When Henry and Joe Lambert Jr. came to Dallas around 1933, to add azaleas to the lawn of a perspective client who lived in the Lakewood area, they changed the landscape of North Texas.
“We didn’t even know that azaleas weren’t supposed to grow in Dallas,” Henry Lambert said in an interview with The Dallas Morning News in 1971. “We just dug down two feet and filled up with loam.”
That job begat their second, at the current estate of Gene and Jerry Jones, and their legacy as the landscapers of Highland Park was born, according to Paul Fields, president and director of design for Lambert’s Landscaping.
The brothers brought colorful plants they’d used in Shreveport, where they’d trained with their father and brother in the original branch of the company. With azaleas, boxwoods, live oaks, Japanese maples, dogwoods, and camellias, they set about transforming Dallas’ cotton fields and prairie lands into lush oases.
“Through the years, people have tried to emulate Lambert’s design, and when you look at some of these gardens, it’s like, ‘That’s the plant palette that Lambert’s uses,’ ” Fields said.
Joe and Henry quickly cultivated their business and rooted themselves. Henry lived with his wife, Grace, and four daughters in the yellow house on the corner of Mockingbird and Fairfield, surrounded by azaleas and seasonal plantings, daughter Susan White said.
Evaristo Mora Jr., Lam-bert’s senior foreman, has worked for the company for 44 years. He said that clients would drive by Mockingbird and then request whatever was planted in Henry’s yard.
At home, Henry managed his “gentleman’s garden,” where he grew miniature roses in suspended boxes.
“In the mornings, he would putter around and prune a little this, a little that, and if there was something in bloom he’d bring it in, and he’d … take the hose and wash off the walk in the morning to make it all presentable,” White said.
Joe was an avid arts supporter, world traveler, and civic leader who helped save Turtle Creek from being paved over, which resulted in Lambert’s landscaping creek areas.
He lived with his wife, Evelyn, in a penthouse in the fashionable 3525 Turtle Creek tower.
“It had way-high ceilings and was gorgeously decorated,” White said. “They tended to go more for modern art. And we loved to go visit and just stare at all the fascinating things.”
Joe had a driver and limousine, wore custom suits, and was friends with people such as Sam Wyly and Rose Lloyd. He was known to wear a cape to parties, because they were just those kinds of parties, Mora said.
“When I met Mr. Joe and Evelyn, to me coming from the south, coming from a border town, which is McAllen, I thought I was seeing a big star, a superstar,” Mora said. “There were all these beautiful people expecting him to be who he was.”
Joe would host parties and arrange for bunches of potted camellias or maples to be brought in as decoration. At the end, he’d give them out as party favors, each with a small tag identifying Lambert’s Landscaping.
“It was one way of creating an open invite,” Mora said. “His clients or his friends would say, ‘Why would you give me a camellia?’ or ‘Why do you give me maple?’ and Mr. Joe would usually say, ‘Because I already know where I’m going to put that one if you let me plant that for you.’ ”
Their warehouses, where they displayed chandeliers and antiques that Joe picked up on his travels, were legendary locations for photo shoots, weddings, and receptions.
“They never made any money, but it was hugely successful as a marketing tool for the company,” Fields said.
The company’s yellow trucks were just as important to branding as their signature “Lambert Green” paint was. The color was so popular it could be seen on porches and fences across town, and even on Neiman’s products.
“I love Lambert Green!” White said. “The story I remember is that Henry and Joe were having a party in their backyard and everyone stood around and helped mix the color.”
Joe died in 1970 of leukemia. Henry sold the company in 1980, but he would regularly advise on big projects until his death in 1993, Mora said. Their legacy of excellent customer service continues to shape the company today.
“Joe and Henry brought a real traditional, classically inspired design influence with them to Dallas when they came, and that has carried through the decades,” Fields said.
In Highland Park, it’s impossible to miss the Lamberts’ touch. From Town Hall, to Lakeside, to traffic islands, the Lamberts are responsible for beautifying the town’s green spaces.