In a city blessed by warm weather much of the year, Houston’s growing season is a nearly year-round affair. Our sub-tropical temperatures, abundant rain and sunshine provide ideal conditions for exuberant home landscaping and colorful flower plantings. Whether you’re seeking inspiration for your yard or garden, or just looking to appreciate art and nature, a stroll through Houston’s public gardens and home landscaping trails can be a great way for locals and tourists alike to enjoy our city. Here are some of our favorites:
The River Oaks Azalea Trail
Houston’s prestigious River Oaks neighborhood is home to some of the city’s finest and most recognizable real estate. The neighborhood’s annual spring Azalea Trail celebration provides the public with an inside look at these majestic homes and their vivid azalea gardens.
Although the spring Azalea Trail festival is likely your only opportunity to visit the homes’ private gardens, it needn’t be your only foray into River Oaks. A stroll along the eponymous boulevard lined with opulently landscaped mansions, including street-facing tree, shrub, and flower collections, can be enjoyed year-round.
Many of the homes along the main boulevard — such as the lovely English Regency construction at 1620 River Oaks Boulevard — are worthy of sidewalk admiration any season. For an in-depth look at prized River Oaks landscaping, you might also consider visiting the River Oaks Garden Club’s and The Museum of Fine Art’s Bayou Bend Collection, whose extensive plantings are regularly open to the public.
At Bayou Bend, which was once the exclusive residence of Houston oil heiress and philanthropist Ima Hogg (it’s OK to chuckle — Ima was reputedly good-natured about her name), visitors can explore 14 acres of meticulously tended, circa-1920′s style gardens. In addition to the highly prized gardens, the property also includes lovely woodland ravine trails open to the public.
The Menil Collection/University of St. Thomas
The Montrose neighborhood bounded by The University of St. Thomas’ modernist campus and the renowned Menil Collection seamlessly integrates lovely home landscaping with historic architecture and landmarks such as the famed Rothko Chapel. Taking their cue from the prestigious institutions in their midst, many of the historic homes in the neighborhood have studded their properties with artwork and sculptures.
The museum and university-hosted events, such as art lectures and movie screenings, often take place outdoors amidst the lovely greenery and landscaping. And both the university and museum provide ample green spaces and walking trails, which augment the neighborhood’s heavy foliage of live oaks and other sub-tropical plantings, such as mimosa trees and birds of paradise. (Green space and landscaping enthusiasts may also be delighted to know that the Menil will be expanding its gardens and public park areas late this year.)
Rice University/Museum District
No discussion of Houston’s impressive home landscaping would be complete without mention of the Rice University and Museum District neighborhoods, which together encompass some of the city’s most beautiful yards and public spaces. Bounded by the glass and steel skyscrapers of the Texas Medical Center to the south, Rice University’s genteel oaks and ivy to the west, and Hermann Park and many of the city’s museums to the east, the neighborhood is ripe with public art and elaborate landscaping.
The easiest way to appreciate the area is to travel the perimeter of Rice University. You’ll pass by The Museum of Fine Arts and Contemporary Arts Museum and its outdoor sculptures gardens, through Rice University’s ivy-draped entrance, and through the medley of beautifully-landscaped homes in the West University neighborhood. On the south side of the neighborhood (along University Avenue), you’ll encounter an assortment of landscaping styles, ranging from English countryside and Mediterranean to tropical-inspired plantings.
An added bonus: The sidewalks in this part of town are well-maintained and shaded by the large trees, making the area a welcome respite in the summer heat.
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