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2014-06-19

SA Botanical Garden - offering beauty & knowledge

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

The San Antonio Botanical Garden provides a perfect setting for those professional photographs that mark life's big moments. On a recent visit my family saw brides, with and without their grooms, couples posing for engagement photos, lovely teens in their brightly colored quinceanera formals and even one couple capturing mom's very pregnant belly.
The garden, opened in 1980, displays a wide range of plants throughout the year, but the blooms of spring create a sumptuous backdrop for beautiful photographs.
And as with most things in this world there is always a Bandera County connection. The garden entrance is the Daniel Sullivan Carriage House, designed by noted Hill Country architect Alfred Giles. It is listed on the National Register of Historical Places.
Giles, who designed numerous Hill Country homes, business buildings and county courthouses, designed the beautiful limestone Old Jail building on 13th Street next to the Bandera Ice House. The building was constructed in 1881 and has served as a jail, museum and the offices of the Bandera Country River Authority.
The carriage house at the botanical garden reflects some of the features for which Giles was well known. It houses a gift shop and a restaurant.
When you visit the garden, allow for plenty of time to take in as many of its best features on 38 acres as you can.
The formal and display gardens can inspire and educate. The display beds change with the seasons. The Old Fashioned Garden may bring back memories of something you remember growing in your grandmother's garden.
Relieve stress by spending some time in Kumamoto En, a bamboo fenced garden that was a gift from San Antonio's sister city, Kumamoto, Japan. The sound of gently riffling water, well-trained bonsai and symbolic features make it easy to fall into a meditative mood.
The iconic glass towers of the Lucile Halsell Conservatory house a wide-ranging collection of plants from around the world, including orchids, cacti, palms and cycads. Rest on a convenient bench while enjoying the ducks and waterlilies in the ponds.
If you want to know more about plants that need less water, there are several WaterSaver demonstration areas.
Eleven acres of the garden are devoted to the native plants of Texas, with trails highlighting the Hill Country, the East Texas Pineywoods, and South Texas.
The pineywoods area, in which my family spent a pleasant half hour or more, is convincing enough to make one fully expect to see an alligator resting on the banks of the lake. Turtles, herons and ducks kept us amused as we watched all the fish swim up looking for food.
On display through June 29 are six giant bird houses that have proven popular with young and old alike. Created in partnership with AIA - San Antonio (American Institute of Architecture), the houses, big enough for human use, reflect a creativity of design and use/re-use of weather-resistant materials. They also focus on recycling, reuse or sustainability, and accessibility.
My family voted the Overland Gourd house, created by Overland Partners Architects the favorite. It's gourd shape pierced with hundreds of pint mason jars created a light-filled magical setting that drew everyone from toddlers to grandparents inside.
The San Antonio Botanical Garden is located at 555 Funston between N. New Braunfels and Broadway, not far from the Witte Museum. Volunteers are welcome for a variety of services, from early morning plant watering, to working with kids. Admission is $10 for adults, $7 for children, $8 for seniors, military and students. It's open year round from 9 am to 5 pm.
Go to www.sabot.org for more information, or call 210-829-5360 for membership information. Various facilities are available for rent for receptions or meetings. Call 210-829-0804 for more information.