Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Garden Visit: The San Antonio Botanical Garden

Greetings from the land of perpetual snow! Our hardened layers of the white stuff got topped off with a thick layer of ice during last night's sudden sleet storm, and sidewalks and porches were treacherous neck-breaking places all day. All our south-facing windows were covered with ice this morning (I couldn't even look out my bedroom window this morning as I usually do at the beginning of each day, because it was completely covered with a thick layer). And even more fun, my children and I are all suffering from miserable colds -- there's nothing like chipping ice off the sidewalk while coughing and sneezing. Uggh! When will this winter be over?

I guess I can't complain too much though, since last week I was able to get away for five days in San Antonio, Texas, to see the sun and green grass (my last post described the Alamo gardens).

Today I will share some photos of my visit to the San Antonio Botanical Garden (SABOT -- an acronym that brings to my mind a picture of wooden clogs being thrown into machinery...). It was a wonderful, sunny day with temperatures in the 70s when my husband and I visited the gardens, and I can't tell you how lovely it was to be out among green plants, leafy trees and glorious flowers!

A map of the SABOT (from their website). I was handed a printout of one of these
 after paying the $10 admission fee (which seemed a reasonable price for being able
 to enjoy the many well-tended garden areas). The scale of the map is deceptive
 -- the gardens are MUCH larger and more complex than they are depicted
on this simplified map.

Upon entering the garden, a terraced area near the admissions house contains many lovely pots filled with annual displays,
as well as large containers of trees and shrubs. These pots were a sight for winter eyes, I probably don't have to point out. 

In the main area between the Rose Garden and the Wisteria Arbor is a grouping of large, brick, raised beds, filled with mass plantings of violas, snapdragons and other cool season annuals. 

Every time the breeze blew, the scent of these yellow pansies was wafted across the gardens -- they could be smelled from probably 100 yards away. And the beds were also occupied by groups of cute little birds industriously hunting for worms. It was an instant breath of summer, between the wonderful scent and the chirping birds.

This orange tree was bursting with fruit. These are somewhat sour tasting (my husband
couldn't resist picking up one off the ground) mandarin-sized oranges.

The Old-Fashioned Garden is filled with many cottage favorites, including irises, sweet Williams, snapdragons and poppies (which we were told would bloom in about a month), as well as numerous exotic-looking subtropical plants that I'm not familiar with.

Caught this handsome guy drinking from the birdbath in the Old-Fashioned Garden.

These Paper White Narcissus are common in the San Antonio area, as it stays warm enough for them to perennialize. San Antonio was bumped from Zone 8B to 9A when the USDA updated the hardiness zones map in 2012, so it might not be possible for gardeners to grow every kind of Narcissus there (some require more cold to chill them). These in the photo smelled absolutely divine -- even better than they do indoors.

Although most of the roses in the Rose Garden weren't blooming yet, this climbing rose was, and was just what I needed to see in February.

The Rose Garden. Most of the rose plants have been pruned back, but the ones in the back right (including the climbing rose in the previous photo) were blooming, which seemed a miracle. The fountain was running, and we sat on the edge of it for quite a while, resting, listening to the water and the birds singing, and enjoying the sunshine.

Then we moved on to the Conservatory. The inside is filled with a wealth of tropical plants.

On the other side of the Conservatory, a courtyard opens onto several other glass houses containing a Desert Pavilion and a Tropical Room, on the right, and a Palm and Cycad Pavilion straight ahead. Although the plantings were beautiful and interesting, I confess that I thought the architectural style of this heavy concrete and glass complex was hideously ugly in a futuristic dystopian way, like something from Logan's Run. I couldn't wait to escape from it -- I guess there are a variety of tastes, which also change over time (the garden was opened in 1980).

Again, plants lovely, architecture not so much.

The inside of the Desert Pavilion.

After the glass houses, we walked up the curving ramp to the top of the Overlook. All along the edges of the ramp are growing rosemary, which was gloriously in bloom when were there. The bees were busily working away on all the flowers, and the herb smelled wonderful wherever we dared to rub the foliage with our fingers. Rosemary apparently grows like a weed in the hot, dry climate of Texas. Not so in Iowa: I think I might have killed the rosemary overwintering in our basement by overwatering it :-(

The Texas Mountain Laurel was in bloom and we saw this tree everywhere we went in town. The flower clusters smell very strongly like grape juice.

I believe this is Lantana. I've only ever seen it growing in small pots, not as huge shrubs, so I was thrown off by the size. The butterflies certainly loved it, as I managed to catch in this photo.

More lovely flower-filled pots, next to a giant purple chair, perfect for photo-ops.

Our visit to the SABOT gardens on that sunny day was so lovely -- just what I was hoping for on our San Antonio trip; well, that and the nachos and margaritas... ;-)  I hope it's not too long until our own weather turns from snow and ice to sunny, warm days like those I enjoyed in Texas.

In my next post I'll write about the SABOT's Japanese Garden, which I thought was one of the most successful garden areas, and therefore deserves its own post. Thanks so much for reading! -Beth


  1. That really must be a great garden to visit, I was impressed by the tree full of oranges, wonderful!

    1. I agree, Janneke -- I thought the garden was really quite well-done, and seeing an orange tree is always somewhat miraculous for gardeners who live in colder climes. Thanks for reading! -Beth

  2. I enjoyed this breath of spring, Beth. Thanks for sharing the colors from the SABOT!

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the photos, Beth. It's nice to get away for a bit, although I'm looking forward to things warming up here. Thanks for reading! -Beth

  3. What a breath of fresh air it must have been, to get away from the snow and ice to where things are warm and green! You must be longing for your winter to end. I had better whisper this bit, but so far (and I only said 'so far' ...) we have been lucky in the uk and it has been reasonably mild. We are still longing for spring though.

    1. Hi Jane, I'm glad to hear that someone is having a relatively mild spring so far; I hope it continues to be so for UK gardeners. I think it's supposed to get a bit warmer here next week (according to the weathermen, who aren't always accurate, of course), so perhaps we'll get some mildness too. Thanks for reading! -Beth

  4. What a nice visit away from the snow and cold! Lovely gardens, though I also think the conservatories would have been much more beautiful had they been in a classical style of architecture. (I'm not into modern, either.) Having seen tropical places where Lantana has taken over the native vegetation and grown over 10 feet tall, I'm rather glad it doesn't get too big up here in the north. (It's actually one of the world's most invasive weeds, believe it or not!) The butterflies sure love it, though.

    1. Hi Indie, Yes, it was indeed nice to get away for a bit, although we're finally having a few warm days here this week too. I had no idea Lantana was invasive (although it obviously grew very well in the SABOT gardens) -- it always seems like such a cute annual in 4" pots here. Thanks for reading, and hope you're soon enjoying warm days too! -Beth

  5. I love visiting botanical (or any other type) gardens, Beth. And this one is very special. I like the way it is laid out. That mountain laurel is stunning. It is the state flower here, but the deer have eaten mine right down. Think spring! P. x

    1. Pam, I looked up mountain laurel, and apparently there are several species commonly called by that name. This one is Texas Mountain Laurel, Calia secundiflora, although the Texans who told me what it is just referred to it as "Mountain Laurel" (being in Texas, it was probably obvious to them what it was). It is only hardy to Zone 7B/8A, which made me wonder how it could be the state flower of PA. Your Mountain Laurel is Kalmia latifolia, which is native to the Eastern US. I didn't actually know any of this until I just looked it up now. I guess this shows the importance of including Latin scientific plant names, although I usually don't include them in my blog unless there could be some confusion. Not being familiar with either of those two Mountain Laurels, I had no idea there could be confusion. Thanks for reading, and I hope your spring is coming along too! -Beth