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Spring in Bloom

Touring Texas’ public gardens

Andria
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Mary Morrison, Jessica Jacks, Amy Jacks

Mary Morrison and nieces Jessica Jacks and Amy Jacks have traveled around the world together and love to visit beautiful gardens.

My two favorite things in my life are my nieces and travel,” Mary Morrison says.

That’s why she’s journeyed all around the world with nieces Jessica Jacks, a bus monitor at Deer Park ISD Transportation, and Amy Jacks, chief resident of otolaryngology at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Together, they’ve traveled to places like New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Italy. Jessica calls Mary “Favorite Aunt Mary.”

One of their most memorable recent excursions, Mary says, was the springtime trip she and Jessica took in search of spring blooms at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden and the Fort Worth Botanic Garden.

When asked what part of her trip she most enjoyed, Mary says, “I love the tulips – there are so many,” of the Dallas Arboretum’s seemingly endless springtime display of 500,000 blooming tulips. This year, through April 10, the Arboretum’s annual Dallas Blooms festival centers around birds with the theme “Birds in Paradise.” You’ll find enormous flower-ensconced peacock topiaries amid thousands of azaleas and hundreds of blossoming, bright-pink Japanese cherry trees. Southern Living named Dallas Blooms, the largest annual floral festival in the southwest, one of “The Best Places to See Stunning Spring Blooms Across the South.”

“I enjoyed the Fort Worth part of the trip,” Mary says. “The Japanese Garden there is so peaceful. You respond not just to the garden, but to the overall design, the combination of plants and water and buildings that make it unique.” The oldest major botanic garden in Texas, the Fort Worth Botanic Garden encompasses 25 specialty garden spaces, including a Rose Garden and a Begonia Species Bank green-housing 1,800 species of begonias. It’s the largest begonia collection in North America.

From there, Mary and Jessica drove to Waco, just to visit, and then to College Station – “Because we’re Aggies,” she says – to see The Gardens at Texas A&M University. “It was a triangle tour of Texas,” she laughs. The Gardens is an on-campus green space used for botanical teaching, research, and community outreach.

BIRDS IN PARADISE

BIRDS IN PARADISE The annual Dallas Blooms festival at the Dallas Arboretum showcases giant floral topiaries surrounded by some 500,000 blooming tulips, thousands of azaleas, and hundreds of Japanese cherry trees. The festival runs through April 10. (Photo courtesy of Dallas Arboretum)

At home in Houston, Mary enjoys visits to local gardens. “The Centennial Gardens [in Hermann Park] is a family favorite,” she says. “I did the light show at the new Botanic Garden for Christmas. And the Arboretum is almost like an exercise place for me, with the trails. You can take a good walk there. I don’t love exercise, but I enjoy being outside, and I can hike 10 miles a day there, no problem.

“Gardens are opposition to sitting in the office,” the employee benefits manager with UniversalPegasus International adds. “The colors, the shapes. Engaging with them gives joy.”

Jessica says she’s growing roses and pansies, inspired by the trip she shared with her aunt. With her love of Texas’ gardens, we assumed Mary to be an avid gardener. Not so. “I couldn’t make a plant grow if I had to,” she says. “I just like to look.”

Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden

Ft. Worth Botanic Garden and Botanical Research Institute of Texas

The Gardens at Texas A&M University

Houston gardens to check out this spring:

Houston Arboretum and Nature Center offers a multitude of classes on gardening, birds, art, and nature amid its 155-acre corner of Memorial Park. Gardens in the Arboretum are designed to grow native plants that stimulate the senses and attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and other wildlife.

The Bayou Bend Gardens surround Houston philanthropist and civic leader Ima Hogg’s home, now part of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. It is said that Ima Hogg introduced azaleas to Houston; Bayou Bend Gardens are a testament to that.

Houston Botanic Garden is a “living museum” of flora and fauna. Currently, “Art in the Garden: Celebrating BioDiversity!”, produced in conjunction with Lawndale Art Center, commemorates the much-anticipated Botanic Garden’s first anniversary. Featuring multi-media art installations in sculpture, music, and more from local artists, the exhibit is one of many happenings on the Botanic Garden calendar.

The Japanese Garden in Hermann Park has attracted visitors seeking a calm, natural oasis in the middle of the city for 30 years. Situated in a quiet enclave of Hermann Park, the Japanese Garden features serene gravel paths, bridges, a pagoda, and Japanese flowers: Oga Lotus, Japanese wisteria, Heavenly Bamboo. Plants are pruned in the Japanese style set forth by landscape architect Ken Nakajima.

The John Fairey Garden in Hempstead is named for its founder John Fairey (who is now deceased), an A&M Regents Professor of Architecture and Regents Professor for International Research with an emphasis on plant exploration. The Garden is home to plants native to central and southeast Texas, as well as a unique collection of rare Mexican plants John discovered on his many trips to remote parts of Mexico in search of new seeds and cuttings. John received numerous national awards for his contributions to horticulture. Note: Visitors must tour the John Fairey Garden accompanied by a docent; check the website for days and times.

The McGovern Centennial Gardens are the living tribute to 100 years of Hermann Park. The Gardens’ spacious lawn extends to several themed garden “rooms” where thousands of shrubs, flowers, and trees grow to create spaces perfect for wandering, picnics, or reflection.

Post Skylawn opened in 2021 atop the newly repurposed Barbara Jordan Post Office, now a hub of restaurants, shopping, and events. Native trees and plants as well as a one-acre organic farm grow amid sky-high views of the city in this urban rooftop garden.

Other gardens around the state:

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Austin

San Antonio Botanical Garden, San Antonio

South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center, Corpus Christi 

Zilker Botanical Garden, Austin 

  • Dallas Arboretum

    Spring is a sea of blooms at the Dallas Arboretum. (Photo courtesy of Dallas Arboretum)

  • Dallas Arboretum offers rest stops

    The Dallas Arboretum offers rest stops to take in the beauty of its gardens. (Photo courtesy of Dallas Arboretum)

  • Houston Botanic Garden

    Houston Botanic Garden hosts “Art in the Garden: Celebrating BioDiversity!”, produced in conjunction with Lawndale Art Center and featuring local artists' works throughout the gardens. (Photo: Houston Botanic Garden)

  • Houston's Bayou Bend

    The formal gardens at Houston's Bayou Bend. (Photo: Rick Gardner, Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston)

  • Dallas Arboretum
  • Dallas Arboretum offers rest stops
  • Houston Botanic Garden
  • Houston's Bayou Bend

Dallas Arboretum

Spring is a sea of blooms at the Dallas Arboretum. (Photo courtesy of Dallas Arboretum)

Dallas Arboretum offers rest stops

The Dallas Arboretum offers rest stops to take in the beauty of its gardens. (Photo courtesy of Dallas Arboretum)

Houston Botanic Garden

Houston Botanic Garden hosts “Art in the Garden: Celebrating BioDiversity!”, produced in conjunction with Lawndale Art Center and featuring local artists' works throughout the gardens. (Photo: Houston Botanic Garden)

Houston's Bayou Bend

The formal gardens at Houston's Bayou Bend. (Photo: Rick Gardner, Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston)

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