April 04, 2022
In early March, on a quick trip to Houston, I returned to Houston Botanic Garden for an end-of-winter visit. HBG is still a new garden — it opened in September 2020; click for my visit — and the culinary garden with its massive, aqua-tiled water wall is the newest section.
Raised beds artfully displayed cabbages, chard, and other cool-season vegetables.
I was intrigued by the strip of tall grasses that screen a patio with cafe seating.
I like the scrim effect.
Honeybee on an allium flower
There’s a tree-shaded patio too.
It’s nice to see people using the seating areas, although it was surprisingly quiet at the garden for a warm Saturday afternoon.
Cabbagey view toward the gift shop
Water Wall and Table
Houston was my first real exposure to architecture. I lived there in the late 80s as a college student and goggled at Space Age structures like the Astrodome, rectilinear midcentury buildings, and the fantastical neo-Byzantine style of the Rice campus. Those years conditioned me to expect interesting structures in Houston, and the botanic garden doesn’t disappoint. This water wall, for example. What is that — Art Deco style? Miami?
Papyrus grows in a boggy bed at the base of the dripping, trickling wall.
A thin stream of water makes its way along a series of ledges built into the wall.
In a central plaza, a curvy table continues the water theme with a rill running down the center. Near the edge, the stream zigzags through a serpentine flourish and drops…
…into a round, shallow basin. A pebble-edged rill then directs the water…
…through the plaza to a spiraling drain, from which the water presumably recirculates. You can see that spiral on my post about HBG from last December.
Ball-like supports for the water table
Along this tiled wall, scuppers arc water into a narrow pool.
On the back side, mauve paint adds contrast, and bamboo trellises await espaliered trees.
Global Collection Garden
Moving on, the Global Collection garden was still wintry looking in early March, with tawny grasses and winter-browned perennials that hadn’t been cut back yet. The palms, however, look to have recovered from the freezepocalypse of February 2021.
The arid garden’s agaves are looking green and happy too.
A beautiful mix of agaves, prickly pear, sotol, and Yucca rostrata. The pine trees make a surprising backdrop, don’t they?
The orange and gray rocks add so much to this garden, creating a canyon-like effect.
A sign explains that they’re onyx boulders from Arizona.
A pair of carved-stone birds with two tiny eggs rested atop one boulder.
Scrim of Texas sotol
A rocky bed of cholla and grasses was still in winter mode.
But early spring weeds were prolific between masses of golden barrel cacti. This is the challenge of cactus gardening in a subtropical, moist climate — weeds. I wonder if the garden has enough staff to get after them, or if the weeds just all popped up at once? It’s got to be challenging to weed between these spiky barrels.
A wider view
Leaving the arid garden, I followed steps leading onto a high berm planted with pines — an overlook in flat-as-a-pancake Houston.
Bananas browned by frost rattled in the breeze.
Nearby an artistic blue tree added color and whimsy.
Throughout the garden, patios with comfortable chairs and potted plants invite you to relax and hang out. This space overlooks…
…the Space Age-style arcade and planter wall that runs the length of the garden — one of the architectural features I admire at HBG.
Aloe in bloom
A frilly-leaved mangave
A temporary art installation of neon-and-plexiglass letters runs the length of the arcade. It’s called Mother, a 3-word poem by artist Liss LaFleur that’s on display through June 2022. Large letters spell out “OTHER MOTHER ANOTHER,” referring to both Mother Earth and the maternal figures in our lives.
Carolina jessamine vine, a herald of spring, was blooming. No doubt spring has transformed the garden in the month since my visit, and I hope to return again soon.
To read my earlier posts about Houston Botanic Garden, click the links below:
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Come hear an in-person talk about art and garden design on Thursday, April 7th. Patterson Webster, a garden writer, garden travel guide, and accomplished sculptor from Quebec, will be in Austin to share her knowledge as my next Garden Spark speaker. The talk will be held in a beautiful outdoor setting at Barton Springs Nursery. Only a handful of seats remain, so email me today for ticket info. No walk-ins; advance tickets only. Come learn something new and hang out with fellow garden lovers!
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