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Faerie Trails and Monarch Butterflies: The Zilker Botanical Garden

By Elisha Neubauer

Deep in the heart of Austin lies the Zilker Botanical Garden: a cultivated Eden filled with brightly colored blossoms, historic buildings, and natural wildlife. The garden sits in the center of Zilker Park near the Lady Bird Johnson Lake- and is the most utilized facility on the premises. On average, the garden sees over 300,000 visitors from all across the world, who come to stroll through the twenty-six fenced acres of garden paradise.

The story of the Zilker Botanical Garden begins seventeen years before the City of Austin actually broke ground on it. In 1946, the Violet Crown Garden Club held a fundraising firewood sale. At the close of the sale, they decided to set fifty dollars aside to initiate a building project. Further fundraising events were quickly organized to support the cause, and in 1955, the City of Austin accepted the proposal for land designation. Over the course of the year, seven individual garden clubs united, forming the Austin Area Garden Council to oversee the completion of the project. Seven years later, the City approved a space inside Zilker Park for the project, and on September 8th, 1963, the groundbreaking ceremonies took place. The project was finalized a year later, opening its doors on October 25th, 1964.

In the fifty-one years since the dedication, the Garden has continued with its original mission: to promote and provide for the educational, cultural, and aesthetic enrichment of the community through signature gardens and exhibits. The Zilker Botanical Garden focuses on providing recreational and cultural outdoor experiences to the Austin community through educational and family-oriented programs. A demonstration vegetable garden is maintained within the grounds. The all-organic garden has provided over six hundred pounds of produce to the local Food Bank while serving as an educational tool for visitors. Other demonstration areas within the Gardens include compost and rainwater collection. Nature-based children's programming is available bi-monthly, and a faerie home and garden trail has been offered annually to entice children to look for the magic in nature. Monarch Appreciation Day is a popular annual event that includes informative lectures and booths, children's activities, and guided walks through the butterfly gardens and trails.

There is something for everyone at the Zilker Botanical Garden. "We have plant collections including rose, fern, azalea, begonia, herb, tropical, daylily, cycad, cactus, iris and themed garden areas," says Elizabeth McVeety, the Garden Center Coordinator. "The 'heart of our Garden' is the Taniguchi Japanese Garden featuring winding flagstone paths, waterfalls, koi ponds and more. The Hartman Prehistoric Garden features cycads, ferns, palms, Bald Cypress and a Dawn Redwood tree- among other plants. A bronze statue of the Ornithomimus dinosaur, the discovery of whose tracks were the inspiration for the Garden, stands in the middle of a Lagoon."

The garden also features historic structures, including the key-shaped Butler Window- once the focal point of brick manufacturer Michael Butler's mansion- and the Mamie Wilson Rowe Summer House, which was moved to the garden in 1968 and restored.

Zilker Botanical Garden has provided a beautiful haven for the community of Austin, Texas for several decades. Featured in publications like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, it is no surprise that visitors are drawn to the Garden from all across the world. If you find yourself with a free hour or two in Austin, take a moment to wander down the paths and marvel at the variety of flora. Just like the thousands of visitors before you, you won't be disappointed.

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About The Author

Elisha Neubauer is a freelance editor, ghostwriter, book reviewer, and author. She is...

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