes made to the home’s interior — including the addition of laminate floors and granite countertops — difficult. The home was listed for sale in mid-December for $210,861. Pre-renovation, it sold in March of 2013 for $78,000.

11/20/14 12:45pm

Damaged Oak Trees, 2803 Yale St., Houston Heights

Damaged Oak Trees, 2803 Yale St., Houston HeightsFresh off receiving a $300,000 settlement for the unauthorized removal of 6 oak trees in the city right-of-way from Ali Dhanani and Haza Foods, owner of the Wendy’s franchise at the corner of Kirby Dr. and North Blvd., the city of Houston’s legal staff has turned its attention to 2 other oak-tree-hacking incidents at neighboring Burger Kings — one a couple blocks to the south at 5115 Kirby Dr. at the corner of South Blvd., and the other at 2116 W. Holcombe Blvd. at Main St., next to the Medical Center. At each location, according to a report from the Chronicle‘s Mike Morris, landscapers pruned an oak tree on surrounding public property excessively, making it “likely to die.”

Both Burger Kings, it turns out, are owned by Dhanani’s brother, Shoukat Dhanani, whose company, Houston Foods, happens to be the second-largest Burger King franchisee in the country. (And with a just-announced purchase, his Dhanani Group is about to double the number of U.S. Burger Kings it owns, to more than 450.) But this latest scuffle with the city is not Shoukat Dhanani’s first experience with aggressive limb-cutting of city-owned oaks. Two and a half years ago, Swamplot readers reported on the mysterious beheadings of oak trees surrounding 2 other Burger Kings, both of which also happen to be owned by Houston Foods.


Fast-Food Landscaping
10/30/14 1:15pm

Finca Tres Robles Farm, 257 N. Greenwood St., East End, Houston

Two brothers who have opened a new agricultural venture in Houston’s East End are billing it as Houston’s “first private farm inside the 610 Loop.” Amid the gritty industrial wilds of N. Greenwood St. between Navigation and Canal — just a few blocks south of Buffalo Bayou’s Turkey Bend —Finca Tres Robles (spelled out and illustrated helpfully in the photo above) now sprouts on land owned by Electro-Coatings, a plating company. Other less bucolic neighbors, such as Baker Oil Tools and the US Zinc Houston Dust Plant, lurk nearby.

Until its 1996 purchase by Electro-Coatings (along with a warehouse owned by Sara Lee), the 1.2-acre plot now occupied by the farm served as a TxDOT service site. It lay vacant for the last 18 years. Beginning 6 or 7 months ago, the new proprietors jackhammered away the vestigial asphalt; they’ve since composted the lot and commenced agricultural operations.

Here’s the plan:


Finca Tres Robles
09/17/14 1:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: SAMPLING NEIGHBORHOOD GRASSES Barefoot in the Grass“Next time you’re out walking your neighborhood, try playing ‘guess the grass.’ You may be surprised to find that many of your neighbors have fake grass and you never noticed until taking off your sandals and giving it a good rub down with the bottom of your foot. I find I go out of my way to kick off my shoes and ‘sample’ my neighbors’ grass when it looks a little too manicured and beautiful. I’m always surprised when I touch it and it turns out to be fake – this stuff really does look real.” [Brinn, commenting on Yes, Gotta Give ’Em Credit for All the Fake Grass in the Back Yard] Illustration: Lulu

09/15/14 3:45pm

734 E. 8th St., Houston Heights

734 E. 8th St., Houston HeightsIf you’re wondering what an expanse of fake grass is doing in the back yard of a $1.345 million home around the corner from Antidote, Premium Draught, and the Sonoma Wine Bar in the Heights, the architect of the 4-bedroom, 3,769-sq.-ft. structure has an answer for you: “The synthetic grass was the owner’s idea, which had my full support,” Cameron Armstrong tells Swamplot, after an email from a reader alerted us to the astroturfing issue. “It’s 100% recycled material, and significantly reduced our landscape irrigation needs,” the architect notes, “which gained the project some points during LEED certification (Silver).”

Ouch! Does learning that last bit give you a brain cramp? If so, you’re not alone:


No Mow
08/29/14 1:00pm

VACANT-LOT VEGETABLE GARDENS FOR HOUSTON GARDENS A little more than halfway through its 2-month-long Indiegogo fundraiser, a Houston company’s plan to grow vegetables on vacant urban lots has chalked up a little more than half of the $35,000 it’s hoping to raise to begin the project. Edible Earth Resources, the landscape-gardening firm that created the gardens at restaurants Coltivare, Haven, the Brooklyn Athletic Club, and Pax Americana (among other spaces), says it will soon have official approval from the city’s Land Assemblage Redevelopment Authority to plant production gardens on tax-delinquent lots leased from the citywide program. With $35,000 in startup capital, the company says on its fundraising page, Planted:Houston would begin its urban farming efforts on an acre of land available in Houston Gardens, a “rurban” neighborhood northeast of the intersection of the 610 Loop and the Eastex Fwy. — including a spot at 7414 Sandra St. The for-profit enterprise would sell its produce to various restaurants in the city and to individuals through a subscription program that includes a donation component; 10 percent of crops would remain in the neighborhoods where the gardens are planted, either through donations or discounted sales to local stores. [Indiegogo; more info] Video: Planted:Houston