It’s a loss for golfers but a big win for plant lovers. After decades in the planning stage, the Houston Botanic Garden finally opened September 18 on the former Glenbrook Golf Course in southeast Houston. The garden serves as yet another draw for locals and visitors to explore Sims Bayou, a watershed area near Hobby Airport that already includes miles of walking and biking trails and countless places to launch canoes.
“The garden will showcase international and native plant collections, educational classes for children and adults, and provide engaging programming that will embrace the garden and natural settings,” said Justin Lacey, director of communications and community engagement at Houston Botanic Garden. The international firm West 8 designed and managed the overall garden project, with Harvey Cleary Builders as the general contractor. Houston’s Clark Condon designed the garden’s planting and soil, with installation by Landscape Art.
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Building a garden
By the time Nancy Thomas, past president of the Garden Club of America, and the late Kay Crooker formed the nonprofit Houston Botanic Garden in 2002, they’d already been talking about it for years. The two women dreamed of a massive botanic garden that would rival those of other metropolitan cities.
But like all massive projects, the garden took a lot of planning and plenty of money. It wasn’t until 2015 that the Houston City Council unanimously approved a plan for the garden to take a 30-year lease on Glenbrook Golf Course. Garden supporters had to raise $20 million by the end of 2017 to claim the city-owned property.
The garden has been built from the ground up. First, the garden team analyzed how long-term golfing had impacted the soil. Maintaining perfect-looking greens meant decades of intensive mowing and regularly applying pesticides and