Zilker Botanical Garden
The Zilker Botanical Garden is located on 28 acres of Zilker Metropolitan Park in downtown Austin. This “jewel in the heart of Austin” has old live oaks snuggled into a hillside and offers a lush, shaded escape from everyday urban life with panoramic views of downtown and beyond. The theme gardens include Taniguchi Japanese Garden, Riparian Streambed, Hartman Prehistoric Garden, and Mabel Davis Rose Garden. These and other gardens are linked by walks, streams, and Koi-filled ponds to provide an urban oasis of shaded hideaways, sunny grass areas, and hundreds of natural and cultivated species.
The Zilker Botanical Garden is run as a public-private partnership between the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) and the Zilker Botanical Garden Conservancy (ZGBC). The AAGC provides the resources of around 30 garden clubs to this partnership as part of an agreement between the Conservancy and the Austin Area Garden Council.
The garden is open to the public on most days of the year and draws over 150,000 visitors each year, including locals, tourists, and thousands of schools from Austin and surrounding areas.
PARD, ZBGC, and AAGC are linked by their common commitment to the notion of a garden as the heart and soul of our community. Despite the fact that the faces and names have changed throughout the years, a legacy of leadership, stewardship, and service has been left.
The Violet Crown Garden Club set aside $50 to start a building project. To augment the initial contribution, the club quickly arranged fund-raising events. Mrs. W. Bradfield was the first person to contact the city and request that public land be designated as a building site.
Six Austin Garden Clubs requested authorization from the Municipal of Austin to construct a Garden Center on city property. Mrs. Alden Mabel Davis is leading the charge, with founding clubs including the Violet Crown Garden Club, the Men’s Garden Club (now the Garden Club of Austin), the Wilshire Area Garden Club, the Austin Women’s Federation Garden Group (now The Garden G.A.N.G.), the Heart of the Hills Garden Club, and the Western Hills Garden Club (now West Lake Hills Garden Club).
The concept was approved by the City of Austin, and the group filed articles of incorporation with the Texas Secretary of State in April 1956. The Austin Area Garden Center was established with the goal of bringing a building to Zilker Park that would serve as a garden center for club activities, community education, and volunteer efforts.
The Austin City Council appropriated land in Zilker Park. The City retained ownership of the land and agreed to pay utilities, grounds maintenance, and building repairs for the new Garden Center. The Austin City Council approved the AAGC-provided building plans, which were overseen by Mr. Beverly Sheffield (PARD Director).
The exquisite stone Austin Area Garden Center was built and dedicated, becoming the focal point for all visitors to Zilker Botanical Garden.
The Garden Center was completely refurbished by the City and AAGC, including asbestos removal, ADA compliance, and other improvements.
In 2014, the Garden Center, which has been the focal point for the AAGC’s educational programs, celebrated its 50th anniversary. Every month, the Center hosts 45 to 50 meetings, making it one of the most popular facilities in the city.
AAGC and PARD established the Zilker Botanical Garden Conservancy in 2015. (ZBGC). Members of the AAGC contributed time and money to the Conservancy, totalling more than $97,500 to pay initial expenses.
The AAGC handed over management of the Gift Shop and Admissions Gate to the ZBGC in 2019, as part of the ZBGC and PARD’s first public-private partnership agreement.
Isamu Taniguchi Japanese Garden
Isamu Taniguchi created the Isamu Taniguchi Japanese Garden, which opened to the public in 1969, when he was seventy years old. Taniguchi worked for free for 18 months to transform 3 acres of jagged caliche mountainside into a tranquil garden. As is common in Japan, the ponds were created in the shape of a word or ideogram. The ponds in the first section of the garden spell out “AUSTIN” in this scenario, signifying the fact that these gardens were made as a gift to the city. The pond is surrounded by the remains of the Mother Tree, which encouraged Taniguchi to complete the garden.
The Texas Historical Commission and Evan Taniguchi, Isamu Taniguchi’s grandson, created “The Spirit of the Garden” in 2014, a short film detailing Isamu Taniguchi’s voyage to Austin and how he came to build the Isamu Taniguchi Japanese Garden, which is now on display at Zilker Botanical Garden.
Next Point of Interest: Blanton Museum of Art