Martha Stewart Living Radio: The Radio Blog

A garden a day - San Antonio Botanical Garden

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In celebration of National Public Gardens Day, which is this Friday, May 7, I'm blogging about one great public garden a day.

When most people think of public gardens, they probably think about botanical gardens. After all, these are the most common kind of public garden and just about every state in the union has one. Botanical gardens are kind of like zoos for plants - they maintain collections of various types of plants for study and comparison, they sponsor research and collecting trips to locales both exotic and familiar, and they seek to educate the public about plants. All that makes botanical gardens sound kind of boring to the non-horticulturally inclined, doesn't it? Fear not. Today's botanical gardens still maintain encyclopedic plant collections, but they have plenty of fun and flash too.

I recently visited The San Antonio Botanical Garden, and they make it clear from the first moment that you are entering a place of botanical beauty and dramatic visual effects, not just a place of learning and study. Their stated mission:

The San Antonio Botanical Garden strives to connect people to the plant world through experience, education, and research.

and in my experience there, they definitely succeed. See for yourself!

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This is the first photo I took there, and the scene I was greeted with as we approached. WOW!

1 This is the first photo I took there, and the scene I was greeted with as we approached. WOW!

In Texas, they use petunias as spring annuals, which to us Northern gardeners seems surprising. Never in my life have I seen petunias look this pretty, though!

2 In Texas, they use petunias as spring annuals, which to us Northern gardeners seems surprising. Never in my life have I seen petunias look this pretty, though!

Another view of the entry bed. More petunias, old fashioned poppies, larkspur, and artemisia.

3 Another view of the entry bed. More petunias, old fashioned poppies, larkspur, and artemisia.

The silver accents are the perfect foil in this sea of pinks and purples. The colorful plantings there really set the garden apart from others.

4 The silver accents are the perfect foil in this sea of pinks and purples. The colorful plantings there really set the garden apart from others.

This pomegranate flower was near the cafe. I have only one word for this form and color: va-va-voom!

5 This pomegranate flower was near the cafe. I have only one word for this form and color: va-va-voom!

A variegated Chinaberry (Melia azedarach) near the cafe. Most botanical gardens have a little place where you can grab a sandwich, but San Antonio botanic's Carriage House Cafe is worth dining in even if you don't have time to visit the whole garden. It was delicious!

6 A variegated Chinaberry (Melia azedarach) near the cafe. Most botanical gardens have a little place where you can grab a sandwich, but San Antonio botanic's Carriage House Cafe is worth dining in even if you don't have time to visit the whole garden. It was delicious!

Just outside the gift shop, this spring annual was getting a lot of attention. It is Mimulus, or monkey flower. It's a pity you don't see it more often, as it is really a great plant and people seemed to love it.

7 Just outside the gift shop, this spring annual was getting a lot of attention. It is Mimulus, or monkey flower. It's a pity you don't see it more often, as it is really a great plant and people seemed to love it.

Another cultivar of monkey flower. Which do you like better?

8 Another cultivar of monkey flower. Which do you like better?

Wow - how about that petunia! Another real crowd pleaser - it seemed like just about everyone took notice and commented on it.

9 Wow - how about that petunia! Another real crowd pleaser - it seemed like just about everyone took notice and commented on it.

Looking at the old-fashioned garden. This is the kind of scene everyone dreams of recreating in their own garden - tons of flowers for a super colorful, romantic effect.

10 Looking at the old-fashioned garden. This is the kind of scene everyone dreams of recreating in their own garden - tons of flowers for a super colorful, romantic effect.

This is the view you'd see from the original entrance to the garden. The garden has grown, however, and has had to make changes to accommodate the thousands of visitors.

11 This is the view you'd see from the original entrance to the garden. The garden has grown, however, and has had to make changes to accommodate the thousands of visitors.

More colorful containers - I really like the use of chard in the one on the right.

12 More colorful containers - I really like the use of chard in the one on the right.

There is a small Japanese garden on the grounds that was donated by San Antonio's sister city in Japan, Kumamoto. They actually sent designers and gardeners from Japan to install it.

13 There is a small Japanese garden on the grounds that was donated by San Antonio's sister city in Japan, Kumamoto. They actually sent designers and gardeners from Japan to install it.

The pond, bridge, and some Japanese maples - along with two very lucky resident ducks.

14 The pond, bridge, and some Japanese maples - along with two very lucky resident ducks.

Each side of the walled in Japanese garden uses a different style of traditional Japanese fence. There's this one,

15 Each side of the walled in Japanese garden uses a different style of traditional Japanese fence. There's this one,

This one,

16 This one,

This one,

17 This one,

and this one, which is my favorite, though I would proudly recreate any of these in my garden!

18 and this one, which is my favorite, though I would proudly recreate any of these in my garden!

The conservatory has very unusual architecture which makes it a dramatic presence in the garden. The palm house in the center is tall enough to accommodate even very tall plants.

19 The conservatory has very unusual architecture which makes it a dramatic presence in the garden. The palm house in the center is tall enough to accommodate even very tall plants.

This sunken garden can only be accessed through the various conservatory galleries.

20 This sunken garden can only be accessed through the various conservatory galleries.

In one of the conservatory galleries: croton, bird of paradise, and bromeliads.

21 In one of the conservatory galleries: croton, bird of paradise, and bromeliads.

Near that planting hung this adorable mural made by a local elementary school. It shows animals and plants from the rain forest made from all sorts of different craft materials.

22 Near that planting hung this adorable mural made by a local elementary school. It shows animals and plants from the rain forest made from all sorts of different craft materials.

The wonderful view from the top of the hill. The garden is situated on one of the highest spots in all of San Antonio.

23 The wonderful view from the top of the hill. The garden is situated on one of the highest spots in all of San Antonio.

These walls were originally a reservoir - the garden's hilltop location made it perfect for the waterworks that were there years ago.

24 These walls were originally a reservoir - the garden's hilltop location made it perfect for the waterworks that were there years ago.

Here's the garden's newest attraction - the bird watch. The area is completely inaccessible by humans, except for a covered area with a one way glass pane for viewing the birds. While we were there, we saw a black chinned hummingbird!

25 Here's the garden's newest attraction - the bird watch. The area is completely inaccessible by humans, except for a covered area with a one way glass pane for viewing the birds. While we were there, we saw a black chinned hummingbird!

One of the really special features at the garden is the Texas Native Trail. They recreate the landscape and architecture of South Texas, Hill Country, and East Texas, which is shown here.

26 One of the really special features at the garden is the Texas Native Trail. They recreate the landscape and architecture of South Texas, Hill Country, and East Texas, which is shown here.

The log cabin in the East Texas area was my absolute favorite. It is a very old, original structure, but I love the huge overhanging roof so that the family could basically live outdoors. I know I could live here happily!

27 The log cabin in the East Texas area was my absolute favorite. It is a very old, original structure, but I love the huge overhanging roof so that the family could basically live outdoors. I know I could live here happily!

Looking down to the barn and vegetable garden of the East Texas house.

28 Looking down to the barn and vegetable garden of the East Texas house.

Agaves and cactus along the South Texas trail.

29 Agaves and cactus along the South Texas trail.

The pink flowers are pink evening primrose, Oenothera speciosa.

30 The pink flowers are pink evening primrose, Oenothera speciosa.

Another beautiful scene in the South Texas area. They told me that they get too much rain to accurately illustrate South Texas, so this is a bit more lush than you'd see there.

31 Another beautiful scene in the South Texas area. They told me that they get too much rain to accurately illustrate South Texas, so this is a bit more lush than you'd see there.

I screamed out:

32 I screamed out: "Indian paintbrush!" when I saw this plant, as I had never seen one in bloom before. It is Castilleja indivisa, which is actually known as Texas paintbrush. It was a real thrill for me to see it.

A bluebonnet in the South Texas area.

33 A bluebonnet in the South Texas area.

Looking toward the Schumacher house over the Hill Country meadow - the white flowers you see are Gaura lindheimeri, which you see limp along in Northern perennial gardens but down here, I couldn't believe how beautiful it was.

34 Looking toward the Schumacher house over the Hill Country meadow - the white flowers you see are Gaura lindheimeri, which you see limp along in Northern perennial gardens but down here, I couldn't believe how beautiful it was.

The Hill Country meadow, looking over toward the Schumacher house, an original residence moved to the garden.

35 The Hill Country meadow, looking over toward the Schumacher house, an original residence moved to the garden.

A young tree in the Hill Country meadow.

36 A young tree in the Hill Country meadow.

Lead plant (Amorpha fruiticosa) blooming in the Hill Country meadow. I would definitely grow one of these in my garden.

37 Lead plant (Amorpha fruiticosa) blooming in the Hill Country meadow. I would definitely grow one of these in my garden.

The Schumacher house - totally charming and much bigger, but I think I still like the East Texas cabin better.

38 The Schumacher house - totally charming and much bigger, but I think I still like the East Texas cabin better.

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39 A "limestone seep" in the Hill Country area. They really take the authenticity of the Texas Native trail environments seriously, and they absolutely succeed. I really loved visiting each of the areas.

Sisyrhinchium, also known as blue-eyed grass, in the Hill Country meadow. This iris relative is one of those plants you can't help but be charmed by, and it's a native Texan!

40 Sisyrhinchium, also known as blue-eyed grass, in the Hill Country meadow. This iris relative is one of those plants you can't help but be charmed by, and it's a native Texan!

Need to find your nearest public garden? Click here and make your plans to celebrate National Public Gardens day!

Comments (1)

  • in looking for bird of paradise i found this site. its been years since i have been to the gardens, i must return soon so beautiful. thanks livy

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