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Houston Botanic Garden Offers Sneak Peek

Pooja Salhotra
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Gretchen Hilyard, Beth Black,

Sisters Gretchen Hilyard and Beth Black honored their mother Susan Garver through the Susan Garver Discovery Garden, part of the first phase of Houston Botanic Garden. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra)

“This is our Super Bowl,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner declared on Sunday afternoon. “Forget about next weekend. Let’s start today.” 

Mayor Turner, standing before a crowd of roughly 100 Houstonians, was referring to the celebration of the near-completion of the three-acre Susan Garver Family Discovery Garden, the first piece of the ambitious Houston Botanic Garden project. Located on the site of the former Glenbrook Park Golf Course along Sims Bayou near Hobby Airport, the 132-acre Houston Botanic Garden will showcase Houston’s biodiversity in a serene setting. Though the garden officially opens to the public in fall 2020, a public, sneak peek event was held on Sunday to give community members a chance to see what’s in the works. 

Water features in the garden

Children enjoy the interactive water features at the Susan Garver Discovery Garden. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra)

“We wanted you to get a sneak peek into what is being planted in our living museum where we hope that all visitors will grow in their love of plants, gardens and nature,” Claudia Gee Vassar, president of the Houston Botanic Garden, said in her opening remarks. 

Claudia went on to thank several individuals, starting with Mike Garver and his daughters Beth Black and Gretchen Hilyard, whose gift completed the capital campaign that funded the garden. The garden is named after Susan Garver (Mike’s wife and Beth and Gretchen’s mother), a longtime Girl Scout Troop leader who loved nature. 

“Mom always loved having flowers in her yard,” said Gretchen. “She loved arranging flowers. Her whole life, she loved gardening. As she got older, she just loved having flowers in her yard.”  

Beth Clark, Roy Clark,

Beth and Roy Clark were among the hundreds of people who visited Houston Botanic Garden on Sunday. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra)

The Susan Garver Family Discovery Garden features a central lagoon with aquatic and carnivorous plants, bordered by forest and interspersed with play areas. Kids, and even some adults in attendance on Sunday, were quick to explore the interactive water play area, which includes a see-saw that, when ridden, powers a sprinkler system, a boardwalk maze around the lagoon and an Archimedes’ screw water-machine. 

The Houston Botanic Garden was debuted on Sunday after years of hard work, vision and public-private collaborations. It started when, more than 30 years ago, Houstonians Nancy Thomas, past president of the Garden Club of America and the late Kay Crooker had a vision for a botanic garden in Houston that would rival that of other metropolitan cities. They incorporated Houston Botanic Garden in 2002 and assembled a board to consider sites. In 2015, Mayor Annise Parker approved a lease agreement to transform the golf course, which sits near Hobby Airport, into the garden. 

Sulynn Ooi, Suyi Ooi,

Sisters Sulynn and Suyi Ooi enjoy playing at Houston Botanic Garden. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra)

The master plan for the site is to be rolled out over the next 30 years. The $35 million phase I prioritizes the essential elements and the infrastructure to support future phases. 

“As I look around, I have no doubt that the Houston Botanic Garden will enrich life through discovery, education and the conservation of plants and the natural environment,” Mayor Turner said. “The Houston Botanic Gardens will give Houstonians another serene setting in which they can enjoy nature and experience the health benefits – physical and emotional – with spending time outdoors.” 

See more information about the Houston Botanic Garden here and information about getting involved here.

  • Pam Barton, Gayle McAdoo,

    Pam Barton and Gayle McAdoo enjoy a walk around the lagoon. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra)

  • Jim Hassell, Caroline Hassell

    Jim and Caroline Hassell, West U residents, were excited to check out Houston Botanic Garden on Sunday. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra) 

  • Claudia Gee Vassar

    Claudia Gee Vassar, president of the Houston Botanic Garden, thanks the city for supporting the project. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra) 

  • Houston Botanic Garden

    Houston Botanic Garden will officially open to the public in fall 2020. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra) 

  • Plants

    A variety of plants grow around the lagoon at the Houston Botanic Garden. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra) 

  • Mayor Sylvester Turner

    Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner addresses Houstonians attending the sneak peek of the Houston Botanic Garden. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra)

  • Pam Barton, Gayle McAdoo,
  • Jim Hassell, Caroline Hassell
  • Claudia Gee Vassar
  • Houston Botanic Garden
  • Plants
  • Mayor Sylvester Turner

Pam Barton, Gayle McAdoo,

Pam Barton and Gayle McAdoo enjoy a walk around the lagoon. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra)

Jim Hassell, Caroline Hassell

Jim and Caroline Hassell, West U residents, were excited to check out Houston Botanic Garden on Sunday. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra) 

Claudia Gee Vassar

Claudia Gee Vassar, president of the Houston Botanic Garden, thanks the city for supporting the project. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra) 

Houston Botanic Garden

Houston Botanic Garden will officially open to the public in fall 2020. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra) 

Plants

A variety of plants grow around the lagoon at the Houston Botanic Garden. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra) 

Mayor Sylvester Turner

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner addresses Houstonians attending the sneak peek of the Houston Botanic Garden. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra)

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