Sherry Bub, a retired computer programmer, has lived in the same Missouri City home alongside the Quail Valley La Quinta golf course for 30 years.
But her true labor of love, aside from looking after her grandchildren as they begin a school year of virtual learning, is one that many Texans have adopted as a safe way to get some fresh air and a sense of calm and peace during the COVID-19 pandemic – gardening.
Back when she first moved in, Sherry’s three children, then all under 10 years old, would often play tag together under the shade of a large live oak tree.
“They would step on the rocks and poke through the plastic (weed barrier),” Sherry said. “And then weeds came up. Well, there’s nothing worse than pulling weeds through plastic. We hired (someone) to get all the rocks out, and I think we just sodded it.”
That’s how Sherry and her husband, Jack Bub, got into gardening. Their ongoing efforts were recognized by the Quail Valley Garden Club, which awarded them the “Yard of the Month” for August.
The tree is the centerpiece of the Bubs’ front yard and makes for an ideal spot for relaxation and having socially distanced interactions with neighbors in the cul-de-sac. But it can also present a challenge for the diverse range of plants to get the necessary nutrients as the live oak’s large roots soak them up first.
“It’s hard to find things that grow,” Sherry said.
One example of a plant that fit well into the landscape of the Bubs’ yard was the croton, a leafy plant with pink or yellow outlines and green stripes. They are positioned out of the peak midday sun and retain moisture well to withstand intense Houston heat.
Also under the tree are ferns, wedelia (a ground cover with yellow blossoms that originates from Mexico) and ginger as well as hibiscus, crepe myrtles (with bright pink flowers) and jasmine, a shrub and vine with white flowers that originates from the same plant family as the olive.
Sherry accented the colorful plants with red adirondack chairs and metallic and copper yard art that is also prominent in her backyard.
The backyard features an herb garden with basil, parsley and rosemary, which finds itself frequently under attack by local squirrels.
Cher Binks, a spokesperson for the Quail Valley Garden Club, said the Bubs have done well at learning how to balance aesthetic ideals with practical reality of what will survive and thrive in her garden.
“It is trial and error, but you do learn along the way,” Binks said. “And you’re so proud of yourself when you get it right.”
Sherry said her husband handles watering duties and any heavy pots. But she likes to get her hands dirty, and finds that moving them through the soil can be therapeutic.
Sherry’s children built her a potting bench as a birthday gift to help organize her gardening tools in the backyard, and she has often done beautification work for her children’s yards.
“Mostly, I do their yard work,” Sherry said. “It’s kind of a chromosome thing … whether or not people like to work in yards. I’ll go over to my son’s house and tell my son, ‘You’ve got to have mulch.’ Hopefully someone picks it up before I die. We’ll see.”
Binks, who also resides in Quail Valley, said gardening didn’t come easily for her, but she’s glad it has taught her patience.
“Every bug bit me, everything got planted wrong,” Binks said. “It took me so long to like gardening. Now, it’s from the heart, truly.”
In October, the rain tree in Sherry’s backyard will be lined with pink and orange blossoms. A small cloudburst brought some droplets and prompted her to recall one of her first impressions of her home. A potted rain tree stands about 4 feet tall, waiting to be transplanted into the soil across from the original tree.
“It is striking,” Sherry said. “When we first moved in here, honestly the tree was (about as big as the potted one). Someone told me that it’s called a rain tree because when it rains, it falls down. That’s how little it was. And one day, we looked up, and we’re like, ‘Woah.’”
Rose Ann Acosta, a co-chair of the committee that voted on the garden club’s yard of the month, said the organization can help people in Fort Bend County find a way to connect with the natural beauty around them. The group is having its meetings over Zoom due to the coronavirus. Its next virtual session will be Sept. 10 from 9:30-11:30 a.m. and will include a presentation on “Building a Pocket Prairie in Subdivisions.” More information is available on the club’s website.
“(Gardening) is going to help people get through this (pandemic),” Acosta said.