A Look Behind…
by Margaret Williams
Photographs by Madeleine Landry
Very little feels hidden these days, which is why Jennifer’s Gardens, tucked away in Central Austin, is particularly special. The jasmine-scented oasis is truly hiding in plain sight. We knew the grounds were the perfect spot for our June mini-shoot, but it wasn’t until arriving that we fell in love with the free-spirited owner, Jennifer Staub Myers, and the history she shared with us.
Myers, a former cardiac nurse (she recently retired from Seton Medical Center after 35 years), went to art school in the ’70s and is quick to explain, “Art and gardening are my passion.” Before purchasing the property in 1991, she didn’t tell anyone, “because I knew everyone would think I was crazy.”
The lush property is home to the historic Seekatz-Gardner house, built in 1879, and has had only two owners prior to Myers and her family. While picturesque, the stone farmhouse, with its sloping lawn that backs up to Shoal Creek, hadn’t been touched in 70 years, and the gardens had been completely abandoned.
Myers says when she first saw the property she thought, “I feel like I’m in France! The creek was running, and my daughter immediately started playing in the water. I knew I was going to live here. It was so weird. I kept calling, but it was too expensive. Then one day I called and they [relatives of the former owners] had dropped the price. I was the first one to know. There were no comps. They said, ‘As is,’ and that was it. It was the scariest moment. But what has happened in my life because of this house has been amazing.”
After a mention in a magazine of her relation to famed French botanist André Michaux, she was flown to Paris to study 18th-century drawings at the Jardin des Plantes. And Myers also gratefully admits she was invited to spend four nights in the White House after Laura Bush fell in love with Jennifer’s Gardens (and my guess is, Jennifer as well).
Over the years Myers and her husband, Fred, have made improvements to the home and grounds, although Myers confesses that for a time the electricity was hanging on strings and the family relied upon a nearby laundromat. After modernizing their family home, they built an art studio and most recently have added a small inn, where guests can spend the night. And in the midst of all this, Fred built an amphitheater so Jennifer’s Gardens can host musical performances and private events. Myers explains that Fred actually built the space with Lyle Lovett in mind. “But [Lyle] just doesn’t know it,” Myers says.
Lyle, if you’re out there, we have the perfect spot for your next intimate gathering.
Another magical opportunity just round the corner…