by germinatrix | November 12th, 2009
As many of you know, I grew up in San Antonio, Texas – a charming little city right in the middle of that big state. There are so many wonderful things to see in this unique place … a famous old Riverwalk, the Alamo and other missions, and some beautifully restored examples of the majestic houses early German settlers built in my old neighborhood, The King William Area. But in my heart of hearts, my hands down favorite place in San Antonio is the Sunken Gardens.
The site of the Sunken Gardens was an old rock quarry donated to the city parks department. The adjacent land was already a large city park, so the idea of turning the quarry into a lily pond was agreed upon – but no funds were available. Prison labor and stone quarried on-site created the rustic hardscape, and the plants were donated from nurseries – some people even brought by their bulbs to help the effort along. The Japanese Tea Garden (although the entry sign says “Chinese Tea Garden” – huh?) was opened in 1918, and has been very much enjoyed.
I remember running in the gardens as a little kid, stalking koi, screaming like a … well, like a child, as I careened over the bridges at breakneck speed. The paths were so fun – a puzzle to run through, a maze made of water and stone.
I also have other memories; later – teenaged memories of hanging out in misty twilight, talking with best friends in the pagoda about absolutely everything and laughing until we cried.
And I remember times when I was running again, playing hide and seek with a very cute boy. What a perfect place to get lost! What a romantic place to be found!
The fact that this space started as a ravaging of the ground, and ended as a way to recuperate it is very inspirational to me. This isn’t the most beautiful garden – the use of plant material isn’t inventive, the hardscape is far from defined and purposeful – but there is so much HEART here. To take a cast off space that usually becomes a garbage dump or a water hazard and turn it into a place for strolling, for first kisses, for teaching children how big a goldfish can grow – that is something I can really get behind!
The drama of the rock walls and the stone pavilion rising – pure awesomeness! I love this place. I’ll always love this place. I love the memories of it and I love that it’s still the same. I even love the green water and the arundo!
Just another example of how gardens work their ways into our hearts and minds. I never imagined that I would be a gardener back when I lived in San Antonio, but my attraction to this place was (and is) keen and persistent – it even shows up in my dreams sometimes.
Maybe someday I’ll sink a garden myself…