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In 1962, space was allotted in Zilker Park for a garden. Since then, the Zilker Botanical Gardens has expanded to over 25 acres and eight separately themed spaces. Thirty-one local clubs help tend to the gardens, which aim to foster environmental education.
Located just south of Lady Bird Lake, Zilker Botanical Garden, "the jewel in the heart of Austin," blends theme gardens like rose, succulent, cactus, herb, and fragrance gardens with streams, waterfalls and Koi-filled ponds. You'll also find a butterfly garden and trail, green and children's gardens, and daylily beds here.
Although all are beautiful in their own right, there are a few spaces that really stand out. One is the Japanese Garden, built by fruit farmer Isamu Taniguchi when he was 70 years old. Despite being sent to an internment camp during World War II, Taniguchi loved the United States and designed the garden with an image of world peace in mind. There is a teahouse here that has on it the Japanese words Ten-Wa-Jin: Heaven, harmony, and man. You can take a walk on the Bridge to Walk Over the Moon, which is said to reveal universal beauty in the moonlight. There are also two ponds here that spell out the word Austin, though it is hard to make out except when flying overhead.
Another memorable feature is the Hartman Prehistoric Garden, where you can fine recreations of prehistoric creatures that once roamed the earth here. In 1992, hikers discovered 100 tracks made by prehistoric reptiles along with the bones of an ancient turtle. It turns out the prints were from the Ornithomimus dinosaur, which was birdlike in appearance and existed in the Cretaceous period (around 97 million years ago). The prints of the dinosaur were cast, then buried in an act of preservation. Today, the garden features statues of dinosaurs and plants that would have existed there when Ornithomimus did.
The Pioneer Village is another unique feature of the Zilker Botanical Gardens. It educates people about farming, planting and composting during pioneer times. There are three historical buildings found here: The Swedish Blacksmith Shop, Swedish Log Cabin and the Esperanza Schoolhouse. The blacksmith shop has authentic tools, the cabin contains an antique hair curler, spinning wheel and kitchen items, and the schoolhouse features educational items from the 1800s.
The Zilker Botanical Gardens, with it's educationally themed spots, can make you feel like you've traveled around the world and back in time, all in the span of a single day.
Cover photo credit: F.D. Richards via Flickr.