Japanese garden and prehistoric garden at Zilker Botanical Garden

March 02, 2020

Visiting the Japanese garden at Zilker Botanical Garden last week, I noticed all kinds of changes for the better at our perennially underfunded city garden. In the upper level of the Taniguchi Japanese Garden, pruning of perimeter trees has opened up a nice view of our ever-growing downtown.

Taniguchi Japanese Garden

A new limestone stairway and path has also been installed, vastly improving the main access into the garden. Alongside it, a beautifully pruned pittosporum grows in a “lake” of black gravel accented by holey-limestone scholar’s rocks.

The pittosporum’s creamy blossoms smell wonderful.

A sinuous, ancient pittosporum at the top of the waterfall is still as breathtaking as ever.

Here it is again from pond level below, veiling the top of the waterfall.

A pretty tapestry of fern and sedum grows amid limestone boulders near the waterfall.

The koi ponds are looking good.

The cedar-log moon bridge is always fun to cross.

Here it is from another angle.

An airy teahouse and surrounding greenery is neatly tended.

Stone lantern

Hartman Prehistoric Garden

My other favorite part of Zilker Garden is the Hartman Prehistoric Garden on the lowest level. Palms and palmettos thrive here.

All the plants in this garden “represent the types that existed at the time of the dinosaurs. These are the spore producing plants (ferns, horsetails and liverworts), the gymnosperms (cycads, conifers and ginkgos) and the first angiosperms (magnolias and palms),” according to the website.

Foliage drama

There’s even a dinosaur!

“The life-size sculpture on Dino Island is an Ornithomimus (Greek for ‘bird-mimic’), the dinosaur that left tracks of its three toed feet in the gardens. The Ornithomimus is one of a group of medium-size elongated dinosaurs that lived in North America during the late Cretaceous period, 97 to 65 million years ago.”


The shiny, feathery fronds and stout, stubbled trunks of sago palms make a tropical-looking grove along one side of the garden.

On the other side, twin waterfalls spill over a rocky ledge.

But it’s the palmettos that stand out at this time of year, when other plants are still dormant.

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