Zilker Botanical Gardens

Zilker Botantical Gardens are located on 31 acres in the northwest corner of Zilker Park. Back in 1962, Austin City Council reserved this area just south of Lady Bird Lake at the request of local garden clubs. A unique partnership was formed which is still in effect: the city owns and maintains the property while the Austin Area Garden Council, representing 31 local garden clubs, provides educational programs and assists with planning and maintenance.

The main Garden Center building was completed in 1964 and contains meeting rooms, restrooms, and a small gift shop. Garden clubs sponsor lectures and plant shows or sales. Rooms can also be rented for receptions or parties.

In the late 1960s, the Japanese Garden was designed and built by Isamu Taniguchi who was 70 years old when he took on this project. Water trickles down the hillside in little streams and collects in koi-filled ponds which spell the word “Austin”…but that’s something you wouldn’t notice unless you knew to look. Mr. Taniguchi saved the cedar tree trunks from the site to build the Bridge to Walk Over the Moon.

Dinosaur tracks and the skeleton of an ancient turtle were found in the northwest corner of the gardens in 1992. This discovery led to the creation of the Hartman Prehistoric Garden. A large bronze dinosaur statue of an Ornithomimus guards the island here. 

If you look very carefully, you might still see turtle tracks over near the waterfall. 

The expansive Rose Garden is a popular spot for wedding pictures and ceremonies. The rose bushes are labeled and the garden is designed so that it’s easy to walk between the raised beds.

Zilker Botanical Gardens contains some interesting historical features. The Butler keyhole window in the Rose Garden came from the 1887 home of local brick manufacturer Michael Butler. This structure is a popular backdrop for wedding, prom, and quinceanera pictures. 

A metal footbridge connects the Japanese Garden and the Rose Garden. This is one of original bridges which crossed over drainage ditches on Congress Avenue in the late 1800s.

Wandering around the Zilker Botanical Gardens is a delightful way to spend an hour or two. Even at the height of last year’s drought, the gardens felt cool and refreshing. In any season, there’s nothing like time spent in a peaceful, fragrant garden to refresh the soul.

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