Location: 2220 Barton Springs Rd Austin, TX
Fondly called the “jewel in the heart of Austin,” the Zilker Botanical Garden lives up to its nickname–a pleasant surprise given my timing in the middle of January. Though most of the plants had died back and the grounds would have undoubtedly looked more stunning in spring, the historic elements and spatial organization of its themed gardens made the trip up highly memorable.
Located on 31 acres of varied topography on the south bank of the Colorado River across from downtown Austin, Zilker Botanical Garden is split into a series of themed gardens and outdoor rooms. A wide variety of habitats and diverse plant palettes are displayed, from the koi-filled ponds and waterfalls of the Taniguchi Japanese garden to the recreated local dinosaur habitat in the Hartman Prehistoric Garden.
My favorite parts of the grounds were the Japanese garden and the historic structures placed throughout the gardens. The intricate and subtly hidden features of the Taniguchi Japanese garden made it a treat to explore, carefully navigating over stepping stones towards shady, water-filled nooks. A sense of presence and awareness of the garden is created when paths diverge, making it necessary to choose a direction from the two or three offered. The historic structures and antiques are spread out throughout the gardens and concentrated at Pioneer Village. These pieces, with accompanying signage, honor Austin’s historical roots.
A functioning Swedish Blacksmith shop replica is located in Pioneer Village and is used by various blacksmith groups, making spurs and rods. The structural timbers in the building are almost 150-years old.
Besides the two aforementioned gardens, featured gardens also include: the Green Garden demonstration garden, the rose garden, cactus garden, seasonal bedding displays, floral display garden, butterfly trail and garden, herb garden, and the escarpment trail. The garden is open to the public most days of the year and is enjoyed by over 400,000 visitors annually, from over 100 countries.