Discovering the Beauty of Straight Lines in the McGovern Centennial Gardens.
No garden speaks to me quite the way a cottage garden does. I love the rambling, overflowing flower beds and the curves and hidden areas. Here in Houston, I’m not likely to come across any cottage gardens, but realistically, any place with flower beds and walking paths will succeed in drawing me in.
As we walked up to the entrance of the McGovern Centennial Gardens, it was clear that this was not a place where I could expect to enjoy nature doing things its own way. The entrance consists of numerous young trees in straight lines living in a sea of grey gravel with a grey brick wall as a backdrop. Nothing here could be considered to be overflowing, but it’s certainly an entrance that makes a bold statement. Being someone who enjoys the clean and simple lines of modern architecture, I wasn’t going to pass judgement just yet.
As you enter, the straight lines continue, both in the architecture and in the view that opens up in front of you. A rectangular pool of water, featuring several water fountains, is the first to greet you. Beyond lie three rectangular fields of grass, which are bookended by another rectangular pool of water. Along the left and right sides, the eyes are led on by two wide pergola walks. There is an abundance of straight lines accompanied by a pleasing sense of symmetry and balance. At the end of these lines lies a 30 foot mound, which offers visitors the experience of a spiral walk to the top. It’s not until you start circling the hill that you recognize the genius of the design. As you move up in elevation, the look of the garden keeps changing until you arrive at the top and can appreciate the layout and design of the various garden areas. From the top, you can also look down on the water that flows from the top of the hill into the pool below.
From the top of the mound, I could see an area of raised box beds that I assumed had to be a vegetable garden. I later realized that this area is referred to as the Family Garden. These types of edible gardens always start me dreaming about what I could create at home. Any public garden that stimulates people to dream of the possibilities is doing something very right. Continuing on from the Family Garden, we entered into an enclosed area with a much more classical look. This area is appropriately referred to as the Celebration Garden as it can be rented for outdoor events.
Continuing around, we arrived in the Rose Garden. This area creates a beautiful backdrop if you’re looking for the perfect place to capture some memorable images. The benches placed along the semi-circular path encourage you to notice more and stay longer. Next to the Rose Garden is the Arid Garden with its variety of plants more capable than most of surviving through the occasional Houston area drought.
The Centennial Gardens boast a sculpture garden and a Woodland Garden, with examples of plants that enjoy the shade. You will also come across Pine Hill toward the front of the park, which represents the Piney Woods of East Texas.
Despite the geometric layout and controlled aesthetic of the gardens, I found myself really enjoying our visit. Who doesn’t enjoy discovering the unique and unexpected? During a very cold March day, the large number of visitors made it apparent that many Houstonians have discovered and fallen in love with this beautiful area of Hermann Park.