By Brenda CabanissJust slightly northwest of downtown Houston lies a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of the city skyscrapers on Main Street and Capitol. If you ever want to get away, but lack the funds for a vacation in Jamaica, try the Bayou Bend Gardens located at 1 Westcott St.. at Memorial Drive in Houston. The gardens provide a silent retreat without the expense. In fact, tickets start at $3 for adults and children over 9 years old; children nine and under get in free.
Just getting to the garden grounds is an adventure in itself. In order to reach the house, visitors have to cross a suspension bridge that hangs over the murky waters of Buffalo Bayou. After crossing the bridge, guests arrive at a glass walled gazebo where an attendant is ready to exchange your money for admission tickets.
Just beyond the gazebo is a beautiful two story colonial style home overlooking the 14 acre gardens. The home belonged to William, Michael and Ima Hogg, children of former Texas Governor James Stephen Hogg. It was built in the late 1920s by famous Tennessee architect John F.. Staub.
The eight gardens are made to resemble rooms, each with different characteristics. Each garden is accessible by golden speckled pathways. The garden rooms consist of the Clio Garden, Woodland Trails, Diana Garden, Euterpe Garden, Carla Garden, East Garden, Butterfly Garden and the White Garden.
Just beyond the gazebo lies the Clio Garden, an ode to the Greek mythological muse Clio, whose statue sits in the middle of the garden room surrounded by azaleas and pansies. Pathways extend from the far side of the Clio Garden into the Diana Garden.
The Diana Garden is a symmetrical outdoor garden room with a rectangular water fountain in its midst. Jets of water shoot from one side of the fountain to the other in an arching motion. A statue of the Goddess Diana is featured at the end of the fountain.
The Euterpe Garden is a spacious garden encircled by azaleas and is home to a second statue of Clio.
The Carla Garden is the result of damage sustained by Hurricane Carla on the Euterpe Garden. The hurricane ripped out trees leaving bare spots, so the garden now features a sitting area.
The East Garden has an aire of the English countryside with hedges all around and azaleas and camellias lining its sides.
The Butterfly Garden is a small garden room shaped as a butterfly. First time visitor to the gardens, 9-year-old Kiana Rivera says she was excited to see the gardens.
“My favorite part was the butterfly garden,” Rivera said.
The White Garden is a rustic garden that features various types of white flowers. The smell of gardenia flowers fills the air while amazingly huge magnolia flowers shift crazily in the breeze.
The Topiary Garden has statues of various small woodland creatures throughout, reminiscent of a fairy tale.
The gardens are an amazing and relaxing experience, especially when all the plants are in bloom.
“During the summertime, the gardens are mainly green,” said Bart Brechter, curator for the Bayou Bend Gardens. “The best time to see the gardens is February and March.”
Still, with 14 acres of land and nine acres of cultivated gardens, it seems a daunting task to figure out which flowers to plant in each garden. However, Brechter says “a historical master plan exist that states which flowers Ima Hogg wanted planted in each garden.” He added that a crew of five full-time employees maintains the gardens.
In 1957, the home and its surrounding gardens were donated to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. Both now serve as a museum and historical landmark in the middle of the city. Funding is provided by the MFAH, an endowment and the River Oaks Garden Club.
When visiting the gardens, several options are available to guests. Self-guided tours are available for people to wander through at their own pace and usually take about 45 minutes. Guided tours of the gardens take approximately two hours. For an additional fee, guided tours of the house are also available. However, advance reservations are recommended.
For more information on the Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, call 713-639-7750 or visit http://www.mfah.org/bayoubend.