Friday, September 4, 2015

San Antonio Japanese Garden

The view of the sunken gardens from the top of the entry stairs
In late May, I went with my mom and her Sun City garden club cohorts down to San Antonio to visit the Japanese Garden which is right next to the San Antonio Zoo.  I've been to the zoo a few times, but never to the garden because any time I thought about going to it, it was always AFTER the zoo visit and I didn't know how much it was to get in, and I never wanted to walk to the top of the stairs to find out.  (pro tip: It's FREE.)

Tour cohorts with entry sign in the background.  It says Chinese Tea Garden despite being a Japanese Tea Garden.  See history below.

The Sun City Garden Club is the garden club that goes around and does tours - they're like the landscaping club; while the group that runs the community gardens and knows the most about vegetables is the horticulture club.  I guess the theory is that someone started the garden club first so the veggie gardeners had to come up with a different name for their club.  In any case, they will plan a few outings during the year to visit well known nurseries and/or other gardens.  These outings usually include a charter bus, which means that they need to have a minimum of like 50 people sign up for each event they do (their next trip is to the Natural Gardener).

History Lesson.

After driving through a nasty rain storm to get to the gardens (in which my mom fretted the whole time because neither of us brought an umbrella), we arrived and split into two groups to get our 30 minute history lesson before being sent off to explore on our own.

Brick kiln.  Not shown, Artists' village just to the right of this monolith.

Showing the rock wall

Mi Madre getting ready to take a photo with her phone - I only have one other photo I specifically took of her, but she's got a look on her face like "why are you taking a picture of me, you wierdo?" so I opted to go with this one for posterity instead.

Grass seed head

The gardens were conceived by Mr. Lambert in 1917 (as a lily pond) to hide the fact that the area used to be a quarry.  The pond and gardens were constructed for a total cost of $7000 over the next couple of years and opened to the public in 1919.  In 1920, an "Artists' Village" was built at the bottom of the hill (by the kilns) with the plan of the artists selling their wares to the visitors.  During this time, Dionicio Rodriguez created the traditional Torii entryway gate which looks like wood, but is actually made of cement.

Close up of entry gate - made of cement, not wood.

In 1926, Mr. Jingu was asked to take over maintenance of the garden and opened the tea house at the top of the staircase.  Mr. Jingu died in the late '30's but his family continued to run the garden/tea house until they were evicted because of anti-Japanese sentiment in 1942.  The story goes that his youngest daughter was a wild little thing and would run around all over the gardens and was fed food by visitors - to the point where her mother made her wear a sign around her neck which said "please do not feed me."  The Jingu family did not have to go to an internment camp as the local community had adopted the family as their own, but they were placed, essentially, under house arrest and were not allowed to run the tea garden any longer.  The tea garden was handed over to a Chinese-American family (who ran the garden until the 1960's) and was renamed the Chinese Sunken Garden, which is what the entry sign still says to this day, although it was rededicated as the Japanese Garden in 1984 with members of the Jingu family and Japanese goverment officials in attendance.

A view from the top (taken after lunch when it was much sunnier)

Tour goers

Bridge over the water.


A different angle of the bridge


Pathway through the garden

Another angle of the bridge

A good use of Giant River Cane on the left - but please do not plant this, it's invasive as all get out - albeit easier to control on a large scale than running bamboo (or so I'm told)

A view back at the entry

After exploring for about an hour or so, we sat down to eat our lunch, and snack on cookies made with Japanese green tea.

Me and my Mom, Mary Jo, taken with my cell phone.  Yes my mom is really like 6" taller than me, so is my Dad.  I'm just a weird squidgit.

After lunch we piled back on the tour bus and made our way to Rainbow Gardens where we spent another hour and a half or so.  We were supposed to be given a guided tour, but the tour guide was sick that day so we were left to our own devices. I managed to not purchase any plants, but my mom insisted on buying something for me, so I got 2 small tchotchkes for my succulent planters.
One of my Tchotchkes - a ceramic rabbit (it's about 3" long), the other is a small ceramic bluebird.