By Dana Delgado
When Liz Rundzieher’s children were young, they always knew where to find her – at the end of the water hose.
“They just had to follow it,” she said. “I just love being outside, gardening. It relaxes me.”
The longtime gardener and present Liberty Hill City Council member, who developed the passion for plants and nature while spending time with her grandmother in Taylor where she grew-up, ventured outside recently for the first time after a prolonged hiatus. She had been taking care of her ailing husband, Ernest Allen Rundzieher, whom she had met at Meridell Achievement Center where both were working. Two years after marrying in 2008, her husband’s health gradually declined until he passed away in October of 2015. This past January, after 33 years of working with payroll and accounts payable at Meridell, Liz Rundzieher retired. It also marked a new beginning.
In mid-February, Rundzieher stepped outside into her somewhat neglected and still winter weary garden. For her, it’s been a long awaited return. Never mind that Mother Nature couldn’t make up her mind about the weather, Rundzieher was ready to renew and revive and nourish the essence that fills a garden and captivates the tiller and caretaker.
“I’m retired now and I’m going to get my garden back into shape,” she said with a smile and unwavering conviction.
Her historic home just off Loop 332 in central Liberty Hill anchors the large city lot adorned with pockets of flower beds, some with still dormant plants while others show signs of life with budding leaves. Trunks of several once-towering oaks and one in obvious decline stand as a testament to oak wilt, an infectious vascular disease that according to the Texas A&M Forest Service, has claimed more than a million trees in 76 central Texas counties. The loss of the massive canopy that once aptly shaded the Rundzieher yard was in many ways a blessing in disguise. It opened up the area for a variety of plants that relish the sun.
With winter quickly fading and spring on the threshold, a cluster of Salvia plants with their deep-red blooms reach for the western sun in a flower bed by the back door and next to an eye-catching Texas Red Bud tree in full bloom with its gorgeous purple flowers.
Rundzieher said the plan was to plant the tree there for a short while and then relocate it, but years later, the tree, now standing nearly 20 feet, has made itself at home right next to the house with a bit of bend near the top to clear the eaves of the house.
A mature Flame Acanthus shrub, welcoming visitors as they approach the front entrance to the home, is showing signs of awakening from its winter slumber with small random leaves on its leggy stems extending nearly 30 inches. Its small trumpet-shaped red blooms, still weeks away, will be a haven for the hummingbirds, Rundzieher’s treasured visitors, which will make their annual return to central Texas in late March.
Nearby, the weight of a Japanese honeysuckle vine has overwhelmed a once sturdy three-foot trellis that is on the verge of tumbling over.
Gracing the far front of the house on the eastern corner is a stunning antique rose bush with abundant yellow blooms on a multitude of stems that extend upward over 25 feet before cascading down like a fountain.
Rundzieher said the rose bush was there when she purchased the house in 1977 and hasn’t watered it much over the years, especially with years of water restrictions. Nonetheless, the rose bush, true to its hardy heritage roots, has continued to thrive. It has grown so much that it is challenging a mature tree for space and water. It is literally growing at the tree’s base and is using the tree’s limbs as a trellis or brace for its lengthy stems.
A few yards away and next to a pair of bird houses affixed on 6-foot posts are two trees — a still relatively young Pistache tree known for its spectacular fall color in shades of orange, red–orange and even crimson and a peach tree, one of several fruit trees in the yard.
On the western side of the house is the central garden space, a stoned patio area framed with a pergola purposed appropriately for her sun-loving Tangerine Crossvine, which is bursting with yet to open trumpet-like blooms.
Two adjoining fish ponds, one of which is home to a family of healthy Koi fish while the other is topped with a host of lily pads, occupy nearly half of the central garden space and are embellished by a collection of turtle and frog ornaments.
Surrounding the patio area are Rundzieher’s prized Knockout Roses with bright but regal red roses already in bloom and flirting with the unusual season temperatures.
Although roses are her first love, she said that she also favors the cheery but hardy Gerbera Daisies.
“I just like to plant things that come back,” she said.
While her garden is beginning to show signs of the beauty and vitality she remembers, Rundzieher knows there is still much to do. Like the weeks before, she will likely spend many days weeding out the flower beds and trimming back the summer’s overgrowth.
The garden can’t wait; even though, it did wait for her. The butterflies will soon be back in mass along with the hummingbirds, and the songbirds will cheerfully become her constant guests.
Rundzieher can’t wait for the melodies and magic that gardens bear and if you go looking for her, you’ll find her at the end of the water hose.