New Houston Botanic Garden a dazzling, natural attraction

Deserts and rainforests and water walls, oh my.

The former Glenbrook Golf Course, a few minutes south of downtown, blossoms anew this month, transformed into the 132-acre Houston Botanic Garden. The city’s newest cultural institution opens with four staggered weekends of family-friendly activities, each featuring the plants, food and culture of a different region of the world to reflect the diversity of Houston and the gardens.

The festivities nod to Latin America Sept. 18-20, Asia Oct. 2-4, Africa Oct. 16-18 and the Mediterranean Oct. 30-Nov. 1.

Upon entering from Park Place Boulevard and crossing a new bridge over Sims Bayou, visitors will encounter a free-admission zone with a picnic grove and a wetlands garden. More dazzling enticements beckon beyond the coral limestone walls and scalloped portico of the modernist Welcome Pavilion, designed by Overland Partners.

In the centerpiece Global Collection Garden, whose zones provide a brief botanical trip around the world, an upland forest grows near a tropical rainforest, a drought-tolerant sanctuary, a semi-arid Mediterranean zone, a desert, a grassy savanna, a ridge of pines and a bamboo forest. Smaller sections of the global collection feature the discoveries of Texas botanists, pollinator plants and plants with colorful leaves. Curiosities of the plant world that have fascinating form and structure will fill one corner. All told, the global collection will contain more than 350 diverse varieties that can withstand Houston’s heat and humidity.

A couple of “curiosity cabinets” — elegant, Zen-like sheds in the spirit of European wunderkammer — around the global collection will hold small treasures visitors can examine up close. Near the savanna, there’s a dramatic water feature called the Dewdrop.

On the other side of the Welcome Pavilion, the Culinary Garden also will have plants grouped by regions and feature a dramatic water wall. Farther afoot are a woodland glade for weddings, a coastal prairie garden, a stormwater-wetlands garden and the Susan Garver Family Discovery Garden. Kids will want to make a beeline for the discovery garden’s boardwalk, wildlife-friendly lagoon and sandy pad of interactive pumps and other water play devices.

Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily beginning Sept. 18; $8-$12.50 weekdays, $10-$15 weekends including the grand openings, kids younger than 3 free; memberships $50-$500; closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day; 8210 Park Place Blvd.; 713-715-9675,


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