Journey Jotters

Bitten by the travel bug

Last weekend, Mr. JJ and I took a Sunday morning trip to the famous Fort Worth Botanic Garden (FWBG). Established in 1934 and one of the oldest significant botanic gardens in Texas, the Botanic Garden is easily accessible from downtown Fort Worth and is a must-see while there. It took us just about an hour to drive to the Garden from our home in North Texas.

Entrance sign at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden
Fort Worth Botanic Garden entrance

FWBG is spread over 120 acres and has two major areas, the southern gardens (Leonard Courtyard, Fuller Garden, Pollinator Pathway, and Water Conservation Garden. The northern area includes the Rose Garden, Japanese Garden, Rock Springs Garden, Four Seasons Garden, to name a few). The two sections are connected by an elevated walkway called the Texas Native Forest Boardwalk. There are about 25 different garden themes located at the FWBG. The Garden is also home to some interesting art installations.

FWBG has two entrances, one at the main entrance and another on the west side. Once before, we have used the west entrance to the smaller parking to access the Japanese Garden. But this time, we went to the main entrance. The parking lot was about 60% full at the time of our visit. While we could have bought tickets online, we chose to buy them at the facility since we didn’t expect a huge crowd. There was no wait time for buying them.

It was a beautiful morning to visit. We were pleasantly surprised to see many families and couples of all ages strolling the sun-dappled paths ahead of us. The striking colors of the various plants and flowers on either side of the pathway blended harmoniously with the verdant lawn and trees.

Leaving the Leonard Courtyard, we slowly made our way to the eye-catching gazebo at the Fuller Garden. The waterfalls that serve as a backdrop for this gazebo added a visual depth and a soothing note to the senses. Looking out from here towards the terraced lawn, I could imagine why so many think this the ideal place to say “I Do”!

waterfall behind the gazebo at the Fuller Garden
Waterfall behind the gazebo at the Fuller Garden

Walking further on past the lily ponds, we came across a recent art installation called the Texas Bee Oasis by artist Jen Rose. She has created small hollow porcelain cones resembling flowers that collect water from rain or sprinkler. These cones provide a resting space and water to garden pollinators like bees. I truly enjoyed the clever concept behind the art. The colors were very soothing and had a way of arresting the eye.

Further ahead, we eagerly peered to catch a glimpse of another recent installation called the Stickwork by Patrick Dougherty. There’s a video on the FWBG website that shows the making of this artwork using cut-down (not for this purpose) trees and limbs. Reworking these trees into a unique piece of art is a terrific idea, and we enjoyed walking into, out, around, and through this art.

Stickwork art installation by Patrick Dougherty
Stickwork art by Patrick Dougherty

I enjoyed walking in this part of the grounds as there was a good mix of open lawn and shade-providing trees. There were several small water features scattered everywhere. Seats were thoughtfully placed in different areas and in a way that blended in with the environs. We took the time to sit and enjoy the views from several of these locations. The shade and the seating were a recurrent theme throughout the Garden, inviting the visitor to slow down, feel with their senses, relax, and enjoy the beauty of the surroundings.

Soon we were at the Texas Native Forest Boardwalk, an elevated walkway that leads to the north section of the Garden. On the east side of the walkway are native Texan plants, while on the west are many invasive plants that compete with the native plants for resources. From start to finish, I truly enjoyed the simplicity and richness of the boardwalk.

Every few feet, informational display boards were set up. They were colorful, easy to understand and perfect to stoke a child’s (and adult’s) curiosity. There were puzzle boards about insects and impostors, matching eggs to birds and animals, matching tunes with birds, and animal paw prints with their owners.

There were also more complex boards talking about conservation, succession, sustainability, interdependence, etc. There was something for everyone here. I felt the information provided was a good reminder of how closely linked we are to the world around us and why we need to pay greater attention. I particularly enjoyed the ones on dendrochronology (measuring a tree’s age by counting the rings) and the Log Hotel. This log provides shelter to many birds and animals. The boardwalk is well shaded and a real treat to walk on.

The Log Hotel
The Log Hotel

Next up, we came to the famous Rose Garden, which has several parts to it. First, the Oval Rose Garden, then the Republic of Texas Rose Garden, the Lower Rose Garden, the Reflecting Pond, the Rose Ramp, and the Shelter House. The plans for the Rose Garden were prepared by the architectural firm Hare and Hare in 1930. They visualized converting the then swampy land into several small gardens connected by steps, terraces, and colonnades. Tons of Palo Pinto stone were used to construct these areas. The resulting magnificence is a set of gardens that have stood the test of time and blend nature with manmade masonry.

A variety of roses wholly surround the stone gazebo of the Oval Rose Garden. From here, one can see the stone and wood colonnade that leads past the Republic of Texas plants to the Lower Rose Garden. The gently sloping ramp to the Shelter House is to its right, and to the left is the Reflecting Pond. We first walked to the Reflecting Pond, where a couple of families were feeding the colorful and active koi fish. The plump fish were an absolute delight to watch. You can buy food for the koi fish at admission or at the gift shop.

Splash of color at the Oval Rose Garden
Color explosion at the Oval Rose Garden

Shortly, we moved to the far end of the Pond to take in the entire panorama as the architects might have envisioned. The tall trees around us provided a lot of shade, and there was a restful quality to the area. They were marred only by the sounds of the fast-moving traffic behind us.

Next, we explored the Overlook and springs on the side of the Rose Ramp before walking up to Shelter Place. From this perch, we could fully appreciate the terraced layout around a central canal for streaming water. There was no flowing water during our visit, but I can imagine how much more spectacular this place would look with an active stream!

Landscaped rose garden seen from Shelter House
View of the Rose GGardenfrom Shelter House

Behind Shelter Place, we found the Backyard Vegetable Garden and compost area. Having created our vegetable plot this year, visiting this garden was a natural step for us. We were the only ones visiting the small but charming garden. The herb garden was abundant. Elsewhere, we saw bushes and creepers and runners bearing watermelons, long beans, eggplants, peppers, squash, among others.

Leaving the vegetable garden behind, we walked past the Trial Garden and the Four Seasons Garden to the Cactus Garden. Although small, it Gardenwide variety of cacti of all shapes and sizes. We were now on the western side of the FWBG and next to the smaller parking lot. Here we noted the entrance to the Japanese Garden. As we stood at the entry, my mind harkened back to our time in Tokyo when we often caused to admire various Japanese gates or karamon.

Zen like tranquility at the Fort Worth Japanese Garden
The tranquil Japanese Garden

The Garden is filled with so many bamboo, maple and magnolia trees that it feels much like a Koen (park or garden) in Japan. The winding paths, the waterfalls, the lakes, the pagoda, and other architectural details present a Zen-like quality to the Garden. The koi pond was well stocked, and the fish actively competed for food, thrilling many a visitor.

We couldn’t miss the turtles sunning themselves or the lone heron wading in the pond as we wound our way around. I was particularly thrilled to see the dry landscape garden, so reminiscent of Kyoto. We could see clusters of foliage turning a golden orange, but for the most part, fall colors hadn’t set in yet. This Garden will be even more majestic in a few more weeks, resplendent in fall colors! The iconic Moon Bridge was closed at the time of our visit.

Dry landscape Japanese garden
Karesansui Dry Landscape Garden

Our visit to the Fort Worth Botanic Garden was coming to an end. The loop around the entire garden is about 1.75 miles and an easy walk. We truly enjoyed the many walkways well shaded by trees or looping around clusters of vibrant flowers or alongside lush lawns. Often we found seats scattered along these pathways, strategically located to offer the best views as well as shade. We enjoyed the spread-out gardens where we could see people without being in each other’s way. The variety and splendor of the plants here are impressive! The gardens allow visitors to imbibe knowledge without even being aware of it, all the while breathing in some much-needed fresh air.

We did not have a chance to explore the Pollinator Pathway, the Water Conservation Garden, the rainforest Conservatory, or the BRIT campus next door. The BRIT facility also has art galleries and exhibits. We did see a few art installations (other than the ones mentioned above) in the garden during our stroll. They’re worth keeping an eye open for! Restrooms are located in the main building and scattered across the Garden grounds.

As you can imagine, a beautiful location like the FWBG is often the venue for birthdays, special events, reunions, weddings, and meetings. The first time we visited many years ago, there was a quinceanera party in progress on the lawns of the Lower Rose Garden. The BRIT facility next door offers many indoor venues for meetings and events as well. The Garden is now open to picnics as well.

If you’ve never been to the FWBG, it’s definitely worth a visit!

Fort Worth Botanic Garden is located at 3220 Botanic Garden Blvd, Fort Worth, TX 76107.

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