Natural beauty abounds in the concrete jungle we call Houston. Get your floral fix at these 4 Houston gardens.
McGovern Centennial Gardens
In 1914, Houston real estate investor and industrialist George Hermann deeded a 285-acre parcel of land to the City of Houston for the purpose of a municipal park. A century later, Hermann Park is a 445-acre green space visited by an estimated 6 million people per year. In 2014, to mark the hundredth anniversary of George Hermann’s gift—the Hermann Park conservancy debuted the fifteen-acre McGovern Centennial Gardens, a meditative landscape on the park’s northeast end replete with floral fancies organized into distinct areas that include a rose garden, an arid garden, a woodlands garden and a community garden, which produces seasonal vegetables, herbs and fruit trees. Fun fact: The facility’s dazzling glass and granite entryway, officially dubbed the Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion, was designed by the architect behind Apple’s sleek storefronts. The entryway opens into the Centennial Greens, a gorgeous lawn bookended on one end by a fountain and on the other by a waterfall flowing down the side of a thirty-foot mount. This green expanse at the center of the park is an ideal spot to set down a blanket and stare up at the sky or chow down on a picnic. A warning: Expect to dodge photographers or else photobomb some pictures. No matter the time of year, Insta-influencers and professional photographers alike flock to the gardens to cash in on its natural beauty.
After meandering through the park, replenish yourself with a refreshment or snow cone from one of the many food trucks or carts that frequently operate in the parking lot outside the gardens. One particular vendor often stationed near the entrance serves green coconut water, cracked open and served up fresh. It’s a revelation on a hot summer day.
6001 Fannin St., hermannpark.org
Japanese Garden at Hermann Park
Just a short distance west of McGovern Centennial Gardens, Hermann Park’s other resident garden offers a serenity not always on offer at Centennial Gardens. The tranquil Japanese Garden, built as a symbol of friendship between the United States and Japan, is festooned with waterfalls, a winding stream, Koi pond, tea house, stone pathways and carefully manicured blooms. The entrance to the Japanese Garden is near the Pioneer Memorial obelisk in the heart of the park. The garden is often overlooked by park visitors flocking to the area to see the Sam Houston monument, iconic reflection pool and the obelisk that are among the park’s most identifiable landmarks.
The five-acre garden built in the Daimyo Style, a traditional design that dates back to the 17th, 18th, and 19th century stroll gardens, and includes a tea garden, a kaiyushiki stroll garden, and a scroll garden. Except lots of animal encounters in the garden. During the day, turtles are often on display wading through the ponds on site. Birds flit about the gardens many trees and there are fish aplenty in the ponds.
6000 Fannin St., houstontx.gov
Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens
Want a taste of nature with a heaping of Houston history on the side? We’ve found the the ideal garden for your: Bayou Bend, the iconic pink “house museum” of the Museum of Fine Arts, formerly the home of of philanthropist Ima Hogg. The house sits on a 14-acre estate comprised of formal gardens and woodland areas. Hogg created the formal gardens to reflect the Country Place era in American landscape design and the gardens are arranged into “rooms” replete with manicured shrubs, flowers and statues of Greek muses. Magnolias, crape myrtles, and other flowering trees as well as Azaleas abound on the property. Hogg is credited with introducing Azaleas to Houston -- it’s no wonder that the historic home is a significant stop on the River Oaks Garden Club’s annual Azalea Trail.
The home itself boasts displays of American furnishings, silver, ceramics, and paintings. Access to Bayou Bend’s gardens is included with tickets to view the house but gardens-only admission is also available.
6003 Memorial Dr., mfah.org/visit/bayou-bend-collection-and-gardens
Cockrell Butterfly Center
Want to ogle at some butterflies? It may seem counterintuitive at first, but skip the traditional gardens and head over to the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Here you can converse with the winged beauties fluttering through the museum’s three-story glass greenhouse built around a 50-foot waterfall. Home to many butterfly species, the greenhouse also boast tropical plants and flowers. What it lacks in acreage, this indoor garden of sorts more than makes up for with its critter encounters and AC . . . a particularly alluring draw during the summer months.
While arguably its most majestic attraction, the Cockrell Butterfly Center is by no means the museum’s only interesting offering. Say howdy to Wyrex, the 10-foot T. Rex in the Morian Hall of Paleontology and ride the Geovator in the Wiess Energy Hall. The attraction takes on you on a simulated descent to the bottom of an oil well.
5555 Hermann Park Dr., hmns.org