Get off the couch, get out of the house, episode #2.

Many cities have a botanical garden of some sort.  Some are better than others, and Austin has a terrific one, Zilker Botanical Gardens.  Botanical gardens are a great way to get out of the house, and get immersed in Mother Nature.  More than just the walking, there are numerous health benefits from being outside and communing with nature.  Walking on the treadmill is not the same.  Here is a nice site that details the numerous medical conditions that are improved with being outside. What a nice reminder that there is so much more to life than smart phones and tv!  After my usual morning walk, I took some time to stroll through the meandering paths that cover 18 acres.  At only $2 for an Austin resident it was a bargain!  The "feels like" temperature was 105, but on this morning, the cool paths and nice breeze were just right. 

This is such an interesting and educational place!  Not much was blooming since we are at the end of a hot, dry summer, but there is still so much beauty. You'll have to indulge me on a pretty long post as there is much to share!  There is a pioneer village that has a cabin built in the late 1840's by S.M. Swenson, the first Swedish settler to come here in 1838.  This is one of the best preserved cabins in the US and was moved to this site in 1965.  

Swedish Log Cabin

Swedish Log Cabin

Although you can't go in, you can see through the windows.  It is fully furnished with authentic pioneer furnishings.  (Sorry for the glare on the glass!) Just like Laura Ingalls Wilder! 

Inside the cabin

Inside the cabin

There is  a one-room school house, the Esperanza School House, which was built in 1866, as well as a replica blacksmith's shop which is a real, functioning workshop. Although it is not original, the timbers used to build it are almost 150 years old, and the board and batten siding came from a 100 year old barn.  

In 1992 some amateur paleontologists discovered over 100 tracks from 6 or 7 reptiles (dinosaurs) on the grounds.  Although you can't see them,  (they measured them, made casts that are in a museum, and reburied them to protect them), they commemorated them with the  Hartman Prehistoric Garden, a 2-acre site developed as a Cretacous habitat complete with dinosaur sculpture. The plants represent those that existed at the time of the dinosaurs.  The sculpture is an Ornithomimus (those of you with little boys probably know this!) which is the kind that left their three-toed tracks in the gardens. 

Ornithomimus 

Ornithomimus 

There are a few architectural pieces that add interest and beauty to the gardens.  The Butler Window came from the home of brick manufacturer Michael Butler. The  key-shaped window was the focal point of the house built in 1887 at 309 West 11th Street and contains granite used in the construction of the Capitol. Seems he worked on the capital construction and he got the leftovers, which he used in his house. The window was donated to the Garden Center in 1971 when the house was demolished.

Butler Window

Butler Window

The Bickler Cupola originally topped one of the first public schools in Austin, which was constructed in 1894. It overlooks the Rose Garden which was sadly not in bloom. 

Bickler Cupola

Bickler Cupola

My favorite part of the garden was the Isamu Taniguchi Japanese Garden.  It was so tranquil. It covers 3 acres and contains a koi pond, stone gates, a teahouse and something called the Moon bridge.  I won't bore you with more details but will share a bunch of pictures which tells the story much better than I can write. 

The water lillies are amazing.  There were light pink, hot pink and yellow.  

I don't know what kind of bird this was but he was big! 

Two statues, the angel hidden in the back of a garden, and St. Francis of Assisi (my favorite saint, even though I'm not Catholic!).  This metal bird cage was beautiful. I spent some time taking a couple of photos of the birds inside, only to realize they were fake! 

There is also a cactus and succulent garden.  I love cobalt blue pots, and had quite the collection. Unfortunately I found them too hard to move so I left most of them for the new owners of my house in Houston. 

Texas Sage

Texas Sage

Overall, this was a really nice way to spend the morning.  It was a nice long walk, it was beautiful, and in the end, reminded me of my family.  My mom who loves gardens and flowers, my dad, who spent months clearing paths to walk through the woods of their property, and my grandmother Nana, from whom I get my love of coleus.  Botanical Gardens for the win! 

If you missed GOTC (get off the couch) episode #1 you can find it here.