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Meet Our Community: Melissa Denney, Houston Garden Girl

Let’s get to know each other!

Since we’re not able to meet up in person this year, let’s meet online. Every week we’re introducing a member* of our Fling community here and on Instagram, in their own words. We’re excited to see what everyone’s talking about and sharing with their followers!

(*Any garden blogger, vlogger, podcaster, or Instagrammer who follows our Instagram or is a member of our Facebook group. If you’d like to be considered or recommend someone for a Meet Our Community profile, email us.)

Melissa Denney

Firecracker fern in the hellstrip

When people struggle with gardening, I don’t believe it’s because they can’t garden. Oftentimes, they’re just planting the wrong kinds of plants for their region. I love helping people successfully garden in zones 8-9. I started my blog Houston Garden Girl ten years ago — after I found out there was such a thing! I’ve learned that a lot of folks in Houston are not from this area and don’t have the know-how to garden here. I hope my blog and social media help local gardeners understand what they can grow here and when it can be planted.

My Instagram feed is new and currently focused on my indoor gardening. Since the stay-at-home orders in March, I’ve spent more time in my house than I ever have in the past. It’s been a fun challenge to adjust my skills to indoor gardening. Now I’m discovering an entirely new gardening social network and a new generation finding creative ways to garden in small indoor spaces.

Outdoors I grow flowering perennials, fruits, and vegetables. I love low-maintenance plants, and most of my gardens survive on a fair amount of neglect. I have a 50-ft. hellstrip full of perennials that I haven’t watered in years, including three roses and a pomegranate. It’s been fulfilling watching that strip of Bermudagrass-turned-garden inspire my neighbors to convert some of their grassy patches to flowerbeds. The other thing I absolutely love is gathering produce from my yard. Over the years I’ve had peaches and apples, but those are difficult to keep alive more than 5 years here in Houston. The easiest producers have been figs and citrus. Then of course there are tomatoes, basil, peppers, and eggplant, which I love having in summer.

I prefer plants that are easy to grow in Zone 9. Don’t fight the climate you live in. There are great plants for every climate. My favorites for low maintenance and long bloom time are firecracker fern (Russelia equisetiformis), rock rose (Pavonia lasiopetala), white trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis ‘Alba’), shrimp plant (Justicia brandegeana), and candlestick plant (Senna alata), a host plant for sulphur butterflies. For indoor plants, I’m developing a strong affinity for aglaonemas, syngoniums, and sansevierias — easygoing houseplants with a huge variety of leaf patterns and colors to keep things interesting.

Claude Monet’s garden at Giverny

My favorite U.S. garden is Denver Botanic Gardens. I lived in the Denver area in my mid-20s and absorbed a few harsh lessons about gardening on the Colorado Front Range. I learned so much about Colorado gardening at DBG, and I took all my visitors there. It is a must-see!

I weave a garden tour into most of my international travels. The most memorable garden I’ve been to is Claude Monet’s house in Giverny, France. It was surreal to be in the same place Monet was when he painted so many of his great works. And it’s a beautiful garden with lots of blooming perennials — right up my alley.


Thanks for sharing your work and your gardening passions with us, Melissa! You can follow Melissa on Facebook, on Instagram, and at her blog Houston Garden Girl (archived).

Photographs courtesy of Melissa Denney.


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