Tropical conservatory and origami sculpture at San Antonio Botanical Garden


December 09, 2020

Rising Peace

I’m not much for conservatories, as regular readers know. They give me mall vibes. But maybe I’m starting to come around a little, thanks to the Origami in the Garden exhibit of Kevin Box‘s sculptures at San Antonio Botanical Garden. This is Part 2 of my recent visit; click for Part 1.

Lucile Halsell Conservatory

My husband and I visited last week to see the sculptures, and for the first time I was eager to check out the 5 glass houses in the 90,000 square foot Lucile Halsell Conservatory complex. Why? To find all the origami sculptures, of course.

I’ve always admired the architecture of the glass houses, which pop up like futuristic pyramids from multiple vantage points throughout the garden. They sit partially below ground level in a sunken courtyard bristling with palms and palmettos clustered around an inky pond.

It took me a while to come around to palms and palmettos too, but now I have a half-dozen in my garden, so there’s hope for conservatories yet.

Nesting Pair

Aha! In the courtyard I found Nesting Pair, two origami cranes building a nest of twigs and leaves. A word of admiration for the origami plinths too, which include handsome stone pillars and Corten columns or blocks. And check out those carved-rock succulent planters leading through this space, like living stepping stones across a gravel pond.

A closer look

Epiphyte Exhibit Room

The first glass house we explored was the Exhibit Room, featuring orchids, bromeliads, and other rain forest epiphytes — plants that grow on another plant but not parasitically. Clustered on a skeletal tree’s trunks, the plants make a dramatic display.

A purple orchid hangs from a tree, its long, hair-like roots dangling to the floor.

Anthurium, like happy-to-see-you pink parasols

Hero’s Horse, Pegasus Unfolded, Opus #633

More origami pieces hang on the exhibit room’s walls, including Hero’s Horse, Pegasus Unfolded, Opus #633. That’s quite a title, but essentially it’s a sculptural representation of the paper-folding process for Hero’s Horse, seen at the end of this post.

Conversation Peace

The rock-paper-scissors game is given fresh representation (and a punny title) in Conversation Peace.

A wider view nearly vanishes the sculpture amid a cascade of bold foliage.

Clusters of tillandsias

Potted pastel-flowered tropicals

Outside in a smaller courtyard, Rising Peace anchors a central planting bed of callistemon.

I admired these potted Ming ferns too, with their bamboo pole accents.

Robert and Helen Kleberg Desert Pavilion

In the Desert Pavilion, a cotton opuntia, also known as old man opuntia (Austrocylindropuntia vestita), caught my eye with its fuzzy white hairs and tongue-like pads.

Also check out these massive, elongated golden barrels.

Amphitheater lawn

Back in the main gardens, David tried out this giant Adirondack chair and suddenly looked 5 years old.

A sycamore stretched its limbs overhead, its yellowing leaves glowing against the blue sky.

Seed Sower

Nearby, origami sculpture Seed Sower stands out against a fading purple pennisetum. Seed, an origami acorn lying beneath a living oak tree (excellent placement!), proved elusive in my photos, but the squirrel seems to have her eye trained on it.

Kumamoto En Japanese Garden

We Americans enjoy so many Japanese gardens given to us by sister cities, and this one is no exception — a 1989 gift from San Antonio’s sister city Kumamoto. But did you ever stop to wonder if we’ve given Japan gifts too? In this case, yes! A Texas pioneer log cabin was given to Kumamoto (click for a photo) in return for this garden. It resides in Kumamoto City Zoological and Botanical Gardens. I wonder what they think of it.

The garden’s pond symbolizes the Pacific Ocean separating the two countries, according to SABG’s website. The big hill symbolizes Mt. Fuji; the center hill, Mt. Aso near Kumamoto; and the oak trees across the pond (seen in the first photo), the Texas Hill Country.

Greehey Lawn

I’ll wrap up Part 2 at the Greehey Lawn, a recently added event space that seems popular with the mom-and-tot set on a Sunday morning.

Ah, I remember those days of finding places for the kids to explore while I enjoyed some adult conversation with girlfriends. Thank goodness for public gardens.

Hero’s Horse

And here at last is Hero’s Horse, an origami Pegasus. By the way, there’s a monumental origami Pegasus by Kevin Box in Dallas that I’d like to see someday too.

Up next: Part 3 of my visit to SABG featuring the Culinary and Adventure gardens, plus more origami sculptures. For a look back at Part 1’s Christmasy agaves, Pineywoods lake, and origami sculpture intro, click here.

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